Letters — April 2018

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Shlissel Challah

This is not so much about a source, but about performing actions that are identical to idolatrous actions where there is no causal relationship demonstrated between X and Y. This is the Torah prohibition about doing any type of random act X and believing that it results in Y, when there is no natural connection. It is not prohibited to believe that throwing a rock breaks a window because we see the natural forces involved. But it is prohibited to believe that bowing to a stone [carved as a man] will change my fate. It does not matter whether I bow to a stone, or wrap a red string on my wrist, or bake a loaf of bread in the shape of a key.

You do not believe that baking a key in a loaf of bread can replace going to work to earn your livelihood. But the major problem is that this practice violates the Torah principle of Reward and Punishment where God determines our fate due to our actions and our mitzvahs. It would be foolish to believe that a wicked person can bake a key in a loaf of bread and have a better fate despite his sins.

Please think about this and share with other people so they too can think about their actions before performing them and violating Torah fundamentals. 

Honor & Ego: The Rabbis’ Psychological Insight

The rabbis derived the following from the Talmud (Eruvin 13b): “Whomever chases honor, honor flees from him. And whomever flees from honor, honor chases him.”

Is this a providential statement or can it be explained naturally?

This can be explained psychologically. We all seek self-esteem to some degree, and we also possess envy. These two emotions come together when we see a person chasing honor: we desire that honor for ourselves and therefore we do not honor the other person. In this manner, “honor flees” from that person. The other side of the coin is that when we see a person who does not seek our approval (honor), we sense inferiority, as that other person does not value us sufficiently to seek our praises. To remove our inferiority, we chase the other person, to befriend him and honor him, in order that he returns that respect to us, thereby replenishing our depleted egos.

The rabbis were brilliant thinkers and grasped all areas of reality. When they discussed human interaction, most of the time they were identifying natural psychological dynamics. Instead of the knee-jerk explanation of this phenomenon, suggesting God manipulates human honor (measure-for-measure), it behooves us to patiently think into the matter and give credit to the rabbis that they are cluing us into some natural truth, that we can uncover with our minds.