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Biblical Gehinom
Where in the Tanakh [Hebrew Bible] does it say that there is a place of purification for the souls? Is this Biblical or purely Rabbinical?
James7 Wrote:Where in the Tanakh [Hebrew Bible] does it say that there is a place of purification for the souls? Is this Biblical or purely Rabbinical?

An abreviated Tractate Gehinom. (This was borrowed from the ethics classic "Reishis Chochma," chapter 13 of the book "Gate of Fear" which has a section by that name.)

In Kings 2, Chapter 23, Verse 10, it speaks of a valley outside of Jerusalem which belonged to a man named Ben Hinom. The Hebrew word for valley is "gai"; thus "Gai Ben Hinom," the Valley of Ben Hinom. This valley was also referred to as Tiftah (derived from the word Pitui which menas enticement), or Tofes which is derived from the word Tof, which means drum.

During a period of time when idol worship infiltrated into the land, this valley was the site of a statue of an idol called Molech which is mentioned in the Torah also. The way this idol was worshipped was that a fire was set inside the brass hollow idol which had the face of a calf and the body of a man with outstretched arms. Parents brought one of their children as a sacrifice. The priests of the idol would take the baby from the parents and place it on the outstretched arms of the Molech, and the baby would be burned up by the heat of the fire. There were platforms where drummers stood beating the drums to drown out the cries of the babies. Thus the name Tofes and the concept of being consumed by fire.

The term Gehinom or "Gai Ben Hinom" is also found in other places in Kings and Chronicles.

The other references to Gehinom, as we know it to be a spiritual place for souls who merit to undergo a temporary period of purification from their unrepentant sins, are mentioned only in the Oral Torah. Our Rabbis teach that this place has seven names, and these names are derived from various verses in Tanach: Sheol (Jonah 2:3); Avadon (Psalms 88:12); Beer Shachas (Psalms 55:24); Bor, Sheon and Teet Hayaven (Psalms 40:3); Tzalmaves (Psalms 107:10); and Eretz Tachtis. The Talmud in Tractate Nedarim says that seven things were created previous to this world: Torah, Repentance, Gan Eden (the heavenly paradise), Gehinom (the purgatory), the Heavenly Throne, the Bais HaMikdosh (Holy Temple), and the name of Moshiach (the Messiah who will be born as a patrilinear descendent from kings David and Solomon). The Talmud in Tractate Pesachim teaches that the spiritual fire of Gehinom was created on the second day of creation.

Without going into detail, the Zohar teaches that there are seven levels of Gehinom and each level deals with a different category of sin.
Rabbi Yitz
It is important to note that perfectly righteous individuals throughout history (the tzaddikim), had mental perception during their physical lives of both the physical and the spiritual realms. They were aware of goings on in both Gan Eden and Gehinom, and they related this in their writings, their teachings and their conversations. For instance, the tzaddik Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev once witnessed the soul of a recently deceased tzaddik, Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib, demanding and being granted entrance into Gehinom for the purpose of redeeming sixty thousand souls and bringing them up with him to Gan Eden.

The spiritual Gehinom [Purgatory] is not the only realm in which an unrepentant soul can be temporarily afflicted with a cleansing process. There is also the "purgatory of the grave." An unrepentant Noahide soul that sinned in forbidden relations may be afflicted with suffering as it is forced to witness the decay of the body, whose physical pleasures it was so attracted to.

Both the purgatory of the grave and the fire of Gehinom are mentioned in Isaiah 66:24. The verse refers to the Messianic Era. In that era Gehinom itself will be permanently closed down, but for a particularly wicked class of sinners (identified in the Talmud as those who were terrorists), the fire of Gehinom and the decay of the grave will be preserved in their bodies as a sign foir mankind.
When people die, do all of us go to the purging fires of Gehinom and then to heaven? I read that Jews don't believe anyone can go to Gehinom for longer than 12 months. But what about people like Hitler? What happens to them?
okiebennoach82 Wrote:When people die, do all of us go to the purging fires of Gehinom and then to heaven?

No. Those souls which are sufficiently righteous, meritorious or repentant can be spared from the purging process. Also there are other processes which can happen to the soul, such as reincarnation.

okiebennoach82 Wrote:I read that Jews don't believe anyone can go to Gehinom for longer than 12 months.

That is only talking about Jews, and in general. There can be longer stays in Gehinom for souls which were exceptionally sinful and unrepentant.

okiebennoach82 Wrote:But what about people like Hitler? What happens to them?

See for example Isaiah 66:24. Also there is punishment "midah k'neged midah" - measure for measure. Punishments are tailored to correspond to the unrepentant sins that were committed. For example, consider the case of Titus who desecrated and destroyed the Second Temple, and ordered the massacres of millions of Jews. Great numbers of Jews were also taken as slaves, or were killed for entertainment in the Roman forums. Titus ordered that when he died, his body was to be burned and the ashes scattered over all the oceans of the world, so that he could not be found for punishment, and this is what they did. The Talmud states that every day an angel gathers up his ashes, reconstructs him into his body, burns him to ashes, and rescatters his ashes.
But is this forever? Will all people eventually go to "heaven"?
None of the points above in reference to Heaven or Gehinom are eternal.

Before the ultimate era of the eternal World to Come, which will be souls in bodies in the physical world, Gehinom will be shut down, and any of the souls in Heaven which merit to continue to eternal reward will be resurrected in the physical world into one of their past bodies.
Isn't there a writing somewhere in Torah that says G-d purifies souls like a silversmith purifies the silver he works with (i.e. burning out the impurities to make it fit to be worked with), or words to that effect?
Maybe you are thinking of a stanza from the Jewish prayer book from Yom Kippur, which compares G-d's control of our physical lives, and the tests we face, to a silversmith who chooses to refine or adulterate an ingot of silver.

Is the soul going to Sheol or just the body?
What happens to a soul of the B'nai Noah who kept the Noahide laws?



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