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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

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 January 25, 2008 /18 Shevat 5768

Between Ten and Seven: A spiritual distinction

By Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

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How to question and when to struggle with ‘belief’


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | A story:


When I taught in Jerusalem, I used to ask the elderly Rabbi Ben Zion Bruk to address my students. His pious demeanor and life experience as a European-born Jew and (wounded) survivor of Israeli wars could say more about faith and trust in G-d than anything I could muster.


The last time Rabbi Bruk did this, he was already too weak to travel, so my class came to his home. Gathering in his high-ceilinged living room, which doubled as a dining room and a study, my students heard one of his customarily lucid talks. One of his main themes was the importance of settling in a city in which scholars of the Torah (Bible) lived — in which it would be possible to study the Torah and to live according to it.


Following the lecture, students asked questions.


First question: "What about settling in a location where Judaism is weak and planting it there — teaching Torah, setting an example, strengthening the commitment of Jews already living there? What about outreach?"


Rabbi Bruk replied: Before I answer, let all the questions be heard.


Second question: "What about the contradiction between struggle and tranquility? You taught that a Jew must achieve a state of tranquility, but also continually struggle for a higher level of Jewish living. Isn't this a contradiction? If so, how is it resolved?"


Rabbi Bruk replied: Before I answer, let all the questions be heard.


I forget the third question. It was similarly profound, and Rabbi Bruk's answer was the same.


Following the questions, Rabbi Bruk repeated them.


He had remembered them perfectly.


Then: silence.


Rabbi Bruk sat there, said nothing.


Students wondered.


Now, Rabbi Bruk was rather short. Even sitting down, he appeared much shorter than I. He turned, looked up at me, and said: "Reb Hillel, not every question has an answer."


Clever opening. Students eagerly awaited the elaboration. They had received the verse, as it were; now they awaited the commentary.


Silence.


Rabbi Bruk said nothing.


Some 60 seconds passed.


Discomfort. Stirring. An inarticulate mumbling to this effect, "what are the answers, already?"


Somewhat surprised, Rabbi Bruk looked up at me again: "Reb Hillel, lo le-chol she'elah yesh teshuvah — not every question has an answer."


Finally, the students received the message.


Rabbi Bruk's lecture was over.


Students rose uneasily, politely thanked him.


On the way out, they badgered me:


"What did he mean?"


"Why didn't he answer?"


"When will he answer?"


"Maybe he wouldn't answer us, but he will answer you. Didn't you say he was your teacher? Please check back with him. We want the answers."


For six months my students badgered: What did Rabbi Bruk mean?


Having studied with him for 13 years, I suspect he meant this: Verbal answers that resolve genuine quandaries relieve the questioner of the issue. Answers may satisfy, while the questioner needs to struggle.


Answers may simply enable a person to verbalize profundities without really knowing what he is talking about. Sometimes in life a person needs to stretch beyond verbal formulation. He needs to live the ways of the Torah so intensively, to struggle with them so earnestly, that answers to questions about spiritual integrity arise in his own breast.


"Not every question has an answer": By someone else. Sometimes only the individual can integrate the teachings of the Torah into his psyche, family, profession — his life.


Rabbi Bruk sent those students away creatively disturbed. He reached behind their defenses to agitate their souls, to involve them in profound issues.


In effect, he told them: You want easy answers? You think that intellectual resolution exhausts profound issues? These are large matters; you must work, work at them.


The first of the Ten Commandments is both the most profound contribution that religion has made to humanity and an inadequate intellectual resolution. The command to believe in one G-d — "I am the L-rd Your G-d" — is both the most revolutionary idea in history and a comforting platitude, an answer that verbally settles a question and relieves a person of the responsibility to struggle. Belief in G-d holds pride of place in the Ten Commandments — but does not exhaust the First Commandment. "I am the L-rd Your G-d": this is but the first half of the First Commandment; belief per se is but half the obligation. The second half of the First Commandment signals an entirely new dimension: "Who brought you out of the land of Egypt."


The second half of the First Commandment introduces a new concept: trust in G-d. This is more difficult than belief in G-d, more experiential than intellectual, more in need of human struggle and nurture. Belief that G-d exists is the first half of the First Commandment: I am the L-rd your G-d. Knowledge that G-d intervenes in human history, that He plays a personal role in my life, that He is not only the G-d of the philosophers but the G-d of all people, is the second half of the First Commandment: Who brought you out of the land of Egypt.


Belief in the existence of G-d is a philosophical argument and abstract concept; trust in the relationship between G-d and me is a spiritual task and personal effort.


It is one thing to say that G-d exists; quite something else to say that G-d is there for me in prayer, and that I, notwithstanding my sufferings and anguish, still sustain a relationship with Him.


"What did He mean?"


"Why didn't He answer?"


"When will He answer?"


Not every question has an answer. If all I have is belief in G-d, I have no answer when things go wrong, for there is no philosophic formulation — no answer — to human suffering.


But if I have something more than belief in G-d, if I have a relationship with G-d, then indeed He is the Source of all answers. He is genuinely comforting because I reach beyond simple, verbal formulations. I push myself to live the ways of Torah so intensively and to struggle with them so earnestly that answers arise in my own breast.


That inner struggle to be with G-d, that living of the ways of Torah, constitutes trust in G-d, represented by the second half of the First Commandment, "Who brought you out of the land of Egypt" — Who intervened in your life.


Why are the commandments in this Torah portion singled out as the Ten Commandments? Jewish tradition speaks of 613 commandments. Can any 10 be the most important? As it is, these Ten Commandments exclude everything from ethical imperatives (to love one's neighbor) to spiritual directives (to be holy) to political demands (to free slaves) to sacred disciplines (to fast on Yom Kippur) to ritual requirements (to hear the sounding of the shofar) to agricultural charities (to leave the corners of the field for the poor).


Why are these 10 singled out?


The Maharal of Prague teaches the spiritual distinction between the number ten and the number seven. Seven represents stages — accumulated meaning, incremental insight, one stage building on another. For example, six days of the week build on each other until they reach the pinnacle, the seventh day, the Sabbath. Ten, on the other hand, represents repetition — stressing and reiterating the same teaching, until it is firmly implanted.


For example: the Ten Commandments. Each one stresses and reiterates the same two teachings: belief and trust in G-d, And these are the most important teachings of the Torah.


The first three of the Ten Commandments reiterate belief in G-d: 1) to believe in Him; 2) not to have other gods besides Him; 3) not to use His name in vain.


The next seven of the Ten Commandments reiterate trust in G-d: 4) not to work on the Sabbath, trusting in a continued livelihood; 5) to respect parents, since a trusting relationship with them makes possible a trusting relationship with G-d; 6, 7, 8, 10), not to murder, commit adultery, steal, covet — all of which can be done privately — since a trusting relationship with G-d means that before Him there is no privacy; and, finally, 9) not to bear false witness. This, though done publicly, can be masked, in effect made private. Therefore, with this commandment, too, the point is trust in G-d — in masked false testimony there is no privacy before Him.


G-d exists and intervenes in every step of life; the human task is to sense and be buoyed by that intervention. This pivotal teaching of the Torah is reiterated ten times; hence, the centrality of the Ten Commandments.


Midrashic insight, at once poetic and exegetical, fleshes out the meaning of trust in G-d this way:


When Abraham negotiates with Ephron the Hittite for a burial plot for his deceased wife Sarah, the Biblical text mentions Ephron's people, "the children of Heth," ten times. The midrash comments that these ten references to the children of Heth correspond to the Ten Commandments. Chaim Walkin (from whom much of this exposition is drawn) explains the connection this way: G-d promises Abraham the entire Land of Israel, yet when Abraham seeks to purchase but the smallest plot of land in Israel — a burial plot — he is thwarted by Ephron and his people, the children of Heth, at every turn (figuratively, ten times). Abraham must suffer ten setbacks before he secures, with his own resources, a tiny plot.


What might Abraham claim? That G-d reneged on Him? That G-d's promise of the entire Land of Israel was a sham? That his belief and trust in G-d were foolish?


Yes, Abraham might claim all this, but he does not. Through each of ten setbacks imposed by the children of Heth, Abraham sustains his trust in G-d's promise and concludes the purchase. Now, these ten references to the children of Heth correspond to the Ten Commandments because these references also evoke and reiterate the necessity of trust in G-d.


The final line of the midrash should now be self-explanatory: "Whoever assists the purchase of a pious person (Abraham), it is as if he fulfilled the Ten Commandments."

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JWR contributor Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is executive editor of the Intermountain Jewish News. To comment, please click here.

© 2008, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg