Dad dug up some world maps for the kids after some badgering from - guess who - Mordechai. One of them is currently hanging on our kitchen wall at kid height to allow for regular study. Mordechai gets a real kick out of learning this kind of stuff. Lately he has taken to comparing his map with the one on the wall and trying to find the same country on each one. At first he assumed they were the same which led me to point out out the differences. I don't think he was getting the whole idea of projections and stuff, but, I guess there's no harm in hearing about it. He has some really good questions, too. Dovid apparently branded some countries as bad places. Mordechai pointed out Algeria and Libya as two of the "bad countries". I explained that they're not all bad but the people who live there are Arabs and they usually don't like Jews.
Well, they don't like that Jews live in Israel and want them to leave. That's why there's a lot of fighting sometimes.
Where else do Arabs live?
I showed him Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, and Iran. I'm sure I missed some in my list but he got the picture. Then came,
Why do the Arabs want Israel so much if it's so tiny and they have so many big countries already?
Next topic, G-d. Why didn't Hashem just make us goyim so we could have a lot of countries?
Well, Hashem made us special because he gave us the Torah. He did that so he could give us a lot of good stuff. Hashem said if you do the mitzvos, then good will come to you and you will go to Gan Eden.
How do you get there?
When a person dies, his neshama goes up to shamayim and if he has a lot of mitzvos, he gets to go to Gan Eden. Imagine your favorite things. Gan Eden is a hundred times better than that. You could eat all the nosh you want and you won't get a stomachache.
(wide-eyed) And you let?
You let me eat all the nosh?
You bet. And there's hundreds of rides and moonwalks to go on and you never have to go to sleep and you don't even get tired and there's tons of toys and books and people to explain interesting stuff and answer all your questions.
How does my neshama eat anything in Gan Eden if my body is buried in the cemetery?
It's all very magical, so it's hard for us to understand.
How does my neshama get there? It can't drive or walk without a body.
It kind of flies.
What does it look like?
It's an invisible part of you but it's really there.
Oh like - what's it called when the water turns into air but it's still there?
Yeah, that! Is it like that?
(thinking what a great analogy that is) yes!
Where is my neshama? In my heart?
How does my neshama know where to go when I die?
It knows because it's going home. That's where your neshama was before you were born. When you were born it came into your body and when you die it goes back home.
Like it's going to school?
Yes - and your neshama takes a knapsack to fill up with as many mitzvos as it can while he's at school. The more mitzvos he gets the better spot he gets in Gan Eden. The mitzvos are like his tickets to get in.
What was here before Hashem?
(eyes darting searching for escape route) Um…. Hashem was always here, even before the whole world.
Yes, but what about before Hashem was here?
It's hard to know exactly and it's very hard to understand.
Was I born in Manhattan?
(with relief) Yes….
Whew. Sometimes his questions really drain me. That conversation was totally exhausting. I hope I'm giving him the "right" answers. I worry that he takes things to seriously and feels too much pressure to do things "right". I realize this is all pretty heavy stuff for a kid his age, but what am I supposed to say when he asks? I pray I'm doing okay.