Christianity maintains that all men are doomed to sin, and everyone will go to everlasting hell unless they accept Jesus as their savior.
Judaism has always held that we do not need that sort of salvation, for we are not doomed or damned at birth. We are not doomed or fated to sin. Quite the contrary. The Torah says: “If you do good, won’t there be special privilege? And if you do not do good, sin waits at the door. It lusts after you, but you can dominate it.” (Genesis 4:7) In other words, you can do good, and if you do, things will be better for you. If you do not do good, sin wants to be partners with you. But you can control sin, you can control your evil desires, and you can be good.
So we have free will, and that is what Judaism has always believed, because that is what the Torah teaches. The Torah does not teach — or even mention — that we are “born in sin,” or that we are fated to sin. Just the opposite. We have the ability to choose.
Which means that we can be good, or we can be evil. It’s up to us. And if can be good, that means we can be righteous. I cannot understand how or why Christians like to say that no one can be righteous in the eyes of G-d. The Torah says otherwise.
I often say to missionaries that if they choose to believe that all Gentiles are sinful, I would have to disagree, but I won’t bother to argue the point. It’s their own people, let them say what they want.
But if they choose to say that all people, including Jews, are sinful and cannot be righteous, I have to strongly disagree, because the Torah says quite the opposite: “All your nation is righteous, they will inherit the earth eternally; the shoot that I have planted, the work of My hands, something to be proud of” (Isaiah 60:21). So we are righteous, and Hashem is proud of us.
And it says, “Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps the faith may enter” (Isaiah 26:2).
We Children of Israel are righteous. For the Torah says so. Of course, we must uphold the Torah, or otherwise we might cease to be righteous. But as long as we keep the Torah, we are righteous.
The Prophets of the Torah warned us about this many times. They often called us wicked. When? When we did not obey the Commandments of the Torah. Yet never once in all of the Jewish Bible did the Prophets chastise us for not believing in Jesus! Not once!
I also have to wonder: if no one can be righteous in the eyes of G-d, how can the Torah call Noah righteous (Genesis 6:9, 7:1), as just one example? “Noah walked with G-d,” the Torah says. Obviously you can be righteous and you can walk with G-d without the help of Jesus.
Hashem called Moses was a trusted servant, and closer to Him than any other prophet. Moses spoke directly to Hashem, and Hashem spoke directly to Moses (Numbers 12:6-8). No mention was made of Jesus.
The problem is that Christians do not understand the meaning of the concept “righteousness.” They think it means that one has never sinned. Never sinning is almost impossible. The Torah says that “There is no person on earth so righteous that he does only good and never sins” (Eccl. 7:20)
Rather, the definition of a righteous person is as taught in Proverbs 24:16: “The righteous fall even seven times and still get up, but the wicked stumble in evil.”
Being righteous does not mean that one never sins. It means that after you sin you get back up again, repent, and try again. You keep on trying. That is being righteous.
Not only that, but even if you keep on trying, and you don’t succeed very well, and you have many sins, you can still be forgiven and go to Heaven. In the Book of Job (33:23) it says that if someone has even only one merit and 1000 sins, he is rescued from hell. So we are not doomed to hell.
That’s what Judaism teaches, as we see from the Torah. The Christian bible, on the other hand, teaches that there is no repentance after sinning. Here is what it says in the christian bible:
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
— 2 Peter 2:20-21
In other words, if anyone accepted Jesus as savior, and then sins, they are in worse trouble than they were before they accepted Jesus.
So what then is the advantage of accepting Jesus? It seems better to stay with Hashem! Hashem accepts repentance, and loves all those who turn away from sin, no matter how many times they have sinned and repented. “For the righteous stumble even seven times, but they get up again!”
And they are still called righteous!
And the wicked who repent are no longer called wicked.
Even when I have told the wicked that he will die, but then he repents, and he does justice and righteousness; he returns the collateral when he is supposed to, he repays what he stole, he begins to live by the Laws of Life, and does not do evil, he will live, and he will not die. All the sins that he committed will not be held against him, for he has begun to do judgment and righteousness; he shall surely live.
— Ezekiel 33:14-16
We see, therefore another fallacy of the Christians, who argue that “sin has separated us from a perfectly holy G-d.” We are not separated from Hashem at all. All we need to do is repent.
But no, say the Christians. Repentance won’t work, for some reason that we cannot understand. They claim that “no one can be close to G-d without Jesus.”
This is completely wrong. The righteous live by their own faith. (Habbakuk 2:4) We do not gain life or atonement by the faith or righteousness of Jesus. We are masters of our own fate, because the choice to do good or bad is our own.
Was King David separated from G-d? Yet the Torah says about him that he did one thing wrong (1 Kings 15:5) and yet he was considered righteous and Hashem was with him. (See, for example, 1 Kings 11:34; 1 Kings 18:14).) Whenever a royal descendant of King David did the right thing, the Torah says about him that he followed in the ways of his ancestor David. (See, for example, 1 Kings 14:8; 2 Kings 18:3; 2 Kings 22:2; et al.)
Did Moses sin? Was he close to G-d or not? Did Abraham sin? Was he close to G-d or not?
And if you examine the Christian belief in this matter, you will find that many denominations believe that G-d only chooses those that G-d has previously decided to choose. In other words, G-d will accept into Heaven only on those whom He has decided to accept into Heaven, and we have no free will or choice! That means that we cannot even be good people if we try! It’s all up to G-d! “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
How is this merciful?
What about all those people who are not chosen? How do they attain “salvation?” Why can they not attain salvation, when it isn’t even their fault? That is possibly the cruelest doctrine I have ever heard! No matter what a person does, he will get Heaven only if G-d had previously chosen him to get Heaven! Everyone else goes to eternal hell!
In Judaism, it is entirely up to you. If you do good, you will get good.