Heaven, or some form of afterlife, is a common idea for many religions. But do Jews believe in heaven?
Most traditional Jews believe in life after death, with ideas of heaven ranging from Olam-Ha-Ba to shamayim. However, Jewish law focuses more on the current life, leaving the concept of their afterlife up for debate.
Many Jews believe in heaven, but their ideas of the afterlife can get a little hazy. But don’t worry because, in the rest of this article, we’ll be going over the two more popular views of heaven for Jews.
Judaism | Heaven Beliefs
There is disagreement among different sects of Judaism on whether heaven exists. Traditional Judaism firmly believes that there is life after death.
However, Judaism is more often focused on the current existence and does not have as much dogma about the afterlife.
The Torah emphasizes immediate physical rewards over abstract future ones.
There is evidence in the Torah, though, of people believing in life after death. Their scriptures are full of individuals gathered to their people after death, such as Jacob in Genesis 49:33.
Many Orthodox Jews believe that righteous souls will go to a place similar to the Christian depiction of heaven after death.
Others may think that they go through many lifetimes reincarnated or that they will remain asleep until the return of the Messiah sparks restoration.
Along with different viewpoints on the afterlife’s existence, there are also varying opinions on how it will appear. The two most common viewpoints are based on the following:
Most commonly, traditional Orthodox Jews call their idea of the afterlife “Olam-Ha-Ba,” meaning “the world to come.” This life begins immediately after the one on earth, or “Olam-Ha-Zeh,” has ended.
The idea of Olam-Ha-Ba is never completely defined.
Some believe it to be a glorious place where the righteous will dwell after the Messiah returns, while others view it as a spiritual home for souls after the body dies.
Some rabbinic texts describe that in Olam-Ha-Ba, you will no longer eat, drink, procreate, or experience commerce, jealousy, hatred, or rivalry.
Instead, it is where the righteous sit crowned and delight in the glory of the divine presence. This idea would be the viewpoint of Olam-Ha-Ba as a spiritual realm afterlife.
Other texts indicate that Olam-Ha-Ba will instead be a new creation formed after the Messiah comes. It is not life after death but simply life.
Those who were righteous during their earthly life will rise again for a second life.
The Hebrew word for heaven is “shamayim,” which always denotes a plural form, indicating the idea of multiple heavens.
These heavens are the dwelling place of God and other beings from the heavenly realms.
During the first millennium, Judaism scholars created a seven-heaven system for what they believed was another alternative to the Jewish belief of heaven.
This idea is found in rabbinic literature from Palestine during that era. These heavens are:
- Vilon – Vilon is the first heaven and the one closest to earth. Archangel Gabriel governs this heaven, which many consider the home of Adam and Eve.
- Raqia – The Archangels Raphael and Zachariel govern the second heaven. This is the heaven that Moses visited during his trip to paradise.
- Shehaqim – The third heaven, ruled by Archangel Haniel, is home to the Tree of Life and the Garden of Eden.
- Maon – According to the Talmud, this heaven houses the heavenly Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Altar. Archangel Michael governs it.
- Makon – This heaven is where the song-uttering choirs and Ishim reside.
- Zebul – Archangel Zadkiel presides over the sixth heaven.
- Araboth – The seventh heaven, Araboth, is considered the holiest because it houses the throne of God and is the primary heaven in which God dwells. Underneath God’s throne is the home of all unborn souls. Archangel Cassiel governs this heaven.
So do Jews believe in heaven? Most traditional/Orthodox Jews do believe in life after death.
However, their opinions on the matter can vary due to a lack of specific dogma on the subject.
The majority believe in a heaven similar to Olam-Ha-Ba since the scriptures hint towards a second life and new creation.
However, many also believe seven spiritual realms make up heaven.