“What is the Jewish view of the afterlife? Do we believe in heaven, in hell? The immortality of the soul? Reincarnation? Resurrection?” Rabbi Bonnie Koppell of Temple Chai says that these are the questions that she is asked most frequently.
There has always been a Jewish belief in communication with the realm in which God and the angels abide. When Abraham had a knife to Isaac’s throat as a sacrifice to God, an angel stopped him at the last minute. God spoke to Moses and Moses spoke God’s word to the people. That eventually included a tradition of communicating (or trying to communicate) with the deceased. For instance, kvitel, or little notes with a prayer, are placed on the graves of Rebbes or Jewish holy men with the hope that the soul of the deceased will intercede for the individual in heaven. While many Jewish individuals accept this, others are quite skeptical of the concept of communicating with a departed soul. Perhaps this is because the Torah states, “You shall not practice divination or soothsaying.”