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About the Four Questions

The four questions upon which this web site is based come from the Gemara in Shabbat 31a (no, these are not the same four questions that we ask at Pesach, but I’m glad you caught my pun!).

‏אמר רבא בשעה שמכניסין אדם לדין אומרים לו נשאת ונתת באמונה קבעת עתים לתורה עסקת בפריה ורביה צפית לישועה פלפלת בחכמה הונת דבר מתוך דבר ואפילו הכי אי יראת יי היא אוצרו אין אי לא לא׃ משל לאדם שאמר לשלוחו העלה לי כור חיטין לעלייה׃ הלך והעלה לו׃ אמר לו עירבת לי בהן קב חומטון אמר לו לאו׃ אמר לו מוטב אם לא העליתה׃ תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל מערב אדם קב חומטון בכור של תבואה ואינו חושש׃ אמר רבה בר רב הונא כל אדם שיש בו תורה ואין בו׃‎

Rava said: When they escort a person to his final judgment, [the Heavenly tribunal] says to him: “Did you conduct your business transactions faithfully? Did you set aside fixed times for Torah study? Did you engage in raising a family? Did you wait in hope for the Messianic salvation? Did you delve into wisdom? When you learned Torah, did you learn it deeply, and infer one thing from another?” But even so, all this is only of limited consequence; if fear of G-d was this person’s “storehouse” then yes, his judgement is favorable; and if it was not, then no, his judgement is not favorable.

This passage in the Gemara is actually a commentary on Yeshiyahu 33:6 and is part of a larger discussion on the fear of G-d, which started off earlier in the tractate with a discussion on Qohelet 12:13.

As Rava concludes, and as Qohelet 12:13 so succinctly states, the final result of our life on this earth is dependant on our fear of G-d. Why is this? Why is our fear (i.e. respect) of G-d so important?

Our fear of G-d is bound inseparably to our obedience to Him and our love for Him. When we truly fear G-d, we will invariably find the softness in our hearts to love Him and the compulsion to obey His commands. However, obedience has always been the issue for humanity. Human beings have always had problems putting the fear of Hashem into practice.

The beauty of the New Covenant—the covenant instituted by Messiah Yeshua—is the fact that we have been given the ability to follow G-d’s commands—to obey Him fully. In Yirmiyahu 31, Hashem gives us some insight into the main difference between the Renewed Covenant and the foundational covenants upon which it is built: “I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts.”

We can follow Hashem with our whole hearts. It is not necessary for us to live with an awesome fear of G-d while being be unable to put His commands into practice. We can cultivate our love for Him in the way that He always intended that it be cultivated—through our obedience.

Just as “Yehoshua did not omit a thing of all that Hashem had commanded Moshe” (Yehoshua 11:15), it is my desire to work out this principle in my life daily—to obey Hashem with everything in me, showing Him my love through my obedience.

The four main sections of this site focus on the questions to be asked by the Heavenly Tribunal. These four areas are central to my life, and I hope that you find inspiration as you read more about them.

Master Glossary‏גְמָרָה‎ — A portion of the Talmud, commentary of the Amoraim on the Mishnah.
Master Glossary‏פֶּסַח‎ — Passover, a spring festival celebrating the deliverance of the Children of Israel from bondage in Egypt by Moshe.
Master Glossary‏תּוֹרָה‎ — The first five books of the Bible. Alternately, refers to the entire body of commandments of G-d. The Torah is read in the synagogue on a yearly schedule, starting and finishing on Simchat Torah.
Master Glossary‏יְשַׁעְיָהוּ‎ — Isaiah, one of the prophetic books in the Tanach.
Master Glossary‏קֹהֶלֶת‎ — Ecclesiastes.
Master Glossary‏הַשֵּׁם‎ — Literally, “the Name.” A common replacement for the Shem Hameforash in everyday speech. See my article on The Name of G-d.
Master Glossary‏יִרְמְיָהוּ‎ — Jeremiah, one of the prophetic books in the Tanach.
Master Glossary‏מֹשֶׁה‎ — Moses, leader of the Jewish people in their escape from Egypt. Also known as ‏מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ‎, Moshe Rabbeinu, “Moses Our Teacher”.
Master Glossary‏יְהוֹשֻׁעַ‎ — Joshua.

photo of meThe various musings and kvetchings of a Torah-loving believer in Messiah. The Four Questions come from Shabbat 31a.