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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Court Punishments

I recently heard a rabbi speak about returning stolen funds. He said that rather than calling the police, the money could be returned anonymously. What is wrong with facing any criminal charges that you may deserve? Isn't that a part of repentance?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Excellent question! The idea is like this:

Since a human court cannot determine what is in the heart of man, they have to punish according to the rules of the book, irrespective of regret.

God, on the other hand, knows what is in the heart of man, so He allows for sincere repentance that literally wipes the slate clean. In the event that a person admitted their mistake voluntarily, they clearly have remorse - and the matter can remain between himself and God, as long as the proper financial restitution is made.

But taking your principle to an extreme, I should turn myself into the police station every time I exceed the speed limit!

Of course, there is the concept that suffering helps achieve atonement. The reason this works is that when a person inclines too far to their physical desires and transgressions, the natural reparation is to lose some measure of physical comfort.

In this case, I think it is more productive to make amends privately and resolve not to do it again.

Medical Help

Unfortunately my young child has been diagnosed with a serious disease. I am terrified trying to wade through all the tests and doctors on my own. Do you know anyone who can help guide me?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is a time-honored Jewish tradition to assist those with medical needs. This is inevitably a time of stress for the patient and the family.

For medical information, contact www.rofehint.org - the worldwide health assistance organization of the Bostoner chassidim. They track all the best doctors in the U.S., and can always point you where to go.

You could also get guidance from:

Chai Lifeline, which assists sick Jewish children with cancer and other genetic diseases.

www.chailifeline.org/

In Israel, the big medical advisory organizations are:

Rabbi Elimelech Firer - 03-677-0730, fax 03-676-1489

Rabbi Binyamin Fisher - 02-643-9140, 643-3474

Ezer Mitzion - 02-500-2111, fax 02-537-4881

Wherever you are located, it always helps to have others praying on your behalf. To facilitate this, send the person's Hebrew (and their mother's name) to refuah@aish.com, with a brief description of his condition.

Wishing your child a full and speedy recovery.

Golden Calf - Moses Stands Up

Why did the Jews worship the Golden Calf?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

After receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses ascends Mount Sinai and stays there for 40 days. Uncertain when Moses will return and fearful he has died, the Israelites feel lost and leaderless. They make an idol of a golden calf. Then they become drunk and have an orgy. (Exodus 24:15-18)

The music is just one part of a rock concert's appeal. The crowd is drunk or high; it's dark, and the noise is overwhelming. In that disorienting atmosphere of clamor and passion, we are briefly freed from our own fragile individuality and swept up in the power of the crowd. That sense of release is what the Israelites sought in their worship of the calf.

God tells Moses what the Israelites have done. Then God says, "Now don't try to stop Me, because I'm going to destroy the whole nation."

Moses responds, "Why should You be so angry at Your people, whom You took out of Egypt, with great power and a strong hand? Why should Egypt say, 'He took them out to kill them in the mountains and to annihilate them from the face of the earth?' Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel... to whom You swore, and You told them, 'I shall increase your offspring, like the stars of heaven, and this entire land of which I spoke, I shall give to your offspring and it shall be their heritage forever.'" God agrees not to destroy the people (Exodus 32:7-14).

Moses' argument has two parts:

1. If the Israelites don't reach the Promised Land, it will seem to demonstrate that God is weak or that His promises are unreliable. (Until the establishment of Israel in 1948, Christian theology viewed Jewish exile and suffering as evidence that God had repudiated the covenant with Abraham.)

2. Though the Israelites have made a serious mistake, it's an aberration and not reflective of who they truly are. Despite their lapse, they are still the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah. These are some of the greatest spiritual giants of world history. The good news is that you can cash in on that lineage.