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Can anyone direct me to a book or commentary on Jewish thoughts on what happens after death, and the evolution of those ideas. I understand that Judaism is centered on how to live life, but from I can read is somewhat obscure or absent in discussing an afterlife. My Christian friends often asked me, what do Jews believe in after death?

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See here. This follows the Ramban. Note that this isn't the only Jewish view on the question. See here. –  Yishai Aug 1 at 15:44
see the book gesher hachaim –  ray Aug 2 at 19:03

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You could try Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife. It's on my to read list, but haven't gotten to it yet so your best bet is to read the amazon reviews.

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