My friend Ian shared this wonderful parable with me. Thanks, Ian
A Rabbi was asked to explain heaven & hell, and he explained it with this story:
The Rabbi went to visit both hell and heaven and saw that the set-up appeared identical in both locations: long banquet tables full of food and residents seated at the tables to eat.
In Hell there is great suffering; those seated at the table are unable to bend their elbows and can not reach the food. They are tortured sitting in front of all of the sustenance and going hungry because they can not reach it.
In heaven, just as in hell, there are large tables of food; just as in hell, the residents of Heaven are unable to bend their elbows to eat the food in front of them.
In heaven, however, everyone is happy and satiated. They do not go hungry. Upon further observation, the Rabbi learns why. In heaven, each resident extends his arm to feed his neighbor across the table. His neighbor thanks him and returns the favor.
The Rabbi pities the residents of hell and returns to hell to suggest this strategy. The residents respond with spite and distrust of their neighbors, stubbornly refusing to feed those around them. Every one starves in hell.