This week the SD was listening to a continuing legal education on trial tactics in personal injury cases. The SD tries to avoid bringing in the day job, but this was too illuminating. The lecturer started by paying homage to a giant in the field of trial advocacy who had passed away recently. He described this gentlemen as a great trial lawyer, a great advocate for his clients and finally stated: “Henry I’m sure your up in Heaven trying cases right now”
At first, the SD thought “how moronic was that statement.” Who is tripping on a banana peel in heaven? Who is getting hit by a car in heaven? Justice in heaven is absolute and does not need a trial lawyer’s advocacy to persuade a jury.
But then the SD thought again. Recently the SD read a book by Michael Lerner (editor of Tikkun Magazine). While his politics might be difficult for many people, he makes a good point about our Jewish experience. Essentially he posits that each person brings the weight of history into his consciousness. All the pain, the cruelty, the viciousness, the violence of the past history or what he witnessed seeped into his soul or psyche. The job of a Jew is to eradicate these negative traits. Our job is to root them out of our lives and exchange them for kindness, compassion, love, charity etc. So the challenge for each Jew is too find the negative traits that are baked into him and root them out and exchange them. Therefore, each person’s challenge or life work in improvement is very different.
As Torah Jews, maybe we use halacha, hashkafa, Jewish values as a template to lead us to compassion or character improvment. But we cannot escape our own life experiences, memories, or influences which strain or distort the Torah template or at least influence the template of the Torah. This is why some Jews post Torah learning is the highest level of service; others think acts of kindness, others think Shabbos observance. In the end, our world view is colored by our baked in traits and therefore influence our service to Hashem.
Getting back to Heaven. We each have a different conception of what goes on in Heaven. Even within the framework of Torah structures we have different paths to heaven. Maybe, the work is not worrying about heaven, but worrying about the work we need to do on earth.