by Dr. Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.

"Purgatory." In Judaic tradition, eternal punishment does not exist. Gehinnom is not, therefore, a classic hell. It is a place of pain and punishment, but the soul will only stay there for a maximum of twelve months, and the purpose is purification, not mere punishment. In other words, it is a spiritual forge, where the imperfections of the soul are purged.

Often, the folklore describes Gehinnom in the primitive style of physical torment, fire and brimstone, but invariably, the Sages disagree with this unintellectual approach. The torment in Gehinnom is mental, and is caused by a state of anxiety and sadness over the sins the soul committed in life, and the distance and separation from God until purity is achieved again.

On Saturday, Gehinnom is emptied, and the souls are permitted one day of bliss and closeness to God. Without it, the souls could not survive the torment of Gehinnom.