Recent Questions
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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Absolute Truth

I'm struggling with the sense on one hand that I want to instill Jewish beliefs in my children, but on the other hand I feel that would be diminishing the value and equal importance of the beliefs of other faiths. I feel that love, harmony and happiness are the most important values, and that we need to be accepting of everyone's beliefs. People are different, so isn't truth relative for each individual?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

If you think about it, you'll realize that "truth" cannot simply be everything that everyone wants.

What about the father of Protestantism, Martin Luther, who said, "The Jews are our misfortune," and fomented a hatred that later helped the Nazis generate anti-Semitism among the masses.

Are you unwilling to diminish the value of this "father of a major religion" in the eyes of your children?

What about the jihadists who blow up planes, trains and buildings – all in the name of religion?

Hitler wrote in "Mein Kampf:" "I believe today that my conduct is in accordance of the will of the Almighty creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord." ("The Holocaust" by Martin Gilbert, p. 28)

Do you agree with Hitler or not? Can you say unequivocally that he was wrong?

Reality is what is. You have to decide if you want to teach your children truth, or if you want to immobilize them with cushy phrases that have no connection to reality.

This does not mean that Judaism does not respect other people. It does mean that we are firm on our perception of reality which we have received from generations all the way back to the that momentous event at Mount Sinai, which changed the face of human history forever.

While we do teach that all human beings are inestimably valuable and deserve to be loved and respected, we do not teach that all beliefs have equal value.

For more on this, read:

Tattoo: Burial in Jewish Cemetery?

I have a tattoo from my younger days, which I now very much regret. I am debating whether to undergo laser removal surgery, and one of my considerations is whether the tattoo will prevent me from (eventually) being buried in a Jewish cemetery. Any thoughts?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Although it is forbidden for a Jew to get a tattoo (see Leviticus 19:27), there is no truth to the idea that he is then unable to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Clearly, a Holocaust survivor with a number tattooed on his arm may be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Whenever someone makes such a claim, ask them for a source. That usually ends the conversation.

Suffering as Atonement

I have heard it said that the hurt we suffer is an atonement for our mistakes. But if someone hurt me, how can it be atonement for my mistakes? Not that I never make mistakes, but they are often totally unrelated to the person who hurt me. I don't see the connection. Could you explain?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

What happens when a person makes a mistake and chooses to indulge in materialist desires for their own sake, rather that acting in accordance with the will of God? The person moves away from God and becomes attached to the materialism instead.

Suffering has a counter-affect. It gets the person to detach himself somewhat from the physical word -- and focus on meaning, God and spirituality.

Therefore, since the suffering helps the person focus on God, it does not matter who causes the suffering, whether the person is connected to the mistake or not. (Anyway, it is God arranging for the suffering, as a method of realigning your spiritual sensibilities.)

Of course, there are many complexities to this equation, but this is one aspect of how things operate.

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