What happens to a human being’s soul
after he passes on from this world?

Every Jew first goes to Olam Haneshamot(World of the Souls; see answer 3) to receive his reward and/or punishment for the deeds performed in this world. Afterward, if he is deemed worthy, his soul is reunited with his body through the process of Tehiyat Hametim (resurrection). This marks the beginning of Olam Haba(World to Come), where the body and soul together receive eternal pleasure by being continuously drawn closer to Hashem.

2            To what precisely does the term
“Olam Haba”refer?

The term “Olam Haba”is used by our sages as a generic term to refer to all stages of the soul’s existence after a person dies. In some instances, however, the term “Olam Haba”is used specifically in reference to the period of time after Tehiyat Hametim(Rav Yosef Albo, Sefer Ha’ikkarim, 4:31), and this is how the term is being used here in this discussion.

3         What is the difference between
Olam Haneshamotand Olam Haba?

Olam Haneshemotrewards and punishes for the purpose of perfecting the soul, and also serves as a temporary residence for the soul until the time of Resurrection. (Ramhal compares Olam Haneshamotto a hotel.) After the stage of Olam Haneshamot, the soul returns to Earth to rejoin with its body, and this begins the stage of Olam Haba, during which the soul and body are rewarded together for eternity.


           What does Olam Haneshamot
consist of?

It consists of two distinct sections known as Gan Eden(Garden of Eden) and Gehinnom(Purgatory).

5         What is Gan Edenfor?

Gan Edenis the place where the soul is rewarded and strengthened for all its good thoughts, speech and deeds during its sojourn on Earth. It consists of many different levels, as well as passages in timeand seasons, each one bestowing a unique delight.

6         What is Gehinnomfor?

Gehinnomserves to remove the stains of one’s soul caused by the wrongful actions one committed while on Earth. Once this cleansing process is complete, the soul can then proceed to Gan Edento receive its reward for its good deeds.

7         For how long will our world endure,
and when will Mashiahcome?

This world as we know it will cease to exist by the year 6,000 (224 years after the current year, 5776), whereupon Tehiyat Hametimwill occur and a new form of existence will begin. Mashiahmay arrive anytime, but he must come and complete his mission to perfect the world by the end of the year 6,000.


           How does one earn the rewards of
Gan Edenand avoid or minimizethe
punishments of Gehinnom?

One earns reward and avoids punishments by fulfilling the mitzvot and refraining from all that which halachah forbids. One also receives credit for mitzvotthat others have performed as a result of his influence.

9         How does one earn Tehiyat Hametim
and thereby enter Olam Haba?

Unlike Olam Haneshamot, which can be earned through the performance of mitzvot, Olam Habacan only be earned through the merit of learning Torah or facilitating other people’s learning, either through financial support, or by otherwise enabling others to learn (Masechet Ketubot 111b).


           How do women earn Tehiyat Hametimif
they are not commanded to learn Torah?

Women earn the rewards of Olam Hababy enabling their husbands and sons to learn Torah (Masechet Berachot 17a). This includes encouraging them to wake up to learn in the morning, foregoing on some of one’s own time with her husband, and taking the children to yeshiva or to an extracurricular Torah class.

Note: The subject of Olam Haba is a complex one, and is subject to a considerable amount of debate. Our presentation here follows the view of the Ramhal (Rav Moshe Haim Luzzato of Padua, Italy, 1707-1746), in his work Ma’amar Ha’ikarim.