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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

URL: www.scjfaq.org/faq/12-37.html
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Question 12.37:
What is the Jewish view of Salvation, i.e., how a person from a given religion is ''saved''?

Answer:

This is an important question. It is important to look at the questions that religions ask, as well as the ones they don't ask. In this case, one must start with the awareness that salvation is not a Jewish concept, as it implies a focus on the afterlife, which is not significant focus of Judaism. In particular, the Christian view of the question just doesn't work, for it implies a notion of "hell" for those that aren't saved. Jews believe that people are supposed to do the best they can at being good. We do this because it is the right thing to do—any personal gain is a side-effect. In fact, focussing on issues of reward and punishment to some extent mitigates the good one is doing by tainting it with selfish motives.

Note also that Jews do not assume that God assesses people on some absolute scale. Jews believe that God expects you to do the best you have with what you have— including upbringing, innate abilities, and the situations you find yourself in—and you have the power to perfect yourself. Even on this relative scale, though, no one wastes their entire potential, or fully utilizes every opportunity. So, to whatever extent one does what they can, they enjoy its effects in the World to Come.

But again, Judaism is about being good to be good and to have a healthy relationship with God, man, and oneself—not to be saved. The role of Jewish law is to provide tools to learn how to do that, and values that one ought acquire. Judaism teaches that God gave us these laws because there are subtleties to the ideal that can not be conveyed in broader strokes. We therefore learn from the subtleties of the ritual, and the nuances of the inter-personal laws. Often very fundamental ideas about Jewish values can emerge from same arcane bit that one would think would never have found application in practice.

Last, there are two sorts of law: there is the covenant at Sinai, which God made with the Jews (and the other Israelites, the ancestors of the Northern Kingdom) to define the role of Jews in His plan. All Judaism asks of Jews is to follow the teachings of God as given in that covenant (as understood by their particular movement)—for the traditional Jew, this means to follow the laws given in the written and oral Torah. The other law is the covenant God made with Noah and his descendents. We believe that this is simpler law that non-Jews are expected to follow as well.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at maintainer@scjfaq.org.

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