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, 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 (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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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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How are sins forgiven without blood sacrifice?

A question received: The shedding of blood for atonement for sin, the transgressing of G-d’s commandments, runs throughout the Hebrew Bible. How do you respond to this?

Answer: The premise of your question is actually incorrect. And you have also pointed out a deception, which is the fabricated concept that the Jewish service of sacrifices to G-d in the Holy Temple brought them forgiveness from sin. That is false, and it is a distortion of the true meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures.

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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 holy Zohar explains that the purpose of G-d’s creation of the physical universe is for the eternal future World to Come, when 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. For example: 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], and the people cry out [to G-d in prayer to save them]… everyone will realize that [the difficulty] occurred because of their [wrong] 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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What’s the Jewish outlook on the Book of Jonah?

The Book of Jonah is read during the services of Yom Kippur, the Jews’ Day of Atonement, because its messages are a fitting inspiration for that time. To understand this scripture, it helps to know the identities of Jonah and the king of Nineveh. 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 best way to encourage repentance?

The following is a translation of a Chassidic Talk (a Sicha) by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, on the 1st of Elul, 5782. Presented here with permission, as translated and published in Sichos In English, Volume 14. [Clarifications by the Director of AskNoah.org are inserted in square brackets.]

The month of Elul is the time when Rabbis prepare their sermons for this month [of Elul] and the “Days of Awe” [a traditional name for the days from Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur, which follow immediately after Elul]. Some of these Rabbis suppose that since it states of Elul [when Jews have a custom to blow the shofar (ram’s horn) on every weekday], “If a shofar is blown in the city, will not the people tremble in fear” [Amos 3:6], and likewise the “Days of Awe” [which can also be translated from the Hebrew as “Days of Fear“], their sermons must be full of anger, “fire and brimstone.” They think that the more they shout at and admonish Jews in their sermons, the greater the speaker they are, and the better the job of “educating” their flock.

However, Torah tells us “the words of Sages are heard quietly” [Ecclesiastes 9:17], teaching us that when the words are not spoken “quietly,” they do not achieve their desired effect. Moreover, a person knows in his heart on what spiritual level he stands — and how can one have the audacity to publicly admonish Jews in such reprehensible terms?

It is recorded in Scripture that when G-d commanded Yeshayahu to be a prophet to the Jews, Yeshayahu commented improperly about the Jews (“I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” [Isaiah 6:5]). For this he was immediately punished, as stated [6:6-7] “One of the Serafim (angels) flew to me, having a live coal in his hand … and he laid it upon my mouth.” Now, Yeshayahu’s improper comment about the Jewish people was not said publicly, but when he was talking to G-d. He was answering whether he accepted the mission of prophesying to the Jews, and of course, he had to tell the truth to G-d — that he was afraid of the mission because “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Nevertheless, Yeshayahu was punished for unseemly words against the Jews!

Moreover, Yeshayahu’s words were not idly said, but were necessary for concrete action — that he cannot prophesy to the Jews since they are “a people of unclean lips.” In addition, he did not say anything bad about the Jews’ hearts or minds, but only their lips — and that only to G-d and not publicly. Nevertheless, it was considered unseemly conduct…

The lesson from this is clear: People rationalize their instinct to criticize and condemn others by saying it is for the purpose of correcting the other’s misdeeds. Indeed, they say, it is because they love Jews that they so severely denounce them. The above story teaches us differently: One need not search for a great lover of Israel than the prophet Yeshayahu; and yet we see what was the result of his improper comment about them. And the reason why Yeshayahu did so, despite being chosen by G-d as the prophet of the true and complete redemption, is because through this we in later generations know how not to act!

The above is especially important now, in the month of Elul. It is the month of mercy, when Moshe went up on the mountain to receive the second set of tablets. Moshe at that time prayed for mercy even for those who had sinned with the golden calf; and indeed, effected that G-d should say, “I have forgiven according to your words” [Numbers 14:20].  Hence, in this month which is the time to ask for and strive to receive blessings for a good and sweet year… G-d forbid to speak bad about Jews!

The vast majority of Jews are not guilty of the faults these people scream about. And even if there are a few who have some remote connection to such faults — who appointed these people as a “prophet” to denounce [those about whom G-d said] “You are sons to the L-rd your G-d”!? [Deuteronomy 14:1]

If a person wishes to fulfill the mitzvah [commandment] of “You shall surely admonish your fellow,” the halachah [Torah law] rules it must first be done privately, and even then in a quiet manner, not angrily and vehemently. It is related of R. Zusia, one of the disciples of the Mezritcher Maggid, that when he wanted to cause a Jew to change his ways, he would stand nearby and say “Zusia has committed such and such a sin” (and would enumerate these things the other had done, but would say “Zusia has done it”), and would cry over “his” transgressions. When the other would hear this, he would be aroused to true repentance.

Another important point: Even when speaking in the manner of “the words of the Sages are heard quietly,” there are two ways: to talk of the bad things the other has done and the punishment he will get; or talk of good things, the reward received for doing good. Why talk of the bad, when one can talk of the reward received for doing mitzvos, for repenting, etc.? There is so much literature about this aspect that it will suffice for sermons for the entire year!

Indeed, talking of a person’s faults is useless. The best way to get a person to mend his ways is when one talks pleasantly about the greatness of doing good. When one explains to a person … that, as the Rambam writes [in Laws of Repentance, ch. 3], through one mitzvah he can “tilt himself and the entire world to the meritorious side,” it is the best way to influence him to become better.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

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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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Are G-d’s attributes masculine or feminine?

The fact that there is an existence of male and female creations within the physical world is a reflection of the fact that there are two different types of spiritual attributes that exist in the spiritual realms. Read more »

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

Background information – the prohibition of blasphemy

First, let’s look at why this should apply for Gentiles. One of the Torah’s Seven Noahide Commandments is the prohibition of “blasphemy”, which is speaking a curse against G-d. There are details about exactly what is forbidden within Torah Law to be spoken, but it is in the category of “blaspheming G-d’s name” (G-d forbid). There is also a prohibition of blasphemy within the Jewish commandments.

As explained in our book The Divine Code, Part 3, chapter 2, we see from this that there is a general obligation for all people to fear and honor G-d, and it’s a primary reason for the prohibition of blasphemy. For example, in the verse Exodus 22:27, “You shall not curse G-d,” the Hebrew word for “curse” has the same root as “disgrace”. So it can be understood that any action that causes a desecration or dishonor of G-d’s Name is forbidden as a branch of the prohibition of blasphemy. G-d gave the Jews several explicit details about this in the Torah, and from these we can see what is logically prohibited for Gentiles.

The source of this custom for how to write a name of G-d for non-sanctified contexts is Deuteronomy 12:3-4. In verse 12:3, the Israelites were commanded that when they entered the Land of Canaan, they were to destroy the pagan alters, pillars, idol-trees and idol-statues, and to destroy the names of the idols from that place. Then verse 12:4 says, “You shall not do so to the L-rd your G-d.” In practical terms, this means in part that we should take precautions so that printings or inscriptions of complete names of G-d will not come to be “desecrated” – erased, torn, destroyed, or otherwise treated disrespectfully.

Respect for G-d’s names in hard-copy material

It’s proper to show this respect for G-d’s names in printed form, because it is an expression of the awe and fear of G-d that we should have. This applies to a written-out name of the One True G-d in any language. Books of scriptures or prayer books are usually treated with proper respect, so it is not a problem to print a name of G-d in its full form in such books. But other types of hard-copy printings could easily come to be thrown away, so in that case it is best if a name of G-d is not written out completely. Then the real forming of G-d’s name is within our mind, and not on the actual page.

If one has a document that contains a written-out name of G-d or a verse from the Hebrew Bible, and it is no longer needed, it is best to set it aside in a safe place so that it will not be thrown directly into the garbage, etc. When one accumulates a number of such items and they need to be disposed of, it is appropriate to respectfully bury them double-wrapped in plastic if the writing is in the context of Torah.

If pages with a written-out name of G-d (in languages other than Hebrew) are found in secular printed material like a secular newspaper or magazine, they can be double-wrapped (a bag inside a bag) and put into the garbage.

An image on a computer screen has no permanence and is not at all considered to be in the above category of words that are actually written down. Nevertheless, it is pious conduct not to write out G-d’s names fully in electronic files also, if there is a concern that the electronic document might be printed out on paper, etc.

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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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