Beliefs on the Afterlife in Reform Judaism
29 SEP 2017
Judaism has never been a religion that has emphasized the afterlife, and as a whole, its concepts related to heaven or hell are much less developed than they are in Christianity or Islam. Despite the diversity of Judaic sects, each division within Judaism emphasizes the deeds accomplished in one's lifetime rather than what awaits them as award or punishment in the afterlife. For Reform Jews, the most progressive sect within the religion, views related to the afterlife are even less defined than other sects.
Reform Judaism does not provide an official or clear-cut doctrine related to the afterlife; however, it does, unlike Orthodox Judaism, question the literal truth of afterlife concepts shaped within the religion, such as resurrection. While some Reform Jews clearly believe in some form of afterlife, others believe that life ends upon death.
Like other Judaic sects, Reform Judaism places importance on the here and now, rather than the afterlife, and diligently observes faith through good actions, referred to as as mitzvah. In this sense, rather than believing in an afterlife to drive good deeds, which is common within other major monotheistic religions, Reform Jews believe that good deeds should be accomplished for their own merits.
Traditionally within Judaism, Sheol has been mentioned as a place where souls congregate following death. For example, in Genesis 37:35 of the Hebrew Bible, Joseph says, "'No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.'" However, no universal belief or doctrine exists within Reform Judaism as it relates to Sheol. Much like other afterlife concepts, many Reform Jews do not believe in the literal meaning of Sheol.
4 Resurrection, Heaven and Hell
Many Reform Jews no longer literally believe in the resurrection of the dead, nor do they believe in Gehinnom, which is hell, or Gan Eden, which is heaven. Rather, Reform Jews emphasize a more ambiguous form of spiritual survival following death. Reform Judaic theology also supports the idea of some kind of spiritual life that proceeds one's death, although again, not all Reform Jews believe in an afterlife .
- 1 ReformJudaism: In Judaism What is Believed to Happen to Someone After They Die?
- 2 Jewish Virtual Library: The Tenets of Reform Judaism
- 3 Jewish Values Online: What is the Jewish Position on an Afterlife?
- 4 RJ.org: Does Judaism Believe in the Afterlife?
- 5 Biblegateway: Genesis 37:35
- 6 Jewish Virtual Library: Afterlife
- 7 Larry Helyer; Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period