Ask The Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi #37

The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Ask the Rabbi

October 8, 1994; Issue #37

This publication is also available in the following formats: [Text Format] [Acrobat Format] [Microsoft Word Format]
Explanation of these symbols | Subscription Information |

Contents:
  • The meaning of "HaMakom"
  • Going to Mormon "Family History Libraries™"
  • Subscription Information
  • Back issues are indexed both by issue no. and by subject
  • Ohr Somayach Home Page

  • The meaning of "HaMakom"

    Jasper Faber from Holland wrote:

    Although I am not a religious Jew, I like to study Jewish religious literature as a hobby. So I happened to be reading in the Talmud lately, when I noticed that G-d was referred to as HaMakom (Mishna Avot 11,14 for example), I found it very strange that He who is not limited in any way, is called something - a place - which is nothing but limits. When we ask: "Where is the place of the chair?", we are asking for that limited space the chair occupies.

    Thank you,


    Dear Jasper,

    Whenever G-d is referred to in physical terms it is meant as a metaphor. It is axiomatic that G-d is not physical and has no physical properties. We, however, are physical and can only understand things from a physical frame of reference. Hence the use of the physical as a helpful metaphor for the understanding of a quality of G-d.

    What is the metaphor of HaMakom ("The Place")? If you think about the meaning of a "place" you'll agree that it is more than just a geographical location, it's a space which is capable of containing something else. When used in reference to G-d what it means is that everything is contained within G-d (conceptually), while He is not contained in anything. As our Sages say: "He [G-d] doesn't have a place, rather He is The Place of the Universe."

    Sources:

    • Maimonides - Commentary on the Mishna, Tractate Sanhedrin, ch.10, principle 3.
    • Me'orei Ha'esh, on Tana d'vei Eliyahu, 1:8.


    Going to Mormon "Family History Libraries™"

    Benjamin Horowitz of Australia writes:

    Is it permissible to go to the Mormon reading rooms in order to research my Jewish family roots?

    Dear Benjamin,

    A few introductory words about the issue. The Mormons have the largest collection of genealogical data that exists. It is stored in a structure that is built into a mountain in Salt Lake City, Utah, and contains information on over two billion people. This material is also made available via reading rooms located in cities around the world. The motivation for gathering this material is that if they have the name of the person, and the place and date of his death, they can baptize him via proxy. This means that they will have someone stand in for the deceased and go through a baptism in his name. The deceased is then given an opportunity to convert in Heaven (according to their belief.)

    Therefore, is it forbidden to approach the Mormons for the purpose of benefiting from something that is a vehicle for conversion to their faith?

    I asked Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, and he said that it is irrelevant whether or not the genealogical material is technically a forbidden idolatrous substance. What is relevant is the fact that the Mormons use this material for conversion - a purpose akin to idolatrous practices. Therefore, one must not go to the "Family History Library™" in Salt Lake City, Utah, or to one of their numerous reading rooms.

    In Rav Scheinberg's words: "Stay away! Stay away!"



    © 1994 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.

    This publication is available via E-Mail
    Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 685 full-time students.

    The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.

    Ohr Somayach's Web site is hosted by TeamGenesis


    Copyright © 1994 Ohr Somayach International. Send us Feedback.
    Dedication opportunities are available for Ask The Rabbi. Please contact us for details.
    Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) and your donation is tax deductable.