By Lenore Skenazy
You’d think this would be good news to a Jew like me: The Vatican has declared that my tribe can get into heaven.
In a statement just released in honor of the 50th anniversary of the “Nostra Aetate”—itself a high point in Jewish-Christian relations in that it stated Jews should not be considered “accursed by God’ (yay!)—the Vatican has gone one step further. The new document states that, “…it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God.”
In other words, Jews are now Heaven-eligible—which has me very worried. (How Jewish is that?)
You see, until now, I was already a little obsessed by what qualifies a person for a post-life thumbs up or down. And by “a little obsessed” I mean, I worried that if I ate a piece of bacon, did that make me a bad Jew, which then might damn me to Hell, even though we don’t really have Hell, so maybe even framing the question that way was a sin, meaning I was headed to some sort of miserable afterlife that supposedly doesn’t exist, with or without a devil, pitchfork, and lake that burns without giving off any light, etc.?
See? So Jewish.
And then, when I did something actually unkind—and by “unkind” I mean screaming at a cabbie who totally deserved it, because he made a right-hand turn while I was in the crosswalk, but still those guys have a hard life and are barely surviving, thanks to Uber — I’d worry, “Well, was that one little blow-up the thing that’s actually going to tip the scales? I’ll be standing before St. Peter and he looks at a list of everything I did and it’s, ‘Why did you yell at the poor cabbie? They’re barely surviving, thanks to Uber.’ And he shakes his head like, ‘Sorry, you blew it,’ and then he pushes the little button that opens a trap door in the floor?”
All this while I’m still in the crosswalk, shaking my fist.
“Don’t worry about Hell!” my husband has told me, over and over. (Am I dishonoring him by writing this?) “We don’t believe in it!”
But now… sheesh. All bets are off. I mean on! That whole Pascal’s wager thing is now in our court: Bet that there is a God and if we’re right, infinite rewards await us if we can just keep it in our pants (metaphorically speaking). But bet that there is no God (or Heaven), go rip-roaring wild, and we could be in for a world of pain (and jackals gnawing our intestines) later. That was a wager we Jews didn’t have to worry about.
So how good do we have to be to go upstairs? What is the fine print? Is one, “G—— it!” all it takes to rip up our VIP pass? Or do I have to be Bernie Madoff before I worry?
Or, to put it a bit more proactively: How can I prove my Heaven-worthiness?
Jews were already told to live righteously, give generously, dress warmly. (Well, most of us were.) We already knew we’re not supposed to murder, steal, or commit adultery. The real trip wire on that list is, “Thou shalt not covet.” But even if we did covet (come on—who doesn’t? Have you even seen my sister’s house?), it wasn’t like we were immediately disqualified from anything great. Coveting a fantastic house, or less jiggly thighs, or a job that pays more than free-lance journalism, did not mean kissing goodbye to eternal life and harps that, because they are in heaven, must not sound as horrible as I imagine 10 billion amateur harpists must sound. We Jews just knew we were supposed to try to not covet so much.
No wonder the goyim drink. (I’m kidding! I’m kidding! St. Peter—it was just one dumb, slightly un-P.C. joke. Come on!)
Now I’m a Jew faced with all the worries of a Christian without even Christmas to ease the pain. Because a Jew celebrating Christmas—I’d hate to think where they’d end up!
But I probably will.
Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker and author and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids.