FAQs

Theological Topics

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Question: I’m curious to know: what does the Talmud say about bad things that happen to good people?

Answer: (By Dr. Michael Schulman and Rabbi Sholom Ber Bloom, Ask Noah International)
One important point is that we physical people have a very limited perspective on what are “bad things”, and our view of “happen” is limited to what we think we see in a small frame of time. But this topic does need a lot of explanation.
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Where is Mount Sinai located?

Question: As a Noahide, I’m wondering if it is it known where the original Mount Sinai was located. That is where G-d spoke the Ten Commandments to the entire Israelite nation on the 6th of Sivan.

Answer

The Hebrew text of the Torah describes how Israelites proceeded to Mount Sinai after they passed through the Yam Suf. This translates as the “Sea of Reeds”, commonly referred to in English as the “Red Sea”. There are different opinions among the Sages about where and how the splitting of the sea occurred. This leads to differences of opinion about the location of Mount Sinai. The Lubavitcher Rebbe clearly indicated the opinion that he favored, in a map that was drawn according to his instructions. Read more »

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Should a person have fear of Gehinom / “Hell”?

A question sent to Ask Noah: Should a Noahide have fear of Gehinom?

Response: First of all, it is necessary to know that there is really no such thing as “eternal damnation”. There will be no Gehinom in the time of the future World to Come, when the righteous will be resurrected.

Nevertheless, it’s extremely unpleasant for a soul to have to spend any amount of time in Gehinom. It’s certainly something that a person should try to avoid. A Gentile avoids it by refraining from doing sins, and by repenting from sins that were done. For Gentiles, the worst sins involve violations of the Seven Noahide Commandments, or the basis on which they are founded. Some people can only motivate themselves to refrain from sinning, and repent from their sins, by having fear of Gehinom.  In that case, that is what the person needs to have.

However, that is not always effective, because it is a fear of something that might happen in the future. What if the person gets a strong lust for a sin when the opportunity is right in front of him? His evil inclination (yetzer harah) will tell him that it’s better to satisfy his immediate sinful desire, and:
(1) not be so considered about what might happen to his soul in the future, and/or
2) that he can do the sin now and repent later.

The Eye that sees and the Ear that hears

It’s better, and more righteous, to have fear of the awesome, infinitely powerful and eternal G-d. G-d is King of all that exists in the physical and spiritual realms, which He is constantly creating out of nothing. He is right now and always close beside the person, seeing, hearing and “recording” everything that the person is thinking, saying and doing. As Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai told his disciples (Tractate Berachot 28b):

“May it be the will of G-d that the fear of Heaven [i.e. fear of G-d and His judgment] be upon you like the fear of flesh and blood [human beings] … When people commit sins, they say, ‘May a person not see me!'”

The person looks around to make sure that no one else is watching, and then he does the sin. If he would similarly remember and take to heart that G-d is intently watching him, he would be too afraid and too embarrassed to do the sin. A person should always be aware of “the Eye that sees and the Ear that hears”.

This echos the teaching in Ecclesiastes 12:13. “The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear G-d and keep His commandments, for this is the entire person.”

an Eye that sees

A higher spiritual level of fear

It is a higher spiritual level to be afraid of the sin itself. That’s because sin is what separates a person from being connected with G-d. A person should desire more than anything to be connected with G-d all the time, because of G-d’s greatness and his love of G-d. He should also be afraid of that connection getting blocked, which will happen if he sins. (The connection is blocked until he later repents sincerely, and G-d accepts his repentance and removes the sin from his soul.)

What if a person hasn’t learned to sustain that fear and love of G-d, and fear of sin? Then at least he should try to sustain the lower level, which is fear of being judged to eventually spend some time in Gehinom. The shortcoming of that lower level of fear is that one is only concerned about his own self-interest. The advantage of the higher level of fear is that one nullifies himself to G-d. That strengthens his connection to G-d. It also brings him to the higher level of actively serving G-d.

So even if a person can only refrain from sin by having fear of Gehinom, he should still try to frequently spend some time contemplating, imagining, and attempting the higher level. And little by little, he will actually start to achieve some of the higher level.

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Pleasure from good or bad deeds: is it from the same place?

Question: Does the pleasure that evil people get from the evil they perpetrate come from the same place as the pleasure that a kind person gets from being kind?

Answer:
I’m sure you will agree that a ripe red apple is sweet.
By extension, cinnamon is a sweet-smelling spice.
If you have ever listened to classical music, you may have heard works from the great composers that have sweet melodies.
There have surely been people whom you’ve met, adults or children, who aroused in you sweet emotions.
In terms of understanding and knowledge of G-d’s laws in the Torah, King David wrote in Psalms 19:10-11, “…the judgments of the L-rd are true, altogether just. They are to be desired more than gold, yea more than much fine gold, and are sweeter than honey and drippings of honeycombs.”

Consider the following:
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What is the meaning of 1290 & 1335 years in Daniel 12:11-12?

The time for the process of the final redemption of the Jewish people, ending their exile from their Holy Land by the Roman Empire, and beginning the Messianic Era, was revealed to the prophet Daniel. However, it was recorded in the Book of Daniel in a mysterious ways, in five places.[1] The last one is in the verses 12:11-12.

11. And from the time the daily sacrifice was removed and the silent abomination was placed [on the site of the Holy Temple], one thousand, two hundred, and ninety [1290] years.
12. Fortunate is he who waits and reaches to one thousand, three hundred, and thirty-five [1335] years.

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What does “new covenant” mean in Jeremiah 31?

Here is the translation of Jeremiah 31:30-33 that is printed in the Artscroll Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh. [Tanakh is an abbreviation with the Hebrew Letters T – N – Kh, which stand for T(orah) = 5 Books of Moses, N(evi’im) = Prophets, Kh(esuvim) = Holy Writings.]

30. Behold, days are coming, says the L-rd, when I will seal a new covenant with the HOUSE OF ISRAEL and with the HOUSE OF JUDAH:

31. not like the covenant that I sealed with their forefathers on the day that I took hold of their hand to take them out of the land of Egypt, for they abrogated My covenant, although I became their Master, says the L-rd.

32. For this is the covenant that I shall seal with the HOUSE OF ISRAEL after those days, says the L-rd; I will place my Torah within them and I will write it onto their heart; I will be their G-d and they will be a people for Me.

33. They will no longer teach – each man his fellow, each man his brother – saying, “Know the L-rd,” For all of them will know Me, from their smallest to their greatest, says the L-rd, when I will forgive their iniquity and will no longer recall their sin.

A fine traditional explanation of the “New Covenant” verses in Jeremiah has been published in chapter 10 of the book “Their Hollow Inheritance,” by Michoel Drazin. Here is an excerpt of the main points from that chapter: Read more »

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What is the meaning of full trust in G-d?

What does it mean to have full “bitachon” (trust) in G-d?

From a talk by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. Presented with permission from the publisher, Sichos in English. Translated from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXVI, p. 1-6.

Bitachon/trust is not merely the faith that G-d has the potential to bestow good [upon a person] and save him from adversity. Instead, [it implies that] the person trusts that G-d will actually do this. And his trust is so absolute that he is serene and does not worry at all. As [the book] Chovos HaLevavos [Duties of the Heart] states:[1] “The essence of bitachon/trust is the serenity of the person who trusts. His heart relies on the One Whom he trusts that He will do what is best and most befitting with regard to the matter he trusts in Him.” Read more »

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Should I punish or harm myself for doing a sin?

Answer:*

The true basic meaning of repentance is abandoning sin, and this is one of the universal commandments in the Torah. How is this accomplished? In the preamble to “Laws of Repentance” in Mishneh Torah, the book of Torah Laws compiled by Maimonides (“Rambam”), he writes that repentance entails one positive command: that the sinner turn away from committing his sin before G‑d, and confess to G-d. Read more »

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What is the Gentiles’ purpose?

The fulfillment of G-d’s Kingship is dependent upon the Gentiles

The holy book of Zohar explains that the purpose of G-d’s creation of the physical universe is for the eternal future World to Come. In that time, His unlimited Essence will be openly revealed in this physical world, dwelling together with human beings, both Gentiles and Jews. Many Biblical prophecies focus on the Righteous Gentiles in the Messianic Era. Read more »

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Are G-d’s eyes always upon the Promised Land?

IMPORTANT READING FOR EVERY NOAHIDE: Fundamental principles and historical highlights explained from the Torah perspective. Read more »

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What should we do if trouble affects a society?

From the text of Maimonides (Rambam), Laws of Fasts 1:2-3. “…when a difficulty arises [which affects a community because of their sins], and the people cry out [to G-d in prayer to save them]… everyone will realize that [the difficulty] occurred because of their evil conduct… This [realization, and their repentance and prayers] will cause the removal of this difficulty from among them.” Read more »

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Am I expected to sacrifice animalistic desires?

Question: I have felt an interest in bringing burnt offerings, but I was told by a Noahide that it’s about sacrificing our animal desires. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it lines up with my personal struggles. Read more »

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Insights into the Meaning of Hanukkah

Based on the Talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

Published and copyright © by Sichos in English. Presented with permission from Sichos in English

(For translation in Portuguese, CLICK HERE: https://asknoah.org/essay/o-que-e-hanukkah

The Gemara asks in Tractate Shabbos, “What is Hanukkah?” As Rashi explains, the Gemara is inquiring as to what miracle brought about the establishment of the festival of Hanukkah. Read more »

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How can there be true free choice?

Translation of a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Presented with permission from the publisher, Sichos in English. Source: Sichos in English, Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 24th Day of Iyar, 5744.

[It is] explicitly recorded in Scripture (Exodus 19:1): “In the third month … they [the Israelite nation] came to the wilderness of Sinai.”

As everything in Torah, the fact that this month [of Sivan] is called “the third month” provides lessons for living. Thus, although one may think numerical names given the months have no connection to the theme of the month — since as long as the months [originally] didn’t have other names, they had to be called something — nevertheless, the fact that the “Torah of truth” calls the month by these numerical names indicates that they reflect their themes. […]

Free choice depends on the number 3

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Does G-d want a dwelling place in this world?

A review of a Chassidic discourse by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, on the verse said by Jacob in Genesis 32:11, “Katonti MiKol HaChasadim” (“I have become small from all the kindnesses”) Read more »

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What is the nature of G-d and life’s purpose?

Questions: I was hoping for your help. I have so many questions, a spiritual crisis. I am overwhelmed by competing media/input and don’t know what way to turn. I need answers to why we are here? What is the purpose of life and the nature of G-d? I need insight. Any assistance you could offer would be much appreciated.

Response: The first thing is, don’t worry, and don’t be overwhelmed! The answers you are seeking are known and available, so you can rest assured about that.

1. What is the nature of G-d?

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Why did the serpent in the Garden of Eden get a punishment?

Question: If the serpent in the Garden of Eden had no free will, why did it tempt Chava (Eve)? Was it created with an ability to sin? If it didn’t have free will, why did G-d punish it? Read more »

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Are G-d’s attributes masculine or feminine?

The existence of male and female creations within the physical world is a reflection of processes in the spiritual realms. There are two different ways that a spiritual attribute can function in bringing G-d’s influence into the creation. Read more »

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Why not write out G-O-D? In books of Torah it’s written out

Why care should be taken with printed names of G-d

Exodus 22:27, “You shall not curse G-d,” is also one of the seven universal commandments. The Hebrew word for “curse” has the same root as “disgrace”. Anything that causes a desecration or dishonor of a name of G-d is forbidden as a branch of this prohibition. The Jews received details about this in the Torah, and from these we learn what is logically prohibited for Gentiles. This is explained in The Divine Code, Part 3, chapter 2: “Obligations to Revere and Fear G-d”. Read more »

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Is there an authentic Torah-based outlook on the Holocaust?

Many people have very deep questions about how G-d could have allowed this, and how much more so, how could He have caused this thing to happen. Read more »

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Is it a lack of faith if one goes to doctors?

Just the opposite! G-d wants us to bring down His miraculous healing power through these physical channels which He creates for His spiritual blessings to be manifested in the world. Read more »

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