Category Archives: Archives 5771

Kislev 5771 – Hardships & Suffering

Hardships & Suffering Kislev 5771
Hardships & Suffering
by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

 

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,

I’ve had this question pop into my head every so often and I have also had friends who asked me the same question. There are so many wonderful people in this world who are so connected to
their Yiddishkeit. They wouldn’t give it up for anything. Yet I see and hear so many stories of all the hardships people go through…..illnesses (of all ages), divorces, orphaned children, couples with no children, so many children off the derech (just that can cause so much pain to parents)…..how do we even try to understand all these sad things? Most of what we can do is daven, but it never seems to go away. I don’t want to sound like an apicores (I know I’m not one because even with all this going on I know that Hashem is the One running the world and I know He does everything for
us, because He loves us) I just want to understand this whole idea better.

Any Advice?

Name and Seminary withheld by request

Dear Friend,

This is THE major issue that so many of us have to deal with on a regular basis. It is hard to deal with our own suffering – often harder to deal with watching the suffering of others. I have an hour shiur on the topic on my website rabbiorlofsky.com but I will try to summarize one of the three approaches I deal with.

This world is not the ultimate purpose of creation. It is a place and time of preparation – to allow us to become people who have greatness. The potential of a human being in spiritual terms is beyond belief.

We have all met people who look back at the end of their lives and are disappointed with how they lived. They wish they had used their time in this world better. What would have motivated them to live more meaningful lives?

There is a sad reality – most people tend to grow when things go wrong. When things are going well they cruise – not pushing themselves to be better people. They take life as it comes. Often when you see people starting to push themselves, suddenly davening with more intensity, giving charity and doing acts of kindness, it is because of suffering in their lives. How sad!

But that is the second paragraph of the Shema. If you serve Hashem with all your heart then I will send you beracha. If you pull away from Hashem I will send you klalla. Choose what works best for you. This idea is all over the Torah. When we come into Eretz Yisroel we make a bris at Har Gerizim and Har Aival. One is the mountain of blessing, one is the mountain of curses. Choose which one you want!

Hashem says “I put before you good and bad, life and death. Choose life!”

When I see people suffering or I look at the suffering in my own life, I try to see the potential for the greatness inside of all of us to surface – to help us become the exceptional people we can become.

Sincerely,

Dovid Orlofsky

dama

Teves 5771 – Are We Right?

Are We Right? Teves 5771
Are We Right?
by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

 

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,

A friend in school told me that Orthodox Jews are intolerant because we think we are the only people who are right and everyone else is wrong. What do I respond?

Name and Seminary withheld by request

Dear Friend,

Your friend is right – we do think we are right and everyone else is wrong.I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I do if I thought it was wrong!

The concept you are struggling with is relative truth. I believe one thing and you believe another and we need to respect each others positions. Judaism has never taken that approach. Let’s face it, either Yushka was the son of G-d or he wasn’t. Either we are right or the Christians are right and we are wrong. But we can’t both be right. Any good Catholic believes Jews are wrong – they have to. We rejected the son of G-d and consequently are doomed to burn in hell forever. But those two positions are irreconcilable.

Likewise, am atheist believes there is no G-d. When he and I die, one of us is going to be right and one wrong. But it is impossible that we are both right.

That is why Judaism has always been a religion of questioning. Avraham discovered Hashem by asking questions. He taught about Hashem by asking other people questions. In the marketplace of ideas we don’t shy away from confronting the truth of our positions. This is not true of all beliefs.

The same is true within Judaism. Either G-d dictated the Torah to Moshe and every word is Divine, or it was pasted together during the missing 150 years of Jewish history. But both stories can not be true.

How we reconcile this with machlokes within Orthodox Judaism, is a question for next month.

Sincerely,

Dovid Orlofsky

dama

Tammuz 5771 – Are We Right? Part 2

Are We Right? Part 2 Tammuz 5771
Are We Right? Part 2
by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

 

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,

A friend in school told me that Orthodox Jews are intolerant because we think we are the only people who are right and everyone else is wrong. What do I respond?

Name and Seminary withheld by request

Dear Friend,

Your friend is right – we do think we are right and everyone else is wrong.I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I do if I thought it was wrong!

The concept you are struggling with is relative truth. I believe one thing and you believe another and we need to respect each others positions. Judaism has never taken that approach. Let’s face it, either Yushka was the son of G-d or he wasn’t. Either we are right or the Christians are right and we are wrong. But we can’t both be right. Any good Catholic believes Jews are wrong – they have to. We rejected the son of G-d and consequently are doomed to burn in hell forever. But those two positions are irreconcilable.

Likewise, am atheist believes there is no G-d. When he and I die, one of us is going to be right and one wrong. But it is impossible that we are both right.

That is why Judaism has always been a religion of questioning. Avraham discovered Hashem by asking questions. He taught about Hashem by asking other people questions. In the marketplace of ideas we don’t shy away from confronting the truth of our positions. This is not true of all beliefs.

The same is true within Judaism. Either G-d dictated the Torah to Moshe and every word is Divine, or it was pasted together during the missing 150 years of Jewish history. But both stories can not be true.

How we reconcile this with machlokes within Orthodox Judaism, is a question for next month.

Dear Friend,

Last time we talked about the fact that Jews think we are right and every other religion is wrong. We left off with the problem of machlokes within Orthodoxy. How can this be reconciled with the principle of either I am right or you are?

The answer lies in the nature of the machlokes. Either there is a G-d or not, either He gave the Torah on Mount Sinai or He didn’t. These are irreconciable positions.

However the gemera in Gittin brings the story of Pilegesh B’Givah and offers two possible reasons why the man got angry. The gemera reconciles the two views and explain Elu V’elu divrei Elokim chaim, both are right. So sometimes a machlokes is presenting two aspects of the same issue.

Othertimes this won’t work. In an issue where one person says it’s permitted and the other says you get the death penalty, it is hard to reconcile those two positions. But we will look at another approach to understand this next month.

Sincerely,

Dovid Orlofsky

dama

Av 5771 – Are We Right? Part 3

Are We Right? Part 3 Av 5771
Are We Right? Part 3
by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

 

Dear Friend,

We are trying to understand the concept of machlokes in Judaism. One approach is they are really saying the same thing. But this won’t work when looking at a machlokes where the two positions are irreconcilable. So how can we understand that?

People think there is a Written Law and because it is so concise, it needs to be developed and expanded. The Oral Law was developed to make the Written Law usable.

The traditional approach is the exact opposite. The Written law was given by Hashem, and just as He is infinite, so too the Torah is infinite. This is the concept of shivim panim liTorah, 70 facets to the Torah. the Torah can mean many different things – since hashem included infinite levels of meaning.

But we can not exist as a people if we travel 70 different paths. As a people we need to decide which of the many correct possibilities we are going to follow. The Torah tells us acharei rabim lihatos – follow the majority. The reason we follow Bais Hillel is because there were more of them. One time there were more people from Bais Shammai and those halachos were decided like Bais Shammai.

Both are right. The gemera says about their machlokes elu v’elu divrei Elokim chaim. But we as a people need to choose one approach to follow. That is why we call what we actually do as halacha – what road will we walk along.

We will look at another approach next month.

Sincerely,

Dovid Orlofsky

 

dama

Elul 5771 – Are We Right? Part 4

Are We Right? Part 4 Elul5771
Are We Right? Part 4
by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

 

Dear Friend,

We have been dealing with the issue of machlokes in Judaism. How can it be that everyone is right? We have looked at two approaches – that both people are saying the same thing, but from different perspectives (Mar kdiasreh viMar kdiasreh each person was referring to the situation in their town).

The second approach was they are saying two equally and correct views, though they are diametrically opposed. This is the nature of Torah – a passuk can mean many different things – all of them true.

There is a third approach. Rashi explains in gemera kesuvos that sometimes, when two people are reporting what a third said, and both are giving opposite views, one of them must be wrong. This is a realistic possibility – a mistake was made.

The problem with this approach is you have to know enough to determine if someone is wrong, or expressing a different legitimate position. Today, people without knowing all of Torah think they are in a position to second guess Torah scholars who have mastered all of Torah. This is a tragic situation and weakens our respect for Torah and Torah scholars.

So this is an overview to a difficult issue. I hope this provides some clarity.

Sincerely,

Dovid Orlofsky