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Do Jews believe in Hell? I am not planning any trips there or anything, but I have heard conflicting reports about its existence.

Do Jews Believe in Hell?

Do Jews Believe in Hell?

What Is the Jewish Belief on Hell?


Dear Rabbi,

Do Jews believe in Hell? I am not planning any trips there or anything, but I have heard conflicting reports about its existence.


We do believe in a type of Hell, but not the one found in cartoons and joke books. Hell is not a punishment in the conventional sense; it is, in fact, the expression of a great kindness.

The Jewish mystics described a spiritual place called “Gehinnom.” This is usually translated as “Hell,” but a better translation would be “the Supernal Washing Machine.” Because that’s exactly how it works. The way our soul is cleansed in Gehinnom is similar to the way our clothes are cleansed in a washing machine.

Put yourself in your socks’ shoes, so to speak. If you were to be thrown into boiling hot water and flung around for half an hour, you might start to feel that someone doesn’t like you. However, the fact is that it is only after going through a wash cycle that the socks can be worn again.

We don’t put our socks in the washing machine to punish them. We put them through what seems like a rough and painful procedure only to make them clean and wearable again. The intense heat of the water loosens the dirt, and the force of being swirled around shakes it off completely. Far from hurting your socks, you are doing them a favor by putting them through this process.

So too with the soul. Every act we do in our lifetime leaves an imprint on our soul. The good we do brightens and elevates our soul, and every wrongdoing leaves a stain that needs to be cleansed. If, at the end of our life, we leave this world without fixing the wrongs we have done, our soul is unable to reach its place of rest on high. We must go through a cycle of deep cleansing. Our soul is flung around at an intense spiritual heat to rid it of any residue it may have gathered, and to prepare it for entry into Heaven.

Of course, this whole process can be avoided. If we truly regret the wrong we have done and make amends with the people we have hurt, we can leave this world with “clean socks.”

That’s why our Sages said, “Repent one day before you die.” And what should you do if you don’t know which day that will be? Repent today.

See What Happens After We Die? from the Jewish Death and Mourning section.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
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Discussion (49)
October 12, 2016
That process of cleansing is what we Catholics call Purgatory. It is exactly the same. Thanks for the answers. :)
July 31, 2016
I just joined your discussion and I hear about hell being similar to what Catholic believe, purgatory, a place to get your soul cleanse. So what is is Jewish heaven?
white plains
July 10, 2016
My understanding is
As stated by Aron, The cleansing is not really G-d's punishment. but a kindness. The wrongs we do stain our soul. Nothing unclean can endure the Perfect Light. It will be destroyed. Only the clean can become one with the Clean. The punishment is not the cleansing but the separation from G-d is.
One soul may be only slightly dusty. Easily cleansed with a quick rinse. Then joy. Another soul may be filled with grime & filth requiring extensive long drawn out cleansing. It will be a long arduous wait before it is can enjoy bathing in that Perfect Light.
July 10, 2016
If hell is not eternal, then what Daniel mean here?

JPS Daniel 12:2
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence.
June 19, 2016
Love your Hell explanation
Wonderful response to the Hell question, and made your point. As one of those, "spiritual but not religious" people I've spent over 60 years researching various religions. I am also highly interested in science and so am writing a book marrying the two. I needed information for my next book and this is perfect.
Thank you.
Lynn K Russell
June 4, 2016
OK, makes sense. But what about Hitler, who was supposedly 1/4 Jewish. Did even he get this deal ( assuming he died and didn't escape to Argentina ) ?
May 23, 2016
Don't those wishing eternal suffering for Hitler et al become like Hitler et al ?

Unlike those souls speaking in the prayer used for Day of Atonement - composed by those who suffered and died in a Concentration Camp.

The Ravensbruck

The following prayer was found at
Ravensbruck death camp where 92,000
women and children died. It was
scrawled on wrapping paper near a dead

Lord, remember not only the men
and women of good will also those of
ill will.
But do not only remember the
suffering they have inflicted on us.
Remember the fruits we have brought,
thanks to this suffering--our
comradeship, our loyalty, our humility,
the courage, the generosity, the
greatness of heart which has grown
out of all this.
And when they come to judgment, let
all the fruits we have borne be their
forgiveness. Amen
April 12, 2016
Evil Souls and the World To Come
From what I understand, Hitler and people like him would choose not to atone for their sins. So, G-d would destroy their souls and not permit them in the World to Come.
Eliana Liorit
April 11, 2016
Michelle welchman
It's not so easy to explain. There is reward and punishment in the afterlife and even a second of suffering in the next world is extremely painful by miles compared to years of suffering here. As far as nazis is concern, G-d rewards all of his creatures accordingly. They cannot escape His punishment in the afterlife whatever that maybe. There are several commentaries on this matter, but I think the rabbi tried to keep it as simple as possible. People might think that burning fire might be the correct punishment that fits their crime but shamayim knows the punishment that fits the crime. I don't want to keep writing but if you have any questions please consult a competent local rabbi or ask away.

All the best!
April 11, 2016
Great explanation! Thanks for posting!