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

-- 112 --

From:Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: July 7, 2008

Dear Eliezer:

It seems like lately I cannot give you any good news.

Last Monday, I had a fire at my office as a result of some electrical surge that burned my computer, printer, stabilizer, monitor, etc. As a result of that, the smoke and fire totally ruined the installations. I will have to move temporarily to a nearby clinic.

This is a real pain because, besides the cost, I have to recondition the whole office.

Fortunately there was no one there when it happened, and no one was hurt.

Anyway... I am coming from a very negative period. I hope this all will pass, because it influences my mood and of course my health as well, as I also have had issues with hypertension which fortunately I have been able to bring under control.

Okay, dear Eliezer, I hope that next time I will be able to bring you better news.

Regards,

Mario


-- 113 --

From:Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: July 7, 2008

July 7, 2008

Eliezer: hi

Mario: hi, I was just writing you an email.

Mario: well... you just gotta go with the flow, I guess. No?

Eliezer: Take a deep breath.

Mario: anything else?

Eliezer: and tell G‑d... Hey, up there, ease up...

:)

Mario: hehe, I've already told Him that!!

Eliezer: :)

I can imagine

I hope that He listens to you.

Look, one never knows why things happen.

It is very frustrating.

But one can either believe that everything happens by chance and nothing makes sense, or that everything is directed by G‑d and therefore has an explanation, even though we may not be privy to it.

Mario: either way, we do not understand the reasons.

Eliezer: True.

But even so, knowing that it has a justification, even without understanding what that justification might be, helps.

Mario: I wish I could look at it that way, because these kinds of situations are very depressing.

Eliezer: I know

We are very fragile.

Mario: Is it because I deserve it?

I have asked myself that….

Eliezer: the only one that can answer that question is either the person himself or G‑d. No one else...

Mario: The way I see it, at least, is that I try to work and behave with honesty and compassion.

Eliezer: Sometimes G‑d tests our patience to see if we will get angry or not, or so that we will have the opportunity to transcend the challenging situations we are faced with.

Mario: So if we get angry (with what? With whom?), what would that prove, anyway?

Eliezer: Two things...

Getting angry with someone implies that you believe that there is a power in this world independent of G‑d.

The other issue is: Do we necessarily know how things ought to be?

One often insists that things be the way one wants them to be, and thinks that he is almighty and will live forever. And all of a sudden, when he sees that things don't follow his plan, and that he cannot control things the way he thought he would be able to, he accepts his limitations and that paradoxically frees him from his own limitations…

Mario: True, I know that I cannot control everything; the power surge occurred in the whole building, but I was the only one that suffered damage. In other words, I was "chosen".

Or was I? Did Someone choose me? Or was it just chance?

Eliezer: We believe that nothing happens by itself. Everything happens by Divine Providence, even though we do not understand why He makes the choices that He does.

Mario: If that is the case, I hope that He has good reasons. It would be a good idea for Him to let me know why, so that I can correct that which apparently I am doing wrong.

Eliezer: Sounds like a reasonable request.

:)

Mario: Yes. The other question is, and i ask in part because I consider myself to be a good person, why do bad things happen to good people?

Eliezer: Maybe because no one is perfect, and we need to get "polished" from time to time; to "pay our bills" in this world so we can reap our full reward in the next.

Mario: Those sound like good ideas.

Eliezer: They are not my own original ideas...

Mario: In any case, now I need to get back to my responsibilities—it's just that I need a boost of strength.

Okay, dear Eliezer, I hope that in our next encounter the situation will have changed for the better. I must go for now.

Regards

Eliezer: Bye


-- 114 --

From:Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: July 14, 2008

Eliezer: What's up?

Mario: hi, Eliezer, here I am, getting estimates.

How are you?

Eliezer: Thank G‑d.

Working at full capacity.

How is your mood?

Mario: Somewhat better. I am seeing patients at a clinic, though only during the morning hours.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with the manager of the company that provides our electricity.

Eliezer: Can they compensate you?

Are they insured?

Mario: The responsibility is theirs. There were three fires that occurred lately because of the power surge. I will go to the meeting accompanied by a congresswoman who is a friend. We'll see what happens.

Eliezer: I hope things turn out okay for you. Are there any precedents for something like this?

Mario: Yes. The problem is that due to all the medical equipment that was damaged, the total cost is very great.

Eliezer: So?

Mario: I hope to reach an agreement with them.

Eliezer: Can I help in any way?

Mario: Well, you know… just like in the case with my grandson. You've got to have faith, they say…

Eliezer: Everything has potential for good.

Mario: I hope so. In the meantime it is very stressful. We shall see. An agreement is much better than a law suit.

Eliezer: Of course....

May G‑d bless you and help you

I will put in a good word for you… :)

What is your Jewish name and your mother's Jewish name?

Mario: I hope to soon be able to give you better news. Thanks for offering to help.

My Jewish name is …., my father's Jewish name is ……. And my mother's Jewish name is …...

Thanks, once again.

Eliezer: okay

When will you have the meeting?

Mario: Tomorrow at 9 am

Eliezer: Good luck.


-- 115 --

From:Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To:Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: July 19, 2008

Eliezer: What's doing?

Mario: Here we are. Fixing whatever can be fixed.

Eliezer: How did the meeting go?

Mario: Nothing exciting. In the beginning the administrator of the company maintained a very rigid, negative position.

After I explained to him that I wasn't the only one in the area to have been affected, and other explanations regarding the causes for the power surge, he told me to send him a list of the damages and cost and he would see what he could do

I am not very optimistic.

Eliezer: Why not?

One must think positively. It is not his personal money, and you are right.

Do you speak Yiddish?

:)

Mario: yo, a bisele (yes, a little.)

Eliezer: There is a saying:

Tracht gut, vet zain gut

Mario: 'think positive and things will turn out positive.'

That's the way it should be.

Eliezer: exactly

:)

Every negative situation has the potential for good.

Mario: One must have a positive attitude… No?

Eliezer: It doesn't cost anything to have it. :)

Mario: True, but it is difficult. The truth is, I don't know what is happening. In addition to everything else, my wife is now in bed – doctor's orders — recovering from a problem with her knees.

Eliezer: :(

Eliezer: Wishing her a speedy recovery.

Mario:Thank you. I hope that the difficult times will pass.

Yesterday I was honored to be a Sandek at a Bris.

Eliezer: How nice!!

Mario: Just to change the subject…

Eliezer: :)

I want to send you my latest link in the chain...

Mario: okay

Eliezer: It is an answer to an article that was published in the local Jewish weekly. You can see the article that I am responding to at www.amoresimposibles.org,

You can also see the new editionour magazine, Kesher, online at: www.jabad.org.uy

Mario: okay, I will read it. Thanks. Regards.

Eliezer: I anxiously await your comments.

Regards

Again, best wishes for your wife's recovery.

Mario: Thanks.


-- 116 --

From:Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To: Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: July 24, 2008

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

Was thinking about you....

How are things?

Did the bad luck end?

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 117 --

From:Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: July 24, 2008

Hello, dear Eliezer,

Thank you for being there and thinking about me.

I am in a better mood, even though with any streak of bad luck: one knows when they begin but not when they end.

I presented the formal request yesterday. I filled out the forms, and they now have to come and inspect my office. They say they will do it tomorrow.

Problem is that I started to repair my office already: painted the walls, etc… I will have to prove the damage with pictures taken right after the fire and a notary's certification.

We'll see what happens. I hope they will reimburse me for at least part of the damages sustained.

If they do not agree, I will have to sue and then the lawyers know how to claim much more than what I am claiming now directly. I prefer nevertheless not to sue, because it can take two years and it is a very exhausting process.

My wife is feeling better. She works even though she doesn't walk much yet. The doctor will see her on Monday and will then decide what she should do.

According to what I am reading, your book continues to make waves. I am impressed by the impact it has made. Congratulations. I already mentioned to you that the negative reactions reflect perfectly what is happening in the community with regards to this matter. This whole debate is therefore very positive. Besides, this situation is happening in more and more Jewish homes (would I know!). I think that more than one couple will benefit from reading your book. Great job!

I hope to have good news soon.

Regards,

Mario


-- 118 --

From:Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To:Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: July 24, 2008

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

I am happy to see that things are improving, at least as far as your mood is concerned.

On August 4, ORT University will host a panel about the book. It is a great challenge for me. It is an important opportunity to clarify issues that have not yet been addressed.

I thought of an idea and would like your opinion and eventual permission….

I was thinking that the exchange that you and I had – I say 'had' to distinguish between the beginning of our exchange and the one that we have now just as friends – could be of great educational value to many people.

How does the idea of publishing it strike you?

I already have an idea for the title…

A Bridge to Somewhere…

:)

Regards,

Eliezer


-- 119--

From:Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shem tov
Date: July 25, 2008

--- Dear Eliezer:

Dear Dr. Grinberg,

I am happy to see that things are improving, at least as far as your mood is concerned.

--- When one begins to do something, either working on a possible compromise or towards the possibility of a law suit in order to defend one's rights, you are taking a proactive stance and you feel better, even though it is all still in the realm of possibility.

On August 4, ORT University will host a panel about the book. It is a great challenge for me. It is an important opportunity to clarify issues that have not been debated yet.

--- Good luck. I am sure that it will be very positive and that you will express your ideas clearly and precisely. I hope that you will keep me informed about how it turned out.

I thought of an idea and would like your opinion and eventual permission...

I was thinking that the exchange that you and I had – I say "had" to distinguish between that exchange and the one that we have now just as friends – could be of great educational value to many people.

How does the idea of publishing it strike you?

--- Of course! You can count on me for whatever you may need.

I already have an idea for the title…

A Bridge to Somewhere…

--- Great. It would be a nice counterbalance to the first one, wouldn't it?

I hope it will be as successful as that one… :)

:)

Regards,

Eliezer

--- Ditto.

Mario


-- 120--

From:Dr. Mario Grinberg
To: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
Date: August 30, 2008

Dear Eliezer:

How are you?

Regarding the "experiment", I confess that I was not very constant after what happened to my niece.

But then I started to put tefillin on again on a regular basis. In any case, I would not consider the experiment to have been successful according to your criteria.

By the way, I just reread the collection of our exchanges that you were nice enough to send me, and I am surprised. It didn't seem to have taken place over a period of two years!

I can tell you that your answers lead me to think that evidently we are not the result of a Big Bang, nor of spontaneous combustion. Nor does Darwin's theory explain the complexity of man and all that surrounds him.

Nothing is proven; G‑d's existence, neither. But that is what, in my opinion, makes the most sense.

However, for me it is incomprehensible, being that G‑d exists, that there should be so much injustice, pain and suffering, especially as far as His Chosen People is concerned. Evidently the Jewish People were "guilty" of worshipping the "Golden Calf", like Adam eating the apple, and Cain killing Abel, but until when must the Jewish People suffer for it?

I imagine that the one that has faith, has answers. But how does one attain faith?

1. Due, like in your case, to its being transmitted from parents to children;

2. Due to some painful experience, one turns to faith as a moral and psychological support mechanism (I know of cases).

3. As the result of logical reasoning and conviction. This is the most difficult option, because faith and reason do not always go hand in hand.

One who has faith believes even though he does not understand. I think that is a key point. Apparently in matters of faith, not everything goes through logic. Perhaps it is like trying to explain love. Sometimes the person that we love has attitudes that we do not understand and nevertheless we love the person. Obviously, when talking about religion it is, in my opinion, much more complex.

Besides, one must bear in mind that the interpretation that we give to things and the way that we develop the expression of our faith is not the same in all the monotheistic religions. Nor is there consensus in the interpretation of the Torah. It is not the same for every Jew—that is why you have the different expressions such as Conservative, Orthodox and Reform, etc.

Who, out of all of them, has the truth? Is one more or less Jewish according to how he or she interprets the Torah? (We come back to the issue of the "genuine Jew"…) I think that in this case too we have "discrimination against", to use your terminology, and it is amongst ourselves: Jews against Jews!

Maybe we should look to smooth out these differences and be more tolerant of different expressions of faith, being that the different interpretations contribute equally to the continuity of Judaism

I am convinced that marriage between Jews and non-Jews contributes to the weakening of the Jewish community, and religion is one of the ways (if not the only way) of preserving it. I therefore believe that we shouldn't pay so much attention to the form as to the essence and to breach the gaps and to tolerate the different positions, being that the base is the same. Do you agree?

Dear Eliezer, best regards and Shavua Tov!

Mario


-- 121--

From:Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov
To:Dr. Mario Grinberg
Date: August 30, 2008

Dear Eliezer:

How are you?

Regarding the "experiment", I confess that I was not very constant, after what happened to my niece.

But then I started to put tefillin on again on a regular basis. In any case, I would not consider the experiment to have been successful according to your criteria.

As far as the tefillin "experiment" is concerned:

In order to determine if an experiment has been successful or not, one must know what the objectives are.

I think that the fact that you stopped putting on tefillin after the episode with your niece that so upset you, as well as the fact that you continued after you had stopped, means the experiment was successful.

The explanation is very simple.

The reason that you stopped putting on tefillin was surely because you were angry or disillusioned with G‑d. The mere fact that you understand that G‑d cares about whether or not you put on tefillin, is proof of your faith in the matter …

The fact that you later, after the interruption, resumed to put on tefillin regularly is another proof of the experiment's success…

Maybe we deserve the Nobel Prize….

:)

By the way, I just reread the collection of our exchanges that you were so nice to send me, and I am surprised. It didn't seem to have taken place over a period of two years!

I agree. I was also surprised that there was so much rich correspondence going on for so long.

I can tell you, that your answers lead me to think that evidently we are not the result of a Big Bang, nor spontaneous generation. Nor does Darwin's theory explain the complexity of man and all that surrounds him.

Nothing is proven G‑d's existence, neither. But it is what in my opinion makes the most sense.

However, for me it is incomprehensible, being that G‑d exists, that there should be so much injustice, pain, suffering, especially as far as His Chosen People is concerned. Evidently the Jewish People were "guilty" of worshipping the "Golden Calf", like Adam eating the apple, and Cain killing Abel, but until when must the Jewish People suffer for it?

I think that you are justified in not understanding why there is so much suffering… It is not there for us to understand… it is there for us to protest: ENOUGH!!! If we were to understand the reason for the suffering, we would not be moved to protest so much… G‑d wants us to protest. He doesn't want us to accept the way things are; He wants us to do that which is within our power to change things for the better… It has nothing to do with "guilt". I think that the explanation that you gave is more in line with non-Jewish ways of thinking. We find ourselves in a "distorted" world precisely in order to transform it into one that is imbued with goodness and spirituality. It is not meant to be a punishment; it is a challenge.

I imagine that one who has faith, has answers. But how does one attain faith?

1. Due, like in your case, to its being transmitted from parents to children.

2. Due to some painful experience, one turns to faith as a moral and psychological support mechanism (I know of cases).

3. As the result of logical reasoning and conviction. This is the most difficult option, because faith and reason do not always go hand in hand.

I think that you omitted an option: that faith is innate.

According to Chassidic teachings, faith in G‑d is an innate characteristic of the Jewish soul, as it is explained extensively in the Tanya. We inherited it from our Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The difference between one Jew and another is merely the degree of awareness that he or she might have regarding this condition. In other words, the difference in faith between one Jew and another is only one of degree and not one of essence.

The three causes for faith that you listed are not causes but triggers. They activate that which already exists – albeit subconsciously – in the deepest recesses of one's self.

They are three ways – amongst others - that serve to wake up the faith that one has naturally due to the fact that his soul is an extension of G‑d.

There is another way to activate this faith that you didn't mention: by studying Torah and observing the Mitzvos. Torah nourishes the soul and strengthens it and the mitzvos are the means through which the soul expresses itself and its connection to G‑d. It is not something that can be proven rationally, nevertheless it works.

One who has faith believes even though he does not understand. I think that is a key point. Apparently in matters of faith, not everything goes through logic. Perhaps it is like trying to explain love. Sometimes the person that we love has attitudes that we do not understand and nevertheless we love the person. Obviously, when talking about religion it is, in my opinion, much more complex.

Besides, one must bear in mind that the interpretation that we give to things and the way that we develop the expression of our faith is not the same in all the monotheistic religions. Nor is there consensus in the interpretation of the Torah. It is not the same for every Jew—that is why you have the different expressions such as Conservative, Orthodox and Reform, etc.

Who, out of all of them, has the truth? Is one more or less Jewish according to how he or she interprets the Torah? (We come back to the issue of the "genuine Jew"…) I think that in this case too we have "discrimination against", to use your terminology, and it is amongst ourselves: Jews against Jews!

I think that there is no essential difference between one Jew and another. The difference is only in the way he might express his Jewishness. There might be a more authentic or less authentic way to express Jewishness. That does not mean to say that one Jew is more authentic than another. One is either a Jew or he is not.

I agree that "discrimination against" exists amongst ourselves, but I think that it is not a result of the Judaism that one has but rather because of the lack of it…

Also: Discriminating against Jews is not the same as discriminating against ways of thinking that one understands to be destructive to Judaism… There are schools of thought that many Jews subscribe to that do much harm to the Jewish People by offering definitions, proposals, and solutions that are worthless. It is nothing more than a time bomb; once it explodes the damage caused is irreversible…

Maybe we should smooth out these differences and be more tolerant of different expressions of faith, being that the different interpretations contribute equally to the continuity of Judaism

Not always. Imagine the case of a girl that wants to "convert" in order to marry her Jewish boyfriend and twenty years later her daughter, educated in Jewish schools and youth groups, finds out that she is not really Jewish. Did they do her mother a favor by "converting" her?

I am convinced that marriage between Jews and non-Jews contributes to the weakening of the Jewish community, and religion is one of the ways (if not the only way) of preserving it. I therefore believe that we shouldn't pay so much attention to the form as to the essence and to breach the gaps and to tolerate the different positions, being that the base is the same. Do you agree?

Not every position that a Jew has automatically becomes a "Jewish" position. I have no problem with talking to any Jew, no matter what he or she thinks or feels. I love them all. That does not mean to say, however, that whatever they say makes sense or is right… Because I love them I am willing to talk, discuss and debate the issues with them…

Dear Eliezer, best regards and Shavua Tov!

Ditto.

Besides being a new week, it is also the beginning of a new month, the last month of the year, the month of spiritual "stocktaking", the month of Elul. It is a month in which there is a special energy that flows into the world that makes it easier to approach G‑d. G‑d comes close to each one of us in a special way and each one of us has the opportunity to connect to G‑d more easily than that which is possible throughout the rest of the year. I wish you success in taking advantage of the opportunity.

Best regards,

Eliezer

This is the end of the dialogue that is presently being published. Mario and Eliezer continue to correspond. Perhaps they will one day share with us some more of their insights.