The price of real estate is rising… in heaven

Catching the attention of many readers of breaking news in the Jewish world today is the story of Ari Mandel and his attempt (in jest) to sell his place in heaven to the highest bidder on ebay.  As reported in The Forward and Haaretz, Mandel started the bidding at 99c but, within a few hours, the bidding was up to $100,000, upon which ebay pulled the listing citing its rules that one cannot sell non-tangible goods.

As reported by The Forward, in conversation with Mandel, ebay was alerted to the attempted sale after news spread on ultra-orthodox online community sites, where great offence was taken.  Mandel left the ultra-orthodox community several years ago and self identifies as a cultural, atheist Jew.  His background, however, enabled him to create a posting that was peppered with yiddish and theological reference points.  Even the false name under which he posted – Rachmuna Litzlon, was playful, meaning “God save us” in Aramaic.

While in many ways a trivial story, the attention it is getting today is quite fascinating. Perhaps its simply because of the chutzpah involved in coming up with the idea and posting, even as a joke. Perhaps its the fact that there was real bidding going on. I’d like to presume that the bidding, likewise, was in jest.  And then, according to the above reports, there was some response from ultra-orthodox communities that demonstrated they were not amused.  Apparently they are not familiar with ‘The Book of Mormon’ on Broadway and the rather good PR that the Mormon church has received from being a rather good sport about it all.

I’m also struck by the timing of this story, coming on the heels of a report this week that the Pope, in one of his daily homilies, made mention that all can be redeemed, not just Catholics.  The Vatican has put out a statement since declaring that the Pope’s words should not be taken to mean that non-Catholics have a place in heaven.  Rather, he was talking about a meeting ground where Catholics and non-Catholics can work together in doing good in the world.