On the mention of one of my friends who said that the book, Mesilat Yesharim, Path of the Just, an ethical text by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, a.k.a. the Ramchal, would be helpful in my thinking about Judaism, I decided to go look it up. So, once I found the book, what did I do? I started reading it of course. ;-)
The internet is a great fun and the whole book in translation can be found here.
Anyway, as I was reading I found a fascinating argument offered by R' Luzzatto found in chapter 4:
There are some fools who seek only to lighten their burden. They say, "Why weary ourselves with so much Saintliness and Separation? Is it not enough for us that we will not be numbered among the wicked who are judged in Gehinnom? We will not force ourselves to enter all the way into Paradise. If we do not have a large portion, we will have a small one. It will be enough for us. We will not add to our burdens for the sake of greater acquisitions."
There is one question that we will ask these people - could they so easily, in this transitory world, tolerate the sight of one of their friends being honored, and elevated above them, and coming to rule over them- or, more so, one of their servants or one of the paupers who are shameful and lowly in their eyes? Could they tolerate this without suffering and without their blood boiling in them? Is there any question that they could not?...
This tolerance, then, that they adopt in order to lighten their burden is nothing but a deceitful persuasion of their evil inclination, with no basis whatsoever in truth.
So, the argument given is that some people are ok with a little piece of Olam Haba real estate and therefore figure that they shouldn't have to go over the top on their personal perfection. As long as they end being pretty good, then they get to Heaven anyway. They don't need a palace in a sky. A small loft on the Upper Westside would be just fine.
R' Luzzatto counters with a claim that they're just big liars who cannot stand anyone getting ahead of them in this world, why does it make sense for them to be ok with people getting ahead of them in the next world?
Ok, so his argument makes sense for those truly on the lower end of the ethical spectrum who cannot stand other's success above their own. But is that the ideal person for whom R' Luzzatto wants to be directing his manifesto? Doesn't it seem wrong that R' Luzzatto's idea for a good force to improve one's character and get into Olam Haba is self-betterment over one's friends? What kind of ethic is he pushing? You don't want to look stupid in your little rinky dink heavenly westside apartment when your butler has a castle, do you? Better go learn some Torah.
It's very strange how R' Luzzatto promotes this false selflessness of personal perfection by using man's selfish desires of bettering above his fellow man. Keeping up with the Steins is the literal way of getting into Heaven.