What’s the Point of Prayer?

“Oh G-d! I’m sorry to bother You, but You know I don’t ask You for much. Could You do just this one thing for me?
I’ll never ask You for anything again.”

Have you ever prayed these words, or heard someone praying these words?

It seems like a logical prayer. After all, Hashem is pretty great, and why should He spend his time bothering with little old me?

Well, you got that half right. Hashem is certainly great, but you and I are the reason He created the universe.

Huh? Me? You? That’s ridiculous! Why would anyone create an entire universe just for you and me? It seems like a tremendous waste. Look at this beautiful and immense planet. Look at all those stars in space! Do you know how big the galaxy is? And how many galaxies there (probably) are? All that just for the human race; all that just for a few billion people?

Even a few billion people can’t be that important. Certainly one person can’t be that important!

Well, actually, that’s not entirely true.

Have you ever been to a wedding?(1) One day visit a wedding hall a few hours
before the wedding is scheduled to start, just to see what the place looks like.
The bride and groom are not there yet, of course. The cleaning crew comes first,
many hours before the wedding starts. Next come the cooks. A few hours later, a crew comes to set up and arrange the tables. Some time later the waiters arrive to set up their stations and get their work ready. After a long while, the photographer shows up with his crew and begins to set up. The orchestra arrives and sets up. An hour or so before the scheduled time the family will probably arrive. The bride and groom go their separate rooms to prepare. Eventually the guests arrive, and begin milling about, meeting the family and other guests. The wedding reception has, more or less, begun. The music is already playing, food has been laid out. Finally, the very last to enter the reception hall itself are the bride and groom.

Humanity, of course, were also the last to arrive on earth.

But wait, there is someone whose preparations we need to
look at. Take a close look at the photographer at his work. He is usually already at work long before either the bride or groom show up at the hall. At
some weddings I have seen photographers take elaborate pictures of the settings (i.e., the arrangements of the plates, for goodness sakes) on one of the tables. Afterwards, the photographer sets up a stage for the bride. There are hundreds of flowers, there are curtains, backdrops, maybe even pictures of scenery, all set up just to photograph the bride.

How many times have you seen the pictures, or the videos (or Super 8 mm movies, if you remember those) of your parents’ wedding? Every once in a while, probably. You’re probably not always itching to watch it again.

If you’re married, how many times have you watched the videos of your own wedding? Not often enough, right? And if you’re a woman, you probably often dream about doing the whole thing again, just to relive the beautiful emotions you felt at your wedding.

Why is all this done? For two people. A bride and a groom. At that event, they are the most important people. Every single flower is bought for that express purpose, and no one stops to think that maybe it is not worth buying so many flowers for a one-day event, especially when those flowers will all be thrown out after the wedding.

And is the wedding the most important part of your life? It is certainly the most glamorous, probably the most emotional. It is a whole new beginning, and therefore momentous in itself. It is a start to your new life.

But much more important is how you live your married life. We don’t make great weddings because that will enhance our married life. We do it because it is an important day for the bride and the groom, and they must take to heart the fact that
they are taking a big step, and it must be taken with joy and with care.

All this is a metaphor for our lives. We, humanity, are the bride. Our lifetime on this planet is like one long wedding. There’s food, music, dancing, meeting of friends and family, and so forth. But at a Jewish wedding there are also commitments to
make, documents to sign, ceremonies to perform, and some quality time spent between bride and groom.

The groom is Hashem (at least in this metaphor). Hashem has shown infinite kindness in creating a world so full of beautiful and enjoyable things. There is beauty to see, such as the stars, and many beautiful things on this planet. There is tasty food. There are many things to enjoy in this world, and Hashem permits a lot of it (even if there are also things that are forbidden).

And all that was created for us, for humanity. Each and every star is like a flower in a bridal arrangement. It is no more than element of a whole, part of the beautiful backdrop set in place for our benefit. (I am not saying that there is no life on other
planets. If there is, they have a purpose too. And no, I do not know if that purpose is solely for our benefit or if they are considered part of humanity. Either of the two is theoretically possible.)

So yes, even with all the billions of galaxies, and stars and planets and who knows what else out there, we are the reason for Creation. Hashem created all that for only one purpose: so that there would be a creature with free will that can develop a

relationship with Hashem.

And that purpose extends to each and every one of us. Hashem’s creation of the universe encompassed entire species, but His attention is also directed at individuals. Remember, Hashem created just two cows, two tigers, two ants, two humans,
and so on. Each individual could be the start of a whole new species. Thus, each and every one of us counts. YOU are important.

YOU are the reason for Creation.

So, now, should you pray? Are you bothering Hashem when you pray to Him?

Let’s say you’re a father, and your eighteen-year-old son, whom you love very much, has been accepted to a prestigious college that’s several hundred miles away. You send him off with clean clothes, money for his various needs, and you give him cell phone. You tell him that you’re giving him the cell phone so he can call you every so often. You might even ask him to call you every week.

Now, you know he is also going to use that phone to call his girlfriend, his countless other friends, ad infinitum. You are paying the bill for that cell phone, but you’re willing to overlook that, as long as your son calls you every so often.

Some sons are not so good about calling their fathers or mothers. They might call only once a month. One day you get a call from your son, «Hi, Dad. I’m sorry to bother you, but you know that I hardly ever call. Could you do this one thing for me? I’ll never ask for anything again.»

How would you feel about that? Does any part of that even make sense, if you love your son? 

See, the thing is, the more your son calls you, the more you are likely to want to do things for him. You want to have a relationship with him. It’s true that you want your son to learn to be self-sufficient, but you also want to find a way to have him call you every so often.

So if doing that one thing for him means he will never call you again, you won’t do that thing for him! Because you want him to call you again. In fact, you want him to keep calling! That’s how Hashem feels about us:  He wants us to call Him.

One person wrote me, «I’m not in the habit of requesting things in my prayers as I don’t think that’s the point of the exercise.»

This rather surprised me. All through Tanach (the Jewish Bible) we find that people prayed when they wanted something, and often Hashem answered them.

Sometimes Hashem makes things difficult for us so that we will «call» Him, that we will pray to Him, and lovingly acknowledge that everything comes from Hashem. The Talmud tells us that Hashem made Abraham and Sarah infertile because Hashem wanted them to pray to Him (Chidushei Aggados I, page 142, Tractate Yevamos). By praying to Hashem, we grow closer to Hashem, and we benefit from this in many ways. This is why the Prophet Jonah was kept so long inside various fish without being let out — Hashem was waiting for him to pray to be let out (Otzar Hamidrashim, Jonah, 5).

In fact, when Avimelech, king of Grar, got sick, Hashem told him to ask Abraham to pray that he get healed (Gen. 20:7). (So here we see that sometimes in addition to our own prayers it is a good idea to get a very righteous person to pray for us also. One of the side benefits is that we develop a relationship with the righteous person as well, which is an opportunity tolearn how to improve our own behavior, and thus get closer to Hashem.)

Praying to Hashem means establishing a relationship with Hashem. Hashem wants that, and will often deny someone something to get him to pray to Hashem and ask for it, so that the person can get close to Hashem. And when He grants us what we ask for, sometimes He doesn’t grant it fully at first, because if He did, you’d stop praying! So Hashem might grant things to you a little bit at a time, until you develop a closer relationship with Hashem. At first, you might need to get into the habit of praying at all. Then you might need to learn to pray with more feeling. Then, perhaps with deeper
concentration. At some point, Hashem wants you to learn to pray for others as well, every day. There is no end to how close we can get to Hashem, and how much we can continue growing in that relationship.

Remember, Hashem created us because He wants to do good things to someone. So He created beings that can get closer to Him, and can appreciate it. Hashem, basically, wants a relationship with us, and that’s why He created us.

That’s the point of prayer!


1. This metaphor is from Awake My Glory, by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, obm., paragraphs 642-645. Published by Bais Yisroel of Rugby.

Torah: The Blueprint of the Universe

The Torah of Hashem is perfect, it restores the soul.

The testimony of Hashem is trustworthy, it makes simple people become wise.

The instructions of Hashem are proper, they make one’s heart happy;

the commandment of Hashem is clear, it enlightens the eyes.

The fear of Hashem is pure, and endures forever.

The judgments of Hashem are true, consistently righteous.

They are more desirable than gold, even more than the purest gold!

Sweeter than honey that drips from the honeycombs.

Wow. Can you imagine what sort of person must have said that? It must have been someone who had an easy life, someone with the leisure to fully enjoy the Torah, studying it day and night, someone who never felt any pain, and never had any reason to complain about his life.

You know who said those words? King David, in Psalm 19. The same King David who said: «If not for the fact that the Torah is my greatest delight, my troubles would have destroyed me!» (Psalms 119:42) Yes, King David said that, the same King David who lived a life that was full of more troubles than almost anyone who has ever lived. His father considered him worthless for all his childhood. Later, he spent years running away from King Saul, who chased him because he thought David was trying to kill him. Two of his own sons rebelled against him; one son fought a war against him and chased him off his throne. He spent his entire reign fighting enemies. He did not have an easy life at all.

What sustained him in his troubles? The Torah!

King David, in all his holiness, foreshadowed the history of the Jewish People. For we have also spent much of our history being chased by people who claim we wish to harm them. We have also been chased away from more countries than we can count. We have spent our lives fighting enemies, and sometimes our own children have left Judaism to join the Gentiles, rebelling against us.

What has sustained us? Mark Twain asked that question too. Many people have wondered how it is that a small people can be scattered among the nations, persecuted, killed, decimated, exiled again and again, and still remain true to their heritage! For that matter, they wonder how we could continue to exist at all! There is no other culture in the world that has matched this feat.

What is the secret of our existence? The Torah. Though, actually, it’s no secret. It is our very reason for existence. More to the point, it is the reason that the world exists.

The Midrash tells us that Hashem created the Torah two thousand years before He created the universe (Midrash Beraishis Rabbah, 8). When the time came to create the universe, Hashem used the Torah as a blueprint. Just as a builder places walls where the blueprint says to put them, and doors where the blueprint says to put them, Hashem created the Torah and used that as a blueprint. (Midrash Beraishis Rabbah 1:1)

What does this mean? It means that the reason we are born with hands is because Hashem wrote in the Torah the Commandment of giving charity. We need hands to give charity, so we are born with hands.

We have parents because the Torah says «Honor your father and your mother.»

The Torah commands us to pray; the Torah commands us not to gossip; the Torah commands us to eat Matzah on Passover night; the Torah commands us to teach our sons Torah: therefore, we are born with mouths.

Without this knowledge, we would have thought precisely the opposite. We would have assumed that since we have eyes, Hashem commanded us not to look at idols, and not to look at debauchery, etc. But the truth is the reverse. Hashem created the Commandments first, and then gave us the ability to obey or transgress those Commandments.

The Torah was not only the blueprint for Creation, it is also what keeps the world in existence today! The Rabbis teach us that the observance of the Covenant of Circumcision and the Covenant of the Torah keep the world in existence (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbos 137b; Pesachim 68b; Nedarim 31a).

The Rabbis also teach that when Hashem created the universe, He stipulated the specific condition that «If Israel will accept the Torah, the universe will continue to exist. If not, I will return the world to empty void it was at first» (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbos 88a).

This is the primary role of the Torah. It gives existence to the world, and it gives existence to us as a people, both as a whole and individually. Therefore, King David continues, «I will never forget Your teachings, because through them You kept me alive» (Psalms 119:93).

The Torah is that which gives us life, and reason to live.

It also gives us holiness. Hashem, in His great kindness and wisdom, created the Torah as a way for us to get closer to Him. When we study the Torah, we are drawn closer to Hashem. The more we work at it, the holier we become. The Rabbis therefore taught, «The Torah was given to purify mankind» (Midrash Beraishis Rabbah 44:1). Not only that, but each element of the Torah has the ability to elevate and spiritually perfect some part of the universe (Derech Hashem, 4:2:4).

This is one of the reasons we study even the portions that we cannot fulfill. Since I will never be the High Priest (as I am not a Kohain at all), what do I gain from studying the Service that the High Priest performed? One reason is that each part of the Torah elevates and purifies something else, and therefore we need to study as much of the Torah as we can, in order to elevate and purify the entire world.

Another reason is that when we study a portion of the Torah we cannot perform, Hashem counts it as if we have actually fulfilled it (Babylonian Talmud, Taanis 27b; Megillah 31b; see also Midrash Tanchumah Parshas Tzav, 14). This way, we elevate and perfect that part of our souls, and that part of the universe, that this portion of the Torah affects.

This applies on a number of levels. The ultimate level of Torah study is studying the Torah because it is a Mitzvah to do so. Hashem wants us to study the Torah, as it says, «…speak of them: when you sit at home, when you travel, when you get ready for sleep, and when you wake up» (Deuteronomy 6:7). Hashem told the Prophet Joshua: «This Book of the Torah must not depart your mouth. You must study it day and night…» (Joshua 1:8).

One of the great legal commentators, Rabbi Yoel Sirkish (1561 — 1641) in his classic work the Bayis Chadash (better known as the «Boch»), writes:

Hashem’s intention is that we be engrossed in the study of Torah so that our souls get strengthened and united with the essence of the spirituality and holiness of the Source of the Torah. Therefore, Hashem gave Israel the Torah of truth as a gift, and we must never forget the Torah, so that our souls and bodies will be bound to the Commandments of the Torah.

If studied with this purpose, our Torah study and our performance of the Commandments create a vehicle and resting place for the Holy Presence of Hashem.. This way, the Holy Presence of Hashem will firmly establish Itself literally within each of us. The entire earth would be lit up with the Glory of Hashem, and thus the forces of Heaven and the forces of earth would be united…

— Boch, on Tur Orach Chayim §47, Laws of the Blessing on the Torah.

To us, the Torah holds a special place in our lives. The Talmud tells us that the Torah is our marriage contract with Hashem (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 1:10). Hashem gave us the Torah as an act of love. In our prayers every night, we say:

You love Your nation, the House of Israel, with an eternal love; You have taught us Torah and Commandments, sublime Laws and civil Judgments. Therefore, Hashem our G-d, when we get ready for sleep, and when we wake up we discuss your Laws, and we will rejoice in the words of the study of Your Torah and Your Commandments forever and ever. For they are our life, and our survival, and we will study them deeply day and night. So, please do not remove Your love from us in both this world and in the World to Come. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who loves His nation Israel.

The Torah is the main part of our special relationship with Hashem.

We also have the Commandment to teach the Torah to our children and to our students, as it says, «And you shall teach them thoroughly to your sons…» (Deuteronomy 6:7). The Rabbis tell us that this applies to our students as well, and our students must be to us like our own children (Sifri, quoted in Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzvah 419).

Furthermore, we must be very familiar with the Torah so we can know how to fulfill the Commandments. Moses therefore told the Children of Israel, «Take note that I have taught you rules and laws that Hashem has commanded me, so that you will be able to keep them…. Safeguard and keep them, since this is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations» (Deuteronomy 4:5).

The Talmud therefore teaches, «Torah is great, because it brings to deeds» (Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin, 40b).

Furthermore, the Torah is the only true help against sin.

The Rabbis taught: The Torah says, «Visamtem» «And you shall place these words of
Mine on your hearts and on your souls…» (Deuteronomy 11:18). You can also read that as «sam tom,» a perfect medicine. The Torah is the perfect medicine.

The Rabbis gave a parable, comparing it to a man who wounded his son, so he put medicine and a bandage on the wound. He told his son, «As long as you keep the bandage with the medicine on your wound, you can eat with pleasure, drink with pleasure, you can wash with hot water or cold water, and you don’t have to worry about it. If you take off the medicine, it will get gangrenous.»

Likewise, Hashem has told Israel, «My children, I have created the Evil Inclination, and I have created the Torah as an antidote against it. I wrote in My Torah: ‘If you do good, you will be more powerful. If you do not do good, sin awaits crouching at the door; it desires to control you, but you can overpower it’ (Genesis 4:7).

«As long as you are engrossed in the Torah, you will not be controlled by the Evil Inclination. This is why the Torah says: ‘If you do good, you will be more powerful’. But when you are not engrossed in the Torah, you will be under the control of the Evil Inclination, as the verse continues, ‘If you do not do good, sin awaits crouching at the door.’

«Not only that,» Hashem said, «but the Evil Inclination will spend all its time and energies trying to make you sin, which is why the verse says ‘it desires to control you.’

«If you want to, you can overpower the Evil Inclination, as it says, ‘…it desires to control you, but you can overpower it.’

(Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 30b).

The only way that one can overcome the Evil Inclination is through Torah. (Gentiles must study and keep merely the Seven Noahide Laws, as the Talmud says in Sanhedrin 59a, and this way they can be righteous and merit the World to Come. See also Chullin 92a; Avodah Zarah 64b.)

So it is the Torah that makes it possible for us to fulfill Hashem’s will.

And it goes without saying that fulfilling Hashem’s will is the most important thing we can do. For the Torah says, «You must make the choice to love Hashem your G-d, to obey Him, and to attach yourself to Him. For this is your life and your survival…» (Deuteronomy 30:20).

For this reason, each day we pray, «Blessed is our G-d, Who created us for His glory, and separated us from those who are confused in error, and gave us the Torah of truth, and implanted eternal life within us. May He open our heart through His Torah and place in our heart love for Him and awe of Him, so that we may fulfill His will and serve Him wholeheartedly, so that we do not struggle unproductively, nor produce in vain» (Daily Prayers, Uva LiTzion Go’el).

Are You Sure There’s a Satan?

In response to my article in which I explain the Jewish
concept of Satan
(it is recommended that you read that article before reading this one), a reader asked me this

I have read other Hebrew-based websites that firmly assert that there is NO “SATAN”
in Judaism (nor is there a Hell for that matter). So why is it that there are so many (or at least two
main) differing opinions among Jews? If “Satan” the evil demon is a Christian creation, then why
are some Jewish sites now using this definition?


As I shall show, Satan and Hell do in fact exist in Judaism, and existed long
before Christianity or Catholicism existed. The Satan is most definitely not a Catholic or Christian invention. They have
drastically changed the meaning, but like many of their beliefs it’s simply a terrible distortion of what
Judaism has always taught. (Again, to understand what we mean when Orthodox Jews say «Satan,» please read my article
The Jewish concept of Satan)

In the Jewish Bible

Satan is mentioned explicitly in Tanach (Jewish Scriptures) numerous times. At first count, so far, I have found 17 mentions of “haSatan” (“the Satan”) as a specific individual in Tanach, most of them in the Book of Job. Three are in the Book of Zechariah.

In all those 17 it is quite clear that Satan, exists, that he is an angel, and that he has a clear individuality. Just look at chapters 1 & 2 of Job, where G-d speaks to Satan, and Satan speaks to G-d.

For example:

Now the day came that the angels of G-d came to stand beside the L-rd, and the Satan, too, came among them. The L-rd said to the Satan, “Where are you coming from?” And the Satan answered the L-rd and said, “From going to and fro on the earth and from walking in it.” Now the L-rd said to the Satan, “Have you paid attention to My servant Job? For there is none like him on earth, a sincere and upright man, G-d-fearing and shunning evil.” And the Satan answered the L-rd
and said, “Does Job fear G-d for nothing?” (Job 1:6-9)

And further on:

Now the L-rd said to the Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hands; only upon
him do not stretch forth your hand.” Now the Satan left the presence of the L-rd… (verse 12).

And after the Satan tempts Job, there is, more or less, a repeat of this conversation in Chapter 2.

So we see that an actual angel called “the Satan” speaks with G-d, and G-d gives him instructions. The Satan goes away and fulfills those instructions. How could any of this mean something other than the existence of an actual angel called the Satan?

And in Zechariah:

”…and Satan was standing on his right, to accuse him. And the L-rd said to Satan: the
L-rd shall rebuke you, O Satan…”
(Zechariah 3:1-2).

The concept of Satan was clearly not invented by the Catholics or Christians, since it is in Tanach and therefore predates them by at least 500 years!

In the Talmud

The Talmud is very clear on the subject that there is a real Satan. So is every Book of Orthodox Judaism ever written since the Tanach.

The word “Satan” shows up at least 59 times in the Talmud, and in each case the Talmud is quite clear that Satan is neither imaginary nor a metaphor.

In one passage the Talmud says «Satan has three jobs: he seduces us to sin; he accuses us of our sins before the Heavenly court; and he is the Angel of Death» (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Basra 16a). This is something the Talmud considers real. There is no metaphor here.

The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 16b) says that we blow the Shofar (ram’s horn) on the Jewish New Year to thwart the power of Satan so that he cannot accuse us of sinning. Since we are performing something that G-d has commanded us to do (see Numbers 29:1), that weakens Satan’s ability to make us look bad.

In Jewish Prayers

Satan is even mentioned several times in our daily prayers! How can anyone pray the Jewish prayers and not believe in Satan? We pray every morning:

“May it be Your will Hashem my G-d and G-d of my forefathers, that You deliver me
today and every day … from an evil occurrence and from the destructive Satan…. etc.”

This prayer is taught and described in detail in the Talmud (Berachos 16b), and is recited by all Orthodox Jews every morning of the year, ever day of our lives.

Furthermore, when we eat at someone else’s home, we are obligated to say the following prayer, which is printed in almost every Orthodox Grace After Meals:

“May it be willed [by Hashem] that the owner of this home … be very successful in
all his business … and may Satan never control either his actions nor our actions…. etc.”

This prayer is also taught and described in detail in the Talmud (Berachos 46a) and in the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim §201:1).

Another name for Satan is the Yetzer Hara, the Evil Inclination. From the time we are little, Jewish kids are taught to recognize the Yetzer Hara in our actions and temptations. In Orthodox Judaism, Satan is very real.

So whoever says that there is no Satan in Judaism does not know what he’s talking about.

Is there a Hell?

As to Hell (Gehinom in Hebrew and Aramaic), I must give much the same answer. The Christians and Catholics took a Jewish concept and horribly distorted it. There is no eternal Hell. But there is indeed a Purgatory.

Most Orthodox Jews, unaware (and rightfully uncaring) of how the Christians and Catholics have distorted what Hell is, still use the term «Hell,» and not Purgatory. And that is how it is most often translated. Therefore I will also use that word.

Hell (or Purgatory, if you wish) is mentioned at least 133 times in the Talmud (at least by the one spelling in Hebrew I searched with — it might be more if spelled slightly differently).

For example: “Judgment of the wicked in Hell is 12 months” (Tractate Shabbos 33b).


“When Rabbi Yochonon ben Zakkai became sick [and was going to die], his disciples
came to visit him. When he saw them he began to cry. His students said to him, ‘Light of Israel! Why do you cry?’” [He gave a long answer, part of which was] “There are two paths before me, one to Heaven and one to Hell, and I don’t know which one they will bring me to, should I not cry?”

–Berachos 28b

“Anyone who speaks evil of a dead Torah Scholar is punished in Gehinom” (Berachos 19a).

“Gehinom has seven names: Sheol, Avadon, Bi’er Shachas, Bor Shi’on, Tit Hayavan,
Tzalmavess, and Eretz Hatachtis.” (I’m not going to bother to translate those names right now.)

(Eruvin 19a)

The Talmud also talks several times about the fires of Gehinom. In any case, 133 mentions cannot be ignored.

Satan and Hell are not Christian or Catholic inventions. The Catholics and Christians have changed and distorted the concepts, but they exist in Jewish Tradition as well, in far less cruel versions.

And yes, Satan is G-d’s servant, and not a rebel. The Talmud says that Satan did what he did to Job for the sake of Heaven (Baba Basra 16a). To fully understand what Satan is (and to understand the difference between the Christian/Catholic version and the truth (i.e., the Jewish explanation), see my article Does Judaism Believe in Satan?

So why do some Jewish websites use the Catholic or Christian versions? Why do some Jews think that Judaism does not believe in Satan?

My conclusion is that either

1) They are not Orthodox, and so do not follow our Traditions; and/or

2) They are not learned in Judaism.

So, I stand by what I have written and published. 



1. The complete text of the prayer as presented in the Talmud reads: “May it be Your will Hashem my G-d and G-d of my forefathers, that You deliver me today and every day from impudent people and from insolence, from any evil man and from any evil mishap, from an evil inclination, from an evil neighbor and from the destructive Satan, a harsh judgment and a harsh opponent whether he is a member of the Covenant or not a member of the Covenant.”

2. The complete text of the prayer as presented in the Talmud reads: “May it be willed that the owner of this home never be embarrassed in this world and never be ashamed in the Next World, and may he be very successful in all his business, and may all his business and our business be successful and close to the city, and may Satan never control either his actions nor our actions, and may neither he nor we be assailed by any thoughts of sin, iniquity or transgression from now until forever.

Does Judaism Believe in Satan?

(This article should be read after my article Why Did G-d Create the World?)

The Christians don’t understand how an angel of G-d can try to seduce people to disobey G-d, so they came to the unsupported conclusion that Satan must have rebelled against G-d.

This is completely contrary to everything Judaism believes. We reject that interpretation entirely.

What, then, does Judaism teach about Satan?

Did you ever see the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? (It’s one of the few examples of where a story from a book was changed for the screen without ruining the experience.) The story is about a very famous chocolate factory, called Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, that produces the world’s greatest chocolates, candies — confectionery in general. No one ever enters the factory, and no one ever leaves.

Mr. Wonka, the owner, runs a contest. The winners of the contest will be allowed to enter and tour the factory together. However, they will have to sign a contract and follow the rules. One of the rules is: no eating of any products inside the factory without express permission.

Afterwards, when they leave, they will go home with a lifetime supply of chocolate.That is, *IF* they follow the rules.

Five children win. They are of course all excited; TV stations and reporters interview them, and the whole world is excited with them. Now they just wait until the day they are to enter the factory and see the great wonders that no one else has ever been allowed to see.

Before the big day comes, each of the winners of the contest is secretly visited by a man named Arthur Slugworth, President of Slugworth Chocolates, Incorporated. Mr. Slugworth shows them a lot of cash, and tells them they will get all that money and more, if only they steal out of the factory a candy called an Everlasting Gobstopper. See, it hasn’t been mass produced or marketed yet, and Wonka’s competition wants to get an advance sample of this product so he can get it out first, and ruin Wonka.

The day comes, and all the kids are allowed into the factory with one adult relative. They see the most amazing sights, and eat the most amazing (and impossible to actually exist in real life) foods. One of the things Wonka gives each of the kids is an Everlasting Gobstopper, on the condition that they never show it to anyone else.

During the tour of the factory, four of the kids break the rules by taking stuff they should not have taken, and they all suffer the consequences. One gets all swollen up and blue from some gum she should not have taken, and they have to take her away and squeeze her until she gets skinny again. One of the kids jumps into a pool of chocolate and is sucked up into the pipes. And so on. They are all saved in the end, so don’t worry, but they must leave the factory without the lifetime supply of chocolate, because they broke the rules.

Charlie, the main character, also breaks the rules. He drinks some Fizzy drink he was not supposed to take, but no one seems to know, so he doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t get hurt in the process, so he survives until the end of the tour.

At the end of the tour, Charlie Bucket and his grandfather are the only ones left. Mr. Wonka says good bye to them, and tells them to leave. Upset, Charlie asks him for the lifetime supply of chocolate. But Mr. Wonka has somehow found out that Charlie drank the Fizzy drink, and therefore broke the rules. Charlie will not be getting a lifetime supply of chocolate either.

Wonka yells at him for drinking the Fizzy drink, and Charlie feels bad. But his grandfather is angry, and he tells Charlie that they’ll give Mr. Slugworth an Everlasting Gobstopper.

They are about to leave, when Charlie realizes that no matter how he feels, stealing and breaking rules is bad. So he goes to Mr. Wonka’s desk and returns the Gobstopper to him.

Wonka sees that, and jumps up in delight! He tells Charlie that he has won! Charlie has no idea of what he’s talking about. It seems that Wonka was looking to retire, and so he set up the contest to find an honest child he could train as his successor.

Then Wonka calls in Wilkinson, his aide. And Wilkinson is Slugworth! Slugworth was sent out to each of the children to test them! To see how they would respond. Anyone who either ate food he wasn’t supposed to eat or brought a Gobstopper to Slugworth was dishonest, and would not become the successor. (Okay, the parable is not exact, but I think you get my point.) Notice, also, that Wonka himself gave each of the children a Gobstopper. So he himself set up the choice, and then gave them the opportunity to break the rule, using Wilkinsin to offer the temptation.

Christians take Slugworth at face value: a reprehensible competitor who will stop at nothing to undo Wonka. And that’s how they view Satan.

Jews do not see it that way, and we never have. Just as Slugworth is really Wilkinson doing what Wonka asked him to do, Satan is also not working for himself.

The Hebrew word «Satan» means «Hinderer.» To hinder someone means to hold him back, to try to prevent him from doing something. G-d created the Hinderer to give us work to do in this world (see my article Why did G-d Create the World?). Satan is here to make things difficult for us, so we can overcome our evil temptations, and PASS the test. That is the purpose of Satan. Satan is an angel whose purpose has been determined by G-d.

Temptation is there to try and deter us. It gives us the ability to do the wrong thing. More importantly, it gives us the ability to look at evil and refuse to do it. By presenting us with the opportunity to do evil, it gives us the ability to choose between good and evil.

The ability to choose between good and evil is what gives us free will. (See my article On the Nature of Free Will.

So, in order for us to work for the good that Hashem wants to give us, the good of the World to Come, we need something to deter us. That is the ability to do evil. Satan is our Evil Inclination (Yetzer Hara). The Evil Inclination tries to prevent us from doing good, because Hashem has commanded the Evil Inclination to do that. Why? To give us free will.

Each of us every day fights with Satan. We all have temptations, throughout the day. But we, as the Children of Israel, have the power to overcome even angels, if we work at it. Therefore, the Talmud says that men are greater than angels, for we can fight with an angel (Satan) and win.

Satan is not, as the Christians think, a rebellious angel. How impossible! The angels are spiritual and holy, without any physical or unholy presence, and the presence of Hashem’s holiness permeates them entirely. Angels, unlike humans, are therefore constantly and fully aware of Hashem’s Presence everywhere. Could you stay dry in the ocean? An angel could not stop being holy, and can do no wrong. There is holiness everywhere in Creation, everywhere in the universe, and angels are made of the same thing. An angel could not stop serving G-d even if he tried.

Furthermore, humans have Satan to tempt us. Angels have no Satan to tempt them. Who would be Satan’s Satan? An ultra-Satan?

The truth is that Satan has a job to do, just like every other angel. And angels have no free will. They do as Hashem commands them.

A man once came to a great Rabbi, very troubled. He said to the Rabbi, «Please pray to Hashem to take away my Evil Inclination. I do so many sins, and I want to stop sinning!»

The Rabbi answered, «Then what would be your purpose in this world, if you had no Evil Inclination? Your purpose in life is to overcome your personal Evil Inclination. That is what you were created for! Hashem has enough angels in heaven. He doesn’t need one more. He created you human, so that you could improve yourself.»

Humans can improve themselves, and that is their purpose in this world. Angels, however, cannot improve themselves. That’s not their purpose. Angels are therefore said to be «standing.» They cannot become better, and they cannot rise any higher than they are. They are, so to speak, standing.

Isaiah, when describing a Heavenly scene, says «Seraphim were standing around Him….» (Isaiah 6:2). (Seraphim are a type of angel.) Spiritually, angels are stuck at whatever level Hashem created them.

Humans are different. Humans can rise by improving themselves. For that reason, we are described as «walkers.» Therefore the Prophet Zachariah told the High Priest, «This is what Hashem, L-rd of Hosts says: if you walk in My ways, and if you observe My safeguards, you and your sons after you will be the High Priests, and you and your sons will thus guard my Holy Temple, and I will make you walkers among these who are standing» (Zachariah 3:7).

In other words, Hashem was promising the High Priest that he and his children will be High Priests, and also will merit reward in the Afterlife, in the World of Souls, where righteous people go after death.

The Prophet Zachariah was saying that in the Next World they will be walkers among the standers, which means humans among angels.

So the angels are referred to as perpetually standing, but we are movers. Our purpose is to keep on moving, to keep on improving ourselves, and to keep on rising.

And how do we do it? By constant battle with the Evil Inclination.

So now we have to revise our understanding of Satan. Satan is not a fallen angel. Satan is merely an angel with a dirty job. Satan does not have a rival kingdom. Satan is not in competition with G-d, and Satan does not want followers or worshipers. He’s not even happy when people obey him and sin.

Satan is the angel who tempts us, and the angel who prosecutes us in Heaven. He is also the Angel of Death. The angel who tries to make us sin is the same angel who accuses us in the Heavenly Court, and the same angel who carries out the death sentence.

So, no, Satan does not wear a red suit, or carry a trident. Nor does he wear a business suit. Satan is a force of evil in the world that we must resist. Satan most often appears as a desire within you. Of course, there is no shortage of things in the world to tempt us to sin.

And Satan has many «helpers,» many of whom don’t even know they are helping him. A shady-looking character in the street walks over to you and offers to sell you some stolen property, for example. He’s not Satan. He’s someone who has not resisted Satan, and has decided to do evil. He’s now trying to tempt you to sin, but not because he wants you to sin per se. He personally has something to gain from your sinning.

Whenever a human being tries to tempt another person to sin, it’s because he himself feels he can gain something from it. It may be simply that he doesn’t want to sin alone. Or maybe he needs your help. Or maybe he just gets emotional satisfaction out of seeing you go against what you believe (in which case he is a very sick person, but unfortunately not unusual). There could be any number of motivations.

Likewise, the snake in the Garden of Eden was not Satan either, though confused Christians think it was. The snake had his own motivations, which I will not go into now. He was what the Torah calls a «Seducer,» someone who, for whatever reason, tries to get other people to sin.

How does one recognize Satan? For that we need to live a Torah life. This means a host of things that work together. To mention a few: Torah study, spending quality and quantity time among Observant Jewish people, learning from Rabbis and other religiously developed Jewish people, periodic introspection, and actual self-development by means of performing the Mitzvos. It is difficult (if at all possible) to cite any of these as being more important than any of the others.

None of us are capable of destroying Satan. What we are expected and commanded to do is to gain the upper hand over our personal Satans. And Hashem helps us do this, constantly. The Talmud says that the Evil Inclination constantly attempts to destroy us spiritually, and Hashem constantly helps us and gives us the means with which to overcome our Evil Inclinations.

When this world comes to an end, and the Next World begins, the Day of Judgment will take place. After that, Satan’s work will be done. There will no longer be sin, and there will no longer be death. All judgment will have been passed and performed. There will no longer be any need for a Tempting Angel, an Angel of Death, or a Prosecuting Angel. Satan will cease to exist. It will not be a sad day at all.

Nor will it be unfair treatment of Satan. It will be like turning off a machine. Angels are not like humans, with human emotions and desires. They exist merely to follow Hashem’s instructions, for the greater glory of Hashem.

That’s the reason we exist too — to follow Hashem’s instructions for the greater glory of Hashem. So Satan was created to struggle against us, and we were put into this world to struggle against Satan.

But that was not the purpose of our being created. When the struggle is over we will begin to receive the reward for having struggled. We will be brought in to the Next World, and the struggle will end.

That’s when the good times will begin.

Read more about this in my article, «Is the World in a Conflict Between Good and Evil?«

If you’re a Christian, and/or you’re here looking for Scriptural arguments and polemics, take a look at this article: «Who Is Satan?» by Rabbi Tovia Singer.

Why Did G-d Create the World?

Judaism teaches that Hashem wished to do good, so He created beings that could appreciate it.

It means that Hashem created humanity to enjoy a relationship with Hashem, that we experience the ultimate pleasure of the Presence of Hashem. Ultimately, humanity wants pleasure. We understand the concept of pleasure,
because Hashem has given us that ability in this world. Yet all the greatest pleasures of the universe compacted into one thrilling moment can never be even one millionth as pleasurable as the ultimate experience of the World to Come.

So, ultimately, humanity, the thinking beings in this world, were created to receive good.

However, Hashem wanted those beings to appreciate the good in the best possible way, so He made them have to work for it.

If given a choice between working for a living or being supported by someone else for free, most people would choose working for a living. We prefer not to have to live on gifts, or on welfare.

If we received the ultimate good, reward in the World To Come, without having to work for that good, we would not enjoy it at all. In fact, it would be embarrassing. The Talmud calls it nahama dich’sufa, the «bread of embarrassment.»

That is human nature. We want to fully enjoy what we deserve, and we want to fully deserve what we enjoy.

In this sense, Hashem created us in His image. It is impossible to give anything to Hashem, because everything comes from Hashem. Hashem cannot receive something for nothing. Hashem must create it first.

Similarly, our very nature demands that we do something to receive something. Just as Hashem cannot get something for nothing, Hashem created us in that image.

So we have to work to attain the good that He has prepared for us. Hashem therefore created two worlds. In This World we work to attain a close and spiritual relationship with Hashem. In the Next World we enjoy that relationship to the fullest.

It is possible, even in this world, to experience a semblance of that Future Reward, as we develop our relationship with Hashem. But the fullest experience of that reward will be only in the Future World.

The Talmud therefore says, «Today is for doing the work; tomorrow is for the reward.»

How do we work for it? We fight the temptation not to do what we are supposed to do. We choose between working for that good and doing things we shouldn’t do. That is the work of our lives.

In This World we study Torah and perform the Mitzvos, in the Next World we will reap the reward.

That is the reason that Hashem created the world.

The New Moon, and the Power of Judaism

The New Moon (the start of every Jewish month) is the most pivotal date in the Jewish Calendar. Without the New Moon, we could not have any of the Jewish Holidays. All the Jewish Holidays revolve around the date of the New Moon. The New Moon tells us which day is the first of the month.

Nowadays we use a set calendar to tell us when the New Moon is celebrated, and thus when all the other days of that month will occur. It was not always like that, and it will not always be like that.

In order for the new month to begin, the Sanhedrin (highest Jewish Court) must declare “Rosh Chodesh.” (The Sanhedrin does not exist today, for technical reasons, but someday it will be reinstated, either after the Messiah comes, or just before the Messiah comes.) Rosh Chodesh literally means “Head of the Month.” This refers to the minor holiday of the first day (or the first two days, depending) of the new month.

When the Sanhedrin declared the new month, that day was Rosh Chodesh, and it was therefore a minor Holiday, with specific levels of holiness attached to it. The Talmud therefore refers to that process as “Sanctifying the New Moon.”

Rosh Chodesh was declared only after two witnesses came to the Sanhedrin and testified that they had seen the new moon (a little piece of the moon beginning to show) during the previous night. If no witnesses showed up by the thirtieth day of the month, Rosh Chodesh was declared on the thirty-first day (the previous month will therefore have thirty days), and all the dates of the coming month were thus set.

If there were Holidays during that month, this declaration also determined which days were Holidays, and therefore which days were holy.

When the Sanhedrin realized that Constantinius, the Christian Caesar, was going to disband the Sanhedrin, one of the most important things they did was to calculate all the New Moons until the year 6,000 of Creation (which corresponds to 2240 C.E.), and made the proper declarations for all of them. Thus today we have holiness on each Rosh Chodesh, and on each Holiday, just as has always been since Hashem gave us those Commandments.

There is a beautiful Midrash that talks of the role of the People of Israel in the world, as shown from the Sanctification of Rosh Chodesh, or “Making the New Moon Holy.” (In Hebrew, i.e., in Judaism, the two are the same. The Hebrew word for “holy” also means special, or exclusive.)


When the Sanhedrin sanctified a new month, what blessing did they make? Some Rabbis say that the blessing recited was “Blessed are You Hashem, Who renews the months.” Other Rabbis say that the blessing recited was “Blessed are You Hashem, Who makes the months holy.” Other Rabbis say that the blessing recited was “Blessed are You Hashem, Who makes the Children of Israel holy.”

Because if the Children of Israel do not sanctify the moon, it does not become holy at all!

Don’t be surprised by this, because Hashem made Israel holy, as it says “And you shall be holy to Me, for I, Hashem, am holy…” (Leviticus 20:26). And since the Children of Israel are holy and special to heaven, whatever they make holy is truly holy.

Do you want to understand this? Take a lesson from the Serving Vessels in the Holy Sanctuary. Moses sanctified the Tabernacle. Who sanctified all the
Tabernacle’s Vessels? You might think that Moses did. But actually, what happened was that a priest would bring a simple mundane cup or other vessel, and put something holy in it, and the cup would automatically become holy. It worked the same way as when Moses sprinkled sacrificial blood on the Altar, and it became holy; or when he poured a wine libation, or performed any aspect of the Holy Temple Service with any mundane vessel, and it thereby became holy.

Now, if a simple, mundane cup becomes holy when it is filled with something holy, all the more so the Children of Israel, who are themselves holy, should have the ability to make the month holy!

The Holy One, blessed is He, said, “I am holy. I Myself make things holy. I will make Israel holy, and they will fill the world with holiness by declaring Me holy. Therefore, the Torah says, “And you will be holy to Me, for I, Hashem, am holy…(ibid),” and “I am Hashem Who makes you holy” (Leviticus 20:8).

That is what King David means when he says “You are holy; You are enthroned by the praises of Israel” (Psalms 22:4)

And when did Israel begin to sanctify the months? In Egypt, as it says “This month shall be the first month for you…” (Exodus 12:2).

— Midrash Shmos Rabbah, 15:24

This is a fascinating and revealing Midrash. In this Midrash we see the great spiritual power that is granted to the children of Israel. As many Rabbis explain, the Torah says “This month shall be the first month for you.” That is, we, Israel, and only Israel, are the ones with the ability to make the New Moon holy. We, therefore, are the ones who make the Holidays holy.

That explains why some of the Rabbis said that the blessing for Sanctifying the New Moon was “Blessed are You Hashem, Who makes the Children of Israel holy.”

But it goes deeper than that. What is the effect of our bringing holiness into the world? It serves to keep the universe in existence.

The Torah says “This is what Hashem says: Were it not for the fact that My covenant is observed day and night, I would not have set the rules of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25). In other words, it is our observing the covenant, the Torah, that keeps the world in existence.

How does Hashem keep the world in existence? By continuously renewing it. For this reason we find that Hashem is constantly described as He Who makes the world, in the present tense, and less often as He Who made the world, in the past tense. For example, King David says, “Who makes the great lights, for His kindness is forever” (Psalms 136:7). And it says, “Who hangs the sky like a curtain, and stretches it over our heads like a roof so we can live underneath it” (Isaiah 40:22). Every moment that the world merits it, Hashem renews the universe.

That explains why some of the Rabbis said that the blessing for Sanctifying the New Moon was “Blessed are You Hashem, Who renews the months.”

And that explains why some of the Rabbis said that the blessing for Sanctifying the New Moon was “Blessed are You Hashem, Who makes the months holy.” The existence and renewal of the universe depends on our bringing Hashem’s holiness into the world.

And so that is the sequence of things. First Hashem makes us holy. Then we make the world holy. Then Hashem renews the world again.

This applies to three aspects: People, Time and Place. We, as the Children of Israel, can bring holiness to ourselves; to the holy times, like the Jewish Holidays (which we often refer to as the “seasons”); and to holy places, like synagogues and places of Torah study, but most importantly, to our own homes.

And in this way, the Holidays differ from the Sabbath. The holiness of the Holidays comes through us. Hashem makes us holy, and we bring holiness to the world, but the holiness of the Sabbath comes directly from Hashem, and not through us. The holiness of Shabbos was set into a permanent cycle when Hashem created the very first Shabbos. That very same holiness is repeated each and every Shabbos of the year. We attain holiness through our observance of Shabbos, but we do not control the holiness of Shabbos.

This is why we say, during Kiddush every Shabbos, “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who sanctifies the Shabbos.” This highlights the fact that Hashem directly sanctifies Shabbos. But on the Holidays we say “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who sanctifies Israel and the times.” This highlights the fact that Hashem sanctifies the times through Israel.

And on a Holiday that occurs on Shabbos, we reflect both those concepts, and we say: “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who sanctifies the Shabbos, Israel, and the times.” In other words, Hashem sanctifies the Sabbath, and through Shabbos, sanctifies Israel. And then we, Israel, have the ability to sanctify the times. We take the holiness that Hashem gives us, and we bring it into the world, and we thus sanctify the times, meaning the seasons of the year.

This is what the Midrash means when quoting King David, saying, “You are holy; You are enthroned by the praises of Israel.” G-d cannot change, and G-d does not change. We cannot make G-d holy, but we can bring G-d’s holiness into this world, and that is indeed our purpose in life.

You are probably wondering: how exactly do we make the world holy? What is it we do that brings holiness into the universe?

We study Torah, and we perform the Commandments, of course. But there’s another point to it as well.

Do you know that the Talmud says (BT Gitten 45b; Maimonides, Laws of the Foundations of the Torah, 6:8; see also BT Chullin 13a) that if a heretic (a Jew who denies even one teaching of the Torah or Talmud) writes a Torah Scroll, that Torah Scroll is invalid. Not only is such a Torah Scroll invalid, but it may never be used, and it must be burned!

Yet that seems a little strange. The words and letters are all the same as in any other Torah Scroll. Let’s say a heretic writes a Torah Scroll while a believer watches over his shoulder. Everything is written perfectly and conforms to all the Laws of Torah Scrolls. Every letter is shaped according to the Laws of how the letters must be shaped. Why is this Torah Scroll invalid?

The answer is because a person who denies the truth of the Torah cannot impart holiness, and thus the Torah Scroll is not holy. This person has created a problematic thing — a Torah scroll that is not holy!

And holiness is our reason for existence. Everything a Jew does should be premeditated, and performed with the intention of fulfilling Hashem’s will to the greatest possible level of holiness. This is why many people recite, before performing many of the Mitzvos, this little formula: “I am hereby prepared and ready to fulfill the Commandment of…”

The Torah tells us, “So that you remember, and you will perform all My commandments, and you will be holy to your G-d” (Numbers 15:40). So, how we keep the Commandments determines our own holiness.

When we observe Shabbos properly, we become conduits of holiness, and we transmit holiness to the Holiday. Therefore, each Holiday takes holiness from Shabbos, and especially from the Shabbos that precedes that Holiday. Hassidic teachings tell us that the Shabbos of each Holiday is therefore given a greater level of holiness commensurate with the upcoming Holiday, so that we can impart to that Holiday the special holiness that belongs to that Holiday. And as a result, the Shabbos that precedes a Holiday is always a very special and important time. How we observe that Shabbos will effect our relationship with that Holiday!

So what does this have to do with the moon? Why was this blessing recited particularly over the Sanctifying of the new month?

There are a few reasons, among them the basic fact that when we sanctify the new moon we then know when the Holiday will be. If we did not declare a new month, there could be no day on which to hold the Holiday.

But as usual, it goes deeper than that.

The phases of the moon teach us a very important lesson. No one is so perfect that they never fall, that they never sin, that they are never diminished. As the Torah teaches us, “The righteous can fall even seven times, and rise again; but the wicked stumble with evil” (Proverbs 24:16). The righteous fall, but they get up again. That’s what makes them righteous. Everyone has high moments and low moments, and sometimes those “moments” can last a while. The moon also declines every month. But the moon never gives up. The moon comes right back and starts all over again!

This is the power of the Children of Israel. When we fall, we can get back up again. No matter how many times we are diminished, no matter how many times we sin, and no matter how many times we may be oppressed and embittered, we can always get back up again.

And don’t think that getting back up again can be done overnight. It takes the moon two weeks of steady growth to become full again. The moon appears to get a little larger every night, not all at once.

As Jews, our purpose in life is to let our holiness continue to grow and shine. We can accomplish this only by growing slowly and steadily. And if we fall, we start again.

And when the Messiah comes, the Talmud teaches us, the moon will no longer get smaller each month. The moon will then be made as big as the sun, and it will shine as bright as the sun.

When the Messiah comes, there will be only growth.

These are some of the lessons we can learn from the New Moon.

(This article was inspired primarily by a work called Bais Aharon on Torah and Serving Hashem, composed from talks given by Rabbi Aharon II of Karlin, 1802-1872.)

The Path of Repentance

Someone asked me:

I was wondering about the proper procedure of the repentance of sins. Are there certain prayers to be said? What is the true way to be forgiven? What does Judaism say about repentance?

I answered as follows:

Ultimately, the most important part of repentance is what we call «abandoning the sin.»

In essence, the classic process of repentance is:

  • realizing the error of sinning and regretting it;
  • quietly confessing it to Hashem;
  • accepting upon yourself to try not to do it again;
  • trying not to do it again.

Those are the most important factors in repentance. If you get the order wrong, Hashem will accept that also. And if you omit any of those except the last one, Hashem will accept it also. The most important element is trying to stay away from the sin.

It is also important not to focus too much on the sin(s) you committed. The important thing is to focus on doing good, thereby relinquishing sin.

Also, do not be concerned if you make a mistake and slip. No one should expect to be so perfect as to alsways keep a resolution and never make a mistake. It’s impossible. So don’t be too hard on yourself, because it isn’t fair. Hashem knows you are not perfect. He didn’t create you perfect. He created you with the ability to try to do your best, and He does not expect more than that.

There is a story of a great Rabbi who said, «Hashem, I sinned today, but tomorrow I shall not sin again. I know I said this yesterday as well, but this time I mean it!»

He used to say that every night. But many nights he stood at a slightly better level than he did the night before. And that’s all that Hashem asks of us.

Repentance is not a complicated process. In your heart, you know how to do it, and you know you can do it.

A man once went to the Rabbi of Kotzk, and said to him, «I sinned. What should I do?»

The Rebbe answered him, «Why, repent, of course!»

«But I’m unlearned,» said the man, «and I don’t know how to repent!»

«If you’re so unlearned,» asked the Kotzker Rebbe, «how did you know you were sinning?»

Said the man, «Actually, I didn’t know at the time. I sinned, and afterwards I found out that I had sinned.»

«So do the same thing here,» the Rebbe told him. «Repent, and afterwards you’ll find out how to repent.»

The long and the short of it is: Repentance is not all that complicated or problematic. Deep in your heart, you know how to repent.

And when you are ready for the fourth step, bear in mind that you should not try to rectify too many sins at once. A complete makeover takes time, and it is best to focus on one or a few things at a time. Trying to do too much at once will almost certainly result in failure, and possibly depression.

But if you focus on one thing at a time, you are more likely to succeed. And yes, Hashem not only accepts this, He delights in it.

And remember, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Resolve to fix one thing at a time, no more. Take it slow.

The man responded to this and emailed me again, as follows:

Are you saying that forgiveness is granted if you realize your sin and confess and apologize to G-d, even though G-d knows that you will inevitably sin again? Even though you claim to not do it again, and mean it with all your heart and soul, but inevitably you do the same thing again, G-d does not get angry at you for lying to him?

To which I responded:

If you repent and you intend to do the best you can not to sin, that’s not a lie — even if you later fall and sin again.

G-d knows our natures and our inclinations, as well as our strengths and frailties. (He created them, after all!)

And the truth is that if you find it hard to stop sinning, G-d also accepts your effort to not sin for a specific period of time.

In other words, you might decide one day that «I will not do this sin today.» You know you might do it tomorrow, but at least today you will not sin. For that day you will have accomplished something great! And who knows, maybe you won’t sin tomorrow either. And maybe you will. So a few days later you’ll try another day without sinning. Those days are precious to Hashem!

And eventually, if you can, you’ll move it up to two days without sinning. And then maybe three, and maybe finally you’ll get used to not sinning. This is a healthy way, and it’s a realistic way.

In fact, what many people do is start with one hour a day, for every day. I know of a group of women in a local Jewish community that meets every so often to discuss their spiritual growth. That entire group of women agreed to set aside one hour a day during which they will not get angry.

Other groups advocate stipulating one hour a day during which they will speak no gossip.

The point is to slowly, eventually, expand that until it becomes second nature, and you no longer, as a rule, do that sin. If you do it this way, it is not at all «inevitable that you will sin.» But even if you do, you simply try once again not to.

One good method to use is to stay away from situations that lead you to sin. For example, if you find it hard to resist stopping into your local fast food restaurant and buying some non-kosher food, take a detour and don’t walk or drive past that restaurant (if possible). If talking to a certain person often causes you to speak profanity or gossip, you are better off not speaking to that person too much.

I have a friend who was once trying to tell me something nasty about someone we both dislike. Since he was a friend, I was able to tell him, «Please — I have recently decided not to speak or hear loshon hara (evil talk, gossip, slander, etc.)!» He understood, and he stopped. You can’t do this with everyone, and some people you will simply have to stay away from. We probably all know at least one person who loves to peddle stories. It’s unfortunate, of course, and it also makes our work harder.

Possibly the most important and best method is to stay away from sin by doing good. If you keep yourself busy doing good things, you won’t have time or energy to sin very much.

There was a Rabbi who used to tell his followers, «I want you to be simply too busy to do any sins!»

No matter what method you use, don’t think it means you will never make a mistake, that you will never fail. Everyone fails, everyone makes mistakes from time to time. The trick is to pick yourself up afterwards and keep on going. That is how King Solomon describes a righteous person: «The righteous fall even seven times, but they get up each time. The wicked, however, are overcome by evil» (Proverbs 24:16).

So we try, we often fail, but we try again. Hashem judges us not on our successes, but on our honest attempts. Not only that, but just the act of getting up and trying again is in itself the accomplishment of something good, and this also refines a person, as well as earns him reward in the World To Come.

You can appear in Heaven, after a long life, full of sins, and be accepted into Heaven! Because you regretted the sins, you honestly tried not to commit those sins again, and you picked yourself up after committing those sins and tried yet again not to do them!

Great and holy people can simply make a decision and then always stick to it (or at least stick to it most of the time). Some of us are not at that level yet. So we do it bit by bit, and one at a time.

Hashem loves and accepts that, because we are trying our best. That’s all that Hashem wants of us!

Q. What does Judaism Believe?

A. Well, like all things in Judaism, I can’t answer that in one sentence. With Hashem’s help, I will tell you some of the most basic beliefs of Judaism, which you can use as a starting point. (And please see my FAQ pages as well).

Judaism believes that the Creator is the Only Creator, and the Only Controller. The Creator is the true One and Only Power, the true Source.

There is only One G-d. G-d is the Creator. We often use the Name «Hashem,» when referring to the Creator.

The Creator is only One. The Creator is not one of two, nor one of three. The Creator is not one of a species, not one of a type, nor one of a family or group. There are no other true gods. There are other things that have power, but none of them are G-d, and none of them are like G-d. (Sometimes they are called by the term «gods,» because in Hebrew that word means «something that has powers,» or «something that has might.» Therefore, even a powerful warrior could be called by the Hebrew word for god.)

There are no other beings like the Creator.

The Creator has no parts, limbs, sections, or anything like that. The Creator is unique. There is nothing in all of Creation or anywhere else (if there is an anywhere else) that can be compared to the Creator. The Torah uses anthropomorphic terms only so that we can understand what we are being taught, but not to literally describe the Creator. The Torah uses masculine terms to describe the Creator because there is no neuter gender in Hebrew.

The Creator cannot die. The Creator cannot suffer, and the Creator cannot bleed. The Creator is not a man, and no human can be G-d. The Creator cannot be hanged on a cross to die, or flogged like a criminal.

The Torah also teaches that the Creator does not change (Malachi 3:6).

The Creator does not have a mediator, nor does the Creator need a mediator. Furthermore, humanity does not need a mediator to have a relationship with the Creator.

Therefore, Jews pray only to the Creator. It is not proper to pray to anyone or anything else, nor is it permissible to pray through anyone else. And it will always be forbidden. It would be forbidden even if that thing or person had the ability to grant what you ask for.

The Creator is merciful. The Creator receives and cherishes to every prayer said to Him.

Judaism believes that Moses was the greatest of all prophets. Prophets are humans who have raised themselves to a high level. Prophecy comes to a righteous person who has greatly developed his character in the service of Hashem. Some very few people, like the Prophet Samuel, were able to develop themselves at a very young age.

The extent to which a prophet can receive prophecy depends upon how much he or she has succeeded in negating the self and making the Creator primary in his or her thoughts. Therefore, Moses, whom the Torah says was the humblest of all people, was the greatest prophet.

There is no prophecy today. There has been none since the passing of Malachi, around 300 B.C.E., and there will be none until the Messiah comes. There has been Divine Inspiration on lower levels, but only to people who were great enough to have been prophets in an earlier age.

We do not accept or believe those people whom other religions call their prophets. We do not accept or believe the writings of other religions. At times, we even dispute their version of history, particularly the christian version of history.

Judaism accepts and studies the teachings of all the true prophets, which includes all of those in the Jewish Bible. We use the term «Jewish Bible.» We do not use the term «Old
Testament,» because we find that term insulting, and also because we do not accept the so-called «new testament.»

The only way to know what the Creator wants us to do is to study the Torah. It is otherwise impossible to know what the Creator wants us to do.

The Torah includes two sections; the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. No human being can understand the Written Torah without the guidance of the Oral Torah. The Creator created both 2,000 years before creating the universe. Both were taught to Moses, and both were given to us at the same time, at Mount Sinai, though some portions were taught to us earlier.

The Written Torah is the Jewish Bible. The skeleton basics of the Oral Torah were written down in the Mishnah and Talmud and Rabbinical Writings, to prevent them from being forgotten.

The Torah is eternal, the Torah is forever. The Laws of the Torah are binding upon us
forever. The holiness of the Torah and the effect it has on us and on the universe are

The Torah we Jews have today is precisely the same Torah that we received at Mount Sinai 3,311 years ago (from the year 1999). It is the only Torah we will ever have. It will not be exchanged, nor will there be any other new one from Hashem. Everything in all the Books of the Prophets are really just explanations and expansions of what was already taught in the Five Books of Moses. The Books of the Prophets added no Commandments, nor did they have the authority to remove any.

The Torah contains 613 Commandments. Each of the Commandments has numerous details. Each of those details were taught to us, and are part of the Torah. None may be changed, though Rabbis are required, with certain limits, to enact additional Laws to protect the Laws of the Torah from being violated, or to protect people from being harmed.

The Torah teaches us that the Torah is not difficult to fulfill (Deuteronomy 30:11-14), if one only has faith and devotion. The Torah says that the Commandments are life, blessing, and good (Deut. 30:15, Psalms 19 & 119, et. al.).

Every human being has divine and spiritual essences within him and surrounding him, and that is our connection to the spiritual worlds. By studying Torah and also by fulfilling the Commandments, we become attached to the spiritual universe.

The Creator has promised us that we will be rescued from our exile. When we are finally
rescued, we will be returned to Israel, and a King will be restored to the throne of David. He will be the King Messiah.

The Messiah will bring peace to the world. The Messiah will bring back all Jews to the
proper understanding of how to serve Hashem and how to fulfill ourselves spiritually. The Messiah will rebuild the Holy Temple (or else it will be rebuilt just before he comes). The Messiah will bring back all Jews to the Land of Israel, with joy and hope. And he will do all this on the first try.

The Messiah has not yet come.

The Torah has *NO* prophecies that can be correctly considered as proving that jesus was the Messiah. Quite the contrary. A proper and careful study of all the verses in question shows that jesus could *NOT* have been the Messiah. (If you wish to research this matter, click here for a page that lists some websites that deal with this subject. Do not email me to try and convince me, because you will simply be wasting my time and yours.)

The time of the arrival of the Messiah is not known. About this there is a saying, «Those who know, don’t say; those who say, don’t know.»

There will be a Resurrection of the Dead at some time in the future. Its time is not known.

The Creator created the world in order to give us eternal pleasure. However, the Creator’s intention is not to give it to us for free, but as a reward for our work, so that we can enjoy it and feel that we deserve it. We call this place of reward the World to Come. At some time in the future this world will come to an end, and the World to Come will begin.

Judaism believes that if you have sinned, all you need to do is repent and mend your ways. «Return to Hashem,» say Moses and all the Prophets,»and Hashem will receive you because Hashem is very merciful.» (See Deuteronomy 4:30; Jeremiah Chapter 3; Ezekiel Chapters 14, 18, 33; Joel Chapter 2; Zachariah Chapter 1, Malachi Chapter 3, to mention a few). And «Let the evil forsake his way, and the sinner his plans, and return to Hashem, Who will have mercy on him; to our G-d, for He is very forgiving.» (Isaiah 55:7)

Blood is not necessary for atonement. This is taught in many places, including Hosea Chapter 14, where it says, «Israel, return to Hashem your G-d, for you have fallen because of your sins. Take with you words, and return to Hashem; say to Him, ‘Take away all sin, and receive us graciously, and will we give calves with our lips.’» In other words, instead of sacrifices, when we cannot bring sacrifices we will pray, and we will bring Hashem words. Hashem will then receive us and forgive us for our sins.

The Talmud teaches that in some ways a repentant person is more beloved than a perfectly righteous person, unless the person sinned with the intention of repenting later.

It is not necessary to be an ascetic in order to be holy. Hashem created the world for us to use, though we should not be gluttons. To use permitted things in moderation is in fact a greater test of spirituality, and a means of growth, just as it is to use some things and to refrain from using others.

The Torah demands from Jews both faith in Hashem and obedience to the Commandments of the Torah. The Laws of the Torah are forever. (Deut. 12:28; Deut. 29:28, and many other places).

From Gentiles, Hashem demands only adherence to the Seven Laws of the Children of NoahThe generation of Israelites that left Egypt was the greatest generation of people who have ever lived. They were the most righteous, and they had the more faith and trust in Hashem than any other generation as a whole. The Torah says about them, «And they believed in Hashem and in Moses His servant» (Exodus 14:31). And it says, «And those of you who have remained firmly attached to Hashem are all still alive today» (Deut. 4:4). So that generation had a tremendous amount of faith. They had so much faith, that in all the forty years they were in the Sinai Desert they sinned only ten times! (Numbers 14:22) How much does the average person today sin in one day?

The Jews’ relationship with the Creator is unique. No other nation has ever had that, or ever will. Therefore, the Torah says, «Ask now, in earlier days that have passed, from the day that G-d created humanity on earth, and from one end of the planet to the other, has such a great thing ever happened? Has anyone ever even heard of such a thing happening? Has an entire nation ever heard the voice of G-d speaking from the fire, as you heard, and lived? Or has any power ever tried to take for itself a nation from the midst of another nation, with such tremendous miracles, signs, wonders, war, a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with awe-inspiring acts, like Hashem your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You have been shown, so that you have clear knowledge, that Hashem is the Power, there is none other besides Him» (Deuteronomy 4:32-36).

When Hashem brought us to Mount Sinai, He showed us — the entire nation all at once — indisputable evidence that He exists and that He controls the universe. This has never happened to any other nation. No other religion makes the claim that G-d did such miracles before an entire nation.

Hashem chose the Jewish People in the merit of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and because of the promise Hashem made to them that the descendants of Jacob (who was also called Israel) would remain forever the Chosen People (see Deut. 4:37). Since the Jews were chosen in the merit of our ancestors, not for own merits, nothing that we do can make us lose that position. Hashem will never reject the Jews. This is stated many times in the Torah. Here is one example:

«This is what Hashem says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,’ declares Hashem» (Jeremiah 31:37).

Judaism has no concept of «being brought to salvation.» No one is in need of «saving.» When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought the world down to a more physical level. Now the work for spirituality is more difficult, but the rewards are greater. We are not born «in sin.» We are all born with a clean slate. We are all born to improve ourselves through our work for spirituality.

What is the work for spirituality? All we need do is study the Torah and fulfill the
Commandments we are able to fulfill, or to honestly and sincerely attempt to fulfill the
Commandments, as Hashem has instructed us. This includes improving our character traits, as explained in the previous article, Being Jewish.

One of the most important aspects of Service to Hashem and self-development for a Jew is the study of Torah. As it says, «This Book of the Torah must never be absent from your speech, and you shall study it day and night, so that you can be sure to fulfill all that is written in the Torah. Then everything you do will be successful, and you will be wise» (Joshua 1:8). Therefore, we study the Torah constantly. This is why the Jews are known to be a studious, intelligent, learned people. The Torah therefore says, «You shall be careful and do the Commandments, because that is your wisdom and knowledge as the Gentiles see it; when they hear about all these Laws they will say, «this great nation is surely a wise and sage nation» (Deut. 4:6).

Hashem knows everything that goes on the universe. Hashem rewards those who do good, and punishes those who do evil, but that is not the reason to do good. The more good we do, the greater our relationship with Hashem, and the holier we become.

Judaism is a beautiful and complex life. It cannot be summed up easily. It must be observed, lived, and enjoyed. It is the religion of joy. It is the religion of life.

To fully understand Judaism, it must be experienced firsthand. If you desire to understand Judaism, accept an offer, or get yourself invited to the home of an Orthodox Jew (or better yet, an Orthodox Rabbi) for a Sabbath or at least for a Sabbath meal. Most Orthodox Jews love to have guests for the Sabbath Meals. Go here to find websites that can help you find a place near where you live or almost anywhere you can stay or visit for Shabbat.

And don’t forget to read my article: Can a Person Fulfill all the Torah?

What is Being Jewish?

Unlike some other religions, Judaism is not learned in one day. There was a man who wanted to learn all of Judaism in one minute. He went to Hillel the Elder (circa 100 B.C.E.) and asked to be taught all the Torah in the short time that he could stand on one leg. Hillel the Elder told him, in what is today the most often misquoted passage of the Talmud, «What you do not like, do not do to your friend. The rest explains it, go and complete it entirely1

There are many ways of understanding this. Let me present you with one:

The Talmud teaches that a person should always, at every moment, consider himself at the very center of a balanced scale. If he does one sin, he could tip himself and the entire world to the side of negativity. If he performs one good deed, fulfills one Commandment of the Torah, he could tip the scale in the world’s favor.2 The reason for this is because at any moment such an existence is a distinct possibility. If not the entire world, smaller segments, such as your city, your family, or even yourself. And even if you do one good deed, perhaps you balanced the world with that one act, and now you need to tip the scale so that the world is in a favorable state of goodness. So you need to do one more good deed.

So, everything could very well depend on the very action you do right now. Certainly you want the world to be in a positive state, and so you want people to do good deeds to bring the world to a positive state. And since that is what you want, you should do the same for others.

What are these good deeds? The Commandments of the Torah. Hashem did us a great
kindness, by creating for us a means by which to bring spirituality to the world. Hashem
arranged it so that when we fulfill a Commandment, when we study Torah, when we pray, we bring spirituality and holiness to the world and ourselves. This is a gift from Hashem.

Spirituality and holiness are necessary for the continued existence of the universe. So it is our responsibility to keep the world going. How do we do that? The Rabbis have taught us that «The world exists on three things: Torah, Service, and acts of kindness.»3 And the Rabbis have taught that Hashem created the world for the sake of Israel and all who join the Children of Israel, so that we serve Hashem as He commands.4

So what is the nature of our responsibilities? What do we mean when we say «fulfill the
Commandments of the Torah?» What do the «Commandments» entail?

Judaism, as taught in the complete Torah, that is, both the Written and Oral Torah,
encompasses all of a human’s life. The Torah teaches us: «In all your ways shall you know Him, and He will straighten your paths.»5

This is why the Torah says

And now, Israel, what is it that Hashem your G-d wants from you? Only that you fear
Hashem your G-d, walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve Hashem your G-d with
all your heart and soul, to guard the Commandments of Hashem and his Laws….6

The Mesillas Yesharim, a seminal work of Jewish thought, does an interesting treatment of these verses. He shows how these verses include all the aspects of perfect service of Hashem:

  1. Fear of Hashem.
  2. Walking in His ways
  3. Love of Hashem
  4. A complete heart
  5. Observance of the Commandments and Laws of each Commandment.

Let’s now examine each of these:

Fear of Hashem: This means fear of the awesome and elevated glory of Hashem. We cannot imagine the Essence of Hashem, but we can at least be in awe of the glory of Hashem. There is a lesser level, Fear of Punishment. That’s a respectable level of worship as well (and a great many people don’t have even that), but it is good as a starting point. It is not the goal. As the Mesillas Yesharim puts it: We should be humbled before the greatness of G-d
whenever we undertake to do anything, especially when we pray and study Torah.

Walking in His ways: This refers to proper development of our character traits. The Rabbis teach that we should emulate the virtues that the Torah says or implies Hashem has. For example, Hashem is merciful, so we, too, should be merciful. Hashem is gracious, so we, too, should be gracious. Hashem is holy, so we, too, should be holy. Just as Hashem buried the dead (Moses), so we, too, should bury the dead. Just as Hashem clothed the naked (Adam and Eve) and fed the hungry, so we, too, should do the same. Just as Hashem visited the sick (Abraham) and comforted mourners (Isaac), so we, too, should do the same.7 These are, of course, just a few examples of admirable traits.

This is not to say that any human can ever reach the level of Hashem in anything. A person’s objectives should always and only be to reach his own full potential.

An important thing to remember about character traits is the fact that even a good character trait is wrong when it’s inappropriate. You always have to take in the bigger picture. It’s wrong, for example, to have mercy on a rabid animal that’s running wild, killing everyone in its path. If you don’t stop it by any means necessary, many people will be killed.

The Rabbis of the Mishnah summed it up this way: «What is the best guideline by which to develop one’s character traits? The answer is: A character trait should serve a person well and also serve everyone else well.» In other words, working for the best true good for everyone. What is the best true good for everyone? The Mesillas Yesharim points out: When a person works to strengthen the study and observance of the Torah, all the world benefits. If everyone would do this, all the world would find peace.

Love of Hashem: When someone has a deep-rooted and firm love of Hashem, he is always eager to bring joy and satisfaction to Hashem (so to speak). To help us understand this concept, Hashem gave us a similar situation with family members, such as parents or a spouse. When you love someone, you want to give them joy and satisfaction. When that person is in pain, you are in pain. In fact, you get annoyed or angry at anyone who hurts someone you love. And of course, you like and are appreciative to anyone who brings happiness to someone you love. You should love Hashem the same way, at least to the same degree, if not more. The Torah speaks of loving Hashem «with all your heart and all your soul.»8 That’s pretty intense and long-lasting.

A complete heart: This has a few meanings: For one thing, it means that your only intention in performing the commandments should be to serve Hashem. You should have no ulterior motives, or additional desires. And you should not do it half-heartedly, or by rote. Your full concentration should be on performing the Commandment and obeying Hashem’s will. It also means that when you do something in service to Hashem, do it fully and entirely, and don’t omit anything if you can help it.

But Hashem knows that we are just human beings. Many of us have not yet reached that level of performance yet. So the Talmud teaches us, «If you are unable to have the proper intentions when studying Torah or performing the Commandments, do it anyway. The power of Torah and fulfilling the Commandments will raise you and improve you until as a result you will merit reaching the level of pure Service.»9

Observance of the Commandments and Laws of each Commandment: This means
attempting to fulfill all the Commandments precisely and with each detail. The only way to know the details involved is to study the Oral Torah, the basics of which the Rabbis
eventually recorded in the Talmud and other Rabbinical Writings. The Written Torah does not have all the details. The Written Torah is like brief notes to long lectures. It cannot contain all the information in full, but it has it in brief.

All of these five aspects of Service need a great deal of explanation and instruction,
obviously. However, since they are part of the Oral Torah, we have a great deal of
information about them in the discussions of the Sages, who have categorized and explained both the general categories and the finer details of all these issues.

It is possible, with Hashem’s help, that I will someday write articles about all five aspects, but for now I will confine myself to discussion of fulfilling the Commandments. Of all these five elements, fulfilling the Commandments comes first.

Why? For a few reasons. First of all, we are required to fulfill the Commandments even if we cannot do them with love, fear, or a complete heart. Secondly, the Commandments themselves have the special ability to infuse us with the other aspects. The Torah mentions this in a number of places. For example:

Hashem gave Moses instructions: Speak to the Children of Israel, and tell them: You
shall make tzitzis (fringes) on the corners of your clothing. This Commandment is for
all generations…. This shall be your tzitzis, and when you see them [dangling from your
clothing] you will remember all the Commandments of Hashem and you will do them.
Then you will not follow the desires of your hearts or your eyes, things after which you
lust. This way, you will remember, and you will fulfill all My Commandments, and
you will be holy to your G-d.10

The Torah here clearly states that doing the Commandments, even while we are still low
enough to lust after things we see, makes us holy. That is the power of the Mitzvos — the Commandments.

We find, also, that studying Torah, which is one of the most important Commandments,
brings us fear of G-d. The Torah assures of this, when it commands all Jews — women and children too — to gather at the Holy Temple once every seven years and hear the Torah readto us.

….so that you hear, and learn, and fear Hashem your G-d, and you will be careful to
fulfill all of the words of this Torah. Even their children, who cannot understand, will
hear, and they will learn to fear Hashem your G-d….11

Likewise each and every one of those five aspects of Judaism can be reached through the study of Torah and the performance of the Mitzvos. The Rabbis have taught us that
«Whoever knows Torah, Jewish Law, and has good character traits, is less likely to sin.
Whoever knows neither Torah, nor Jewish Law, and also has a bad character, is detrimental to society.»12 In order to perfect ourselves for our own benefit, and for the benefit of society in general, we need to study Torah, Jewish Law, and have good character traits. We also need to perform the Mitzvos, because, in the words of the Rabbis, «Whoever has learned Torah but does not fulfill what he has learned will lose what he has learned.»13

It is, in fact, a Jewish doctrine that the only way to reach any true spiritual development at all is through Torah and Mitzvos.14

So what are those Commandments? Well, I hope to get to that too, Hashem willing. But first there’s the matter of faith and belief. That’s the next in this series of discussions: What do Jews believe?


1. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbos, 33a

2. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kiddushin, 40b

3. Mishnah Avos 1:2

4. Rashi, Genesis 1:1, s.v. Bereishis Bara; Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabbah, 2:3; Babylonian
Talmud, Brachos 6b; ibid 61a; BT Shabbat 30b; Bereishis Rabbah 1:4 s.v. Bereishis Bara;
ibid 1:10; Vayikra Rabbah 23:3; Bamidbar Rabbah 13:16; ibid 14:12

5. Proverbs 3:6

6. Deuteronomy 10:12-13

7. Babylonian Talmud, Shabbos, 133b; Sota 14a; Maimonides Hilchos Deos, 1:6

8. Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1

9. Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 50b; Sotah 22b; 47a; Sanhedrin 105b; Huryos 10b; Erchin 16b. See also Maimonides, Yad, Hilchos Talmud Torah, 3:5; Hilchos Teshuvah, 10:5; and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch

10. Numbers 15:37-40

11. Deuteronomy 31:12-13

12. Mishnah Kiddushin 1:10???

13. Mishnah Avos 3:12

14. This is the major theme of Pirkei Avos, Chapters of Our Fathers, where many of the
ethics and morals that we were taught at Mount Sinai with the entire Torah are explained.