Questions They Will Ask You in Heaven
Inspired by Rabbi Moshe Grylak’s Parasha U’Likcha
by Braha Bender
So, when you die and go to heaven, can you imagine what your first conversation is going to be like? Let me tell you, I do not think it’s going to be about the weather.
Actually, the Talmud tells us that there are several questions that a court of judgment will ask you during check-in to help determine exactly where you’ll fit in up there. I’m sure everyone has a favorite.
Personally, I haven’t been there yet, but from what I hear, my favorite question will probably be the one where they ask about the fruit. According to the Talmud, my future-favorite question goes like this: “Did you enjoy all the fruits of the world?” They want to know whether I had a good time.
And just to be perfectly clear here, when Judaism talks about pleasure, it doesn’t mean spiritual pleasure or esoteric, theoretical pleasure. It means real pleasure. It means the multitude of experiences that rush through you as your teeth sink into the muted red skin and crisp ivory flesh of a Herman apple, juice, flavor and texture all exploding into your mouth at the same time. Life tastes good, and according to the Talmud, we are supposed to be tasting it.
We are accountable to live our lives in such a way that we can honesty tell the heavenly court that we enjoyed all pleasures available to us. Why? How? Sign me up…
Parashas Tzav describes a practice called the korban todah. The korban todah was an offering brought at the Beis HaMikdash (temple) by individuals who had survived life-threatening crisis such as a serious illness, hazardous voyage, or dangerous imprisonment. The todah offering had nothing to do with repentance and recovery from past mistakes. It had to do with gratitude.
It conveyed the message that when you survive something dreadful, don’t take it for granted. In fact, don’t take anything for granted. The korban todah developed a gratitude attitude.
But that perspective is not terribly unique to Judaism. Promoting gratitude is popular today, and what’s more, it’s common sense. Looking on the bright side of life, seeing the cup half full, and believing that the sun will come up tomorrow have been around a long time.
Anyway, it’s true – living with gratitude is a terrific tip-off for a better life. The problem is that focusing on the positive only gets you so far.
Nonetheless, the Mesilas Yesharim explains the purpose of creation this way instead:
“Our sages of blessed memory have instructed us that man was created for [the sole purpose of] reveling in the Eternal and delighting in the splendor of the Divine Presence, this being the ultimate joy and the greatest pleasure of all pleasures in existence.”
Torah claims that the Almighty created you, me, and everything else for the sole purpose of giving us the opportunity to have a relationship with Him. Now imagine what it would feel like to experience your life in that context. Imagine every bite of every apple, every fresh breath, every texture smoothed beneath your fingers as a love-letter intimately designed for the you-est of you? You tear open the envelope, heart fluttering, unfold the paper, eyes sparkling…
Now that’s living with gratitude. That’s pleasure. And it’s just the beginning.
The Bomb Jewish Pleasure Secret
The real bomb Jewish pleasure secret is revealed in the second name of the korban todah. The korban todah was also referred to as the korban shelamim, the offering of wholeness, relationship. That’s because real gratitude isn’t a shot in the dark at some ephemeral sense of universal benevolence. Real gratitude is like good writing. It has muscle. It penetrates past your defenses. It changes your life.
Real gratitude is the catalyst, the heart, and the electricity of an ongoing relationship with G-d.
Jews clued into the Mesilas Yesharim mentality, the korban shelamim mentality, the Judaism mentality, and practice mitzvos because they are in a 24-7 relationship with Someone who loves them. They are genuinely interested in what He has to say and they approach the Torah with a sincere curiosity. They are not defensive. They do not have an agenda because they know He does not have an agenda. They do not believe that mitzvos or Torah or G-d are out to get them. He’s here. He loves them. They’re listening to what He has to say. They’re trying it out and watching their lives begin to glow.
Living in a world where you know that the Creator and Master of the world is your best friend is pleasure. Living in a world where He took the trouble to lay out His sweetest of treasures for you, His most intimate wisdom and guidance, His Torah, is pleasure. Living in a world where every bite of every apple happens in the context of that relationship is pleasure.
“Did you enjoy all the fruits of the world?”
That’s what they’re going to be asking us. Let’s say yes.