Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

Chosen People

Some Basic Questions About Life and Faith

How do we know that G-d is real?

There is significant and even compelling evidence that there is a G-d and that He is the G-d of the Torah. Perhaps the best, most intelligent approach to this question on the web is the online book Living Up to the Truth by Rabbi Dr. David Gottlieb.

Still, developing faith in G-d is a very personal process – no one, no matter what kind of family and education they’ve had, is born with it. Some people simply don’t confront the questions on their own (or, sometimes, confronting the questions openly can actually be discouraged by others) and they can lie there, under the surface, waiting for some crisis before they appear. But questions borne of crisis are then often closely connected to emotional turmoil and, while Rabbi Gottlieb’s type of approach is intellectually strong, it doesn’t always work when other pressures get in the way.

Sometimes there is no choice but to find a personal approach – often through direct dialog with someone with experience.

Why should we believe in G-d?

Besides the possibility that He’s real and that the evidence strongly supports it, it also happens that belief in G-d can be an unspeakably pleasurable experience. Knowing that there is meaning in what happens to us and that there is a greater goal to which one can devote his energy makes even the painful parts of life happier. The discipline of Mitzvah observance (seeing it through even when you don’t have the strongest inner motivation) opens up your future to countless satisfying experiences – the feeling that you’re “getting things done” and the occasional perfect and moving Mitzvah experience being among them.

What is the meaning of life?

That’s a big question and, I suppose, a Torah person could answer it many different ways. I’ll quote the Torah itself in G-d’s core instruction to Avraham: “Go before Me and be perfect” (Genesis 17) – which the commentary of Rashi interprets to mean (among other things) “stand fast in all the tests I will send you.” The Hebrew word Tamim (“perfect”) also implies “unspoiled” – imagine how wonderful things would be if we could return to our natural, unspoiled and uncynical state! The meaning in things would be much more obvious then…

If G-d is real, then why are so many bad and horrible things happening to the Jews? I thought we were the chosen people and nothing bad is supposed to happen to us. G-d is supposed to watch over us and make sure nothing bad happens to the Jewish people. Am I right or wrong?

All the wonderful promises G-d made to the Jews were conditional on our living up to His conditions. See Deuteronomy 28 for a good example. Still, even from our limited human perspective we can see a bit of the good in that: think of how much suffering a person is perfectly willing to endure for some distant goal. Think of all those millions of people who work at unpleasant jobs, day in and day out for decades; who go without sleep and regular food and time with their families…why? Because they expect to one day enjoy a happy retirement. Now is our warm closeness to G-d in the next world (which, by the way, will last a great deal longer than anyone’s retirement) worth less than a couple of years floating on the Caribbean?

I hope all this helps. Let me know if there’s anything you think I could do for you,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

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