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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Struggle

I have been in a year-long legal battle with someone who is trying to literally destroy my life. This has been the biggest challenge I have faced in 25 years (when I lost $5 million in a business deal gone sour). I just can't figure out what God wants from me on this. Any ideas?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is very difficult for us to "judge" God because we are stuck in time and space. And because our view is so limited, we are therefore limited in terms of knowing which ground rules God is employing. When "bad" things happen, there are so many possibilities of why it's happening. "Is this a challenge in life that was given to me so I could become an example to inspire others? Or is this to get me to fix a wrong I've done? Or is this due to historical/national forces that are affecting me as an individual? Or is what's happening to me now through a choice that I've made? Or that I'm on my own because I've distanced myself?"

Sometimes what we perceive as punishment is really an opportunity for growth. In the story of the "Binding of Isaac," the Torah says that "God tested Abraham." Of course God already knew what Abraham was capable of. So who was the test for? It wasn't for God; it was for Abraham.

I want to share a story that I heard from a friend who experienced the following incident. If you've ever ridden a bus in Israel, you know how people enter the bus from the front door and pay the driver, and people exiting the bus do so from the back door. Sometimes the bus is so crowded that people will also enter from the back door, and then pass their money up front to pay the driver.

Well, this one time the driver decided he wasn't going to allow that. He announced that whoever had entered from the back door, must now get off the bus and walk around to the front. Everybody complied grumpily, except for one very old man who could barely walk in the first place. Yet the driver stuck to his guns and announced that the bus would not move until this old man came on through the front door.

So slowly, slowly, one small step at a time, the old man got off the bus and walked around. And all the while, the people on the bus were shouting at the driver for not only his insensitivity to the old man, but for wasting everyone's time!

Finally, the old man managed to make it up through the front door and pay the driver. And then he turned toward the bus full of angry people and told them: "Please, don't be upset. We should be grateful that my legs still work, and I have the strength to walk. Thank God!!"

The Almighty only provides a challenge that you can pass. Apparently this is the challenge that the Almighty gave for you to grow. I know you can rise to it and take pleasure in your success. And it will make you stronger and better.

I want to conclude with the following poem I once read:

I asked for strength and

God gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom and

God gave me problems to solve.

I asked for prosperity and

God gave me brawn and brain to work.

I asked for courage and

God gave me dangers to overcome.

I asked for love and

God gave me troubled people to help...

My prayers were answered.

Animal Offerings Today

I was reading the Book of Leviticus and this got me wondering: Why don't Jews bring animal offerings today? I know there is no Holy Temple in Jerusalem, but does that prevent any offerings from being done?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Once the Temple was built in Jerusalem (approx. 3,000 years ago), it became permanently forbidden to offer sacrifices anywhere else but there on the Temple Mount.

Technically, we can offer sacrifices on the Temple Mount even when there is no Holy Temple (Talmud - Zevachim 107b), but there are other legal reasons that prohibit this today. Below are some of the main ones.

1. It is necessary to have the ashes of a red heifer to rectify certain issues of impurity. The unique feature of this cow is that it must be three years old and can have no more than one non-red hair. This rare animal is very difficult to obtain. (Mishna - Parah 1:1, 2:5)

2. The Kohanim must wear special clothing that contains a particular dye called "techelet." This was a bluish color, obtained from the fluid of a sea creature called the Chilazon. At this time, we do not have an unambiguous tradition from the time of the Sages exactly which animal is used. But this will be revealed with the coming of the Messiah.

3. The Kohanim (priests) must officiate at the animal offerings, and until the arrival of the Messiah (who will clarify everyone's genealogy), it is not entirely certain who is a bona fide Kohen.

4. The Torah mandates that sacrifices may only be offered on the grounds of the Temple Mount itself, as stated in Deuteronomy 12:5. Presently, the Temple Mount is inaccessible due to political considerations with the Muslims.

May the Temple be rebuilt, speedily in our days!

Exodus - Blood on the Doorpost

The Torah describes (Exodus 12:6-7) how each Hebrew family designates a lamb, and sets it aside. On the evening of the Israelites' deliverance from slavery in Egypt, they slaughter the lamb, roast and eat it. The lambs' blood is placed on the doorposts of their houses as a sign that Israelites live in those homes.

The name Passover comes from this offering. When God kills the Egyptian firstborn, He passes over the homes whose doors are smeared with blood.

But can't God tell who's who without a sign?!

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

When oppressed people become free, they are frequently just as brutal as their erstwhile oppressors. It turns out that it is not oppression they objected to. They'd just prefer to be on the other end of the whip.

Society's values implicate us unless we explicitly repudiate them. As a condition of their freedom, God demands that the Hebrews withdraw from Egypt and reject its values.

(This same idea helps explain why Noah had to shut himself up in an ark to escape the flood, and why Lot and his wife were told to run away from Sodom without looking back.)

The Hebrews mark their separation from Egypt by going into their homes, shutting their doors, and marking them with the blood of their offering – a rejection of the Egyptian sheep deity. All of this would serve as a sign of their devotion to God.