Prayer Time

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Although, the Jews make it look very sweet-mouthed when they discuss life after death, yet Judaism is generally ambiguous about this matter. It is not a hidden fact that the terms immortality of the soul, the World to Come, and the resurrection of the dead all feature prominently in Jewish tradition. However, what exactly these things are and how they relate to each other is very unclear.

To worsen matters, their understanding of Heaven (or Paradise) and Hell are associated with the belief in immortality or the World to Come. At the same time, they were all also developed independently. Their beliefs and ideas about afterlife developed in post-biblical times.

That notwithstanding, the Bible itself has very few references to life after death. The word 'bowels of the earth' is usually used to depict the abode of the dead. The idea of resurrection appears in two late biblical sources, Daniel 12 and Isaiah 25-25.

Daniel 12:2 says: “Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, others to reproaches, to everlasting abhorrence”. This verse clearly states resurrection and judgment after death, for some (i.e. who did good) will be to eternal life while the others (the evil doers) will have everlasting reproaches.

That is what the Jewish Bible has, but the later Jewish tradition is not clear about exactly who will be resurrected, when it will happen, and what will take place.

Some sources imply that the resurrection of the dead will occur during the messianic era. Others indicate that resurrection will follow the messianic era. Similarly, according to some, only the righteous will be resurrected, while according to others, everyone will be resurrected and–as implied in Daniel–a day of judgment will follow.

The Daniel text probably dates to the second century BCE, and at some point during the two centuries that followed, another afterlife idea entered Judaism: the immortality of the soul, the notion that the human soul lives on even after the death of the body. In the Middle Ages, Jewish mystics expanded this idea, developing theories about reincarnation which actually is leading in the Jewish belief about the hereafter.[1]

In one of the most well-known contemporary rabbinic statements of comfort, Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman wrote, “I often feel that death is not the enemy of life, but its friend, for it is the knowledge that our years are limited which makes them so precious.” It is the realization that life is limited, our time on earth is brief, our ability to control our ultimate destiny non-existent that gives urgency to the quality of our lives. It makes each moment precious, each act of will crucial, each opportunity to create something meaningful all-important.

Though the pursuit of immortality has been a dominant theme of world literature for thousands of years, it remains true that there is no absolute proof of life beyond the grave. Great Jewish thinkers have often rejected the very notion of an afterlife as mere “wish fulfillment.”

Sigmund Freud, who invented this notion of the afterlife as “mere illusion,” stated that the whole idea of immortality is a sign of despair and limitation, invented to compensate for the misery of our life on Earth.

In reality, he claimed, death is annihilation, a return to “inorganic lifelessness.” Religion, as “the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity,” includes the belief in an afterlife as a way to satisfy the human need for overcoming the existential problems of the day. Freud saw the idea of immortality as a way of retreating from the challenges of this world into a world of myth and fantasy.

Although there are a number of religious Jewish thinkers who categorically deny the possibility of life after death, more common is the position of those who express skepticism, yet are unwilling to deny the possibility altogether. Such thinkers are known as “agnostics,” from the Greek word meaning “unknown.”

Agnostics maintain that the human mind is incapable of knowing what lies beyond material phenomena and therefore refrain from accepting or rejecting its existence. An example of a great contemporary Orthodox Jewish thinker is British scholar Rabbi Louis Jacobs.

Jacobs wrote, “Religious agnosticism, in some aspects of this whole area, is not only legitimate but altogether desirable. As Maimonides says, we simply can have no idea of what pure, spiritual bliss in the hereafter is like. Agnosticism on the basic issue of whether there is a hereafter would seem narrowness of vision, believing what we do of God. But once the basic affirmation is made, it is almost as narrow to project our poor, early imaginings on the landscape of heaven.[2]

From the above brief, it gets clear that the Jews have no straight forward belief about Resurrection and life after death as stated in the Bible.


[1] ) taken from with amendments..

[2] ) taken from



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