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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Can God Lift the Rock?

Can God terminate His own existence? I've asked many people, and the only (unsatisfying) answer I got was: "Why would He want to?"

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

What you are asking is a version of the well-known riddle: "Can God create a rock too heavy for Him to lift?"

These and other similar questions are bothersome, because they imply a limitation in God's power: Either he is unable to create such a heavy rock, or He is unable to lift it.

There is a fundamental flaw in the question. The question assumes that infinities – an infinitely heavy rock and an infinite God – can be compared. But as we know from 10th grade math class, two infinities cannot be quantified, and thus cannot be compared. It's not an inability in God, but rather incoherence in the task proposed.

Stated a bit differently: If God is infinite, then He is represented by the numerical equivalent of "infinity." The question of making a rock of such proportions thus begs the question – which is greater, infinity, or infinity plus one? Essentially, there is no such thing as infinity plus one, for if you could add “one” to the mathematical value of infinity, then infinity in the equation, "infinity plus one" would, by definition, not be infinite. Clear?

In Jewish terms, the question is further flawed since it implies that physical characteristics apply to God. Yet one of Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith states: "I believe with perfect faith that God does not have a body. Physical concepts do not apply to Him. There is nothing that resembles Him at all."

So can God terminate His own existence? Well... why would He want to?

Human Greatness

I want to achieve greatness in my life, but it seems that I don’t have a lot of natural talent. I also don’t have much money and resources, and don’t come from a well-connected family. I wonder what my future will be and this is getting me depressed. Any ideas?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

In the secular world, it's only the "big" achievements that get attention. World leaders, movie stars and business tycoons are splashed on magazine covers and glorified as symbols of humanity. But that's not reality. Because if you ask 100 people, "Who was the greatest influence in your life?" chances are not one of them will mention an Olympic gold medalist or President of the United States. More than anything, parent and teachers have molded and shaped who we are. Not because of any dramatic, life-changing discoveries. But because they demonstrated care and compassion, day in and day out.

One religious young woman that I know was visiting her family, and a family friend asked her what she plans to do with her life? She answered, “I want to be a good person.”

Another woman I know, with many talents and abilities, revealed to me her secret desire for how she would like to spend her days: sitting in the preemie ward of the hospital, holding babies’ hands and stroking their cheeks.

In life, we can inherit many things from our ancestors: Medical conditions, hair color, money. In Judaism we say we inherit spiritual DNA as well. When our biblical ancestors exhibited character beyond the bounds of human expectation, they ingrained that for all eternity. Metaphysically, that genetic coding has been bequeathed to each of us, giving us the innate potential to rise to those heights. These acts require no money, so spectacular talent, or intellectual prowess.

We possess a great power – of loyalty, sincerity, and true concern for others. Our task is to actualize that into reality.

Degrees of Non-Kosher

Are there degrees of non-kosher food? Meaning, if I'm going to cook a vegi omelet in a non-kosher pan (let's say that was previously used for pork), does it make no difference if I just go ahead and cook a Western omlette – i.e. using actual ham?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Yes, it makes a big difference! The general rule is to always try to maximize your mitzvahs and reduce your transgressions.

There is a wonderful story which illustrates this concept. The great rabbi the Chafetz Chaim was faced with a question from young Jewish men who had been drafted into the Russian army during the early 20th century. They asked: "If we are on the battlefront, and they serve us pork, what should we do?"

The Chafetz Chaim replied: "If there is no other food available, then you may eat the pork, because preservation of life overrides the kosher prohibitions."

"But," the Chafetz Chaim continued, "when you eat the pork, you may not lick the bones." In other words, if you're going to transgress, minimize it.

As for your specific case, the pork which is real non-kosher food is actually worse than using the pan which has the taste of non-kosher food absorbed into it.

But here’s a solution: just buy yourself a new frying pan!