Troubled By Basic Questions


Dear Rabbi,


Did Hashem write the Torah? Does Hashem run the world? Does 2+2=4?

I know at first glance it seems that these might be simple questions, but lately these questions have really bothered me. Let me explain.

We know that Hashem created the world to be good to people and give to them. Assumingly, though, he didn’t want to be a little good. His goal would have been to be as good as he can. After all, if his very goal was to be good and to give to his creations, then why would he stop short of the best gift he can give. And also we know that the world is just a physical reflection of the Torah, as G-d looked in the Torah and created the world. So in essence, the world is made to create for us the best atmosphere for being good to us (in the next world), and the Torah reflects that and has the best Mitzvos that can bring us there. So I guess, it would reason to say that the very best situation is what we have now of the 613 Mitzvos, which perfectly represent 248 limbs and 365 sinews, and with these we can best get to understand G-d’s thinking, the Torah, and benefit most in the next world. But could Hashem have chosen to give us a different set of 613 Mitzvos? Could He have decided that the Mitzvos should be that one needs to rest on Tuesday, and can’t wear a mixture of cotton and wool? And to take that further, could Hashem have decided that the Mitzvos should be that one can steal between sunset and sunrise and kill with glee? Are these things inherently wrong, or did Hashem create them to be wrong? We all have an innate moral compass, but is this real, or just something Hashem planted in us, that could also have pointed somewhere else if on Hashem wanted it to? The Rabbis teach us that the Torah is Daas Hashem, and the Torah is the very essence of Emes (Brachos 5b), and Hashem even signs his name as Emes (Shabbos 55a). This would seem that the Torah is real truth, not Hashem’s truth. It isn’t just that Hashem decided that these things are what He wants us to do, in a sense just randomly. Rather they are what is the real right way. In a sense, it needs to be like this, as otherwise what is the very concept of Mishpatim and Chukim? Chukim are things we can’t understand, and Mishpatim are things that we can. But that would stand that there is a reason for them, (some of which we understand, and some of which we humans don’t understand). Are the morals behind them also just G-d created morals, but aren’t real and inherent. That isn’t real truth, as Hashem could have for the same price created ‘true’ morals that are the exact opposite. Also, when Hashem gave the 613, the only way it would make sense that it is the best possible, and no better way, is if these are the real 613. Hashem couldn’t have added a 614th Mitzvah that one can get more benefit, as the full truth is already fully covered. There is nothing more that gets a person to the full truth of what is G-d’s thinking. But the problem with all this is that the Torah, G-d’s thinking, would have been forced onto Hashem, in a certain way. He does fully understand it, more than any human capable, but it is almost like there is some other entity that has created it and forced Him into it. He didn’t create it, He just has it and ‘lives’ it, and understands it. This is because the truth stood ‘before’ Hashem came and compiled it, and the truth is there regardless. I am not saying that this option is completely impossible. This goes into my third question. Does 2+2=4? In other words, can Hashem have made it that 2+2=5, or is Hashem limited to basic math, as basic computation and such logic is inherent. People sometimes ask, “can Hashem create a rock that is too heavy for Him to pick up”, and it is based on a fundamental flaw; that Hashem can do everything, which isn’t the case, as the truth is just that he isn’t limited. He doesn’t have a limited amount of strength. So he can’t create a rock too heavy for Himself, as that would mean that He has a limit. As the idea is that basic logic and computation is inherent, and therefore Hashem maybe couldn’t have made it that 2+2=5, just like he can’t make a rock too heavy for Him to carry. The Gemara says many times, “Lama Li Kra, Sevara He”. This would imply that logic is true ‘before’ the Torah came to be. (Unless logic too is a creation of Hashem, and not a real truth.) But the end result of all this idea would be that then Hashem didn’t write the Torah. I am not talking about who took a quill and wrote it. As for that, in any case Hashem didn’t do it, Moshe did (with the possible exception of 8 Pesukim) (Bava Basra 15a). Hashem may have dictated over the Torah to Moshe, but he didn’t create anything in it. It is all basic math and computation of what is the real truth, and what will get people to the best possible place. But then, what is Hashem’s place in the Torah’s originality? It would seem that anyone who just can see the truth well enough, and has the brains to do the math right should be able to put it all together. Is that all Hashem has in it; a higher level of understanding? Maybe it is true that one can calculate it all logically? Is that what Avraham did to fulfill all the Mitzvos before they were given (Yuma 28b)? Did he calculate what the best things are? Maybe he looked at the world and saw the blueprint from there? Either way it takes quite a good sense of seeing only the truth and putting two and two together, if only that does equal four. So that is the first and third question, what aspects of logic, computation, and math are inherent that even Hashem has to ‘abide’ by them, and accordingly, if so what place did Hashem have in creating the Torah if the Torah is just a reflection of the real truth?

My second question is similar to the first, but I think independent of any answer to the first. Even if it would be true that two and two didn’t have to equal four, at the very least, Hashem made it that it does. We live in a world that it does. We know that Hashem does the best things for us, just we with our minimal human minds, which can’t see the full picture, might not see it at the time, or at all. But it is very much there. Accordingly, whatever is the best possible situation for a person to be put in, they will be put into. Accordingly, it is all basic math and computation, that maybe only a great mind can figure out, but it is just following a very basic formula. For example, if it is best (taking in all and every possible factor) for Jack to have three kids, and to have a steady business for twelve years, followed by losing all his money, and stubbing his toe six times, that is exactly what will happen. And I can predict it just like anyone else can. I just need all the information. And a very good brain. But is that all that Hashem has? There isn’t much ‘running the world’ in that. That is just like pressing enter on the calculator or on some computer program. I am not saying that we shouldn’t be grateful for all that Hashem gives us. Just, it doesn’t seem like such a big thing for some entity that already has all the information and no limits on processing it. It would just seem that Hashem isn’t really doing much to run anything, and He is just running a basic formula?


Thank you,


Troubled By Basic Questions



  1. There are so many different questions within your “simple questions” that I don’t really know where to begin.

    Could Hashem have given us a different set of 613 Mitzvos? Yes, presumably, He could have. The fact that he didn’t, indicates that what we were given is exactly what is needed. Which is why, however fascinating the premise of your question is, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Miztvos we were given are the only ones that are applicable to us. In the same way, that means that Hashem’s Emes and the Torah’s Emes are one and the same. Why is the Torah Emes? Because it is Hashem’s Emes, and, as you write, Hashem’s signature is Emes.

    Torah is not a reflection of the real truth, per se. Torah is truth because it is the Word of Hashem. There is no “basic computation,” as most of the Miztvos are not something that someone could arrive at by themselves. I am not even referring to Chukim, which are the embodiment of Hashem’s input into our world, but even Mitzvos that are an integral part of our lives and our Jewish identity, such as Shabbos, are kept in a way that reflects the Kedushah of the day and the Divinity of the day, as well. There is no compelling reason to keep Shabbos as we do, except for the fact that Hashem commanded us to do so.

    Does 2+2=5? No, it doesn’t. Why not? Because Hashem placed within the physical world that we live in laws that regulate our knowledge. As Hashem created the framework that we live in, could He have created a realty that 2+2 would have equaled 5 instead of it equaling 4? Yes, of course He could have. And then the question would have been why does 2+2 equal 5 and not 4 or 6?

    There is a fundamental difference between your description of Jack and his three kids and successful business and our reality. In our reality, we can change any decree that there might be by changing ourselves. That means that in our reality, Jack’s business was decreed to go bankrupt but Jack (Yaakov?) davened hard that year for prosperity and he gave out even more Tzedakah than usual and he went through a process of realigning himself with Hashem – and the decree was annulled. How is it possible to do that? Because on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we state that a three-fold approach to our connection to Hashem of Teshuvah, Tefillah and Tzedakah is capable of overturning a negative decree. Because Hashem controls the world – both the global world and our personal world as well.

    Best wishes from the Team