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Question of the Week:
I've had a question for a while now and no one has been able to give me a satisfying answer. I want to know why it sometimes seems that we depict G-d as a tantruming little child. For example, many times in the Torah it says that we should not say or do something that is forbidden since that will make G-d very angry. What am I supposed to make of that? How can I respect a G-d who is on the edge of blowing up if we don't follow what He says?
Imagine being married to a man who never gets angry. Ever. About anything. You insult him and he shrugs. You are rude to him and he is nice back to you. You give attention to others and he isn't the least bit jealous.
Would that be a wonderful marriage?
Well, on one level, yes, it would be fantastic. No tension, no issues, no arguments or fights or silent treatment.
But in truth, it wouldn't be good at all. It wouldn't be a relationship. If he never gets upset at you, it means that you don't really matter to him. If nothing you do moves him, it means he doesn't care enough to be impacted by you.
Being in a relationship means affecting each other. For better or for worse, your heart is intertwined with someone else's. If you aren't getting a reaction, then you aren't connecting. You may be married, but you are really alone.
G-d created the world so He could have a relationship with us. He made a huge gamble, creating humans with free choice to do whatever we want, and He invested Himself in us, allowing Himself to be impacted by our actions.
So when the Torah says that G-d will get angry if we do wrong, that is the most beautiful statement of love. G-d is saying, "You matter to me. Your actions touch me. I have invested myself in you. This relationship is real."
We only get upset at people who matter to us. When your husband gets annoyed at you, take it as his way of saying you matter to him. You matter to G-d too.
I feel like I am a Jewish soul born in a non-Jewish body. I have always been surrounded by Jewish friends, loved the religion, and after years of study I just fulfilled my dream and converted to Judaism. My family has no Jewish roots whatsoever, I descend from Vikings on both sides, so it is all a bit of a mystery. Any explanation?
Many people from all different walks of life have reported feeling an affinity to Jews and Judaism. Some leave it at that. Others take it further. For them, it is more than just a curiosity with Jewish things or a taste for Jewish cooking. It is in their soul.
The first Jewish couple, Abraham and Sarah, were married for decades before they were blessed with a child. But the Kabbalists say that although no physical children had been born to them, they had given birth to many spiritual children.
Every time husband and wife are together a soul is born. Sometimes that soul comes down into a body, and is born as their child. Other times, the soul remains in the heavens. Abraham and Sarah for all those years were in fact giving birth to souls without bodies. Those souls were then distributed among the nations of the world and spread over history.
These are the souls of converts to Judaism throughout the ages.
When a non-Jew feels within them a pull towards the Jewish faith and the Jewish people, it may be a latent Jewish soul wanting to return to its community, a long lost child of Abraham and Sarah reuniting with its family.
This is why when a convert to Judaism chooses a Hebrew name, they are called the son or daughter of Abraham and Sarah. This is describing a true fact, their Jewish soul came directly from the first Jewish couple. While a born Jew is a distant descendant of Abraham and Sarah, a convert is their actual child.
Now there are plenty of non-Jews who have Jewish taste. Just because you like Jewish humour, enjoy Jewish food and shop at Costco, doesn't mean you have a hidden Jewish soul.
But someone such as yourself, who studies Judaism and is enthralled by it, keeps the laws of Torah and just wants to do more, felt a deep calling to join the Jewish people and made the long and hard journey to do just that - it must have been Abraham and Sarah calling you home.
I am a constant worrier. I worry about everything and I know it. Everyone tells me to chill out but I can't. The problem is, I always feel if I don't worry and something bad happens, I will feel guilty forever more that I wasn't worried enough. Now I'm pregnant and am obsessing about what may go wrong. But if I don't worry, doesn't that mean I don't care? I am in therapy, but do you have any Jewish strategies for me to get out of this cycle?
There is wonderful old Yiddish proverb, which is also said to be an ancient Chinese proverb, and a more recent Indonesian proverb, sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, Socrates or Dr Seuss:
"There are two things you should never worry about. One is something that you can't help, because you can't help it. The other is something you can help, because you can help it."
Some matters are simply out of your hands. Life and death, weather patterns and parking availability are G-d's domain, not yours. Worrying about these is not just pointless, it prevents you from achieving in the areas where your efforts are needed. The precious energy wasted on being anxious would be better saved for more important pursuits.
An expecting mother's frame of mind has a direct impact on her unborn child. Your positive thoughts and trust in G-d are as vital for your baby as pre-natal vitamin supplements and pregnancy pilates. Worrying, even with good intentions, is not really caring for yourself or your baby.
When something worries you, meditate on this question: Is there anything I can do about this, or do I need to leave up to G-d? Is it my business or His business? If it's mine I need not worry, I need to do something. If it's His, I need not worry, He knows what He's doing.
Worrying is no more than a useless diversion from your real mission. Don't get lost in it. Those Yiddish Chinese Indonesians were right, leave G-d to do His job, and you do yours.
I have a question and promised my 7-year-old daughter that I would check with a Rabbi. My 9-year-old son has been learning to say the Friday night Kiddush. It has been a very very slow process and he has found it very difficult. I am extremely proud of his persistence and effort he has put in and told him he can say the Kiddush at Shabbos tonight. His younger sister is the opposite, she finds reading Hebrew very easy and demanded that she be allowed to say the Kiddush as well. I told her girls aren't allowed to do it. She was horrified and told me to check with the Rabbi if that is true. I feel like I've handled this badly and opened a can of worms. Are girls allowed to do say the Kiddush? Are kids allowed to say the Kiddush?
You should indeed be proud of your son's hard work and achievement, as well as your daughter's talent and enthusiasm. You should be even more proud that this is an issue for your kids - may you always have such problems!
Now let's get technical. Kiddush is a mitzvah that both men and women are obligated in once they turn bar/bat mitzvah. One person can recite it, and those who hear it and say 'amen' have done the mitzvah too.
When a man over bar mitzvah is present, he makes Kiddush. When no man is present, a woman over bat mitzvah makes Kiddush. A child can make Kiddush, but not on behalf of an adult. A child is not yet obligated in mitzvos, so cannot perform a mitzvah on behalf of someone who is.
So in your case, your son can make Kiddush for himself, but not instead of you. As an adult, you should make the official family Kiddush.
Now in theory your daughter can make Kiddush for herself too. But I would encourage her not to do that. Rather she should light one Shabbos candle each week and say the bracha.
Both Kiddush and candle lighting serve the same purpose, to acknowledge the sanctity of the day. Kiddush is a masculine way of doing it, making a verbal statement proclaiming the holiness of Shabbos. Lighting candles is a feminine way of doing it, creating an atmosphere and aura of holiness.
One day, with G-d's help, your son will be the father and make Kiddush for his family, and your daughter will be a mother and light the candles for hers. The idea of education is to prepare each child for those obligations that will apply to them when they are older.
But there's another reason to gently steer your daughter away from making Kiddush. She may upstage your son. When his younger sister recites with ease what he worked so hard to do, he may feel belittled. Better they each flourish in their own distinct ways without any competition or comparison.
You didn't open a can of worms, you have opened the opportunity for a great teaching moment. Not only can you guide your children in observing mitzvos, you can teach them an important lesson in sensitivity too.