Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

The big ‘IF’: The Question of Free Choice

By Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald





Why, in faith, doubt is natural, normal and healthy

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | This week's Torah reading, Bechukosai, is one of the two portions of the Torah that are known as the Tochacha, the admonition, recording the punishments and curses that will befall the Jewish people if they defy their covenant with G0d.

B'chukosai begins with a promise and a blessing: (Leviticus 26:3)" "If you, the People of Israel, will follow G0d's decrees and observe His commandments and perform them, then G-d will provide the rains in their proper time and the land will give its produce, and the trees will give forth their fruit.

G0d promises as a reward for proper behavior, abundance in food, and security in dwelling. He pledges to make the Jewish people fruitful and increase them, and to firmly establish his covenant with them. He will place His sanctuary among the Jewish people, and His spirit will not reject them. He will walk among them and will be a G-d to the People of Israel.

Suddenly, with verse 14, the tone changes: "But, if you will not listen to Me and will not perform all these commandments… then the terrible and awesome punishments will strike.

Interestingly, in the original Hebrew, both the portions of the blessing and the curse begin with the same key word, "im" if, if you follow My decrees, "but if you do not listen to Me.

Dr. Yisrael Eldad, in his book Hegyonot Mikra, writes that this little word, im, if, is the central hinge upon which all Jewish history hangs.

Freedom to choose is a special gift from G0d to the Jewish people. Our Torah does not speak of predestination, it speaks of choice. Even the word emunah, faith, begins in Hebrew with the same two letters as the word im, implying choice.

We Jewish people always speak of "belief" in G-d, "A'ni ma'amin," I believe. We generally do not speak of knowledge of G0d.

Rabbi Joseph Albo (14th - 15th Century Spain), in his Sefer Ha'Ikarim wrote: "If I knew G0d, I would be G0d!" The mortal, human being, cannot possibly comprehend the immortal, the finite cannot master the infinite. Furthermore, the word "belief" itself, in fact, implies doubt.

When I say, "I believe there is someone in the next room," it implies that I am not certain. There may be many indications, but there is no conclusive proof. I hear footsteps, I hear noises, I hear speaking, but since I do not see the source of the sounds, I cannot be absolutely certain.

Similarly, there is no conclusive proof of G0d's existence. For thousands of years, people have been trying to prove G0d's existence. Maimonides in Judaism and in Christianity, Saint Anselem, Thomas Aquinas, — and although a persuasive case can be made for G0d's existence from many different disciplines, there are only indications, but no conclusive proofs.


FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO INFLUENTIAL NEWSLETTER

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


In fact, Judaism looks upon doubt as healthy and constructive. The Talmud, in Tractate Shabbos, records three cases of gentiles who come to the great sages Shammai and Hillel to convert. The most famous case is the non-Jew who first comes to Shammai and states that he wishes to convert while standing on one foot.

Shammai throws him out, but Hillel teaches him: "Mah d'alach sanay," What is hated unto you, don't do unto others. That is the whole Torah, the rest, zil g'mor, go study."

There is a second case in which a potential proselyte wishes to convert only if he can be the High Priest.

In the third case, the prospective proselyte comes first to Shammai and states that he wishes to convert even though he doesn't believe in the Torah Sheh'ba'al Peh, the Oral Code.

Shammai, of course, throws him out. Hillel welcomes him and begins to teach him the Hebrew alphabet: "Aleph, beis, gimel, daled…"

When he comes back the second day, Hillel tests him on what he has learned. He repeats the alphabet perfectly. But Hillel says, "No, it's daled, gimel, beis, aleph." Very upset, the proselyte says, "It's just the alphabet, I know the alphabet!"

But Hillel responds, "When you came to me, you didn't know anything. I could have taught you the alphabet incorrectly, and you would not have known the difference. So let's study together, and at the end of our studies, you'll decide whether you believe in the Oral Code or not. Right now, you don't know very much, but when you gain some knowledge, you'll be able to make an intelligent decision."

In effect, Shammai felt that "doubt" was the equivalent of denial. Hillel, however, felt that doubt was not at all an manifestation of denial, but rather an indication of ignorance.

There's an old Yiddish expression: "Foon ah kasha shtarbt men nisht," You don't die from a question! Doubt, in Judaism, is looked upon as a very positive thing, because it leads to growth.

The Kotzker Rebbe (1787 - 1859), one of the great Chassidic masters, was once asked: Who is higher on a ladder, the person on the top or the person on the bottom? He knew it was a fixed question, so he responded that it depends on which direction the people on the ladder are going. If the person on top is on his or her way down, and the person on bottom is on his or her way up, then theoretically, the person on the bottom of the ladder may be higher than the person on top.

If you would ask me, "Who is a good Jew?" I would not say Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Secular, Zionist, Cultural. I would say that a good Jew is one who is in a "growth mode," one who desires to grow in Judaism, through study and practice.

G0d has given us a great gift, the gift of choice, If you choose to follow in My decrees and statutes, then you will be blessed.

Freedom of choice is the most beautiful of gifts that G-d has given us. Let us choose wisely. Let us choose G-d, choose growth, and choose posterity.

JewishWorldReview.com regularly publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

Comment by clicking here.

Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald heads the National Jewish Outreach Program.


Previously:


We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident --- or do we?

Bringing the Divine Home

To change a world






© 2011, National Jewish Outreach Program