Rav Avigdor Miller on Gei-Hinom



What does the word Gehenom mean?


Gehenom means Gei Hinom, the Valley of Hinom.  It’s a certain valley in Yerushalayim right in back of the Beis Hamikdosh.  The mountain of the Beis Hamikdosh has behind it a valley called ‘Gei Hinom’ – The Valley of Hinom.

Now, that valley had an unpleasant connotation because at times there were subterranean fires burning there. There were fissures in the earth and there were fires coming out – there are certain places on the earth’s surface where fires come forth – and it was used to burn up things; certain things that they had to burn, they burned there.

Now when they wanted a name for the other world where sins are being cleansed, where the souls are being punished, so they chose a name that was familiar to them.  That’s all.  The word Gehenom wasn’t known until they came to Eretz Yisroel.

Of course, the concept of the Next World, that they all knew about. Because we see that even Bilaam had already spoken about it. He said, “תמות נפשי מות ישרים – let my soul die the death of righteous, ותהי אחריתי כמוהו – let my end be like his.”  So we see Bilaam was yearning for Olam Habah.  Of course he got Olam Habah but not the way he wanted it; but he wanted the Olam Habah of the Am Yisroel.

But that’s all they could say: “Acharisi, my end.” But they didn’t use the word Gehenom because they never encountered that place.  But later, when they came into Eretz Yisroel, the Valley of Hinom became a mashal for that part of Olam Habah.

TAPE # 284 (September 1979)