Yes, all Jews are righteous. Don’t you dare think differently! It says so explicitly in a pasuk in this week’s haftarah: “V’ameich kulam tzaddikim, Your nation is comprised of only righteous people” (Yeshaya 60:21).
This week we read the sixth of the shiva d’nichemeta, the seven comforting haftarahs which Chazal instructed us to read following Tisha B’Av. The words of the navi are so pleasant and encouraging and truly provide a measure of comfort. Even if your Hebrew is not up to par, treat yourself to genuine consolation by reading the words in English. For better or for worse, English is our mother tongue and the words affect us more deeply when we read them in the language that resonates with us.
The themes are of an exile ended, of darkness lifted, of an everlasting light shining, of Jews coming together, of violence ending and peace reigning, of a sun that never sets and of Klal Yisrael being truly righteous.
One could say that ameich kulam tzaddikim doesn’t mean that all Jews are righteous now, but that during messianic times it will be true. However, Chazal understand (see the first mishna in Perek Chelek in Sanhedrin) that all Jews are inherently righteous and that is why we all have a portion in the World to Come.
Let us expand upon this idea.
Rav Chaim Volozhin, in both the Nefesh HaChaim and Ruach Chaim, discusses this topic. In the Ruach Chaim (6:3) he writes, “Anyone who believes in the truth of the Torah attaches himself to HaKadosh Baruch Hu as the Zohar says, ‘Kudsha Brich Hu V’Oraysa V’Oskeha Chad Hu – Hashem, Torah, and those who are immersed in Torah are one.’ Whoever believes in the truth of Torah, and even if he only holds on to one letter of the Torah, has the root of his soul grasping on to the tree of eternal life in the heavens and a ‘rope’ extends to him all the way down to this earth. This is the meaning of the pasuk (Devarim 32:9) ‘V’Yaakov Chevel Nachalaso, and Yaakov has a rope for his portion.’”
However, he continues, if the opposite is true, and a person destroys a spark of his soul with a sin that is deserving of kareis, being cut off from Hashem, this connection with the heavens is cut – the rope is torn into two – and he is no longer attached to the eternal heavenly tree of life. But only this solitary spark is released and cut off from heaven. His entire essence and being is not cut off. The parts of his soul that are performing mitzvos and attaching themselves to holiness stay attached and serve to save him from further sin – as long as he doesn’t give up on himself. Despite his deserving kareis, as long as he remains connected to Torah as much as he can, as long as he is still battling and fighting the yetzer hara, he remains connected. (This is also stated by the Arvei Nachal, Vayechi, drush 2, cited in Yalkut Meishiv Nefesh, page 172.)
Only someone who has decided to cut off all contact and attachment with Hashem and has no interest in Torah loses his entire portion in Olam Haba.
In the Nefesh HaChaim (Shaar 1:18), Rav Chaim states that HaKadosh Baruch Hu established the soul of every Jew to almost never become cut off from Him entirely. Even if nine of the ten parts of the soul become estranged, there is one that always remains connected. Rav Chaim explains that this is what the Rambam means in Hilchos Gittin where he points out that deep within a person wants to do what the Torah wants, despite what he might say to the contrary.