4- Postmortem reward and punishment for individuals: between death and resurrection everyone, except saints, goes to Gehenom purgatory for 1-12 months to atone for their sins.
Most people, including non Jewish good people, then go to Gan Eden, a good place since it is populated by good people.
Evil people who are still unrepentant after 12 months of painful confrontation with their sins are extinguished (avadon).
The great majority of people are basically good (that is why Jewish custom is to say the Kaddish prayer for the dead for only 11 months) and only really evil people do not enter the spiritual world to come. Ideas #4-7 are post Biblical rabbinic ideas.
5- Immortality: Based on the laws of Physics that matter and energy are never destroyed but only transformed.
Thus just as the body disorganizes into its basic molecules and is recycled in the ground; so does the soul lose it’s personal memories and yet its basic energy becomes part of the cosmic energy of the universe.
This view was popular among Jews in the Greek/Roman Empire and was revived by many Reform Progressive Jews in the 19th century.
6- Gilgul- Recycling: Reincarnation is a Kabbalistic concept that arose in Spain in the 12th century and became popular in 18-19th century Eastern Europe through Hassidism.
Unlike Indian concepts, gilgul is limited to humans and does not occur to everyone
If Pharisaic and medieval Orthodox Rabbis went for the idea of hell condemning in their imagination those who died to a stay there, they were successful in resisting the concept of eternal damnation.
Gehenna actually resembles the Catholic notion of purgatory than the Christian concept of hell. Most of the Rabbis who speculated about Gehenna agreed that the average person spends no more than twelve months there.
Talmudic statements indicated some are punished for thirty days, some for sixty days, some for ninety days, and some stay in Gehenna for as long as six months. Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri felt that the general period of punishment is only seven weeks.
Another opinion quoted in the Talmud states that especially kind sinners are punished no more than an hour.
One interesting view in the Zohar indicates that a sinner’s punishment lasts only as long as it takes the body to deteriorate. The passage says,
“All sinners as long as their bodies are in the grave intact, are judged body and soul together, each in their own way. But as soon as the body is decayed, the punishment of the soul ceases”.
This interpretation reflects the Jewish view that the body should return to the earth and decay as quickly as possible.
Judaism teaches that of all approaches to interring the dead, the best is a simple funeral using a plain wooden casket, which does not impede the natural processes of the body’s decay. It would be ironic
if those people who had wasted thousands of dollars on caskets made out of metal, and used elaborate chemical procedures to preserve the body, were merely prolonging the sufferings of the dead.
Several verses in the Quran mention the eternal nature of hell or both heaven and hell. Quran 7:23 states that the damned will linger in hell for ages.
But two verses in the Quran (6:128 and 11:107) emphasize that while going to hell is horrible and eternal it is always “except as God (or your Lord) wills it” which means that it is not human judgements that count but God’s because God can always be merciful.
In summation there are seven different Jewish views or options for the afterlife.
1- Humans no different from animals. All end up in the same place. Hebrew Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:19-21
2- Sheol; the big question. There is something, but no one knows what it is: it is not heaven or hell. Psalms 6:5, 88:10 115:17.
3- Resurrection during the Messianic Age as part of God’s final Judgement. Good people live again on earth for a long time, evil people die quickly. Hebrew Bible, Daniel 12:1-4 and Isaiah 26:19-21, 17:1
According to the Book of Kings, when King Josiah attempted to reform Jewish society, he destroyed and defiled this place in an attempt to end the fiery sacrifice of children practiced there (2 Kings 23 :IO).
In light of the vividness and horror of this derivation, it is not surprising to find the term Gehinnom became the most popular term for the realm of punishment used in Rabbinic literature, including the Kabbalah.
Speculations about Gehinnom, like those about Gan Eden, were always regarded as no more than speculations. The sages never accorded them the honor or emphasis reserved for discussion of our obligations toward our fellow humans.
Speculations about heaven and hell were merely exercises of the imagination. And, as long as one isn’t disturbed by their variety and frequent contradictions, one can find insights in the dicta of the sages, and in passages in the Zohar concerning heaven and hell.
The Zohar Hadash speaks of Gehenna (a westernized spelling of Gehinnom) as being divided into seventy-two compartments.
Moses de Leon, the editor and part author of the Zohar, in a book under his own name, speaks of Gehenna as being divided into seven compartments in the upper Gehenna, and seven compartments in the lower Gehenna.
However, the most important question about Gehenna is not the size or structure of Gehenna, but who goes there.
According to some Rabbis, everybody goes to hell. But while everybody goes, hardly anyone stays in hell, at least not forever.
The Zohar and other Kabbalistic sources theorize that even the righteous go to Gehenna. The righteous and the wicked differ in the purpose of their going, and the length of their stay.
There is a lot to be said for the Zohar’s conclusions. After all, no one is perfectly righteous. Even the best among us have shared with the worst among us at one time or another some common act, or error, or omission.
Further, an essential part of being good is the desire to help those who are less well off. It is only natural, therefore, that the righteous would want to enter Gehenna to attempt to rescue those who are there.
The righteous do not stay long in Gehenna, however. When they leave, they may take with them some of those whom they have redeemed by their influence, or their example.
It is interesting to note that such popularizers of the torments of Christian hell as Dante, Milton, and contemporary revivalists, for all their imagination, have not added significantly to the horrors of the punishments of Gehenna’s inmates listed in the Zohar.
Tortured by thirst, they are burned by fire, scalding water, brimstone, heaping coals, boiling semen, fiery stones, and molten lead. Worms crawl up and down their bodies.
Their flesh in pounded by hail, chewed by dogs and lions, stung by scorpions and snakes. And they are starved throughout this torment until finally in despair and frenzy, they eat their own flesh.
These descriptions sound so Christian that most Jews are astonished to discover that they come from medieval Jewish literature.
The concepts of an after-life taught in Christianity and Islam were expanded and extended by medieval Christians and Moslems. and then influenced medieval Jews in return
There are new souls born all the time. Most current living souls do not return. Some of those who return, do so as a punishment but for most souls it is a second chance to improve themselves.
Female souls return to help their husbands live a better life next time. Souls of Jews who were cut off from the Jewish people violently or voluntarily are reborn in a descendent and return to the Jewish people through conversion/reversion to Judaism
7- Some of these concepts are not mutually exclusive. Most Kabbalists and Hassidim believed in #3 and #4 and #6 Many Jews today believe in #5 and #6. For most of the 20th century most non-Orthodox Jews believed in #1 and #2.
I think what happens to you depends partly on what you believe will happen to you #7. If you believe in Gilgul you become a gilgul. If not, you don’t. So what you believe is important.
However, if you do not believe in a reward and you deserve it you will still receive it; and it does not matter what Hitler or Stalin believed: there is a judge and there is judgement. Genesis 18:25.