Death, Burial, and the Hereafter

This article is dedicated to the love of my life, my wife Pat who passed away on December 5, 2018. As I was picking up the pin to start writing again, I decided to write on a topic that has been a day to day reflection of my heart and mind since her passing. When loosing a loved one, you can’t help but wonder what is going on with them? What is it like for them in this journey they are on? We cry, and mourn for the loss of our loved one. I miss her beyond words, to the point that I was desiring to go and be with her. But that apparently is not Hashems will at this time. Perhaps writing about the transitional stages of the soul leaving this world and ascending to the herafter would be the answer.

We will look at death, burial and the hereafter and compare each topic between Christianity and Judaism. It is not my intent to go into great detail, but only to look at the major differences. Keep in mind that this is a general overview, not all sects of either religion will agree on everything I am writing.


Genesis teaches us that at creation G-d joined the body and the soul together. He took the body from the earth and placed the soul into the first man. The first man had a body taken from the earth and a soul from heaven. God then breathed His spirit into this man, which made him different than all the other creatures. In Judaism just the opposite happens at death. Death could be defined as the separation of the soul from the body. The person has passed on upon taking their last breath. The soul then leaves in stages over the next several days (7 max.). The time period of the soul separating from the body and accepting the death is contingent on how attached it was to the body. If the body was a major factor, such as major concerns on how they looked, dressed, etc., you may think of it as, “the flesh ruling, or in control”, than it will take longer to separate. However, if the the body was seen as a vessel provided by the Almighty to be used and taken care of to contain the soul while here on earth, then the separation will be minimal. During this time the surviving family will pray the Mourners Kaddish, which helps in this transitional process.

The typical Christian view agrees with the soul leaving the body at death, but their view is that it leaves completely and then goes to be judged.


We consist of two mechanisms that the Almighty provided us, the body, and the soul. The body returns to the earth from which it came, and the soul returns to Heaven from which it came. Both are from our Creator, and need to be viewed as such. In Judaism we are not to desecrate either one, the body or the soul. The body is then buried as soon as possible without embalming, so that the process can begin for it to return to the earth. There is no viewing, but the body is respected by never being alone from the time of death to the time it is buried. The belief is that G-d will resurrect the bodies in the Messianic age and place new flesh on the bones, see Ezekiel 37. If the body was cremated, say during the Holocaust, or against your will, G-d will provide a new one.

Christianity doesn’t have a standard religious view pertaining to burial. Usually the body is embalmed, and viewed at a funeral home for about 3 days. The body can be buried, cremated, or buried at sea. The Christian focus is more on the spirit/soul of the deceased than the burial of the body. The belief is that G-d will provide a new body, for the rapture.


The Jewish of the hereafterconsists of 7 transient stages, beginning with the dying process itself. The individual knows that they have reached the end of life, and now have opportunity to repent for any sins in their life.

When the death takes place, and the soul now begins to separate from the body. This can happen quickly or it can last up to 7 days. The separation from the body could be looked at in this perspective, did the body rule the soul, or did the soul rule the body? During life what was more important, feeding my body, or feeding my soul, preparing my body for an outing, or preparing my soul for an outing, taking a course in “How to make a lot of money”, or taking a course in “Torah Study”.

The third transitional stage is referred to as gehenna, but it is not the same as the Christian Gehenna. In Judaism Gehenna is a transitional stage that a person passes through for purification on the journey to Gan Eden. The amount of time spent in Gehenna is dependent on the the condition of the soul. A righteous person may spend a very minimal time confessing and dealing with very little, as opposed to someone who was not righteous at all may be there up to 11 months maximum. It can be thought of as a place to be healed from hurts and wounds, and a place to confess past sins. When the soul leaves Gehenna they are now ready to enter Gan Eden.

The next stage is referred to as Lower Gan Eden. Gan Eden is divided into two parts, there is Lower Gan Eden and Upper Gan Eden. Lower Gan Eden can be described as time of eternal bliss.

As Kaddish is prayed for the departed soul it is moved up in the transitional stages.

When the soul moves to Upper Gan Eden it now enters transcendental bliss. Souls of “like mind” are congregated together into “Celestial Academies”.

The next two stages 6 & 7 are not embraced by all of Judaism. I have included them for educational reasons, as they are a part of the 7 transitional stages, and good for discussion.

The sixth stage is called “Return to Service”. It a time of being with G-d, and some believe it is here that G-d decides to send a soul back to earth for various reasons. Typically to give that soul an opportunity to make better choices than before.

If a soul is chosen to return or be reincarnated they enter stage 7. Stage 7 is when the soul is prepared to be reborn back into the world. The soul is shown there future life and placed into the womb. The angle then touches them and all of the souls memory is erased.

Christianity teaches that after the judgment if the person had accepted Jesus as the Christ they will go to heaven. However if they had not accepted Jesus as the Christ then they are doomed for Hell and damnation. Heaven is eternal bliss, while hell is eternal torment.

Much more could be written about both views. However this is to just show a contrast between the two religions. Feel free to leave a comment on you views.

By, Jim Behnke

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