Thursday, November 12, 2009

// // 14 comments

“You Are Fear Mongering!”

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

One apparently angry (or perhaps frightened) reader wrote that my brief article that discusses what happens in the Next World was trying to instill fear in readers’ heads, in order to force them to comply with the Commandments.

Surely, the Baal Shem Tov was right when he wrote that whenever we judge something, we are really seeing what is inside ourselves.

The information in the article does not threaten. It provides us with a tool to help us make the most of our lives, both in this world and in the next. Knowing that everything we do will come back to us, and everything that we do not do will not come to us, is not a new idea at all. Nor is it a threatening one.

When we see something good come to us, we say, “Ah, I am going to do more of what brought that goodness to me.” When we see something unwelcome come to us, we say, “Oy, I am not going to do what I did that brought that unwelcome result to me.” Repercussions are wonderful signs that show us what we are doing, and where we are going.

Does anyone really believe that when we die, everything stops? That we do not go on? If so, then read, From The Old City,[i] where I wrote what happened when I died.

Certainly, we continue on after this lower world, and certainly the Torah teaches this. The Torah tells us about the resurrection of the dead, and about reincarnation, too. For instance, the Jewish Law book, the Mishnah Beruah, has an interesting teaching for Yom Kippur afternoon, which discusses what happens to a man who refuses to turn from his evil ways. It says that he will have to come back to this world again and again, until he repents. This is reincarnation. Reincarnation is also mentioned in the prayer that we say right before we retire: “I hereby forgive anyone who has sinned against me… in this incarnation or in any other.”

These teachings do not sow fear. They come as a blessing. They show that our future is in our hands. What happens to us depends on what we do. We are on a long and amazing journey. It is a wondrous opportunity, and it does not stop at the grave.

When you go on a journey, you plan ahead. You pack your bags. The unique thing about this journey is that not a single one of our physical possessions will fit into the bag that we will take with us when we go. Only our deeds are going to go with us. Both our good deeds and our not-so-good deeds are going to follow us into that world. To think otherwise is simply being naive.

Certainly, we see cause and effect throughout our lives. This is a major, constant teaching in the Torah. It is called mida kenegid mida (measure for measure). Is there any reason to entertain the belief that repercussions cease when we leave this world?

We are given free will while we are here. We are free to choose whatever behavior we want. But we are not free to choose the consequences that will come from that behavior. Of course, the Torah allows for repentance when we choose, and repentance from love turns all of our past into a positive act.

“Fear mongering!” Explaining the principle that consequences continue after this world removes fear from anyone who wants to direct his life. When we see that we have missed the mark, we can always turn. Always, that is, as long as we are still here.

If you want to remove “fear mongering,” then you had better scratch out the line from the book of Daniel that says, “… and many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”[ii]

These words come as a kindness. They put a wonderful tool in our hands. Knowing that there are direct repercussions for our deeds allows us to direct our destiny. To think otherwise is to believe in a random future that we can do nothing about--other than duck, squeeze our eyes shut, and pray.

[i] Parsha Vayechi, available from thereisone.com
[ii] Daniel 12:2

14 comments:

malka said...

that we have a choice to make the best of our future, is truely a blessing. Imagine things were predetermined and we couldn't do anything about it, that would be scary. I like that we have a chance now. Plus, every efforts counts

Shiloh said...

Gutman, 1000% correct. I never saw fear mongering in anything that you wrote. But, not eating chicken and milk together (Every rabbi will admit that it is a rabbinical fence) have zero effect in this world and the world to come. Bottom line. Living as per the Tanach does.

While you mentioned the Baal Shem Tov, why don't we discuss where he states that the rabbi's will delay the geulah. I think everyone would like an explaination of this one. I know I would like to see a change for the better for everyone, do the rabbi's think differently? Quite curious.

Have an enjoyable evening.

Anonymous said...

you should apply for a government job. your distorted spin on my comments is brilliantly inaccurate.
you do fear monger. i have seen it many times. it is not unique to you. there are parts of the religious world who do that and who are comfortable with it.
my point, again, was that there are many people, religious and not, who are completely pushed away by such images. the problem with these images is that they paint a grossly inaccurate picture of the truth.
the truth being
1. that no one, NO one knows the complete aspect of any soul's path except HaShem.
2. the 'fear mongering' quotes and ideas you use are completely one-sided. never addressing the voluminous writings on teshuva and the power of even ONE thought of return to G-d. (cf, for example rebbe nachman, restore my soul, and many other texts).

given that you are not G-d and you, nor even the great tzadikim, know the complete gilgul of any individual....further, even the great tzadikim may not know the extent of the kindness of HaShem, for what human can?!... how can you proudly dispense such one-sided and creepy information?

now, if you were to provide a truly accurate depiction, which includes the many statements of our sages and rabbonim about the immense value of efforts at teshuva, you would mekarev more people.

it is true, that for some groups in the jewish world, the 'fear' stuff is considered valuable and helpful; however, it doesn't work for everyone, and is known to push away many.

therefore, a knowledgeable person must use care in how and where they commmunicate their ideas.

lastly, when discussing the next world, do everyone a favor and don't assume you, or anyone else knows the complete emes on it.

yes, we can learn much from our sags. but, again, NO one knows the complete gilgul of a soul, or how the Compassionate One will address that person's life.

now, will you delete this comment too? too much emes for you?

Anonymous said...

you don't 'fear monger' all the time. i have read several of your pieces which are excellent; however, in my opinion you do it enough to merit a substantial response.

Akiva said...

Anonymous, Reb Gutman doesn't moderate comments, I do. And your long comment was a great well thought out response, presenting an debating an alternate point of view...

until your last sentence, an insulting attack that's uncalled for. Comments that contain such will be deleted in the future. I leave it for the moment as a reference of veering off from a debate to an insult.

Anonymous said...

okay, so delete the last sentence and keep the comment. i apologize.
i just get very frustrated when people don't see the harm that what i call 'fear mongering' causes. thanks for the compliment. i think it is a worthy debate.

overall, i think it is a cultural difference in perspective. as i said, for some people, what he writes is simply emes and helpful. but for others it's 'fear' and it pushes them away.
if you can't delete it, i'll repost w/o last sentence.

Anonymous said...

(edited comment) you should apply for a government job. your distorted spin on my comments is brilliantly inaccurate.
you do fear monger. i have seen it many times. it is not unique to you. there are parts of the religious world who do that and who are comfortable with it.
my point, again, was that there are many people, religious and not, who are completely pushed away by such images. the problem with these images is that they paint a grossly inaccurate picture of the truth.
the truth being
1. that no one, NO one knows the complete aspect of any soul's path except HaShem.
2. the 'fear mongering' quotes and ideas you use are completely one-sided. never addressing the voluminous writings on teshuva and the power of even ONE thought of return to G-d. (cf, for example rebbe nachman, restore my soul, and many other texts).

given that you are not G-d and you, nor even the great tzadikim, know the complete gilgul of any individual....further, even the great tzadikim may not know the extent of the kindness of HaShem, for what human can?!... how can you proudly dispense such one-sided and creepy information?

now, if you were to provide a truly accurate depiction, which includes the many statements of our sages and rabbonim about the immense value of efforts at teshuva, you would mekarev more people.

it is true, that for some groups in the jewish world, the 'fear' stuff is considered valuable and helpful; however, it doesn't work for everyone, and is known to push away many.

therefore, a knowledgeable person must use care in how and where they commmunicate their ideas.

lastly, when discussing the next world, do everyone a favor and don't assume you, or anyone else knows the complete emes on it.

yes, we can learn much from our sags. but, again, NO one knows the complete gilgul of a soul, or how the Compassionate One will address that person's life.

Lvnsm27 said...

Re to the second comment. Yes not eating chicken and milk together is rabbinical. But all mitzvos and aveiros still have a spir effect on this world and the next.

Anonymous said...

as a general reference for my disagreement i will cite this. we know from talmud, or by aryeh kaplan quoting gemara...that to the best of our knowledge H' created the world as an act of chesed/lovingkindness.
H' wanted to bestow His chesed, to give.
so if this is true, which i believe it is, and the wonderful breslev rebbes i've met have said that what H' does is only for the good...then it's not helpful to scare people. as stated, in some cases, and in some cultural/religious groups, this kind of thing is understood to give chizuk and is not problematic. however, it doesn't work for all.
does there need to be a balance between chesed and gevurah? of course! but how that balance is acheived is not the same for everyone.
my only point in passionately contesting this is a deep concern for klal yisrael and so many of us who are so far away. we need them, we need to bring them back.
an earlier comment of mine was deleted because it seemed i was questioning someone's 'judaism'. what really irks me is when religious people (in this case, another commenter) just seemed to know everything and implied that anyone who disagreed just didn't know enough.
the best ravs and rebbes i have met seek to bring jews closer. if a jew knows just one letter, they will go from there and encourage them. if that person doesn't even know he's a jew(!) they will still mekarev that person "from where he is"!!
people who are fortunate enough to be ffb, religious etc, or bt and frum, should take serious responsibility realizing that there are people with less experience and knowledge who ch'v could be pushed away by a variety of things said and done.
if the frum world were more conscientous (sp?) of this, it would be crucial for am yisrael.
many frum people are very considerate of this. but a fair number are not. when that commenter made her statements, it smacked of that kind of attitude, in my opinion, and i responded with great pain and frustration. i didn't intend to insult anyone and apologize for that. this person also kept insisting that i 'identify myself' as if by not doing so my words have no credibility.
do you see my point?
thanks for printing my comments.

Anonymous said...

a personal story:
i attended an amazing service at a charedi shul..dancing, singing, wow.
was invited home for a meal. it was an honor to be around such religous people. during the meal, someone told a story of a woman who had not done teshuva, was hit by a bus and died. the moral being, you don't know when you're going to die, so you better get busy!
this story was very scary to me and i felt like running away very fast. although the people were very nice, and i do sincerely wish them the best!... that kind of thing does not help me. it may help others alot.
i did not return to that place. maybe one day i will talk to that rav, may H' bless him and his family. but i am honestly, too scaird to go there and bring it up.
do you see what i mean?
i make much better progress with positive encouragement and compassion.
i think there was a case where i did question it and told the person how it affected me. the response? 'that's how it is!' in other words, you need to accept the truth.
these things don't work for all.
that's my point.
gutman writes some great stuff.
i just can't stand when he goes into the things that to me, create fear.
i have a gut response of great pain and frustration because it seems to distort what i sense to be the truth about H' even though i have my own struggles.
do you see what i mean?

Anonymous said...

one last thing. i think gutman does alot of great work. i don't label him a 'fear mongerer'. if that came across, of if i did that, i apologize.

Anonymous said...

please pay close attention to what is happening here:

zohar, chayei sarah:
"no account is taken of evil deeds which a man is likely to perpetuate in the future, for so it is written: "for G-d has heard the voice of the lad where he is" (genesis/bresh.21:17). but in regard to good actions, not only those already performed in the past are taken into consideration, but also those which a man is going to perform in the future; so that even if the present account would prove a man guilty, the Holy One in His bounty towards His creatures puts to his credit all the future good deeds, and the man is thus saved".

Anonymous said...

and it says if a person does one mitzvah it can tilt the entire world in a positive direction..even bringing moshiach. it also says that this person can bring his own redemption thru the power of one mitzvah, tilting his world towards redemption.
the point is: there is so much in our mesorah that leads, points and encourages teshuva. we should never ch'v do anything that would discourage anyone or scare them into thinking there was no hope. may Heavn protect us.

Anonymous said...

The basics is this a person judged by his level and life circumstance . the 2 work together like nature and nurture ,,,,,please lets not get overly supersticious leave that for the tzaddikim .

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