Skenazy: Suddenly confronting Christian rules on heaven
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 recently released in honor of the 50th anniversary of the “Nostra Aetate” — itself a high point in Jewish-Christian relations, in that it stated that Jews should not be considered “accursed by God” (yea!) — the Vatican has gone one step further. The new document says, “It does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation.”
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, I would be considered a bad Jew, which then might damn me to hell, even though we don’t really believe in it.
See? So Jewish.
And then, when I did something actually unkind — and by “unkind,” I mean screaming at a cabby because he made a right 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 blowup the thing that’s going to tip the scales? I’ll be standing before St. Peter, and he’ll look at a list of everything I did, and it’ll be, ‘Why did you yell at the poor cabby?’ And he’ll shake his head like, ‘Sorry. You blew it.’ And then he’ll push the little button that opens a trapdoor 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. 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) — and 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--d--- 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 tripwire 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 freelance journalism did not mean kissing goodbye eternal life and harps that, because they are in heaven, must not sound so horrible as I imagine 10 billion amateur harpists sound. We Jews just knew we were supposed to try to not covet so much.
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 she’d end up!
But I probably will.
Lenore Skenazy is author of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.”