Questions on Rabbis, Reason, Prayer, and Kindness
Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: Scholars refer to the Judaism of the last 2000 years or more as Rabbinical Judaism. Tell me please, what other kinds of Judaism are there and were there?
Mesora: I am not familiar with the term "Rabbinical Judaism". Yes, we follow the Rabbis, we always have. They alone are authorized by God to derive concepts and rulings from the Torah (Deuteronomy, 17:11). Derivation is an essential aspect of learning. It is guided by a fixed set of principles. It is not subjective. It teaches that there is "much below the surface", that the enormity of God's wisdom cannot be put into words. Rabbis in the Masoretic chain of tutelage with lineage to Moses adhering to the Talmud are the only ones endorsed by God to determine the Torah's laws and halachos. Without this strict adherence to the Mosaic ideas and traditions received from God at Sinai, the Torah would become a free-for-all system, much like what has happened in Reform, Conservative and Chassidism.
Reader: Scholars say that before the Jewish people met up with helenism, reason and logic was yet to be used as a tool to understanding Torah. Is this true?
Mesora: This is false. Evidence of rational living commences with Adam. God would not converse with one bereft of reason, nor would greats like Ramban call Adam "the handiwork of the Almighty". How would one as Abraham arrive at truths after having being an idolater, were it not for his refined wisdom which dismissed pagan rituals?
Reader: Is praying to Hashem for financial gain permissible in Judaism?
Mesora: Most definitely. The Rabbis state that prayer should be engaged for all matters the heart needs. One is even allowed to give charity to actually test God to see if "he will open the storehouses of heaven and empty out (for you) a blessing beyond your need". (See Malachi Chapter 3)
See our article: Charity-Tzedaka
Reader: Is a pleasant or kind disposition towards others required in Judaism?
Mesora: Yes. Our disposition must include sensitivity of our very words, as the command "lo sonu" teaches us not to oppress people with words. We are also to treat people with pleasantness, dignity, and respect. There are many laws which reinforce this behavior: Commiserating with the poor, assisting even your enemy when in need, standing for our Rabbis, parents and the elderly, and many others, Maimonides teaches that the most perfected members of mankind are those who express kindness to others.

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