I’ve heard people say that you are not allowed to question Hashem.

I never understood that.

When Hashem told Avraham Aveinu that Hashem was planning to destroy Sodom and its neighboring cities, Avraham asked Hashem a series of questions.

When Hashem make the sivlos Mitzraim even worse after Moshe Rabeinu’s first encounter with Pharoah, Moshe asked questions of Hashem.

I understand that we are not on the darga of Avraham or Moshe, but we are taught maasei Avos siman l’banim, the events of the lives of our forebears foreshadow the events of our lives. 

Where in the Torah or Shas does it say that we cannot ask questions of Hashem?

I would say that the Torah clearly shows that we need to ask at least one question of Hashem.  Mah Hashem Elo-kecha sho-ail mai-eimach, “What does Hashem want from you?”  Isn’t that the same as asking, “Hashem, what do you want from us?”  Moshe worded it the way he did because he knew the answer, but ultimately it is a question we ask of Hashem.

This question and the answer that Moshe told the Yidden is found in Devarim, 10,12.  Ki im l’yirah es Hashem Elo-kecha la’leches b’chol drachav ul’ahava oso v’laavod es Hashem El-kecha b’chol l’vavcha u’vchol nafshecha.  “Just to revere Hashem your L-rd, to go in Hashem’s ways and to love Him and to serve Hashem your L-rd with all of your heart and all of your soul.”

The gemara (Brachos 33b) asks what seems to be an obvious question: JUST to revere Hashem?  As though this is not asking very much?  The gemara’s answer is that for Moshe this was a simple thing.  But Moshe said this to the Yidden, to the leaders and scholars and to the common people as well.  Did Moshe think that it is easy for everyone to be a yirei Hashem?

The Torah Temimah (ibid.) says yes, that is what Moshe thought, and here’s why:

Moshe was the anav mi’chol adam, the paradigm of humiity.  He found it easy to be yirei Hashem.  Because of his humility, he assumed that if it was easy for him, it is  easy for everyone else, so he told the Yidden that all Hashem wants is “just” be yirei Hashem.

Which, the Torah Temimah points out, leaves us with the following problem:

The pasuk lists a number of expectations, not only to be yirei Hashem.  Why does the gemara only question why Moshe considered yiras Hashem to be easy to achieve and not ask why Moshe thought the others would be easy?

The Torah Temimah uses a gemara right there in Brachos 33b to answer this question.  The gemara says, “Rabi Chaninah said, ‘Everything is determined in Heaven [by Hashem] except for yiras Shamayim, as it says “What does Hashem your L-rd ask of you except l’yirah es Hashem’”  We have to achieve yiras Hashem on our own.

According to the Torah Temima, this means that everything else in the pasuk, “to go in Hashem’s ways and to love Him and to serve Hashem your L-rd with all of your heart and all of your soul” is given to us with Hashem’s help as long as we sincerely desire it.  Thus, all of these are easy for everyone.

I found another way of reading and interpreting the words Mah Hashem Elo-kecha sho-ail mai-eimach

Rabi Baruch of Mezeritzh taught:

“The Rambam (Hilchos Daos Perek 1) wrote that there is a positive Mitzvah to emulate the ways of Hashem, as the Torah says, ‘And you shall walk in His ways.’  The meaning of this Mitzvah is that just as Hashem is called Chanoon you should be chanoon, just as Hashem is called Rachoom, you should be rachoom.  In this manner, the nevi’im referred to Hashem with these terms: Erech Apayim v’rav Chesed, Tzadik, v’Yashar, Giboor v’Chazak, and similar terms, to inform us that these are good and just ways in which we must conduct ourselves and to be like Hashem according to our ability.  And this is implied in [our] pasuk [when interpreted as follows:] ‘v’ata Yisrael, mah Hashem Elo-kecha,’ those which are the middos of haKodash Baruch Hu, ‘sho-ail mai-eimach,’ these are the middos Hashem asks of you.”  (Parparos L’Torah, Rav Nasan Tzvi Friedman, page 240, paragraph 766)

The practical outcomes of this Mitzvah are delineated in detail in the sefer Tomer Devorah by Rav Moshe Cordovaero, ZT”L (Hebrew/English edition, Tomer Publications, Brooklyn, NY, 5765/2005)

In chapter one, Rav Cordovaero lists the middos of Hashem that we are to emulate.  He describes them as “alluded to in the essence of the verses in Micah 7:18-20,” verses which are most familiar to us from Tashlich:

“Who is G-d like you, Who pardons iniquity and removes transgression for the remnant of His heritage?  He does not retain His wrath eternally for He is desirous of Kindness.  He will again be merciful to us.  He will suppress our iniquities, and You will cast in to the depths of the sea all of their sins.  Grant truth to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham, as You have sworn to our forefathers from days of old."

Rav Cordovaero then writes, “Therefore, it is proper that one should contain in himself these Thirteen Attributes. We will now explain the thirteen [functions of these attributes].

Rav Cordovaero’s elucidation of the first attribute is a powerful musar haskeil for parents to model and instill in their children.

“Who is G-d like You?

“This attribute teaches us that the Holy One, Blessed is He, is a forbearing King Who tolerates insult in a manner beyond [human] comprehension…

“He tolerates the ‘insult’ and [continues to] bestow power and benefits man with His benevolence.  Behold, this is [a degree of] insult and tolerance [of it] that is immeasurable…

“Thus, this attribute of being tolerant is one that man should emulate.  Even when he is insulted to such a degree [mentioned above], he should still not withdraw his benevolence from the recipient.”


Rabbi Ackerman is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time

Available at bookstores and on Amazon.

He can be reached at 718-344-6575