CK:  Let your faith lead the way!

Rabbi: Carl, once you do that, one can veer far from the Torah.

CK:  My faith is my guiding light for the path I must follow. Without faith, I'm lost and lose direction to where I should be going.

Rabbi: Carl, I appreciate the power of faith. However, am I correct to say you would not rely on faith in an employer's promise to pay you after 365 days of work? Would you not require a contract, and much sooner compensation? Meaning, fact and proof will offer you a more solid basis?

CK:  My Faith guides me on how I treat others, help others, and live my life. We are all empowered with the choice of "Free Will" making a decision to sign a contract is a choice and having the wisdom to make the right choice is a blessing.

Rabbi: If God told you your business decisions were wrong, how would you respond? Is His absolute knowledge less than your faith? The point is, if we can prove God gave the Bible, the Torah, it is wiser to follow what He says, than what we feel...than faith.

God didn't deceive man. He gave us 5 senses, as He wishes we rely on them, and not imaginary faith or beliefs. Maimonides and all intelligent thinkers opposed all forms of mysticism, precisely because these are unproven, what the word "mystic" means. G...See More

CK:  i would listen to what God has to say, as any wise man would do. God's plan for our salvation is the bible.

Becky: ....follow what the word of G-d directs...all of our answers are held in the Torah. When we follow only what we feel, we can easily get misdirected...especially in a culture where there are so many gray areas in the matter of truth, right and wrong. But do not discount your heart - often this is G-d speaking to you. Pay attention to both. You must work hard to not confuse your own desires with the right thing to do.

Rabbi: Becky, God does  not speak through one's heart, or emotions. This is a popular belief, but God actually admonishes man for following his heart, if it conflicts with Torah mandates (Deut. 29:18).

CK:  Exactly! Having communication through prayer with God on a daily basis helps me feel in my heart what direction he wants me to go. Everyone has their own journey of ups & downs, but I have found more peace in my heart by listening to what God puts there.

Rabbi: Well, in the Bible, the Torah, God endorses many cases of men and women who did NOT rely on faith, but planned a course of action using their human capabilities; physically, psychologically, militarily, etc. Of course they prayed, but they did not rely on their merits, the humble people they were. They did not know for sure that God would intervene at that moment. They possessed complete faith God could save. If you follow God, you must follow His instruction which is very reasonable, that as the Prophets like Jacob, they did not rely on faith alone.

What is faith? It is that if we live correctly, in line with Torah, God can save us. Even further, if we are without sin 100%, God WILL save us, as King David teaches through prophecy. 

Additionally, our faith must be based on knowledge. That is, we have faith that by living in accord with Torah, we become worthy. So first, we must study Torah ot kn ow what it is that is true, then we live these truths (i.e., Torah ideals and perform all mitzvahs) and then we rightfully have faith, once we have also planned and acted using all our physical means and resources. as Jacob was hunted by his evil twin Esav, he prayed, planned a military tactic, and also a bribe. But he did not rely on faith alone, nor did he rely on any mystical belief.

Is Genesis Metaphor?

Rabbi: It's vital to recognize that numerous Prophets, Sages and Rabbis, dwarfing us in wisdom and with collective centuries of Prophecies, and Torah and Talmudic analysis...all accepted the Torah, Prophets and Writings as literal. Before we reach their level, and as mere individuals lacking their knowledge and skills, we owe it to honesty and ourselves to explain THEIR literal view. Once we fully grasp that, we can decide if we wish to argue on all of them and suggest Torah verses are metaphor.

Humans Resurrecting Others?

Dana: Did the ammoraim literally revive the dead? How did you learn these sugyot and what do the commentators say (sources!)?

Rabbi: Even Prophets didn't was God. See the Rishonim on Eliyahu and Elisha. For if one believes man revives, he thereby diminishes God as the "Sole Creator of life." 

Judaism's Fundamentals are not taught. Had they been part of Yeshiva curriculum as they should be, all of us would have these answers.

Dana: But did the ammoraim have power to invoke god to revive the dead?

Rabbi: No one can invoke God. He cannot be compelled or affected by His creations.

Can Trees "Disobey" God? 

Reader: The Midrash says that originally trees were to have the same taste as the fruit, as the Chumash states "eitz pri." However, the trees deviated from G-d's original intent and the tree bark did not have the taste of the fruit, "eitz oseh pri". How is one to understand this midrash? Clearly, trees are not endowed with intelligence nor with the capacity to 'decide' to act in one particular way. The fact that fruit trees are created in a way that the bark does not taste like the fruit, must be the will of G-d. How then is one to understand this Midrash?

Rabbi: Trees have no consciousness. The Rabbis wrote this Medrash to teach that pursuit of perfection in the physical is impossible. God created the physical in a manner that metal rusts, things age and wear out, we get full from eating, too much sex becomes painful, and people age. The purpose? That we become frustrated with our initial, instinctual plan to satisfy temporal physical desires, and redirect our energies to timeless Torah – where man enjoys true life with no frustration. Dissatisfaction with the physical intends to redirect us towards the world of wisdom.

This midrash doesn't teach that God is incapable of creating tree bark with fruit taste. It teaches that the physical world was not created to fully satisfy man's instincts, had tree bark too been delicious. The point of the bark not "obeying" God, means to say that the physical world cannot fully cater to man, if man is to attain God's true plan that we follow wisdom. Frustration in the physical pursuits help us attain this prized goal.

Do Psalms Heal?

Reader: Tehillim is viewed as a solution for every problem; i.e., each Psalm addresses some problem in life. Is this true? Who formulated it and should we follow this practice of reading it to solve our problems?

Rabbi: King David wrote Psalms. However, even when his own infant was about to die, he did not recite Psalms as a cure. He simply prayed and fasted. He sought God, and worked on self improvement through fasting. For there are no other forces in the world that could help aside from God and man. 

The Talmud teaches that one who recites Torah for healing, violates idolatrous practices:

The prohibition against employing charms  (Sefer Chinuch, Mitzva 512)

[That] We were restricted not to make incantations about any matter. In substance, this refers to a man who will say words, then tell people that those words helped or caused harm in any particular matter. About this it is stated, “There shall not be found among you...a charmer (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).” In the language of the Midrash Sifre: It is all the same thing, whether a person casts a charm on a snake or casts a charm on a scorpion — in other words, he says words over them so that they won’t bite him, according to his opinion. So too if one says words over a wound in order to be relieved of the pain (i.e. recites a pasuk to cure a wound).

Now perhaps, my son, you might pose a question to me from what we read in the Talmud Shevuos 15b: The Psalm against evil occurrences is with lutes and lyres (Psalms 91), and then he says Psalm 3. In other words, the recital of these Psalms is of use to provide protection from harm. And it says in tractate Brachos 3a: R. Joshua b. Levi would say these verses and go to bed.

However, this matter is not similar (perish the thought) to the business of a charmer that we mentioned. Long ago, the Sages of blessed memory said in this regard (Shevuos 15b): It is forbidden to heal oneself with words of Torah. Yet they mentioned to say these Psalms, since they contain words that inspire the soul that knows them, to shelter in the Eternal Lord, place all his trust in Him, establish a reverent fear of Him firmly in his heart, and rely on His kindness and goodness. As a result of his awareness about this, he will be protected, without any doubt from every harm. This is what was answered in the Talmud in this regard. For it was asked there, but how could R. Joshua do this? Here R. Joshua said it was forbidden to heal oneself with words of Torah! And the reply was given: To secure protection, it is a different matter. In other words, the Torah did not forbid a man to say words of Torah so as to arouse his soul in a good direction, so that this merit should shield him to protect him.”

“One who whispers over a wound, or recites a Torah verse, and also one who reads for an infant so it should not be worried, and on who places a Sefer Torah or Tefillin on a minor so they might sleep, it is insufficient for them that they are considered enchanters (Nachashim) and diviners (Chovrim), but they are in the category of deniers of the Torah -- Kofrim -- rendering Torah as a bodily remedy, when the Torah is truly only a remedy for the soul.”  (Maimonides)

A wise Rabbi once referred to Psalms as the most proper attitude man can have towards God during various phases of his life. Psalms teaches truths. By living in accord with truth, our merits may attract God's general protection. But if already stricken with mishap or illness, we must not recite Psalms or any Torah verse, assuming it possesses some healing property for that specific problem.