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    SO I am friendly this girl who has problems with her frumkeit. SHe is really sweet but comes from a difficult background. One day she said to me that she doesn’t believe in the Torah, doesn’t believe in Hashem, but she’s scared of going to gehenom and being burned by the oil.

    SO i said that that’s not a jewish concept, according to yidishkeit gehenom is actually a good thing, that’s where we go to be cleaned from our aveiros. We don’t do aveiros because Hashem told us not to, not because we’re scared of going to gehenom.

    IS this wrong? I knwo there is a concept of yiras haonesh, is that what it’s tlaking about? Was what I said wrong and do I have to correct it, and if so how?

    mt mehdi

    Just point her to what the Chumash says about Gehenom.


    Gehinnom is not a pleasant place, and it is proper that we should be afraid of it.


    We know that gehinnom is bad,and we have to believe in schar and onesh but try to get her to love the torah from a positive standpoint.Try to focus more on the beauty of the torah and tha we keep the mitzvos bec. Hashem loves us and we want Hashem to be happy and proud of us. focus more on the schar, gan eden.


    mt mehdi- what does the chumash say about it? Afaik Korach fell into it but the chumash doesn’t say anything?

    YW-MOderator-80: do you have a source?


    While there is definitely should be a fear of punishment, which is the lowest level of prevention of sin, the fear of Gehinnom is a fear of the SHAME which one will undergo when forced to face the sins they did. The punishment of Gehinnom is a SPIRITUAL one, since by that point, one’s neshama has left their physical body – and it is the neshama that undergoes the painful (for lack of better word) cleansing process.

    Concepts such as fires, oil in gehinnom are used to convey the process to us in our limited level of understanding. The process is solely a spiritual one – and definitely much more painful than any physical one could be….

    I hope this is clear, and feel free to correct/critique….

    d a

    I really think you should speak to a professional or Rav. You are trying to help a girl “who has problems with her frumkeit”. Do it right.


    So what I said was wrong?

    I was thinking that what she’s saying is more of the xtian concept of hell, than jewish concept of it..

    Thank you plaid. DOes anyone here have a source?


    pascha – Yes, I think that is more the xian view: I think the whole idea of “burning” and G-d wroughting His wrath on humankind is DEFINITELY very xian. Hashem loves us, and His punishments are not REVENGE but rather a process for US to become better and closer to Him. At the end of the day, Hashem wants us to have the closest, cleanest, relationship with Him in Gan Eden, and He makes us go through the process of peeling off our layers to truly cleanse ourselves from within and without.

    I hope this helps and will B”N try to find you a source. I do agree with d a that you should try to find a rav for her to speak with. There are many who are experienced with answering people’s questions, and it is worthwhile to speak to one – not just so she can find her answers, but also so that you have a strong backbone to help your friend in general.


    while plaid is technology right, i don’t think explaining how it works will help her at this point in her life.

    she most probably is hurting and blames g-d (she believes in him or she wouldn’t worry about gehenom)

    just be there for her and explain that what ever bad happened doesn’t mean g-d doesn’t love her, and all is for the best etc…

    of course this should be in addition to asking a professional for advice not just here (as good as the advice is)


    I heard Gehenom described different ways, and I think its not a set answer to each level. To a grade school child, “fire” is the most vivid description of punishment. To an older person, the “fire” is the shame of messing up and letting Hashem down. To the next level, its realizing that you missed an opportunity to reach a level that could have been yours, but now you can only have regrets.

    But I have no doubt that there is an element of roasting over coals for having done an averah on purpose. Not with a wood and kerosene fire, but something that is gonna hurt like, well, hurt like H–L.

    Suffice to say, its best to avoid sinning and spend our time racking up mitzvos, as the payout is MUCH better.

    However, to answer P’chochma’s question, this is really something that needs a Rov’s guidence, but if I were asked by a not yet frum (or struggling) person what awaits them in the world to come, it would only be to focud on the reward part. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

    The “fire and brimstone” end of our religion is meant to keep us FFBs in line, and even that needs to be adminstered by a Rov or Rebbe. Its not a tool to be used by just anyone, so focus on the beauty of what awaits the faithful, not the punishment.


    doesn’t believe in Hashem, but she’s scared of going to gehenom and being burned by the oil.

    Aren’t these two statement mutually exclusive? If one posits (God forbid — pun intended) that there is no God, then why would one posit that gehenom exists to the extent that she would be afraid of it?

    The Wolf


    Wolf – because, despite what she says, she DOES believe in G-d.


    The Wolf,

    She sounds more like a girl who doesn’t want to keep halacha (or may not even believe in the validity of Torah) than one who truly doesn’t believe in Hashem.


    plaid- she feels strong antipathy to religious figures because of her background, she will not have anything to do with rabbis voluntarily. She’s had many painful experiences and is rejecting Judaism because she associates it with them.

    So I don’t discuss stuff with her as religious stuff, but like facts, as she brings it up in conversation. Like she said she’s scared of going to hell, so I said “what exactly are you scared of?” and she said she is scared of going to hell because she doesn’t believe in Hashem or the Torah…

    plaid- thank you. I appreciate your clarification and lookf orward to a source.

    as Volvie very correctly said, she does believe in Hashem deep down but her emotional state stops her from recognizing it.

    BPTotty- I do focus on the good. she can’t hear it though.

    Wolf- her religious questions are just an expression of deep emotional dissatisfaction. This isn’t a purely intellectual question, it bothers her because she cannot recognize the truth in what she believes.

    SJS- keeping halacha isn’t an issue, she keeps halacha, the problem is she feels no joy in mitzvos, I get the feeling she was educated only in the fire and brimstone part.


    I hear you, pascha. It’s a tough position for you to be in…

    However, I think having a rav on board for you is just as, if not more, important, than having your friend speak with one. Sometimes when empathizing with one’s hurt, pain, confusion, it’s easy to become disillusioned – especially when some of her questions may involve core emunah issues – and I think that it would be beneficial for you to make sure you have someone behind you. She doesn’t and shouldn’t need to know about it, but you shouldn’t go about this alone, even if you feel you have been so far and you’re fine…and since it’s clearer and easier to absorb answers from a person than from an anonymous website…

    Volvie – I agree…I was just providing the technical answer before delving into the main issue, but thank you for clarifying…


    If she is having problems with frumkeit she should go to a rav.


    I’m with Volvie. If she’s asking, she beleives. Just keep the focus on why Yiddishkeit is THE place to be, and it will make an impression on her.


    There is a Gehenom and we are supposed to be afraid of it. Rav Yisroel (Ohr Yisroel) says it is a mistake to think that the being that will be punished is just your “neshama”. It is you, the same consciousness, the same being that you consider “yourself”.

    That said, your friend was probably raised in an environment which was severe and not understanding or sympathetic to the normal human trials. I don’t believe any explanations about gehenom or Hashem will be helpful. When she wishes to connect to Judiasm, she will need to find out what is holding her back.


    plaid- I’m not alone, don’t worry, but I do choose to discuss some things in some contexts. So I am happy to have the coffee room to ask certain questions. I do intend to ask about this but can’t contact them right now as a lot of other stuff is going on.

    mischiefmaker- I wish it were so easy.

    BPTotty – what do yo umean by “THE place to be”?

    papa_bar_abba- actually, with this student, explanations do seem to be helpful, when she asks for them. As long as I don’t volunteer anything and wait for her to ask, that makes her feel like I’m somehow on her side and not trying to tell her what to do, giving her the freedom to satisfy her need for knowledge without feeling impinged in her independence and emotional health.


    Would you entertain the idea of learning Rabbi Arye Kaplan’s books with her? I’m referring to the anthologies not the Kabbala ones. That might be helpful in showing reason and depth in Mitzvos. She might not be that type, in which case just the fact that you have these conversations with her is the main Kiruv here.


    mt mehdi- the torah never talks about gehenom. I once heard its because Hashem wants u to prove that the torah is true and you cant prove life after death is true. Thats also why the new testament talks alot about it. you cant prove against it.

    mt mehdi

    mt mehdi- the torah never talks about gehenom. I once heard its because Hashem wants u to prove that the torah is true and you cant prove life after death is true. Thats also why the new testament talks alot about it. you cant prove against it.


    Interesting. I always wondered why the Torah doesn’t mention that Rosh Hashana is a Yom Hadin.


    PBC –

    What I meant by “THE place” is that, properly observed, Yidishket and Emunas Hashem have proven to be a very good and wholesome way of life. Yes, there are rules and restrictions, and yes, sometimes its a challenge, but in the long run, it pays to be part of the klal.

    The problem your friend may have is that all she saw growing up is the “burden” of being frum, and not enough of the joy. Is Shabbos a good thing? It depends how you look at it. If as a kid you hear “we can’t work on Saturday, and my competetion is going to steal all my customers” then Shabbos is a bad thing.

    If you hear “Shabbos is a time for us to put our daily routine on hold and reconnect with Hashem” then Shabbos is the greatest gift.

    The same can be said for all mitzvos (do’s and don’ts). If you look at them as a burden, then being frum is a killer. If you look at them as membership rules to a prestigious club, (one which you want to join because of all the benefits that come with membership)then mitzvos become something you look forward to.

    So, Yiddishkeit is THE place to be! (and for those lamdonim out there, I just relazied a great unintended choice of expression. One of Hashem’s names is Hamokom (THE Place!)


    this girl makes no sense! if she doesnt believe in god or the torah then why is she afraid of gehenom?


    Volvie’s point exactly.. if she’s afraid of Gehenom, its because she believes. She just want’s to believe out of Ahavas Hashem, instead of Yiras Haonesh.

    PCB – you have your work cut out for you! Ask for help, read lots of books for ideas on how to approach the subject (R’ Kaplan’s anthologies are a very good source) and with a healthy dose of syata dishmaya, you’ll do fine. If you know the product you are trying to sell, people will buy it!


    Haleivi- that might be a good thing for me to do for myself, but I personally somehow could never get Rabbi Kaplan’s books, I’ve tried to read them a few times but I just can’t comprehend them, it’s something with his style of writing. I tend to go more for Rebbetzin Heller, Rabbi A. Feldman, that sort of style to get answers.

    Goody613- where did you learn that?

    BPTotty- I love what you’re saying. But whenever I say anything about how lucky we are to be Jewish she says that’s racist.


    either from Rabbis Jonathan Rietti or R’ Mordechai Becher at a gateways thing


    Back to my one-tracked-ask-a-rav mind:) : possibly one of the best people to consult in this situation would be Rabbi Mechanic who can explain things really clearly and effectively – so much so that that’s basically his day job 🙂

    I can try to get his number for you…


    goody613- interesting theory, but I prefer something that is a little less arguable.

    plaid- would he mind answering such questions, or would it waste his time? if not can you ask the mods to email me?


    There are 2 amazing books out there by Rabbi Lawrence Kellerman, Permission to Believe and Permission to Receive. You may want to google them. Permission to Believe is a book which explains 4 rational approaches to the fact of G-ds existence, while Permission to Receive is 4 rational approaches to the Torah’s origin. It’s geared towards people who outright don’t believe, or who are struggling with emunah. It’s written on a very open, intellectual level. You may want to look into it and get them for her or read them with her. They are really awesome books.


    PBC –

    The “racism” charge is easily deflected by the simple fact that Jews come from all ethnic backgrounds! I look distinctly eastern european, while my Syrian friends look downright Italian. And Yemenite Yidden look arabic.

    What makes us unique is our commitment to mesorah and halacha. Again, all these questions and doubts are (at least to me) indicitive of someone who is searching for answers. I have zero interest in pro sports, so I will not engage someone in a debate about who is a better team, player, stats, ect.

    But I am highly intrested in 5 other topics and will discuss / debate them at lenght when given the opportunity.

    When all is said and done, the one who stands the most to gain from all these questions is YOU. Beausae you will do the research, you will gain the insights needed to fully explain your position, and you will have a better grasp of avodas hashem than you did when you started the process.

    One final note: There is a story (not sure who, but I beleive it was someone who went on to becoming one of our gedolim of the late 1800s) of a young rov who decided to try and make the world a better place. After a few days, he saw that the world is too much to undertake right away, so he lowered his sights, and decided to work on his country instead. A few days later, he realized that this was still too large a project to handle, so he scaled back to working on his city alone.

    And on down the line, his neighbood, his shul, his family, until he finally decided to be content on working on improving himself.

    And you know what? As soon as he improved himself, his family improved, his shul improved, his neighborhood, his city and finally the whole world started to look better.

    OK, maybe that’s something that only gedolim can accomplish. But you get the idea. Do you best and you will see / generate results!


    paschab – Somehow I don’t think this is wasting his time…his day job is going from school to school and giving rational explanations for Torah and yiddishekeit. He also speaks with teens and parents, helping them with such issues as you’re describing…It’s k’dai to try, if he doesn’t have time or whatever, he’ll at least try to guide you in the right directions…

    Here’s his number and email (taken from the Project Chazon website): 718-648-4555 X16 or [email protected]



    the.nurse: thank you for the suggestion.

    BPTotty: She thinks it is racist that we think that just by being born Jewish we think we have a different neshama. Nothing to do with skin color.

    I don’t know if she is searching for answers, although I do respond when she asks me, she only sometimes asks, and it’s always a surprise- I am never prepared for it (like this one about gehenom)

    You’re right… that’s why I am doing this research 🙂

    and thanks for the encouragement!

    plaid- ok, i’ll try thank you!


    PBC –

    A word of caution. From what you say about your friends questions and answers, you really need to have a rov / rebbetzin / madreches (or whatever the female term is) to make sure you are not adversly affected by this friendship. One of the phrases I like to repeat is “da mah shetoshiv l’apikores” (know what to answer the non-believer)

    It does not mean you need to answer each question, and in fact some questions do not deserve a response. WE need to know what the answers are (and sometimes the answer is “just because”), but not necessarily engage someone in a debate.

    2nd – This is not directed at you, per se, but to me as well. Kiruv for the average person MUST BE GENDER BASED. Which means, if you are newly minted seminary graduate, focus on the women in your influence circle. Leave the men to the BMG boys (and vice versa). Discussions like this (emunah, schar v’oinesh, ect) can lead to a deep relationship, one that is loaded with dangerous side-effects if the pair is not from the same side of the mechitza.

    At any rate, keep up the good work and keep striving for answers.


    BPTOtty- thank you, as i mentioned before i do indeed have such a person.

    I am a girl, and only deal with girls… to be honest I would never even think of dealing with boys, what makes you bring that up?


    PBC –

    From your screen name and writing, your gender was not 100% obvoius. And I said the comment was directed to myself as well. In fact, in many ways, people in my age bracket need to be reminded of this even more, because we have more contact with people in the workplace, neighborhood, ect. That is why non-regulated chat rooms are such a danger. The CR, with its Mods, keep things under control.

    Nothing personal, I assure you!


    these irrational fears

    The fear is not irrational.


    To you and me, of course the fear is not irrational. But to someone who does not believe, the fear is irrational. It’s not nogeia what’s true or not, my point is that if you are afraid of something and don’t believe in it, it’s an irrational fear regardless of what the truth is.


    BPTotty- oh. because I figured most people would realize it’s a quote from Aishes Chayil. I see what you mean though.

    yitayningwat- I think she does believe. I believe that every Yid believes deep down. It could be that she does not rationally understand it, but then which of us do??? We all believe and trust. Emotionally though is the problem- she cannot handle the feeling of trust, i think.


    Tell her to check out It’s terrific for things like this.


    paschabchochma – I will not disagree with you on that. I would still say, however, that I am still skeptical that her fear of Gehinom stems from her belief in Hashem and schar va’onesh. I don’t know the background of this girl, but let’s say she was controlled and physically or verbally abused as a child in order that she keep the mitzvos; that could have traumatized her and ingrained in her head an idea that when she does aveiros she automatically gets hurt badly and there’s nothing she can do about it. Maybe she can’t get this out of her head, and her fears of burning are simply her way of making these fears make a little bit of sense in her mind. My point is that it might not be her belief in schar va’onesh that is making her afraid, but rather her irrational fears from being traumatized as a child being projected on to this concept which she may or may not believe in.

    But I accept your point that it very well may be that deep down she believes.


    paschabchochma; There are different views of Gehinnom,

    described by chazal, none of them sound enticing at all.

    To those who said Gehinnom is a good thing, NO, it is not!

    That is why we say everyday in the Yehi Ratzon we should be

    saved (spared) from the din of Gehinnom.

    Ultimately though, it is a major chessed from HB”H allowing

    those who have strayed from the path of truth and have become stained with impurity, to have a way of being purified,

    if they have not done enough on this world to correct their ways, and cleanse themselves properly.

    paschabchochma; I would try to focus on Gan Eden with this girl,

    as obviously if she worries about gehinnom, she must certainly believe there is a Gan Eden for the righteous. You can ask her what she feels her versions of Gan Eden would entail, how she would feel if she ended up there, or would she wish she could end up there, Always focusing on the positive. You can also mention in navi those who were wicked & evil & managed to change their ways to the extreme, finding forgiveness and redemption.

    Surely she doesnt consider herself worse than them.

    Talk to her philosophically and hypothetically,

    let it sink in, letting her come to her own conclusions.

    As sadness and fear have a power, so does happiness and faith, and the power of joy outshines and blinds its rival tenfold.



    I want to reiterate: I really don’t think her belief in Gehinnom is what is hurting her. I think it is probably irrational fears she developed from being traumatized when she was younger that she is now associating with this belief. Therefore arguing over believing in Gehinnom or not will not help anything, because what she needs is counseling to get over whatever hurt her as a child.

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