Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

Heaven and Hell

Afterlife and the Pine Coffin

Question: I never understood what the jewish belief is about the afterlife. I’ve heard that Jews were to be buried in a plain pine box so that a return to life would be that much easier (as opposed to an impenetrable mausoleum.) Can you clarify what we believe in?

Answer: We believe in an afterlife, or a world of souls, where the soul goes after death. After that, there is a period of resuscitation of the dead, where the soul rejoins the body. Accordingly, it would make sense not to have the body trapped in a mausoleum, although I don’t know of any specific tradition prohibiting it.

As for the simple pine box, it is made simply and plainly to keep the burial standard affordable. The Talmud (Moed Katad) records how the standard of burial was becoming more and more lavish, to the point where “the relatives of a poor man would flee from his body”. Rabban Gamliel put an end to this when, on his deathbed, he ordered that he be buried in plain, simple burial shrouds. From then on we have maintained this tradition.

Rabbi Yehoshua Lewis

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