Conservative Judaism/Hell punishment



Does Judaism believe in Hell? Will bad people be punished in Hell permanently or temporarily. Will polytheists good go to Hell even if they are good?  


Dear AM,

Thank you for writing. The subject is important, but as in other religious faiths, the answer is not absolute and universal for all faith adherents.

In Judaism, there are movements which have much in common, but some differences - including how different Rabbis and teachers might answer your question.

From the Biblical period to the present, there has been discussion of "exactly" how the afterlife functions, but they differ from period to period, from community and its host culture to another.

"In the words of the 2007 "Encyclopedia Judaica:" Thus even today several distinct conceptions about the fate of man after death, relating to the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the dead, and the nature of the world to come after the messianic redemption, exist side by side within Judaism. Though these conceptions are interwoven no generally accepted theological system exists concerning their interrelationship."

For those who are seeking a very traditional, narrow and fundamentalist interpretation of the afterlife, we can again quote the EJ on the Orthodox position:

"Orthodox Judaism has, throughout, maintained both a belief in the future resurrection of the dead as part of the messianic redemption, and also a belief in some form of immortality of the soul after death. The former figures in the liturgy at a number of points, including the morning prayer (Hertz, Prayer, 18), expressing the believer's trust that God will return his soul to his body in time to come. It is also a central motif of the second benediction of the *Amidah (ibid., 134). The belief in the soul's survival after death is implicit in the various prayers said in memory of the dead and in the mourner's custom of reciting the Kaddish (ibid., 110609, and 212, 26971). Reform Judaism has, however, given up any literal belief in the future resurrection of the dead. Reform theology concerns itself solely with the belief in a spiritual life after death and has modified the relevant liturgical passages accordingly."

You may want to speak with a local Rabbi for his or her interpretation of this thread but be sure to have the Rabbi identify with what movement in Judaism they are associated or affiliated.

"Punishment" is beyond my ability to speculate! I hope you understand that I don't want to answer and give you misinformation as if I were speaking for all Jews - I don't.

Best wishes

Rabbi Dov  

Conservative Judaism

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Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner


Write to me with questions about Jewish customs and law, history, philosophy and tradition for answers from a Conservative perspective or conversion. I am a graduate of The Jewish Theological Seminary and a member of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly. Having served in congregational pulpits since 1970, I now am President of the Foundation For Family Education, Inc. a non-profit educational endeavor. I established it to create new formats of hands-on programs and provide free educational downloads at In addition to general informational questions I welcome your questions about programs for social action, outreach to dual-faith families, inter-faith clergy projects, healing services, education for conversion, adult education for the congregation and the community. If you have questions about Informal and Formal Education I am ready to share my extensive experience with Youth Activities, Camping and Religious School/Hebrew High School on a congregational, community and national/international level.


I have served on the National Youth Commission for more than 25 years and serve on the Boards of the Conservative Zionist movement MERCAZ and the World Council of Synagogues. I have always dual-families and taught candidates for conversion with a great sense of fulfillment. I am very proud of 25 years on the Jewish camping staff of Camps Ramah. My greatest source of pride is my family! Ask me about them, please!:-)

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