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Do Jews Believe in an Afterlife?

Do Jews Believe in an Afterlife?



There isn't anything after life, because life never ends. It just goes higher and higher. The soul is liberated from the body and returns closer to her source than ever before.

The Torah assumes this in its language many times — describing Abraham's death, for example, as going to rest with his fathers and similar phrases. The Talmud discusses the experiences of several people who made the trip there and back. Classic Jewish works such as Maavor Yabok describe the process of entering the higher world of life as a reflection of the soul's experiences while within the body: If the soul has become entrenched in material pleasures, she experiences the pain of ripping herself away from them so that she can experience the infinitely higher pleasure of basking in G‑dly light. If she is soiled and injured by acts that sundered her from her true self while below, then she must be cleansed and healed.

On the other hand, the good deeds and wisdom she has gained on her mission below serve as a protection for her journey upwards. You want a real good spacesuit to make this trip.

The Zohar tells us that if it were not for the intercession of the pure souls above, our world could not endure for even a moment. Each of our lives is strongly impacted by the work of our ancestors in that other world. Grandma's still watching over you.

Why should souls basking in divine light above be at all concerned about what's happening in your mundane life below? Because, there they feel the truth that is so easy to overlook while down here: that this lowly, material world is the center-stage of G‑d's purpose in creating all that exists.

That is also why, at the final resolution, all souls will return to physical bodies in this world.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Illustration by Chassidic artist Michoel Muchnik; click here to view or purchase Mr. Muchnik's art.
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Ron Grimes Sandy, UT October 14, 2017

I would have found that more interesting if scriptural, authoritative references had been given to justify these views. Reply

Connie Idaho September 28, 2017

Everlasting life This earthly experience is a "testing" ground for our everlasting life. What we do here adds to our knowledge in a celestial kingdom. Reply

Nicole Cambridge, MN September 6, 2017

Beautiful!! G-d bless Israel!! Reply

Anonymous October 10, 2016

this is interesting Reply

Jeff Edmonds Jackson July 11, 2015

this is a very beautiful thought i am very sick and just stumbled here Reply

Anonymous June 17, 2015

I cannot die, that would be too bad Either life has a purpose or it doesn't, but it is clear which one mankind prefers to believe in. Reply

Norman Elliott Florida June 14, 2015

This is brilliant It gives those who need the hope of an ultimate authority and an eternal life a place to hang there hat. Yet, it is a belief system that drives life's decision making as if we live in a natural world controlled by natural law. This may very well be the key to the ultimate success of the Jewish people. Reply

Anonymous kcmo March 2, 2015

Almost exactly what I believe...what else could life be for but self improvement? Reply

Sera Revere, ma July 23, 2014

Autopsy question Way back when my father died, it was unexpected. The police pressured me to do an autopsy. At first I refused but was intimidated. I have heard this is somewhat common. They found just natural causes. I had a jewish burial, with a rabbi, and a jewish funeral home. However I always felt bad about this. My father was not very religious. How should I look back on this. I was very young and scared at the time. I do know these autopsys are forbidden. Yet when one is put in a position to prove that the death was natural causes. There were no marks or anything. This was just based on his age fifty six, and that when they called his doctor he said nothing was wrong. Reply

l. lehtinen October 26, 2013

afterlife I have been sad these last few days. My sibling's soul went to be with G-d. I am very happy to know he will be happy and in a better place. Reply

Sylvia California August 24, 2017
in response to l. lehtinen:

I hope this is correct. My brother died suddenly the night before Father's Day by bleeding out through the mouth. I asked my sister in law to have and autopsy done but she said no. She's not Jewish, she just said the he'd been cut up enough. Now even she is questioning just what happened to him. I'm tortured by this. I hope he is in a better place.

Thank you for saying that. Reply

Larry Tedesco Brisbane, Australia via September 29, 2013

The Soul If the soul truly exists and continues to exist in a non-corporeal form after death of the body, then such things as materialistic pleasures will not be of any import. Hence, why not enjoy as many of the pleasures of this physical life as our circumstances permit while we still can? To spend one's life in endless study, ritualism and denial of pleasure, in effect preparing for death, is tantamount to an obscenity of what G-d has given us. The only real concern should be whether in our own minds we have lived a productive, ethical and moral existence when the time comes for our brains to shut down and the concept of a personal identity becomes meaningless. Reply

Sandra Abernathy August 23, 2013

Do Jews Believe in Afterlife TZVI said all souls will return to fleshly bodies. Does he mean rebirth or reincarnation? It can't mean the old fleshly body, because some people in this world cremate their bodies out in the world. Reply

Mahboosef Pittsburgh,pennsylvania April 27, 2013

God is you & you are god Think ! Athiest is not godless! Reply

Anonymous London, ~England January 23, 2012

Thanks This has helped me alot with my homework! Reply

Dan Montreal, Canada August 18, 2011

G-d This same G-d that gives and takes life, that created the world, and gave us the bible, this same perfect G-d says there is after life. I don't know about you, but for me, that is way more ten enough to convince me. Reply

Dan Montreal, Canada August 18, 2011

G-d How is it possible not to believe in G-d. How do you explain the creation of the world, the animals, the human beings, and every living creature. How do you explain that if the bee ceases to exist, we all die(this is a fact from science, not bible)

Simple question, if there really was a big bang, followed by evolution that occurred during millions of years. How is it that there is still life today? The bee would have had to be here before ALL living creatures to be able to produce pollen so our trees and plants could keep growing and give us oxygen, us and all animals.

Another question, if you were to take all the human body parts, give them to the best surgeon, doctor, or anyone and have him put them back together like a puzzle exactly like they are meant to be, why is it that this "person" is not living. What's the difference between this newly formed human and me? Something must be missing right? Indeed, the godly will of this human to be alive is missing. Reply

Gloria brooklyn, ny July 29, 2011

Afterlife It makes me feel good to know that my deceased loved ones are in a better place and I sincerely believe that one day we will all be together again. Reply

Don Mason Witney, UK July 2, 2011

Life after death I hope a Gentile is allowed to comment. I had a Jewish friend, Bob, a wonderful man, who 'lost' most of his family in the holocaust. He is now 'dead' as are most of my own family, including my 3 year old son, who died of leukaemia. I find it inconsistent with the miraculous and beautiful world around me that these whom I love just ceased to be. What G-d has made does not die. Reply

Jean San Diego September 26, 2017
in response to Don Mason:

Add a comment...I believe you are right. The righteous do go to heaven. I was raised Roman Catholic. My Jewish friend, years ago, told me that yes, Jews do believe in the after life, but put more emphasis on this world. Reply

Anonymous June 24, 2011

Hi Thank you for putting this up because it has helped me a lot with my homework so thank you!!! Reply

Nick Boston, MA November 20, 2010

Atheism Tzvi,

How is atheism inconsistent? This notion seems to come from a common misunderstanding of the term "atheism" which in your defense is often a poorly defined and misused term. The term denotes a lack of belief in a particular theological concept. In fact we are all atheists in degrees, just some of us go one god further.

Someone is a-theist in the same sense as we are probably both a-santaclausist. So by definition anyone who is a-santaclausist is consistent with their fellow a-santaclausist and the same is true with atheists. Unfortunately, this is not true for Judaism. However, we a-santaclausists might have different theories about how those presents got under that tree similar to how atheists will disagree on all kinds of other issues (sometimes in very productive ways i,e, science). Maybe that is the inconsistency that you mistakenly refer to. Reply

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