Project Genesis

Why Enslave Abraham’s Children?

Question: I’m struck by the quote,”Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and that they shall be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13) especially after all the “amazing” promises G-d has made to Abram before that. Why would G-d do that to Abram and the Jewish people?

Answer: It’s a good question. The short answer is that this statement was made in response to Abraham’s question, “How do I know they will inherit it [The Land of Israel].” If you think about it, that’s a crazy question. What does Abraham mean by this? Didn’t God just finish telling him that they would inherit it? How do you know? Because God just told you!

So our sages understand that Abraham is asking a more subtle question. What he means is, “How do I know they will deserve it?” Surely you won’t give them the Land if they don’t deserve it! That would be like promising a child dessert, regardless of whether or not he eats his dinner!?

To this God answers, “Don’t worry. If they don’t earn it through merit, they will earn it through suffering.”

Also note that the Sages add that the experience in Egypt had a fundamental role in preparing us for the Land.

Other questions to explore are:

1. What’s the purpose of the Land? Why did God promise this to Abraham in the first place?
2. What kind of people would we need to be as a nation in order to achieve this purpose?
3. How could the experience of Egypt and the Exodus help us become that kind of people?

Hope this is a helpful start!

Feel free to be back in touch.

Rabbi Seinfeld

Leaving Good Cooking Into the Sabbath

Question: Is it permissible to put raw meat in the oven just prior to the Sabbath on an automatic setting that turns the oven off automatically and then eat the meat Friday night? Also, is it permissible to begin cooking a Cholent (traditional Shabbos Stew) with raw meat just prior to the Sabbath in order to eat it during the daytime of Shabbat?

Answer: Thank you for your questions. In both cases that you mention, if the oven controls would be covered in a way in which a person will be reminded not to adjust the fire on Shabbat, this would be allowed.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

A Prayer for the Sukka

Filed under: Sukkos

Question: Is there a special prayer I must say when I build my Sukka?

Answer: No. The first night of Sukkos (and, outside of Israel, the second night) you say the ‘Shehecheyanu’ blessing during Kiddush (follow the instructions in your Machzor, or Festival Prayer book) at the start of the evening meal. This covers the obligation to thank G-d for the opportunity to perform His commandment. In addition, throughout the seven days of Sukkos, whenever one eats an olive-sized portion of flour-based food in a Sukka, one recites the blessing of ‘Leisheiv BaSukka.’ One says the blessing after the normal blessing one says on the food (e.g. HaMotzi for bread), right before eating.

Evil’s Appetite

Question: I once saw this thought tha I can’t find the source for: “If you do not stop evil, it will multiply”. Thanks

Answer: That exact phraseology does not sound familiar. The Sages  do teach with regards to our base nature (Yetzer Hora) that if you feed it, it is starving, and if you starve it, it is sated. That is a similar notion.

Best Wishes,
Rabbi Chayim Lando

Age of Spiritual Accountability

Filed under: Reward and Punishment

Question: At what age does God consider a child to be responsible for his/her own soul and not the parents?

Answer: That is an important question. A young boy begins his accountability at thirteen, while a young girl begins at twelve. However, according to most authorities, God withholds punishment of any wrong doing until the individual is twenty, essentially giving a young teenager time to “get their act together.”

Question: What source do “most authorities” use to come to this conclusion?

Answer: There are three primary sources for this conclusion. The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 89b, Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Bikurim Chapter 4 paragraph 1 and the Midrash Rabbah Section Chayeh Sarah chapter 58. Maimonides (Commentary to Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7:4) and Nachmanides (in his writings “Gate of Payment”) both quote these citations. The main debate amongst the authorities is whether the quotations only apply to spiritual excises or all forms of punishment.

All the Best,
Rabbi Azriel Schreiber

G-d Has Faith Us!

Question: What does the “faithful” mean in the phrase said before the Shema prayer – “El melekh ne’eman” – “Mighty, King, Faithful” ? The word “faithful” is also at the end of the first prayer Jews say when they rise – the Modeh Ani prayer: “rabah emunatecha” – “Great is your faith.” How does G-d have faith?

Answer: That is a wonderful question and the answer is (in my opinion) even more wonderful. When we talk about humans being faithful, we think of a person who is dedicated and loyal to others, who will stand by the other through thick and thin. When we speak about G-d’s “faithfulness”, it is referring to the faith that G-d has in us! No matter how far we stray, how many sins we commit, or mistakes we make, G-d has faith in our ability to improve and repent. The world is based on this kindness and faithfulness. If judgement were instantly meted out, very few (if any) of us would be left standing! That is exactly why the first thing we say each morning, after G-d has returned our souls to our bodies, is a declaration of G-d’s faithfulness. He believes in us and demonstrates this fact by giving us a fresh start each day and we should take this knowledge and use it to strengthen ourselves as we prepare to meet the challenges of a new day. After all, if G-d believes in you, shouldn’t you?

R’ Daniel Fleksher

Prescription for Material Wealth

Question: What is the Torah’s prescription for material wealth? I once heard that a person should invest 1/3 of his money in stocks, another third in real estate and the last third in cash. Please provide me some other Torah thoughts and advise.

Answer: The comment you refer to was made by Rabbi Yitzchok, and is quoted in the Talmud (Bava Metzia 42a).

Other than this comment, we do find many instances of business advice, but mostly for specialized industries, not so much of general interest that might be relevant to us today. There are many business laws that must be kept. These are discussed at length in Kitzur Shulchan Oruch/ Concise Code Of Jewish Law, Chapters 62-66, and 179-188.

Perhaps the most constructive advice and command that we find in the Torah is that a person should invest his money with G-d to be profitable. We are supposed to make G-d 10% partners in all net profits after business expenses. This is done by giving a minimum of 10% to causes that do G-d’s work, most notably Jewish charities for the poor, and traditional Jewish education. We are told that if G-d is a partner in your business, you can rest assured that it will be a successful one!

If you are looking for such investment opportunities, I know some advisers that can guarantee an excellent return on your money, not only in this world, but you will be able to “take it with you” in the future.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Simple Method to Strengthen Trust in G-d

Question: How do I keep my trust in G-d strong and not think it’s my efforts that are doing everything?

Answer: Thanks for sending this important question.

Here’s a simple but powerful suggestion:

Say “Please help me make this an honor to Your name and successful” before…

1. Turning on the computer each time

2. Clicking “send” on each email

3. Making any phone call.

4. Meeting with anyone.

5. Getting into your car

6. Giving a presentation.

7. Etc.

Hope that’s helpful,

Rabbi Seinfeld

Kabbalah Study

Filed under: G-d and Torah

Question: Do you guide students in the study of Kabbalah? I have spent many years reading books that were written by Non-Jews about the Kabbalah and would like to learn from our heritage.

Answer: Your question was forwarded to me as I have done some teaching and writing on this topic.

As you point out, there are many books about Kabbalah, both by Jews and non-Jews.

The question is, do you want to “learn Kabbalah” or to “learn about Kabbalah”?

The difference? In a nutshell, the question may be compared to “learning quantum physics” v. “learning about quantum physics.”

I address both of these goals in my book but in different ways. In Ch.1-3 I talk a little bit about Kabbalah – as much (in my opinion) as an educated person should know without getting into Kabbalah.

In order to get into Kabbalah, like getting into quantum mechanics, there is some prerequisite knowledge. (To do physics, for instance, one must have a solid foundation in mathematics, beginning with arithmetic.)

My book, The Art of Amazement, will take you through the prerequisite “arithmetic” of Kabbalah. After you master that, please be back in touch for the next steps.

(Of course, feel free to be in touch at any time in the interim. There are indeed other books I would recommend if you are interested in more than one.)

May your search be fruitful!

Warm regards,
R. Alexander Seinfeld
the book, the blog

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