Questions from an Orthodox Rabbi

Times of Israel (TOI) published an outstanding blog by Rav Nathan Cardozo (2015.10.08), asking excellent questions. But, TOI has apparently deleted my comments. Ergo, I’ll post them here to start things off.

Nathan, you have asked most excellent questions, and with great humility. I will do my best to share some of what I’ve learned that seems relevant to your questions. I hope what I’ve learned is helpful.

When you confess what others fear to express publicly that it’s “again become extremely difficult to believe that You are actually living among us,” I have an exercise for you: Tell me where you can go—anywhere in the universe—to be away from Him! Mars? Bottom of the sea? Space? Hiding in your closet? The bathroom? The sewer? Iran? America? Where is He not present as demonstrated by the exercise of His Power?

Ancient idolaters created their gods in their quest to harness control over various forces of nature in order to direct them against their enemies: e.g., rain, lightning, fire and especially war. Originally, even earliest Israel perceived ‘ה to be Israel’s god of war. This was eventually expanded to encompass a Creator-Singularity of the universe.

Human-fabricated gods are essentially genie fables. Rub the menorah (mezuzah, tephilin, tzitzit, aron qodesh) and the genie is supposed to do its human master’s bidding—the aim being man, not the Creator, as master. You expect to rub the side of a menorah and your genie-idol will appear asking “What is your command, master?” And when that does not happen, you question the existence of your genie-idol. For good reason!

If this is your thinking, it’s urgent that you reverse it at once! The concept of man being master over the genie is the essence of idolatry. Like atheist arguments, when your genie fails to carry out your wish, you confuse your genie fabrication with the Creator-Singularity of the universe. Creator vs human perspective is essential. (www.netzarim.co.il/Shared/Temunot/universe%20-%20you%20are%20here.htm)

What you first need to address is: What’s the point of us?

Until you excavate the underlying point of the Design of the universe and His creation of sentient humans, you cannot orient yourself, a sentient human, to your Designer. And you grossly underlook the importance of learning to balance Tzedeq with tᵊshuvah. How well, or failingly, do the rabbis balance Tzedeq with tᵊshuvah? Muslim-Arab Jihadists? Americans, Europeans, Iranians and Russians? We’re in a great classroom, the Creator’s laboratory. Who is learning and who is not? One’s nephesh hangs in that balance.

You likewise confess what others fear to express publicly: that “prayers [can be], as usual, boring to the core.” Let me ask you: How much higher is the Omniscient Creator’s IQ than yours (and mine)? How long do you imagine it takes ‘ה to “get it” when you pray? Here’s an exercise for you: have your child write, 1,000 times, “I love Daddy.” Do you need to read every instance? Does the repetition make you feel better? If he writes it perfectly, do you lose control of yourself, compelled to do whatever he wishes? I know that when I pray, no matter how fast I think through the tᵊphilot, ‘ה has no difficulty keeping up or “getting it.” And how much do you think He savors every boring word of your perfect incantations? Should He lose control to you and do your bidding? Or be overwhelmed at your repetition of flowery long prayers? If you’re bored, and He “gets it” instantaneously, how bored must He be with your prayers? Perhaps you should be more concerned with how ‘ה views things instead of how humans develop their incantations attempting to force their genies to do their bidding? Or assuming He is not there because He does not do your bidding—despite His infinite demonstrations: the moon continues to orbit earth as it has for millennia, the earth spins on its axes and orbits the sun; the list is infinite, literally. If He were not actively Present, everything would not only cease to work, from the quantum realm everything would cease to be.

When you describe ‘ה “allow[ing] murders to happen,” you fail to consider beyond the physical realm. Think of a murder in our physical universe, viewed from the non-dimensional (spiritual, necessarily timeless) perspective, as paralleling a Cesarean birth intervention in the next realm. Murder is not for humans to do. But we fail to appreciate how this might play out beyond our limited view and relying on mistaken assumptions is foolhardy and dangerous. Humans, not ‘ה, are responsible for murders and other evils—failing, for millennia now, to learn to balance Tzedeq with tᵊshuvah. And if we can’t master this balance in the constraints of the physical realm, how irresponsible it would be for Him to turn our nᵊphashot loose beyond physical constraints to introduce murder, and our other evils consequent to free will, in the non-dimensional Realm of ‘ה?

FYI—a plan, in contrast to its implementation, is a non-physical concept, which, by definition, does NOT occur within time or space.

So, who is it you want ‘ה to be? Creator-Singularity Who is your Master? Or just another genie idol for whom you are its master? Just a set of mechanical rituals to perfect in order to obtain results? If you don’t get results from your genie, the ONLY solution is to better perfect the mechanical ritual. The mezuzah scroll must be more perfect, THEN you’ll get results from your genie. The tᵊphilin scrolls must be more perfect, THEN you’ll get results from your genie. Your tzitzit must be more perfect, THEN you’ll get results from your genie. Your tᵊphilot must become more perfect, THEN you’ll get results from your genie. Maybe the problem is how you shuck? How you point your feet? If your orientation is to mechanical rituals then that is your genie and you will forever be lost in endless pursuits trying to perfect your amulets and incantations like other heathens. Neither will your genealogy, racism, save you.

The formula is stunningly simple, so that any sentient person can understand: strive to be the Torah person whom Ribi Hileil described PLUS make tᵊshuvah whenever you fall short. The rest is trusting ‘ה to keep His promise to honor your efforts to live according to Torah and provide kipur in return for your tᵊshuvah to make up your shortfalls.

You see His workings all around you. You cannot escape His Presence. His workings don’t change. His promise is no less reliable. You can see His Presence and you can trust His promise in Torah.

As for praying in their minyan, it is not possible for you to undermine any prayer of a servant of ‘ה, even if you were to try your hardest. It isn’t possible.

As for whether the Mashiakh has come, we can agree to disagree. I ask only two things: [1] that you distinguish between Mashiakh Ben-Yoseiph and Mashiakh Ben-David, and [2] that you not confuse the post-135 CE Christian man-god idol, their NT and Christians with the 1st century Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua who taught Torah in batei-knesset or his original Netzarim Jews who excised Paul as an apostate and refused the Christians’ New Testament (accepting only their own Hebrew Matityahu, as documented by Eusebius).

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