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FAQ: Everyday Basics

FAQ: Everyday Basics

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FAQ: Everyday Basics

QUESTION: "I would like to know more about the significance of the kipa (skullcap) worn in synagogue and what this means."

ANSWER: It is to show, and a reminder to have, awe and humility of the One Above. Observant male Jews wear a head covering all the time, not just in synagogue.

Have a look at The Basic Necessities article (click here). Although it doesn't mention kippot, it introduces the concepts of makif hakarov and makif harahok (forms of encompassing holiness). These can be said to apply also to kipa and hat respectively.


QUESTION: "What is Kabbala’s definition of God?"

ANSWER: The Creator and the Director of all. The first cause, on which all other existences are dependent.


QUESTION: "What is the difference between the Bible and the Torah?"

ANSWER: To answer your question, I'd have to know what you mean by Bible. Torah has variable meanings:
a) It can refer to the first five books of the Bible, Five Books of Moses.
b) It can refer to all 24 books of Moses, Prophets and Holy Writings, ending with the Books of Chronicles.
c) It can refer to the combination of the 24 books and our Oral traditions that explain it, such as the Talmud, etc.


QUESTION: "Is there anywhere in Western Europe where you can go and live and study kabbala. Live, work, and study in one place without a lot of money. Like a monastery type of setting."

ANSWER: I don't know much about the scene in Europe, but I haven't heard about anything. In Israel there are such, if you are Jewish.


QUESTION: "What were Arizal's thoughts about eating meat? Did he condemn the eating of meat or just non kosher ones?"


ANSWER: It is known that the holy Ari eat meat only on Shabbat and Festivals.


QUESTION: "How can one tell if he is a "victim" of an evil act or receiving divine retribution...or are all acts of evil some form of divine retribution?"

ANSWER: IF it is of divine origin then it is not evil, is it? By definition. And yes, we believe that G‑d is in complete charge, so whatever happens we deserve, although admittedly often it is impossible to understand why, as we do not and cannot have G‑d's perspective.


QUESTION: "Dear Sirs: I was looking in various dictionaries at the definition of: Blueprint of the universe and where the Blueprint was created... I know that you will be so kind as to clarify this to me. But, to go on with my studies I do need to have an idea. Thank you very much for your attention."

ANSWER: Judaism and Kabbalah are clear about the answer to this question. The Blueprint of Creation of the Universe is: the Torah. Torah as it exists at its source: G‑d Almighty, the Creator.


QUESTION: "What is the essence of Judaism?"

ANSWER: There is one God.
He created everything and still is in charge of everything.
He cares what we DO.
He told us, through the Torah, what He wants us to do.


QUESTION: "I would like to know an explanation and the source - if I am here to correct past misdeeds, it would help to know where in my "nature" I have to improve ....and if faced with the same tests again how to prevent sinning etc."

ANSWER: We have to make good and correct decisions, whether they are required as a rectification for a past life or not. We are not supposed to sin, no matter what the heavenly reason for the temptation placed in our path. That's G‑d's business and very, very few people, if any, are qualified to tell you what it is that He has in mind at any particular moment.


QUESTION: "Why do you spell God as G‑d?"


ANSWER: Because of the Third Commandment of not taking G‑d’s name in vain. We are concerned about improper or disrespectful use of His Name. Perhaps a page with a holy name will be printed, and then torn, discarded or defaced.


QUESTION: "I would like to know what the Kabbalistic interpretation is regarding the burning of fingernails instead of disposing of them."

ANSWER: For this, we can start with the Talmud. It says there that a "pious" person will burn them and not be satisfied with disposing. The reason is understood because "disposing - throwing in garbage, flushing, etc - is not 100% guaranteed that someone could still come across them; it is unlikely, but theoretically possible. We can assume that the Talmud was aware of the Kabbala concept that the detached nails are impure.


QUESTION: "How can a male prevent seminal emissions?"

ANSWER: If you are talking about sleep time "accidents", one of the best methods, recommended by Kabbala and sanctioned by halacha, is to recite the Bedtime Shma with strong kavana, especially the Shma itself and those verses that are repeated three times.

Certain great kabbalists were known to leave their feet uncovered while they slept, to help guard against overheating of the body.
Guarding your eyes and your thoughts during waking hours can also help a lot.


QUESTION: "What is the positive affect of controlling sexual desires and not wasting the semen in vain?"

ANSWER: It leads to great strength and power. See Genesis 49:3 with commentaries.


QUESTION: "How can Kabbala help with anger management?"

ANSWER: See our article Anger Remedy No. 1 (click here).


QUESTION: "In your article Anger Remedy No. 1 (click here), it says that getting mad is "a most heinous sin". Does this mean that anyone filled with anger over the events of the Holocaust is committing a sin? And can we get angry at ourselves for realizing we did something wrong?"

ANSWER: The anecdote for sinning is teshuva, not anger. Teshuva involves remorse, regret and resolve, not anger. It could even be that anger gets in the way of those 3 R's. What is the positive function of your anger over the Holocaust? What outcome do you/we gain from it?

The Talmud explains eloquently that losing oneself to anger is like worshipping idols, the idol being the person himself whose anger indicates his exaggerated sense of self-importance.

In Kabbala there is the additional problem that anger prevents the calmness and equanimity necessary to attain true understanding and higher spiritual states.


QUESTION: "What are some Kabbalistic segulot or advice concerning healing from illness? What should a person do if G‑d forbid, they are facing a very poor medical prognosis, in terms of faith in G‑d and accepting G‑d's decree? How should one pray for a favorable outcome?"

ANSWER: The best thing to do is to boost one's merit in G‑d's eyes, by increased mitzvah observance and Torah study, in quantity or quality or both. This can and should be combined with sincere prayer.

Doctors are commanded by G‑d to heal, and, as such, they can expect some divine aid in their healing (if they are sufficiently humble - a rare state in today's doctors). They are not permitted to not heal and anything they do or say in that regard is beyond their mandate and not necessarily authoritative.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that instead of praying for what we think we need, we should pray that G‑d send us what He knows that we need. You will do the best you can to "help your case", but at the same time we have to remember and trust that G‑d knows exactly what He is doing.


QUESTION: "Does the Kabbala hold any mystical remedies for bad skin (acne), weight loss and finding one's zivug quickly?"

ANSWER: No. Kabbala is not magic. Beware of anyone who promises you miraculous remedies.

From what you write, it seems that a healthful diet would take care of at least two if not all of the stated problems.


QUESTION: "Why do men and women sit on different sides of the room?"

ANSWER: Usually the room is divided only for special and holy occasions such as prayer in synagogue, the main instance where you might have run into this. That is so the men and women don't get distracted by each other, and can focus more clearly on the One for whom the prayers are intended.

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