We think that it only happens to us. But most of the issues people grapple with happen to everyone. That’s why G‑d sets up a system of living that help us avoid the pitfalls most people deal with.

Here are some of humanity’s most common problems and the solutions the Torah offers.

Weight

Weight is an issue for most of us. It’s not our fault. We live in a consumer society where most food is processed and far from its natural source, and we are encouraged to eat socially, for our own enjoyment and basically all the time. Judaism has a completely different concept of the purpose of food:

  • We eat to live and to have the energy to serve G‑d.
  • We are limited in what we can eat by the laws of kashrut and when we can eat (after we make a blessing on the food, for example).
  • We celebrate with food and enjoy feasts in honor of a mitzvah (Shabbat, Jewish holidays, weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs).
  • Sometimes, we don’t eat at all. (There are six fasts during the course of the year, as well as a few optional ones.)
  • “Eat bread with salt and drink water in measure” (Avot 6:4). The idea is to eat sparingly and not indulge like a glutton.
  • We partake of the bounty in G‑d’s world because He gives it to us as a gift to enjoy.

Though keeping kosher certainly doesn’t ensure that we don’t gain weight, the mindfulness used in our eating habits can theoretically help us to not eat too much or too little, but rather enjoy food-related good health.

Further Reading: Food: An Anthology

Money

Most of us feel like we don’t have enough money. For some of us, that means being able to finish the month paying off all our bills without getting into debt. For others, it may mean feeling the need for more and better luxurious vacations and palatial homes.

Money in Aramaic is called zuzim, which means to move. Money moves around; sometimes, it’s with you, and sometimes, it’s not. Money, like food, is a tool to serve G‑d. You have to earn it honestly and tithe it to those less fortunate. And you can’t work to make it or spend it on Shabbat or Jewish holidays. It doesn’t matter how much or how little money you have; those are the rules.

In Judaism, wealth isn’t determined by how much money you have, but by how much you give away (and that’s relative to how much you have). We can lose our money at any moment, but we can’t lose what we’ve already given away.

A Comprehensive Study: Money and Personal Finance

Guilt

Guilt is a terrible burden, and most of us feel guilty about something. We make mistakes, our judgment is sometimes faulty or impaired, and we hurt people, often those closest to us.

Fortunately, the Torah gives us a way to seek and obtain forgiveness every day and every year. There is a prayer we say every night after the bedtime Shema, absolving those who have hurt us of guilt and asking that whomever we have hurt to forgive us as well. Throughout the year and then especially before Yom Kippur, we seek forgiveness and make amends from people before we seek forgiveness from G‑d.

Read: Bedtime Countdown

Loving the Wrong Person

We are all susceptible to falling in love, especially in our youth, and each of us has fallen for the wrong person at one time or another. The Torah has laws that make it difficult to become mired in a relationship that will only end in frustration and sorrow.

  • The laws of modesty, of dress and speech, impose a physical and emotional distance between a man and a woman to make sure thatthey don’t get too close too soon or for the wrong reasons.
  • The laws of yichud (the prohibition about being alone with someone of the opposite gender) prevents situations where one can get carried away.
  • The laws of marriage prevent you from entering into a permanent relationship with someone who is forbidden to you, not free to marry you or not committed to the relationship.

Further Reading: Love and Judaism

Self-Actualization

Most of us feel like we haven’t realized our full potential, and we’re afraid we may never do so. While it’s nice to have success, money and influence, these are not the yardsticks by which Jewish success is measured. G‑d measures success by the performance of mitzvahs, of good deeds. Each of us has opportunities to do mitzvahs every day, regardless of our age, gender, occupation, acumen, wealth, physical abilities or skills.

Explore: What is a Mitzvah?

Difficult Relationships

We all have at least one difficult relationship and sometimes more; often, they are unavoidable. The Torah teaches us to treat others with kindness and respect, with honor and sensitivity. The onus is on us, not the other person. While we should protect ourselves and take precautions not to be hurt or taken advantage of, we cannot avoid our interpersonal responsibilities. Judaism focuses on how we treat others, rather than how we should expect to be treated by others. Because ultimately, that is both our responsibility and all we have control over.

Further Reading: On Friendship

Too Many Possessions

Most of us have too many possessions. Pirkei Avot teaches, “Many possessions, many worries” ( Avot 2:7). The less we own—and the less time, money and energy we need to take care of it—the more of the same we have to do more important things than shifting our possessions around. Because, like with money, all we have in the end is what we’ve given away.

A Comprehensive Study: The Jewish Perspective on Tzedakah (Charity)

Not Enough Time

Most people will tell you that they are running on a time debit. There just isn’t enough time to get things done or to even have a break. Enter Shabbat, an oasis in time when we are mandated to regard all our work as done, finished, complete or non-existent for 25 hours a week; a vacation dedicated to rejuvenation, relaxation, spiritual and familial pursuits.

Shabbat is a called a sanctuary in time just as the Temple was a sanctuary in space. That’s why all work done to complete the physical sanctuary is prohibited during Shabbat. And we are all grateful for that.

See: Shabbat: An Island in Time