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Is there any sort of Purgatory or Satan in Jewish teachings?

Is there any sort of Purgatory or Satan in Jewish teachings?


a) Various sources suggest that Gehinom, Purgatory, is a physical place, somewhere deep beneath the earth's surface, where the souls of the wicked are punished.1

Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman 1195-1270) writes:2

"These and other similar matters cannot be interpreted as a parable or as some ominous saying. The Rabbis specified its location and the length and width of its dimensions. They consider [the heat generated by Gehinom] in the context of Jewish law."

Notwithstanding the sources above subscribing to and depicting Gehinom as a physical place, other sources — in Kabbalah, Chassidut, and Jewish philosophy — portray Gehinom in more abstract and spiritual terms. In fact, later, as Nachmanides continues his above mentioned exposition on Gehinom, he seems to do an about-face, also explaining the fires of Gehinom and the punishment endured by the soul in spiritual terms.

The discrepancy, however, between the various depictions of Gehinom can be reconciled based on the mystical concept that reality has manifold layers. So although the mystical dimension of Torah focuses on the higher reality, including the underlying spiritual reality and dynamics of Gehinom, the revealed dimension of Torah speaks about the physical manifestations of reality within the context of the here-and-now, the tangible and the palpable. This explains why our Sages have said that a Scriptural verse always retains its simple meaning, even while each and every verse alludes to the most exalted of mystical concepts.

According to Judaism, the purifying process that a sullied soul undergoes to cleanse it from its spiritual uncleanliness is a temporary one, and is restorative in its intent, and not punitive, as many mistakenly believe. Ultimately, all Jews have portion in the World to Come, as do Righteous Gentiles, non-Jews who observe the Seven Noahide Commandments.

b) According to Torah, no spiritual force opposes G‑d. This includes Satan, who is a spiritual entity that faithfully carries out its divinely assigned task of trying to seduce people to stumble. Satan is also identified with the Prosecutor above — that's what the word Satan itself means: it's just Hebrew for prosecutor — who levels charges against the guilty party who succumbs to its wily arguments. Look in the beginning chapter of the Book of Job and you'll see that clearly.

In fact, the Talmud says, all that Satan does, he does for the sake of heaven. Without him, the defense attorney wouldn't bother to dig up all the merits of the defense. And the defense would have to try so hard to give himself more merits.

So you see that really nothing happens in the entire world without G‑d approving. That's why we Jews have so many complaints to him that we need to talk to him three times a day. The buck really stops at His office.

Finally, when the Divine Court decides that someone, G‑d forbid, deserves to die, then Satan is dispatched from Above to carry out the sentence.3

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger for


For example, the Midrash in Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer (10) says, "The whale that swallowed Jonah showed him [the entrance to] Gehinom." In Midrash Rabba (Genesis 48:8): "G‑d opened a hole into Gehinom that boiled all the water covering the earth." In the context of a halachic discussion, the Talmud in Shabbat 39a explains that the hot springs of Tiberius are heated by passing by the entrance of Gehinom. See also Bava Batra 74a; Sanhedrin 108a; Eruvin 19a.


Shaar Ha'Gmul .


Bava Batra 16a.

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger, first content editor for, is the translator and editor of several important chassidic texts. He also serves as the Jewish chaplain for York Central Hospital, and for numerous Federal prisons. Rabbi Danzinger currently resides in Toronto, Canada, with his wife, Yehudis, and their children.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Akiba Torrance, CA September 16, 2017

I was taught during my years in Hebrew School, from a Rabbi, that HaSatan means The Adversay -- which I supose you could use in a legal sense. However, I was taught that it is an early form of the Yetzer Ha Tov and Yetzer Ha Ra -- the adversarial forces within oneself, and that is how it is being used in Job. Job, as I was taught, is defined by the Talmud (where I forget) as an early form of Midrash. As is common in the Midrash, it is a fictionalized story with moral teachings. Terms and concepts such as Hell, the Devil, the words religion and bible, etc. have no basis in Hebrew are not found in the Torah ...., originated in Christianity or a pagan faith, and generally have Latin or Greek roots. Gehenna, again as I was taught, cannot be translated into English as "Hell." Hell is an English word reflecting a Christian belief. Gehenna, as used in Mishna should be translated as "Gehenna," and nothing else to sustain the diffrence between our beiefs and that of others. Reply

Harry June 29, 2016

Where is this from, I don't recall this anywhere in the Tanakh. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for June 28, 2016

To Harry Much of this is taught in the Oral Torah, which has been transmitted from generation to generation, directly from Moses. Reply

Harry June 21, 2016

Not true. I could never find any reference to Gehenna in the Tanakh, only Sheol, something completely different.

And if Satan was only created to tempt humans, why then does Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 say he was prideful, wanting to be like G-d and fell as a result? And yes, these verses are referring to Satan, because Ezekiel 28:13 says:
"You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared."

So obviously this isn't referring to the King of Tyre, well it kind of is, but it is also referring to Satan because the King of Tyre wasn't old enough to have been in the garden of Eden, and just look at Ezekiel 28:14-15:
"You were anointed as a guardian cherub [angel],for so I ordained you... you were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you." Reply

Torah scholar April 26, 2015

Humans and angelic beings have free will: to do right or wrong; to turn to G-d or against Him. This is what happened in Eden, humans became "like us" and able to know God and evil. G-d is supreme and all powerful but He doesn't interfere in free will. Free will isn't the choice to do whatever you want; it is the choice to be obedient or not to G-d. Thus, when G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart in Torah, He wasn't contradicting Pharaoh's free will because Pharaoh had already chosen evil: lies, slavery, love of riches, etc.
Satan is a created being who also has free will like the other fallen angels who attempted to seduce humans in Genesis. He was a particularly powerful created being who was gifted with beauty (false light), music, and wiles. He has chosen evil. Just because Satan still has to play by certain rules and G-d talks to him directly as in Job, doesn't mean they are on the same side! Job clearly lays out G-d taking delight in His loyal servant, Job. Reply

Michael September 25, 2014

Jo Ann Mosley...To say that anything exists, which is independent of G-d, is idolatry. Why would an all-powerful G-d create a separate entity to challenge His own sovereignty? That is suicide. How could an all-powerful, single G-d create a separate entity that could have the power to rebel against the all-powerful G-d? Either G-d is all-powerful or He is not..Also, you are confused, because a lot of that religion comes straight from Greek mythology. Lucifer once was in Heaven, yet rebelled and was cast to Hell. This is in Greek mythology as well. Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon overthrow their father Cronus and the rest of the Titans. Hades was assigned the realm of the underworld after the "divine war." This is the exact same story that is taught by the Church. The "founder" of the Church has a very similar story to Hercules as well. Both had "divine" fathers, but their mothers were both mortal. People tried to kill both of them when they were still babies: Herod=the Nazarene, Hera=Hercules. Reply

Michael September 25, 2014

"Ultimately, all Jews have portion in the World to Come, as do Righteous Gentiles, non-Jews who observe the Seven Noahide Commandments."...Why is there a stipulation upon Gentiles to follow Torah, but not upon Jews? Why do they merit a portion in the World to Come regardless of action in this life? Reply

SARA WEISS LONDON, UK November 29, 2008

Is satan in jewish teachings As the person who posted the original comment may I state my case further? In our evening prayers we pray "vehaser satan milphenenu vemacherenu" (and remove Satan from before us and behind us)?

I rest my case. Reply

Dan November 28, 2008

Satan A soul can either vibrate on a very high level, an intermediate level or a low level. The higher the level the closer to One (God's name is One). The less I there is, the higher the level. I interferes with One. Once the I is made smaller and smaller, One can shine through more and more. I means: "I am great, I am strong, I am right, I know better, I studied all sciences, I can do whatever I want, I can have sex whenever and with whoever I want, I can do business dealings in whichever way I want, I can... I can on and on.
If this mind is enforced and maintained, then the Soul looses higher vibrations. The devil's effect is to lower these vibrations, to the point where there is no more humanity left. Then the soul becomes an animal soul. Reply

Anonymous November 6, 2008

Satan in Judaism If you say that Satan is an entity that opposes G-d you are making a big mistake. Satan cannot be an all powerful anti G-d or we would be guilty of believing in another god which G-d himself says is a false belief and has warned us against doing and I tend to believe that he knows what he is talking about.

If you say that Satan is the manifestation of evil in the world you are partially right, but since we are ultimately responsible for our own actions then is is we who perform and are wholly responsible for.

If you say Satan is another name for "The Evil Inclination" in the world then I would agree and add a word of caution which is do not call "The Evil Inclination" Satan or you will just perpetuate the problems stated above. Reply

Anonymous LONDON, UK September 1, 2008

It would seem to my mind - not having been brought up in Judaism but turning to it in later life that Jews seem to be in a Win-Win position. No matter WHAT we do in life the Jewish idea seems to be that G-d will forgive us - as long as we attended shul on Yom Kippur every year - and will let us go to live with him when we die!!. Is this reasonable?! BUT, if that's how you believe life - and death - happens, what's the use of anyone saying it doesn't? that it isn't logical? You are going to stick to what you are taught because it suits you. Otherwise, you would have to start looking at how you live and studying whether your ideas of who is best in a shul - a righteous man or the one who earns the most money there - are the wisest & best surely?!!! Reply

Jo Ann Mosley Orange Park, Florida February 6, 2008

Satan I do not quite understand who is satan. Christianity teaches that he is a devil. An angel who once worship G_d in Heaven.

Is satan a spirit? If so where is his place in our lives. Was satan as angel? Is satan evil?

Please forgive me if I sound confused.

Thank you, Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles, CA January 9, 2008

About restorative... This article mentioned that gehinom has a restoritive purpose for the souls who enter it and that there is a set beginning and end. However, I remember hearing that in some cases, such as those of an apostate Jew, the punishment continues beyond this set term. Does this means that in the case of an apostate jew, the suffering in gehinom continues indefinately? Also, does a non-Jew who, whether conscientiously or unwittingly, violate any or all of the seven laws of Noah (I mentioned unwittingly in regards to idolatry) also suffer indefinitely? Reply

Anonymous August 18, 2007

interesting! This has changed my understanding of what has appeared in the media. Thank you for the article! Reply

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