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[London, The Royal Asiatic Society]


{Scanned and edited by Christopher M. Weimer, April 2002}

p. 571

ART XV.--Hebrew Visions of Hell and Paradise. By M. GASTER, Ph.D.

THE recent recovery of the Revelation of St. Peter has again attracted attention to this branch of apocalyptic literature. Speculation has been rife as to the sources of that Revelation.

   I intend publishing now, for the first time in English garb, the oldest extant Revelations which must have served as source to that of Peter, then to that of Paul, Ezra, Abraham, Isaiah, Virgin Mary, St. Macarius, and the host of others down to Dante and St. Patrick.

   It is not here the place to enter into a more minute disquisition of the history of these visions. We find parallels in the old Ægyptian literature, in the Assyrian we have the well-known "Descensus ad inferos" of Izdubar (Nimrud). The Buddhist literature knows the Suh.rllekha, the letter of Nâgârjuna to King Udayana. In the Avesta literature we have the Nameh of Arda-viraf; in the Mahommedan we have the vision of Mahommed. All these Christian Revelations and of the others, at any rate the last two, are based directly upon those Hebrew visions, a fact which has hitherto not been noticed.

   I reserve for a book, which I am writing, the fuller discussion of these points, and the study of the internal connection between these apocalyptic visions.

   It would be bold to speculate on the relative age of each of the visions which I publish here. They all go back to the pre-Christian age, as is shown by the existence of those Christian visions almost verbally identical with the Hebrew. On the other hand one cannot doubt that they underwent some changes in the course of the ages. The substance p. 572 remained intact, but many passages were interpolated or omitted. The different texts complement thus each other to assist us to arrive at a probable common source. The tendency of all these popular writings is to grow in the course of time, to attract and to assimilate various elements. We can see this process very clearly in the Revelation of Moses, which has been hitherto almost unknown. It has nothing in common with those known under that title. We have two recensions of it. A shorter one, and a longer which is more amplified and contains interpolations taken from the Zohar and the Talmud. Whether the biblical passages belonged originally to these visions is still a matter of doubt. They may have been tacked on to the narrative as a kind of scriptural proof, or they may stand as the beginning of a series of details and pictures which have been evolved out of them, by a rather fantastical exegesis, but by no means uncommon in the Oriental literature.

   To each text I have added a full bibliography, and parallels from most of the extant apocryphal revelations. I have striven to be as literal as possible. The attempt to obliterate the Oriental touch by a polished translation, robs the text of its originality and local colour, which ought to be preserved.



Heaven, Hell, and Paradise.

(Gedulath Mosheh, Amsterdam, 1854, v. Jellinek, Beth-hammidrash, II. pp. x., xiv. ff., and xix-xx.)

   1. [As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons (Song of Songs, ii. 3). (This applies to Moses, upon whom be peace.)]

   2. In that hour when God said unto him: "Go and bring out the children of Israel from Egypt, for I have heard their groaning, and I remembered the covenant, and the oath I swore to Abraham my p. 573 servant." Moses said: "O Lord of the Universe, who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Ex. iii. 11). God said: "Thou hast humbled thyself in saying 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?' but I will honour thee [as it is said: 'He that is of lowly spirit shall obtain honour' (Prov. xxix. 23)], and I will give the whole of Egypt into thy hands, and I will bring thee up even near to my throne of glory; and I will shew thee the angels of the Heaven." Thereupon God commanded Metatron, the angel of his presence (of the face), and said unto him: "Go and bring Moses with harps, and pipes, and drums, and dances, with joy, and songs, and praises."

   3. And Metatron answered and said: "O Lord of the Universe, Moses is not able to come up and see the angels, for there are angels who are of fire and he is only of flesh and blood."

   4. God said: "Go and change his flesh (body) into fire." And Metatron went to Moses.

   5. When Moses beheld Metatron he trembled with fear, and said to him: "Who art thou?"

   6. And he answered: "I am Enoch the son of Jared, thy father's father. The Almighty hath sent me to bring thee up to his throne of glory."[1]

   7. Moses said: "I am only flesh and blood, and cannot look upon the angels." And Metatron changed Moses' tongue into a tongue of fire, and his eyes he made like the wheels of the heavenly chariot, and his power like unto that of the angels, and his tongue like a flame, and brought him up to heaven. 15,000 angels were on the right hand, and 15,000 on the left, Metatron and Moses in the middle. In this way was Moses carried up to heaven.[2]

[1. Ascensio Isaiae, ed. Dillmann, Leipzig, 1877. ix. 9; Apoc. Virg. Mary.

2. Testament of Abraham, ch. 9 and 10, Rec. A. ed. M. R. James, Cambridge, 1892.]

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   8. The first heaven to which Moses ascended corresponds to the first day of the week; there he saw the waters standing in lines. This heaven was full of windows, and at each window stood an angel. And Moses asked Metatron: "What are these windows?" and Metatron answered: "These windows are the window of prayer, the window of request, the window of supplication, the window of crying (tears), the window of joy, the window of satiation, the window of famine, the window of poverty, the window of riches, the window of war, the window of peace, the window of pregnancy, the window of birth, the window of the treasures of rain, the window of dew, the window of sin, the window of repentance, the window of smallness, the window of greatness, the window of death, the window of life, the window of disease among men, the window of disease among animals, the window of healing, the window of sickness, the window of health." And Moses saw great things past finding out, "yea marvellous things without number" (Job ix. 10).[1]

   9. Moses ascended then the second heaven, which corresponds to the second day of the week. There he saw an angel whose name is X.[2] His length is 300 parasangs and 50 myriads of angels stand before him; they are of fire and water, and their faces are directed towards the Shekina above; and all sing hymns, saying: "Great is the Lord and highly to be praised" (cxlv. 3).

   10. And Moses asked Metatron and said: "Who are those?" He answered: "These are the angels who are placed over the clouds, the wind, and the rain; they go and fulfil the will of their Creator and return to their places and praise the Almighty."

[1. Enoch, ch. 60, v. 12 ff. translated by Charles, p. 166 ff., B. of Jubilees, ch. 1, v. Roensch, d. Buch d. Jubilaeen, p. 259; cf. Sefer Raziel, Amsterdam, 1701; f. 34b ff.

2. In this recension the names of the angels are omitted. They are to be found, however, in the shorter.]

p. 575 And Moses asked: "Why have they their faces turned towards the Shekina?" And Metatron answered: "From that day when God created them until to-day they have not been moved from their position."[1]

   11. Moses went up to the third heaven, which corresponds to the third day of the week. There he saw an angel whose name is X. His length is a journey of 500 years. He has 70,000 heads, in each head 70,000 mouths, in each mouth 70,000 tongues, and in each tongue 70,000 dictions; before him stand 70,000 myriads of angels, all of white fire; they all praise and sing to God [and say: "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and power," etc. (1 Chr. xxix. 11)].

   12. Moses asked Metatron: "Who are these? and what is their name?" And he answered: "Their name is Erelim; they are placed over the grass (herbs), and over the trees, and over the fruits, and over the corn; and they all go and fulfil the will of their Creator and return to their places."

   13. Moses went up to the fourth heaven. There he saw the temple built; the columns of red fire, the sides of green fire, the thresholds of white fire, the hooks and the planks of blazing fire; the portals of carbuncle and the halls of sparkling gems. And he saw angels going therein praising (and saying) [as King David, upon whom may peace rest, said: "Bless the Lord, ye angels of His, ye mighty in strength, that fulfil his word" (Ps. ciii. 20)].[2]

   14. Moses asked Metatron and said: "Who are these angels?" And Metatron answered: "These are the angels, who are placed over the earth, and over the sun, and over the moon, and over the stars, and over the planets, and over the spheres, and ever sing they hymns unto Him." And he saw two big stars, each

[1. Enoch, l.c.; Jubilees, l.c.

2. Testament Levi, ch. 5.]

p. 576 of them as big as the whole earth; the name of one was Nogah, and the name of the other Maadim, one standing above the sun, and the other above the moon. Moses asked Metatron: "Why do these stand above those others?" And he said: "The one stands above the sun in summer in order to cool the world from the heat of the sun, and that is the star Nogah; whilst the other stands near the moon in order to warm the world from the cold of the moon (and this is the star Maadim)."[1]

   15. Moses went to the fifth heaven and he saw there troops of angels half of fire and half of snow, and the snow is above the fire without extinguishing it, for God makes peace between them [as it is said: "He maketh peace in his high places," Job xxv. 2], and all praise the Almighty.

   16. And Moses asked Metatron: "What are these doing?" He said: "Since the day when God created them are they so." Moses asked: "What is their name?" and he answered: "These are the Erelim who are called Ishim [as it is said: 'Unto you, O Ishim (men), I call,' Prov. viii. 4; i.e.: I call you Ishim!]."

   17. Moses went up to the sixth heaven, there he saw an angel whose length was 500 years' journey; his name was X., and he was wholly of hail (ice), and by him stood thousands and myriads of angels, without number, and all sung praises to the One who said and the world was created [as it is said: the heaven proclaim the glory of God (Ps. xix. 2)].[2]

   18. Moses asked Metatron: "Who are these?" and he answered: "These are the Irin Kadishin, the holy watchers," (Daniel iv. 10-14).

   19. Moses went up to the seventh heaven, and he saw an angel wholly of fire; and two angels, whose names were X. These were fastened with two chains of red

[1. Cf. Pirke de R. Eliezer, ch. 6.

2. Ch. 8-17, cf. Othioth de R. Akiba (Jellinek, Bet-hamm. III. 20-21).]

p. 577 and dark fire; and each of them had the length of 500 parasangs.

   20. Moses asked Metatron: "Who are these?" And he answered: "These are wrath and anger, and God created them during the six days of creation, that they should fulfil his will."[1]

   21. Moses replied: "I am afraid of these angels, and I cannot look on them." Thereupon Metatron embraced Moses, placed him in his bosom and said: "O Moses, beloved of God, be not frightened nor dread thou aught." And Moses was immediately calmed.

   22. After this Moses saw another angel, whose countenance was totally different from those of the other angels, for he was ugly and his height of 540 years' journey, and he was girded forty times around his waist. From the sole of the foot unto the head he was full of fiery eyes, and whosoever looked at him, fell down in dread.

   23. And Moses asked Metatron: "Who is this?" He answered: "This is the angel of death, who takes the souls of men."[2] And he asked him: "Where is he now going?" And Metatron answered: "He goes to take the soul of Job the pious."

   24. And Moses said before God: "May it be thy will, O Lord, my God and God of my fathers, that thou shouldst not deliver me into the hands of this angel!"

   25. Then saw he angels standing before God; each of them having six wings. With twain wings they covered their faces, so that they might not look upon the Shekina. With the other twain wings they cover their feet, for they have the feet of a calf, and with the other twain wings they fly and praise God. The length of each wing is 500 years' journey, and the width from one end of the world

[1. Cf. Rev. of Paul, ch. 11 (Tischendorf, Apoc. Apocryphae, Leipzig, 1866, pp. 34-69).

2. Cf. Test. of Abraham, ch. 17.]

p. 578 to the other. And Moses asked: "Who are these?" and Metatron answered: "These are the holy Creatures."[1]

   26. [Our sages tell[2] that at the time when Nebuchadnezzar the impious said: "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High" (Isaiah xv. 14 {sic. Isaiah xiv. 14}), the Holy Spirit came forth and said: "O impious man! How many are the days of the years of thy life? Threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength, fourscore years" (Ps. xc. 10), and the distance from earth to heaven alone is 500 years, the thickness of the heaven again 500 years, and from the heaven Rakia to the heaven Shehakim 500 years, and its thickness 500 years, and from Shehakim to Zebul again 500 years, and its thickness 500 years, and from Zebul to Meon 500 years, and its thickness 500 years, and from Meon to Araboth 500 years, and its thickness 500 years, and the feet of the holy Creatures are equal to the whole; and their ankles are equal to the whole; and the wings of the creatures are like the whole, and their necks are like the whole, and their heads like the whole, and their horns like unto the whole, and upon them is the throne of glory which is equal to the whole. [It is like the terrible ice, Ezek. i. 22.] And there sits the King of Kings, the Holy, blessed be He exalted and high, and thou sayest: "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High! Woe unto thee, O impious man and woe unto thy soul, for thou shalt be brought down to the uttermost parts of the pit (cf. Isaiah xiv. 15) to the seven regions of hell to be punished for ever and ever."]

[1. Cf. P. d. R. Eliezer ch. 4.

2. Talmud B., Tractate Pesachim, f. 94a-b; Yalkut, II. f. 44c, § 286; cf. Tract. Hagiga, f. 12b.]

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   27. And after that Moses saw an angel in the heaven called Araboth, i.e. the seventh heaven, and this angel was teaching the souls which were created by God at the time of the Creation and have been placed in paradise. The name of the angel was X. He teaches them in seventy languages in the college on high, and they answer: "Thus is the law of Moses given by tradition from Mount Sinai [as it is said Dina was set and the books were opened (Daniel vii. 10), and Dina is none other than this angel, who is the guardian angel of the Law and of wisdom." He has also another name, they call him Jefefiyah, for the name of the guardian angel of the Law is Iofiel].[1]

   28. [(From the Zohar) R. Simeon, son of Johai, said: "At that time when Moses went up to heaven an angel sat before him and taught him 370 mysteries of the Law, Moses then said to God, 'I will not depart from here unless Thou wilt give me good gifts.'" God answered: "Moses, my servant, faithful in my house, I will give thee my Law wherein are good gifts, as it is written: 'For I gave thee a good gift' (Prov. iv. 2). Therein are also the commandments, positive and negative, and not only this (I grant thee) but also that the Law shall be recorded in thy name, as it is written: 'Remember ye the Law of Moses, my servant' (Malachi iii. 22)." Whence do we know that Moses did actually ascend seven heavens? We learn it from the verse, "And Moses ascended to God." (It is further written, "God went up amidst the sounds of trumpets") (Ps. xlvii. 6). Moses is therefore called Elohim like unto his Master, for it is said: "See I have made thee as Elohim unto Pharaoh," therefore it is written: "Like an apple-tree in the wood is my beloved among the sons." This is Moses, master of the Prophets and servant of God; he is like an apple in odour and taste.]

[1. About seven heavens v. Ascensio Isaiae and Test. Levi, ch. 3.]

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   29. At that time a Bath-Kol came forth from underneath the throne of glory and said: "Moses, my servant! Art thou afraid of them?" [It is written: "A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty and bringeth down the strength of the confidence thereof" (Prov. xxi. 22). Strength means the Law as it is said: "God will give strength to his people" (Ps. xxix. 11).]

   30. God said then to Moses: "Moses, my servant! Thou camest up here and hast been worthy of the privilege of seeing all with thy (earthly) power; and I have made thee ascend seven heavens, and have shown thee my treasures and I have given thee my law. Now thou shalt be worthy of seeing the two parks I have created in this world, one for the righteous and one for the sinners, viz. Paradise and Hell."

   31. At that hour God sent Gabriel and said unto him: "Go with my beloved servant Moses and show him Hell!"

   32. And Moses said to him: "I cannot enter Hell, that blazing fire." He said to him: "Moses, there is a fire which burns more than all the seven Hells, and yet when thou wilt tread it with thy feet, it shall not burn thee."

   33. At an hour when Moses entered Hell, the fire of Hell withdrew for 500 parasangs. The master of Hell said to him: "Who art thou?" He answered: "I am the son of Amram." The Lord of Hell answered: "Not here is thy place." And Moses said: "I came to see the powerful works of God, blessed be He." And God said to the Lord of Hell: "Go and show him how men are in Hell."[1]

[1. I draw attention here to two more apocalyptic visions which do not seem to have been noticed hitherto. (1) The apocalypse of the Virgin Mary (v. Tischendorf, Apoc. Apocryphae, p. xxvii.; Gaster, Literatura populara românºa, Bucharest, 1883, p. 362-366; B. P. Hasdeu, Cuvente d. B¯atr¯anºi, II. Bucharest, 1879, p. 301-367) extant in Slavonic texts of the twelfth century. Greek, Roumanian, etc.; Æthiopic and Syriac? In this text the tortures of Hell are very fully described. (2) Questions of St. Macarius, of which I possess 6, Roumanian MSS.; A Syriac Fragment of the twelfth century I found in the British Museum, Add. 17,262 (Wright, II. p. 867-8, No. 837), and a Greek text of the fifteenth century I discovered in Cod. Baroccianus (Bodleian), No. 147. f. 294b sqq.]

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   34. Immediately he went with Moses, like a pupil before his master, and entered Hell together with him.

   35. Moses saw there men tortured by the angels of destruction. Some of the sinners were hanged by their eyelids, some by their ears, some by their hands, and others by their tongues, and they cried bitterly. And he saw women hanging by their hair and by their breasts and in such like ways, all were hanging by chains of fire.[1]

   36. And Moses asked the Lord of Hell, and said "Why are these hanged by their eyes and by their tongues and are so fearfully tortured and so sorely punished?" And the master of Hell answered: "Because they looked with an evil eye at fair women, and at married women, and at the money of their friends and neighbours, and gave false witness against their neighbours."[2]

   37. Also saw he in Hell men hanging by their sexual organs and their hands were tied, and he asked: "Why do these hang?" The Lord answered: "Because they committed adultery, and stole, and killed, and murdered."[3]

   38. He saw other men hanging by their ears and their tongues, and he asked: "Why are these hanging by their ears and tongues?" And he answered: "Because they neglected the study of the law, and talked slander and vain words and empty words.[4] The women are hanging by their hair and breasts, because they used to uncover their breasts and their hair before the young men and desired them, and came thus to sin."[5]

   39. Hell cried then with a bitter and loud voice, and said to the Master of Hell: "Give me the sinners, that

[1. Cf. V. 7. 15-19. Peter, ch. 9 (H. 24); Robinson and James, The Gospel according to Peter, etc., London, 1892, p. 37 sqq.; cf. A. Harnack (H.) Bruchstücke d. Evgl. u. der Apocalypse d. Petrus, Leipzig, 1893, p. 16 sqq.

2. Cf. V. 15, 17. Peter, ch. 7 (H. 22); Paul, ch. 37, 38.

3. Cf. Peter. ch. 9, 10 (H. 24-26); Paul, 32; Virg. Mary.

4. V. 16.

5. V. 17; Peter, ch. 9 (H. 22); cf. Paul, ch. 40.]

p. 582 I may destroy them." For Hell is always hungry and never satisfied, and crieth always for the sinners to devour them, but hath no power over the righteous.[1]

   40. Moses went further and saw two sinners hanged by their feet with their heads downwards, and they cried by reason of the torture of Hell, and their bodies were covered with black worms, each worm 500 parasangs long. And these sinners cry and lament, saying: "Woe unto us, for the terrible punjshment of Hell; would we could die." But they cannot die [as it is said: "They long for death but it cometh not" (Job iii. 21)].[2]

   41. Moses asked the master of Hell: "What acts have these committed?" And he answered: "These are those who swore falsely, and profaned the Sabbath, and despised the learned, and persecuted the orphans; and gave bad names to their neighbours, and bare false witness. Therefore hath God delivered them to these worms to take vengeance on these sinners." And Moses asked: "What is the name of this place?" And he answered: "Aluka [as it is said; Aluka hath two daughters" (Prov. xxx. 15)].[3]

   42. Moses went then to another place. There the sinners were lying on their faces; and he saw two thousand scorpions swarming over them and stinging them and torturing them, and the sinners cried bitterly. Each scorpion has 70,000 mouths, and each mouth 70,000 stings, and each sting has 70,000 vesicles filled with poison and venom, and with these are the sinners imbued and thus are they tortured; and their eyes are sunk in their sockets for fear and dread, and their cry: "Woe unto us, for our sins, and for the day of judgment."[4]

[1. Cf. Ev. Nicodemi, Greek form, ch. 20 ff.: "O all devouring and insatiable Hades."

2. Peter, ch. 9, 13 (H. 24, 28).

3. Cf. V. 16; Paul, ch. 39.

4. V. 24; VII. 4; Peter, ch. 13 (R. 21).]

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   43. And Moses asked: "What have these committed?" And he answered: "These have wasted the money of others; they have taken bribery, and elevated themselves above others; they have put their neighbours publicly to shame; they have delivered up their brother Israelite to the gentile;[1] they denied the oral Law and maintained that God did not create the world. Therefore God has handed them over to the scorpions to be avenged on them."[2]

   44. He saw there another place where the sinners stood up to their knees; the name of that place is Tit hayaven ("miry clay," Ps. xl. 3). Angels of destruction tie them up with chains of iron and lash them with fiery whips, and they take fiery stones and break with them the teeth of the sinners, from morning until evening, and during the night they prolong their teeth again to the length of a parasang in order to break them anew next morning; [as it is said: "Thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked" (Ps. iii. 8)]. And the sinners cry: "Woe unto us, woe unto us!" but nobody takes pity on them.[3]

   45. Moses asked the master of Hell: "What have these committed?" He answered: "They ate all kinds of forbidden fruit and gave them to Israelites to eat; they were usurers, and apostates and blasphemers; they wrote the ineffable name of God for Gentiles;[4] they had false weights; they stole money, and ate on the fast day of Kippur [for whosoever eats blood, or reptiles, or worms, and does not keep away from them is punished by being cut off], these are for ever punished in Hell, and therefore God hath delivered them to the angels of destruction to chastise them.[5]

[1. Peter, ch. 12 (H. 27).

2. Paul, ch. 42; cf. Virg. Mary.

3. Cf. Talmud, Tr. Berachoth, f. 54b.

4. Probably on amulets.

5. Cf. Paul, 36; Macarius, 40.]

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   46. [He saw there further how they punish the wicked with fire and snow; and torture them terribly.] The Lord of Hell said then to Moses: "Come and see how the wicked are punished in Hell with fire." Moses answered: "I dread to go." But the Lord of Hell answered: "Go and dread naught," [as it is said: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil" (Ps. xxiii. 4)].

   47. And Moses stood up to go, and he saw the Shekina moving before him, so that he should not be in dread of the angels of destruction. Each of these is full of eyes, and hath fiery chains in his hands, and his length is 500 years' journey.

   48. Moses went and saw how the wicked were punished by fire, being half in fire and half in snow, with worms crawling up and down their bodies and a fiery collar round their necks, and having no rest,[1] except on Sabbath days and Festival days.[2] All (the other) days they are tortured in Hell. Of these speaks the verse: "And they shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me, for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched" (Isaiah cxvi. 28 {sic lxvi. 24}).

   49. And Moses asked the angel of Hell: "What have these committed?" And the angel answered: "This is the punishment for those who have committed adultery, sodomy, idolatry, and murder, and who have cursed their parents. Therefore hath God delivered them to the angels of destruction to be avenged on them."[3] And Moses asked: "What is the name of this place?" And he answered: "The name of it is Abadon."

   50. Thereupon Moses went up (to heaven) and said: "May it be Thy will, O Lord, my God, and God

[1. V. Bahya, comment. to Pentateuch, Venice, 1544, f. 181b.

2. Paul, ch. 44; cf. Pesikta rabbati, ed. Friedman, ch. 23, f. 112a.

3. Peter, ch. 9 (H. 24); cf. Macarius, 22, 27, 39, V. Mary.]

p. 585 of my fathers, that Thou mayest save me and Thy people Israel from those places which I have seen in Hell."

   51. God said to Moses: "Moses, my servant? I have created two parks: Paradise and Hell. Whosoever committeth evil deeds goeth down to Hell, and whosoever doth good deeds cometh into Paradise" [as it is said: "I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings " (Jer. xvii. 10)].

   52. Then Moses lifted up his eyes and beheld the angel Gabriel; and he fell down and bowed himself before him. And the angel said: "Hast thou seen Hell?" He answered: "Yea." And the angel said: "Come then, I will show thee Paradise, by the will of God." So Moses went with him to Paradise.

   53. When they came there, the angels said: "Thy time is not yet arrived to leave the world." Moses answered: "I came to see the mighty deeds of God, and the reward of the pious in Paradise, what is their condition there."

   54. The angels began then to praise Moses and they said: "Hail, O Moses, servant of the Lord; Hail, O Moses, born of woman, who hast been found worthy to ascend seven heavens, hail the nation to whom such belongs." [{Hebrew: AKhKhS} such in arithmetical calculation is equal to {Hebrew: ASM}.]

   55. When Moses went into Paradise he saw an angel sitting under the tree of life. Moses asked the angel Gabriel: "Who is this angel?" He answered: "This is the Lord (guardian) of Paradise and his name is X."

   56. This angel then asked Moses: "Who art thou?" He answered: "I am the son of Amram." He said to him: "Why didst thou come hither?" And Moses answered: "To see the reward of the pious in Paradise have I come hither."

p. 586

   57. The angel took Moses by the hand, and they went both together. Moses looked up and saw seventy thrones fixed, one next to another; all made of precious stones, of emerald, sapphire and diamond and precious pearls, and the foot of each was of gold and fine gold. Around each throne stood seventy angels. Amongst the thrones was one greater than the others, and twenty of the ministering angels kept ward thereover.

   58. Moses enquired of the angel and said: "Whose is that throne?" He answered: "It is the throne of Abraham the Patriarch."

   59. Thereupon Moses went immediately up to Abraham. Abraham asked him: "Who art thou?" He answered: "I am the son of Amram." And Abraham asked: "Is perchance already thy time come to leave the world?" Moses answered: "My time is not yet come, but with the permission of God I came to see the reward of the pious."[1] Abraham then said: "Praise ye the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever" (Ps. cvi. 1).

   60. Then went Moses to the throne of Isaac, and he spake with him in a similar manner, and Moses answered in like wise.

   61. Then asked Moses, the guardian angel of Paradise: "What is the length and width of Paradise?" The angel answered: "There is none who could measure it; no angel or Seraph can ever know the length and width of Paradise, for it is unlimited and boundless and immeasurable. The angels guard only the thrones and these are unlike to one another, for some of them are of silver, others of gold, others of bdellium, others of ruby, topaz, and carbuncle, others of emerald, sapphire and diamond, others of precious stones and pearls, others of rubies and carbuncles."

   62. Moses asked the angel: "For whom is the throne of pearls?" He answered: "It is for the scholars

[1. Cf. Ascensio Isaiae, viii. 27, 28.]

p. 587 who study the Law day and night for the sake of heaven." "And those of precious stones?" "For the pious men." "And those of rubies?" "For the just." "And those of gold?" "For the men who repent;" "but the greatest throne is for thy forefather Abraham, the other thrones are for Isaac and Jacob, and for the prophets and righteous, and the holy and wise pious men, each after his worth and position and the good works he hath performed in the world."

   63. Moses then said to the angel: "For whom is that throne of copper?" He answered: "For the wicked man, whose son is pious; because through the merits of his son he obtains a portion of heavenly bliss; as thou seest in the case of Terah, who had worshipped all the idols in the world, but who through the merits of his son Abraham obtained that throne of copper [as it is said: "Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace" (Gen. xv. 15), thus announcing to him (Abraham) that God would give (his father also) a place in Paradise]."

   64. Afterwards Moses looked and beheld a spring of living water welling forth from underneath the tree of life and dividing itself into four streams, [and it comes from under the throne of glory] and they encompass the Paradise from one end to the other. And under each throne there flow four rivers, one of honey, the second of milk, the third of wine, and the fourth of pure balsam.[1] These all pass beneath the feet of the just, who are seated upon thrones.

   65. [It is said in the Zohar. King Messias said to R. Simeon, son of Johai: "Worthy art thou of thy portion in heaven, for thy teaching is divided (spread) through 670 heavens, each heaven is divided into 670 lights, each light is divided in 670 arguments, each argument is divided in (among) 670 worlds, each world is divided in 670 streams of pure balsam.]

[1. Paul, ch. 23.]

p. 588

   66. And all these streams flow round Paradise and beneath all the thrones. All these were created by God for the just, and whoso becometh equal to them in merit, sees and enjoys, as they enjoy, the splendour of the Shekina.

   67. When Moses saw all these godly and pleasant things he felt great joy, and exclaimed: "Oh! how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for them that put their trust in Thee, before the sons of men" (Ps. xxxi. 19 {sic xxxi. 20}).

   68. And Moses retired from there and went away. At that same moment a voice from Heaven (Bath-Kol) was heard saying: "Moses, servant of the Lord, faithful in His house; even as thou hast seen the reward which is preserved for the just in the future world, so also in the days to come shalt thou see the rebuilding of the Temple and the advent of the Messiah, and behold the beauty of the Lord, and meditate in His Temple" (Ps. xxvii. 4). (May it now be Thy will, O Lord, my God and the God of my fathers, that I and the whole nation of Israel may be deemed worthy of sharing in good and the great consolation, and the days of the Messiah, and the rebuilding of the Temple, and the everlasting life. Amen.)




[Ziyuni, fol. 93 c-d, cf. Yalkut Reubeni, fol. 100d-101a; Jellinek, Beth-hammidrash, I. 58-64; Pesikta Rabbati, ed. Friedmann, sec. 20, fol. 96a-98b; MS. Oxford, No. 1466, 14 (Cat. Neubauer)].

   1. Moses, our teacher, upon whom may rest peace, said to Israel: "Hear, O Israel, you the whole nation! I went up on high, and I saw all the Heavenly rulers. I saw p. 589 the angel Kemuel, the Janitor, who is placed over 12,000 angels of destruction, and who stands at the gates of heaven.

   2. I saw further the angel Hadarniel, who is higher by 60 myriads of parasangs than Kemuel, and with every diction that comes out of his mouth go forth 12,000 flashes of lightning.

   3. I saw further Sandalfon, the prince, greater than Hadarniel by 500 years' journey. Of him said Ezekiel: "One wheel upon the earth besides the living Creatures, for each of the four faces thereof" (Ezek. i. 15).

   4. [This is the Sandalfon who weaves crowns for his master. When this crown appears before the heavenly hosts, they all shake and tremble and the holy Creatures are struck dumb, and the holy Seraphim roar like lions, and they say: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory" (Is. vi. 2). And when the crown approaches the throne the wheels of the throne of glory move, and the thresholds of brilliancy quake, and all the heavens are seized with terror. And when the crown passes on to the throne of glory to its right place all the heavenly hosts open their mouths, turn to the Seraphim and say: "Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place." They say: "From his place" (Ezek. iii. 12), because they do not know His actual place. When the crown comes near to God's head He accepts it graciously from His servants. And the heavenly Creatures and the Seraphim, and the wheels of the throne of glory, and the heavenly hosts, and the Hashmalim and Cherubim praise the Creator, acknowledge him as their king, and exclaim unanimously: "The Lord reigneth, the Lord reigned, the Lord will reign for evermore."][1]

   5. I saw further the fiery river Rigyon, which comes out before God, from under the throne of glory, and is formed from the perspiration of the holy Creatures who support the throne of glory; and out of dread of God's majesty perspire fire.[2] This river is meant by the saying

[1. Talmud B., Hagigah, f. 13b; Longfellow, Sandalfon.

2. Cf. Pirke de R. Eliezer, ch. 4.]

p. 590 "a fiery stream issued and came forth before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set and the books were opened" (Dan. vii. 10). For the Almighty sits and judges the ministering angels, and after the judgment they bathe in that river of fire and are renewed. Afterwards the river flows on and carries with it fiery coals, and falls on the heads of the sinners in Hell, as it is said: "Behold the tempest of the Lord, even His fury is gone forth, yea, a whirling tempest; it shall burst on the head of the wicked" (Jer. xxiii. 19).[1]

   6. I saw further the angel Galitzur, surnamed also Raziel, who stands behind the curtain and listens to all that is decreed in heaven and proclaims it. This proclamation is then handed over to the prophet Elijah and he proclaims it to the world from the Mount Horeb.

   7. The wings of Galitzur are spread and keep off the breath of the holy Creatures, for otherwise all the ministering angels would be burned by the breath of the holy Creatures.

   8. I saw further Michael, the great prince, standing at the right side of the throne, and Gabriel at the left; and Iefefiyah, the guardian of the law, standing before it; and Metatron, the angel of the presence, standing at the door of the palace of God. And he sits and judges all the heavenly hosts before his master. And God pronounces judgment and he executes it.

   9. I saw then a troop of the terrible angels who surround the throne of glory, they were more powerful and mightier than all the other angels. All these whom I saw wished to scorch me with the breath of their mouths, but out of dread of the presence of the Almighty, the king of kings, they had no power to injure me, for they all were full of fear and agony and dread before Him.

[1. V. 23; cf. Peter, 8 (H. 23); Paul, 32; V. Mary.]

p. 591



Paradise, Hell.

(Orhot Hayim II. Cod. 52, Montefiore College, f. 281b-282b; Cod. 28, Jews' College, London, f. 145b-147a; Jellinek, Beth-hammidrash, II. 48-51; with Agadath Bereshit, Warsaw, 1867, fol. 51a-b; Kolbo, § 120; Zunz, Gottesdienstl. Vortraege, p. 141, No. e.)

   1. R. Joshua, son of Levi, was a pious man. When the time approached that he should leave this world, the Lord said to the angel of death, "Go and fulfil whatever his wish may be." He went to him and said unto him: "The time is nigh when thou shalt leave this world, but now tell me what thou wishest, that I may fulfil it."[1]

   2. As soon as R. Joshua heard this, be said: "I pray thee, show me my place in Paradise." He answered and said: "Come and I will show thee it." R. Joshua answered and said, "Give me thy sword, so that thou shouldst not frighten me." And he gave him his sword. So they went together till they reached the wall of Paradise. There being outside the wall, the angel of death lifted R. Joshua from the ground and placed him upon the crest of the wall, and said unto him: "Behold thy place in Paradise."

   3. At that moment R. Joshua jumped down from the wall and fell into Paradise. The angel of death caught him by his mantle and said to him, "Get thee out thence." But R. Joshua swore by the name of God that he would not do so. The angel of death had no power to enter therein. The ministering angels seeing this, said to the Almighty: "Lord of the Universe, behold what R. Joshua hath done! By force hath he taken possession of his portion in Paradise." God answered: "Go and see if he has ever broken his oath, then shall this oath of his be likewise void and null." They searched and could not find any such case. So they came and said: "He hath never broken his oaths in his

[1. Cf. Test. Abraham, ch. 9.]

p. 592 lifetime." And God answered: "If it be so, let him remain there."

   4. When the angel of death saw this, he said to R. Joshua: "Give me now my sword back." But R. Joshua did not fulfil his request till a voice came forth and said: "Give him the knife, for it is of necessity for His creatures."

   5. R. Joshua then said to him: "Swear unto me that thou wilt not show it any more to the creatures at the moment when thou takest their souls." [For up to that time the angel of death used to kill men openly, as one slaughters animals, and he showed it even to the suckling in the bosom of their mother.] At that hour he swore unto him, and R. Joshua returned the knife to him.

   6. After that began the prophet Elijah to proclaim and to cry out aloud to the just: "Clear the way for the son of Levi."

   7. [He went and saw R. Joshua sitting in the compartment of the just, and he asked him: "Art thou the son of Levi?" And he answered: "Yes." He asked again: "Hast thou seen a rainbow in thy lifetime?" Again R. Joshua answered: "Yes." And he replied: "Then if this is so, thou art not the son of Levi."--In fact it had not been the case. Now as Joshua had not seen a rainbow, but he did not wish to boast of it and to ascribe it to his own merits. He had asked him about the rainbow, for it is the sign of the covenant between God and the world; and when the rainbow appears then God (remembers) and pitieth his creatures; but when there liveth a just man, there is no longer any necessity for a rainbow, as through his merits the world is saved. As it is said: "And the just is the foundation of the world" (Prov. x. 25). Therefore did he ask him about the rainbow.]

   8. The angel of death went to R. Gamaliel and told him: "So and so hath R. Joshua done unto me." R. G. answered and said: "He served thee right. But now please go and tell him I request him to search through heaven and hell their mysteries and to write them down and send it to me [also if there are idolators in hell]."

p. 593

   9. The angel went, and R. Joshua answered: "I will do so."

   10. Thereupon R. Joshua went and searched through Paradise and he found therein seven compartments,[1] each of twelve myriads of miles in width, and twelve myriads of miles in length; the measure of their width being the same as that of their length.

   11. The first compartment corresponds to the first door of Paradise. Here dwell the proselytes who had embraced Judaism of their own free will, not from compulsion. The walls are of glass and the wainscoting of cedar. As I tried to measure it the inhabitants rose to prevent me from doing it. Obadiah the just, who presides over them, rebuked them and said: "What are your merits that this man should dwell here with you?" (for they wished to retain him there). Thereupon they allowed him to measure it.

   12. The second compartment corresponds to the facing of the door of Paradise. It is built of silver and the wainscoting thereof of cedar. Here dwell those who repent, and Manasseh, son of Ezekiah, presides over them.

   13. The third compartment, facing the third door, is built of silver and gold. Here dwell Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the Israelites who came out of Egypt, and the whole generation who had lived in the desert, and all the kings (princes), with the exception of Absalom. There is also David, and Solomon, and Kilab, son of David, still alive, and all the kings of the house of Judah, with the exception of Manasseh, who presides over those who repent. Over these here preside Moses and Aaron. Here are the precious vessels of silver and gold, and jewels, and canopies, and beds, and thrones, and lamps of gold, and precious stones and pearls. And I asked: "For whom are all these prepared?" And David answered and said: "They are for those who still dwell in the world whence thou comest." And I asked:

[1. Cf. Midrash Kônen in Arze Lebanon, Venice, 1601, f. 3a-b; Yalkut Reubeni, Amsterdam, 1700, f. 13d-14a.]

p. 594 "Is here perhaps one also from the Gentiles, at least from my brother Esau?" And he answered and said: "No; because the Almighty gives the reward of every good deed they do in their lifetime in that world, but after death they go down to Hell; whilst the sinners in Israel get their punishment in their lifetime in that world, but after death they obtain the merit of their good deed here." As it is said: "And he payeth."[1]

   14. The fourth compartment, facing the fourth door of Paradise, is beautifully built, like to the first compartment, but its wainscoting is of olive-wood. Here dwell the perfect, and faithful, and just men. Why is the wainscoting of olive-wood? Because their life has been bitter to them as olives.

   15. The fifth compartment is of silver, and gold, and refined gold, and of crystal, and bdellium; and through its midst flows the river Gihon. The walls are of silver and gold, and a perfume breathes through it more exquisite than the perfume of Lebanon. And beds of silver and gold are there prepared, covered with violet and purple covers, woven by Eve, and mixed with scarlet and made of hair of goats, woven by angels. Here dwell the Messiah and Elijah in a palanquin of the wood of Lebanon; the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the seat of it of purple. Herein lieth the Messiah, the son of David, who is the love of the daughters of Jerusalem, the midst thereof is love. The prophet Elijah takes the head of the Messiah and places it in his bosom and says to him: "Be quiet and wait, for the end draweth nigh." On every Monday and Thursday and Saturday and Holiday the Patriarchs come to him and the fathers of the Tribes and Moses and Aaron and David and Solomon and every king of Israel and of the house of Judah, and they weep with him and comfort him, and say unto him: "Be quiet and wait and rely upon thy Creator, for the end draweth nigh." Also Korah and his company and Dathan and Abiram and

[1. Cf. Othioth de R. Akiba (Jellinek l.c. p. 23).]

p. 595 Absalom come to him on every Wednesday, and ask him: "When will the end of our misery come? When wilt thou reveal thyself?"

   16. He answereth them and says: "Go to your fathers and ask them." And when they hear of their fathers they feel ashamed and do not ask any further.

   17. When I came to the Messiah he asked me: "What is Israel doing in the world from which thou comest?" And I answered and said: "Every day they await Thee." He immediately raised His voice and wept.

   18. In the sixth compartment dwell those who died through performing a pious act.

   19. In the seventh compartment dwell those who died from illnesses caused through the sins of Israel.

   20. R. Joshua, son of Levi, tells further: "I asked the Messiah to allow me to look into Hell, but he did not allow me, as the righteous should never behold Hell." So I sent to the angel called Komm that he might describe Hell for me. But it was impossible, for at that moment R. Ismael, the high priest, and R. Simeon, son of Gamaliel, and ten just men were killed, and the news reached us, so I could not go with the angel. I went afterwards with the angel Kipod and the light went with me up to the gates of Hell, and the Messiah came with me, and they were open. The sinners who were there saw the light of the Messiah, and rejoiced, and said to one another: "This will bring us out from here."[1]

   21. I saw compartments of ten miles length and of five width, full of pits of fire, and these consume the sinners, and after their destruction they are again made whole and fall again into the fire. In that compartment are ten nations from the Gentiles, and Absalom presides over them. These nations say one to another: "Our sin is that we have not accepted the Law; but what is your sin?" And the other answers: "That is also our sin, we are like you." They say then to Absalom: "Why

[1. Ev. Nicodem.]

p. 596 art thou punished, seeing that thou as well as thy parents hast accepted the Law?" And he answers them and says: "Because I did not hearken to the commandments of my father." Angels stand close by and with their staves drive them back into the fire and burn them. Then they hurry to Absalom to beat him also, and to burn him; but a voice calls out to them: "Do not beat him and do not burn him, for he is from the seed of Israel, who said 'We will do and hearken,' and he is the son of my servant David." So they leave him upon his seat and honour him with the honour of a king. They bring out afterwards the sinners from the fire just as if they had not been burnt and the fire had never touched them; and they burn them again. This they repeat seven times, three times at day and four times at night. Absalom alone is saved because he is the son of David.

   22. After having seen this I returned to Paradise, wrote description of Hell and sent it to R. Gamaliel and the ten elders of the Jews, and I told them all what I had seen in Paradise and Hell.




(Jellinek, Beth-hammidrash II. p. 52-53; Yalkut I. § 20, f. 7a; Elia ha-Cohen: Shebet Mussar, Constantinople, 720, ch. 25, f. 80-81a.)

   1. R. Joshua, son of Levi, tells: "Paradise has two gates of carbuncle, and sixty myriads of ministering angels keep watch over them. Each of these angels shine with the lustre of the heavens. When the just man approaches them they divest him of the clothes in which he had been buried and clothe him with eight clothes, woven out of clouds of glory, and place upon his head two crowns, one of precious stones and pearls and the other of gold,[1]

[1. Cf. Ascensio Isaiae, viii. 14, ix. 9, 24.]

p. 597 and they place eight myrtles in his hand and praise him and say to him: "Go and eat thy bread with joy." And they lead him to a place full of rivers (waters) surrounded by roses and myrtles. Each one has a canopy according to his merits, as it is said: "For over all the glory shall be spread a canopy" (Is. iv. 5).

   2. And through it flow four rivers, one of oil, the other of balsam, the third of wine, and the fourth of honey. Every canopy is overgrown by a vine of gold, and thirty pearls hang down from it, each of them shining like the morning star. In every canopy there is a table of precious stones and pearls, and sixty angels stand at the head of every just man, saying unto him: "Go and eat with joy of the honey, for thou hast worked assiduously in the Law," of which it is said: "And it is sweeter than honey," and drink of the wine preserved from the six days of Creation, for thou hast worked in the Law which is compared with the wine," as it is said: "I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine" (Song viii. 2). The least fair of them is beautiful as Joseph and Johanan and the grains of the pomegranate upon which fall the rays of the sun. There is no night, as it is said: "And the light of the righteous is as the shining light" (Prov. iv. 18).

   3. And they undergo three transformations passing through three wards. In the first ward the just is changed into a child, and he enters the compartment of children and tastes the joys of childhood. In the second ward he is changed into a youth, there he enjoys the delights of youth. In the third ward he is changed into an old man, he enters the compartment of the old and enjoys the pleasures of mature age.[1]

   4. In Paradise there are eighty myriads of trees in every corner; the meanest among them choicer than a garden of spices. In every corner there are sixty myriads of angels singing with sweet voices, and the tree of life stands in the middle and over-shadoweth the whole Paradise; and

[1. Paul, ch. 22, 23, 45; Peter, ch. 5 (H. 19-20).]

p. 598 it has 500 tastes, each different from the others, and the perfumes thereof vary likewise.[1] Over it hang seven clouds of glory, and the winds blow from all the four corners and waft its many odours from one end of the world to the other. Underneath sit the scholars and explain the Law. These have each two canopies, one of stars and the other of sun and moon, and clouds of glory separate one from the other.

   5. Within this is the Eden containing 310 worlds, as it is said: "That I may cause those that love me to inherit Substance" (Prov. viii. 21) [the numerical value of the Hebrew word for Substance is equivalent to 310].[2]

   6. Here are the seven compartments of the just. In the first are the martyrs, as, for instance, R. Akiba and his companions. In the second, those who were drowned. In the third, R. Johanan and his disciples. [In what consisted his great merit? He said: "If all the skies were skins and all men scribes and all the forests pens, these scribes would not be able to write down all that I have learned from my teachers, and still am I no more than a dog liking the sea."] The fourth group is of those who were covered by the cloud of glory. The fifth group is that of the penitents [for the place occupied by a penitent not even a perfectly just man can occupy]. The sixth group is that of children who have not yet tasted sin in their lives.[3] The seventh group is that of the poor, who, notwithstanding that, studied the Law and the Talmud, and had acquired moral life. Of these speaks the verse: "For all that put their trust in Thee rejoice, and they shout for ever for joy" (Ps. v. 11 {sic v. 12}). And God Almighty sitteth in their midst, and expounds to them the Law, as it is said: "Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me" (Ps. xci. 6 {sic cxi. 6}). And God hath not yet fully unveiled the glory which awaiteth them in the world to come, as it is said: "The eye hath not seen, O God, beside Thee, that which Thou workest for him that waiteth for Him" (Isaiah lxiv. 4 {sic lxiv. 3b}). Amen.

[1. Peter, ch. 5 (H. 15-16).

2. Cf. Yalkut Reubeni, f. 14a-b.

3. Cf. Paul, ch. 26.]

p. 599




(Orhot Hayim, Vol. II. Cod. 52, Montefiore College, Ramsgate, f. 279a-b ( = §§ 1-18). Elia de Vidas: Reshit Hochma, Constantinople, 1736, f. 40 a-b ( = §§ 1-9, 19-21); cf. ibid. f. 40b, 41a. Jellinek, Beth-hammidrasch V. 50-51 ( = §§ 10-18).)

   1. R. Johanan began his homily with the verse "Passing through the valley of weeping they make it a valley of springs." This means to say that the sinner confesses, just as the leprous confesses, and he says: "I have committed such and such a transgression in that place, on that day, in the presence of so-and-so, in that society."

   2. Hell has three gates: one at the sea, the other in the wilderness, and the third in the inhabited part of the world. That at the sea is alluded to in Jonah (ii. 3): "Out of the belly of Sheol cried I, and thou heardest my voice." That of the wilderness is alluded to (Numbers xvi. 33). "So they and all that appertained to them, went down alive unto Sheol." And that in the inhabited portion of the world (Isaiah xxxi. 9) "Saith the Lord, whose fire is in Zion and his furnace in Jerusalem."

   3. Nine different kind of fires are in Hell, one devours and absorbs, another absorbs and does not devour, while another again neither devours nor absorbs. There is further fire devouring fire. There are coals big as mountains and coals big as hills, and coals huge like unto the Dead Sea and coals like huge stones.

   4. There are rivers of pitch and sulphur flowing and fuming and seething.

   5. The punishment of the sinner is thus: The angels of destruction throw him to the flame of hell; this opens its mouth wide and swallows him [as it is said: "Therefore Sheol hath enlarged her desire and opened her p. 600 mouth without measure and their glory and their multitude and their pomp and he that rejoices among them descends into it" (Isaiah v. 14.)] This all happens to him who has not done one single pious act which would make the balance incline towards mercy; whilst that man who possesses many virtues and good actions and learning and who has suffered much he is saved from hell [as it is said: "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff shall comfort me" (Ps. xxiii. 4). "Thy rod" means the suffering and "thy staff" means the law[1]].

   6. R. Johanan began: "The eyes of the wicked shall fail and refuge is perished from them and their hope shall be the giving up of the ghost" (Job ii. 20 {sic xi. 20}). That means: a body which is never destroyed and whose soul enters a fire which is never extinguished; of these speaks the verse: "For their worm shall not die neither shall their fire be quenched" (Isaiah lxvi. 24).

   7. R. Joshua, son of Levi, said: Once upon a time I was walking on my way when I met the prophet Elijah. He said to me: "Would you like to be brought to the gate of hell?" I answered: "Yes!" So he showed me men hanging by their hair; and he said to him, these were they that let their hair grow to adorn themselves for sin. Others were hanging by their eyes; these were they that followed their eyes to sin, and did not place God before their face. Others were hanging by their noses; these were they that perfumed themselves to sin. Others were hanging by their tongues; these were they that had slandered. Others were hanging by their hands; these were they that had stolen and robbed. Others were hanging by their sexual organs; these were they that had committed adultery. Others were hanging by their feet; these were they that had run to sin. He showed me women hanging by their breasts; these were they that uncovered their breasts before men,

[1. Cf. Test. Abraham, ch. 12-14.]

p. 601 to make them sin. He showed me further men that were fed on fiery coals; these were they that blasphemed. Others were forced to eat bitter gall; these were they that ate on fast-days. He showed me further men eating fine sand, they are forced to eat it and their teeth are broken; and the Almighty says to them: "O ye sinners! when you used to eat that which you stole and robbed it was sweet in your mouth now you are not able to eat even this." [As it is said: "Thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked" (Ps. iii. 8).] And he showed me men wallowing in the mire and worms were set upon them; these are they of whom it is said: "For their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh" (Is. lxvi. 24). He showed me further men who are thrown from fire to snow and from snow to fire; these were they that abused the poor who came to them for assistance; therefore are they thus punished [as it is said: "Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water" (Ps. lxvi. 12)]. He showed me others who were driven from mountain to mountain, as a shepherd leads the flock from one mountain to another. [Of these speaks the verse: "They are appointed as a flock for Sheol. Death shall be their shepherd and the upright shall have the dominion over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume that there be no habitation for it" (Ps. xlix. 15).][1]

   8. R. Johanan said: "For every sin there is an angel appointed to obtain the expiation thereof; one comes first and obtains his expiation, then follows another and so on until all the sins are expiated, as with a debtor who has many creditors and they come before the king and claim their debts, and the king delivers him to them and says: "Take him and divide him between yourself." So also is the soul delivered in hell to cruel angels, and they divide it among themselves.

[1. I. 34-49.]

p. 602

   9. Three descend to hell for ever and do not ascend any more--the man who commits adultery, who blames his neighbour in public, and who is guilty of perjury. Others say: "Those who honour themselves by slandering their neighbours, those who make intrigues between man and wife in order to create disputes among them."

   10. Seven descend to Hell: the judge, the butcher, the scribe, the physician, the barber and the teacher of very young children. These, if they have fulfilled their mission conscientiously for the sake of heaven, ascend afterwards again. Three, however, descend never to ascend: the man who blames his neighbour in public, the man who slanders his neighbour, and the man who commits adultery.

   11. Hell has seven names: Sheol, Abadon, Beer Shaon, Beer Shahat, Hatzar Maveth, Beer Tahtiyah, and Tit Hayaven.[1] The length of Sheol is a three years' journey, and so are its width and height. Similarly are the others also. Hell is thus a 2100 years' journey. If a man deserves punishment he is handed over to the angels of destruction. These seize him and lead him to the court of death, darkness and gloom, [as it is said: "Let their way be dark and slippery" (Ps. xxxv. 6)]. But this is not all, for they thrust him into Hell, [as it is said: "And the angel of the Lord pursuing them" (Ps. xxxv. 6)].

   12. When a man dies and is carried along upon his bier ministering angels walk before him and people walk behind the bier following him. If they say: "Happy the man, for he was good and praiseworthy in his lifetime;" the angels say unto him: "Write it down," and he writes it down.[2] And this is not all, but two angels watch over the man at the moment of his death, and they know whether he has stolen or robbed during his lifetime; for even the stones and the beams of his house witness against him; [as it is said: "For the stones shall cry out of the wall and the beam out of the timber shall answer it" (Habak. ii. 11)].[3]

[1. VII. 2.

2. Cf. Macarius, 10-11.

3. Macarius, 12-16.]

p. 603

   13. When a man dies he is brought before Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They say unto him: "My son! what hast thou done in that world from which thou comest?" When he answereth: "I have bought fields and vineyards; and I have tilled them all my life." They answer: "O fool, that thou hast been! Hast thou not learned the words of King David, who said: 'The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof' (Ps. xxiv. 1)." Angels then take him away and bring another man before them, and they ask him in likewise. If he answereth: "I gathered gold and silver," they retort: "Fool that thou art! Hast thou not read in the books of the prophets: "The silver is mine and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai ii. 8).

   14. When scholars are brought before them, they say: "My son! What hast thou done in the world from which thou comest?" He answers: "I have devoted my life to the study of the law." And the patriarchs answer: "He entereth into peace; they rest in their beds, each one that walketh in his uprightness" (Is. lvii. 2). And the Almighty receives them with grace.

   15. There are five kinds of punishment in Hell, and Isaiah saw them all. He entered the first compartment and saw there two men carrying pails full of water on their shoulders, and they pour that water into a pit which, however, never fills. Isaiah said to God: "O thou who unveilest all that is hidden, unveil to me the secret of this!" And the Spirit of the Lord answered: "These are the men who coveted the property of their neighbours, and thus is their punishment."[1]

   16. He entered the second compartment and he saw two men hanging by their tongues, and he said: "O thou, who unveilest the hidden, reveal to me the secret of this!" He answered: "These are the men who slandered, therefore they are thus punished!"[2]

   17. He entered the third compartment and he saw there

[1. Cf I. 36.

2. I. 38, 41.]

p. 604 men hanging by the sexual organs. He said: "O thou who unveilest the hidden, reveal to me the secret of this!" And He answered: "These are the men who neglected their own wives and committed adultery with the daughters of Israel!"[1]

   18. He entered the fourth compartment and saw there women hanging by their breasts, and he said: "O thou who unveilest the hidden, reveal to me the secret of these!" And He answered: "These are the women who uncover their hair and rend their veil, and sit in the open market place to suckle their children in order to attract the gaze of men and to make them sin; therefore they are punished thus!"[2]

   19. He entered the fifth compartment and found it full of smoke. There were all the princes, chiefs, and great men, and Pharaoh, the wicked, presides over them and watches at the gate of hell, and he saith unto them: "Why did you not learn from me when I was in Egypt?" So he sits there still and watches at the gates of hell.

   20. On the eve of the Sabbath the sinners are led to two mountains of snow, where they are left until the end of the Sabbath, when they are taken back from there and brought again to their former places. An angel comes and thrusts them back to their former place in hell.[3] Some of them take, however, snow and hide it in their secret parts to cool them during the six days of the week, but the Almighty says unto them: "Woe unto you who steal even in hell!" [As it is said: "Draught and heat consume the snow waters, in Sheol they sin." {Job xxiv. 19} That means to say: "They sin even in Sheol."]

   21. Every twelvemonth the sinners are burned to ashes and the wind disperses them and carries those ashes under the feet of the just [as it is said: "And ye shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the sole of your feet" (Malachi iii. 29 {sic iii. 21})].

[1. I. 36. 2. I. 38. 3. I. 48.]

p. 605

   22. Afterwards the soul is returned to them and they come out black as the blackness of a pot, and they acknowledge the justice of their punishment and say: "Thou hast rightly sentenced us and rightly judged us. With Thee is righteousness and with us shame, as it is with us to-day."[1]

   23. The other nations, however, and the idolators are punished in the seven compartments of hell, in each compartment for a twelvemonth. And the river Dinor floweth from beneath the throne of glory and falleth over the heads of the sinners, and it floweth from one end of the world to the other.[2]

   24. There are seven compartments in hell, and in each of them are 6000 rooms, in each room 6000 windows, in each window (recess) there are 6000 vessels filled with venom, all destined for slanderous writers and iniquitous judges. [It is to that, that Solomon alludes when he says: "And thou mourn at thy latter end when thy flesh and thy body are consumed" (Prov. v. 2 {sic v. 11}).][3] None of these will be saved unless they acquire learning and pious deeds. But at the end the Almighty will have pity on all his creatures, as it is said: "For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth, for the spirit shall pass before Me and the souls which I have made" (Is. lvii. 16).




(Nachmanides, Shaar ha-gemul, Ed. Warsaw, 1878, p. 10 ( = §§ 2-7); cf. Orhot Hayim, II. f. 282b-283a; Midrash Kônen, l.c. f. 4a).

   1. R. Joshua, son of Levi, says: "When I measured the first compartment of Hell, I found it to be 100 miles long and 60 miles wide. Therein are pits with lions; all fall into

[1. Paul, i. 8.

2. Cf. II. 5. Test. of Isaac, James and Barnes, Test. of Abraham, p. 147.

3. I. 42, VII. 4.]

p. 606 those pits and are devoured by the lions, and the bones are thrown into burning fire.[1] I entered the second compartment and found it of the same size as the first.[2]

   2. In the second compartment, in the second division, there are ten nations, and their punishment is like unto that of the first compartment. Doeg presides over them and the angel who punishes them is Lahatiel; but Doeg is freed from chastisement because he is a descendant from those who said: "We will do and hearken" (Israel).

   3. In the third compartment there are other ten nations, their punishment is the same. The angel who punishes them is Shaftiel. Korah who presides over them and his companions are free from punishment, for they also said: "We will do and hearken."

   4. In the fourth compartment the punishment is the same. There are also ten nations and Jeroboam presides over them. The angel who punishes them is Maktiel (Matniel). Jeroboam, however, has immunity for he himself had studied the Law, and he cometh from those who had said: "We will do and hearken."

   5. In the fifth compartment the punishment is the same. Ahab presides over them. The angel who punishes them is Hutriel (Oniel). Ahab has immunity because he is one of the children of Israel who said on Mount Sinai: "We will do and hearken."

   6. In the sixth compartment the punishment is the same. Micha presides over them. The angel who punishes them is Pusiel (Hadriel). Micha is free from chastisement for he is from those who said on Mount Sinai: "We will do and hearken."

   7. In the seventh compartment the punishment is the same. Elisha ben Abuya presides over them. The angel who punishes them is Dalkiel (Rugziel). Elisha, however, has immunity for he is a descendant from those who said on Mount Sinai: "We will do and hearken. " This is the punishment of the tens of thousand who are in each

[1. Cf. Test. of Isaac; James and Barnes, Test of Abraham, p. 147.

2. Here follows in the text of Orhot Hayim, III. 21.]

p. 607 compartment, and they do not see each other, for it is dark, and this darkness is that deep darkness which existed before the world was created.[1]




(Baraita de Massechet Gehinom: in Hesed le-Abraham of Abr. Azulai in: Yalkut-ha-roim, Warsaw, 1858, f. 85, sqq. Cf. Midrash Kônen, l.c. f. 3b-4a. Shebet Mussar, ch. 26, f. 84a.)

   1. We read in the Baraita of the Creation: "Beneath the earth is the (abyss) Tehom under Tehom is Bohu, under Bohu is Yam, under Yam is Mayim, under Mayim is Arka, and there is, Sheol, Abadon, Beer Shahat, Tit-hayaven, Shaare Mavet, Shaare Tzalmavet, and Gehinom. Here are the sinners and the angels of destruction presiding over them. There is darkness thick as the wall of a city, and there the heavy and bitter punishments of the sinners are enacted, as it is said: 'The wicked shall be put to silence in darkness' (1 Sam. ii. 9)."

   2. The uppermost compartment is Sheol. The height thereof is 300 years' journey; the width 300 years' journey; and its length 300 years' journey. The second compartment is Beer Shahat, of the same height, width, and length. The third is Tit-Hayaven of equal size. The fourth is Shaare Mavet of the same size. The fifth Abadon of the same size. The sixth Shaare Tzalmavet of the same size. The seventh Gehinom of the same size. That makes altogether the length of hell 6300 years' journey."[2] We read further: the fire of Gehinom is one-sixtieth of the fire of Shaare Tzalmavet, and so of every consecutive compartment till the fire of Sheol, and in Sheol is half fire and

[1. Peter, ch. 6 (H. 21); Macarius, 19; Virg. Mary.

2. V. 11.]

p. 608 half hail (ice), and the sinners therein when they come out from the fire are tortured by the hail (ice), and when they come out from the hail (ice) the fire burns them, and the angels who preside over them keep their souls within their bodies [as it is said, "for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched" (Isaiah lxvi. 24)].

   3. We read further, "God created seven hells, in each hell are seven compartments, in each compartment there are seven rivers of fire and seven of hail (ice), the width of each is 100 cubits, its depth 1000 cubits, and its length 300 cubits, and they flow one after the other, and all the sinners pass through them and are burned, but the 40,000 angels of destruction who preside over them revive them and raise them on their feet and announce to them their deeds which were evil, and their ways which were crooked," and they say to them, "Pass now through the rivers of fire and hail and snow, just as you passed over and transgressed the law and the commandments which were given unto you on Mount Sinai, for you feared not the fire of hell and the punishment of Abadon. Now render account of your deeds!"

   4. There are besides in every compartment 7000 holes (crevices), in every hole there are 7000 scorpions. Every scorpion has 300 slits (cavities), in every slit 70,000 pouches of venom, from these flow six rivers of deadly poison. When a man touches it he immediately bursts, every limb is torn from him, his body is cleft asunder, and he falls dead upon his face. The angels of destruction collect his limbs and set them, and revive the man and place him upon his feet and take their revenge upon him anew.[1]

[1. I. 42, V. 24.]

p. 609




(In Massechet Atziluth, ed. Warsaw, 1876, f. 54 a-b; Siddur Amram, Warsaw, 1865, I. f. 12b-13a).

   R. Ismael tells: "Sagansagel addressed me and said to me: 'My beloved! sit in my bosom and I will tell thee what will happen to Israel.' So I sat in his bosom and he looked at me and wept; and tears flowed from his eyes and dropped on my face. And I said: 'Glorious heavenly light! Why dost thou weep? ' And he answered: 'Come and I will show unto thee what is awaiting my holy people Israel.' He took me and brought me into the innermost place, to the treasure-house of treasures and he took down the books and showed me the decrees of many misfortunes written therein. I asked him: 'For whom are these destined?' And he answered: 'For Israel!' Again I asked: 'Will they be able to endure them?' And he answered: 'Come to-morrow and I will show thee more calamities still.' The next day he showed me still more calamities, for some it being decreed to die by the sword, for others to die of hunger, others again destined for slavery. And I said: 'O glorious heavenly light! have they indeed sinned so heavily?' He anwered: 'Every day new calamities are decreed, but when Israel gathers in his prayer-house and repeats: "May His exalted name be praised" we retain those calamities and do not let them come out from these rooms.' When I left him I heard a voice speaking in Aramaic and saying: 'The holy temple is destined to be ruined and the temple to be a burning light, and the kingly palace delivered over to the owls and the young to slavery, and the princes to death and the pure altar to be profaned, and the table for the shewbread will be carried off by enemies, and Jerusalem will be a desert, and the land of Israel a desolation.' When I heard these p. 610 words I was terrified and trembled and I fell down. Then came the angel Hadarniel and breathed into me a new soul and lifted me upon my feet and said to me: 'My beloved! what hath happened unto thee?' And I answered: 'O glorious heavenly light! is there indeed no salvation for Israel?' And he answered and said: 'Come and I will show thee the treasures of comfort and help stored up for Israel.' He brought me up and I saw groups of angels weaving raiments of salvation and making crowns of life and fixing in them precious stones and pearls, and anointing them with all kinds of spices and delights.[1] I asked: 'For whom are these all destined?' He answered: 'For David, king of Israel.' And I said: 'Show me the glory of David.' And he said: 'Wait three hours until David will come hither in his glory.' So he took me and placed me in his bosom, and he asked me: 'What dost thou see?' I answered: 'I see seven lightnings running into one another.' He said: 'Shut thine eyes that thou mayest not be dazzled by the light which precedes King David.' At that moment the wheels and Ophanim and holy Creatures and the treasures of rain and snow, and the clouds of glory and the planets and the ministering angels moved and shook and said: 'The heavens declare the glory of God' (Ps. xix. 1 {sic xix. 2}). I heard then a loud voice proceeding from Eden crying: 'The Lord reigneth for ever and ever,' and lo! David was in front and all the kings of his house after him, each one with his crown upon his head; but the crown of David surpassed them all, its lustre shineth from one end of the world unto the other. And David went up to the heavenly Temple, where a throne of fire stood ready for him, whose height is of 40 parasangs, its length and its width double the same. When David took his seat upon the throne prepared for him, facing that of his Creator, all the kings of Judah ranged themselves before him, and the kings of Israel stood behind him. Then he

[1. IV. 1.]

p. 611 began to utter hymns and praises, such as no human ear has heard.[1] And when he said: 'The Lord will reign for ever and ever.' Metraton and his company responded: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts,' and the holy Creatures praised and said: 'Blessed be the glory of the Lord in its place.' The heavens say: 'The Lord will reign for ever and ever.' The earth says: 'The Lord hath reigned, does reign, and will reign for ever,' and all the kings respond and say: 'And the Lord will be king over the whole earth.'"

[1. Paul, ch. 29.]

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