The torah itself makes no mention of Gehenna, but little matter – it’s a part of Jewish and Yiddish religious and folk tradition and lore nevertheless.
Henry Kantrowitz’s piece ‘Muslims seem a bit more liberal on who gets to go to Heaven’ (June 6) reminds me of an old joke:
A man dies and goes to Heaven. After St. Peter reviews his papers at the Pearly Gates, he tells the man: “Congratulations, welcome to Heaven. It will be your home for an eternity. Enjoy…
“See that building there? Go in. There will be a big hall just past the entrance. Walk down the hall, and when you get to the door on the left with the number 29 on it, open it and go in. But just one thing: Make sure to tiptoe and make as little sound as possible when you walk past number 17.”
The man is puzzled. “Why room 29?”
“Well”, says St. Peter, “you are a Lutheran. Up here, every religion has its own Heaven corresponding to what that religion says Heaven must be like. Room 29 is Lutheran Heaven, I’m sure you’ll recognize it in an instant. Room 2, for instance, is Catholic Heaven. Room 5 is Orthodox Jewish Heaven. Room 7 is Sunni Muslim Heaven. Room 10 is Buddhist Heaven. Room 16 is Anglican Heaven. Room 20 is Shi’ite Muslim Heaven, etc., etc. So everyone is happy.”
“And why tiptoe past Room 17?”
“That’s Born-Again Christian Heaven. Let them think they’re the only ones up here”.