Letters – Feb. 2010

Trust in God

Reader: Does it mean have I have a lack of emunah in Hashem if I worry about how I will pay my bills while I am unemployed? What do I do, sit back, assured that as long as I daven and do mitzvahs, Hashem will take care of me, i.e. pay my bills? I have no family to help me out financially and I keep being told that I should work on my emunah.

Rabbi: Psalm 147:11 teaches that God desires those who await His kindness. This means that God will act on their behalf. 

In his Laws of Sabbatical Year and Jubilee (13:13) Maimonides writes: "Any person whose spirit moves him, using his/her understanding, to separates himself to stand before God, to minister and serve Him...to know God....and this person walks upright as God made him, and he removes from his neck the yoke of many calculations [monetary concerns] that the masses seek:  this person is sanctified as holy of holies and God will be his portion and inheritance for ever and ever and he will merit in this world sufficient means, just as is merited by the priests and Levites. Behold, King David, peace upon him, said, "God is my allotted portion and my share; You make my lot perfect". And Psalms (9:11) says, "And those who know Your name will trust in You; for You have not forsaken those who seek You, Hashem".

The lesson is this: those who are truly convinced in the correct idea of God, are firm in their conviction that God can do anything. Thus, they do not despair, for desperation is the reaction by those who conclude failure, based solely on physical criteria alone. They resign themselves to a state of deprivation. By doing so, they fail in their knowledge of God, and in His abilities. This is precisely why the verse says "And those who know Your name will trust in You..."  Knowing "God's name", means knowing how He acts. And one who knows the truth of God's actions, knows that God can deliver a person from any state of deprivation.  Therefore, desperation never enters their hearts. When Mishael, Chananya and Azarya were about to be cast into the furnace for refusing to bow to the idol, they told Nevuchadnezzar that even if God does not save them, they will not bow. Thus, it is not the conviction that God "will" save me, which is arrogance, but that He "can" save me. This knowledge of God is what keeps the righteous people in each generation in good spirits, despite their personal trouble. They delight in the system that God created, that He can save man from anything. And if they are worthy, by seeking God's wisdom as their primary focus in life, the they will merit God's help. This is what is meant by the last part of that verse that guarantees success, "...for You have not forsaken those who seek You, Hashem".

The Torah's words are not a light thing, they must be studied, so we might enjoy their true ideas, God's wisdom...and then also merit in our physical lives to enjoy God's providence.

You may lack emunah, trust in God, but perhaps you are not at fault since you have not yet learned these sources. So now you can improve your emunah. No, you cannot sit back and wait for miracles. God did not design the world that way, but in the manner that only those fields that are plowed, seeded, watered, pruned and harvested will yield produce. We must strive to work: honestly, wisely, and diligently. God will do the rest:  

"And if you will say, 'What shall I eat in the seventh year, behold I have not planted and we have not harvest our grain?' And I will command My blessing for you on the sixth year,  and it will yield three years-worth of grain". (Lev. 25:20,21) 

We must work at all times other than when commanded not to, like on Shabbos and during the Sabbatical and Jubilee years. 

Notice that God says He will command His blessing on the sixth year, but that is only if we planted crops! If we do not labor, there is nothing of which He can triple its yield.

"Gathered unto his people"

Lorne:  Is Hashem's use of "Gathered unto his people" undistinguished from other terms like burial passing on? Or does this phrase refer to Olam Haba? Or, is Olam Haba derived from the Oral law?

Rabbi: See Sforno on Gen. 25:8, "He [Abraham] was gathered unto eternal life, joining the righteous of all generations of the past", who are referred to here as "his people" in this verse. "Gathered unto his people" refers to Olam Haba, unlike death, expiration, burial and other words. The Rabbis derive Olam Haba from other words too, and the Talmud also makes derivations from Daniel that teach resurrection.

Where's Sinai's External Corroboration?

(A segmet of an ongoing conversation this week)

Bob: Many cultures have competing interests and if many different cultures write about the same event in the same way, that helps confirm the event. But if only one group writes about an event, that account is no longer reliable as they might spin the story to give them some kind of benefit. 

Given the nature of the event of Sinai, that it should have been accesible either directly or indirectly to other parties, and nonetheless, other nations remained silent...the silence is deafening.

For example, if the followers of the Maharal wrote that he created a humanoid, and non-followers (consisting of Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc.) that were living in Prague at the time never mention this, that would cause me to suspect that story is not true and perhaps it was accepted by the followers of the Maharal because they truly believed he was spiritual and had magical powers and that makes them special.

Given that Egypt was a huge international metropolis, and given the plague of the firstborn, according to the Torah, killed all firstborns...did it not ever strike you that no other culture talks about the miracles in Egypt? I can understand possibly the official Egyptian literature not talking about it because its embarrasing.  But why not personal letters (which we have found) and why not of other cultures and nations?

Rabbi:  You see, it is the very point I have been making: you treat the Kuzari proof as if it is peripheral to our entire conversation. But from your comments, it is truly central. For if you accepted Kuzari's proof [1], it would not matter at all whether many nations, or one nation reported an event, provided there were mass attendees.

Mass attendees – regardless of they're being one nation or many – removes any possibility of conspiracy. Conspiracy is possible only when we're dealing with a few individuals. In that case, a common motive to lie might exist. But go to a Mets-Yankees World Series after it ended, where every attendee was a Mets fan...and do you think if the Mets lost, that all 70,000 fans would lie, saying the Mets really won? You would agree that most Mets fans would admit defeat, and there would not be a movement to lie by all 70,000. Yet, you suggest this regarding Sinai.

Bob: Yes, I would pretty much accept that the 70,000 Mets fans would not lie.

Rabbi: Good. You have now rejected your former position requiring external corroboration.

External corroboration, Bible critics, linguists claiming "numerous Torah authors" based on the Torah's style variations (i.e., Torah isn't Divine) all miss at least three vital points, and expose their flawed thinking:   

1) Although they too would accept the Mets analogy above, they contradict themselves by rejecting God's revelation at Sinai. That event could not survive 3000 years, had someone concocted it. Why? Imagine me telling you that I just witnessed an event of equal proportion with millions of other witnesses, yet I could not produce a single witness. My story would not be accepted by the world as fact 3000 years later.  But Sinai is accepted. The only possibility is that it did occur. Other considerations like external corroboration, or claims that other cultures' laws contained almost identical wording found in Torah, do not usurp this truth of Revelation. 

2) Bible critics and linguists assume they possess greater knowledge of Torah, than brilliant individuals who studied Torah for decades. Would Bible critics and linguists also perform surgery on themselves, instead of allowing more suitable people (doctors) to perform such dangerous tasks? 

3) Bible critics and linguists readily dismiss the numerous, brilliant sages and Rabbis who do support Kuzari's proof. Why don't the Bible critics and linguists, at the very least, attempt to explain why so many intelligent people defend Sinai?

[1] Kuzaris' Proof: As the world has received oral transmission that millions witnessed Revelation at Sinai, Kuzari proves Revelation due to the impossibility of; a) fabrication, or b) ignorance: the only two possibilities of flaws in historical records. Masses removes a common motive of fabrication by all attendees. And the nature of the phenomenon (fire, mountain, shofar blasts, quakes) are all accurately comprehended without error by anyone, thereby removing ignorance.

Chabad: Endorsing Idolatrous Teachings

Last week, a friend and Torah educator emailed me a bothersome video showing Chabad children and adults chanting "Long live our Rebbe, Moshiach forever" while pointing to the dead Rebbe's empty chair...as if he is in fact sitting in it.

Last year we also received the second video, where Rabbi Cunin of Chabad, Los Angeles stated the following: "It is the Rebbe who runs this world until he comes to take us out of exile now". 

Neither video presents anything new in Chabad. Chabad continually trains children and adults to observe idolatrous, Christian ghost practices with these chants and notions. This sin of these individuals is compounded by another: silence from others within Chabad. Chabad's unanimous failure to openly reject a dead man as Moshiach, and their failure to reject Rabbi Cunin's words, indicates that this is no "failure", but an official position. Teaching the acceptance of a dead man as Moshiach is a denial of Torah fundamentals. Had any Chabad leader disagreed with Rabbi Cunin or the training of children to worship a ghost, they would have publicly rejected this over anything else, since one must reject idolatrous notions more than any other sin. Omission is commission. The silence of other Rabbis and Jewish organizations in general is disheartening, when Rabbis – more than all others – are obligated to teach. And I applaud those Rabbis who did speak out last year.

With its many acts of generosity, Chabad desires to do good, and many can learn from Chabad in this respect. However, when Torah fundamentals are violated, saying "The Rebbe runs the world", and make him into a living ghost, Chabad ultimately spreads idolatrous beliefs identical to Christianity. Their merit is lost in their sin.

One should refrain from supporting Chabad, as its leaders continue to violate Torah's most basic fundamental, teaching the Christian approach of a dead messiah. Judaism has no basis for the messiah coming from the dead, and God does not tolerate the breach of His fundamentals.