5 Surprising Facts About Judaism…GET YOUR JEW ON
5 Surprising Facts About Judaism – Including you don’t need to be Jewish to get to Heaven.
1. We are meant to savor the pleasures of the world:
The Jerusalem Talmud says that God will take us to task for not partaking in permissible pleasures of this world1. God didn’t put the delights of this world here to tease us. Enjoy that hot fudge sundae, but do it mindfully, like a connoisseur, savoring each mouthful. That way you’re controlling the physical and it’s not controlling you.
Towards the end of his life, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh, the great 19th century German rabbi, asked his students to accompany him to the Swiss Alps. He wanted to make sure that when he goes to the Next World and appears before the Creator and He asks, “Samson did you see My magnificent Alps?” he’d be able to answer in the affirmative.
It is not a Jewish ideal to divorce oneself from the material world. In fact, holiness can be attained only by properly using the physical world. Think of all the Hebrew words related to kedusha, holiness: kiddushin (marriage) that brings a man and woman together, Kiddush over wine, Shabbat Kodesh, the holy Sabbath when it is a mitzvah to eat delicious food and sleep a little extra. They all center around physical activities because according to Judaism, holiness comes through elevating the physical, not denying it.
2. Judaism believes in Heaven and Hell:
But probably not the version you’re imagining.
The Afterlife is an expression of the relationship to God and spirituality that we have nurtured and developed in this world. The way one experiences the Afterlife is totally dependent upon his preparation beforehand. Each choice in this world shapes who we are and creates either connection or disconnection to the Next World.
Imagine two people listening to a concert. One of them studied music composition, read about the composer and is highly attuned to all the details involved in creating this symphony. For him the concert is a rich and deeply fulfilling experience. The other person was dragged along and hates classical music. For him the concert is boring, even painful.
One concert, two very different kinds of experiences.
Our essence does not undergo a major transformation when we leave this world. It’s just the opposite. Our essence is fully expressed in the Next World. The pain of disconnection and the acute awareness of what we could have been if we would have chosen differently is the Jewish view of Hell.
3. You don’t need to be Jewish to get to Heaven:
Contrary to popular belief, a non-Jew can be spiritually fulfilled and even merit a place in the Next World. The obligation to observe the mitzvot of the Torah is upon Jews only. The Torah prescribes seven commandments for non-Jews (click here for the listing) and Maimonides states, “Whoever among the Nations fulfills the seven commandments to serve God belongs to the righteous among the nations, and has his share in the World to Come.”
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