Project Genesis


I Don’t Want to Have Children

Filed under: Parenting

Question: I’m in an orthodox Jewish girls high school and I had made a decision that I really don’t want to have kids. I’ve worked with kids a lot and I have a lot of experience with babies and young kids and I know what its like. I’m terrified by the idea of labour and childbirth as well. Once I do have kids I know I will never have time to myself, my money to myself etc. I know this is Selfish. I’ve thought A LOT about this and even though I know everyone says you’ll change your mind etc., I know I’m just a teen, but I did consider it.

Answer: You are right, kids are a lot of work, childbirth is difficult and many people find life easier without children. Easier is not the same as richer or more fulfilling, however. I am sure that you have given the matter careful consideration given the exposure and experience you have had to date and I am guessing that you will consider it again and yet again as you mature.

I can tell you that while my own children have been quite a challenge to raise, with many bumps along the way, and even with days I wished I could roll back the clock and be “free” again, I wouldn’t trade in the experience and more importantly, I wouldn’t trade in the relationships I now have with them for anything in the universe. Without our kids, without tuitions, without medical bills etc, we could have had a nicer house, better cars, fancier clothes, great vacations, much more time as a couple, but we’d be much smaller people with much poorer lives, and far less to look forward to as we age. Our first children are now getting married and having children of their own. Life is getting more and more delicious as parents and as grandparents, and even as a married couple. We both learned so much through raising our children that helped us to be better spouses.  Our marriage is for sure stronger because of all we shared and all we went through in raising our brood. And our individual lives are richer as well.

You are currently in an age and stage where you are supposed to be focusing on yourself and your own development. In a way, you are supposed to be selfish right now, even as you struggle with becoming less selfish as you mature. Give yourself a chance to grow, and think about children again later. It is not a decision you have to make right now and even if you have decided for now, it is a decision you can, and most likely will, revisit again over the next couple of decades.

I hope that as you grow, you will choose to open the door to the world of parenthood for yourself, with all the difficulties that it entails, because the difficulties are, in the end, a fair price for the richness, warmth and meaning you can find only in that world.

Please feel free to write to me again, I am happy to discuss this further if you would like to.

All the Best,
Mrs. A. Bulow

Challenging to Get to Prayer

Filed under: Prayer and Blessings

Question: I am 54 with many changes going on, physical and mental. I go to therapy sessions. I also have a challenging past. Sometimes I can’t go out to go to Shul (synagogue), it takes everything for me to get up. I get the kids up and out because my wife goes to work, and then I have to Daven (pray) and go to work. Today I put on Tefillin at home. I couldn’t go to the Shul with all the people.  I don’t know what to do. I am so down on myself and feel so unsuccessful. Finances are causing a lot of my issues. I keep saying, well, this is what I deserve if Hashem wants it this way. I hate thinking that. I don’t want to tell anyone here.

Answer: Davening (prayer), for many reasons, is a huge challenge for most people, and it’s not at all uncommon to wonder what it could possibly accomplish. Of course, we all understand that the words of our prayers are very precise and inspiring, and we all know that some people can elevate themselves to very great heights through prayer, but most of the time, we just don’t feel it ourselves. Even when we’re thinking about what we’re saying, it’s all going by so fast and seems so habitual, that it can seem futile.

And that’s for people for whom things are going well. When things are rough in other aspects of life, the problem only gets bigger. So there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging, as you have, that it’s not working well for you right now. One important thought, though, is to keep in mind that we don’t have to win every one of life’s battles, so long as we continue struggling. If prayer didn’t go well for you one day, if you just couldn’t pull yourself to Shul, then maybe you’ll have more success tomorrow, or next week. As long as you’re still trying. Here’s something else: the Shulchan Aruch (Jewish bookof law) teaches – טוב מעט תחנונין בכוונה, מהרבות בלא כוונה – Fewer prayers with mental focus are better than many without. If you’re able to focus on a smaller number of key prayers each day – perhaps rotating day by day or week by week – you will accomplish more than by racing through pages and pages of blurred words.

I wish you great success!
Rabbi Boruch Clinton
Toronto

Understanding the Tower of Babel Episode

Question: I am confused by these following verses in Parasha Noah: G-d descended to see the city and the tower, which the children of men had built. G-d said: “Behold, they are a single people, all having one language, and this is the first thing they do! Now nothing they plan to do will be unattainable for them! Come, let us descend and confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.? Was God jealous of we being single people and one language? Was He afraid of our plans / actions? Why did God not try to deter or warn the people? What was the idea behind confounding the language? Why did God attack the speech which He had bestowed only to man and to no other creature on the planet? Was there no other way of punishing the people after the flood? What was so bad about building a tower of Babel? If God could have shown His power by destroying it, why did God do this miracle of confusing the language of the people? So does it mean to say that Hashem in a way intervened and the people of that generation lost the choice of ‘free will’ as God imposed and put different languages in their mouths. Am I correct? Kindly clarify

Answer:  Here is my understanding of the episode of the Tower of Babel: First, I believe we need to take a step back and examine the episode of the Tower in context of the entire Portion of Noach, in which it appears. Noach is book-ended by two seminal events: The flood and the Tower. Although at first glance, these two events appear unrelated, I believe they are very much related, and inform us about what God desires from a society and ultimately, how we are to behave within society. Let’s take a look at both episodes and understand what tell us about our obligations within society and the world at large: The Torah lets us know why the people at the time of the flood were punished: people did not respect each other. They stole from one another and generally, there was anarchy in the society. Everyone did their own thing without care of concern for another. Clearly, this is not what God wants from the world, and so He had to start over with the flood. That part is, I believe, the easy part. We can completely understand the evil of the generation of the flood.

Now, let’s turn to the episode of the Tower, which is more difficult to understand. Why were the people punished so severely? What did they do wrong? Various Rabbinic sources and commentaries offer suggestions for their crimes (especially idol worship), but at the end of the day, we cannot escape the plain meaning of the verses. The Torah clearly states that the reason God punished the builders of the Tower was because they were “one people, of one language and one speech.” That explanation seems to magnify the question. What’s so bad about that?

That seems like a wonderful thing, doesn’t it. Everyone is on the same page, speaking the same words, thinking the same thing. Isn’t that what God wants from us and society?

The answer is a resounding NO! God does not want us all to think the same thing. That’s not the intent of the creation of the world. We were all created differently, with different thought patterns, with different talents. We are intended to all think the same way, do the same thing, behave the same way. That is not what God wants. God wants us to develop our own talents, our own way of doing things. We each have a different way of related to the world, and ultimately to God.

If we are not developing our own inner self, we are corrupting the design of the universe. The generation of the tower went to the opposite extreme in trying to rectify the sins of the generation of the flood: instead of anarchy, there was complete rigidity and conformity in society. Neither are what God desired for His creation.

What God truly desires is the middle ground between the generation of the flood and the generation of the Tower. We are enjoined to develop our own souls, find our own path to God—no two people are the same.

At the same time, we must respect and appreciate every person’s talents and differences. We cannot live within our own little bubble, expelling other people who are not like us. Its a very difficult balance, and it’s very easy to sway to one extreme or the other.

Now, I believe we can better understand the episode of the tower of the babel. The fact that the generation of the tower all spoke the same way and thought the same was an indication of something very wrong with their society, a very real breakdown in the very fabric and uniqueness of the individual. Not allowing the individual to develop his own way, his own talents and thoughts is an indication of a distortion of the world God desires. This distortion leads to all the evils described by the Rabbinic sources and commentaries. Something has gone awry, something has gone wrong in God’s world. Given the state of the world at the time of the tower, people will not be able to develop their own talents, think their own thoughts, develop their own path to God. This reality would completely subvert the entire purpose of creation. As such, God “had” to intervene to set the world back on track. God “had” to modify the direction of the world so that its original intent could be fulfilled. Therefore, God changed the language of the people so that each individual would now be respected as an individual and allowed to develop on his own, as opposed to forced to think a certain way and behave in a certain way. Confusing speech and language was the only way to allow humanity to develop different thoughts and patterns. This intervention allowed humanity to resume its its mission and purpose of creation.

Although I have not answered each of your questions individually, I believe this explanation does address them.

Be well,
Rabbi Yoel Spotts

The Generation of the Flood: Why Water?

Question: Why was the generation of Noah punished by water and not by fire or any other way? What is the idea or connection between God’s selection of flood as we all know God punishes us measure for measure, so what was the sin that amounted to use water as the main cause of destruction?

Answer: I believe the following is a possible approach: It seems clear that the generation of the flood had so corrupted the world that God had no “choice” but to obliterate the world and start over. The world as it was had to be completely destroyed and Noah would be the new Adam. There are indications from the Rabbinic sources that the ark of Noah functioned as a universe in and of itself, since the “real” universe had been completely destroyed. The world was starting over. Water as we know, is the foundation of life. No life is possible without water. The world was in some sense “created” from water (as in indicating from the splitting of the water between the upper and lower waters). Therefore, since the world was created with water, it only makes sense that it be destroyed with water. The evil people of the generation of the world caused the destruction of the world, as such, it seems only right that the destruction take place with the very same agent of its creation—water.

Be Well,
Rabbi Yoel Spotts

Noah Born Circumcised

Question: I read on your site that Noah was born circumcised. Can you tell me specifically in Torah where that is? 

Answer:  It isn’t explicitly in the text, but it can be found in the Midrash on Genisis 5:28 – 29 (the oral transmission explaining much of the Torah text. These transmissions were given to Moses at Sinai by G-d as a companion to the text, in order to properly explain the terse verbiage of the Torah). When G-d cursed Adam and the land, he explained that the curse would last till a child was born circumcised. When Lemech saw Noah born circumcised, he immediately knew relief was in sight, so he exclaimed, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands from the ground, which the Lord has cursed.”

All the Best,
Rabbi Meir Goldberg

Etrog

Filed under: Sukkos

Question: Where in the Torah does it specify that we should use an Etrog (citron) during the holiday of Sukkot. I always thought the Torah referred to a citrus but not specifically a etrog.
Answer: The Torah describes the fruit we should use on Sukkot with Hebrew words that roughly translate as “a handsome fruit of a tree.” It is not clear if that is a proper name of a fruit or a description. Either way, we know the translation of an Etrog from our tradition. If you question the accuracy of that tradition, realize that the translation of any word is really a tradition, and so we must rely on our tradition to properly fulfill the Torah.

Rabbi David Shenker

What is a Sukkah?

Question: What is a sukkah?

Answer: A sukkah is a booth roofed with tree branches, plant stems or leaves. The Torah requires us to live in a sukkah on the seven days (outside Israel: eight days) of the holiday of Sukkos, which begins on the 15th day of Tishrei (five days after Yom Kippur); see Lev. 23:42-43. The Christian name for this holiday is Tabernacles; a “tabernacle” is a booth.

Umbrella in the Sukkah

Filed under: Sukkos

Question: Is it OK to open an umbrella inside the Sukkah? I know that covering the Sukkah with something plastic/weather resistant changes invalidates the Sukkah. But what about opening an umbrella or covering oneself with a plastic sheet within the walls?

Answer: This question actually shows up in the Mishnah. There it discusses canopy beds. It says one cannot have a four-posted canopy bed in the Sukkah, but one could have a single post at the middle of the head and foot of the bed, creating a tent-shaped shelter over the person. This is because there is a minimal amount of space (less than a hands-breadth) between the person under this sort of “tent” shelter.

Similarly, a plastic sheet over the person is like a raincoat or anything directly overhead, but an umbrella would probably be too far above the head of the sheltered person.

However—all of this is theoretical. If it is raining hard enough that one needs a raincoat, one is exempt from the requirement to sit in the Sukkah..

May we all have a dry Sukkot!

Ribis Interest on a Car Lease

Filed under: Business Law

Question: Is there a problem of violating the Jewish law against charging or paying interest when leasing a car from a Jewish owned leasing firm? 


Would it be better to avoid any questions and lease from a non-Jewish owned leasing firm?

Answer: Thank you for your question. If the lease is structured in a normal fashion, it is like any other rental and would not be a problem of Ribbis. There is no advantage of leasing from a non-Jew vs. a Jew.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler


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