Question: I have been struggling for the past 11 years financially. I am giving Tzedekah (Charity), working diligently toward growing a business and things seem to fall apart consistently even when it appears it is all lining up, there will be an upset. What can I do or what do I need to do so I can have ease and peace of mind regarding finances to take care of myself and grow?
Answer: That’s a really tough question. Who could say for sure why G-d would hold back something from you that He gives to others? It’s easy to imagine how anxious this all must make you and how much stress it can cause. In general terms, I would suggest a few things to consider – even while I emphasize that I really don’t know if they actually apply to you personally.
- Perhaps G-d is using this stress as a test designed to inspire you to “throw your troubles on His shoulders” and trust His judgement. In other words, can you sidestep the stress and calmly go about your business relying on HaShem to do the right thing.
- Perhaps He wants to see how you engage in all relevant mitzvos despite the stress. If you throw yourself into enhancing the intelligence and intensity of your mitzvos you might prove that financial success won’t distract you any more than its absence.
- Perhaps (and, again, I have no way of knowing if this is relevant to you) He’s waiting for greater care in financial honesty with clients, suppliers and the government. The “seal of HaShem” is truth, becoming passionate about that can’t hurt.
- Maybe adopting a single mitzva – perhaps one that’s been hard for your until now – might have some affect. Anything that will increase passion for His Torah.
There might also be some value in some parts of a couple of books I’ve written about related subjects:
I hope you will soon see great hatzlacha (success).
With my best regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton
Question: Where is Adam’s paradise described in the Torah? Is it on the earth or in the sky?
Answer: If you are referring to the Garden of Eden, it is on Earth, but I cannot tell you precisely where it is, or exactly what it is.
Question: Thank you for your answer. Where was Abraham born?
Answer: There is a difference of opinion as to whether Abraham was born in Charan or Ur Kasdim. Charan is by the Euprates river near the border of Turkey and Syria, while Ur Kasdim is by the Tigris river in Iraq, not too far from the Persian Gulf.
Regards, Eliahu Levenson
Question: I was writing, and at some point I was not aware of what I was writing. I found that I had written “Your father can not go to the next level”. My dad passed away several years ago, and I’m not sure what the “next level” can mean in the context? Any insights would be appreciated.
Answer: The response to your question requires a lot elaboration more than an email response but I will try to be as concise as possible.
Assuming your “message” isn’t just something that you may have subconsciously been exposed to earlier in the day and daydreaming about, I believe there is great meaning to this message and am glad that you are taking it seriously.
In Judaism we believe that man consists of body and soul. Although when one dies the body is buried awaiting the resurrection after the coming of Moshiach, the soul lives on in Gan Eden (after the purification process of Gehinom) experiencing some level of spiritual delight. This is not to be confused with the ultimate reward and pleasure of the world to come that will only take place after the coming of Moshiach (the Messiah) and resurrection of the dead.
How does one’s soul achieve these various pleasures of Gan Eden and the world to come? It is only through the mitzvah achievements that one did in their lifetime. As our sages teach “Today (during our lifetime) is the time to work, whereas Shabbos (symbolic of world to come) is time to rest and enjoy pleasure.” Whatever one accomplishes through their good deeds in their lifetime is the key for their reward, once they die they can no longer add to their reward.
There is one exception. When one’s children perform mitzvohs (Torah commandments, good deeds), they elevate their parents soul and the deceased can continue to reach higher levels in the afterlife even though they didn’t personally do those acts. This is really the deeper understanding of children reciting Kaddish on behalf of their parents. It benefits the soul of the deceased. Tragically, when ones children do not maximize their own responsibility of Torah observance, not only are they lacking in their own life achievements and purpose, unintentionally they are also depriving their deceased parents their only hope of continued elevation in the world to come.
We all have much to improve in terms of our growth in Mitzvah observance and commitment to religious life. I think, however blunt it may sound, that you were worthy and privileged to receive a message from your personal father (perhaps more importantly G-d, our Father!) that there are areas in your Jewish commitment that can be improved. Perhaps you are complacent and aren’t increasing your Mitzvah observance and through honest introspection can reach higher in your Torah commitment and additionally help your fathers soul? Ultimately, these are assessments you have to make, but I think the first step would be to find a orthodox Rabbi or synagogue that you can attend classes and learn more about the Torah and mitzvohs so that you can be educated and know where you can start . If you are interested, I can try to guide you to find a Rabbi near you.I wish you success in your journey and that your fathers soul should find peace.
All the best,
Rabbi Azriel Schrieber
Question: What does non-kosher candy contain that makes it nonkosher?
Answer: When candy is kosher, the ingredients don’t contain forbidden things such as flavors derived from non kosher wine release agents from animal fat, gelatin, glycerin, food coloring, monostearates, as well as emulsifiers and oils. All can be derived from non kosher animals and vermin.(such as beetles and cats)
Some of the important compounds used in the flavoring industry are inherently non-kosher, but can be listed on ingredient lists as “natural flavors.” These can’t be used in kosher candy. Examples of non-kosher ingredients include civet, which comes from an Ethiopian cat, and castorium from beaver.
Castorium tincture, for example, can be used in flavors such as almond, grape, rum, scotch, vanilla, and raspberry. Civet is often used as a flavor enhancer. These are all natural but can never be kosher.
Rabbi Zvi Holland
Phoenix Community Kollel
“Building Jewish Unity Through Learning”
Question: I am an art student and I will be traveling to Greece to assist my sculpture professor with a monument. I would like to research/interview/learn about the Jewish community in Greece. I have 2 specific interests: How Jewish Law views art- in history and now, and I deeply want to understand my own connection as a Jew. Because I am not familiar with the Talmud, or other texts etc., I do not know what questions to ask or even how to begin my research. I would greatly appreciate a push in an appropriate direction. Thank you for your time
Answer: One could, in general terms, say that Jewish law permits (and sometimes even encourages) artistic expression, but with certain significant exceptions. Based on the passage found in Exodus 20: 20, the Oral Torah (whose foundations are found primarily in the Talmud) prohibits the depiction of
- The moon, sun, stars or any visualization of angels, even as -dimensional representations
- Human forms in relief or full 3D
- Any image that is being created for the purpose of an idolatrous practice.
The 19th Century scholar known in academic circles as Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes documented repeated rabbinic attempts to prohibit artistic depictions in synagogues – which were, interestingly enough, repeatedly ignored by the Jews who designed their synagogues. The root of this rabbinic disapproval is the legal restriction on praying in the immediate proximity of any image out of fear that onlookers might assume you are praying to the image.
Historically there is plenty of evidence of tiled or embroidered mosaics on Biblical themes – at least some of which would likely have been done under rabbinic approval. But still, my feeling is that the Jewish emphasis was on artisanship rather than fine art. See Exodus 25 and I Kings 6.
Regarding your general knowledge of Judaism there is virtually no end of information available on the Internet. But, since you’ve got to start somewhere, let me point you at some of my own material. www.torah.org/learning/basics/primer is a site that tries to cover some of the more general ideas and history. www.marbitz.com/essays.html is a collection of some of my essays on topics that seem to come up in a lot of correspondence.
But to give you a very profound first taste of what Judaism should mean to the Jewish soul, here’s an English translation of Mesillat Yesharim (Path of the Straight) by the 18th Century Italian rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato: http://www.shechem.org/torah/mesyesh/ – try a slow, thoughtful read of the first few chapters.
If you have any questions, please let me know. I wish you the very best in your search!
Rabbi Boruch Clinton
Question: What does the Torah say about decision-making?
Answer: Thank you for submitting this question. The Torah values those who know what they want. In Judaism we always say that having a purpose in life is what will lead you to ultimate happiness.
There is a book called Derech Hashem, or The Way of G-d, by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato. In this Kabbalistic work Rabbi Luzzato teaches us that we must know the purpose of our lives in order to know what is best for us at any given time. We must constantly be evaluating who we are and whether the decisions that we make are consistent with our greater purpose.
In order to find out what our purpose is, however, a person needs to do a lot of soul searching and self evaluation. I suggest meeting with a mentor who can guide you in these areas.
I hope that this helps.
Question: I am going to be a senior starting September, and as you know, this is the time you start applying to colleges and such. I come from a modern orthodox family, but I would love to go to a Yeshiva in Jerusalem. My only concern, is coming back “brainwashed” as some may say. Brainwashed meaning, stubbornness in my religion, and things that used to be important to me aren’t important anymore, and the only thing that is important to me is my religion. I would like to come back a little more religious than I am now, but I know that with my personality I get convinced really quickly, like if someone important tells me you cannot do this, I will never do it.
I just want to have the right mentality going into the seminary. Please let me know if there is any way you can help me with this. Thank you
Answer: I understand your concerns as people do tend to ‘flip out’ when going to Israel.
I am not sure though, that developing idealism is such a bad idea. When a person is young, they are not yet poisoned by the cynicism of the world and have the ability to become inspired. While it’s true that people may overdue things, that usually balances out when people enter the wider world. But you won’t have another chance to become idealistic, as you will have with a year in Israel.
A year in Israel is a great way to prepare yourself for life ahead, and some of the serious challenges of life come in the few years following high school graduation. I am a campus Rabbi at Rutgers and about 50% of Yeshiva HS graduates here do not remain religious, nor do they at any of the secular Universities such as Binghamton, Maryland, Brandeis, Penn, Etc.
Developing an ideal, even if it isn’t what you will live your life as, is still important, because it gives you something to strive for in your future life.
Try developing a relationship with a Rebbe or wise and caring older father type figure, who can guide you. Not every Rebbe is wise in the skills of life and human understanding so choose someone who you feel understands you and people in general. This is extremely important if you want to stay balanced.
Please feel free to contact me if you ever want to.
All the Best,
Rabbi Meir Goldberg,
Question: Out of all the people of the ancient world, why did Gd choose Abraham as the ancestor of the ‘chosen people’? And why did he chastise the Israelites through death so often?
Answer: There is one answer to both of your questions. Gd wanted a People who would be able to deliver His pure message to the world. Abraham was the only one of his generation who recognized the foolishness of idolatry and committed himself to monotheism. From time to time, as Israel becomes too influenced by the false messages of the gentile nations around them, Gd purifies them.
All the Best, Rabbi Azriel Schrieber
Question: If one mostly fears G-d and is driven to do “right” by fear of divine punishment how does one transform this overwhelming fear to love? How does one transform oneself to a higher level? Perhaps it is my upbringing with the emphasis on being taught not to sin but I was never taught how to love G-d with all my heart and soul? Yes I can admire G-d’s creations, his mercy that I am still breathing despite myself but mostly my obedience to his will is still driven by fear.
Answer: Thanks for your question. This issue is one of the most difficult and most important for many people raised with Yirat Shamayim - fear of Heaven.
1. Yes, admiring God’s creations is vital. Above all, one’s own amazing body. And saying brachot – the morning blessings and all the prayer blessings slowly and with deep concentration - not only is this the proper way to say them, it is guaranteed to awaken in you greater love.
2. Ask God for help in this area, like in any area of life where you struggle.
3. Read Ch. 6 of my book, The Art of Kavana.
That’s my best answer for now. Feel free to follow up at any time. Good luck!
Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld
rabbiseinfeld.blogspot.com and jsli.org