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Dov Yehuda Weiss
University of Illinois (Champaign, IL 61801-3620)
Rabbinic Inferno: Hell and Salvation in Classical Judaism

Writing a chapter of a book on Jewish understandings of hell and the afterlife in the classical rabbinic era (70-700 CE).

In 1885, the leading Rabbis of American Reform Judaism declared that “we reject as ideas not rooted in Judaism, the belief … [in] Gehenna (hell).” As a Google search of the words “Judaism” and “hell” reveal, there is a widespread assumption today that traditional Judaism rejects the existence of fiery torments in the afterlife. Arguing that these attitudes misrepresent the history of Judaism, Rabbinic Inferno: Hell in Classical Judaism produces the first scholarly book on afterlife retribution in the rabbinic era (70-700 CE). Rather than absent in classical Jewish discourse, or occupying its periphery, hell played a central role in classical Jewish literature and culture. Rabbinic Inferno uses ancient Jewish discourse about hell -- as it emerges in rabbinic biblical interpretation -- to unearth the distinctive anxieties, values, aesthetics, fantasies, and hopes within classical Jewish culture. Without such analysis, our understanding of Judaism remains incomplete.

Project fields:
History of Religion; Jewish Studies

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/15/2020 – 8/14/2020