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Derech Ha’Shem -The Way of G-D #84: “What Happens in Hell - Gehenom—Purgatory”

Given: November 17, 2018

Majority Versus Minority

There’s a problem to clarify; we know the general rule about what determines the direction, the ultimate destination of anybody, that being the quantity and quality of a person’s deeds. If the mechanism of justice could speak, he could say: if the majority is good, we’ll get you into olam ha’ba—Future World. If the majority of the deeds is bad, you will be annihilated. The issue lies with the minority.

Let’s say that the majority of your deeds is good and the minority is bad. That has to be dealt with, the bad deeds, the aveiros—transgressions. In the reverse, if the majority is bad and the minority is good, then that too must be dealt with in terms of the attribute of justice. Both must be dealt with.

Generally speaking, if the majority of one’s deeds is good and the person gets olam ha’ba, he’ll have gotten it by meeting required conditions in order to become part of a perfected community, one of shleimus—a perfected whole. What does that mean? In olam ha’ba, you are attached in an intimate relationship with G-D for eternity. The problem, of course, is if a person has bad deeds; it won’t work. Even though he has some good deeds, in terms of the bad deeds, it’s not going to work. I’ve mentioned why not.

When a person does an aveira, he’s doing his own will, not G-D’s. That’s a statement of “yesh od milvado”—besides G-D, there is an “other.” It’s a declaration of: there’s me, and I can do what I want, even that which is against His will because I, too, exist. As a result, what’s called a “klipah”—a shell, a force which blocks, which acts like a barrier, surrounds his neshama—soul and filters out a certain amount of the Divine Light. When you are exposed to Divine energy, that energy is an ein od milvado ha’ohra—illuminationthat there is nothing besides G-D. The klipah, that evil force that blocks that ohr—Divine Light, deprives you of the ability to feel that energy. You don’t feel G-D, don’t feel His true nature, don’t feel that, besides G-D, there is nothing else.

Blockage Versus Worthiness

You can’t go to olam ha’ba with that type of blockage. In olam ha’ba, it’s that presence of G-D, that revelation of “ein od milvado,” that enlightenment, which is experiential. So how could you experience that with a satanic blockage? Obviously, that blockage has to be removed. Somebody who has done a majority of good deeds and a minority of bad deeds has a certain admixture of “Darkness” of klipah and can’t be in olam ha’ba with that barrier. The “rule” in olam ha’ba is that the Divine Light is completely pervasive throughout; there is no blockage.

There could be a diminishment of Light, however. G-D can restrict His presence to you in one of two ways. Either you’re blocked because of tumah--impurity, this Darkness, this barrier blocking His presence or, even if it’s removed, you may only be deserving of a certain amount of reward so G-D diminishes His presence toward you. In that case, it’s not blocked because there’s a barrier; it’s diminished because you aren’t worthy of more Divine energy.

There’s no such thing as “equal” in olam ha’ba. Everybody gets what he deserves, what he earned or caused as a matter of justice, neither more nor less. Nobody can complain. But, there’s no blockage there. There’s a tremendous inequality there based on the variability of each person’s acts and, therefore, worthiness. There’s no such thing as two people who are equal in the Future World. In any case, a barrier cannot be.

Therefore, there must be a way of removing the barriers if, in fact, you do have a majority of good deeds. There are two ways to remove barriers: one way is through teshuva—penitence or, failing that, yessurin--suffering. G-D created the phenomenon called “yessurin” as a way to remove the barriers.

One of the problems is what happens if somebody has 51% good and 49% evil. Technically, he can get olam ha’ba but can 49% be removed? That’s a lot of bad stuff! Even if he would suffer physically, it’s not enough suffering to remove the barrier caused by so much bad, so many evil actions.

Gehenom—Purgatory, Justice Beyond the Physical World

What the Ribono shel Olam—Master of the Universe did—and this is a tremendous kindness—is that gehenom—purgatory provides the solution. It is possible to suffer not only in this world but in the world of souls, the world of neshamos where you have no guf—body and, therefore, cannot die; you can’t die twice. So, a person can earn a kappara—atonement and the klipah is removed. That’s a tremendous chesed—kindness because, without it, the guy could only suffer in this world and he’d likely be dead as a result.

What of the person who has done 90% evil and only 10% good? The ten percent good is rewarded in this world and then he dies and, of course, he’s not going to get Olam Ha’Ba. What about that 90%? Take a look throughout man’s history over thousands of years. How many have been killed, tortured, destroyed? We can barely comprehend the amount of evil that man has done to man. They have to have a retribution for the evil they did. Don’t think that just because you don’t get Olam Ha’ba you’re not going to get punished! You will because, if you didn’t--where’s justice?

Take a man like Hitler, yimach shemo v’zichro—may his name be cursed and his memory blotted out. Obviously, he won’t get olam ha’ba but what about the 55,000,000 killed in WW2? It’s not only the death toll but what of the descendants whose existence was prevented, blotted out? What of the good that could have been done throughout the generations for hundreds of years? This man, Hitler, put an abrupt stop to all of it, right? He will have to compensate for all the evil. There is nothing that could be done to him in the physical world. A man like Hitler can’t be given enough physical pain that he’d have to sustain and withstand for the evil he committed. It would immediately kill him again and again and again because the world has something called “natural law” and G-D isn’t going to violate it. But in the soul world, Hitler can be destroyed over and over and over, ad infinitum.

The soul world not only benefits people by purgatory, by gehenom, in the sense that it allows one to expiate the minority of bad deeds, but for those whose majority is incredibly evil, it allows them to be punished beyond what the physical world can do.

The Realization

What happens in gehenom? Some religions believe you burn forever. I mentioned before that there is no action anybody ever did that can justify an infinite ibud—retribution. There’s no such thing. No matter how bad it is—and it can be very, very bad—it ends. Once justice is satisfied, it is over and that’s it. Then you’re annihilated. The notion of “burning” is figurative.

I’ll offer an allegorical example. Imagine you have a hospital room in the ICU with guy plugged into all the machines. Tubes are running in and out and, obviously, he’s pretty bad off. He’s in tremendous pain, on pain-killers, lying next to a window. In the building next door, close to his window, there’s a party going on—music, dancing, a smorgasbord of gourmet food—and he can see it from his window. The question can be asked: why not just get up and go to the party? No one is stopping him. His body stops him; it’s incapable of going to that party. He suffers a great deal seeing this incredible event and he can’t be part of it. That’s yessurim—suffering. Imagine seeing celebration and joy and wanting to partake and you can’t.

It's not that you “burn” but that you cannot be part of something you realize is incredibly satisfying, profoundly fulfilling and joyous. No one is setting you on fire. The pain of gehenom is the realization that you cannot have G-D. You cannot know G-D. You are aware that G-D cannot reveal Himself to you. You cannot experience Him. It’s the worst punishment. G-D will reveal Himself but in no way can you experience Him.

We can’t relate to that because we don’t know what that means but we understand that Olam Ha’Ba is a place where the greatest pleasure of all is to experience G-D. Consider the ramifications of not being able to. It’s not really suffering from something that happens to you; it’s more about something you could have had but can’t have.

Another example: imagine you’re on a strict diet. You can only eat oatmeal or whatever it is you detest eating--oatmeal with soybeans, right? Suddenly, you’re invited to a wedding you’re obligated to attend. You walk in and there’s a smorgasbord fit for a king. Each of you will have your own idea of what delicacies grace the tables. I’m not talking about a couple of chicken dishes; I’m talking sweetbreads, tongue, sushi—if you’re into sushi—and whatever else you crave. But you’re on a restricted diet. That’s what’s called being “masochistic” (laughter). Everyone is chomping away and you’re sitting there with a little bag of oatmeal and adding a little water and cooking it up. In front of you is this unbelievable selection fit for a connoisseur.

Replace the smorgasbord with the presence of G-D. I don’t know if it’s good news or bad news. Get rid of the nonsense about burning. Here, “suffering” is the realization of what you’re missing. A smorgasbord compared to the Divine Presence….is nothing. We can’t relate to it just as we can’t imagine infinite joy, infinite pleasure. Whatever it is, we can understand that we are exposed to that Divine presence but in a way that we can’t get it. It’s like the guy in the ICU who can’t just simply join the party.

Participant: He could have had it.

R’Kessin: Of course, he could have had it! That’s the pain. The reason he can’t have it is his own fault, not because somebody else did anything to him; he can’t blame anybody else, right? It’s because of his deeds. He caused his entire inability to enjoy the presence of G-D. That’s gehenom.

Participant: I thought it’s about shame.

R’Kessin: Let’s put it this way; it’s many things. It’s the inability to enjoy G-D, get close to G-D which, in the soul world is everything. It’s the incredible regret that he has for not doing the things that he could have done to have it.

Let’s assume you buy a stock and it’s not doing so great like when Amazon first came out. Let’s assume somebody gave you a gift of 10,000 shares. At the beginning, Amazon wasn’t doing so great so, as in that situation, the guy sells it for what?—a thousand dollars a share? No. He sold it for a nickel a share. What’s it worth today?—five hundred dollars per share? He can’t stop blaming himself. You think: I could have been a multi-millionaire, right? Instead, you’re on welfare collecting checks, right? How do you feel? Every day you wake up knowing you could have been a multi-millionaire and now--forget about it! You’re poor. You have to go asking for hand-outs. That’s incredible pain. That is the pain of gehenom.

You realize that all the simcha--happiness, the joy, could have been yours but it’s not. You had it in your hand and gave it up. That’s certainly part of the deal. It’s not only that you don’t have G-D; it’s the regret, the what a mistake I made!

The other part of the deal is the embarrassment, the shame knowing you don’t have it. What don’t you have? It’s not just the joy of G-D you lack but it’s the feeling of “being,” to attach to G-D, to be intimate with G-D. That bounty of such joy and pleasure does something to your existence. You’ll have become a different type of being. That’s also lacking.

There’s a mix of terrible kinds of suffering and it doesn’t end. It goes on until the judgment is over. Then, if you’re found to be evil, you’re annihilated. Imagine all that suffering and then you’re gone, annihilated! Imagine what the guy is thinking while he’s suffering. Imagine the realization knowing you’re going to your absolute death, and that’s after all the gehenom. Imagine a person experiencing that—unbelievable!

When we try hard yet experience failure, we feel bad. These guys experience a failure which is beyond belief. These guys whose deeds were mostly evil know this suffering is without salvation. After all this is over—after who knows how many years and experiencing different intensities, different levels of gehenom: light, heavy, and one that can’t be described—they cease to exist.

Participant: Maybe he’ll regard it as a relief.

R’Kessin: Relief on one side but, on the other side, he’s experiencing what he did and he knows that, after all this, he won’t get the blissful state; he will cease to exist. That’s a terrible, terrible realization. There are people who experience this but they know and can say: after eleven months, I’m outta here! There’s a certain sense of relief or whatever because they know it’s gonna end and I’ll get Gan Eden and then Olam Ha’ba so maybe the guy can bear it. But these other guys know that, after the suffering to expiate their evil is over, they’re gone. It’s the worst possible situation a person can have. It’s a double whammy.

Participant: How does this misaken—rectify the condition of nehama d’kesufa—Bread of Shame?

R’Kessin: Nahama d’kesufa is a concept of din—justice. They get what they deserve. There’s no Bread of Shame. They’d experience nehama d’kesufa if they didn’t get the suffering.

Participant: Regular suffering in this world, if you were in control, stops at some point therefore driving home ein od milvado—besides G-D there is nothing. So, what is the gehenom form of suffering for?

R’Kessin: It’s the denial of ein od milvado. In the Future World they will know what it means to be connected to G-D. Gehenom is the denial of that revelation of ein od milvado.

Participant: Because they’ve turned themselves into yesh od milvado—besides G-D there’s other, there’s me, they, basically, go through a “therapy session” to realize, to know that there’s ein of milvado, to really accept it into their being. Could it be said that the whole experience of the difference between gan eden and gehenom is really an experience of that revelation?

R’Kessin: Yes.

Participation: In gan eden, they get the experience of what they will get in olam ha’ba. It’s the same gilui—revelation but the difference is within them. In gehenom, because of their status, they haven’t the vessel to accept it but, in gan eden, they can. Tzaddikim can accept it.

R’Kessin: It’s like the guy in the ICU who can’t join the party. This is the mistake that religions make. It’s not that G-D puts you in fire; that’s the classic Christian understanding of purgatory, to burn in hell for eternity. It’s absolute nonsense. You don’t need fire. The lack of G-D is the fire. The denial of a being of that nature, what it could do for you, that’s the infinite joy and its denial.

Participant: to a certain degree, he has a nechama—feeling comforted thinking: I won’t get it now, but I will get it. The only distress is that he doesn’t get it now. The nechama he has is that, in eleven months, he’ll have it so maybe it’s preferable to get punished in this world instead of that one.

R’Kessin: Yes, gehenom is much worse.

Participant: Everybody in this generation is like a kid kept after school. We have some schooling and here we are back at the end. Everyone made it but we’re still in school. Are we like on the 49th or 50th percent border and that’s why we’re here now?

R’Kessin: No. Actually, if you think about it, our generation is the one that’s finishing up the process. We have a tremendous zchus--merit finishing up the tikkun--rectification process. That will bring tremendous reward; it’s a privilege. The world is a difficult place—immoral, crazy. Incompetence is beyond belief. The degradation that man has reached is terrible but, for people who are still doing mitzvos--commandments and all that, it’s a privilege.

Who gets the credit? Let’s use this example: You have a baseball game with nine innings and it’s 5 to 5 and the last guy gets up to bat. He hits the homerun and comes in and they win. Ever notice that he gets all the credit? What about all the other guys that got (the team) to “5”? Somehow, everybody goes wild (over him) because he finished the game. In a certain sense, we finish the game. We’re the last generation.

Participant: There are sages who said that they didn’t want to be alive during this time.

R’Kessin: Yes, that’s because of the concept called “miyat ohr” knowing that, at the End of Time, the situation everyone finds themselves in is one of diminishment of Divine Light, Divine energy. The amount of tumah—defilement, pollution, in this generation, is terrible. Just look at the world! Who thinks of G-D anymore, really? Does anyone miss G-D?

Everybody is into physical attainment, more money, more goods, more property, more security. I want to get ahead. I want pleasure and power. I want to be recognized. That is what life is about, they think. How many guys are really into spirituality? We are the ones finishing off this whole tikkun process to bring G-D back. At least that’s a comforting thought even though we’re having a difficult time.

That is the concept of gehenom. It’s not something external to you that suddenly makes you suffer. It’s within you that you suffer because you’ve led the life you’ve led. Hopefully, the majority was good and the minority was sinful. That is within you and that’s the suffering. Over there, you realize what the incredible reward is that you could have earned but didn’t; it was in your hands. You had the free will to do it and you let it go. Just think of the guy who had thousands of shares of stock in Amazon and he just blew it, sold it for what?-- $1. That’s quite aggravating.

Think of this: the guy with the $1.6 billion lottery ticket. Imagine you had put down all the correct numbers and you came to buy the ticket with your kid and your 9-year-old doesn’t like the last number you picked and suggests another number. So, out of the six numbers, you had five of them correct. You had the sixth correct too but listened to your kid and changed the last number so, guess what! It’s like the feeling that you’re gonna kill your kid (laughter) because you could have had $1.6 billion. Do you have any idea what pain that is! There are people who could become crazy, become psychotic with that realization that they could have had $1.6 billion but, because their kid didn’t shut his mouth (laughter) and told you to take a different number… much pain is that! That’s gehenom.

It's not physical. The pain is from your mistake. When you’re in gehenom, you’re looking at the mistake and there’s nothing you can do about it! That’s the problem. Once you’ve hit gehenom, it’s over with.

There’s no way to get around it. The only possible way—which we’ll talk about—is what happens if you did good deeds and other people were positively affected by those good deeds and you changed their lives so you cash in on their merit. That’s why you have kids. The parent is dead and the kid says kaddish so that kid’s kaddish elevates you from gehenom, can get you out.

Participant: On Shabbos—Sabbath there’s no gehenom?

R’Kessin: No gehenom on Shabbos.

Participant: Gilgul--reincarnation is also a way out?

R’Kessin: Well, no, because gehenom is the g’zera—decree. If it was gilgul, he’d come back again and wouldn’t go to gehenom but, obviously, that wasn’t the judgment. The person is judged three times so, therefore….I’ll talk about that.

Gehenom is not something to look forward to. It’s a severe thing. For those guys who did majority good—ok, you go through it. For those who did majority evil, you don’t want to even think about what these guys are experiencing. They played around with G-D, defied G-D.

The worst thing anyone can do is do evil to Jews. We can’t believe what the retribution is for those anti-Semites out there who malign, slander Jews, harm them in any way. We don’t understand the punishment that these people receive because of what they do. Not only are they doing terrible deeds by harming people, we’re talking about the Jewish people whose job it is to rectify Creation. When their time comes up, we can’t imagine what will happen to these guys. They think they can play around with G-D. It's always astounding to me because most people have read the bible in one way or another. Everyone is familiar with the bible—the Torah—and know the relationship that G-D has with the Jews. They know this; they’re not stupid. The bible itself, its ideas, are known world-wide. They’re assuming that there is no G-D or He abandoned the Jews. They are taking a terrible risk, playing around with the children of G-D. Theirs is a suicide trip. It’s not just death; they are looking at an incredible amount of suffering because, not only have they been evil to human beings, they’ve stopped or impeded the Jews from doing the tikkun which is a terrible sin. I wonder about these guys; they want to do evil; that’s one thing but don’t play around with G-D’s kids! Know what I’m saying?

Here's a good example of this. A guy goes to the jungle and suddenly sees a bunch of tiger cubs. He thinks: I’m gonna take them and sell them to the zoo. Three little tiger cubs….and he starts to pack them up. He hears a noise behind him, turns around and sees the mother tiger staring at him. She’s ten feet away. There’s nothing between her and him. What do you imagine he’s thinking about? I’m dinner.

Don’t play around with the tiger cubs! If she sees you doing so, you will become the stuff she will be absorbing into her protoplasm. She’s gonna eat you. The Jews are the tiger cubs of the G-D Who doesn’t go away. G-D is always looking out for the Jews. What are you doing playing around with G-D’s cubs? Are you crazy? They’re suicidal. The gravity, the seriousness of their situation doing this….

For those whose majority of deeds is good, his term in gehenom ends and the barriers are removed, the klippas, and then he gets gan eden and, ultimately, olam ha’ba. For the others, it’s a fate that’s infinitely worse than death and then it leads to death.

Participant: It’s eleven months, right? Does it feel like eleven months?

R’Kessin: It’s based on what time is like in the other world. Whatever it is, it has to be some particular length of time, so there is “time” there.

A person has to re-think before he delves into an experience. You want to avoid gehenom and, certainly, to try to get gan eden directly.

Three Judgement Periods

Also, remember, there are three judgment times. The first is on Rosh Ha’Shana in terms of your deeds, but not personal ones. You are judged on your deeds in relation to your role in the tikkun of the briya—Creation. G-D evaluates the entire Creation to see the extent of its progress. You are judged vis-a-vie what your new position is gonna be. You want a good position, not a bad one. You’d rather be a vice-president than working in the mailroom. You don’t want to be demoted to the mailroom. You’re judged based on how you’ve been doing in your particular assigned area. Do you have to be moved around to a different assignment?

The second judgement period comes after a person dies according to the majority vs. minority of his deeds. The majority is one aspect but the minority is the determinant of what’s going to happen to him. Should he have to come back as an incarnation or go to gehenom or gan eden? Does he have to reincarnate into another body, get another assignment in order to continue doing his share of the tikkun process or remove, expiate a lot of the bad that he’s done?

At the End of Time, mashiach comes, Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David, and then you have the resurrection of the dead. Then, in the year 6000, or 2240 on the Gregorian calendar which is not a distant time from now (222 years at the time of the lecture) when this world ends, every person who lived is judged in terms of the totality of his deeds. Why, “totality”?

Obviously, a person can do good: help Jews, give shiurim, influence positively. They, particularly Jews, did good deeds and, as a result of such good deeds, transmitted the good to their kids and others and all of that can’t be tallied up until the end. A person’s good can go on for generation after generation. G-D looks at the totality of your actions, the complete and total consequences of your actions over the thousands of years that you’ve lived. Who knows how many years you’ve lived and how many people did mitzvos or aveiros based on your influence?

The worst thing is to do an aveira, the result of which is the sins of many others so you are held accountable for their sins. It’s like the internet; in the old days, you said something bad, spoke loshon ha'ra—evil speech, denigrating speech, about one guy. It’s forbidden but--whatever. Today with the internet, you post loshon ha’ra about someone and millions of people have access to it and they might read it and believe what you said about that person. Such talk is forbidden, even if it’s true! If it’s false, it's called “motzi shem ra”—defamation. Can you imagine the amount of sin a guy can chalk up today due to the internet? It’s beyond belief! It’s the greatest tragedy of mankind that a guy can do one sin and have millions of people sinning on his account. If he’s on the internet all day long--a kid looking at such content and believing it—he then tells another person, who tells another, and it spreads like a virus. It starts with a post to 5,000 people and ends up going “viral” to millions. Your loshon ha’ra can go viral! It’s the greatest tragedy to spread lies, to defame, to slander people.

How do you do a kapporah for a million people believing your slander? You’re finished. In the past, if a guy wanted to destroy himself, it would take years. He didn’t have to work on it very hard. Today, you can do it in one day, one minute, one deed. In one shot, it’s over. That’s why the internet is the most destructive device ever known in the area of communications. It’s a global communication device enabling a person to destroy his future in one day flat! He doesn’t need a lifetime. The damage is done.

Participant: What about someone who comes to your shiur and realizes what he did? He’s still alive.

R’Kessin: The question is: what’s the teshuva--penitence for loshon ha’ra? He must confess, resolve never to do it again, say to G-D, “Listen! No way can I undo what I did; it’s not possible. However, You are an infinitely merciful being; You know how I can do teshuva for this; I’ve no idea. I want to do teshuva, real teshuva. I feel terrible and I’ll do whatever I can do. I’ll get on the internet and try to say good things about the person whose reputation I destroyed. The only way I can do teshuva is through Your input. I need help.”

G-D will respond. He will, somehow, get this guy to do teshuva. I don’t know how. We’re looking at a teshuva that is infinitely complex but G-D can do it, obviously. That’s what G-D is. G-D will enable him, in some way, to do teshuva. If a person sincerely wants to do teshuva on the loshon ha’ra he’s done, G-D will enable him.

Participant: About Judah--what he did to Yosef--G-D put him in the situation with Benyamin—wasn’t it? So, he set him up in a similar situation to see what he’ll do now.

R’Kessin: Yehuda (Judah) was trying to undo (his sin) by Binyamin, trying to avoid the situation he did when he sold Yosef, yeah. G-D is infinite and does not want to destroy people. He wants them to get olam ha’ba. That’s the concept of the “13 Attributes of Mercy,” the expression that G-D is “rachum v’chanun”—merciful and gracious. The real teshuva is saying, “I’m in Your hands.”

Participant: --- --- --- (detail withheld) posted a review about a Jewish company online, a negative review because of the way he was treated.

R’Kessin: Revenge.

Participant: Not revenge; he had a bad experience and, as is done nowadays, you review so the person who didn’t even realize what he did…the guy said he didn’t realize what he’d done and so the reviewer assured him it was true. But as everybody knows, the one rule about loshon ha’ra is, even if true…

R’Kessin: That’s the first sentence in the Chofetz Chaim: “Afilu emes gamur,” even if it’s true it’s loshon ha’ra. How many people saw that review?

Participant: If they were looking for that kind of business and asking advice as to whether or not you should do business with such-and-such a person, isn’t that toeles—legitimate warning already?

R’Kessin: No, because it’s his opinion. You don’t know if it’s true or not. Maybe the guy was fired because he was incompetent, for example, so you’re not giving the other side the chance to defend himself. How could you believe what this guy is saying? Everyone will believe it’s true.

Participant: If somebody come to me and says, “I’m thinking of doing business with so-and-so. Do you have any experience with so-and-so? Do you think I should become his partner?”

What if I answered, “No; he cheated me”?

R’Kessin: So—fine, but remember that it’s his opinion. He has to say, “It’s my opinion as to what happened” so that doesn’t make it definitive. You’re allowing to b’choshesh—createsuspicion that maybe this happened.

Participant: The guy says, “I did business with him and he didn’t treat me right so don’t you do business with him. You asked me, I’m telling you.”

R’Kessin: The guy who’s asking him is prompting loshon ha’ra. This guy has to qualify his response saying, “Listen! If you want to do business with him, know that I didn’t have a good experience with him.” He’s allowed to say that because he means it for toeles. But the guy asking him has to say, “I want you to tell me your experience because I’m considering doing business with him.” That’s the toeles. You have to know what you’re doing before you speak loshon ha’ra. Obviously, the best situation is when it is beneficial but there are many other conditions that have to be met; it’s not simple. What I’m trying to bring out is that, today, it’s too easy. People who want to blog or just talk and talk….it’s beyond belief what a guy can do today.

Participant: If you just turn on the news, people are bad-mouthing each other like crazy! Are you guilty for listening to the news?

R’Kessin: I don’t want to get into the whole topic of loshon ha’ra now. What I’m saying is that people have to consider carefully because they’ve no idea of the risk. The majority of one’s sins can now be done in one day, in less than five minutes, and there are people who do this all day long. They’re playing around with their eternity.

When they get to the judgement, they’ll have to defend themselves or their angels will defend them. They’d better have hired great lawyers. I don’t know if angels put out their shingles but you’d have to have a great malach—angel up there saying: my guy really did this or didn’t do that. Today you can jeopardize your eternity, your olam ha’ba in one day. This never happened before.

At the same time, if you give a shiur on the internet, you can get an eternity also. If thousands listen to a shiur and they’re moved and tell others and those others tell their kids and so on, what works one way works the other way also.

On the internet, as soon as you talk about a third person and say his name, to have to be very careful what you say. It has nothing to do with its being true. It’s still loshon ha’ra. The internet has to be recognized as one of the most dangerous things you can ever deal with. You don’t realize that it can be toxic.

Participant: Many things can be good or bad.

R’Kessin: It’s more than just “good” or “bad.” This could be bad enough to destroy your olam ha’ba in one day, in a few minutes. That’s not just “bad.” The potential for destruction is staggering. Then you have all this incredible loshon ha’ra in politics and other things. The world suffers from a party of loshon ha’ra. It goes on all the time.

So, as I said, the last period of judgement is the big one, the “great awesome day of judgment.” That’s when everything you ever did in all your lifetimes is tallied up to determine if the majority of your deeds was good or bad or vice-versa; then you’re dealt with accordingly. That’s the attribute of “justice.”

For instance, somebody who informs on a person to a government, an authority, an authoritative body which can destroy you, the chazal—sages say it’s a sin is so bad that gehenom will end long before their need for suffering ends. That illustrates how bad that is.

Participant: What satisfies justice then?

R’Kessin: Gehenom won’t end for them. It’s so bad that even gehenom can’t be m’chaper—the expiation of that type of sin. It tries to show that even gehenom is gonna have a difficult time keeping up with atonement for what these guys did. It’s one of the blessings in “Shmona Esrei.”

Participant: It says that Yoshke is burning and Titus is burning. Is that figurative also?

R’Kessin: Yeah, it’s figurative. There is a correspondence of a type of gehenom that they experience but it doesn’t mean it literally. There’s a correspondence in gehenom to those substances in terms of what they’re suffering from.

Participant: The Chofetz Chaim says that, if you don’t put on tefillin, you’ll be armless (in gehenom), mida k’neged mida—measure-for-measure.

R’Kessin: That’s based on a lifetime of not putting on tefillin. There’s a structure of what punishments correspond to which sins.

I would imagine that somebody that’s got 49% good and 51% evil is gonna be pushed over the border by the Ribono Shel Olam—Master of the Universe. “Good” has many different concepts. You can get it not on your own deeds but on your parents’ deeds. If your kids are very good, they will get you into gan eden. There are so many ways. It’s infinitely complex. G-D knows exactly. It’s not a number. It’s not just the quantity; it’s the quality, your situation, who your kids are, who your parents were, who you’re associated with. If you have a good friend who’s very righteous, that’ll help you get in. There are so many variables; it’s impossible to figure out but I would imagine that, if G-D can get you in, He will get you in. In the end, it’s His decision. He knows, as the RaMCHaL says, knows exactly what you need to have to get into olam ha’ba. Below that, no! It’s not a matter of number; many other variables enter into it.

Deeds and a Heart’s Inclination

There are two concepts here: there are the deeds you do and there is the inclination of your heart. If a person is a good person, deep-down, someone who doesn’t want to do evil even if he does, who wants to do good but, for whatever reason, it’s hard for him or the situation doesn’t allow, in the end, the Ribono Shel Olam looks into your heart. He looks at your deeds, yes, but G-D doesn’t play “gotcha!” He looks at your heart. If He sees you’re a good guy, even if you have bad deeds, it doesn’t make a difference.

There’s a RABaD (Rabbeinu Abraham ben David) who says this. The RABaD says that, by Yom Kippur and Rosh Ha’Shana, G-D looks less at your deeds than at you and whether or not you have a good heart. He actually says that even if a person’s majority of deeds is bad—and “bad” doesn’t necessarily mean that he committed transgressions against G-D; it also includes “aveiros ben adam l’chaveiro”--transgressions against one’s fellow man. G-D looks at the person in regard to his inclinations, the patterns of this individual. If he’s good, then he’s dealt with in a very good way. If he’s bad, then, obviously, G-D is much stricter with him. Ultimately, I would say that it’s not a matter of deeds. What kind of a person are you? Are you, basically, decent?

There are some people that, when you speak to them, you can feel that the guy’s a rotten person. You can sense the evil coming out of him. As they say, he’s a “schlechte mensche,” a bad guy, a toxic character, someone with the desire to do harm. You can feel that. Then you speak to another guy and you sense he’s a decent guy, even if he sins a lot. In the end, G-D looks at that.

You’re born with a temperament. You’re not born with a personality; there’s a difference. That’s what G-D looks at. After the years you’ve been living on the earth, what kind of a guy are you deep down? Have you developed a sense of fairness, goodness, decency, or are you a rotten guy down there? In the end, that’s what G-D judges.

Let’s say a guy ate treif—non-kosher food all day long but, basically, he was decent to his fellow man; he’ll get gan eden. It might take a while, right? He may have to make several trips through gehenom, maybe through different levels or whatever lies in store but, in the end, G-D says: okay, a guy like you, you’re in gan eden; I’ll just clean you up, get you out of the dirt and shmutz.

The overwhelming majority of Jews—and I mean the overwhelming majority—will be in gan eden and, therefore, in olam ha’ba. Unfortunately, there are a very, very small percentage of Jews who will not get into olam ha’ba although I think it’s the Baal Shem Tov who says that every Jew will make it--every Jew-- because, as we’ll see later, even if you haven’t the ability to get in on your own, there are other ways to get you in because, for instance, some tzaddik assumed some of your suffering; they can do that. Their suffering on your behalf removes it from you. In some way, you may have helped some guy even if it’s from afar, from a distance. The overwhelming majority—99.999%---will get in, in terms of Jews. If I remember correctly, the Baal Shem Tov says that every Jew will get in because G-D has the ability to get everybody in no matter who they are.

Unfortunately for non-Jews, you don’t find that. Many non-Jews are not good. There are many who are good but, sometimes, you can really find evil. You hear stories about certain politicians and you can feel the evil coming out of such a guy; he’s playing around with his eternity.

Basically, I think most of mankind will get olam ha’ba because G-D doesn’t want any human being to be annihilated. When the Egyptians were dying—and they were really bad, making the Jews suffer terribly—were drowning in the Reed Sea, the angels were singing shira—songs of praise. G-D ordered them to stop singing. Why? He told the angels that even the Egyptians are “My handiwork,” so they stopped. That’s why in “Hallel” we don’t say two of the chapters on Pesach. That indicates that G-D does not want to destroy, annihilate, anybody, not really. So, I believe that most of mankind, in some way or another, probably, will get into olam ha’ba. I’m not talking about “levels;” remember, what level you’ll have earned is a different story.

There will likely be a significant number among mankind, whatever the percentage, that will never make it. There are really rotten, evil people who’ve done tremendously evil deeds. For some, justice says, it’s over.

But, you never know because, in the end, even though G-D says that everything is based on justice, G-D has infinite mercy. We don’t understand the lengths to which He’ll go in order to give a guy eternity. Whatever happens will be based on justice overall but there are many different ways of earning justice. Remember, it’s not so much your deeds; it’s who you are, the kind of person you’ve become. That will determine whether G-D assists you or wipes you out.

Also, know that G-D has put into place what are called “contingency plans” to help people get in. G-D’s Will is not to deny people olam ha’ba; it’s just that there are conditions. Think of the incredible difference between Judaism and the other religions in which you must pacify their god in order to avoid being killed. Think about the Aztecs and the Mayans with their human sacrifices. Many religions think that G-D is vengeful. Christianity is based on that too, the idea of the sending of His firstborn as a sacrifice. That’s not G-D, that concept of G-D as a being just waiting, licking his chops, waiting to “do you in.” That’s not the concept of the Jewish G-D. The rachmunus--mercy, the kindness of G-D is infinite. That extends to all mankind. Yeah, He can get tough; don’t get me wrong, but it’s always clothed and covered in a tremendous amount of love and kindness because that’s Who G-D is.

If a person were to say, “Listen, I have done things, I’ve gone through life, a crazy life and who knows how much bad I’ve done but, do me a favor. You’re my Father; get me in.”

What’s G-D gonna say--“no”? Fathers don’t say “no.” Fathers say, “Okay, I’ll get you in. I may have to put you through the washing machine—fine. If that’s the way you feel, no problem.”

That’s the Jewish G-D.


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