Tag Archives: Gehenna

Does it Snow in Hell?

Day 14 – Berachos 15

אָמַר רַבִּי חָמָא בְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא: כָּל הַקּוֹרֵא קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּמְדַקְדֵּק בְּאוֹתִיּוֹתֶיהָ מְצַנְּנִין לוֹ גֵּיהִנָּם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״בְּפָרֵשׂ שַׁדַּי מְלָכִים בָּהּ תַּשְׁלֵג בְּצַלְמוֹן״ — אַל תִּקְרֵי ״בְּפָרֵשׂ״ אֶלָּא ״בְּפָרֵשׁ״, אַל תִּקְרֵי ״בְּצַלְמוֹן״ אֶלָּא ״בְּצַלְמָוֶת״.

On this same topic, Rabbi Ḥama, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, said: Anyone who recites Shema and is punctilious in enunciating its letters, Gehenna is cooled for him, as it is stated: “When the Almighty scatters [befares] kings over it, it will snow in Tzalmon” (Psalms 68:15). Do not read befares, When He scatters, but befaresh, When he enunciates. When one enunciates the name of God with precision, God will fulfill the verse: It will snow in Tzalmon, on his behalf. Do not read beTzalmon, in Tzalmon, but betzalmavet, in the shadow of death, a reference to Gehenna. As reward for enunciating God’s name precisely, God will cool Gehenna for him.

Berachos 15 – Sefaria

The Gemara discusses the importance of not swallowing up the words in Shema and the importance of saying each word clearly. The Gemara then goes on to say that anyone who says each word slowly and clearly, Gehinnom will be cooler for them.

I found this difficult to understand, if one is saying every word of Shema clearly, he is presumably a Tzadik. So why is he going to Gehennom?

The Tzlach (Rav Yechezkel Landau, popularly known by his more famous work – Noda B’Yehuda) and the Gra (Imrei Noam) explain that this does not mean that it will be colder for Reshaim in hell. Rather, Tzaddikim go to Gehennom on their way to Gan Eden to take out any Jewish Reshaim that may be there, while there they suffer a little for the sake of the Rasha. This suffering is alleviated due to their slow pronunciation of the Shema. This concept is also found in the writings of the Arizal (Pri Eitz Chaim – Krias Shema Perek 3

(This may explain the tradition that Reb Nachman of Breslov said he will pull his Chassidim out of gehennom by their payos – Chayei Moharan #122)