JewishAmerica.
Featuring:
jewish continuity
jewish heritage
jewish people
jews of america
jewish community
jewish history
jewish culture
judaism kabala
jewish tradition
jewish life
torah parsha
perspectives
jewish links
jewish interest
jewish humor
jews Israel
holocaust

--

Subscribe - FREE!

Feedback

--

JewishAmerica:
Sharing and caring
on the Internet
--

In Recognition Of
Aish Hatorah
- Reconnecting Jews To Their Heritage

[RWB][RWB]
 
--
[JewishAmerica]
Preserving a near-lost legacy and heritage.
Sharing and Caring on behalf of Torah Judaism
--
--

Questions Of Our Age

  • Questions and issues regarding life, purpose, and destiny.

Questions

  1. How and why was the world created?
  2. How and why are we created?
  3. What is the central purpose of our life?
  4. How are we best to achieve that purpose?
  5. Are we able to communicate and receive guidance from the creative source?
  6. Does that creative source use agents to communicate and guide us?
  7. What happens to us when we die?

Discussion

The Basis
Creation
Purpose
Guidance & Communication
After Life
More Questions?

The Basis

Prior to addressing these questions we must first provide our basis for dealing with them.

Judaism believes that G-d communicated directly with Mankind and provided a set of teachings which we call the Torah. This occurred some thirty-three centuries ago, shortly after the Exodus. Moses was the intermediary.

The nature of this communication is truly unique. The Jewish people believe that Moses was a true prophet of G-d but not because of his powers of persuasion or his charismatic personality. Rather, at Mount Sinai G-d communicated directly to Moses in the presence of the entire Jewish nation, which consisted at that time of several million people. At Sinai G-d established a trusted channel of communication for once and for all. We thus know that Moses is true only because we heard G-d talk to him. The teachings of Moses are the Jewish people’s reference point for religious truth.

A change to the Torah of Moses is therefore impossible to consider without another Mount Sinai experience. We believe that the public Revelation of G-d at Mount Sinai will not be repeated.

The Torah was transmitted with two distinct components, one written and one oral. The written Torah is known as the Bible or Written Torah. It is called The Old Testament by Christianity. The other component of the Torah was transmitted orally for fifteen centuries, after which time it began to be recorded because of atrocities to which Jews were subjected and because of the threat of interruption to the transmission. Still called today the Oral Torah, portions of this body of knowledge are reflected in such great writings as the Talmud and the Medrash.

The Torah provides Mankind with instructions for living in this world. From these teachings, Mankind can know the actions and values which they are expected to adopt and for which they and the environment were designed.

The Torah provides instructions for both Jews and Non-Jews. Everyone can achieve greatness.

The Torah provides a basis from which we can address the above questions.

Creation

To fully understand how the world was created, one needs to first know what was created.

Mankind is coming to realize the vastness of the universe and its contents. We may never be able to fully grasp what was created. If so, can we adequately address how it was created?

The beginning of the Book of Genesis discusses the creation of the world through the divine Deity.

We do know that all was created by a Being whose capabilities and greatness are beyond our imagination. There is nothing like Him.

The Torah teaches that G-d created everything from nothing.

Purpose

To address why the world was created, one must accept that G-d provided a means for Mankind to relate with Him. Otherwise, the question of ‘why’ may have no relevance for a Being which is beyond the comprehension of Mankind.

The Torah teaches that the world was created so that Mankind can experience the greatest form of happiness - a close and eternal relationship with G-d.

Mankind was designed so that in order to achieve the highest form of satisfaction, people must make themselves worthy of this happiness. This includes a system and an environment for testing, free-choice, reward, and punishment.

We thus speak of at least two worlds, this world where we take responsibility and control for behavior, and the next world where we reap rewards. The worlds are mutually exclusive. One can expect to work hard in this world. One will not have the opportunity to better himself in the next world.

This world was designed and is managed by G-d himself so that it constantly provides Mankind with whatever it needs to achieve greatness. This opportunity will be available for as much time as G-d provides Mankind with this opportunity.

Thus, the central purpose of life is for our benefit. We will best achieve that purpose by carefully studying and following the instructions for living which G-d provided.

Guidance And Communication

As stated above, the Torah consists of all of the guidance that G-d intended to provide Mankind. That is, G-d gave a teaching which contains sufficient guidance to last for eternity.

The instructions that He gave was to include communicating directly for as long as that level of relationship could be maintained. We were worthy of direct communication with G-d for the first thousand years of Jewish history. Direct communication is what we call prophecy.

A prophet is a person and people are subject to weakness and failure, per their exercise of free-will choice. G-d makes it possible for a person to misrepresent him/herself as a prophet and to even exploit others with it. G-d makes it possible for people to allow themselves to become religiously exploited, if they want to for social reasons, for convenience, for any reason.

Today, Mankind is thus presented with a massive and bewildering choice of organized religions which are basically mutually exclusive.

The Torah provides guidelines for the broadening of Torah practice, especially when related to the historical experiences of the generations. An example of this is the kindling of the Chanukah candles in remembrance of the evil tyranny that we were delivered from.

The Torah indicates that a prophet who directs a change to the Torah in a manner that is outside these guidelines is a false prophet.

Traditional Judaism rejects the notion of the Torah being subject to free interpretation. Rather, together with the Torah, G-d provided methods for understanding the Torah and methods of applying its principles to our lives.

Traditional Judaism bases all opinion, values, and perspectives on that which is written in the Torah. Opinion, values, and behavior that are intentionally not consistent with that which is written in the Torah can not legitimately be considered Jewish, regardless of whether people who are Jewish choose to adopt them.

G-d closely manages the world, is aware of everything, and is concerned for all. He also sees to it that the mechanism of free-choice is not disturbed. In His wisdom, based on the actions of Mankind, G-d ceased to directly communicate with mankind through prophecy and this will continue until the Messianic era. This does not preclude G-d from providing insight and inspiration to Mankind in a concealed manner.

Mankind can communicate directly to G-d through prayer. As stated above, this world is for testing and growth. G-d does not make his presence obvious and therefore it is a rare and treasured experience when one can relate an event in his/her personal life to prayer.

After Life

The Torah provides insight for life in this world. From the Torah, we do not know in great detail much about the next world except that it will match our accomplishments of this world with astonishing precision to shape our eternal destiny. These two facts place the emphasis on service rather than reward to preserve the integrity of our life’s work.

G-d is just and fair. Crime and misdeed should not and will not pay. Because of the need to conceal G-d’s management in the form of immediate cause and effect retribution, thereby maintaining free-choice, this will not become obvious during our lifetime in this world.

The next world is a world of truth, with no place or way to hide. In this world one is in control of making choices between doing good and evil. In the next world, in the absence of evil, however, we will not have this control. In this world one may have the erroneous impression that he/she are in control of everything else. One really isn’t. In the next world this will be obvious.

As much as one should be concerned with ‘Burning In Hell,’ one should really be more concerned about ‘Burning In Heaven.’ We will all some day kick ourselves quite hard for not doing more, becoming greater when the opportunity was open to us. This is, after all, the real challenge in life to see through the transparency of transient values and focus on what is real and eternal.

It’s not worth it to worry about the process of death. It’ll happen. G-d took care of us getting into this world and He will take care of us getting out. Just accept it. Do your best to lead a meaningful existence and repent before and during death. It’s your last and only chance. Don’t let something discourage you and talk you into thinking that G-d will reject you, that your final acts and thoughts are meaningless. It’s just your final test.

Don’t wait for your greatness until then. If you’re on vacation, don’t wait until tomorrow to get down to work. There may be no tomorrow.

More Questions?

All of the above should invite more questions that we started with. It is crucial for spiritual survival for one to be able to accept and live with the uncertainty of unanswered questions and with the humility to recognize our own limited abilities to fully grasp the secrets of life’s complex tapestry. This we have inherited from our forebears who, in great faith and sacrifice blazed the trail and paved the path for us to venerate and emulate.

Question - Search - Thirst - And Find!


The author is indebted to Rabbi Shmuel Blech for providing insightful comments on the above material.

Tzvi Black, 2000

[bar]

[Home]


------
In Loving Memory Of Our Father, Mr. Joseph Black (Yosef Ben Zelig) O"H
In Loving Memory Of Our Mother, Mrs. Norma Black (Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh) O"H
------

[bar]

© 1996- by Harlan Black, JewishAmerica. All rights reserved.

[bar]