top of page
  • Diann Joy Bank

Story of the Month: Who Goes First into Heaven

As retold by Diann Joy Bank from her book, A Pot of Mitzvot: 18 Jewish Folktales

The gate angel in heaven stood at the entrance holding his large golden-bound book. Inside his book was a list of every soul that had lived on earth. Dressed in his white flowing gown, standing on a floor of white soft clouds, the gate angel’s long white hair was blowing softly in the gentle breeze.

Standing side by side stood three souls that had just arrived at the gates of heaven. The gate angel announced, “I must decide who is the most holy to enter heaven first. It is the highest honor to go first into heaven.”

The gate angel opened his book to see what was written about each soul’s life on earth. The three souls stood patiently waiting to hear the gate angel’s decision. Then the angel asked each soul, “Tell me, what was your highest mitzvah--good deed--when you lived on earth?”

One soul, the most learned, was a student of Torah and Talmud-- Jewish most sacred books.

The second soul was the most observant in his daily way of life.

The third soul, wearing a flowered apron, looked at the angel with a sweet smile and said, “I was a Bubbe--Jewish grandma--to all the children in my shtetl--Jewish village.”

The learned soul wore a worn shirt and pants and carried a heavy backpack filled with books. He stepped close to the gate angel’s face, folded his arms and began to brag. “I am the most pious of all. From morning till night, I studied all the Jewish books of learning. I never let anyone come into my home for idle talk. I never wasted my time to even walk outside. I deserve to be the first to enter heaven,” boasted the learned student.

The next soul, the observant one, wearing his kippah--Jewish observant skullcap--and tallis-- Jewish prayer shawl--that hung down to his knees, stepped forward and stared into the gate angel’s eyes. Holding his siddur,--Jewish prayer book--he shouted, “I deserve to enter heaven first. I am the most observant. Did I ever miss saying my prayers three times a day at shul--Jewish synagogue? Never!” He continued to bellow for all to hear, “I was never distracted nor spoke to anyone at shul. Did I ever miss observing each and every Jewish holiday to its fullest? Never! I am the most pious of all.”

The Bubbe stood silently. Her face had soft wrinkles. There was a twinkle in her eyes, and she had a glowing smile. She spoke in a gentle voice, “I’m neither a learned soul nor an observant soul. I gathered all the children to teach them how to plant a garden to grow food for those that were hungry in our shtetl. Each day I taught them to take care of G-d’s

creatures. I don’t need to go first into heaven.” After the Bubbe spoke, the gate angel saw a joyous look in her eyes.

The gate angel closed his large golden bound book. To the learned soul, he asked, “Did you ever invite anyone to your home to teach them one of the holy books of learning?” Not speaking a word, the student held his head down, shaking it from side to side.

To the observant soul, the gate angel asked, “Did you ever invite someone from your shul for a meal at your home?” He also held his head down, shaking it from side to side, not saying a word.

Then the gate angel turned toward the old Bubbe and said, “Bubbe, you are the humblest. To learn to be humble is the highest mitzvah of all. You deserve to enter first through the gates of heaven.” And so, she did.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Story of the Month: Pig Boy

Pig Boy, or, One Hundred Kisses Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen Once upon a time, there was a Prince who decided to marry. He could...


bottom of page