Jewish Questions and Answers:
FAQ About Judaism

Could you please explain the Jewish view of the afterlife?

There are no words in any language, or concept within the realm of human comprehension that could possibly convey even a fraction of a moment of the afterlife. A rabbi once described what awaits those who earn it as follows: Condense every occurrence of happiness that you have ever had into one moment. Combine that with every encounter of happiness that anyone has ever experienced in the whole world whom has ever existed for all time, into that same moment. This total ultra-concentrated moment of happiness would be only a small fraction of the euphoria that will last for all eternity.

Why is the afterlife so rarely talked about in Jewish circles?

Perhaps you're asking why it isn't emphasized more? This is probably because we are not supposed to sit, roll over and play dead to get the doggy treat! (Woof, woof, we are supposed to please our Master.) If we really knew what we were going to get, we would never even consider doing anything other than studying Torah and doing mitzvot [good deeds], thus removing our free choice.

How should Jews interpret the Torah: literally or figuratively?

Both! It is said that the angels in shamayim [heaven] cried when the Torah was translated into Greek because it conveyed only one interpretation. The beauty of our Torah is that it has many levels of understanding. Each verse has 70 different meanings, though we might not be on the madregah [spiritual level] to know them all today. There is an acronym for four levels of elucidation called "PaRDeS": p'shat [plain meaning], remez [hinted meaning], drush [exegetical meaning], and sod [secret meaning]. Someday this site will walk you through the "garden" of Pardes, but it is not for now.

Why do Jews not believe that Jesus was the messiah?

Primarily, the "proof texts" that Christians give are inconclusive and out of context. For instance, who can prove that Mary was a virgin? Furthermore, the Hebrew word for "virgin" is
"betulah", and the word quoted from Isaiah is "almah", which means "young maiden" (not virgin), but then translated into Greek as "virgin". Their whole belief system is based on a translational error! It should be noted that "their man" was not the first man-god to ever have had "immaculate conception"-- many Pagan deities born from gods preceded him.

The Messiah is supposed to be a man, not a god, and he must do specific things in his lifetime.

I have a general idea why, but could you give me the specific criteria that he did not meet?

Proof of Mashiach [Messiah] in Judaism
is very clear, concrete, conclusive and
irrefutable; he will:

• Bring the third Temple. [Ezekiel 37:26-28, Amos 9:11]
• Return all Jews to Israel ending the exile. [Isaiah 43:5-6]
• Bring world peace. [Isaiah 2:4, 11:6-8]
• Cause everyone to recognize that Hashem is G-d. [Isaiah 11:9, Jeremiah 31:33, Zechariah 14:9]
• Resurrect the dead. [Isaiah 26:19, Daniel 12:2, Ezekiel 37:12-13]

"Their man" did not do any of these things, in fact, some were even the opposite! In the last 2,000 years of history:

• The Temple was destroyed shortly after "their man" was here.
• Jews were expelled from Israel shortly after "their man" was here, starting our current exile.
• "Their man" has caused holy wars, crusades, inquisitions, expulsions, pogroms, and about 200,000 interdenominational disputes of doctrinal deliberation!
• We wouldn't be starting this website if everyone recognized G-d!
• Cemeteries are still in business with their patrons soundly sleeping away.

Why in some Jewish interpretations does it say that Hashem [G-d] has no form, yet in one biblical verse it says that Moses saw Hashem's backside?

We seem to be always asking questions about the physical form of spiritual entities, especially Hashem. This is because we live in a physical state and cannot relate to the spiritual dimension. Let's take a simple analogy. How do you describe the RAM in your computer? The memory card is referred to as the "hands" of the computer, as not to be confused with the hard drive where everything is stored. Are we to think that a computer has literal hands?
It's just a way that we can relate to something that is not "physically" like us.

Similarly, when describing subatomic particles, we say quarks come in three flavors, can we taste them?

Hashem does not have hands, but when we say His "hand is on the situation", we know that He will take care of it, as if a strong man were taking charge of something with his own hands.

In your question, the verse you are referring to is Shemot [Exodus] 33:23. The Gemarah [Talmud] in Brachot 7a discusses this subject at length. When the Torah says that Hashem showed Moshe His backside, the Oral Tradition says that it means that Hashem showed Moshe the back knot of His tefillin. What does this mean?

There is a spiritual parallel to every physical thing on earth. Just as we wear tefillin [phylacteries] that elaborate the greatness of Hashem, in a spiritual sense, Hashem "wears" tefillin that contain verses about the uniqueness of the Jewish nation.
This does not mean that Hashem has arms and a head, but rather that His people (symbolized by tefillin) are a sign of His Kingship, representing that Hashem wishes to stay connected to His people. The parallel is that our wearing tefillin is a sign of our dedication, that we wish to stay connected to Hashem.

The point to all of this is that Moshe was asking to see Hashem. Since no man can see the essence of G-d and live (perhaps you would like to stand at the center of the sun?), Hashem showed Moshe a fraction of a glimpse of His love for the Jewish nation, which was as much as Moshe could handle in his physical state.

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