Posts tagged " Torah "

How do I raise my son in the ways of the Bible?

August 1st, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment

I am a Christian who lives in Indonesia. I am a frequent listener of your podcast and blessed to find tremendous wisdom in your teaching. I am keen to learn about the root of my faith from Hebrew Bible, at which I believe, as you believe, as a God-given blueprint for our life.

As a recent father, it is my desire to show my child the way of the Lord. Thus, I have a question; what is the best way to teach Torah to our children (especially toddler to under 12 years of age). What is the best method/technique to convey the narrative to them while at the same time conveying the wisdom/substance (which some stories I find them may not be suitable for children. I want to learn from your perspective as rabbi and Jewish parents on how to impart your wisdom to your children.

Thank you and God bless,

∼ Nugroho H.

Dear Nugroho,

Congratulations on the new blessing and challenge in your life. You are asking a wonderful question. Wouldn’t it be nice if for $99 you could purchase a curriculum that would guarantee that your children will view the Bible the way you do? Of course, no such program exists.  (more…)

Do orthodox Jews interpret the Bible literally?

June 17th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment

Question:

My pastor tells me that, “The most orthodox view historically seems to be not a literal interpretation,” with the creation story in Genesis 1-3.

Would you agree with this? Are there other passages in the Torah like this? Are their hints in the Hebrew that suggest something to be non-literal?  ∼ Jarred

Answer:

Dear Jarred,

A few days ago, Jews celebrated the festival of Shavuot, known in English as Pentecost. Shavuot falls during the Hebrew month of Sivan, whose sign is twins. (General culture adapted this idea turning it into the zodiac sign of Gemini.)

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Is God just?

March 16th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I have a friend in his mid 50’s who has come to Christianity in the last 12 years, He has a hard time resolving how God treated certain people groups in the Five Books of Moses and the Prophets Bible that were destroyed or killed by God’s command.I have tried talking to him about the sovereignty of God and the Protection of God’s people, but he still struggles with it.

He believes God was unjust. A new perspective from you would help greatly. 

Thanks,

∼ Robert W.

Answer:

Dear Robert,

Why go so far back? Isn’t it unjust when a baby is born with a painful disability or when some are born into free and wealthy countries while others are born to areas where repression and starvation threaten? We understand that your friend might try to distinguish between God commanding that the enemies of Israel be killed and innocent children suffering and dying.  However, there really is not much of a difference is there? Nothing happens without His say so.  After all, for an omnipotent God, commanding something very visibly is not that much different from invisibly directing that a particular child should suffer. Is your friend fine with what he sees around him today?

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Is praying in a group better than praying alone?

January 7th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

What does the Bible say about group prayer?
Is it more powerful than individual prayer?

∼ Kenda S.

Answer:

Dear Kenda,

You are asking a question that may be particularly apt for our times when technology allows us to access other people without having to leave our homes. Many church services are accessible online and you can easily bring church to you rather than going to a building.

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Do you believe in magic?

December 17th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I have been following your newsletter for some time now, have purchased some of your materials and most recently have been listening to your podcasts on SoundCloud. I have many questions yet to be answered as I continue my journey of faith. I enjoy your teachings and am thankful God led me to you.

A question came to mind as I was listening to your podcast titled, Do You Believe In Magic? Do You Know Why Things Fell Apart in the 60s? Deuteronomy 18:10 says not to perform acts of magic. In your podcast you spoke of your research and practice of magic tricks. It did seem harmless and provided an excellent stage for the podcast, however, I couldn’t help but ask myself if this is  contrary to Deuteronomy 18:10.

Thank you and blessings!

∼ Devin L.

Answer:

Dear Devin,

We have received quite a few comments over the years about our occasional use of the word magic, so we appreciate the opportunity to explain. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 uses seven different languages describing negative spiritual interactions that are an abomination to God. These include things such as contacting the dead and accessing ghosts.

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Money & Marriage Maketh Man

November 25th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Try persuading today’s university students that making money is both dignified and moral. That’s what I did last week when I addressed 13,000 students at the Liberty University Convocation in Virginia. I not only told them that making money was a virtuous activity but I proved it. And they whooped, hollered and cheered. But remember, this was not Dartmouth, Yale or University of Missouri. There’s hope for America down there in Lynchburg.

My dear friend, the late Jerry Falwell, founded Liberty University in 1971. It is a beautiful campus populated by God-fearing young scholars who play as hard as they pray. Their Flames football team competes successfully in division 1 of the NCAA in the Big South Conference. (more…)

Are there Jews everywhere?

November 12th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I understand that God warned in Deuteronomy 28 that He would disperse the Jews throughout the world “from one end of the earth to the other”. Did this happen?
Are Jews in every country; for example Chile? Iceland? Korea? South Africa? How far were they dispersed?

∼ Kate S.

Answer:

Dear Kate,

Chile – yes; Iceland -yes; Korea – yes; South Africa -yes. It is quite difficult to find a populated area that does not have resident Jews or where Jews haven’t historically been a presence. There are countries where Jews lived before being expelled (returning to some later, like England and Spain) and others, such as Syria, that Jews fled relatively recently because of persecution after thousands of years of maintaining an intact religious community.

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Is smoking cigarettes a sin?

November 4th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

Many years ago, you could go to church and might notice the large numbers of cigarette butts in the parking lots. Today, in most Christian circles, smoking and use of tobacco is said to be sin. 

I have searched the Bible for an answer and clarification to the question about tobacco use. Is there anything in the Old Testament to clarify the question, “Is tobacco use sin or is it just an unhealthy habit?”

 Thank you for your ever thoughtful answers and insight you share weekly. And may the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you.

∼ Linda O.

Answer:

Dear Linda,

Your observation about church parking lots is apt and your question is a good one for all Bible-believing religious people to ask; we know it is much discussed in Orthodox Jewish circles.   We’d like to start our answer by asking, “What is a sin?”

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Is Judaism defined by one’s mother or father?

July 8th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

In the Bible, genealogies are stated mostly in terms of fathers and sons. Yet, in speaking to contemporary Jews, I am told that the determination of whether one is a Jew or not depends upon the mother’s lineage and faith.
 
Is that the Biblical standard or was that changed over time?

∼ Christopher J.

Answer:

Dear Christopher,

The Hebrew word for parents is ‘HoRiM.’  The ‘iM’ at the end denotes a plural word. There is no singular noun for ‘parent.’  Mother, yes. Father, yes. Parenthood, however, takes teamwork. Knowing this fact benefits everyone.

It encourages individuals to marry before having children and lets them know that they are depriving their children if they do otherwise. If a tragedy occurs and one of the parents is no longer alive or available to the child, then acknowledging that parenthood is a two person-two gender job allows the extended family and community to know that assistance is needed. Pretending that any and every family is equally desirable pretends to help children, while really it harms them.

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Never Marry Your Aunt

June 30th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 

One of my least favorite laws was the National Speed Limit law of 1974 that mandated 55 miles per hour as the legal maximum.  Government assured us that it would save gasoline that, back then, we were lining up at gas stations to buy at, gasp! 55 cents a gallon. Of course the law did nothing of the sort, not even cutting the country’s fuel usage by a half of a percent.  Furthermore, I was hardly the only citizen who utterly ignored that law.  While cruising at a comfortable 85 along some straight and deserted highway in Montana or Nevada I was frequently overtaken by cars whooshing by in a blur.  Finally recognizing its futility, Congress repealed the law in 1995 returning speed limit decisions to the states.

How did they come up with the 55 miles per hour number back in 1974?  I hate to disillusion you, but some anonymous bureaucrats sat in an anonymous committee and pulled the number out of the air.  I’d have theorized that perhaps a brave and anonymous bureaucrat did it all on his own but then I realized that bureaucrats only make decisions from behind the safety shield of a committee.  So it was a committee that determined the magic number to be 55.  They could also have ruled 50, 60 or even 70.  Whatever they decided would become the law.  There are other laws like this; filing your income tax return by April 15, walking barefoot through the airport metal detector, and not buying more than 16 ounces of sugary drinks in New York City.  Laws like these are proscriptive laws. Some person or group of people with authority, proscribed them to be the law.  They could have made tax day May 29, they could have said you have to strip to your underwear at the airport, and they could have made 12 ounce Slurpees the maximum allowed.

However, there is another category of laws that I call descriptive laws.  These include the law of gravity which says that anyone who steps out of a window on the twentieth floor of a building will plummet downwards to a sudden and fatal stop on the sidewalk below.  There is no bureaucratic committee that can modify that law to apply only on Mondays.  This law does not proscribe. Instead it describes how the world really works.

Boyle’s Law and Charles’ Law state that expanding gases must cool down.  These convenient two laws make refrigerators and air conditioners possible.  There is no bureaucratic committee anywhere that can repeal these laws.  They were not created at the whim of Robert Boyle or Jacques Charles.  They describe reality.

Are Scriptural laws, for instance the one prohibiting men from marrying their aunts and women from marrying their nephews, proscriptive or descriptive?  (Leviticus 18:12 & 20:19)

In other words, would violating this law result in a penalty only if caught by a law enforcement officer or is the consequence intrinsic and automatic like gravity?

The first clue is that God’s concern is clearly not genetic. If it was, the Torah would also prohibit men from marrying their nieces and women from marrying their uncles.  Yet marriages with exactly the same genetic element are permitted.

What possible reason could God have for prohibiting a man from marrying his aunt but permitting him to marry his niece?  Likewise, why prohibit a woman from marrying her nephew while permitting her to marry her uncle?  While we need to listen to God regardless of whether we understand His reasoning, we are supposed to look for underlying truths He is imparting to us.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that that most women yearn to look up to the man they marry.  Sadly, many men discover that when poor conduct costs them the respect of their wives, the marriage is challenging to sustain and very hard to rescue. (While women also need to be respected by their husbands, it is a different form of respect.) Could the law we are discussing help tilt the odds towards successful marriage?

Ideally, in a thriving society, marriages draw inspiration and guidance from ancestors.  Many homes proudly display pictures of grandparents on the walls.  How often I hear women say, “My husband’s grandfather taught him how to…”  In my own case, I know how influential my wife’s grandmother was in her life. We even named our oldest daughter after her.

With admirable multi-generational awareness in a healthy family, a patriarch or matriarch is vitally important.  Now, if a man marries his aunt, then she is one generation closer to the cherished grandparents than he is.  This makes it just a tiny bit more difficult for him to retain his wife’s respect.  After all, she is a closer link in the transmission than he is.

However when a man marries his niece or a woman marries her uncle, the husband is a generation closer to the grandparents and the family heritage.  This is admittedly a small matter, but marriage is so difficult to do well and so remarkably rewarding when it is done well, that even tiny little things can make a difference. With this seemingly random Biblical law that affects very few people, the Bible provides a practical lesson even for those of us who don’t marry relatives.  It has nothing to do with arbitrary, proscriptive rules. Instead, it describes a feature of marriage and intergenerational life we would all do well to understand.

Many of the details in the first three chapters of Genesis provide descriptions of spiritual laws that God built into male/female relationships. We can ignore or object to these laws, or we can embrace and take advantage of them (even when our government and society condemn us for doing so). We expand on many of them in our 2 audio CD set, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden. Every couple, from dating to those celebrating Golden anniversaries can enjoy and benefit by learning how God’s world really works. Today more than ever, you need to make sure that those you love get exposed to the truth. The Supreme Court can proscribe laws; Genesis describes them.

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