This follows my previous question "can-one's-merits-in-the-world-to-come-be-traded"

In my humble understanding, the general purpose of punishment is to make someone better, to make a person change, to cause him to make Teshuva. However, for one who's unable to change the punishment seems otiose and useless.

In the afterlife, we're allegedly judged in the Heavenly court and sentenced for our misdeeds to some form of punishment - but for what purpose, if we're helpless and unable to change?

  • Good question. The shaar hagmul says a lot about the punishment afterlife. Rav Chayim Friedlander in divre Chayim elul sais that to see the truth is the suffering of after life – kouty Jan 26 '19 at 22:18
  • Some might say this is evidence for reincarnation as a possibility. – Cyn Jan 27 '19 at 2:16
  • Perhaps "punishment" in the afterlife merely means the removal of the "blinders" of this world such that we see ourselves as we truly are relative to what we could have been, and without the ability to move on from this knowledge or change it. – Loewian Jan 28 '19 at 3:36
  • i'm not so sure punishment is only to rectify the sinner - "the Lord made everything for His praise even the wicked man for the day of evil" (proverbs 16:4). there's also the concept of rectifying the damage you did through your sins. – michael Feb 26 '19 at 18:45

This is the concept discussed in many books. Not to delay in doing Teshuvah while alive. And the levels are, for example mentioned in Sefer hayashar 13, right after you sin, a long time after continued sinning, when the sin no longer satisfying, when he is sick, when he is in great distress, when he finds a teacher, when he’s old, when he’s dying.

This Teshuvah improves oneself in a spiritual manner. The ideal location for this improvement is before death. Sometimes one is improved with יסורין (physical punishments) as an atonement to get to this improvement. So it says in Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 10.1, that יסורין can atone.

העובר על הכריתות ומיתות בית דין במזיד התשובה ויום הכיפורים מכפרין מחצה והייסורין מכפרין מחצה ועליו הוא אומר ופקדתי בשבט פשעם וגו'

The goal of this improvement is to get to gan eden (Even Shleimah 10.13). Gahenim is one of three things which must pass over a person before he gets to gan eden (ibid. 10.12). Gehenom is like fire, and it is painful for the נשמה (ibid. 10.33,32).

Teshuvah during life can save one from Gehenom, even if he has already been determined to die (ibid. 10.24). In general, gehenom will remove the spiritual impurities (ibid. 10.31).

So, the point is to change while it’s still in your hands. Otherwise, spiritual ‘punishment’ will accomplish that, for you failed to do so, and can no longer.

  • If I understand, your point is that the punishment is not a real punishment but a cleansing designed to clean the soul before it enters the Eden, right (the 4th and 5th paragraphs)? And the first 3 about Teshuva are irrelevant to the afterlife. – Al Berko Feb 26 '19 at 18:59
  • There are relevant because they are prevention. – Dr. Shmuel Feb 26 '19 at 19:00
  • I got it but it is irrelevant in the afterlife, the Q was about. – Al Berko Feb 26 '19 at 19:00
  • There are views that hell is like a wash machine which cleans the soul and so it can be like a living hell. But such punishment (if you could call it that) only lasts for ten months max. In Judaism, if you go to hell (barbecue land), simply say I don’t believe in you and hell will simply disappear. Jews don’t believe in hell. We believe in Gan Eden and the World to Come. – Turk Hill Jun 27 '19 at 3:47
  • @Dr.Shmuel Why then become religious, if at the end, everybody ends up in Gan Eden anyway, after going through "cleansing" in Gehenna? – ninamag Jul 17 '19 at 8:07

Making Sense of Suffering, adapted from the speeches of Rabbi Yitzchak Kirzner, who, in turn, seems to have adapted the large majority of his work from the Ramchal in Derech Hashem (beginning here, mostly), discusses several reasons why one may suffer. Most of them are inapplicable to the Afterlife, but the primary reason why one may suffer still applies there:

Spiritual "vomit": The same way that when one ingests a poison, he throws up in order to purge it from his system, suffering is intended as a way to purge the spiritual poison of sin from one's body.

  • This comment is for under all the various answers here. Why then become religious, if at the end, everybody ends up in Gan Eden anyway, after going through "cleansing" in Gehenna? – ninamag Jul 17 '19 at 8:06
  • @ninamag This doesn’t apply to someone who says “I’ll sin and G-d will forgive me.” It’s only for someone who tries to do what’s right and stumbles. – DonielF Jul 17 '19 at 14:42
  • I agree, can you give me a rabbinical source for this comment, "It’s only for someone who tries to do what’s right and stumbles"? – ninamag Jul 17 '19 at 15:29
  • @ninamag Final Mishnah in Yoma, for starters. – DonielF Jul 17 '19 at 15:33
  • I did not see the word "will" or "free will" here sefaria.org/Mishnah_Yoma.8?lang=bi – ninamag Jul 17 '19 at 15:46

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