GOOD MORNING! Recently a friend of mine asked me, "Do you really believe in God?" When I answered "for sure" his response was "really?" Personally, I don't find it particularly hard to believe that a rabbi believes in God. However, he seemed to be amazed that anyone believes in God.
In our experience at Aish HaTorah (a major international Jewish educational outreach organization), if you ask the young people who come through the doors of our World Center in Jerusalem if they believe in God, four out of five will say "no". What's fascinating is that if you don't ask the question directly, it's possible to demonstrate to them that they do believe in God. Why? They are influenced by the society, the educational system and their friends to think that they don't believe in God.
Want to demonstrate to someone that deep down they not only believe in God, but that they believe that God loves them? Here are the questions to ask:
- Did you ever pray? (Do not be snotty and ask "to whom?")
- Were your prayers ever answered? (Most everybody says "yes")
- What did you do to "bribe" God to answer your prayer? (In truth, one can't bribe God with anything; God has no needs. He doesn't need our prayers or our praises. Actually, prayer is to change us, not Him -- but that's another fax...)
- If you didn't do anything to "bribe" God, then God did it just for you -- does that mean that God loves you? Most people are able to appreciate the concept and accept it.
What does it mean to believe in God? All good discussions must start with a definition or one ends up going in circles. Belief is a point on a continuum of knowledge from no knowledge to absolute knowledge. The more evidence that you have, the stronger the belief. (This is in opposition to "faith" which is an emotional leap to a conclusion). The Torah concept of God is that of Creator, Sustainer and Supervisor of the universe and all that is within it. We believe that God is all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful. He has a personal relationship with every human being; he loves us and wants only good for us.
Why do people not believe in God?
- Because there is evil in the world; bad things happen to good people. ("Where was God during the holocaust?" -- by the way, "Where was man during the holocaust?")
- They look at belief in God as a crutch for losers who can't make it on their own.
- If there is a God, it implies that there is purpose to creation, values to live by and ultimately restrictions. People do not like restrictions in their lives.
It is my experience that the third reason is the real reason -- people do not want restrictions on their desires. Think about it -- the existence of God is independent of our approval or disapproval of the way He runs the world (or what part he leaves to our free will) -- or whether people use God as an excuse or a crutch.
When a person says he's an atheist, you can point out to him that an atheist is one who has evidence that there is no God. Then you can ask, "What is your evidence?" Most people will back off and say, "Really, I am an agnostic." Then you can clarify that an agnostic is one who has evidence that a person cannot know if there is a God. You may then ask him, "What is your evidence that you cannot know?" By the way, to prove that God does not exist, one would need to know all things that do exist and be able to search out the whole universe and all dimensions. It's impossible.
Want the truth? Many, if not most, of us have never thought that deeply or systematically about the topic. However, it is probably the most important question of our lives. If there truly is a God who created life with a purpose, doesn't it make sense to find out why and what He wants for us and from us?
So, how can one intelligently deal with the question of the existence of God? Purchase the 4 cassette tape set "Evidence of God's Existence" by Rav Noah Weinberg (the founder and head of Aish HaTorah and my teacher) from 800-864-2373. Also, I highly recommend Permission to Believe by Lawrence Kelemen available from your local Jewish bookstore or by calling toll-free to: 877-758- 3242.
Portion of the Week
Moshe continues his soliloquy guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the Mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success lest that we forget and ignore God.
Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness ("Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to occupy this land ... but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you.") He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments after the sin of the Golden Calf.)
This week's portion dispels a common misconception. People think that "Man does not live by bread alone" means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by all that comes out of God's mouth" (Deut. 8:3).
The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of himself, "What does God want of you? Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God's commandments and decrees ... so that all good will be yours" (Deut. 10:12).
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah prefaces the rewards for the Jewish people in observing the commandments with the verse, "For if you will certainly observe the entire commandment that I command you to do, to love the Lord your God to go in His ways and to cleave to Him...." (Deut. 11:22) What does it mean "to cleave to the Almighty"? The Almighty has no body or corporeality to hold onto.
Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen comments that this verse is the commandment to trust in the Almighty. Cleaving, clinging to the Almighty means that we trust in him like a king's son who relies on his father. His father loves him and, being a king, has the ability to supply him with all his needs. This is our relationship with the Almighty. He is our King and our Father. We must make our efforts, but understand that success is ultimately a gift from the Almighty.
Cleaving to the Almighty means living with this awareness. The immediate benefit to a person who internalizes this attribute is an inner feeling of peace and serenity.
CANDLE LIGHTING - August 10:
(or go to candlelighting.org)
Guatemala 6:18 Hong Kong 6:39 Honolulu 6:47
J'Burg 5:28 London 8:14 Los Angeles 7:27
Melbourne 5:21 Miami 7:43 Moscow 7:59
New York 7:43 Singapore 6:57
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Reading without reflecting
eating without digesting.
In Loving Memory of