What is the difference between a person who died without doing teshuva on his sins on Karet, Eternal gehinnom and having no share in the world to come?

  • 1
    1. All those ideas are purely theoretical and believe me, nobody truly knows what it is, mostly because the "world of souls" operates with a different set of definitions than ours. For example, it does not have the dimension of time, family ties and more. 2. The basic assumption is that all Jews have a share in the WTC, this way or another. 3. We don't know G-d's considerations. A person might be a sinner in our eyes but a Tzadik in G-d's eyes. We see multiple examples in the Torah where our leaders made horrible sins that turned out as big merits.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 18, 2019 at 9:37
  • @AlBerko 1. No. They’re not theoretical. We have a Mesorah as to how it works - see my answer. 2. Once again, see my answer (and the rest of Chelek) - sometimes a Jew forfeits that c”v. What you describe is just the default. 3. That’s completely irrelevant to the question at hand.
    – DonielF
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:34

1 Answer 1


I’ll cite the relevant pieces momentarily, but here’s a quick summary of these ideas, according to the Rambam: Eternal Gehennom is exactly what it sounds like, while Kareis means being cut off from Olam HaBa - no Gehennom but no Gan Eden either. While the default is that a Jew has a share in Gan Eden (perhaps having a temporary dip in Gehennom first to cleans one’s soul), he’s able to forfeit that right for certain sins (assuming he doesn’t do Teshuvah, as you assume in your question).

There’s also a confusion of terminology to be cleared up here: according to the Rambam, Olam HaBa refers to after a person dies, before he is resurrected (Lechem Mishnah, to 8:1). To clarify this, I’ve been using the term “Gan Eden” rather than the more ambiguous “Olam HaBa”; in the quotes below, I will use the term Olam HaBa, as that is the term the Rambam uses.

Note that others (ex. Ramban) argue that Olam HaBa indeed refers to after the Resurrection; I don’t know if, according to such opinions, one who gets Kareis has a share in Gan Eden first.

Now for the relevant quotes, all of which are in the Rambam’s Mishnah Torah:

Teshuvah 8:1:

הַטוֹבָה הַצְּפוּנָה לַצַּדִּיקִים הִיא חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא וְהִיא הַחַיִּים שֶׁאֵין מָוֶת עִמָּהֶן וְהַטּוֹבָה שֶׁאֵין עִמָּהּ רָעָה. [...] וּפִרְעוֹן הָרְשָׁעִים הוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִזְכּוּ לְחַיִּים אֵלּוּ אֶלָּא יִכָּרְתוּ וְיָמוּתוּ. וְכָל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ זוֹכֶה לְחַיִּים אֵלּוּ הוּא הַמֵּת שֶׁאֵינוֹ חַי לָעוֹלָם אֶלָּא נִכְרַת בְּרִשְׁעוֹ וְאָבֵד כִּבְהֵמָה.

The good which is hidden for the righteous is the life of Olam HaBa, which is the life which there is no death with it, where there is good with no evil. [...] The punishment of the wicked is that they do not merit this life, but rather they are cut off and die. Anyone who does not merit this life is dead, for he doesn’t live forever, but rather is cut off in his wickedness and is lost like an animal.

Teshuvah 8:5:

הַנְּקָמָה שֶׁאֵין נְקָמָה גְּדוֹלָה מִמֶּנָּה שֶׁתִּכָּרֵת הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְלֹא תִּזְכֶּה לְאוֹתָן הַחַיִּים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר טו לא) "הִכָּרֵת תִּכָּרֵת הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִיא עֲוֹנָהּ בָּהּ". וְזֶה הָאֲבַדּוֹן הוּא שֶׁקּוֹרִין אוֹתוֹ הַנְּבִיאִים דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל בְּאֵר שַׁחַת וַאֲבַדּוֹן וְתָפְתֶּה וַעֲלוּקָה וְכָל לְשׁוֹן כְּלָיָה וְהַשְׁחָתָה קוֹרְאִין לוֹ לְפִי שֶׁהִיא הַכְּלָיָה שֶׁאֵין אַחֲרֶיהָ תְּקוּמָה וְהַהֶפְסֵד שֶׁאֵינוֹ חוֹזֵר לְעוֹלָם:

The revenge which there is no greater revenge than it is that the soul is cut off and does not merit those lives, as it says, ”That soul will surely be cut off; its sin is in it.” This is the loss which the prophets called by parable “pit of destruction,” “loss,” “burning flame,” “leech,” and all other languages of cessation and destruction they call it, for it is the cessation after which there is no rising, the loss which does not return ever.

Teshuvah 3:5-6:

וְכֵן כָּל הָרְשָׁעִים שֶׁעֲוֹנוֹתֵיהֶן מְרֻבִּים דָּנִין אוֹתָן כְּפִי חֲטָאֵיהֶם וְיֵשׁ לָהֶן חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא שֶׁכָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁחָטְאוּ [...] וְאֵלּוּ הֵן שֶׁאֵין לָהֶן חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא אֶלָּא נִכְרָתִים וְאוֹבְדִין וְנִדּוֹנִין עַל גֹּדֶל רִשְׁעָם וְחַטָּאתָם לְעוֹלָם וּלְעוֹלְמֵי עוֹלָמִים. [...]

And likewise all the wicked whose sins are many, they are judged according to their wickedness, but they have a portion in Olam HaBa, for all Jews have a portion in Olam HaBa even if they have sinned [...] And these are those who have no share in Olam HaBa but rather are cut off, lost, or judged on the severity of their wickedness and sins for all eternity [...]

Notice in this last paragraph that the Rambam, in addition to discussing being "cut off and lost" (i.e. receiving Kareis), also discussing being "judged." This stitch of the Rambam seems to be paraphrasing Rosh HaShanah 17a, which states:

אבל המינין והמסורות והאפיקורסים שכפרו בתורה ושכפרו בתחיית המתים ושפירשו מדרכי צבור ושנתנו חיתיתם בארץ חיים ושחטאו והחטיאו את הרבים כגון ירבעם בן נבט וחביריו יורדין לגיהנם ונידונין בה לדורי דורות

But [various types of sinners] descend to Gehennom and are judged there for all generations.

  • So, by summarising it, would it mean, karet means, the soul is going to cease to exist and to have no share in Ha'olam haba is until ressurection?
    – Rh Haokip
    Jan 19, 2019 at 14:36
  • 1. Where's the "Eternal Gehennom is exactly what it sounds like" mentioned? 2. Rambam in Teshuva is purely educational and theoretical, similar to Morah Nevochim, Gemmorah brings lots of counterexamples, as I mentioned, that in G-d's eyes our actions might look very different. That's why we can't give such a answer to a novice OP as if it was a commonly known Halachah.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 19, 2019 at 16:56
  • @RhHaokip I’m not sure if they even have a share in the Resurrection, but other than that you’re certainly correct.
    – DonielF
    Jan 20, 2019 at 1:02
  • @AlBerko 1. I guess I wasn’t clear, but see the last paragraph. I can clarify that if it’s really that unclear. 2. Chas v’shalom that a work called Hilchos Teshuvah isn’t meant as Halacha. Of course there are exceptions to every rule but we can certainly give a general answer.
    – DonielF
    Jan 20, 2019 at 1:04
  • @DonielF I would love to discuss the last part with you - what can or cannot be considered Halacha, It is true that I myself frequently write "Rambam rules", but many times I really doubt it. It appears to me that we can call Halachah only to actions that pertain to our behavior, but G-d is beyond that and we can't obligate Him to comply with our Halachah, e.g. deciding for us if somebody gets a share in the WTC or not. There are too many variables to consider - maybe Zchus Avos, maybe his private Tikkun. Like Menashe that received a special treatment from Hashem.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 20, 2019 at 9:42

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