"The righteous of all nations will have a share in the world to come." — Rabbi Yehoshua from the commentary to the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin 13:2
Rabbi Yehoshua taught about Heaven to rabbis who taught rabbis who eventually taught me. They taught me that death is not the end. They taught me that the World to Come is the reward for the righteous after a life well lived. They taught me that this reward would come to Jews who followed Jewish values and laws. They also taught me that all the righteous people would be there, too. Any good person of any faith who lived a life of kindness and compassion, of justice and love and charity would gladly be allowed entrance into the World to Come, and with it Communion with God and the other souls of the righteous of all nations who had preceded them into the place of glory under the wings of God's protecting care. This is what I have been taught. This is what I have taught.
I am proud to have inherited a faith that teaches that the righteous of all nations will be allowed into Heaven. I pray that the 50 souls of the 50 victims of the New Zealand gunman are in Jannah with Allah now. I pray that Allah might comfort their families, their friends and their nation. I mourn with them now. We are all made in the image of God, an image that was attacked in a house of prayer.
As we have been carrying on a conversation in this column about life after death, this is the time to reject the teaching of any faith that implies those souls will not find admittance into Heaven because they believed in the "wrong" faith. The simple belief that must be the foundation of our hope is that the righteous of all nations have a share of Heaven.
The other belief I was taught by the rabbis is to always call evil by its name. The belief in goodness and its rewards requires a belief in evil as its contrast. For goodness to be real, evil must also be real. If everyone is basically good, then no one is basically evil, but people are good and evil — and this is a time to remember that teaching.
We have also been discussing in this column the Christian command to love our enemies and my deep problems with that teaching. What could it possibly mean to love the Christchurch shooter? I cannot imagine what it could mean, and at the very least we must never forget his evil deeds.
The Bible calls out evil. The most evil man mentioned in the Bible is not the Pharaoh but a man named Amalek. In Deuteronomy 25:17-19 we read why Amalek was evil personified:
"Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it."
Amalek attacked the most vulnerable of those leaving Egypt, targeting those who were unprepared to defend themselves. The Jews at the rear of the march out of Egypt were the same as the Muslims at prayer in Christchurch. They were defenseless victims, and that attack was a purely evil act. So God demands that we remember and never forget Amalek. Amalek was not merely an ancient murderer; he is a symbol for the evil of terrorism in every age.
In Exodus 17:16, we read, "the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." The attack in Christchurch on our Muslim brothers and sisters was Amalek's most recent attack.
I pray that we will find peace in this world and the courage to defeat Amalek. I pray that the souls of the victims of Amalek will find peace in what I call The World to Come, what Christians call Heaven and what Muslims call Jannah. They are different words for the same place and hope. It is a place where Amalek cannot threaten the weak ones, where there is nothing to fear. Pray for them with me.