What happens before birth, & after death?
Is Judaism the only true religion?
Why must I be observant?
How does God exist?
Is there proof?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Who is quoted in the title: an adult, or a child? Or both? But definitely, one of those two asked those questions. I say “Definitely”, because maybe one of those questions is still unanswered in you, and it hits you with profound interest. So why haven’t you pursued these questions until now? Regardless…let the questions resonate for a few more moments…think about what is being asked…do you sense a complete focus right now, a curiosity that shifts your attention from all else? Forget about what the answer might mean to your practical life. Just consider the intrigue of the questions…wait a moment…
One might feel the sense of amazement with study might wane with time. “How can one vocation of study remain fresh and interesting?” people think.
That’s true in relation to possessions, but not to wisdom: the more wisdom is unveiled, the greater the desire to push on. Einstein locked himself in his labs for weeks. King David called God’s Torah a “plaything”, and rightfully so. For what other image captures the sheer enjoyment of a child with his toy? A child totally focused has no other concerns…and heaven help the one who takes his toy! The child’s involvement is pure, 100% engrossed, as he is transfixed on his object, with his imagination…nothing else matters in the universe; this is truly everything to the child. Don’t you remember this yourself?
As adults, with numerous concerns and anxieties, we crave such pure pleasure. “Youth is wasted on the young” our minds echo. Can you remember the last time you were 100% engaged in en enjoyment that captivated you so thoroughly, that you lost sense of all time and cares? Or is your every pleasure associated with some distraction or imperfection: travel plans rained out, new cars’ dented fenders, promotions with poor staff, etc.? Do you think that a child’s level of pure happiness cannot be recaptured? If you read just about any Talmudic potion, you would discover that the Rabbis exemplify this unbridled excitement to a tee. But they do not hold a monopoly on happiness. Nor does one need to be a Rabbi, or even close, to experience what “thrilling” means.
All other pursuits do become old and boring: King Solomon’s sentiment in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun”. Evidently, he was responding to a human need for exactly that: new and novel experiences. They are what keep man excited about tomorrow, and his life. Physical pursuits become tiresome. After a few years, the “new” car grows old; the same “old” job; new outfits tease us with promises of high esteem only to fade out of style; and sadly, couples divorce due to the same “bored” emotion. In all cases, man is seeking happiness in the wrong area, the physical and the psychological alone. And therefore, he finds frustration. This continued frustration with toy after adult toy leads adults and teens to drugs: a new state of mind. “Yeah, this will make me happy”. But we know the sad ending.
God specifically designed the physical to age, to rust, become boring, dry-up, and disintegrate. As a wise Rabbi taught, God told Adam, “Thorns and thistles will sprout for you”. This means that as a punishment for Adam’s overestimation of the forbidden fruit, God created a corrective measure that the very objects – the physical – which man sought out for pleasure, would now yield problems, i.e., “thorns and thistles” are metaphors for all problems, not just vegetation. “Thorns” are meant to deter man from overindulging in the physical pursuits, steering him back to wisdom. As man finds frustration in his pursuit of physical pleasure like possessions, intercourse, eating, and empire building…he will soon find emptiness, pain, envy and not what he planned. He will not experience that “new toy” emotion...the “enduring” quality he sought evades him. This is all by design…God’s design: itself, a marvelous lesson, and a fitting segue to the next point.
Does frustration exist in all, repeated activities? No. There is one area immune to the expiration of novelty: the pursuit of knowledge. No new idea replicates a previous one. In the arena of study, our initial perplexity is followed by new discovery and answers…refreshing answers, and a most enjoyable activity. It is also self-perpetuating, as new ideas give rise to our wonder, “Now, how does THAT work?” “How did that get here?” “How does God exist?”
Questioning is an activity that engages the entire person: our minds, our excitement, our curiosity, our imagination…all the components that capture 100% of our energies. And it is this “complete” involvement that we call “pleasure”. When our attention can be completely directed towards something, this is when we find the most pleasure. Does that make sense to you? Think about your happiest moments: hitting that homerun in second grade; answering a tough question in class that others missed; riding the roller coaster for the first time; a first date with that guy or girl you admired so; learning how to ride a 2-wheeler; your 7th birthday party; that fantastic childhood gift…your honor at the business or Temple dinner. You had those moments, when all stood still…you enjoyed some total involvement. But it was so short-lived. So you agree…you have the capacity for complete happiness. And your age has not removed that capacity.
You owe it to yourself to discover how to spend you life, how to be happy. No one lives your life but you. And don’t follow the masses as your method for living…few of them have taken the months and years necessary to study the human psyche and philosophy, that their lifestyles should hold any worth. In your search to be happy, you must study philosophies. You must study psychology…and you must study yourself.
Should you follow fame, fortune, act as a sophisticate, party, lounge, or travel as “the” answer to happiness? King Solomon experimented with these lifestyles, but concluded that the life of Torah was the greatest...that “this is all of man”. Does that have an affect on you, that one of the world’s wisest men made this conclusion? If so, why not read his words?!
But if you aren’t observant now…why is that? Have you truly examined various lifestyles including Orthodox Judaism? Maybe some religious person turned you off to Judaism years ago, or recently. Maybe you never got the answers from teachers that made sense, so you felt disinterested. You left Judaism. Those are good reasons. Really. Good reasons…“to be disinterested”…but not valid reasons to remain ignorant of the truth. You were presented with a false view of Judaism. Unfortunately, you were robbed of the truth. But that’s temporary.
Maybe avoidance or procrastination has kept you from spending some quality time with a good teacher, or someone knowledgeable of Judaism. Maybe you don’t want restrictions in your life, so you haven’t inquired what Judaism has to say. You like freedom on Saturdays. You enjoy crabmeat. Don’t let these poor excuses prevent you from living the one life you have, to the greatest degree of happiness. Don’t let yourself down, and fail to inquire about the only form of Judaism…the authentic, first form.
But maybe you’re still fighting it…maybe you feel other religions and forms of Judaism can’t be all that bad. How can so many people follow Christianity, and be wrong? Well, according to that reasoning, how can two religions which oppose each other, have so many followers?! Christianity opposes Judaism, and vice versa. Now you can’t say they’re both right, since they both have masses of followers.
And what about how you got here…ever bother to think “why” you are here. Is there a design…a reason? Have you felt accepting God is a belief, or that proof exists? Do you seek to avoid knowing the proof; maybe it will trap you into some painful lifestyle? Be honest.
And if you who are reading this are observant, have you reached out to non-observant Jews to help them live the life God desires? There is much we all can do, if we care about ourselves, and others.
If you’re starting to wonder, and would welcome an opportunity to get answers…email us, use our search feature to locate answers to the very questions you have, which others asked. If you are observant, share this article and your time with someone non-observant.
The universe could not create itself. God exists. He made man, and gave us all one thing He gave to no other creation: intellect. He desires that we use it. Just as He made foods taste good, and designed our bodies to function properly; and gave us materials to make homes and clothing, and placed in us good feelings…His plan that we observe His Torah must also be equally beneficial, and enjoyable.
To sustain your interest and maintain a sense of importance, stay mindful of what we said: The greatest individuals found a life of study to be most pleasurable. Do not pay attention to the masses that chase success, fame, and self-aggrandizement. For they are never satisfied, nor will you be, if you duplicate their actions. We don’t mean to say “never travel or enjoy a good meal, or parties with friends”. But the focus of your life should be what the Creator taught is the most gratifying. If our central component – our intellects – is inactive, then a large part of us is unsatisfied. We only fool ourselves that what we need is more possession, or another vacation. What we need is to engage our soul in a quest for answers…and they will come. Believe me.
Take the first step, since everything cannot be written here. Determine whether you have any reluctance. Be aware of your resistances, and that this resistance is foolish, since you cannot resist that which you know nothing about. And if your have not received answers to your questions, then you have a partial picture, at best. Get the whole picture…finally.
If you are observant…share it. If you are not observant, you owe it to yourself to make at least one honest search. Don’t wait. Time runs out. Email us. Better yet, join us live online this Sunday Jan. 28, 12:30pm EST and ask your questions in our interactive and audible sessions: www.Mesora.org/TalkLIVE (Unavailable on Mac)