Earning Heaven


“Judaism is about relationships,” sayeth the narrative. “It’s about aligning yourself with truth. It’s about becoming more like God, so that you can connect with God (how that doesn’t work is the subject of a separate article).”

Furthermore, “Only dim witted people, like women and children (a pretty direct paraphrase from Maimonides), follow the Torah for the sake of reward.”

Oh really?

Then what is the reason behind the obsession with consequences that permeates every level of Jewish thought, from the Bible to Halacha to Mussar to Prayer?

Some choice nuggets:

• The Torah spends almost TWO entire Parshas going into excruciating (literally) detail about the rewards and punishments – but mostly punishments – that happen if you don’t follow the Torah. It then spends a significant part of Prophets proving the point that when the Jews listened to God, their neighboring enemies stopped fucking with them.
• My current favorite retarded law: if you forget to pray one of the daily prayers, you can make up for it by praying the following prayer TWICE. If the laws are about relationships, how in the hell does that work? You think you can miss a date with your partner and just make next week’s date twice as long to make up for it?
• “To help you avoid sin,” recommend some prominent thinkers in Mussar movement, “might we suggest imagining intensely the types of punishment that will befall you if you transgress a law?” Like, how about having your soul catapulted from one end of the earth to the other by Angels of Terror™? Or if you ever burn yourself, just remind yourself that hell will burn so much more.
• To really get behind the spirit of the uplifting High Holidays, the focal point for many people is the prayer during which you’re reminded that this is the time when God decides who wins another year at life, and who gets to die: by earthquake, by starvation, by plague, by suffocation; remember the Almighty has an almighty amount of ways He could benevolently smote you.

“Aha,” says Kiruv Rabbi you. “Thus is the nature of reality. Stray from God, you get further away from His light, and naturally bad shit will befall you. It’s not reward and punishment. It’s the natural order of things when you stray from under God’s protective shadow.”

To which I reply with two things:

Are you ready to empirically prove it? Because they’ve done studies and people who were prayed for were LESS likely to recover. It seems, if you look around, that bad things happen to good people just as often as good things happen to bad people.

More personally, I once tried proving, (while I was still religious and wanted the results to support the premise) that there were more Terrorist attacks in Israel during Bein Hazmanim when there was less protective Torah learning going on. I could find no correlation.

Because if you can’t prove it, I may just accuse you of using the universe’s chaotic ways to manipulate people to act and believe as you want. Pretty shitty of you, no?

Here’s a gem of an email I just found online, written by a principal to his post-high school seminary in Israel for 19 year old women:

“When most girls were wearing skirts above their knees you made a kinnus (assembly) to teach the world that it’s assur. While the kdoshim (“martyrs”, referring to three Israeli boys who were kidnapped and killed) were missing, I kept asking myself, where is my army? We saved Gilad (Shalit, a kidnapped Israeli soldier, through their spiritual actions), we can save them as well. I have no doubt my army was doing their part. This time, Hashem said no… I have a sinking feeling we’re going to bring Mashiach (Messiah). Sources tell us that before Mashiach there will be a big nisayon that will be very hard to pass. Those who do will merit Mashiach. Those who don’t… (trails off ominously)”

So many threats and massive assumptions, so much guilt and manipulation, in just on excerpt.

More importantly though. Even if bad things and good things, heaven and hell, do occur to people as a byproduct of this whole relationship with God thing, shouldn’t that be the focus? Do I really need to read between the lines, wait until Luzzato’s books 200 years ago, piece together a narrative, where it’s all about relationship?

At face value, Judaism is yet another dogma that controls the masses, except it comes with relationship-dipped carrots, not just sticks.

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