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Metaphysics, Home, Study Habits


Rabbi David Sperling

Elul 27, 5772
Hello Wonderful Rabbi! 1. After reading Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed (twice),… there were a few times when Rambam mentioned “metaphysics,” which I assume is a mental physician,… but according to Hebrew scriptures … is it the belief that someone could be “cursed” with a (proverbial) yoke around their necks/life … due to sin? And if so, how can they break that “curse” which could be reverberating … for weeks, months, years?? Did they utilize similar services such as Psychotherapist, or Counselors … like the secular practices of today? ..... 2. If memory serves me correct, the Israelites lived peacefully in Egypt, (before the great Exodus) for approx 210+ years. Why did-n’t … they go back home to their previous land when the famine was over? After they overstayed their welcome,… then Pharaoh came up with the idea of enslavement for the remainder 200+ years!?? ...... 3. Could you share with me …. the type of study habits/method that Jewish children implement? I’m fascinated with their scholastic ability?
Shalom, 1. Yes, sin can bring about a G-dly punishment and curse, as it tells us in the Torah that our actions are judged by G-d and he punishes us as well as rewards us. All G-dly punishments are removed, or "broken" by the process of repentance. Sometimes suffering is also called for, but the key is true inner repentance. We are taught that nothing can stand in the way of repentance. Any people who help a person in suffering, whether they be a Prophet, Teacher or friend, are only there to help guide the individual in their own repentance, as the prophet Natan did with King Da'vid. 2. It is a very good question as to why the Jewish people did not return to Israel after the famine ended. The answer from a Divine perspective is that G-d had decreed to Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a foreign land, and we needed to go through the bondage in Egypt, and the Redemption, in order to turn us into the G-dly people we became. But from a human perspective we still need to ask why they did not make an effort to return "home". It could be that they were already enslaved (albeit in a more political rather than physical fashion) to Paroh. We see that it was hard for Josef to get permission to even return on a temporary visa to bury his father Jacob (Gen 50). So it may be that they were indebted to Paroh and he just would not let them leave. Or it may be that the Canaanites (who by this time viewed the family of Jacob as Egyptians, and not Israeli - see Gen 50,11) did not want them back, and would have gone to war against them. 3. The main ingredient of Jewish education is the desire to educate our children to grow up as upright and holy human beings. With this in mind, education to good character traits, kind deeds, love for all, are the essential goals of our schooling. Academic excellence, which I agree with you does seem to shine amongst the Jewish people, only has value for us when it appears from within a complete G-dly soul. So our education is filled with joy and love for G-d and all His creations. After this we place great importance in stimulating the ability to question unendingly all that one is taught. The greatest Jewish festival, the Passover night, starts out with the youngest child asking questions. This passion for true understanding leads the student on a never-ending search for greater and greater clarity of knowledge. We never tell children the answer is "because it says" or that they must just accept - rather we educate them to "know their G-d". Blessings.
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