Letters May 2021
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Insecurity & Superstition
Reader: Your statement in the Jewishtimes is very interesting. You wrote, “Man seeks security about his future, accepting fallacies like astrology, amulets, omens, horoscopes and others. God prohibited such practices precisely because they are false (Ibn Ezra). God is more powerful than false notions. Rely on Him alone.”
Can you elaborate?
Rabbi: Insecurity is human. But as one develops, he must distinguish fantasy from reality and direct his needs for security towards only He who can offer security. Astrology, magic, superstitions, idolatry etc. are imaginary, and what doesn’t exist, cannot protect you. God is real and promises goodness for those who follow Him.
King Solomon’s Words
Reader: Can you also please explain this Talmudic portion:
Rava expounded Ecclesiastes 12:12: “What is the meaning of that which is written, ‘And more than these, my son, be careful of making many books; there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh”? Rava said this means to be careful to fulfill the words of the Rabbis even more than the words of the Torah. For the words of Torah have positive and negative commands. But regarding the Rabbis’ words, whomever transgresses is punished with death.” (Eruvin 21b)
Rabbi: Rava quotes the end of Koheles (Ecclesiastes). Here, King Solomon first praised Moses’ words, and then he admonishes the reader to obey the Rabbis, whose words are extensive. And although their words don’t form part of the Written Torah, nonetheless, they must be heeded. Evidently, man tends to diminish the value of the Rabbis who came after Moses, whose words are not part of the Five Books of Moses. King Solomon therefore warns against belittling the Rabbis’ words.
Reader: We are to give 10% of our profits. As someone who crafts a product (lighting) or even a design or website, am I supposed to also deduct my labor time on top of product costs before calculating 10%? And if so, what is a reasonable way to come to this number…i.e., and hourly rate?
Rabbi: Correction: as Maimonides and Shulchan Aruch state in their respective Laws of Charity, the highest form of charity is 20%; 10% is only the average fulfillment of tzedaka.
We don't deduct our time for 2 reasons. For if we do, one can work his whole life as a slow worker and never give tzedaka. But primarily, one charges for both: parts and labor. Each has a value, so one’s fee compensates him for both. Let’s say parts cost $100. You’re happy to sell that part alone for $150. But as you spent a week searching for that part and preparing it for sale, your labor is another $200. When you sell at $500, you are already trading your labor for $200 of that $500. To deduct your time again doubles the compensation for your time, which is unethical. This would be equal to you deducting the parts cost twice. Therefore, deduct only cash costs.
Distancing from Idolatry
Reader: If an idol worshiper gives us a gift i.e., a shirt, are we allowed to use it if we know that the idol worshiper works in the church or sells idols, but we’re not sure whether the money he used to buy the gift was earned by means of idolatry i.e., benefiting from impure money?
Rabbi: Maimonides explains , one must not transact durable items 3 days prior to an idolaters’ holidays. But perishables are permitted. One also cannot make or pay loans, pay or get paid, or collateralize. But this applies only in Israel. Outside Israel such transactions are prohibited only on the holiday itself. This concerns a prohibition on “action.” But after the act, if one had sinned and transacted, the money or item is permitted in use. The reasoning is to avert from benefitting from idolatry in any measure, or in strengthening idolatrous practice through enriching an idolater. This distances us from idolatry. But the prohibition applies only to the act, not to the benefit via usage. Thus, one is prohibited from acting a certain way, but not from the resulting benefit.
 Laws of Star Worship 9:1
Dealing with Public Anxiety
Reader: What is the torah's remedy and your advice for general anxiety [social anxiety, nervousness, shivers] apart from medical treatment? I am a person who is not very comfortable in public and I have been suffering from anxiety.
Rabbi: It is not a Torah value to be a social butterfly and be accepted and praised by the public. The Torah personality is modest: “And the man Moses was exceedingly more humble than all men on the face of Earth” (Num. 12:3). The Torah personality seeks more time in communion with God through Torah study and mitzvahs than his involvement with man. The Torah personality seeks God’s approval, not man’s. As Rabbi Israel Chait quoted, “Remove yourself from man, who has breath in his nostrils, for what is he worth?” (Isaiah 2:22) Rabbi Chait explained how man seeks social approval: he is insecure, and craves the infantile state of approval (later projecting the parental image onto society, seeking societal approval in place of parental approval). This verse alone should mitigate the stress our societies place on us to be socially acceptable. Fame and success are not the Torah personality’s dream.
That being said, Torah asks that we are friendly and kind to others, to greet others before they greet us. But we need not amass friends as is popular today on social media and in general: “the more friends, wins.” The stress felt from social settings is typically a feeling of inadequacy, incompetence or the lack of confidence associated with impressing others. By shifting our value away from pleasing others towards following God instead, stress is slowly weakened. This is because God created our minds to be stronger than our emotions. Otherwise the Torah would be impossible to follow. The more we see the truth of Torah values, the less we value our insecure societies and the more secure we become.
Relying on God
Reader: “You do the best, God will do the rest.” What’s your take on this? Complete trust and faith in Hashem without taking action, or taking action without trust and faith in Hashem, or both?
Rabbi: That is not a Torah quote, but this is: “Cast your burden on God and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous man collapse” (Psalms 55:23). But this does not mean to abandon human effort and strategy. Jacob was threatened by his twin Esav. Jacob’s response was to prepare a gift—a bribe, to prepare for battle if the gift failed, and to pray to God. He used all methods, never relying on his merit alone, or on a miracle alone.
Reader: In one of your recent articles, you said, “Taking the body and blood of Jesus as referred to in the Book of John, is like vampirism.” And yes, it is more than that, it is also cannibalism! But when Jesus said that, he was speaking an allegory, in the same way that he referred to himself as the "door", or gate, or the "vine", and He also is referred to as "bread,” the Bread of Life.” My point is that if you don't understand allegory, versus literal statements, then you should NOT be posting material for public consumption, particularly about something as critically important as the salvation of the world! And, BTW, you also take issue with a "man dying for our sins.” Why do you NOT have trouble with animal dying to COVER your sins, but you certainly object to Jesus dying to deliver you from your sins?! It doesn't make sense! The blood of animals merely COVERED sin, and had to be repeated over and over again! Messiah's ONCE FOR ALL TIME sacrifice "takes away the sin of the world". But it is only effective IF a person responds to the divine invitation to enter into Covenant with the Creator, YHVH, by the blood, as HE ordained it!! HalleluYah!!
Rabbi: Don’t treat the heretic religion of Christianity with respect, seeking to defend all that its fable writers scripted. You blindly accept doctrine without proof, doctrines that violate God’s Bible. But I am certain you would not blindly submit your body for surgery without validating the doctor’s credibility and past successes. You won’t let him practice on you. Clearly, Jesus and Christianity are less important to you, that you find blind faith acceptable. But I agree with you, Jesus and Christianity are not validated.
Torah metaphor has limits; it will never fully contradict truth or incite sin. By “fully contradict,” I mean that while God allows the references to Him of “anger,” “jealousy,” “gladness,” and the term “God’s mighty hand,” God permitted these references as He knows that uneducated people require Torah to speak their language: “Torah speaks in man’s language.” Torah must begin its appeal to man immediately from his youth. But man then learns that such sayings are metaphoric (God has no emotions) and he then abandons any literal understanding. Unlike Christianity that does not say Jesus’ blood is metaphor as you suggest, the Rabbis unanimously wean man away from Torah’s metaphors regarding God, replacing such false ideas with truths. Secondly, Torah does not contain any metaphor inciting sin, as drinking a human’s blood. You will never find a metaphor suggesting murder, adultery, or idolatry. God being “angry,” “happy,” etc. points to truths, so they can be used until a child grows and learns that God has no emotions. God’s “happiness” with man means certain acts by man truly help man, as is God’s plan. But murder, adultery, idolatry or drinking blood cannot point to any truth, but to harsh sins. No Torah metaphors are associated to sin. And if we find a metaphor like “circumcise the foreskin of your heart,” we immediately know from the inclusion of “circumcision” in this metaphor, that a good—circumcision—is the goal. But “drinking blood” targets no good in any form of that phrase.
Salvation of the World
You have been lead astray by words without meaning. God tells us that salvation is His alone, unrelated to Jesus or any man. God needs no help. Deification of man is idolatry, one of the 10 Commandments. It’s astonishing that Christianity endorsed the single worst Biblical sin of deifying man in Jesus.
Man vs. Animal Dying for our Sins
Torah’s animal sacrifice is God’s command. It aims at causing man to identify with the animal that is killed, to parallel that man should be killed for his sin. But God in His kindness allowed a replacement. It is also vital to distinguish between sacrifice which operates on an individual basis, and Jesus. Only the sinful man needs a sacrifice. But to create a wholesale human sacrifice (Jesus) for mankind again violates the Bible’s sacrifice laws and Bible’s philosophy.
Man Cannot Atone for Another Man
“Fathers are not killed for sons, and sons are not killed for fathers; each man for his own sin is killed” (Deut. 24:16). Here is yet another flagrant disregard for God’s Bible. And this verse is sensible, as a man who does not repent, earns no atonement from God. Jesus cannot remove a person’s sins. Only repentance atones: “Let us search and examine our ways, And turn back to God” (Lam. 3:40). Introspection, remorse, and a commitment to never sin again are required for God’s forgiveness. Your death won’t atone for my sins. And Jesus is no better than you; he is worse: he led you and others away from God.