"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Sunday, January 17, 2010

FNQ – 5 Questions for the week

Every Sunday, I would like to share some questions to ponder for the week ahead. The questions will address one topic each week, but the topics will vary. If they make you uncomfortable….Good that’s the idea.

If there was a global counter keeping track of all questions asked, I think it would show a huge increase following natural disasters and human tragedies. When we realize we are not in control it is scary for us and we subsequently have a lot of questions. Perhaps we feel comforted because it happened in a far off place, but should we?

1. Do I genuinely care that thousands of people died in a far off place?

2. If yes, what have I done to show it? If no, do I think I should care?

3. When I read articles describing the horror, do I say to myself that this could never happen where I live?

4. Do I think this earthquake was G-d’s doing or just a random, natural event?

5. If it was G-d, what is the message?

What do you think?

Binyamin – Always looking for a good question


  1. I have a question unrelated to this subject. My question is: Did the Rabbis enact new commandments or did they simply codify existing traditions? For example, when the Rabbis determined that blessings must be said before eating food, was this an original idea or did they simply formally enact a pre-existing tradition? And, if the former, on what authority could they add to 613 Biblical commandents, one of which is that we may not add to the 613 Biblical Commandments?

  2. I will do my best to give a brief answer.

    Rabbinic law has many elements and is very complexed. The Rabbi's have the authority to interpret the Biblical laws using various tools of exegesis in addition to enacting new laws to ensure that we don't violate Torah laws. Lastly the Rabbis can make new commandments. These commandments are Rabbinic and not part of the 613 Bibilical laws. There are only 5 such Rabbinic Mitzvot! Blessings (with 1 or 2 exceptions) are included in these 5 Rabbinic mitzvot. When the Rabbi's made these commandments they were not based on pre-existing traditions but they are based on Bibilical principles. It is important to realize that not everyone called a Rabbi has the authority to do what I described above. The group of Rabbis that established the 5 Rabbinic Mitzvot included prophets and sages of the highest stature. Finally, no Rabbi or prophet has the authority to add or subtract from the 613. Actually that is one of the 613 Mitzvot.

    Thank you for your question, it is a very important one. Others are welcome to share their thoughts.