QUESTION: "If everything is predetermined by G‑d, then how should we live?"

ANSWER: As it is said, "Everything is in the hand of G‑d except the fear of G‑d." There is much that is pre-determined - but not our moral choices. You would have realized this for yourself if you had pushed your questioning one step further, that is: If everything is predetermined by G‑d, then how can He reward us or punish us? The only possible answer is that those aspects in our live which incur reward or punishment are not under the control of destiny; they are truly free choices. Any other answer is not consistent with any possible understanding of G‑d.

QUESTION: "If a person dies, it is the hand of G‑d and how can we mourn?"

ANSWER: We don't mourn G‑d's decision; we mourn our loss or the loss of the person we are hoping to comfort.

QUESTION: "If the day you will die, how many children you will have, if you will be rich or poor, etc. are determined at birth, - can your behavior influence these future outcomes?"

ANSWER: We believe yes, but only if one lives a life based on adherence to Torah.

QUESTION: "If a person's money is pre-decided, why should he work?"

ANSWER: Someone may put money you didn't really earn into your bank account, but you still have to do something to withdraw it. More to the point; for someone to put money you didn't really earn into your bank account, you first have to open a bank account! In Kabbala this is called forging a vessel to encompass the light, to hold the blessing.

QUESTION: "What does Kabbala teach about coincidences? Are there really coincidences or is G‑d, like in the story of Purim, hiding behind the scenes?"

ANSWER: Both Kabbalists and Chasidim believe firmly that there are no coincidences. G‑d is in complete and active control.

QUESTION: "Why is it that we lose our faith and then find our faith and so on in a never ending cycle? And how come we sometimes feel as if G‑d is no longer there, when once I felt as if I could not escape His light and love it was so overpowering."

ANSWER: The initial revelation of light and love is His gift, but we need to invest if we hope to keep it. Faith is an ongoing process. In Kabbalistic terms, the bestowal from "above to below" requires a response from "below to above".
Nearly everyone has ups and downs. Those Jews that spend more time in Torah study and mitzvah involvement, and/or devote themselves to helping others, open a channel for the Divine Light and therefore tend to have less crises of faith.
If we want G‑d in our lives, we have to make the effort to bring Him in and keep Him in.

QUESTION: "Do Jews believe in free will? Don’t we have a teaching which opens with the statement that G‑d has given Man free will? If the latter is correct, then is there some thought on why G‑d put some checks and balances into place that seem to restrict free will? To me, I never heard of the concept of free will until college, and I am Modern Orthodox. I thought Man must always answer to a higher authority, first and foremost. It is this freewill which Man has abused, but I feel it is pushed more by the Christians as an excuse to do whatever they like in this world."

ANSWER: The whole point of the statement, "do not go after thine own heart and thine own eyes" is that because we DO have free will. We have to try our best to not abuse that privilege and to make the right choices, in accordance with the Torah's rules and guidelines. The same with G‑d's checks and balances, and our having answer to a higher authority: there would be no need for the former and no justification to the latter if it were not that we do have free choice and so can be considered responsible for our actions.

We Jews believe that G‑d judges us based on how we act, and for that judgment to be "fair", our acts have to be the result of haven chosen between reasonably balanced alternatives.

QUESTION: "Is it true that the concept of Gilgul is used to explain the problem of apparent injustice and why even innocent children suffer and are born maimed? Could you please expound on this? I have a granddaughter who was born with severe lack of white matter in her brain. All other functions are normal. But she has seizures and the signals from her brain are not normal. She is blind and does not speak or walk, she is 2 yrs old. No genetic deficiency has been found. Why would her white matter not develop normally? Doctors have found no reason yet. I am looking to find secrets in praying for her. We are not Jewish but have been learning authentic Kabbalah from our Jewish teacher here. So please explain this concept of injustice and innocent children who suffer."

ANSWER: Impossible to do justice to your all-important question in an email, but I'll do the best I can.
Apparent injustice is just that: apparent. That is, to us it may seem unjust. That is because we cannot see things as G‑d sees them or understand them as He understands them. As is written, "My ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts." It may take years or even generations before some events are understood.

Your granddaughter is like an angel,. Well, not literally an angel, for if she were, her soul would be in Heaven, not in a body. But, close to an angel. So close that perhaps she had to be reincarnated to accomplish just one single deed. But that is a big risk to a soul, especially a pure one, to be exposed to the dangers of this physical world. So perhaps her blindness and inability to walk & talk are intended to protect her spiritually.

Or perhaps not. Who knows? There are many possible scenarios. Who can know? The answer to that question is as I said two paragraphs ago: only HE can really know.

An exactly opposite scenario from your granddaughter can exist: if little Adolph Hitler, or any person that has done truly horrible things, had been killed in an auto accident at two years old, how many tears would have been shed at the "unjust loss of this innocent babe"?!

QUESTION: "I am 23 yrs old and, I am looking to fulfill my purpose in life. I am very spiritual and try always to help others, yet I always I feel a lack of purpose in my life. I have been invited to travel to meet men for the purpose of getting engaged, but I think that before getting married I must be at peace with myself. So I am looking to see what type of job or activity I can do everyday to feel satisfied. I haven't found anything; I want to work in something that brings me joy and happiness. What is best, to find a job and then look for a guy, or to find a guy and then see what to do?"

ANSWER: This is a good and important question. My opinion is you should turn towards marriage. Acquiring a job rarely produces inner joy or satisfaction, while finding your soulmate and building a home nearly always does. Good luck.

QUESTION: "When were human beings given free will?"

ANSWER: At the moment when the Creator breathed a neshama (soul) into Adam, the first human.

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: "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: "If pain and suffering are part of the divine plan for reasons other than the consequence of sin, what are those reasons? Most Kabbala books that I have read, most notably "Derech Hashem" (or "Way of G‑d") have pointed to a strong connection between sin and suffering. If there is another legitimate viewpoint, I'm opened minded and willing to hear it."

ANSWER: A distinction is made between "suffering of punishment" and "suffering of love". Perhaps the trauma Abraham went through during the Binding of Isaac would be an example of suffering of love. We have to be very careful when we see someone suffering to guard ourselves against the reaction, "If he is suffering then he must have sinned." That is not a desirable Jewish response.

QUESTION: "What is the significance of an individual's birth data?"

ANSWER: There is some information that can be gained about an individual from his birth date. But nothing outweighs the fact that G‑d gave each person free choice at each moral crossroads. This ability to choose correctly is not affected by one's birth date.

QUESTION: "What would a Kabbalistic interpretation of the holocaust be? Who is responsible for evil?"

ANSWER: We have no intention to discuss this topic at this level while there are still survivors and children of survivors. It is too close and too painful. Only with time can come the distance required for objectivity. Also, G‑d's justice can take lifetimes and centuries to unfold, as Kabbala will be quick to show you. We can't know yet if it represented a settling of debts, or an opening of a new set of accounts, or both. All we can do at this point is have faith that He knows what He is doing, even though it hurts. If, on the other hand, you want to challenge His methods as being too harsh, I would never tell you not to. Nor does any of this excuse in any way the horrendous evil that the Nazis freely chose to do.

QUESTION: "I went to see a certain highly acclaimed kabbalist in my area and he told me 'mazel tov' and said that I would be engaged within a month. That was about 2 months ago and nothing has happened. My question is - why do kabbalists tell people their future? I thought that telling the future was against Jewish law. What's the difference between a kabbalist telling me my future and a witch who looks through a crystal ball?"

ANSWER: If he or she tells you that in one month such and such will happen, and you say Thank You and go about your life, and after a month it happens, or it doesn't happen, there are no problems with Torah law. However if he or she tells you to DO such and such in order that what they see should or should not come to pass, and you obey and do so because of their predictions, then you had better be sure there is a Torah basis and not an occult basis, or there will be various Torah prohibitions that you will be in trouble with. And since you are forbidden to act according to what the witch sees in her crystal ball, there is no point going to see her either. Therefore it is prohibited as a "fence" at least, however in Deut 18 some interpret "you shall be whole with G‑d" to mean that it is a violation of this prohibition from the Torah, not just a rabbinical decree.

May it be His will that you have good news soon, even this year.