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Do Jews Believe In The Afterlife?

M Scott Peck said in his book “The Road Less Traveled” that “life is difficult.” That is true, but I have found for those who are left behind, that “death is difficult” as well. This blog seeks to help the reader understand that there is great belief in Judaism about the afterlife. That there is precedent for life after death in Jewish tradition. One does not have to believe any one concept, but through these posts, can see all the different ways Judaism seeks to understand and make sense of what happens to our souls once they are no longer a part of our bodies.  The afterlife and the world to come are fundamental Jewish concepts, upon which other religions have based their belief systems.

I have always been fascinated by the concept of the afterlife. When I was five, I asked my father what happened to us when we died and he gave me what he had been told – that is, “When you’re dead you’re dead.” That news was pretty hard to handle at such a tender age.  I didn’t believe him because it just didn’t seem to be true.  How could we just be in bodily form one moment, and then gone the next? How could a tradition be around for thousands of years and not say anything about the soul and what happens after we pass away from this life?  Of course our tradition had a lot to say. It was just that my father had never been taught about it, and thus was unequipped to handle my question.   

Whenever there was an opportunity for me to learn more about what Judaism had to say about the afterlife and the world to come, I was drawn to it.  Little did I know, growing up in an assimilated and mostly secular Jewish home, that traditional Judaism had a vast background of belief in an afterlife and even reincarnation!  Our Jewish tradition is fraught with different scenarios and possibilities that people have thought and believed over the years.

Judaism and Jewish belief has the antecedent for:

  • Purgatory
  • Various beliefs about Hell (although the Jewish concept is vastly different than the Christian belief)
  • Reincarnation
  • Resurrection of the Dead

Subsequent blogs will be exploring different concepts in Jewish belief. So, it is my pleasure to invite you into the many conversations that I have had over the years. My congregants, like me, are seeking knowledge of what other traditions about death and the after life that Judaism can offer to us.

I write this blog because my congregants want answers.  I have answers, but \never have enough time to the list of different views of the afterlife that Judaism offers!  I wanted one easy to read place that would provide different possibilities for belief in an afterlife. Thus, I now invite the reader to enter the conversations I have had about death and the afterlife, which may provide some comfort and inspiration on their search for some kind of answer.

Please keep an open mind. Not all of the ideas that will be presented on the following posts will resonate with everyone.  But they provide a more comprehensive picture of what Jewish tradition has to say about the afterlife.  May you be comforted on your journey…

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