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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Purgatory, Rabbinic.

The doctrine of purgatory (q.v.) is not only a peculiarity of the Romish Church, but also of orthodox Judaism. The latter maintains "that the souls of the righteous enjoy the beatific vision of God in paradise, and that the souls of the wicked are tormented in hell with fire and other punishments. It teaches that the sufferings of the most atrocious criminals are of eternal duration, while others remain only for a limited time in purgatory, which does not differ from hell with respect to the place, but to the duration. They pray for the souls of the dead, and imagine that many are'delivered from purgatory on the great day of expiation. They suppose that no Jew, unless guilty of heresy, or certain crimes specified by the rabbins, shall continue in purgatory above a year, and that there are but few who suffer eternal punishment." Maimonides (q.v.), Abrabanel (q.v.), and other celebrated Jewish writers maintain the annihilation of the wicked.

Others suppose that the sufferings of hell have the power of purifying souls and expiating sin. This statement will be made the more clear when we examine some of the writings bearing on this subject. Among the prayers of the Feast of Tabernacles we find the following declaration and prayer: "It is customary among the dispersions of Israel to make mention of the souls of their departed parents, etc., on the day of atonement, and the ultimate days of the three festivals, and to offer prayers for the repose of their souls. May God remember the soul of my honored father, A. B., who is gone to his repose; for that I now solemnly vow charity for his sake; in reward of this, may his soul be bound up in the bundle of life, with the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah; with the rest of the righteous males and females that are in paradise, and let us say Amen.' May God remember the soul of my honored mother,'" etc. In the Jewish ritualistic work called Joreh Deah, by Joseph Karo (q.v.), p. 376, we read: "Therefore the custom is for twelve months to repeat the prayer called Kaddish, and also to read the lesson in the prophets, and to pray the evening prayer at the going-out of the Sabbath, for that is the hour when the souls return to hell; but when the son prays and sanctifies the public, he redeems his father and his mother from hell." The doctrine of the Talmud is that those who die in communion with the synagogue, or who have never been Jews, are punished for twelve months, but that Jewish heretics and apostates are doomed to eternal punishment. "Israelites who sin with their body, and also Gentiles, descend into hell, and are judged there for twelve months. After the twelve months their body is consumed and their soul is burned, and the wind scatters them under the soles of the feet of the righteous, as it is said: Ye shall tread down the wicked. for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet' (Malachi 4:3). But heretics, and informers, and Epicureans, who have denied the law or the resurrection of the dead, or who have separated from the customs of the congregation, or who have caused their fear in the land of the living, who have sinned, or caused many to sin, as Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, all such go down to hell, and are judged forever" (Rosh Hashanah, p. 17, a).

According to this, the dying Israelite ought to expect twelve months of torment, and his surviving son ought to repeat the prescribed prayer for twelve months; but the rabbins have commanded that the prayer should be repeated only for eleven months, to intimate that the deceased was not so wicked as to be obliged to remain all the time of torment: "The custom is not to say Kaddish more than eleven months, so as not to cast a reproach on the character of the deceased father and mother as if they were wicked, for twelve months are the term appointed for the wicked" (Joreh Deah, i, 1). As to the prayer used, it is found in all Hebrew prayerbooks, and runs thus: "May his great name be exalted and sanctified throughout the world, which he has created according to his will. May he establish his kingdom in our lifetime, and in the lifetime of the whole house of Israel, soon, and in a short time, and say ye, Amen, Amen. May his great name be blessed and glorified for ever and ever. May his hallowed name be praised, glorified, exalted, magnified, honored, and most excellently adored; blessed is he, far exceeding all blessings, hymns, praises, and beatitudes that are repeated throughout the world, and say ye Amen. May our prayer be accepted with mercy anda kindness. May the prayers and supplications of the whole house of Israel be accepted in the presence of their Father, who is in heaven, and say ye Amen. Blessed be the name of the Lord from henceforth and for evermore. May the fulness of peace from heaven, with life, be granted unto us, and all Israel: and say ye Amen. My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. May he who maketh peace in his high heavens bestow peace on us, and on all Israel; and say ye Amen." See Adams, Hist. of the Jews. ii, 249 sq.; M'Caul, Old Paths, p. 295 sq.; Basnage, Hist. des Juifs (Taylor's transl.), p. 390; Bodenschatz, Kirchliche Verfassung der heiligen Juden, iii, 78 sq. (B. P.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Purgatory, Rabbinic.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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