The God Squad: Yes, still more theology questions from the theology class at Mercy High School in Middletown, Conn.
Q: From L: God created us all the same and as his children. How has it gotten to the point where we are killing each other just based on the color of our skin being different. God is a loving and forgiving person who doesn’t judge, why is it so hard for us to do the same?
A: I am sure that your question of God is also God’s question of all of us. The basic reason for our failure to see the divine spark in every other person and love our neighbor as we love ourselves is that we are made up of two very different substances. We are partly like angels and partly like animals. Sometimes our angelic nature prevails, and we produce acts of kindness, generosity and love. Other times our animal nature prevails, and we produce acts of jealousy, cruelty, bigotry, and violence. There is an old Cherokee legend that the chief told his grandchildren about two wolves fighting within us. The good wolf and the bad wolf. A grandchild of the chief asked him, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?” He answered, “The wolf that wins will be the wolf you feed.” So, dear L, feed the right wolf and your question will be answered.
Q: From J: If reincarnation is real, then how come we wouldn’t remember our old life? Thank you!
A: After you there are only three possibilities: either there is nothing and the worms eat you up and that is the end of you; or your soul goes to Heaven or Hell either directly or after a time and your soul remains there forever; or your soul is cleaned up and shined up and put into the body of a new baby and given a chance to live another life. That third possibility is called reincarnation. It comes with several obvious problems, one of which you have identified. If we remember our previous lives, we would freak out because we could never really live a new and unencumbered life. Fears from our old life would infect our new life. Also, if a newborn baby’s first words were, “I want a pizza!” that would freak out the delivery room staff. So that is why we can’t be allowed to remember the other lives we may have lived. Hinduism and some Christians and Jews believe in reincarnation, but they are in a minority. I am not sure. I would like to believe that we get another chance to make a better life, but I am also fairly sure that we would make the same mistakes in our next life that we have made in this one.
Q: From L: What would you say is key to maintaining a healthy relationship with God? How can you become more sensitive to the voice of God?
A: Easy. Say 100 thank you prayers every day. Do not let a single blessing in your life pass unnoticed. Say thank you to God for everything. This habit of saying thank you for everything helps you to see everything in your life as gift. This transforms a life of entitlement and selfishness into a life of gratitude and thankfulness. The medieval mystic Meister Eckhart taught that, “If the only prayer we ever say is ‘thank you’ it will be enough.” Thank you prayers are the best spiritual vitamins for a healthy relationship with God.
Q: From O: What made you believe that the teachings of Judaism is a core religious belief?
A: I love Judaism because I believe it teaches me how to live a good life, love God, and leave the world a little better than it was when I was born. I love that Judaism discovered and taught in the Ten Commandments the truth of how to live a good life that every other religion and philosophy also accepted as true. I believe in Judaism because it teaches that all people are made in the image of God and have equal sanctity and equal dignity. I believe in Judaism because it teaches that our souls go to Heaven after we die along with the souls of all the righteous people anywhere in the world. I believe in Judaism because it is the religion of my ancestors back to Abraham and Sarah in the Bible. I believe in Judaism because I believe that there is something bigger than us and that something is God. Judaism is my way of connecting to God. Albert Einstein once said that he was sad that he was born a Jew because it prevented him from choosing to be a Jew. I was born Jewish, but every day I choose to be Jewish.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)
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