Stairway To Heaven!
My teacher, of blessed memory, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, taught us a beautiful teaching about the nature of heaven and hell. He took it for granted that we have a soul. The soul is the portion in each of us which is composed of a lighter, refined, more eternal material. I sometimes call it the 4%. The other 96% of us is composed of the elements of earth. The 4% is the God-In-Us.
When the God-In-Us departs the body, we are able -in fact required!- to see the course of this life without the blinders and justifications which the ego offers up. When we see our lives clearly, without defensiveness or shame, what will we see?
When we see the wounds we inherited or received in our lives and how we worked to see them and heal them we naturally feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. We have genuine spiritual delight because this healing is what we are here for! This emotion is called "heaven."
When we see the wounds we let fester and the wounds we inflicted on others, we naturally feel a sense of pain and remorse. This emotion is what we call hell.
The stairway to heaven is made out of awareness and remorse. Remorse is the price we pay. Awareness is the currency of the realm. Each high holiday season, nature itself is in balance between light and dark. This is the time we practice awareness which leads to remorse which leads to repair. To do this work while still in a physical body is considered a high accomplishment. In such moments of self-awareness we literally see through the natural defense mechanism of the ego; we take the side of the soul in this battle between light and dark.
On Yom Kippur, we will "confess our sins." Rather than banging on our hearts, let us touch and envelop our hearts. Rather than beat our hearts for their straying, let us lovingly ask: What wound in my heart led me to this behavior which I now regret? How can I repair and heal the root of this error? Let us sincerely ask for support in this from God as we understand God, and from each other. This is what we call Heaven on Earth.
Shanna Tova and much love