Welcome to Hell

My morning run today took me past Gehinnom, the Valley of Hinnom, aka Hell. This is thought to be the place where ancient Canaanites offered child sacrifices to Moloch. In rabbinic literature, this came to be associated with the place where sinners were punished after their death in order to atone for their sins.

But as you can see in the picture, Hell is just another place – it’s people who turn a place into Hell, as legendarily happened here through child sacrifice. Hell isn’t a place of eternal punishment – it’s a place right here on Planet Earth, and many people find themselves in a Hell not of their own making, such as the Jews during the Holocaust, or people living through civil war in Syria, or being harassed by the Taliban or ISIS.

Other people, though, make their own Hell, or they find themselves in a Hell that like this beautiful garden is open that they could walk out of anytime. People in abusive relationships or in jobs that crush their souls are in a Hell that they somehow got themselves into, and they can get themselves out of.

I’m not saying it’s easy – I know the Hells that we make of our own accord can be tough to escape. These stairs are an entry to Hell – don’t they look inviting? Similarly, the gateway to Hell can be a guy who seems nice, or a job that looks like a good fit, but sometimes those things turn out to be an illusion.

People sometimes also put themselves into solitary confinement in Hell – which makes it harder to get out. If you’re struggling with a Hell of your own making, get some help and get out.

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Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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