5. Other people can get you out of it. There’s a famous story told about Rebbe Akiva, the famous mystic and defacto leader of the Jewish people who lived around 2,000 years ago, just after the destruction of the second temple. Rebbe Akiva once had a vision of a Jewish apostate and heretic, who was being tortured in a number of terrible ways for all the bad things he’d done in his life. Rebbe Akiva took pity on this soul, and decided to help him. He found the dead man’s son, and enrolled him in cheder (Jewish school, where the child would be taught how to read the Torah and keep God’s commandments). A little while later, the dead soul visited Rebbe Akiva, and told him that the torture had really dropped off, and he was very grateful. But Rebbe Akiva wasn’t finished. Next, he took the boy, and sent him to yeshiva. The dead father returned again, to tell Rebbe Akiva that now he’d got out of gehinnom, as a result of his son’s good deeds. But there was still more to come. Finally, Rebbe Akiva arranged for the son to get a job as a Rebbe in his own right, teaching Torah to a group of small children. The dead man reappeared again a little while later, and was overjoyed: he told Rebbe Akiva that they’d let him in to heaven now, and he was being lauded and praised for having such a saintly, holy son! Every small good deed we do down here also has the power to ‘lift’ a soul higher up in the World of Truth. Every time you light a memorial candle, say another chapter of psalms, or donate another buck to charity on behalf of the deceased, you are doing amazing things for their soul. So the last thing to learn about Jewish hell is that even if you were literally the worst person in the world, there’s still always hope that things can improve, and that you won’t get stuck there forever.

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