DEAR READERS: You're not the only ones who ask me questions. Here are some queries from students in the sixth grade of our religious school. Tell your kids to write to me and I'll answer them, too, one of these days. — Rabbi Gellman
Question: What's your idea of a perfect person? — Lauren Fogel
Answer: The prophet Micah asked God the same question and God told him that all you need to do to be perfect is: 1) Do the right thing; 2) Be nice to everyone; 3) Don't brag about what you've done. That sounds right to me, too.
Q: What is your idea of heaven? — Lauren Fogel (again)
A: I think the World to Come (heaven) is a place where after your body dies your soul goes to Soul School to learn about what made you afraid when you were alive, why you messed up when you messed up, and what were the best things you ever did for someone else. After Soul School, I think you meet all the souls of your family who died before you did. You get to fill them in and to learn who gave you the color of your eyes.
Q: If you could ask God a question, what would it be? — Corey Jeshiva
A: I'd ask if the souls of the good people who had hard lives on Earth are happy now.
I'd also ask, "Why did you make the world so that everything that's good for you tastes like celery and everything that's bad for you tastes like ice cream?"
(OK, that's more than one question, but I figure God is very busy and I should get in all my questions at once.)
Q: What do you think is the meaning of life? — Rachel Heym
A: The meaning of life is to wake up every morning, do good things and then go back to sleep.
Q: Do you like a certain prayer more than another? — Katelin Homler
A: There are only four kinds of prayers: Thank You, Gimme, Oops and Wow! My favorite prayers are the Thank You prayers.
Most of the things we ask God for in our Gimme prayers are stuff we should get for ourselves. Most of our Oops prayers that say we're sorry don't stop us from doing the same bad thing again. And most of the things we say Wow! about are sports and music, which are not that wow-ful.
Q: Did you ever doubt God or not believe in God, even for a minute, and why? — Emma Sutkin
A: No. I always believed in God, but sometimes I don't believe in people.
Q: Why does everyone see God as an old guy with a beard wearing a white robe? — Alex Epstein
A: I don't know. It is so wrong to picture God that way. God has a blue robe.
Q: Do you believe that animals should be treated as equal to humans, no matter the animal? — Josh Feig
A: No. Animals were created by God, just like people, but animals were not made in the image of God, like people are. This is why we can eat animals, but we can't eat people. However, it is wrong to hurt animals and it is right to help them live good lives.
Q: If you were to in a situation where you had to convert to another religion or be killed --or pretend to convert but secretly practice Judaism, what would you do? -- Amanda Berhrens
A: I would pretend to convert and every night I would go into my basement and pray this prayer: "God, I'm sorry for having to pretend out there, but down here I can tell you that I love being Jewish and I love you. Please help me get out of here so I can worship you upstairs."
Q: What do you think God looks like? — Jake Boxenhorn
A: I think God is invisible, but I think being near God makes you feel like your parents feel when they see you smiling at them.
Q: Why do people do bad things? Why does God make some people bad or cruel? — Drew Ingall, Chelsea Kleinbaum, Morgan Fishbein, and Samantha Levin
A: God does not make people bad.
People choose to do bad things and those choices change them. People do bad things because: 1) they make mistakes trying to do good; 2) they have a mental illness that makes it hard for them to know the difference between bad and good; 3) they were never loved enough so they're angry and broken and jealous of people who were loved enough.
Q: Why did you want to become a rabbi? — Rebecca Feldman
A: I love God. I love the Bible. I love teaching kids. I love being Jewish, and I could not hit a curve ball. What else could I do?
RABBI MARC GELLMAN is the senior rabbi of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, N.Y., where he has served since 1981.
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