Judaism does not sponsor a version of Hell. There is no promise of fire, brimstone, and three-headed dogs for the sinners among us. As far as I can tell, we are supposed to behave well in order to honor God and people, rather than to avoid getting sent to the ultimate Naughty Chair.
Perhaps it is this lack of cosmic punishment that allowed Bernie Madoff to behave as he did. Maybe he figured that, if our religion gets it right, he isn’t going to Hell because there is none, and if our religion is wrong, he’s going to Hell on account of being Jewish. He seems to have forgotten the part about honoring God and people, however.
Let’s set aside for the moment what he has done to make Jewish people look bad, because we all know how well a greedy, conniving Jew is playing in the media. Honestly, that fallout is going to happen every single time a Jewish person behaves badly around money, simply because it plays right into anti-Semitic hands. Let’s also set aside the fact that the last thing the economy needed right now was yet another economic scandal.
No, what I’d like to think about for a moment is the way this dude has affected non-profits. This was not some twisted Robin Hood scenario. He wasn’t just taking from the rich and making himself richer. He was taking from the synagogues, the charities, and the human rights organizations. Yes, thanks to this dickwad (and you know how frequently I use terms like that), Physicians for Human Rights is now short almost 30% of its budget. (If you have some spare change in your pocket, feel free to click on this link and help them with the shortfall.)
No matter what sanctions Bernie Madoff faces here on earth, when he goes to his maker he is going to have to answer for stealing money from organizations who do things like work to eradicate landmines and fight epidemics. It’s enough to make me start believing in Hell, just so there is an appropriate place to send him.