Jewish Salvation

Please help me stamp out some of my own ignorance.

#1) What does the Jewish faith state happens to Jews when they die (if it needs qualification, then assume that the Jew in particular followed the Jewish faith properly)?

#2) Considering that it is very difficult to join the Jewish faith, what does the Jewish faith state happens to those that are not Jews when they die?

What more could you expect from somebody who lets people kick him to the head?

Hmmm, a cry for help. This looks like a job for … CMKeller!!

No one really knows, in the short term. Could be reincarnation, could be return to the earth as an ibbur (helpful spirit) or dybbuk (harmful spirit), could be a purgatorial term in Gehinnom, could be translation directly to some level of Paradise, could be some, all, or none of the above. The most general statement that can be made is that each soul is judged separately, and that the Holy One, blessed be He, is not bound by any doctrine in judgment, but rather apportions to each the appropriate reward(s) and/or punishment(s).
After the coming of Messiah, the resuurection of the dead is to take place. The general opinion is that the dead will be resurrected in a physical body, but some think that the resurrection will be into a spiritual body appropriate to the enlightment that the soul has gained.

Recall that non-Jews (those whose maternal ancestry is not Jewish, and who have not converted) are not obliged in any way to follow the mitzvot. They are morally) obliged to follow the Noachide laws, as descendants of Noah.
Jewish thought does not commonly deal with the question, “What happens after death to non-Jews?” , but in the absence of a definitive or convincing answer we may suppose that a similar process of judgment, punishment (if appropriate), and reward goes on, save that the resurrection does not occur.

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

I did a search for Noachide Laws at and lo and behold I found which states

Which I think helps answer question #2.

And since Question #1 was answered so well by Akatsukami (thanks :)) that pretty much wraps things up.

Of course, any additional information is welcome!

So, does every other Jew know more about this stuff than I do? Gevalt!! Maybe if I hadn’t locked the Hebrew school teacher out of the room all the time…

–Da Cap’n
“Playin’ solitaire 'til dawn
With a deck of fifty-one.”

This discussion recently came up when I was talking to a few friends, including the wife of the local Reform rabbi. The general answer was that there doesn’t seem to be a general answer. :slight_smile: Jewish beliefs definitely include some continuation of a “soul,” but that’s about all that could be said.

Speaking of “Salvation,” one woman mentioned (at another time) to the local Reform rabbi that a Christian had asked her how she will find salvation if she doesn’t go through Christ. She didn’t know how to answer and asked the rabbi about it. He said to tell them that Jews never deal with the middle man. :slight_smile:

What are the Seven Universal Laws?

This is from

I’m agreeing with all the comments so far, but I think I’d reword slightly.

There is no formal doctrine in Judaism about what happens after death. The Jewish Bible has almost NO direct reference to the topic; there are a few scattered poetic comments.

From those few comments, there has been a great deal of interpretation by the rabbis through the centuries. Akat’s first paragraph lists a few of those, there are many others. Some of the rabbinic thought has been in reaction to Christian theology.

But I think the most general modern consensus is that death is death. There is no “after-life” per se, but the righteous (regardless of religious affiliation) will be awakened from death when the Messiah comes. The definition of “righteous” is, as Akat says, up to God; but we have been told through the Law what that means in general terms.

On the topic of “salvation”:
I think that the strongest line of Jewish thought has been that personal immortality is NOT what it’s all about. “Salvation” is irrelevant. Life is all about doing deeds of lovingkindness, life is NOT about “salvation.” (Salvation in Judaism in the past – when mentioned in prayers, for isntance – has often meant being rescued from intolerable situations on earth, such as persecutions.)

The issue of “salvation” is just not relevant in Judaism. I don’t know how to put this, except perhaps by reverse example. Imagine asking a Christian how they can be holy if they don’t keep kosher. The Christian would be puzzled by the question --ne doesn’t try to be holy, and keeping kosher has nothing to do with it.

The reaction of a Jew to the question about salvation is (or should be) similar. In Judaism, one tries to aspire to holiness, in this world; salvation has nothing to do with it.

What do Jews believe happens to souls after death?

The Orthodox answer: If they have more good deeds than sins, they go to heaven (i.e., their souls are placed close to G-d, where they enjoy the spiritual sensation), and if they have more sins, they go to hell (i.e., they are far from G-d, where they go through some sort of painful purification process…and are then allowed to get somewhat closer).

Non-Jews, in this reagrd are the same as Jews…except that non-Jews are considered good if they keep the seven Noahide commandments, and a Jew wouldn’t be considered good (this is the Orthodox belief I’m stating here, remember) unless he fulfilled all the commandments written in the Torah. (Well, more so than transgressing them, as above).

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

As a Christian who is worshipping at a Reform Synagogue, I get to see both viewpoints.

To simplify what’s been said already, Judaism is like a Nike commercial – “just do it”. The emphasis is on keeping G-d’s mitzvot, and whether one is resurrected from the dead or not, or even if one even believes in G-d, is beside the point. That’s up to G-d, and He will resurrect whoever He wants to. The point is to (you guessed it) “just do it”.

This contrasts with the Christian persective, which focuses on relying on the cruxifiction of Jesus to obtain salvation (meaning an afterlife - many also believe in a physical resurrection).

Christians are generally focused on experience and/or theology to obtain an afterlife, Jews are generally focused on observance because it’s their job a G-d’s chosen people (resurrection or no). So when the two talk, what one says often does not compute with the other.


Although in Orthodox Judaism, it’s not beside the point, because belief in G-d is one of the mitzvot.

Chaim Mattis Keller

FTR, I asked a rabbi (via e-mail) about this question, and got the following answer:

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”