239. Midrash Hane'elam (Homiletical interpretations on the obscure). The Rabbi opened the discussion by quoting the verse, "Now these are the nations which Hashem left, to test Yisrael by them..." (Shoftim 3:1). The Rabbi said, I have been looking into that world, NAMELY THE ETERNAL WORLD, and saw that the world can exist only because of righteous people who have control over the desire of their hearts. As it is written, "This he ordained in Jehosef for a testimony..." (Tehilim 81:6). Rabbi Yehuda then said, Why did Joseph merit that high grade and kingdom? The answer is because he overcame his lust. As we have learned, the heavenly Kingdom awaits he who overcomes his lustful desires.
240. As Rabbi Acha has said, The Holy One, blessed be He, has created the Evil Inclination solely for the purpose of trying humanity. And does the Holy One, blessed be He, intend on trying humanity? Yes. How do we know this? From the verse, "If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams...And the sign or the wonder came to pass...For Hashem your Elohim tests you..." (Devarim 13:1-3)
241. And why does He intend on trying it, as all the deeds of humankind are well known to Him? In order that humankind should have no excuse to complain. See what is written, "And Lot sat in the gate of Sodom," WHICH MEANS that he was sitting and reproving the people. Rabbi Yitzchak asks, What is the verse, "But the wicked are like the troubled sea..." (Yeshayah 57:20)? Even when the wicked man is on trial, he shows insolence and confirms his guilt. As it is written, "But before they lay down..." (Beresheet 19:4).
242. Rabbi Yitzchak continued, Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, created the Garden of Eden upon earth, so did He create Gehenom as well. And just as He created the Garden of Eden above, so did He create Gehenom there. The earthly Garden of Eden is referred to in the verse, "And Hashem Elohim planted a garden eastward in Eden..." (Beresheet 2:8) and earthly Gehanom is referred to in the verse, "A land of gloom, as darkness itself..." (Iyov 10:22)
243. There is a Garden of Eden above, as is written, "But the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with Hashem your Elohim..." (I Shmuel 25:29) followed by, "and the spirit shall return to Elohim who gave it" (Kohelet 12:7). And there is a Gehenom above, as it is written, "and the souls of your enemies, these shall he sling out, as out of the hollow of a sling" (I Shmuel 25:29).
244. The Garden of Eden below is as we have said. The Garden of Eden above is for the souls of the completely righteous, so that they may be replenished by the Great Light of above. Gehenom down below is for those wicked who refused to perform circumcision, did not believe in the Holy One, blessed be He, nor in His religion, and did not keep the Shabbat. They are the ones who worship the stars and constellations, and who are condemned with fire. As it is written, "And they came out from fire, and fire shall devour them..." (Yechezkel 15:7), "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men..." (Yeshayah 66:24)
245. The Gehenom above is for those sinners of Yisrael who have transgressed the precepts of Torah, and have not repented. They are rejected and stay outside until they are punished. And they wander around the whole world, as it is written, "The wicked walk on every side..." (Tehilim 12:9)
246. And they are sentenced to stay there for twelve months. Later, they reside with those who received their punishment at their death, each to a place according to what he deserves. The sinners who worship the stars and the constellations are constantly punished by fire and water, and they never emerge again, as it is written, "Neither shall their fire be quenched" (Yeshayah 66:24).
247. The sinners are sentenced in Gehenom according to what is written, "Then Hashem rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire..." (Beresheet 19:24). And they never emerged from there and shall not rise for the Day of Judgment, as it is written, "Which Hashem overthrew in His anger, and in His wrath" (Devarim 29:22). "In His anger" refers to this world; "and in His wrath" refers to the World to Come.
248. Rabbi Yitzchak said, In keeping with what I have explained, there is a Garden of Eden above and another below; there is a Gehenom below and another above. Rabbi Ya'akov said, The wicked who have defiled their circumcision, desecrated the Shabbat in public, desecrated the festivals, and have rejected the Torah, the resurrection of the dead, and so on, all shall enter Gehenom below. They shall be punished there and shall never rise up again.