Judaism Questions and Answers

Why Judaism?

Why should I learn about Judaism? How do I know that Judaism is true? And is it right for me? YC, PA

There is a reason for everything in the world. You were born into this world and in this time period, to accomplish a certain purpose. Learning Judaism helps you discover that purpose.

If G-d made you Jewish, it makes sense that 1) you should learn something about it and 2) that learning about Judaism should take priority over learning about other religions. If you were born into a royal family, you’d be interested in learning about your lineage and customs. As a Jew, you were born into the King of kings’ family. If you still are interested in a comparison of Judaism and other religions I would suggest your read the book “The Kuzari”. If you want to learn about the truth of the Torah by logical analysis perhaps you may want to read “Permission to Receive” by Laurence Keleman.

To arrive at truth you must ask questions. Judaism expects us to question the world and ourselves, to discover life and to discover our real self. Judaism is “sturdy” enough to provide satisfactory answers to any question you may have. By understanding the reasons for why things happen and the meaning in life, we live a more fulfilling life.

The Discovery Seminar, held by Aish-HaTorah in it’s beautiful center in the Old City, right near the Kotel, may appeal to your goals. It is a two and a half day seminar for men and women answering the question “Why be Jewish?” It demonstrates the validity of Torah – through logical analysis and by providing a scientific perspective of Judaism’s assertions. The seminar also teaches about the popular Bible codes and other fascinating subjects like Dating and Marriage, Judaism & Science, Proofs of Torah Authenticity, Family Relationships and more.

Contact Aish HaTorah at 02-628-5666 and ask to enroll in the Discovery Seminar. e-mail them at: discovery@aish.edu It has a small entrance fee.

I’m already happy! . . . ?

I am already happy with life. Why do I need Judaism?

Imagine, you are the child of a powerful king. You go about your plans everyday, but rarely get to see your father – because he is so busy with the kingdom. You feel a little neglected and wish you could have a closer relationship with your father, but understand that your father does love you.

One day, you hear that your father is preparing a tremendous, royal banquet. He summons the 150 musicians of the royal orchestra. He invites royalty and ambassadors from 170 countries, and orders delicacies from the Four Corners of the Earth.

The banquet is tomorrow. As a prince, you are obligated to attend and your father, the King, asks you personally to be present. The day comes and goes and you didn’t show up. You were busy, taking care of your daily duties.

The next time you see you father, he asks you where you were for the Royal Banquet? You answer you were a little busy with daily matters.

He then reveals to you that the whole purpose for the banquet was a surprise. It was to promote you to being viceroy – second in command after the King. Your royal salary was to be raised to 10 times it’s current level. And your range of duties was to be extended to 170 countries. You were also to be given a new staff of 500 to help you. And in your new position of viceroy, you would have been able to maintain a much closer relationship with your father. He intended to also confide in you the Kingdom’s Royal secrets. Also, your new position could have helped you to do tremendous good to the citizens of your country and the people of the world.

Judaism is that banquet. You, as a Jew, are a child of The King of Kings. He has invited you personally to be present at His royal feast. As a member of the royal family it is your responsibility to be present. Should you so easily pass this banquet up?

Living Torah Judaism allows you to reach your potential in life. It allows you to receive more enjoyment, reward and satisfaction from your daily activities – like work, being with the family, learning, etc. It allows you to live a life in which every day has purpose and meaning. You better understand the “why’s” of what happens in the world around you. It also allows you to do more good.

Torah living adds a new dimension to your life. A spiritual dimension. It allows you to attain self-actualization. Every day, you maintain a closer relation with the Creator of the world.

Sounds nice? But what about the facts? A recent study has shown that those that observant Torah Jews are 20 times less likely to take drugs than the rest of the population. They have less problems of alcohol, much less incidence of divorce and broken families. Adultery is practically non-existant.???

In reality, to really answer your question, you must try observing Judaism for some time to make an objective decision. If you asked me “What’s so great about a certain wine?” My best of words wouldn’t be able to describe it. To properly appreciate Judaism – you should try it out. Like they say in lotto – You got to be in it to win it.

The royal banquet is set before you today. You are a guest of honor. The King is watching the door, awaiting your presence.

Small Giants

I beleive in G-d. He is great. I am so small. Who am I to think I can make a difference in the world?

You are in one of the world’s finest restaurants. Before you is a table set for a King – the finest meats, the choicest fish and other refined delicacies.The only thing missing from the entire meal are the spices.

Spices are small, but without it even the best meal isn’t complete. Just like spice brings out the delicious flavors in the meal, your observance of Judaism brings out the good in the world.

Is a Good Jewish Heart Enough?

I am a good person at heart. Isn’t that good enough? Why do I need to follow the precepts of Judaism?

Having a good heart is very important in Judaism. It is essential to be a good person. But following the Torah’s precepts is also necessary. Why?

Let’s say, you are a lifeguard. You are responsible to guard the life of others in a children’s swimming pool. Today was a busy day for you. You taught a little boy how to swim. You bandaged a child’s scraped knee. And you still have to teach a first aid emergency course to children.

As you teach the first aid course, you see some splashing in the deep end of the pool. You notice a little child going under water. He is fighting hard with the water. Today, however, the water has the upper hand. People gather around in horror. You hear someone scream “Help, someone is drowning!” His mother is yelling “Please someone help save my child!”

No one is capable of saving that child except for you.

What do you do?

Do you dive in as fast as you can and save the child?

Or do you turn to the mother and everyone watching and say “Sorry, I did my quota of good for today” and let the child drown?

You are a unique individual in the world. There is no one in the world who is exactly like you. You were brought into this world to fulfill a certain purpose. No one else can fulfill it except you.

You have tremendous potential to do good – to even save worlds. Your potential of doing good can only be brought out by following the Torah’s precepts. Consider intermarriage – by marrying someone Jewish you can create an entire generation of Jews and ensure Jewish continuity. In essence you are doing your part to “save” Jewry. By observing Torah you bring abundance and goodness to the world.

By living only as a “good hearted person”, without following up with action – ie, the Torah’s precepts – one is like that lifeguard who while teaching the first aid course, neglected to save a world.

Chosen People

Dear Friends, Can you explain how being part of the chosen people makes a difference in my daily life?

I heard a true story about a person who was desperately searching for a job on Wall Street in New York. He sent out resumes, looked in the help wanteds, and went door to door searching. Times were tough and the doors to the finance houses were closed tight.

He didn’t give up. He had an idea.

At that time, J.P. Morgan was an very influential person on Wall Street. The man decided to pay J.P. Morgan $100 just to walk down Wall Street with him during lunch hour. When the Wall Street big wigs saw the man with such an important person, everyone was impressed that he had such an influential contact. They associated the man’s potential with the potential of J.P. Morgan. And the job offers started pouring in.

The Jews received the Torah from G-d Himself. The people of the world know this. That’s why we Jews are held to a higher standard. Because if we have an assoication with G-d Himself – we are his Chosen people – then we are expected to live up to a higher standard of morality and righteousness.

And when we are in such a position, we are more influential in the world. Thus the good we do, is magnified and emulated by others. And unfortunately as well so is the bad.

Thus it makes sense, to be as moral as we can – by following the Torah.

Reaching Higher

I want to be more observant. How do you suggest I go about it?

Everyone is different and everyone has his own path to becoming closer to observing the Torah. Actually, to properly observe Judaism, everyone must grow from day to day. Being better today than we were yesterday.

It is very important to have a solid foundation in Torah. This foundation helps you to grow as a person, to enjoy life every day, to deal with the daily challenges in life, and to remain commited to Jewish life. Thus, I would strongly suggest a year program in a Yeshiva or Seminary in Israel. If that is not possible, perhaps you can attend a learning program in your own country.

???Remain true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to question and explore your feelings Judaism. Evaluate your positive and negative points. Develop the positive and remove the negative.

Continually grow every day. Lifelong growth every day. Grow every day.

Establish a regular learning schedule with a friend.

Learn about the laws. Learn mussar (ethics).

Stay connected.

Be sincere and honest.

Don’t be discouraged by friends or family or challenges. The path to growth has it’s ups and downs. But should generally be in the up direction. Pick yourself up when you are down.

Select a mentor Rabbi that can help you with your growth in Judaism. Someone you can relate to, that you can trust and that is enviable in their ethical behavior.

It is important to have a time set every day – even just 15 minutes – to learn Torah. A good sefer (book) to start with is Ethics of the Fathers. (Pirkei Avoth) It teaches about the precepts of being a better person. Learn as much as you can from reliable sources.

You should gradually grow in your observance of the mitzvoth. Steadily taking upon yourself what you can. Be it Shabbat, keeping kosher, not speaking badly about others, Tefillin for men, and dressing modestly for women. What ever effort you make is appreciated from above.

I would also suggest you attend a seminar or program, Preferably in Israel. If that is not possibly, in your country. Associate yourself with an Orthodox synagogue in your neighborhood. If you have a choice – you may want to select an orthodox synagogue from your own background – ie, if you or your parents are from Sephardic origin, a Sephardic Synagogue may be more to your background.

Read All About It

I have many questions about Judaism. I read some books, but at times I have particular questions that the books don’t address – who can I ask for answers?

I would suggest a very sharp and well-written weekly newsletter called OHRNET. It is published by a highly regarded, Ohr Somayach Institution. It is a Torah magazine found on the internet. It has a section called “Ask the Rabbi.” You can ask very pointed questions on all Jewish Subjects, and be answered by highly competant Rabbis. OHRNET is available from several sources:

Pick up a copy at Ohr Somayach Yeshiva (

via internet e-mail: write to info@ohr.org.il for information.

world wide web: our address is: www.ohr.org.il

regular mail within Israel:

to subscribe, mail or fax your name, address & phone to 02-581-2890.

us-mail within North America: call 1-800-431-2272 to subscribe.

Submit your questions to ASK THE RABBI at www.asktherabbi.org or E-Mail info@ohr.org.il — set subject to “ASK THE RABBI.”

Torah & Fun

Where can I learn about the weekly Torah reading?

There at least are two well-written commentaries in English on the weekly Torah reading. Usually, you can find them in a local synagogue. One is Ohrnet – mentioned above, it has commentaries, questions and answers, as well as questions from readers. A second good source is the Torah Tidbits magazine. It is informative and fun to read. They even have a radio program you can hear on Arutz-7, 98.7 FM, Thursday nights, 10:08-11:00 PM. It’s internet web site is www.ou.org/torah/tt and e-mail: philch@virtual.co.il

Jewish Continuity and Me

I am concerned about the survival and continuity of the Jewish people, what can I do to help?

We praise your concern for our Jewish people. Many others are also concerned. The American Jewish Committee, recently sent out a press release about Jewish Continuity. Experts from the some of the most infulential Jewish organizations spoke at a recent American Jewish Committee’s 92nd

Annual Meeting. Primary speakers were Elliott Abrams, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center … and Dr. John Ruskay, Co-Chief Operating Officer of UJA Federation of New York. Mr. Abrams said that perhaps the best strategy for Jewish continuity is “the oldest one: Judaism itself. In the last fifty years,” he said, “the American Jewish community has focused instead on ‘civil Judaism,’ activities conducted mostly in public in secular Jewish organizations.” While these activities are critical to Jewish life, strengthening a sense of peoplehood and of responsibility for one another, “they are not enough,” he added. “We can see from the dire statistics that Jewish civic activity, and even causes like commemorating the Holocaust and supporting Israel, have not inspired enough American Jews to marry Jews, raise their children as Jews, and remain faithful to their religion.”

The problem, Mr. Abrams stressed, is that “we have had it backwards: Jewish civic activity does not keep people Jewish or even explain to them why they should want to remain Jews. But faithfulness to the religion of Judaism does inspire support for Israel, charitable giving and activity, and community activism.”

Turning specifically to the issue of Jewish education, Mr. Abrams commented that Jewish day schools, Hebrew or Sunday schools and Jewish education at the adult level are “critical” to Jewish identity and continuity. “And so is practice,” he said, “for Judaism is a religion that lives in our actions and not just in our thoughts. In the end, only Judaism — the religion — can explain to American Jews, and to our children, why they should care about

staying Jewish.

“The task ahead,” he concluded, “is to refocus our activities as individual Jews and as a community, putting Judaism back at the center.”

The large organizations have plans to put their financial power behind helping Jewish schools, camps, Jewish camps, Israel experience programs, is training rabbis, and synagogues. You on an individual level can help by learning as much as you can about Judaism and observing it as best you can. Your sincerity to Judaism will inspire your children and grandchildren to follow suit.

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