I had some correspondence after the last post, which prompted me to clarify something that I’ve been thinking about writing about for a while.
Judaism doesn’t believe in ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people.
It believes in ‘good’ or ‘bad’ deeds, thoughts and actions. If a person’s actions are overwhelming of the ‘good’ variety, Judaism then tells us that person is a Tzaddik, or holy person, and we are further told that if we see a Tzaddik doing something bad, we should judge them favorably, and believe that they already made teshuva for it.
By contrast, xtianity teaches that the world is split into ‘good’ people – who believe in yoshki – and ‘bad’ people, who don’t. Once someone is assured they are a ‘good person’, they are then at liberty to do the most atrocious, awful, terrible things to other human beings, secure in their self-assessment that they are a ‘good’ person.
That thinking is behind most of the suffering occurring in the world, because even the most hardened, evil people in the world believe on some level that even their worst excesses and cruelties are somehow justified, and therefore ‘good’.
This thinking is also underneath a whole bunch of xtianity-inspired mental illnesses like Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), where the narcissist can’t accept that they are anything other than perfect, and believe that they always act in perfect, ‘good’ way regardless of how many bodies they leave behind them.
When a person believes they are ‘good’, fullstop, they usually aren’t so concerned with identifying, acknowledging and dealing with their negative character traits.
But here’s the thing: no-one is perfect, and for as long as we’re down here on planet earth, it’s because we still have work to do to improve and perfect our characters.
Even Moshe Rabbenu, arguably the most ‘perfect’ servant of God who ever lived and an indisputable Tzaddik of tremendous proportions still had some anger issues to work out, even when he was 120 already. When he hit the rock instead of speaking to it because Am Yisrael had gotten him so riled up, he was 120!
If someone like Moshe Rabbenu wasn’t embarrassed to admit his faults publicly, then surely we don’t need to be so coy about accepting that we still have stuff to work on.
Another big difference between Judaism and other religions, especially xtianity, is this notion that ‘good’ people go to Heaven, and ‘bad’ people go to Hell – and it’s a permanent, everlasting, unfixable thing, which is probably also why so many people are petrified of accepting they may not be perfect paragons of virtue.
Judaism teaches something completely different. Judaism says: every good deed that you do, you’re going to get some heavenly reward for it. And every bad deed that you do, that you didn’t make teshuva for, you’re going to have to atone for it somehow, either by spending some time in Gehinnom (for up to 12 months), or by being reincarnated again (if your sins were against your fellow man – Gehinnom only atones for sins between man and God.)
Again, there ARE some exceptions to this rule, most notably for atheists, who could end up spending all of eternity in Gehinnom if they persist in denying God for their whole life and don’t make teshuva before they die.
But if you’re a bog-standard person with issues who’s done a lot of bad things that you haven’t made teshuva for (like most of humanity…) BUT you believe in God, then your stay in Gehinnom is capped at 12 months – and then you get a measurement of eternal paradise as your reward for each and every good deed that you did.
To sum this up: xtianity says that only ‘good’ people go to heaven, and that a person is only ‘good’ if they believe in yoshki, regardless of how they act or treat other people in real time.
Hence, there is no motivation for a self-proclaimed ‘good’ person to examine their deeds or work on their negative character traits, because they automatically assume everything they do is justified and ‘good’ (which also happens to be the basis of a lot of mental illnesses, including NPD).
Judaism says: there are only good deeds. A person’s status as an aggregate ‘good person’ will only be determined after their death, by the Heavenly tribunal. Nearly everyone is going to go to both Heaven and Gehinnom (with some notable exceptions for Tzaddikim and atheists).
That’s why it’s such a mitzvah for a person to acknowledge their bad deeds and negative character traits in Judaism, so they can actually try to fix them, and why it’s such anathema in other religions.
We Jews have been in galut so long that we’ve imbibed a lot of the foreign dogmas and philosophies that are inimical to authentic Yiddishkeit.
Judaism teaches that our souls, that Godly part of us, is only pure and good. But the soul is surrounded by klipot, the husks of the dark side, that causes us to do things and think things we’re really not proud of. For as long as we’re in our bodies, we’re going to have to deal with the klipot that are causing our bad behavior, and to atone and make amends for the bad things we do.
When we deny that very human reality, we literally go bonkers. Remember, pretending to be perfect is the mentally-ill behavior of a narcissist. It’s the furthest thing in the world from Yiddishkeit.