Superstition - Mesora by dfgh4bnmu


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Volume I, No. 4...Feb. 22, 2002                                                                                         Download and Print Free
           In this issue:
Haman's intolerance
                              1, 2, 4
Q&A's: Purpose of emotions          1                   rabbi moshe ben-chaim
God desires we use our minds        3
Judaism vs other religions          3                 In the Megillas Esther read on Purim, in
Fortunetellers                3, 4, 5              chapter 3, verse 4, we learn that the other
Shadim: demons                      4              ministers had informed Haman that
False beliefs: "Superstition"       5              Mordechai was not following Haman's
Hate and love                       5              command to bow to him.
                                                      Why did these ministers in King
                                                   Achashverosh's court need to inform
  Suggested Readings:                              Haman? Wouldn't Haman know this,
      see these and other articles at our site
                                                   seeing Mordechai perfectly erect?
                                                      Either Haman knew or didn't know
      Maimonides' 13                               about Mordechai's refusal. If Haman
      The basic foundations which all Jews
                                                   didn't know, then it makes sense in 3:5 that
                                                   his anger flared upon hearing of
       The basic foundations which all Jews
   must know as true. We urge you to read them:
   must know as true. We urge you to read them:    Mordechai's deviation. As this is in line                with Haman's nature. When he would first
                                                   hear of something going against his
       God's Existence                             egocentricity, Haman would be angered.

         Belief or                                    But perhaps Haman DID in fact know
                                                   that Mordechai didn't bow to him. This is
                                                   more plausible, as why should Haman
                                                   alone be ignorant of Mordechai's behavior?
                                                   This being the case, we must ask, "Why

                                                   didn't make a big deal about Mordechai's
   God's Land                                      refusal immediately upon his first
    Without                                        encounter of Mordechai's disobedience?"
                                                      One possibility is that the very same ego
      an open letter to the jewish community:
      an open letter to the jewish community:
                                                   which caused Haman to desire others to                                         ask your children:                                                              "How many stories within the Megilla happened because Haman was angry?"
                                                   bow to him, would also cause him to avoid

                                                                                                             Questions & Answers
                                                   the reality of that one person disgracing
                                                   him. This is intolerable to Haman, and
         rabbi israel chait
                                                   perhaps why he didn't face it until it was
                                                   brought out in the open in 3:4 (suggested
                                                                                                                                  E-mail us:
                                                   by Eva Tavlin). Only now did Haman have
                                                   to deal with it as he could no longer act for      Reader: God gave us emotions for a             lending money to the poor, and negatively
   The preamble to prayer is "know                 his own motives alone, i.e., suppressing        purpose; however, if we are to approach His       by speaking loshon hora. In some cases we
before whom you stand." If one's ideas             this disturbing fact. Similarly, Pharaoh        wisdom entirely from a rational standpoint,       must force ourselves to maintain more
concerning the One he is praying to are            forgot Joseph after Joseph's death. A rabbi     then what are the proper role of emotions         positive feelings, as in helping a friend,
corrupt his prayers must be equally                explained, Pharaoh could not tolerate the       and sentimentality in our lives and service       the same time, we must subjugate our
corrupt. I think it should be made clear           loss of Joseph. He was in great need of         of the Divine Will?                               "natural" feelings of resistance of helping
that one of the cardinal principles of             Joseph's insights as a security that he,           Mesora: The Talmud states that they once       your enemy when his burden is great to the
our faith is that the Creator lacks                Pharaoh, could successfully rule Egypt.         tied up the instincts - also referred to as the   Torah's loftier goals.
nothing, needs nothing, and obtains                Therefore, upon Joseph's death, Pharaoh         yetzer hara - and this resulted in chickens          Why God created man "this way" with
nothing from his creatures. God gains              feigned complete ignorance of the entire        not laying eggs, and man not moving to            instincts, is an area of knowledge which we
nothing from our worship of Him. We                era of Joseph as a means to say, "I never       accomplish anything. Emotions are needed          cannot obtain answers. However, man can
recite this in our prayer of Neila on              needed him and I am a capable ruler             to drive man. He needs the psychological          examine creation and understand God's
Yom Kippur "And even if he (man) is                independent of another's assistance". Such      design of an "energy source". This                wisdom from the perspective of the
righteous what [benefit] does he give              a denial allows Pharaoh to feel capable         emotional energy drives man, motivates            observer, as this is how He designed our
you?" This is based on a verse in Job              once again. Haman acted as Pharaoh,             him, and is responsible in all its forms for      minds to operate.
(35:7). Nachmanides expands on this                denying Mordechai's blatant opposition,         man's accomplishments.                               Besides being the fuel of man's actions,
topic in Deuteronomy (22:6) and                    but only to the point that the matter was no       Emotions, or the yetzer hara, are              the emotions contribute to numerous
states, "our words [of praise] and                 longer avoidable.                               comprised of feelings of hate, revenge, love,     enjoyments, such as learning, family,
remembrances of his wonders are                       Reverting to the Megilla, the other          passion, rejection, anticipation, sensitivity,    friends and experiences. God designed man
considered as nothingness and                      ministers in the courtyard who brought this     jealousy, dignity, and many others. God's         to live in this happy state. God also
emptiness to Him". He states                       news to Haman did so as they didn't want        plan is that man harness these instincts and      designed man with a natural curiosity which
unequivocally that all the mitzvos we              to see Mordechai getting away with it. This     use them in service of the Torah. Harnessing      propels man to appreciate Torah. New
do are only for our own benefit and                is why the passage states "to see if            emotions for Torah's goals can be expressed       insights in turn encourage man to seek
                           (continued on page 2)   Mordechai's position would stand".              positively as in loving your neighbor,            further understanding of the Creator.

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Volume I, No. 4...Feb. 22, 2002                                                                                              

        rabbi israel chait
                                             does not need our prayers, see the
                                             Gemara Yoma 38a which states,
                                             'everything which G-d created was
                                                                                          under the term Amidah from the verse
                                                                                          in Genesis 19:27 regarding Abraham's
                                                                                          prayer. The second is the change that
                                                                                                                                       righteous         are        qualitatively
                                                                                                                                       differentiated from the prayers of the
                                                                                                                                       ordinary person; that the righteous,
                                             only for His own honor and purpose           takes place in man when he thinks            because their knowledge of G-d is
(continued from page 1)                      (Proverbs 16:4).'" If one would hear of      through and organizes his priorities in      different and their knowledge of prayer
give no benefit whatsoever to the            someone who had children for the sole        life. The word Tefillah comes from the       is different, in their act of praying
Creator, "This is something that is          purpose of having them praise him            word "peelayle" which means to judge,        fulfill the potential of man that G-d has
agreed upon by all our Rabbis."              when they reached the age of four,           as the above author in the Otzar             given him through prayer. As Rambam
   Similarly Maimonides in his Guide         what would one think of such a               Hatefillos says, "to clarify the thoughts    says regarding the love of G-d, one's
states clearly that no change or emotion     person? Would one not think he is            that occur in the heart in a confused        love of G-d cannot exceed his
can be predicated of God (Guide book         doubly imperfect, because he is              manner". This is derived from the            knowledge of G-d (Laws of
1, chap.55). He further states that the      overcome by his desire and need for          second term for Tefillah "sichah" from       Repentance, Ch. 10 Law 6). So too in
gravest of sins is to have a wrong           prayer, and because he is moved by the       Genesis 24:63 regarding Issac's prayer.      prayer one's potential for prayer cannot
opinion of God (ibid. chap.36). One          praise of a four year old? How can we        The third change takes place when            be realized in excess of his knowledge
must never think that they, through          ascribe to G-d, Heaven forbid, such          man, through his free will and               and perfection. Thus only the righteous
their prayers, can produce some kind of      imperfection?                                creativity, presents before G-d an           truly fulfill G-d's will concerning
affect in the Creator of the Universe.          Let us take the statement of our          alternative life style, a change in his or   prayer. The Rabbis do not mean,
Such an idea is not only absurd it is        Sages "why did G-d make our                  her plans, as Hannah did when she            Heaven forbid the notion, that G-d, the
blasphemous. He who believes such an         Patriarchs and Matriarchs childless?         stated to G-d (Samuel 1:11) "If you          Creator of the universe, is in want or in
idea would, in the words of the              Because G-d desires the prayers of the       will... give to your handmaid a man          a state of loneliness waiting for some
Rambam, "unconsciously at least incur        righteous (Yevamos 64a)". What would         child then I will give him to the Lord       kind of satisfaction that he will receive
the guilt of profanity and blasphemy."       we think of someone who tormented            all the days of his life." This is derived   when His creatures praise Him or ask
   Rambam states in the Yad, Laws            another person so that they turn to him      from the third term for prayer, "pegiah"     Him for something. How can we think
Concerning the Fundamentals of our           for help? Would we not regard him as         from Genesis 28:11 regarding Jacob's         that man could praise G-d in any
Faith, Ch.1 Law 11, "and He does not         self-seeking and even vicious? How           prayer. Tefillah is the great medium         manner that would be satisfactory to
change, for there is nothing that can        then can we ascribe such an                  which G-d gave to man by means of            Him, when our teacher Moses, the
cause change in Him. There does not          imperfection, Heaven forbid, to the          which he can change himself. He can          greatest of our species, was unable to
exist in Him... anger or laughter,           Creator? Is it not obvious that these        then establish a new destiny for himself     comprehend G-d Himself in any way,
happiness or sadness..." It is patently      words of our Sages are not to be taken       in life and a new relationship with G-d.     even through prophecy, as it is written
clear from the Rambam and Ramban             literally, but that they are metaphors       It is not the Creator that changes. Man      "because man cannot see Me and live
that we cannot say of the Creator that       that contain a hidden idea, a deeper         does not influence the Creator as a          (Exodus 33:20)", and could understand
He is at one time sad, at another happy,     meaning which we must search for?            defendant influences a human judge           no more than G-d's actions? Even the
at one time lonely, at another fulfilled.       It is for this reason the author of the   who has emotions and is subject to           praise of a four year old of the greatest
He, being perfect, does not change -         Siddur Avodas Halev, states in his           change. It is man himself who is             human being would be closer to reality
ever. We cannot affect Him or change         introduction, "the agadic statements         changed. Once he has changed the             than our praise of G-d since the four
Him no matter what we do, whether we         according to their outward appearances       same immutable Creator relates to him        year old at least perceives something
are righteous or evil, whether we pray       without understanding their deep             in a different way.                          about the one he is praising. It is thus
or do not pray, whether we give charity      meaning are prone to cause the blind to         Anyone who thinks that through his        patently clear as Ramban states, that all
or do not give charity, whether we           go astray on the way and to lead them        prayer he effectuates a change in G-d        our praise are as "nothingness and
repent or do not repent.                     to darkness and not light (Otzar             denies the third principle of our faith      emptiness to Him."
   Two questions immediately come to         Hatefillos p.20)". In this way he            which we recite every day, that G-d is          The above statement of our Sages
mind: (1) If this is so, how can we pray     explains Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi's             not physical and does not have any           was not meant to indicate that G-d is
to G-d and expect Him to change our          statement in Masechet Sofrim, "Those         physical attributes. This means He is in     seeking some satisfaction, only that G-
destiny for the better, as Moses did         who write agadic statements have no          no way to be equated with any of His         d's will, as expressed in His creation is
when he prayed to G-d to forgive the         place in the world to come." (It should      creation whether inanimate or animate.       being fulfilled. Whether His creation is
Jews for the sin of the golden calf? (2)     be understood that this was at a time        The idea that man can cause a change         fulfilled or not gives no satisfaction or
How do we understand certain verses          when we were prohibited to write the         in the Creator is an attempt to project      sadness to Him. Its purpose is to
in the prophets and certain statements       Oral Law).                                   onto G-d human qualities. This is            provide man with the opportunity to
from our Sages which seem to indicate           Why do we pray if we cannot               strictly forbidden. As Maimonides            approach G-d. In giving man free will
the contrary? Before explaining the          change G-d or exercise any influence         quotes in the third principle of faith,      G-d made it possible for him to fulfill
answers to the above questions I would       over Him? The answer is that the             "And to whom can you liken Me                his potential, one of the methods being
like to state something very                 change that takes place through tefillah     sayeth the Holy One (Isaiah                  through the medium of prayer. This is
fundamental. When our Rishonim               is not in G-d, but in ourselves. It is the   40:18,25)". Far be it from G-d to be         accomplished on the highest level only
(early commentaries) teach us a              same changeless G-d who treats the           like His creatures who because of their      by the righteous not the ordinary
principle of our faith we do not say that    wicked one way and the righteous             imperfection are subject to change for       person whose ideas of G-d and prayer
they did not know a particular               another way, the person who repents          better or for worse. Rambam makes it         are distorted. Our Sages are teaching an
statement of our Sages or verse of the       one way and the one who refuses to           clear that all statements in the Torah       important idea, that the ignoramus fails
Torah, but that they understood it           repent another way, the one who prays        that imply otherwise are metaphors           to realize his potential not only in
differently than it appears to us at first   one way and the one who does not pray        used by the Torah to teach us some           Torah, but in prayer as well.
sight. We say that they had the correct      another way. Rambam gives an                 idea and are not to be taken literally          The first half of this statement of our
understanding of these statements and        analogy. The same fire makes one             (Yad ibid Law 12).                           Sages also teaches us an important
verses and that we are deficient in our      thing black, another white, one thing           Now let us examine one of the             concept. Our Sages wonder why our
own understanding of them. We do not         hard, another soft. The change occurs        statements of our Sages. "Why were           Patriarchs and Matriarchs were
derive our own principles from these         not because the fire is different but        our Patriarchs and Matriarchs                childless. Were they not righteous? The
statements or verses and reject the          because the objects that come in             childless? Because G-d desires the           answer is that sometimes G-d puts man
ideas of our Rishonim. This is what is       contact with it are different. Prayer        prayers of the righteous (Yevamos            in a state of want not because he has
known as "emunat chachomim," faith           changes man in three ways. First, the        64a)." Let us first examine the last half    sinned, but in order that he may have
in our Torah scholars. If we abandon         change that takes place in man when he       of this statement, "G-d desires the          the opportunity to perfect himself. Our
the above principle, we are destined to      realizes that he is standing before the      prayers of the righteous." Our Sages         Patriarchs and Matriarchs were
fail. One may ask as follows: "if G-d        Creator of the universe. This comes          are teaching that the prayers of the         (continued on page 4, col. 1)
                                                                                                                                                                          Page 2

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       God Desires                           somewhat duplicated? Why not give            Moses, the Torah. This acceptance is a       found in the Oral Law - also handed to

    We Use Our Minds
                                             him something which could not be             100% proof of God's revelation to the        Moses on Sinai.
                                             imitated at all? The answer is that G-d      Jewish people. Had the event at Sinai           The system of Jewish law - halacha -

      to Know Him
                                             wants man to recognize Him through           never occurred, it would not have been       is also a major component of Judaism.
                                             the use of his mind and exercise of his      believed by that generation, and             It guides man's every action from
                                             free will. He doesn't want us to be          certainly not the rest of the world and      waking and prayers, to blessings over
       rabbi reuven mann                     emotionally coerced into accepting           all future generations. The only way it      food, ethical and moral conduct,
                                             Him. Great miracles impress the              became accepted is that it really            business practices, social relationships,
   In Parsha Vau-era, we read about the      emotions but since they don't engage         happened. All witnesses then passed the      and Holidays. Areas of man's life are
encounter between Moshe and Pharaoh.         the mind, their effect soon dissipates.      story down to the following generations      always placed in check as he judges
G-d instructed Moshe that when               Real change is achieved only through         through today.                               each of his actions for Torah
Pharaoh demanded proof that G-d had          genuine knowledge and understanding.            All other religions are founded on a      compliance prior to commencement.
spoken to him, he should throw down          G-d wants us to use our minds in             single person's claim that God appeared      This process engages man's mind
his staff and it would turn into a snake.    searching for Him, discovering Him           to him. Something of this nature cannot      throughout his days when he is not
Moshe proceeded to do this before            and serving Him. Pharaoh sensed the          be proven or disproven, is precisely         involved in study - which must
Pharaoh. Then something strange and          significant difference between the           why they formulated their religions          comprise the majority of his waking
unexpected        occurred.      Pharaoh     miracles of Moshe and the counterfeit        with this creed as their central basis.      hours.
summoned his magicians and they did          displays of his servants. That is why the    These other religions therefore must            In truth, there is no comparison
the exact same thing. As might be            Pasuk says that "he hardened his heart       resort to the requirement of blind           between the Divinely designed system
expected, Pharaoh was unimpressed            and did not listen..." Had he not been       acceptance, or faith.                        of Judaism and other man made
with what Moshe had done and                 stubborn, he would have seen the truth.         Besides this miraculous proof,            religions for this precise reason that
obstinately refused to obey G-d. The            Judaism is unique in affirming the        Judaism is founded on principles which       there is no comparison between God
episode concludes with the words, "And       supreme value of knowledge in the            are rational and comply with man's           and man.
Pharaoh hardened his heart and did not       service of our Creator. We must,             nature as a philosophical and                   This of course is a very small
listen to them as G-d had spoken."           therefore, strive to cultivate a love and    psychological being. Not one law in all      glimpse into Judaism. A more
   The question arises: What was sinful      appreciation for the Divine Wisdom           of Judaism goes against man's nature.        encompassing appreciation of God's
about Pharaoh's behavior? He certainly       contained in our Torah.                      Unlike Catholicism which frowns upon         wisdom is only possible through much
had a right to demand proof that G-d            Our Parsha has great relevance to the     divorce, and praises celibacy, Judaism       more study.
had appeared to Moshe. Moreover, he          contemporary situation. In every area of     embraces the need at times for married
was correct to ascertain that the deed       significance; religion, societal morality,   couples to divorce if they will be
was truly miraculous. Thus he
summoned his magicians and they were
                                             rightful ownership of Israel, we are
                                             challenged by false philosophies which
                                                                                          happier that way, and Judaism also
                                                                                          embraces man's need for sexual
able to achieve the same result. We          masquerade as truth and ensnare the          happiness and children. These are just            rabbi moshe ben-chaim
must ask: Why did G-d give Moshe a           unlearned. Like Pharaoh, we must             two examples of how Judaism
sign which could be duplicated by            choose between the authentic and the         approaches life honestly, without                Reader: My friend called another
others? Isn't a miracle by definition a      illusory. May we fulfill the ideal of the    preconceived notions on how man              friend on the phone, this friend was
supernatural phenomenon which is             Havdala prayer. May we have the              should live. Catholicism makes man           speaking to a rabbi known for his
beyond the scope of human power and          wisdom to discern between the true and       into a mystical idea approaching their       kaballah. this rabbi tells the lady "the
thus can only be attributed to Divine        the false, the holy and the profane,         view of an angel, one who is above           lady who just clicked in to the phone
intervention?                                Israel and the nations.                      actual human drives and emotions. This       call and started telling her things about
   If we study the text carefully, we can                                                 opposes Judaism at its core. Judaism         her and she must come to him quick
find the answer. Superficially, the act of

                                                How Judaism
                                                                                          accepts that man's happiness must stem       there is a great danger.
Moshe and that of the magicians appear                                                    from his being in line with his nature.          Now my friend who is a yemenite
to be similar. However, they were                                                            Judaism realizes that besides man         and not a pushover told me how this
different. The Torah says, "And the
Egyptian magicians did this with their          Differs from                              satisfying his psychological needs, he
                                                                                          has a much higher part which must be
                                                                                                                                       rabbi told him everything about him
                                                                                                                                       and hit it a direct bullseye. He told him
"secret devices". When a skilled
magician performs a trick, he controls
the environment in which it is executed.
                                               Other Religions                            addressed - his soul. By man ignoring
                                                                                          this essential part of his nature, he will
                                                                                          never reach his ultimate, Divine mission
                                                                                                                                       to pick a letter out of an envelope and
                                                                                                                                       before he picked told him the letter,
                                                                                                                                       when my friend picked this letter the
He sets up a stage, keeps the audience at         rabbi moshe ben-chaim
                                                                                          of attaching himself to God. Man             rabbi said check the envelope all letters
a certain distance and manages all of the                                                 achieves this mission and thereby -          are different. His rabbi was not only
"props". It is very impressive but we           Reader: Is it Jewish belief that
                                                                                          ultimate happiness - by his immersion        able to predict this persons past but told
know it is an illusion based on a very       separates Jews, or is it practice, and
                                                                                          in study of the creation and Torah,          him if he does so and so 48 hours later
skillful sleight of hand. The miracle of     how?
                                                                                          actualizing his true goal and purpose in     so and so will happen by the way it did
Moshe was done in the open without              Mesora: What separates the Jewish
                                                                                          an appreciation of the Creator. The          happen like that the rabbi gave my
any secret devices. A truly honest           religion from all other religions is
                                                                                          Torah, Prophets and Writings, along          friend different types of amulets of
observer would recognize and                 primarily it's proof of Divine origin as
                                                                                          with the Talmud, were written in a           different malachim to safeguard
acknowledge the difference. The Pasuk        demonstrated through God's revelation
                                                                                          highly stylized format which takes           him. One night his daughter woke up
also points out that the staff of Moshe      of Himself to all the Jews at Mount
                                                                                          years to master. Their style is such, that   and told her father she saw a malach
swallowed those of the magicians. Thus       Sinai. This was witnessed by
                                                                                          as one delves deeper and deeper, he          sitting on her sisters bed watching her
the act of Moshe was clearly superior to     approximately 3 million Jews as an
                                                                                          finds more profound ideas. This              sister. (this girl had no idea the parents
his opponents. If Pharaoh was                intelligent voice speaking to them from
                                                                                          analysis and search satisfies man in its     went to this rabbi)
genuinely interested in the truth, he        the fiery mountain. No other religion
                                                                                          very process, as well as through factual         I am thinking to go to this rabbi to
would have investigated the matter           makes such a claim because Divine
                                                                                          enlightenment. As God possesses              see what this is all about what do you
carefully and recognized the difference      revelation to the masses never happened
                                                                                          infinite wisdom, man will always see         think? Is it against the torah to go or is
between the genuine miracle of Moshe         to others, and as the Torah says, it will
                                                                                          new insights provided he has toiled          it like the Ramban holds, a science. (By
and the deceptive magic of the               never happen again. (Deut. 4:32-34)
                                                                                          under the tutelage of those before him       the way, people used to read clouds or
illusionists.                                   Judaism is the only religion whose
                                                                                          trained in the method of Talmudic and        listen to the birds to tell the future)
   Yet we may ask: Why did G-d give          claim is supported by world acceptance
                                                                                          Biblical exegesis, teamed with the           Thank you. (Response on page 4, column 4)
Moshe a miracle which could be               of the Old Testament, the Five Books of
                                                                                          essential modes of interpretations only
                                                                                                                                                                          Page 3

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                                                                                       King David made mention of it here in         we should not cross over the correct
                                                                                       Psalms.                                       path of life by treating fantasy as
                                                                                           When one is isolated, his desire to be    reality, even when we 'see' it. How

                                                 "Demons"                              around civilization causes him to             much more so when we don't.
                                                                                       project onto reality - he will think he          I would also mention the Rashi in
        rabbi israel chait                     rabbi moshe ben-chaim                   sees someone. But it is all an illusion to    parshas Noach, that Noach took two of
                                                                                       satisfy his fear, or his loneliness. Thus,    every species, "even shadim" in to the
                                             As in all cases, especially when one      what the Rabbis are telling us not to         ark. I believe this fits in well with our
                                          approaches an area where the Rabbis          offer greetings to is in fact our             theory. Noach was now embarking on a
(continued from page 2)                   discuss unusual and almost impossible        'psychological fantasies'. Giving             state of isolation aboard the ark.
answered through their prayers. In        phenomena, a rational and objective          greetings to that which is a mirage,          Perhaps Rashi is intimating this aspect
addition they achieved thereby a          approach must be kept.                       crosses the line from fantasy to reality,     of      isolation     by     suggesting
higher degree of perfection. This            If we look into the instances             one of man's worst crimes. The Rabbis,        euphemistically that Noach entered
teaches us the great value of prayer      regarding shadim, we find that the           knowing that these shadim are only            shadim into the ark.
since we usually only think of prayer     Rabbis tell us not to give greetings to a    daydreams or illusions, enjoined us not
as a means to obtain something we
want and do not realize that the
                                          friend if we are in a field, or at night,
                                          lest he be a "shade". Other cases where
                                                                                       to 'talk to them'. This only causes one
                                                                                       to allow fantasy to have the same level
greatest benefit may result from the      one is warned also include pits, and         of truth as reality. There are so many             rabbi moshe ben-chaim
perfection we receive through the act     mountain tops.                               areas of the Torah which deter man            (continued from page 3)
of praying itself.                           Additionally, a gemora on page 66a        from living an illusory life, that the
   Now consider how in Tractate           in Gittin states that if one hears a voice   Rabbis saw it fit here to remove us
Yevamos, our Sages through the            calling from a pit saying, "divorce my       from this behavior. Talking to a                 Mesora Response: First rule, don't
medium of a metaphor explained all        wife from me", we listen to him. The         phantom of the mind gives credence to         believe everything you hear. Many
this in the few short words,"The Holy     gemora asks, "perhaps it is a shade? No.     it. The Torah desires that man abandon        people tell stories over again and again,
One blessed be He, longs to hear the      It is when you see a shadow. But the         all that is false, "m'dvar skeker tirchak",   greatly distorting the original, which
prayer of the righteous".                 shadim also can have shadows? No.            "from falsehoods, keep distant".              itself may be a fairy tale that was taken
   I of course cannot expound on          You also saw a shadow of a shadow."              This now explains why the gemora          by a few as literal. These ridiculous
every statement of our Sages in this      On the surface, this is a very strange       in Gittin said that if one saw a shadow,      stores are constantly repeated.
article, nor do I claim to understand     gemora indeed. But there must be an          then it is a real person, and you can         Unfortunately, these stories replace
every one of their statements. I only     idea here.                                   divorce the wife of this person in the        truth and become the belief of many
wish to stress how important caution         There are a number of questions:          pit, although you do not see him              Jews.
is when approaching a statement of           1) Can it be taken literally that there   clearly. When a person creates these             This rabbi clearly violates Torah
our Sages, and how careful we must        are demons running around the earth?         illusion to comfort himself, that people      laws. I do not have to explain what he
be not to grasp at the first idea which   Have any of us ever seen one? 2) Why         are in fact around, he only creates the       does. Although if you wish, see Saadia
comes to our minds, especially where      are we not admonished from greeting          minimal information needed to                 Gaon in Emunos v'Daos where he
such an idea contradicts the basic        our friends in the city? Why is the          convince himself of this. That is, either     refutes magic, explaining the Egyptian
premises of our faith.                    warning only in the fields, pits, night      a form of the person's face, his height,      "magicians" as using slight of hand. He
   In closing let me explain what is      time, and mountain tops? Are shadim          his hair color, or something else distinct    says they had no powers.
meant by Isaiah 43:7, "And everyone       unable to enter cities? This is truly        to the person he desires to be around.           If halacha and reason opposes this
that is called by my name I have          odd. 3) What is the warning about?           But what is not needed, is not created,       'rabbi', he can claim to lift buildings,
created for my Glory." The Radak          Will they harm us? If so, what's the         such as a shadow. This offers the             and I still wouldn't follow him.
comments: "Israel, who believes in        difference if we greet them or not? Can      person's psyche no comfort, and is               We are bound not to seek satisfaction
Me, I have created for my Honor, so       they not harm us equally whether we          therefore not created by the fantasy.         for our insecurities by these types of
that they spread My Glory to all the      greet them or not? 4) In the gemora in       Therefore, if one sees a shadow, it most      prohibited methods. Rather, the Torah
people." Radak is saying that G-d's       Gittin 66a, how does a shadow prove          probably is a real person. The gemora         teaches that these are all false, and
compassion and kindness is not            that it is not a shade?                      goes on to suggest that even shadim           against God's desire that man use his
limited to the nation of Israel, but         I believe the answer to all these         have shadows. This means that in some         mind in all areas.
includes all of mankind. It is            questions can be approached by first         cases, one will create a more defined
incumbent upon Israel to be               looking at one peculiar bit of               illusion. This is possible, so the gemora       You must know, catering to the
concerned about all of humanity as        information - that is, the location where    adds that when there's a shadow of a          instinctual need for security hurts a
well as themselves, and to teach all of   we are warned not to greet friends. All      shadow, then for certain, it is not a         person in the following ways:
mankind the true ideas of Torah. This     the cases, pits, fields, mountain tops,      shade. This means that completely
is stated in Isaiah 2:2,3 and elsewhere   night time, are cases where one is in a      detailed illusions do not exist, and             1) It directly violates God's words,
throughout the Prophets. It is G-d's      situation of isolation to some degree.       hence, it must be a real person one is        diluting the reverence owed to the
will that all of mankind should have      Either geographical isolation; mountain      seeing, and greetings are then                Divinely given Torah.
the opportunity to live according to      tops or fields, or psychological             permitted.                                       2) He will be incapable of directing
the Torah way of life. This is what the   isolation; night.                                It now makes sense that shadim don't      his life appropriately when the "false
verse is teaching, not that G-d,             What does isolation do to a person?       enter cities. Deciphered, this mashal         notion" no longer works.
Heaven forbid the notion, is seeking      Man, a social creature by definition,        (allegory) means that images of friends          3) It teaches an unfair view of God,
His own glorification through human       fears isolation more than anything. This     are not created when they are in reality      as this position of relying on "mystics"
recognition.                              is why solitary confinement is the worst     near to us, as is found when we are in        implies that God selected only these
   We should understand Proverbs          type of imprisonment. Isolation is even      cities. Here, no need exists in our           few mystics to have a monopoly on
16:4 mentioned above in a like            recognized by the Prophets as one of the     minds to create illusions. At night           how the remainder of mankind makes
manner. It is for our benefit that we     worst situations, and requires one to        however, when we are psychologically          their life decisions.
recognize G-d's Glory, not for His.       'bench gomel', (praising G-d for being       alone, or in fields, we will create              4) It cripples him from using his
                                          saved) as we read in Psalms, 107:4,          images to comfort us.                         mind, so in future scenarios, he will
  May we live to see the day when         "They wandered in the wilderness, in             In summary, shadim, according to          have no intelligent resources to help
the earth will be filled with the         the desolation of the path, they found no    the Rabbis, are created to satisfy real       himself out of his problems.
knowledge of G-d as the waters cover      inhabited city." Not finding inhabitants     concerns, but they are fantasies created                           (continued on page 5)
the sea (Isaiah 11:9).                    is utterly distressing, to the point that    in our minds. As the Rabbis warned us,                                            Page 4

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                                                   is a mere projection of one's wishes onto an     these two commandments is needed.                love ourselves is a realization that this
            False Notions:                         object , and this falsehood has somehow             "Do not hate your brother in your heart."     person is also created by God, and shares

     rabbi moshe ben-chaim
                                                   achieved popularity. Ask someone why only
                                                   red, and not green bendels work. They have
                                                   no answer. Ask how a penny thrown into a
                                                   fountain, or by blowing out birthday candles
                                                                                                    As Jews it is essential that we regard each
                                                                                                    other as brothers and sisters following the
                                                                                                    same path in life. That is, the path of God's
                                                                                                    will. Even those Jews who are not
                                                                                                                                                     our goal to love God. So, what we are
                                                                                                                                                     speaking about here is not love of the
                                                                                                                                                     person himself, meaning his personality -
                                                                                                                                                     but everything that pertains to the person.
                                                   makes wishes a reality, and again they have      following "the path" should still be viewed      Which means that we rejoice in his good
   Reader: My question is about luck? Can          no answer. Ask about lucky stars, or how a       as our Jewish brethren. And of course,           fortune and grieve over his misfortune.
a person be born under a "lucky star"?             person who is a created being can change         converts are also God's children and are         Isn't it that we grieve over his good fortune
   Someone, a religious person, recently           nature, and again, no answer. Not even           therefore, our brother and sisters. We           and rejoice at his misfortune? Aren't we
commented about a common friend who is             Moses had the ability to alter nature. All       should realize that together we have one         jealous of his accomplishments and wish
born September xth 19xx, that his birthdate        miracles performed were rendered by God          goal. So if we see our brother or sister         they would crumble? But it is incumbent
is a lucky number. Is there any religious          alone. The Torah clearly says that Moses         sinning in their speech or actions, or both -    upon us all to assist our neighbors in
substance behind such a statement.                 left Egypt and prayed to God to stop the         we have an obligation to correct their wrong     everything that furthers their wellbeing and
Someone gave me your address today and I           plagues. The same applies to the other           doing at the time it occurs. Now this is an      happiness. This is required of us even
would be grateful for an answer.                   prophets.                                        extremely difficult task that most of us         regarding someone whose personality
   Mesora: An intelligent person must ask             Rational thinking is at he core of            would rather ignore, hoping that our             irritates us. If he should fall we cannot
themselves why these good luck charms              Judaism. If something makes no sense to us,      obligation to rebuke will just "go away."        look at this as an opportunity for us to rise -
exist. The answer is, that all imagined            we do not follow it. This applies as well to a   We know that it won't "go away" and to           or to find great happiness in our own
powerful objects have a person's insecurities      written command in the Torah. Ibn Ezra, a        ignore this obligation is actually a sin. We     progress if it is at the expense of our
as their origin. People are searching for a        Rishon, a foremost commentator says this in      are obligated to confront and inform our         neighbor's disadvantage.
security blanket. Some are in the forms of         Exodus, 20:1. See our article. Ibn Ezra was      fellow Jew without causing them any
rabbits feet, wishbones, penny fountains,          a great mind, and extolled by others such as     embarrassment. In a kind, and gentle
etc. The reason being, people are insecure         Maimonides. He teaches that if a certain         manner let him/her know of their
                                                                                                    wrongdoing. Whatever complaint we may
about what life holds for them, and seek to        command instructed us to do some action                                                                rabbi moshe ben-chaim
rid themselves of this security.                   which did not comply with reason, we could       have against our brother or sister must be
   What is the Torah's approach? Judaism           not perform it. Certainly then, we should        brought honestly out in the open. "We must       (continued from page 4)
approaches all areas with the utmost               abandon that which is not only ridiculous,       talk it out patiently." With genuine concern
rationality. We learn that there are many          as lucky stars, but is commanded not to be       for his/her well being, with tact and               I am certain you would not quit your job
types of warlocks, palm readers and                followed.                                        sensitivity we rebuke so that we do not sin.     if this rabbi told you to do so. Even if he
enchanters which are strictly forbidden by            Judaism is based on following the mind,       By remaining silent and not rebuking, we         guessed the truth once or twice, you still
the Torah. There are many permutations a           through which method we penetrate                sin and we will harbor negative feelings and     would not place your sustenance at risk.
crippled psyche develops. Some people              falsehoods. The world at large may feel that     hatred. "Because I only think of myself, I       Why? Because you wisely realize that this
want to know if they do a specific "action",       certain objects contain fantastic powers. We     am selfish, I will not rebuke I will take        rabbi's tricks aren't following reason, and
whether they will be successful. Others are        should not be impressed with world               revenge and I will sin. You hurt me, I am        lack proof of duplication.
unsure what "time of year" is a good time          opinion. We should determine if a claim          threatened and because I feel that somehow          "Reason" is necessary in guiding one's
for them. And some just want to be told            stands the test of reason. Only then do we       you control my reality, I want revenge."         life. Reason is consistent. Since you desire
things about themselves without asking any         follow it.                                       The Rambam in Hilchot De'os Chapter 6,           a consistent livelihood, you must follow a
questions.                                            I wonder why when it comes to physical        says: "Whoever has the possibility of            realistic path to obtain it. Hopefully, you
   For each one of these questions, there are      health, or running their businesses, these       rebuking sinners and fails to do so is           would not quit your job at the behest of a
those who take advantage of the                    people who wish on stars do not go to witch      considered responsible for that sin, for he      rabbi. This proves to you the indispensable
unenlightened, feigning the possession of          doctors. All of a sudden, health and wealth      had the opportunity to rebuke the sinner."       need for "reason" inherent in the human
such knowledge, and mislead people with            become matters in which a proven, rational       This statement is quoted from Shabbat 54b,       mind. Following "false notions" and
false "answers". It is interesting why these       approach is selected. But in areas of greater    which relates that, after the destruction of     "tricks" is a deadly path and destroys the
psychics and fortune tellers still sit in small,   importance as one's philosophy, here,            the Temple, the righteous were also slain        mind.
decrepit rooms charging a few dollars. Can't       people readily run to palm readers. This tells   mercilessly. Why were they subjected to             For this reason, you would not quit your
they predict a simple lottery number?              you about what today's society values most.      such punishment? Because they failed to          job, even at the behest of this rabbi. I feel
   This disease exists even within Jewish          To them, the body and the wallet are more        rebuke the transgressors.                        this proves to even you, that reason is the
circles, in the forms of red bendels to ward       important than the soul.                            Even if nothing is resolved, no matter        only course the human mind can accept.
off "evil eyes", and rabbis' blessings                This comparison is one way you can            how frustrated we feel, no revenge may be        Following tricks that cannot be repeated
claiming to alter reality.                         show someone that they truly value rational      taken. Frustration will cease when we do         consistently is not something for which we
   The Talmud deals with peoples'                  thinking over superstition, and hopefully get    what is commanded of us - to rebuke. It is       are ready to place our lives on the line.
blessings, but it is not as most understand.       them back on the track to an intelligent life,   important to constantly remind oneself, of          A girl seeing a "malach" is definitely a
In the Talmud, blessings took place where a        abandoning the world of fantasy.                 our universal brotherhood and our behavior       proof,...that the girl has imagination! Tell
knowledgeable and objective individual                                                              must reflect this. It is absolutely necessary    me, how does she know what a malach is
would look into a person's nature and
describe what he specifically needed, or he             Hate and Love                               that we force ourselves to understand these
                                                                                                    ideas objectively and intelligently and
                                                                                                                                                     that she can distinguish it? Should I also
                                                                                                                                                     believe my friend's son if he says he saw a
would point out a flaw. But this is using                       rivka olenick                       implement them in our lives. As difficult as     monster?
rational objectivity - not clairvoyance. The          "Do not hate your brother in your heart."     this is, it is true. We are all part of our         People believe what they wish, just as
Talmud actually states that two great rabbis       (Leviticus 19:17,) "Love your neighbor as        "Father's House".                                King Saul believed he heard Samuel
both had their son's go to their students for a    yourself." (Leviticus 19:18) If sentence 18          "Love your neighbor as yourself." The        talking to him from the dead. Saul felt it
blessing. Not the reverse.                         came first there would be no need for            saying of Hillel is well known: "Do not do       was true. If King Saul can make that
   (See our site for an article discussing this    sentence 17, meaning if one is commanded         unto thy neighbor that which thou wouldst        mistake, we certainly can!
topic.)                                            to love, then obviously one is commanded         hate to have done to thee." This is the             These tales attract our emotions. How
   Returning to your question, there is no         not to hate. However, if one is commanded        guiding principle of all of our deeds. This is   does the Torah teach us to react? To study
rational explanation for lucky charms. No          not to hate, does that mean one has to love.?    turn changes selfishness and self-love into      human nature, to understand our instincts,
one who you will ever speak to in your             The Torah is profound and not within our         consideration and love of our neighbor. The      to see through fallacy, and to guide these
lifetime will be able to explain how these         limited grasp of logic.          A clearer       strongest basic feeling towards God and          drives away from beliefs in falsehood,
charms work. This is because they don't. It        understanding of the relationship between        Man is love. To love our neighbor as we          towards realization of reality.
                                                                                                                                                                                             Page 5

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