For the previous Parts of a Bridge to Somewhere click here.

-- 22 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: September 03, 2006

Dear Eliezer:

I thank you for your good wishes and I await your proposal with great interest.

Regards,

Mario


-- 23 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: September 4, 2006

Esteemed Dr. Grinberg,

Thank you for your email.

The "experiment" that I have in mind consists of trying to fulfill a precept that is purely "religious" in order to see what happens... If the results prove my hypothesis right...

I thoughts specifically about the precept of tefillin; to put on tefillin daily from now until Yom Kippur. It implies a daily investment of 10 minutes, any time of the day between sunrise and sunset...

What do you think?

Eliezer


-- 24 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: September 06, 2006

Dear Eliezer:

And what, pray tell, is your hypothesis?

Mario


-- 25 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: September 7, 2006

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

The hypothesis is that oftentimes one discovers things (feelings, etc.) which are rationally inexplicable and totally unpredictable.

For example: Can you explain rationally why one would give someone a kiss?

It is self understood that in order for the experiment to be carried through properly, it must be done correctly.

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 26 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: September 09, 2006

Dear Eliezer,

I think that a kiss is an expression of affection in most societies; not in all, mind you, as the eskimos do not express affection through kissing. Let's just say that it is a social custom very widely practiced, similar to greeting through a handshake.

In any case, I do not see any connection between your question and your proposal.

Dear Eliezer, for the time being, at least, the experiment will have to be postponed. Besides, I do not know how to put on tefillin.

Regards,

Mario


-- 27 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: September 09, 2006

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

The point that I wanted to illustrate with the question about a kiss is simply that people kiss without being able to explain why... It makes them feel good and that is enough of a reason to continue doing so. I really don't know how many people ask themselves why people kiss and probably they don't even care in the least to know why... It is unnecessary to search for explanations and justifications for something that works well...

Similarly, when one puts on tefillin, very often one feels something that is difficult to describe but which makes him feel good and it makes him feel "connected" even though he cannot explain it in words...

In order for the experiment to work you need someone to help you put them on correctly. I would suggest that you contact the Chabad rabbis in Cordoba. They would also be able to help you understand more about the significance of tefillin and what they represent.

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 28 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: September 09, 2006

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

I did some research and found that apparently the Eskimos, too, kiss in addition to rubbing noses...

:)

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 29 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: September 15, 2006

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

Just a short note to wish you Shabat Shalom!

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 30 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: September 17, 2006

Dear Eliezer:

Toda, shavua tov lecha vele'mishpachtecha.

How are you? I am busy with many things. In addition to my occupation, I have some back pains that drive me nuts. I have a condition that is called Lumbar Spondylosis. It affects the spine, is chronic, has no cure, only pain killers. Sometimes it is more painful and sometimes less so. It has become a part of my life and I learned to live with the pain.

How is the Jewish community of Uruguay? Here we are experiencing more and more antisemitism. One can see it in the universities, especially in the Philosophy and Literature departments. One hears expressions that make one remember the beginnings of Nazism in Germany. It seems to be a wheel that turns and turns and every so often returns to the same place.

Question: when one is asked to form part of a minyan in order to pray for a deceased relative, is it obligatory to donate money?

Anyway, my dear Eliezer, once again, shavua tov and thank you for your emails.

Regards,

Mario


-- 31 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: September 17, 2006

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

Shavua Tov.

I am sorry to hear about your back pains.

Regarding antisemitism here in Uruguay, there are not many overt manifestations. In fact, antisemitism (amongst other discriminations) is a crime punishable by law in Uruguay.

As far as your question regarding the obligation to donate money when you are asked to form part of a minyan, I did not quite understand the question. Who asked whom? Please describe to me what happened.

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 32 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: September 18, 2006

Dear Eliezer:

I was called to participate in a minyan (which takes place during seven days, I think it is called "Shiva") due to the passing away of a relative. A box was put on the table into which we all had to contribute money every time we went. Is that correct?

Regards,

Mario


-- 33 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: September 18, 2006

It is voluntary.

In general it is customary to always give some money to charity before we pray. If one wants G‑d to pay attention to one's needs, one should likewise concern himself with the needs of others.

It is customary to use the money donated during the week of Shiva for a charitable project in merit of the deceased.

Sincerely,

Eliezer


-- 34 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: September 19, 2006

Dear Eliezer:

Thank you for clarifying the matter.

I wish you and your family a shana tova. Much health and naches.

Regards,

Mario


-- 35 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: September 20, 2006

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

Thank you.

Best wishes for you and your family.

Eliezer


-- 36 --

8/11/06

CHAT

Eliezer: Dr.?

Mario: hi eliezer, what's up?

Eliezer: thank G‑d, everything OK.

and you?

Mario: fine. checking my mail.

Eliezer: I won't disturb you, then... When you have time and are in the mood I would like to resume our exchanges.

Mario: no, it is not a bother at all. to the contrary, it is a pleasure.

of course. what happened is that we arrived at a difficult impasse, at least for me.

Eliezer: the experiment?

Mario: yes, exactly. I thought a lot about the experiment. I was even thinking of proposing a variation.

Eliezer: go ahead.

Mario: instead of tefillin, to keep Shabbat.

Eliezer: have you ever done it?

Mario: no, I only made the Kiddush several times.

Eliezer: I had suggested tefillin because it seemed easier. Only 5 minutes a day. Shabat, however...

but if you so prefer, it is also a valid experiment. Just that it is more complicated to be done correctly.

Mario: Perhaps. It's just that I thought of Shabbat because it is more family oriented.

Eliezer: But of course it is a great option. You can start with Shabbat, if you prefer. How can I help you with it?

Mario: yes, I did not pursue the proposal because I am not yet convinced that I can fulfill it in practice. In fact it is very difficult for me because I must also work on Shabbat.

Eliezer: I do not want to pressure you... whenever you're ready please let me know and I will try and help you to the best of my ability.

Mario: OK, thanks. after all of our exchanges I have no doubt that you will do so. I am processing the matter.

Eliezer: do you speak English?

Mario: somewhat. I understand pretty well. I didn't tell you that I lived in Israel for 5 years, from 1971-75. Why do you ask?

Eliezer: because I wanted to say an expression in English.

"Take your time..."

Mario: OK, Eliezer, let's continue our dialogue later on. OK?


-- 37 --

7/1/07

CHAT

Mario: hi there, eliezer!

Eliezer: hi!!!

Mario: long time, no speak! what's up?

Eliezer: thank G‑d great, and you?

Mario: great, starting the new year with the family

Eliezer: nice

Mario: i am starting an experiment. let's see what you feel about it

Eliezer: let's hear..

Mario: i decided to make Kiddush Friday evening followed by a Shabbat meal.

Eliezer: Mazal tov!!

Mario: thanks. isn't it too little? although I don't think there are levels in this, are there?

Eliezer: I am not G‑d's accountant...

Mario: haha, but you hang out in His office...

Eliezer: it's like being a little bit pregnant... is there something like that?

Mario: no, of course not

but I thought about it because of the value of sharing it with family

Eliezer: I think it is a good beginning

Mario: will it serve the purpose of the experiment you suggested? we'll see what happens to me, that's what this is all about, anyway, isn't it?

Eliezer: I think that in order for the Shabbat experiment to accomplish what I had in mind, it must fulfill three conditions...

Mario: Go ahead...

Eliezer: 1) Kosher Wine

Mario: OK

Eliezer: 2) Kosher Challah

Mario: fine

Eliezer: 3) The Shabbat candles must be lit at the proper time.

Mario: well, that might be a problem because I work Fridays and I come home later than candle lighting time.

Eliezer: is there a woman in the home that can light the candles at the proper hour?

Mario: for the time being my daughter is home, but she will be leaving next week.

Eliezer: ok.. let her do it this week..

Mario: ok

Eliezer: if you cannot make it home in time to light the candles, you can make Kiddush without the candles...

Mario: the candles are not lit after the time indicated?

Eliezer: what time do you get home?

candles are not to be lit after sunset.

Mario: ahhhh, because of the issue of lighting fire, of course...

Eliezer: exactly

Mario: I get home at about 9.30 pm

I will have to do it without candles.

Eliezer: it's pretty much after sunset.

ok.. it'll do... very nice..

Mario: yes, I imagine that something is something. No?

Eliezer: of course.

Mario: Ok. I will tell you how it went. I hope to feel it. Is it possible?

Eliezer: Possible to feel?

Mario: I reiterate that which I already told you with regards to assimilation. I think that the only defense we have left is religion.

yes, let's see how I feel. In any case, I think that celebrating with family is a good thing.

Eliezer: what do you mean when you say that all we have left is 'religion'?

Mario: in order to prevent assimilation. religion is what can give continuity to the Jewish people.

Eliezer: without doubt..

but that is not the only reason that it is important..

Mario: there used to be Zionism, the youth groups, etc.

I understand that that is not the only reason, but I was referring to that particular aspect. the other reasons are related to life as a Jew.

Eliezer: i agree that that is what will assure a Jewish continuity. The main reason being that it is what gives sense and a raison detre to continue being Jewish.

without Torah and Mitzvot why do we exist? what are we?

Mario: hmmm, that is material for a long conversation, and I must leave now. It has been a pleasure talking to you.

Eliezer: ok

Thank you for stopping by and updating me...

When you get a chance, let me know how it went

Mario: ok. be well. shavua tov

Eliezer: i find our exchange to be very enriching

Mario: I say the same

Eliezer: be well

Mario: chau


-- 38 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: January 16, 2007

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

Were you able to do the experiment?

How did it go?

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 39 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: January 18, 2007

Dear Eliezer:

How goes it?

The experiment is under way. The problem is that until now my daughter was the one who lit the candles. From now on it will have to be without the candles because there is no one home at the proper time.

I am having a conflict with myself because I am doing something without really being convinced of it.

The matter is that I do not believe, and I am doing this without conviction. Am I not being a hypocrite?

In any case, thank you for your email.

Regards

Mario


-- 40 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: January 30, 2007

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

Thank you for your email. I apologize for the delay in my response.

I did not rush to reply because I wanted to think it through well before responding.

You describe your feeling of hypocricy as a result of doing something about which you are not totally convinced.

First of all I would like to say that I do not consider it to be hypocricy when you do something in order to discover its meaning and value. It would be hypocritical were you to be convinced that what you were doing was worthless and would be doing it in order to make someone happy or in order to falsely give the impression that you were "religious." That is not the case. You are not out to impress anyone; you are just trying to discover what this is all about, trying to see what sensation it triggers in you... I would not call it "hypocricy," but "search." After all, you are just a Jew trying to explore his identity from the roots up.

In my humble opinion, it is a totally legitimate search from whichever point of view you consider it.

We had been talking about an "experiment," not a "commitment."

As far as the experiment itself is concerned:

I had suggested experimenting with putting on tefillin for a month. You suggested Shabbat. The reason that I did not suggest Shabbat as an experiment is because the Shabbat experience is too complex and complicated to be able to experience properly just like that. It requires either much study or having seen it observed once before in a religious home. Otherwise, how can you feel something that you do not know and haven't personally experienced?

The mitzvah of tefillin is easier to learn to do properly and it is a more "religious" act, because in contradistinction to Shabbat that has a social/family dimension to it, putting on tefillin has no other justification other than fulfilling G‑d's will. It is a more appropriate experiment for proving that which we want to prove...

We must also take into consideration that one needs to be patient with his or her spiritual atrophy. The fact that there might not be an immediate reaction doesn't necessarily imply that there is nothing there... It requires insistence and perseverance... A lot depends on attitude. It is not the same if you approach Judaism with a "let's see" attitude as if you approach it with a "I want what's mine!" attitude.

Okay, I think that this time around I am overextending myself...

I await your comments,

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 41 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: February 10, 2007

Dear Eliezer:

Thank you very much for your response. As usual, your responses are very to the point.

Evidently observing Shabbat is more complicated because it needs more elements; I preferred it because I thought it would be more inclusive of the family. But you are probably right, at this point, tefillin would be a better option.

Anyway, I don't know how to continue with this experiment. As soon as you proposed it, I thought it would be a good idea to try it.

What I have clear, since we started our dialogue, is that in matters of religion it is better to just do rather than question, but the questions appear by themselves...

Okay, dear Eliezer, best regards and Shavua Tov.

Mario


-- 42 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: February 10, 2007

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

Thank you for your email and your comments regarding mine.

Something incredible just happened!

I just arrived home from Punta del Este and as I opened your email, the telephone rang and guess who was calling? None other than your daughter, Carolina! She was visiting here in Montevideo and called to meet...

Regarding your comment: "in matters of religion it is better to just do rather than question...", I beg to differ. One does not have to choose between "doing" and "questioning." One can continue to question while doing. Choosing to do does not have to imply giving up on questioning. Doing supplies you with more tools that will enable you to question and understand in a more developed way.

Judaism is not afraid of rational questions. It just says that not everything is subjected to rational verification and analysis. One may question and understand anything that is understandable, but not that which is by definition not understandable. For example: Are you able to explain why you love your children? Of course you can, but your love is not based on those "rational" explanations...

Our connection to Judaism is not based on anything rational even though we might be able to explain it rationally.

I find it to be courageously honest for you to recognize the limitations of the intellect (especially being that you have a scientific/rational education and background) and dare to take a step into unknown, strange territory in order to see what you might encounter...

Practically speaking, there are several options:

1) Contact the Chabad rabbis in Córdoba in order to provide you with a pair of tefillin and teach you how to use them properly;

2) You come to Montevideo so that I can teach you how to use them;

3) I travel to Córdoba;

4) We meet in Buenos Aires.

Which of the options is easier for you?

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 43 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: February 16, 2007

Dear Eliezer,

I am very grateful for the hospitality that you extended to my daughter.

I am very happy that you were both able to meet personally.

Shabat Shalom.

Mario.


-- 44 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: February 16, 2007

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

My pleasure.

Regards,

Shabat Shalom

Eliezer


-- 45 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: March 6, 2007

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

How are you?

I have been busy lately. We are starting a new year of activity here.

I realized that one of my mailboxes was full and that all the mails sent to me were being bounced...

To err is human, but in order to really make a mess, you need a computer... :)

Have you had any interesting thoughts lately?

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 46 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: March 07, 2007

Dear Eliezer:

"I found it very difficult to accept the existence of miracles and the soul, and observing mitzvot such as putting on tefillin. I could not accept it because my psychology and previous education were rebelling.

"How can someone overcome these passive forces? Only by force. When one realizes that this is the correct way, one must obligate himself to begin fulfilling the mitzvot."

(Any connection to the experiment?)

This was said by Professor Herman Branover in a conference titled Science and Religion, published in a small booklet that I came across. He admits that until the age of 30, he was an atheist.

I wanted to share these words with you, as I feel myself very identified with them.

But the issue is, am I convinced that this is the "correct way"? That is the reason that the experiment did not yet bear any fruit. Perhaps at 55 years of age it is even more difficult.

I was finally able to get to know you through the pictures that my daughter sent. I now have a better idea of who reads my words of doubt and questioning and takes the trouble to answer them, for which I am very grateful.

Thank you for inviting me to the conference about G‑d and the Holocaust [through a mass mailing. ed.]. I imagine that it must have been very interesting. In fact, it is one of the questions that I asked you at one point, if I remember correctly.

Okay, Eliezer.

Best wishes for a Shabat Shalom.

Hasta pronto.

Mario


-- 47 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: March 11, 2007

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

Attached please find a recording of the lecture about the Holocaust.

I hope that you will find it interesting.

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 48 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: March 11, 2007

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

Thank you for your email.

It is not so simple to declare oneself an "atheist." I can understand when someone says that he doesn't know what G‑d is or how to prove His existence. But to say that He "doesn't exist"? On what basis? One cannot give testimony about that which he didn't see... If He doesn't exist, what then is the "Atheist" talking about?

In other words: to claim that G‑d does not exist is as much a belief as claiming that He does indeed exist. Neither of the two affirmations is provable.

Between the two alternatives, I personally choose to say that the world has a creator because it seems to me to be totally absurd to think that the perfect functioning of the universe is autonomous and that the world created itself. I would imagine that someone such as yourself, who sees the miracle of birth on a constant basis, should be the first one to think that the universe is not the result of some spontaneous combustion or that it runs by itself.

To proceed from that premise to the next stage, defining what it is that the Creator wants and what was the purpose of Creation is another challenge. But I think that it is more than evident that the world has a Creator.

Of course, to speculate about the nature of G‑d, His characteristics and His plan for us would be an exercise in futility, because how can we even entertain the idea that a limited human mind be capable of grasping the Infinite?

If it were not for the Divine revelation and giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we would not have the answers to these questions. It was that event that took place some 3,318 years ago that transformed us into the Jewish people charged us with the mission that G‑d gave us at that momentous occasion.

No, it cannot be proven that G‑d revealed Himself to us at Mt. Sinai. But do you consider it logical to say that over 2,000,000 accepted as true a story in which they were the supposed protagonists, if it weren't indeed true? Especially taking into consideration that as a result of said revelation, their personal, private freedoms became limited by the obligations and prohibitions imposed by the G‑d that revealed himself to them.

I think that objective historical facts provide us with a good, logical basis to say that it pays to seriously explore the subject of our relationship with G‑d.

The goal of the experiment that I proposed is not to prove G‑d's existence, but to test the personal reaction that exposure to a Divine commandment might cause.

In other words:

Once I have clear that 1) the most logical alternative is that the world has a Creator and 2) the most logical thing to say is that the story about Divine revelation at Mt. Sinai is true, it ceases to be so "uncomfortable" to try to fulfill one of the precepts proposed in the "user's manual" that was given for every one of us in order to "just see what happens".

You, being a doctor, know very well that when any function or organ of the body is not used for a while, it atrophies and it becomes difficult to fully restore its normal function. Imagine someone who, after being bedridden for months, comes to the conclusion that his legs do not function. What would you do in order to find out if his assumption is true or not? The only way to do so would be to "force" him to take a few steps until he gradually restores the full strength in his legs...

Obviously, in order for the patient to cooperate with the treatment, he must be convinced that it is worth the – sometimes arduous – effort and that he is not being asked to do something "archaic"...

Anxiously awaiting your reply,

Eliezer


-- 49 --

From: Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: March 27, 2007

Dear Eliezer:

Please forgive the delay in my response, but I had to – and still have to – deal with certain personal situations that force me to postpone some things.

My wife was operated upon on both of her legs due to a problem that she has had for a long while. Fortunately she is doing fine. That same day, my 3 year old grandson was operated upon because of a doubtful diagnosis of appendicitis. They extracted his appendix but it was healthy. What he had was an intestinal infection. He is recuperating well from the surgery but they discovered that he has hemolytic anemia (the red cells get destroyed prematurely), and they haven't yet found neither its cause nor the cure.

Due to all of this, as you can well imagine, I am very worried and anxious.

Thank you for sending me the recording of your lecture on the Holocaust. I sincerely enjoyed it. I thought it was excellent. I liked your very sincere "irrefutable" answer. As far as the other answer you gave is concerned, we have already discussed it somewhat when talking about "justifying other people's suffering," but I still continue to think that it is difficult to understand the horrible suffering that the Jewish people was subjected to in so many different periods of its history.

Okay, dear Eliezer, I hope that the suffering of my grandchild and my family will resolve themselves in a happy way.

Thank you, once again.

Mario


-- 50 --

From: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: March 28, 2007

Estimado Dr. Grinberg,

I am sorry to hear about the difficulties that you and your family are experiencing.

Best wishes for a Kosher and Happy Pesach; may you free yourself from all causes of worry.

Regards,

Eliezer

to be continued...