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What Is The Reason: High School Questions XI Print E-mail

What Is The ReasonA few months ago I received a long list of questions from a group of high school students who are on a serious spiritual quest. They recently reminded me that I haven’t answered all their questions and threatened

to stop sending their questions to me if I did not begin answering again.  I offer them my apologies and here we go:

  • Why do miracles never happen to me?

There are two answers to your question: Are you sure you want miracles? How do you know that  miracles never happen to you?

One of the most famous stories about my Uncle Noach zt”l is about a conversation he had with a young man about a relationship with God. My uncle asked him if he understood how important it is to learn about his relationship with God.
He answered, “God and me are already close!”
“How do you know?”
“I was riding my motorcycle on a winding road right next to a high cliff and a truck swung by and knocked me off the cliff, and I survived without a single injury. God saved me! That’s how I know that we are so close.”
My uncle smiled and asked him, “Who do you think threw you off the cliff?”

People usually experience miracles when they need desperately need them. So, I ask, “Are you sure you want to have a miracle? Or, to rephrase my uncle, “Do you want to be thrown off a cliff?”

Actually, I must ask you a question: How do you know that miracles never happen to you?

There are 6 billion people on the planet. What are the odds of you being born in the US, with one of the highest standards of living in the world?

Do you consider your sight and hearing to be miracles?

Most of us, do not, and therefore are convinced that we never experience miracles. Once you pay attention to the “regular” miracles in your life, you will begin to experience the kind of miracle you desire.

Why do you want a miracle? They do not have a long lasting effect on people. The Jews sinned soon after experiencing the Splitting of the Sea, again after Sinai, and then repeatedly even while experiencing all the miracles in the desert. Elijah’s big miracle on Mt Carmel only had an effect on the people for one day. Miracles don’t usually last. Developing a relationship with God through study about Him, and work, will have a much longer and deeper effect.

  • Why are there Halachot that don't have reasons?
I can assure you that there is not a single Halacha or Mitzvah that does not have a reason. Although you probably were told that Chukkim are Mitzvot without reasons, they do have reasons. We know that the Mitzvot are an expression of God’s infinite wisdom, and that we, of limited wisdom, cannot possibly comprehend the real reason for any single Mitzvah.

However, we can wrap our minds around some Mitzvot. We can always derive practical lessons from a Mitzvah, even a Chok. That is why I refer to the 613 Mitzvot as the 613 Concepts.

  • Why can't G-d respond back to us?
Who says that He can’t? He chooses to not respond.
God wants us to master ourselves by using our Free Choice. He wants us to make decisions that will shape our souls. He does not interfere with Free Choice, and if He would directly respond to something we do or request, we would lose our Free Choice. Would you ever speak ill of another person if you saw that whenever someone does, he loses his power of speech?
God wants us to be independent, and to struggle on our own. The end result will be that we will be able to attach to God through our work and effort.

  • What is the point of Tzizit? What do they protect you from?
I cannot tell you what THE point of Tzitzit is: see the question above about Halachot without reasons. I can share one of the ideas I have learned from Tzitzit.

Don’t define yourself by only one part of you.
We are perceived one way when wearing jeans, and another when wearing a suit. People define us by our outward appearance. Tzitzit are called “Clothes of Light,” to remind us that we possess a deep and strong inner light in our souls that is hidden by perceptions, of others and of our own. Tzitzit are a constant reminder of our potential as human beings.

As to protecting: The idea that Tzitzit protect us is based on the following Gemara, Menachot 44a:
It was taught: R. Nathan said, There is not a single precept in the Torah, even the lightest, whose reward is not enjoyed in this world; and as to its reward in the future world I know not how great it is. Go and learn this from the precept of zizith.

Once a man, who was very scrupulous about the precept of zizith, heard of a certain harlot in one of the towns by the sea who accepted four hundred gold [denars] for her hire. He sent her four hundred gold [denars] and appointed a day with her.

When the day arrived he came and waited at her door, and her maid came and told her, ‘That man who sent you four hundred gold [denars] is here and waiting at the door’; to which she replied ‘Let him come in’.

When he came in she prepared for him seven beds, six of silver and one of gold; and
between one bed and the other there were steps of silver, but the last were of gold. She then went up to the top bed and lay down upon it naked. He too went up after her in his desire to sit naked with her, when all of a sudden the four fringes [of his garment] struck him across the face; whereupon he slipped off and sat upon the ground.
She also slipped off and sat upon the ground and said, ‘By the Roman Capitol, I will not leave you alone until you tell me what blemish you saw in me. ‘By the Temple’, he replied, ‘never have I seen a woman as beautiful as you are; but there is one precept which the Lord our God has commanded us, it is called zizith, and with regard to it the expression ‘I am the Lord your God’ is twice written, signifying, I am He who will exact punishment in the future, and I am He who will give reward in the future. Now [the zizith] appeared to me as four witnesses [testifying against me]’.

She said, ‘I will not leave you until you tell me your name, the name of your town, the name of your teacher, the name of your school in which you study the Torah’. He wrote all this down and handed it to her.

Thereupon she arose and divided her estate intothree parts; one third for the government, one third to be distributed among the poor, and one third she took with her in her hand; the bed clothes, however, she retained. She then came to the Beth
Hamidrash of R. Hiyya, and said to him, ‘Master, give instructions about me that they make me a proselyte’. ‘My daughter’, he replied; ‘perhaps you have set your eyes on one of the disciples?’

She thereupon took out the script and handed it to him. ‘Go’, said he ‘and enjoy your acquisition’. Those very bed-clothes which she had spread for him for an illicit purpose she now spread out for him lawfully. This is the reward [of the precept] in this world; and as for its reward in the future world I know not how great it is.

Yet, the protection was not because of the Tzitzit, in fact, not even protection. He was rewarded for his commitment to a Mitzvah. Tztzit themselves will not protect us. Our investment in time, understanding and awareness is what protects us. They have no magical power of their own.
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