Where Judaism is a way of life!
This is where some people have a hard time with the Torah, saying “but doesn’t science prove otherwise?” There is no scientific proof that the world is four billon years of age. Yes, there is scientific theory, but that hardly constitutes proof.
To clarify what I mean by this, I would like to first explain how we can see that the Torah (Bible) is from G-d. In Vayikra (Leviticus) 11:3 it says that “Any one among the animals that has a split hoof…and that brings up its cud – that one you may eat”. In verses 4-7, it speaks of four types of animals that may not be eaten because of having one of the kosher signs but not the other. They are: the camel, the hyrax (extinct today), the hare and the pig.
Until this day, any other animal that has only one of these two signs has not been found. If a
human being had written the Torah, he was indeed taking a very great risk. He would have had to
scour the world (including the jungles) to make sure that there aren’t any other animals that have only
one of the signs. Only the One who had knowledge (because He made them) could boldly state in the
Torah that these are the (only) four examples of the animals that have only one type of sign, knowing
that there won’t be any others.
When G-d was about to create Adam, He had already created the whole world and everything in
it, except for mankind. All the trees were already fully grown, for if not, from the fruit of which tree did
Adam and Eve eat? Adam was also treated by G-d as a full grown twenty-year-old, for our sages say
that G-d doesn’t punish those who are under that age. He was punished right after having done the sin.
Couldn’t it be that G-d had created the world ready made with oil under the ground, and He could have
also made a number of other things to look much older than their real age?!
One would probably ask “but why would He do that?”
When G-d created the world, He wanted everyone to serve Him of his/her own accord. For Him to leave obvious hints that He exists, would give away our ability to serve Him with complete faith. If we were always aware of G-d’s existence, we wouldn’t really have a choice of whether to believe in Him or not. Belief is generally something that we can’t prove outright. Otherwise it would be referred to as ‘knowing it’, not ‘believing it’, for the choice would be out of our hands.
Having faith in G-d is a mitzvah. Does this mean that we should have blind faith? Emphatically not. The faith that we should have is above intellect. This means, that to the best of our ability, we should try to understand G-d, His Torah and Mitzvot. Being that G-d is infinite, it is impossible for us to understand Him in that manner, and so from there we have to have faith. If we believe no further than where our intellect takes us, then we don’t have true faith.
May G-d help that we should have true faith that the coming of Moshiach (Messiah) is imminent, and for that reason alone he will be revealed immediately if not sooner.
Loving the Fellow Jew
Windows XP and love your fellow Jew?
What, you may ask, is the connection between Windows XP (or Windows 7) and the commandment to love your fellow Jew?
The Baal Shem Tov (the first Chasidic leader) taught that everything that one sees or hears is there to teach us something.
Living in Silicon Valley I hear a lot about computers whether it is hardware or software. I have been told that one of the major differences between the previous editions of Windows (98 and prior to that) and the latest upgrades, is that in the older versions, if a program has a problem and it shuts down (without your permission I might add), in the older versions it would take Windows down with it and leave us with a blue screen (and us going blue in the face).
However, in the latest version, it will only shut down the program and leave Windows alone. As I was pondering what one could learn from this as a way to serve G-d better, I thought about human relationships. What a lot of people do to one another in their relationships with others is react emotionally exclusively instead of intellectually as well. For example, two friends may be talking to each other when one says something that is not especially bright. The other person thinking that their friend had just said something incredibly stupid lets the other person know it. These two people are usually no longer friends. Why? Because that person had the chutzpah (gall) to call me stupid. How dare he? And even if it was stupid (which it was not!) how could he say so? And on and on.
In other words, the whole system crashes. If people would realize that they have been friends for a long period of time, and one irrational word has caused their friendship to disintegrate -- in other words a crashing of the whole system -- they wouldn’t give up their friendship so quickly and easily. Each speaker would realize that the other probably regrets having his words, but may be too proud to admit it.
Sometimes we are much more eager to stroke our own egos rather than that of a friend. The truth is that we should not even let one program crash within ourselves. G-d sees all of our failings and He still loves us more than we would ever know. The least we could do is to try to emulate Him in this important characteristic.
G-d forgives a lot when people get along. At the time of the Generation of the Dispersion, when the people were united in building a tower (known as the Tower of Babel) to the heavens to fight G-d, all G-d did was change everyone’s language. Not like in the time of Noach and the flood, where G-d killed all except for the righteous. He brought the flood because people didn’t get along with one another, whereas in the case of building a tower to fight G-d, which is as bad as idol worship, G-d wasn’t too offended and only caused a Babel of languages.
If we will all take this to heart and get along with one another in our personal lives, G-d will look down favorably upon us and bring Moshiach (Messiah) immediately and end all the bloodshed of innocent people.
It is a painful subject that I bring up here, but I feel that it needs to be articulated. Assimilation is on the rise, and it would seem that drastic action is needed to help us not lose so many of our youth. I’m told that assimilation is higher than 40% per generation.
One might argue that every individual has the right to do what they want, and why are we so concerned about another Jew? It reminds me of a parable that I once heard regarding a group of people who were in a boat in the middle of the sea. One of the people in the group was amusing himself by carving a hole in the bottom of the boat, when one of his fellow travelers asked him what did he think he was doing? To which he answered “mind your own business, I’m making a hole in MY part of the boat!” To which his mate said “don’t you realize that you could sink us all?!” Every Jew is part of one big unit and the needs of one Jew (both physically and spiritually) should be the concern of every other Jew.
I came across the following letter from a young Hebrew Christian to his parents that was published in an Anglo-Jewish magazine by the name of ‘Concord’. I would like to share some excerpts of it with you.
Dear Mother and Dad,
I visited your home last Friday night with my wife Catherine. I noticed the Sabbath candles burning, the only vestige of spiritual value still at home. I displayed a little gold cross and both of you looked startled at me. Benjy and Sarah turned away from me.
Come to think of it, is it my fault? After my Bar-Mitzvah ceremony and the swell display of luxury at my party, I found a void in my soul. I was looking for an inspiring symbol of spiritual meaning. To put it plainly, I was searching for G-d in my soul. I did not find this at your hands......
......Now about Catherine. Before I joined the Hebrew Christians, I met her at College.....At the wedding, a priest and a Rabbi performed the ceremony. After the wedding, mother broke down and told me that she wore a black veil on her heart, mourning that I severed forever my heritage of four thousand years with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Mother Sarah and Rachel. Moses and Isaiah, all gone forever. But Mother and Dad, you never gave me any attachment to begin with.
Mother, you asked me how I could give up all the Jewish Holidays. But Mother and Dad, you never gave them to me. In our home you lit the candles for the Sabbath and nothing else. There was no Sabbath spirit or holiness. The Holidays were blank, meaningless days with us. We had Passover Seders in someone's home and a few chunks of Matzoh and that was all. The other Holidays we had dinner out, or people came to us. That was all. There were two days Rosh Hashanah, etc., but you observed only one day. Apparently, you were too bored. This was a make-believe Judaism. So what did I give up? On my new calendar I have Holidays that are enriched by acceptance in the Christian world and in many instances by the secular world. To tell you the truth, I am not at all happy with all that too. I am confused, and I have not found G-d yet. Please ask the Rabbi, will I be accepted if I return to Judaism?......
I still love you.
He never stopped being a Jew, but he lost his way because he lacked the support and strength of what our tradition has to offer. By support I mean, from those around him, and strength, meaning the strength of his own character to search for his birthright.
There is a axiom by Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli that is as follows. He said that when he goes up to heaven [after he passes away], he will not be worried if he were asked by the heavenly court why he wasn’t like Abraham our Forefather, because, he would argue, do you realize how great Abraham was? He was ready and willing to give up his life for G-d a number of times, and he passed ten tests with flying color! How can I be compared to him? And if he were asked how come he wasn’t like Moshe (Moses)? He would reason that Moshe was the greatest leader the Jews ever had, he was the greatest prophet the Jews ever had, he spoke to G-d one on One. How can I be equated with him? Now if I’m asked “why wasn’t Zushe like Zushe was supposed to be”, that is when I will start worrying.
Every person has their own personal responsibility in this world, and also a general responsibility, and they are that we have to be that best possible Jew that we can, and also to care about every other Jew both physically and spiritually. When we all do this, we will lead the world to a complete peace through the coming of the righteous Moshiach (Messiah).
The Land of Israel
Chevron ~ What Next?
Let me present a scenario. You have an estate many acres in size, that has been with your family for thousands of years. You are part of a very big family that is spread out all over the world. You have been assigned the duty to make sure nothing untoward happens to this plot of land. Not to pick and choose, but there are certain parts of the land that have a special place in the hearts of the family. Not only because of the history involved, but also because of the outright certainty of it belonging to the family, which is agreed to by even the greatest of your enemies.
What would happen if someone big, strong and mean walked into your living room and told you, mafia-style, that if you want peace with the neighbors you had better give them half of your estate? Would you give it away just like that? In addition to this, you know that if you give in this time, there is a nearly 100% chance of this same unsavory character walking in again and demanding the other half.
Or would you consult your family? After all, it all belongs to all the family!
This is not a far-fetched story. It is in fact something that is happening in our very own estate, namely Israel. Our ancestor Avraham bought Chevron because he wanted to make clear to all that it belongs to him and his family forever. It was offered to him on a silver platter free of charge, but he made a point of paying top dollar (shekel) for it. The Torah is replete with examples of G~d promising our forefathers that He would give all the land [of Israel] to their offspring, of which there are too many to cite here.
No one has the right to give it away without the consent of the whole family [of Israel]. The land of Israel was given to the Jewish people by G-d, and can not to be given away by anybody. There are times when G~d Himself decided to take it away from us and give it to whom He desired. It was to our shame in that we didn’t deserve it.
However, when G-d allows us to have it, and we want to give it away, it is an even greater shame.
I hear people saying that if we want to have a say in what goes on in Israel, we should either live there or keep quite about it. This makes me wonder. I’m sure that there are those who possess things in places other than where they are living. Does this mean that they give up their property rights to them just because they don’t reside directly on the premises?
Another thing that astonishes me, is the trumpeting of the Oslo accords. When one makes a compromise with the enemy, both sides give up something. In this case, Israel gives up everything that is asked of them (and then some) and they get nothing back in return. One thing they do get is the murderers living even closer to them than before.
I was always told that if one of the parties does not honor its agreement, the contract is null and void. However, Israel wanting to show that it is on a higher level than the Arabs are, and therefore they are ready to give back everything, though receiving nothing in return.
As is known, many Jewish soldiers fought and died in the wars of ’48, ’56, ’67 and ’73. They did this for the love of their country. If they were to rise up now, they would cry at the waste of their lives. They fought for their country and now it is being given away. If the United States was threatened by Mexico to give back California and other parts of this country for peace, would any American think of it as a viable option??? Of course not! We would probably beef up our military and that would be enough to scare Mexico of such silly ideas. And yet we don’t even think for a moment of how wrong such a notion is for Israel.
May G-d help us realize the sanctity of the Land of Israel, the Nation of Israel and the Torah of Israel and when we do, G~d will fight for us (if fighting needs to be done), and we will merit the coming of the righteous Mashiach (Messiah) speedily, even before Purim.
What is Kosher?
What is Kosher? This is a frequently asked question.
First, Kashrut was not commanded to us because of health reasons (notice the chicken fat) although it can be healthy. Furthermore, it is (what is called in the Torah) a Chok, which means a law that is not comprehensible to the human intellect. Therefore, it cannot be explained away as an antiquated custom that was instituted due to the lack of health precautions. Chok is a law given to us by G-d that we must not violate. It also does not mean that the Rabbi blesses the food.
A brief explanation of a few things that make up the laws of Kashrut are in order. Kosher animals are those that have split hooves and chew their cud. They have to be slaughtered in a ritual manner as prescribed by the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law). There are a lot of other laws involved in checking the animal that I do not have room in this article to give it the attention it deserves. There are also the laws of salting the meat to draw out the blood. The Torah also tells us which birds we may eat, and that they have the same laws as beef, with regard to the prohibition of mixing milk and meat. Fish are Kosher when they have fins and scales. Most insects are not Kosher. Some vitamins also need Kosher supervision. A few that we know, are Vitamins A, B2, B12 and C.
Having said all this, one may look at a product label and see that it has a very simple ingredients' list and wonder what could be wrong with it. In fact, a number of things may make them non-Kosher. There is a certain minute percentage of the ingredients that the government does not require a manufacturer to list. Although the amount may be small, it might be enough to be considered non-Kosher and the consumer would not know it.
Ingredients listed on a package may be deceiving. For example, sugar cane or beet may be processed into table sugar using up to seventeen preservatives or other ingredients which may not be Kosher. Now, there is an additional problem with sugar. Due to the ease in which sugar can be imported, companies are able to purchase sugar at a cheaper price due to the fact that two to four percent of non-Kosher gelatin has been added in to it.
Flavors can be problematic in food. Companies experiment with an excess to 3,000 raw materials with which they endeavor to reach that perfect flavor. If a company is using flavors in a lot of their products and they want to be Kosher, they are not allowed to store any non-Kosher ingredients at any time. For this reason a Kashrut supervisor (mashgiach) is needed to check their inventory from time to time.
Soft drinks can have a lot of problems too. It is unfortunate that the FDA allows bottling companies to put many flavors together under the title “artificial flavors”. Although the ingredients listed on the soft drink container may number fewer than ten, they may have four times as many as listed. The problems could be from non-Kosher grape juice to Carmine (red food coloring) to gelatin. The list goes on. It is best to drink soft drinks with reliable supervision.
Most importantly, is the spiritual side to keeping Kosher. The Rabbis have told us of the side benefits that can be derived from keeping Kosher. The famous adage, “you are what you eat”, applies here. When a person consumes food and drinks, it becomes their blood, tissue and source of energy. Just as it affects the physical aspects of a person, it also affects their spirit. As some Torah-commentators explain, that eating meat of a predatory animal imparts the animal’s cruel instincts to the person’s spirit. The same is true for all non-Kosher foods. They have a detrimental effect on the spiritual health of a Jew.
May G-d help that we should recognize the great importance of the mitzvah of keeping Kosher. This will surely bring the ultimate recognition of G-d’s wisdom through the coming of Moshiach.
Many Jews believe that resurrection is exclusively a non-Jewish idea. In our Amida prayer of morning (Shacharit), afternoon (Mincha) and evening (Arvit), which are said every day of the year, we say: “Blessed are you Lord, who revives the dead”. Also when waking up in the morning we say “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for you have mercifully restored my soul within me…”. Some commentaries perceive this statement as an affirmation of our faith in resurrection.
‘Resurrection’, refers to the time when the Mashiach (Messiah) is coming. There are many debates as to when this will occur — immediately when Mashiach comes, or later — but be that as it may, it will happen to all peoples of the world (at least to the righteous of the nations of the world, in some opinions).
This brings to mind to the subject of reincarnation (which is also a Jewish idea). The reason for the reincarnation of the soul, is because the soul has to go through this world having completed all 613 commandments of the Torah. It is almost impossible for a person to do so within the 120 years (or so) allotted to him/her in this world, hence the need for reincarnation. It says the Talmud that “All Israel have a portion in the world to come . . .” This means that eventually every Jew will be resurrected. Every Jew has an actual spark of G-d in them and therefore it is G-d’s will that every Jew should serve Him with that spark of G-dliness.
One can wonder what purpose G-d had in mind when He wanted us to be reincarnated. Furthermore, what is the purpose in our serving G-d in this physical world? Wouldn’t it be better if we were only spiritual entities (i.e. not clothed in a body), then we would be closer to G-d?
The answer lies in the fact that it is G-d’s will, to be served especially in this lowly physical world, which seems to deny G~dliness, so much so that there are people who think that they can deny G-d. It is particularly in this kind of a world that when a person seems to have choice whether or not to believe in G-d, and chooses to do so, this is what gives G-d great pleasure, as it were. G-d also wants us to be complete. He therefore gave us 613 commandments through which we can become whole. It often takes more than one decent into this world to complete this objective, which is why we have to come down more than once.
Another reason for us being here, is because G-d wants a dwelling place for Himself here in this world. Our task therefore is to take the physical things of this world and use them for a Mitzvah (command from G-d) which will elevate the holy sparks by which they were created and at the same time give the object a holiness that was not there before.
The coming of Mashiach is the culmination of the assignment that we have been given. Throughout the prayers we are told that this is the purpose of our being here. Throughout the ages the Jews have yearned for Mashiach. Even as the Jews were walking to certain death in the Holocaust they were heard to be singing “Ani Maamin…” (“I believe with complete faith in the coming of Mashiach even though he may tarry, nevertheless I await him every day”).
We find that even during the preparation for burial, the Chevrah Kadisha (Jewish Burial Society) when preparing a person for burial, even though use of costly shrouds are forbidden, one of the Sages was of the opinion that their use (of simple shrouds) evidences a belief in resurrection. Conversely, one of the reasons that cremation is forbidden is that it denies the principle of resurrection. (There are those who have died in fires not of their own making G-d forbid, to them G-d would have a separate ruling.)
Practically speaking, one might say that “for all the things that I have done in the past, G-d may never want to forgive me.” One must remember that we say three times every weekday “Pardon us, our Father, for we have sinned…” Every time we don’t do G~d’s wishes, He allows us to ask for forgiveness. Of course this has to be done sincerely. We should not let our past be a burden to us in a way that we give up on the future, but rather to the contrary, let it help us go forward to accomplish as many of commandments as possible so that it will bring to the coming of Mashiach immediately.
If you have any questions or comments about these articles, please feel free to contact Rabbi Vogel at Rabbi770@sbcglobal.net.
Some of these articles appeared in the Jewish Community News (JNews) (of S. Jose). They will give you a feel of the Rabbi’s view (which is the Torah’s view,) on a number of topics.
Almaden Valley Torah Center
The Topics include:
1. Belief in G-d 4. The Land of Israel
2. Loving the Fellow Jew 5. Kosher
3. Assimilation 6. Resurrection
Belief in G-d
Do You Believe in G-d?
“What a question?” you may ask. The truth is that every Jew believes in G-d deep inside his or her soul. The question is whether or not it comes to the fore. G-d being infinite makes it almost impossible for us to comprehend Him. Yet we often limit Him to our understanding of Him. For example, if you ask someone who has learned science how old the world is, he would probably tell you that it is about four billion years old. If I were asked the question, I would say that the world SEEMS to be four billion years old. According to the Torah’s reckoning, the world is 5774 years old.
... If we were always aware of G-d’s existence, we wouldn’t really have a choice of whether to believe
in Him or not...