Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

Heaven and Hell

What Does Heaven Look Like?

I’m working on a sketch project in which we are being asked to create an image of what we think “the gates of Heaven” look like. Being Jewish, I am interested in contemplating this question from Jewish perspective. What can Jews expect to “see” when they reach Heaven? I am aware of the rough concept that Heaven is a place close to G-d, and that there are varying levels of closeness to him/her based upon what kind of life one lived.

The Jewish “picture” of heaven is a little different than the Christian view. I always like to give the analogy of a baseball stadium when describing the Jewish view of Heaven and Hell. Imagine you want to go to a baseball game. You go to the ticket window and you are given a list of possible ticket prices. You can pay $5 or up to $100 for a seat. Depending on how much you pay the view of the field improves. So too, in the Jewish view of Heaven and Hell. Heaven and Hell are the results of your personal seat with relation to the pitcher (G-d). Life is all about buying the ticket. That is what we are doing here. With every “good deed” that we do we get a better seat; with every negative thing that we do we sit a little further away – our life is defined by what we make ourselves. The Talmud tells us that all Jews have a place in the World to Come. We, however, define where that place is. While we always say that G-d rewards or punishes us for our actions, the truth is that we directly cause that reward or punishment based on how we live our life. There is no “place of fire” or “pearly gates.”

[Two friends Sam and Dave were huge baseball fans. They agreed that whoever died first would try to come back and tell the other if there was baseball in heaven.

One night, Sam passed away. A few nights later, his buddy Dave awoke to the sound of Sam’s voice from beyond.

“Sam is that you?” Dave asked.
“Yes, it’s me,” Sam replied.
“This is unbelievable” Dave exclaimed. ” So tell me, is there baseball in heaven?”
“Well I have some good news and some bad news for you. Which do you want to hear first?”
“Tell me the good news first.”
“Well, the good news is that yes there is baseball in heaven.”
“Oh, that is wonderful, So what is the bad news?”
“You’re pitching tomorrow night.” – ed.]

When a Jew passes away, we are brought to judgment. That judgment is already determined by how we lived our lives. And the result is either the connection to, or the distance from Our Creator. That is heaven. Heaven is the closeness to the source of spirituality. Imagine seeing the person you love most in this world across the room, never being able to get closer. That is Hell. Take that case versus constantly being “one” with those you care most about. That would be a glimpse of heaven. To be “one” with G-d” at the highest level.

Be well,
Rabbi Litt

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