Chapter One, Part One

The Power of a Question

Why do Jews always answer a question with a question? Why not?
Questioning has always been a very important part of being Jewish. All of the Talmud, the combined Oral Law as transmitted by the Sages, is written in a question and answer style. Most of us have heard of the four questions asked by Jewish children on Passover night.
Questions create a void in us that needs to be filled. It sets us up to understand the answer on a deep level – to experience higher consciousness.[1] If we do not have the question, we will never really appreciate the answer. In Judaism questioning is a good thing.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The Talmud says that all beginnings are difficult, and the word for the Talmud uses when describing a question is “kushya,” a difficulty. It’s not easy to be in a state of questioning, and many questions are very difficult.

Central Issues

In the introduction I mentioned some particularly difficult questions that we all have at some point: What am I? Why am I here? Why does God allow us to suffer? These questions are beginnings as well.
But let’s take a little turn. Let’s ask some even more basic philosophical questions. To understand God’s purpose for the world and our role in it, it’s worth questioning some of the fundamental premises we have concerning the nature of reality. This will help prepare us for a shift in consciousness.
Jews believe that God, who is one, infinite, and totally indivisible, created a world out of nothing. A brand new world.
The Jewish God is not a giant old man without a white beard sitting on his thrown in heaven like Zeus. He created the very concept of a physical and spiritual universe, and to this end He must be beyond all those things. He is beyond everything, yet is capable of anything.
This is what we mean when we say “Hear Israel Hashem our God, Hashem is one.” He is totally one and singular, lacking nothing and possessing everything, with no division whatsoever – a concept beyond our universe of perceived duality and separation.
How is this possible if He is one and indivisible? Everything is included within Him… How can anything be new? And if we grant that He can do the impossible, still what would be the nature of this new creation?
Kabbalah teaches that every soul is a piece of God, analogous to a rock hewn from a mountain. Well how can that be? How does one split God into pieces, so to speak? It’s against the basic principle of God’s indivisible unity!
How can the perfect, good God create and constantly sustain evil, His complete opposite?
What’s the deal with resurrection of the dead? Why is that an important belief? Let our souls stay in heaven, happy as can be. Why is the body necessary at all?
These questions may or may not bother you all the time – but they cut to the core of the reality of who and what we are, what is the nature of our world and what our purpose in it is. When we shed light on these questions, we can shed light on to all of our painful questions as well. Perhaps we will find that the darkness of our questions contains light that was originally to blinding for us to see.

What’s the Point of it All?

This question – sometimes voiced with frustration, depression, or desperation – is actually the beginning of its own answer. What’s the point indeed? Any action, unless it is being performed by a person lacking any sanity or intelligence, has some sort of purpose.
Let us assume that God is not so evil, lowly and despicable (God forbid), that He would create myriad pathetic beings that would their lives out in all sorts of pain, for no real purpose, and just turn His back and walk away. If He is a good and loving God, than perhaps there is an end goal to this, maybe it’s a process?
To understand any process, or any object, one must understand its purpose. If you think a cell phone is a door stop, you might complain it’s too light. If you are watching an artist sketch the first details of an oil painting, you could say he doesn’t know how to draw too well. “Never show a fool unfinished work,” is the old folk saying.
The reality is, the human nature that could lead to evil was God’s creation. He knew what could and would happen. There are some who would say that God was “powerless” to prevent evil. This is heresy of the highest degree. There is nothing out of God’s control.
The answer lies in understanding what the end goal of creation is.

[1] I received this idea from Rabbi Yochanan Becchofer when editing his yet unpublished book on the holidays. See the chapter on the Passover seder.

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