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Switch to Forum Live View Does the Lord expect perfect theology
6 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2012 - 6:18PM #1
Posts: 26
I was a Christian for 16 years and in that religion, you can go to hell for having even one moral flaw or imperfection. It says in the last book of the bible that ALL imperfect people will go to hell after they die. This is why Christians tell so many lies, because they want to deny what their bible says. 

I realize that In Judaism a gentile is required to keep only the 7 Noahide laws to have a share in the world to come, but what is the Jewish standard for other Jews? Is the Jewish standard the same? That you must be perfect at keeping Torah Laws or offer a justifiable sacrifice / act of penance each time a Torah Law is broken? 

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6 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2012 - 9:21PM #2
Posts: 2,356

Judaism has a lot of rules. Judaism has high expectations of its adherents. But Judaism also has loads of ways to allow for repentance and an attempt to improve the self. So if someone messes up, there is recourse -- thrice daily  asking for fogiveness, confession at various points in the year, and a special time of the year (many, actually) designated for more efficacious prayer and encouraging more intense introspection.

Judaism's view of the afterlife (according to some -- the exact nature of it is not agreed upon, nor a particular focus of text) is sort of a re-education. There are 3 categories of people: tyhe completely righteous, who go straight to bask in god's glory, the completely evil (that rare and irredeemably evil sort who have no chance) and the middle group, made up of the vast majority of people. These souls need to see the error of their earthly ways and feel what it is to be deprived of the divine presence so that they can grow and purify themselves and be ready for the presence when they are "cleansed" of their worldly sins.

There is another category, but it isn't important right now.

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6 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2012 - 11:15PM #3
Posts: 2,795

Where we 'go' after we die is such a non-issue (or, rather, such a minor topic) in Judaism that you could attend synagogue services faithfully for a year or more and never hear a word said about it.

You can, however, find the topic (if you read carefully) in the siddur, the prayerbook.

But the point is, it isn't all that important to living 'right', Jewishly. Isn't God trustworthy? Isn't God merciful? Isn't God just? Then what's the problem?

Now in certain communities, there may be a fair bit of interest and notice taken of how and whether other people follow all the behavioral norms of that community (or not). But hardly a person is thinking about 'afterlife' in connection with that. They are thinking more of this world concerns: so and so violated the Sabbath/ate non-kosher food/whatever, therefore so and so shouldn't get/shouldn't have gotten an honor last Shabbat. Or so and so isn't a good match for somebody because he isn't a Shabbat observant person.

It's generally accepted that practically everybody falls into the 'great middle' zone ffb mentioned - the people who are neither saints nor evil people - who will spend some varying amount of time after death in heaven's anteroom, so to speak, reviewing their lives and acts, before being admitted.

We don't go around worrying about what happens after we DIE, we go around worrying about what we are going to do right this minute and tomorrow. Take care of the mitzvot (commandments) today, and there is no need to worry about 'the day after tomorrow'.

Blessed are You, HaShem, Who blesses the years.
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6 years ago  ::  Jan 31, 2012 - 6:44PM #4
Posts: 5,932



My rabbi once said that "Judaism is a PROCESS."  We are taught to "Hear" and to "Do" as we all responded at Sinai.  We learn from our parents and our community what we should be doing and what we should not be doing.  We do not expect to achieve perfection in anything while we walk the Earth but we expect to keep improving and if we lose ground we are expected to turn around and make it up.  Judaism is a religion of growth and encouragement, not of perfection and abasement.

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6 years ago  ::  Feb 03, 2012 - 4:14PM #5
Posts: 58

In Judaism, no person is perfect. Even the patriarchs--even King David and Moses--lied or coveted or had a fit of anger or did something wrong at some point in time.

I believe it is the Talmud which says, regarding repairing the world (or trying to make yourself perfect), "You will never accomplish it, neither are you free from ceasing to try."

I agree with the others who say that Judaism is a journey, not a destination.

Another saying is "When I die, God will not ask me why I was not more like Abraham or Moses, but will ask me why I'm wasn't the best [insert your name here] I could have been." You are only judged against your own possibilities, not those of other people. God knows your limitations--He gave them to you, after all--and He knows when you try and struggle. Even if you fail, He gives you credit for the attempt.

I think about this when it comes to making personal choices. I am still in the process of conversion, so giving up pork and shellfish are very hard for me (whereas a born-Jew, who has always been frum, does not crave such things, because they don't even know what they taste like, and have no positive or family memories associated with things like Christmas hams). There are times when I have the choice of eating a cheeseburger or have the option of eating shrimp or crab, and I think, "God's going to give me credit for saying 'no.'" Sometimes I still eat it, but I make a conscious decision to do so--which, itself, is a step in the right direction, because I'm at least THINKING about what I'm doing and recognize the right choice--even if I'm too weak to make it. But, a lot of times, I choose not to eat it.

I don't avoid pork because I think God's going to burn me in Hell if I eat it, but because I know God prefers that I don't eat pork. I give up something I want to please God--just as I might give up a solitary evening working on my writing--which is really what I want to do--in order to spend time with my husband--which is what would make him happy. It's an act of love, not of fear.

I look at being a Jew as running a marathon. There are some Jews who are lean, mean, marathoning machines. They can run in a marathon like it's nothing. Then there's me--the couch potato. I can't jump up from the couch and run a marathon. It takes a lot of training and hard work. It takes setting goals and, once they're reached, trying to push a little further.

That's why I didn't say, "I'm keeping kosher starting today!" Instead, I said, "I'm giving up pork as of today." That was 13 months ago, and I've almost got the hang of knowing where pork hides (Olive Garden spaghetti, a lot of lasgna, and marshmellows) and I no longer knowingly eat it. Now I'm starting to wean myself off shellfish. I don't make myself cheeseburgers or order them (I did eat one the other night when my husband made it without asking me first), but I'm still not there on the lasagna yet. It's a process. It's like training for a marathon.

God doesn't demand that you run a marathon, but that you attempt to run a marathon--that you constantly strive to make yourself a little bit better than you were yesterday or last year. And every year, at the High Holidays, you acknowledge that you weren't the best person you could have been--that there were times that you failed--and you resolve to do better. It's also a great time to set yourself a new goal--keeping a bit more kosher, obsreving the Sabbath a little better, learning Hebrew, reading Torah everyday, etc.

I heard one rabbi's opinion on the afterlife which I very much agree with. He said that when you die, you have to watch a film of your life, in which you see every wrong/bad choice that you've ever made, AND you see all the negative consequences which rippled out from that bad choice. Of course, the more sinful you've been, the longer you spend watching the movie. The worse your sins, the longer you spend, because the ripples you caused will reach out further.

Eventually everyone gets done with the movie and can go on to  rebirth--hopefully having learned something from the experience that will make them a better person the second time around. It is not meant to be punishment, but instruction. It, unlike the Christian concept of Hell, has a purpose and potentially positive outcome.

And, at the same time, I think the idea of watching myself do and say bad, hurtful things is more terrifying than fire and pitchforks. What's more destroying to the ego than to show a person how bad they really are?

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6 years ago  ::  Feb 05, 2012 - 2:36PM #6
Posts: 1,868

Theology is the study of God. That isn't Judaism's focus at all - but rather a relationship with God. It's not the details of our belief - but the way we live our lives in God's presence.

The Bible has little systematic theology. It has rules and ideas of what God expects from us. It is the story of the world from God's perspective.  It was not until much later that Jewish thinkers distilled the ideas found in the Bible and the rabbi's teachings (Talmud, Midrash) and tried to put them into a systematic belief system.

Maimonides, for example, is very clear about God having no corporal body, and considers one who believes that He does a heretic. Maimonides explains that a physical body has its limitations, and God is infinite and perfect. Another thinker, Rabbi Avraham ben David (referred to as Ra'avad in Hebrew) says that Maimonides is mistaken - many fine Jews, who were not philosophers, thought that God did indeed have some sort of perfect and infinite body.

I would say that Judaism today does have a theology - but it is more our committment to God and His Torah that counts rather than affirmation of doctrine.

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