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What Is The Reason: Punishment, God's Involvement, Mashiach, & Hell Print E-mail

What Is The ReasonWe continue with the list of questions from high school students: How does God punish us nowadays? There are people who become rich off crimes and they seem to be living good lives. If your question is,

“How does God punish US nowadays?” my answer is, by letting us see, “There are people who become rich off crimes and they seem to be living good lives.”

We live with a sense of injustice. There are few worse punishments.

However, if your question is why are there “people who become rich off crimes and they seem to be living good lives?” I am tempted to offer the usual, and true, response that they are receiving their reward in this world rather than the next.

The more important concept is that God is committed to nurturing and protecting our Free Choice and does not obviously punish evil, which would scare us into being good rather than leaving it for us to choose good. Would you want to be immediately punished for speaking Lishon Harah, or forgetting to recite a bracha? If you were quickly and obviously punished, would you not be bullied into choosing the right thing? God is not a bully.

Wait a minute: Am I really comparing skipping a bracha to committing a crime? No, I am not comparing the actions. Yes, I am comparing the response. At which point should God become obviously involved and deprive someone of Free Choice?

Why does God not let us know He is still with us?

Why do you not know that He constantly lets us know that He is still with us?

God is articulate. We, are hard of hearing.

One of the most important messages of the Shema is just that, “Shema,” pay attention to your experiences, to life, to history, and you will see that Hashem, God, is Elokeinu, our Lord, directly involved in our lives.

We constantly make choices, some more important than others. Chocolate or vanilla is not the same as shall I daven or not. “What shall I wear?” is not as important as “What do I believe?” The most important choice is whether we pay attention or not to God’s messages that He is “still with us.”

All that being said, I suspect that you are really asking why God does not show Himself in a spectacular way that will convince us that He is present. I refer you to my answer about Bechira, Free Choice, in the previous section.  A person who believes that God is present in his life only because he has been raised to believe it, and “just believes,” has not consciously chosen to see God in his life. In fact, God will be distant from such a person! In the same manner, a person who believes that God is “still with us,” only because he has witnessed a spectacular miracle, has also not “chosen” to believe. He has been ‘convinced,’ but has not chosen.

Our relationship with God demands choice. It is the choice that determines how involved God will be with me as an individual.

How will we know who is the true Mashiach?

We will know the real Mashiach by his ability to convince ALL of us that he is the Messiah.

When I was a boy, I heard a teacher say that Mashiach will only come for “Frum” Jews and not for Conservative or Reform. I was terrified because my mother always complained that my father’s clothes were too conservative. I thought that meant he was Conservative, and would not see Mashiach. I stayed up very late in order to ask him when he returned from Yeshiva. “Any “Mashiach” who only comes for some Jews and not all, is not the real Mashiach!”

Will Mizrachi Jews accept a Chareidi Mashiach? Will the Chareidim accept a Mizrachi? Will Chassidim accept a Mitnaged? Will Lubavitch accept a Satmar? The Satmar a Lubavitcher? Will people look at Mashiach’s Kippah to see if it is a Kippah sruga or black velvet?

Mashiach will prove himself by his ability to connect with every single Jew. That will be his big miracle!

What is hell really like?

Hell is like having sold all my shares in Apple when they were at their lowest, and realizing that had I held on to them, I would be wealthy?

Hell is similar to working incredibly hard at a project only to see it fail, and feeling that all my efforts were wasted.

Hell is the manager allowing pitcher to remain in the game for one more hitter in the seventh game of the World Series, and then losing the game because the next hitter smashes a grand slam. One small choice, and there goes the World Series!

Hell is being shown what I could have been had I made different choices. I am shown the long term impact of every single choice.

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