|If you have a question for Rabbi Dobrusin, please submit it below. In order to avoid duplication of questions, please enter some key words first to see whether your question might have been answered previously. The matching answers will be posted on this page below the optional information. (Press Page Down to see it).|
Rabbi Dobrusin's Answers
| Rabbi, what are the laws governing Jews By Choice and mourning customs (Shiva, recitation of Mourners Kaddish, Yiskor, Yahrzeits etc.) for their (assumed non-Jewish) loved ones?
|This is an excellent question and I think it is fair to say that different Rabbis would have different responses. From my perspective, all of the rituals you mentioned are intended to bring comfort to the mourner and to help the mourner re-enter a more normal life and to help us to remember with standardized rituals at different key moments (anniversaries and holidays). For that reason, I think that it is absolutely appropriate for Jews by choice to consider themselves to be bound to the same obligation as they would for a Jewish relative. When a person becomes a Jew, they do not leave their history or their family behind and that family deserves the respect that any other individual deserves. However, there is an important point to make. I think that it is essential that a Jew by choice not separate themselves from their family around rituals of mourning. So, I don't think that one need observe shiva immediately after a funeral if the rest of the family was engaging in another ritual. While a Jew by choice, should not perform other religious rituals, to be close to the family and delay shiva until one returned to one's home, say, might be a wise choice. I also think that one should be judicious in whether or how a Jew by choice might inform other family members of following these traditions. It should not be an issue that in any way is a source of conflict for the family. These are my viewpoints- you may want to contact your Rabbi personally to discuss this further.|
| is there specific attire for a bris?
|No. Most people will wear business attire and you can't go wrong that way but some families are much more informal- use good judgment but there is no requirement.|
| non jews attending a briss
|All are welcome to attend a bris. By the way, if you do not want to watch the actual procedure (and you may not be able to get close enough to see the procedure in any event), you will still find the ceremony interesting and meaningful.|
| I am an artist making kippot out of recycled materials. Could you tell me if Halacha has any impact on the making of kippot? Do they have to be solid ( as opposed to mesh, for example)? Do they have to be within a certain size?, etc. Thanks!
|Since the kippah is actually a tradition, not a law per se (it has acquired the status of law by its use for so many centuries, a custom which is now ingrained as if it is law, there are no absolute requirements for what constitutes a "halachic" kippah. But, I think we should assume certain guidelines. While it kippot don't have to be solid I think that they definitely should be. I suppose one could argue in favor of our a kippah but it seems to me that if the goal is to cover one's head, one should do so with a complete covering. That brings up the other issue. Regarding size I think it comes down to whether one actually feels as if and one appears as if one's head is covered. The covering doesn't have to be complete but it should be obvious that the intent was to cover the head.|
| Is a bar mitzvah kiddush open to all?
|A kiddush held after services is intended for the entire congregation: members, guests, family members, any one who is invited. There may be an occasion when a kiddush or a luncheon would be intended only for the family and invited guests but that would be clearly stated. In general, the kiddush is open to everyone.|
| Can anyone attend a bar mitzvah?
|If a bar/bat mitzvah takes place during a regular service at a synagogue, all are invited and welcome to attend. There may be a specific situation in a specific synagogue where a bar/bat mitzvah was intended to be private but that would definitely be an extremely unusual situation and would be announced clearly. Everyone is welcome!|
| Hello Rabbi Dobrusin I have a question that i would like to be answered .Why isn't a mother allowed at a brit milah?
|This is the kind of question I love to answer. I would not only allow the mother to come to a brit milah, I would always assume she would be there and participate actively. I do know that some mothers (and some fathers too) don't like to watch the procedure too closely but their presence is assumed and welcomed. I respect different viewpoints to Jewish law and tradition and therefore I would never say that a Rabbi who might have told you this was wrong. But, in our congregation and our tradition, the mother is part of the ceremony.|
| Why aren't the Parshot with Moses delivering
the Hebrews read around the
|This is an interesting question. From the beginning of the tradition of reading the Torah, the Torah has been read in an annual cycle (some congregations use a triennial cycle today, reading the entire Torah once every three years but practically all of them still connect that triennial cycle to the annual cycle by splitting the weekly portions into three parts and reading the first part of each portion during the first year and the second part of each portion the second year etc. This enables those congregations to still be reading from the same portion each week that congregations which use the annual cycle do). That cycle begins on the Sabbath after the holiday of Simchat Torah which comes at the end of the fall holidays. While there are some coincidental connections between the annual cycle and holidays or seasons of the year, those are, in fact only coincidences. The importance of reading from beginning to end took priority over reading weekly readings which would connect with the calendar. However, on the holidays themselves the readings from the Torah reflect the meaning of the holiday. Thus on Passover itself, we read readings about the Exodus. On Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah, we read about the giving of the Torah. In addition, there are some "special" Sabbaths where a second Torah is taken from the ark and a reading about the upcoming holiday is read. So, for example, on the Sabbath at the beginning of the month in which Passover takes place, we read from Exodus Chapter 12 from the second Torah. So, the annual cycle takes precedence but is augmented with specific readings based upon the calendar.|
| can a jewish child be named at the grave of a relative
|Let me give a brief answer to the question: Yes, but... I don't see any reason why one could not say the naming prayer at the grave of a relative- It might be particularly meaningful. However, a few things to keep in mind. First, traditionally the naming prayer was said during an aliyah to the Torah during a service. Obviously, that would not happen at a cemetery. However, since many people are opting to have namings at home, the Torah aspect has become less essential in the first place and therefore one could, presumably, have a naming anywhere appropriate. Secondly, our tradition does try to avoid mixing happy times with sad times and some might find that having the naming at the cemetery might restrict the sense of joy and happiness that the event might otherwise bring. Finally, while I myself am not superstitious, I know many people who are and it is quite possible that someone in the family might find this terribly troublesome. So, to answer you question, I think it would be fine and even might be very moving. but, I would be very careful to make sure that everyone felt the same before deciding to do it.|
| Should a step mother of 17 years, married to the father ina Jewish wedding be separated from her husband and be asked to not be under the Chuppah when the step so gets married, the mother has been deceased for 28 years and the step son asked his uncle to represent his mother. I am so insulted and need to move on but have felt very disrespected
|There are no hard and fast rules for situations of this kind. Of course I don't know anything about the situation but it might be that your step son desperately wants some connection with his deceased mother at this time and feels that his uncle (presumably his brother) would best accomplish that for him. It might seem disrespectful and I have no idea of your relationship with him but I would strongly urge you to endure the situation as best you can, to celebrate at the wedding and do not let it interfere with either the day of the wedding or your relationship with your stepson.|
| hello i was wondering how i can convert to judaism..im trying to learn as much as i can on my own but i know that there are other steps involved.my question is do i have to take those steps and if i do how do i go about it?
|If you feel that you are seriously interested in conversion after you have read and studied about Judaism on your own, you should contact a Rabbi in your local area and speak directly to him/her about your interest. If you have difficulty locating a Rabbi in your area, please write to me and I will help direct you to a Synagogue.|
| Please could you explain how obseving the Shabbat every week might affectthe life of a Jew?
|This is a very interesting question. First of all, one can take the perspective that we observe Shabbat because it is a commandment and even if it doesn't positively affect our lives, it is an obligation. I don't believe that that is a realistic approach because, at some point, one would begin to question the value of something so dramatic in one's life. Observing Shabbat gives us a day to break away from the hectic day to day life we all live, to concentrate on things that are more lasting and more emotionally satisfying- a time to re-connect with family and friends and to spend some time in prayer and study that we miss during the week. I don't want to read into your question but if it did occur to you or anyone else that Shabbat might be a waste of time, I will definitely say that there are times where I get frustrated with Shabbat observance, thinking of things that would bring me more pleasure in the short run or might even seem to be more meaningful at that moment. But, the discipline of Shabbat observance helps us to understand our relationship with God, with each other and with our people in a more dramatic way that is invaluable in the long run.|
| Does Halakha mean the same thing as Kashrut?
|Halacha is a general word that refers to Jewish law. Kashrut, the system of dietary laws, is a part of the general category of halacha.|
| Hello! I went to your Web site for the first time since we are looking to join a synagogue and saw that the last time you posted a message was March 2007. Why? Are you planning on ever posting a message ever again? Why even have a two plus year old message still posted as recent? Thank you.
|A very fair question. The monthly articles are copies of our monthly bulletin articles and I have been trying some different approaches to using that space and some of the articles didn't seem to fit for the website. However, I will go back and look at some of them and load them onto the website soon and will try to do future monthly articles on there. Thanks for noticing it! It's good to know people are paying attention.|
| Are there any circumstances under which a Jew can consume pork?
|Pork is forbidden according to the Torah. However, in a life threatening situation, where the choice was between eating pork (or any other forbidden food) or death, there would be no question whatsoever that a Jew should eat pork rather than die. One could perhaps extend that to other situations where one's health was at stake if one didn't eat rather than allow oneself to become very ill from hunger. This is of course a theoretical situation to a great degree because one would imagine that there are very few situations in which one might actually have that choice to make- that no other food were available that would be kosher. But, the principle is important to state because in Jewish tradition, the preservation of life takes priority over matters of ritual law. There is however one other issue which would bear mentioning. According to Rabbinic law, if one were asked to eat pork to save their own life- for example if a king threatened to execute someone unless they publicly transgressed Jewish law by, for example, eating pork, a person should allow themselves to be killed rather than publicly transgress. There are those of course who would disagree with this, saying that life still comes first. But, strict Rabbinic law called for a person never to publicly transgress Jewish law in order to appease someone who is threatening their life.|
| what is an appropriate bris gift?
|Any baby gift would be considered appropriate but some people, depending on the situation, might use this as an opportunity to give something of Jewish interest- Jewish children books or ritual objects or to make a contribution to tzedakah, an appropriate charity, in honor of the baby.|
| If a woman converts when her children are 10years old is the child considered jewish or must they also convert?
|The children would also have to go through a conversion process. Once a woman has given birth, her conversion would apply only to her and the children would need to go through a separate conversion process.|
| can you get married motzei shabbos?
| what is a chuppah and what does it sybolise?
|The chuppah is the canopy under which a bride and groom stand during the wedding ceremony. There are different explanations as to the meaning of the chuppah. It is said to symbolize the home that the couple will build and since the chuppah is open on all sides, it is a symbol that the home should be open to all. In addition, it is said to represent God's protection over the couple and the presence of God in the home.|
| do you bring a gift for a bris
|Yes you can although you do not need to do so. If you are inclined to give a baby gift, this would be a good time to do it. But, it is certainly not required.|
| My daughetr who is Jewish is marrying a non-Jew. Will the groom and his parents be welcome to stand under the Chappah during the wedding ceremony?
|This is a question that must be referred to the person who is performing the ceremony. He or she will make that decision.|
| what is a huppah and what does it symbolise?
|The huppah, under which the couple stands during the wedding ceremony is usually said to symbolize the home that the couple will build. It is usually open on all sides to show that our homes should be open to all and that we should be part of a bigger world even as we build the home which provides us privacy and the opportunity for intimacy.|
| Does a person who was converted by Sephardic auspices need to reconvert to join a predominantly Ashkenazic community, assuming this person was converted by Orthodox (or strict Halakhic) auspices? There are a number of differences in the traditions and I was curious how important these differences are in joining a synagogue, etc. Thank you.
|I can't answer for all Rabbis but it would seem to me that there would be no need to convert again in these circumstances. I certainly would not require an additional conversion. While there are important differences, they should not apply in this area.|
| Why is it against Jewish law to have shell fish (shrimp)? Why is it so bad for us?
|Shrimp and other shell fish are prohibited according to the Jewish law because the Torah identifies kosher fish as those with fins and scales and shellfish do not have them. There is no clear statement in the Torah that shellfish are bad for you. The Jewish dietary laws might have some health benefits but our tradition has never definitively claimed and I do not believe that non kosher food is "bad for you". Kashrut is a discipline, the observance of the commandments, not necessarily a guide to healthy eating.|
| I have been wondering about Kosher diets. specifically the provision about eating cheese and meat together. If I understand it correctly, it's about cooking/eating an animal in it's mother's milk...why would it not be kosher then, to eat meat and cheese together if they are of diffrent animals. Like Beef with goat cheese.
|The tradition prohibiting eating milk and meat together is based on a midrash, a Rabbinic interpretation, of the law in the Torah forbidding boiling a kid in its mothers milk. Whether or not this was the "intended" meaning of the verse is immaterial. This is the Rabbinic interpretation that was accepted and remains today the accepted interpretation of the verse. That interpretation did not differentiate between which animal was involved and therefore it was a blanket prohibition against using any meat with any dairy product. It stands to reason that people have raised the issue that you did because it would be a legitimate interpretation based upon the verse but it was not the accepted interpretation and therefore when one wants to keep kosher today, one follows the interpretation of the verse which has been accepted over the years even if perhaps it might make sense to interpret it differently. The laws of Kashrut (keeping Kosher) like other Jewish laws are about interpretation of text but they are also about establishing a uniform custom instead of individuals interpreting laws on their own.|
| why dont jewish people have sacrifices anymore
|Sacrifices were performed at the Temples in Jerusalem. While there were traditions of sacrifices taking place at other altars throughout Israel, by the time of the second Temple, the major sacrifices were done in Jerusalem and with the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the sacrificial tradition stopped. However, the story is probably more complicated than that. The fact is that many Rabbinic commentators over the centuries have expressed the idea that sacrifices were intended to be seen as a bridge from paganism to worship of one God and it should be noted that many of the prophets spoke about the greater importance of morality and sincere words of prayer. So, many believe that the time of sacrifice had passed and that the destruction of the Temple was the final act that doomed sacrifice while the people had already begun to find meaning in other forms of worship. In fact, one should keep in mind that the entire focus of Rabbinic Judaism, on the responsibility of each individual to observe Jewish law and to "make the home a sanctuary and the Table an altar" had its roots during the 2nd Temple times and flourished after the destruction of the Temple. Thus, the roots for such beliefs, diminishing the importance of sacrifice were prevalent among the people. Of course, this is not universal. Many Rabbis in medieval times and today as well consider sacrifice as being the closest one can get to true worship of God and therefore look forward to the rebuilding of the Temple and reinstitution of sacrifices at the time of the Messiah. This is, however, not a universally held view and is prevalent only among some approaches to Orthodox Judaism.|
| why is chicken and fowl considered meat for kashrut purposes, such as the prohibition of eating meat and dairy products together or at the same meal?
|There were times in the history of the Jewish people when some considered fowl to be "pareve", usable for both milk and meat. However, the decision to consider fowl to be meat is based upon the need for proper slaughtering (schehita) and the draining of the blood.|
| can an out of state rabbi officiate at a wedding in another state?
|Each state has different rules on this so you must check with the state in which the wedding is to take place.|
| Is it possible to have Kosher porcine gelatine? I've been told the gummy vitamins I buy for my child are Kosher, but I asked what kind of gelatine and they said porcine. I don't see how that's possible. Can you help me with this? Thank you.
|There is a principle of kashrut known as davar hadash, literally, a "new element". According to this principle, something which is animal in origin which undergoes a chemical transformation during its production can lose its status as "non-kosher" because it has become a different product due to its transformation. There are some who consider gelatin to be a "davar hadash" after the process it undergoes in order to be usable as an ingredient in food preparation. You should ask your Rabbi directly about this issue to get his or her opinion on the subject.|
| do i bring a gift to a briss
|It is certainly not an obligation but many people do bring gifts to a bris. Any appropriate baby gift is certainly appropriate in this case.|
| Where can you find the paryer shawl in the bible?
|You w ill not find a reference to the prayer shawl but you will find a reference to the tzitzit, the fringes on the prayer shawl which are really the essential part. In Numbers 12, we read of the commandment to put fringes on the corners of a garment in order that we would see them and remember the commandments. This is the origin of the tradition of the prayer shawl which has tzitzit on its fringes.|
| I am a jewish man who never had a bar mitzvah. My son is going to be bar mitzvahed next year. Will my not being bar mitzvahed prevent me from fully participating in my son's ceremony?
|I would defer to the RAbbi in your congegation to answer this more fully and according to his or her practice. But, the fact is that a Jewish man become bar mitzvah at age 13 with or without a formal ceremony. The phrase "being bar mitzvahed" is really not a correct Hebrew usage. We become bar or bat mitzvah upon reaching a certain age. Thus, I can't imagine why not having a bar mitzvah should place any limitations on participation in your son's ceremony. Mazal Tov!|
| What is sheheyanu?
|The SHehecheeyanu is a blessing which states: Blessed are You O Lord our God ruler of the universe who has kept us alive, sustained us and enabled us to reach this time. It is said at all of the different holidays and on particularly meaningful personal and communal moments.|
| I am very interested in converting to Judaism. I have heard that it is strongly discouraged. I want to talk to a local rabbi who I already know about, but am afraid he won't take me seriously. If somebody were to talk to a rabbi about converting in December which is around Christmas time about conversion, would the rabbi be more likely to take the person seriously since that is during Chirstmas time? I ask because it seems like if the person went to a rabbi about it around that time of year it would be obvious that the person is serious about it.
|If you are seriously interested in conversion to Judaism, it should not matter when you talk to the Rabbi. Each Rabbi has his or her own way of approaching the issue of conversion but most are certainly willing to listen and to discuss the matter seriously with you. There is an old tradition that a Rabbi is supposed to reject a prospective convert several times before accepting them as a student in order to insure their sincerity. Many Rabbis do not do this today and are immediately receptive to a sincere expression of a desire to convert. If you are seriously interested, I encourage you to go to talk to the Rabbi. He or she may, depending on how much knowledge you have about Judaism, give you or recommend some books to read to deepen your understanding of Judaism before you make the decision to proceed with conversion. It is certainly good though to talk with the Rabbi that you know and see how things proceed.|
| When is Yom Kippur observed in Canada this year?
|Yom Kippur is observed by Jews throughout the world on the same date. This year, Yom Kippur begins before Sundown on Friday, September 21 and ends after sundown on Saturday, September 22. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It is a day of fasting and prayer. Yom Kippur comes at the end of the 10 days of repentance, days in which we evaluate our lives, make committments for the coming year and seek reconciliation with others by apologizing personally for the sins we have committed against others.|
| What is the banded block men wear on their foreheads?
|The leather boxes that are worn on the arm and the head during prayer are called tefillin in Hebrew. In Deuteronomy, chapter 6, in the paragraph which follows the Shema, the central statement of faith, we are told that the words of the Torah are to be bound upon the hand and between the eyes. This was interpreted by the Rabbis of the tradition as being fulfilled through the wearing of tefillin, leather boxes which contain small scrolls containing texts of the Torah. They are worn by adult men (and in some congregations women as well), during daily prayer on days other than the Sabbath and holidays.|
| I am learning about Judaism through self-study and find much about it that is compelling. But, I also see on blogs (such as those accompanying articles in "The Jerusalem Post") that there is resistance to (and in some cases downright hostility to) converts, especially by those who are Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, and (less so)Conservatives. My question is, is there any hope whatsoever that Conservative American Jews might eventually welcome someone sincere about his or her conversion to Judaism? My religious upbringing was as a Protestant Christian. My interest in Judaism came about when I decided I wanted to learn about Judaism from Jewish theologians, scholars, and rabbis, rather than learning about it through a "Christian lens", if you will. And the more I learn, the more I am feeling drawn to the faith. How do you assess the atmosphere in your own congregation towards someone with my background who wishes to convert.
Many thanks, Rabbi, for your thoughts on this!
|Thank you for your question. There are a few issues here. First of all, Judaism is not a proseletyzing faith and many Rabbis follow the tradition which dictates that people should be sent away repeatedly when they ask about conversion. Only, according to this tradition, after 3 attempts should the prospective convert be taken seriously. Many Rabbis do not follow this and welcome any sincere interest in conversion immediately. What is important however is that once a person has converted to Judaism, they are considered a Jew, plain and simple, and there should be no resistance or exclusion. However, it should be noted that another issue finds its way into the situation here. Most Orthodox Rabbis will not accept non-Orthodox conversions because they feel that the Rabbis working with the prospective convert are not scrupulous enough about how they teach and what they expect from the individual. As a Conservative Rabbi, I find this troubling to say the least but they are entitled to their opinion and perspective. The bottom line though is this: if you are sincere about your interest in conversion, you will definitely find a Rabbi in your area who would welcome you and work with you and a community which would support you and embrace you as a full member of the community.|
| Are rabbis more lienent towards people with Jewish fathers who want to be recognized as Jews? Do they still have to study, answer challenging questions, and write an essay the same way those converting to Judaism from other faiths or no faith at all do?
|I can not speak for any other Rabbis as each Rabbi would approach this issue in his or her own way, but I will give you my personal perspective on the issue. If a person whose father is Jewish and whose Mother is not Jewish has been raised and educated as a Jew and, been considered a Jew in their synagogue and community came to me regarding conversion, I would structure the situation much differently than if a person came to me without that background. I would be willing to consider the process more "affirmation" than "conversion" and would not require all of the preparation time that would normally be the case. Each case, however, has to be dealt with individually as each situation is different. WHile Conservative Congregations and Rabbis do not recognize a "patrilineal descent" Jew as being a Jew regarding participation in the service, counting in a minyan etc., I respect that person's identity as a Jew and would make it as easy as possible for them to be considered a Jew from the halachic, Jewish legal perspective.|
| Should a person's first and second name be placed on a headstone?
|Different cemeteries might have different rules but it is proper to put one's entire Hebrew name on the headstone.|
| In a Kosher restaurant,would service be refused to a blind person with a seeing eye pig?
|What a great question! It is, in fact, a serious question. And, I am going to answer it. I can't speak for any particular restaurant or for the health regulations in any particular community but, in principle, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a pig entering a kosher restaurant. I admit it wouldn't be great advertising. But, two points here are important. Although pigs are speficially mentioned in the Torah as not being kosher, they are in the exact same categories as dogs and many, many other animals. Thus, a seeing eye dog and a seeing eye pig are both inappropriate to eat and one shouldn't make a difference between the two. The other point is that just because an animal is not fit to eat doesn't mean its very presence is a problem for Jews observing kashrut. Admittedly, they may not like the idea of a pig in the restaurant but that's an emotional issue. There is nothing in Jewish law which would prevent a person with a pig from entering a kosher restaurant and if that pig had been trained help a blind person, that is a very noble animal indeed. By the way, I should add that I am very proud of our dog, Benny the yellow lab, who is a therapy dog visiting one of local health care institutions. Animals are tremendous sources of comfort and love for people in all situations and a proof that God's creative wisdom takes many different forms. .|
| wHAT IS THE HAT CALLED WHAT THE jEWISH PEOPLE WAEAR
|The head covering is called either a kippah (Hebrew) or yarmulke (Yiddish)|
| What does the tallit symbolize?
|The Tallit or prayer shawl is largely important because of the fringes, the tzitzit which are found on all four corners. The wearing of tzitzit is the fulfillment of the commandment in the book of Numbers to put fringes on one's garments in order to remember the commandments. Many traditional Jews will wear tzitzit at all times on a specially designed garment worn usually under one's clothes with the tzitzit visible. Others will only wear the tzitzit during prayer in the form of the tallit. In addition to the fulfillment of the commandment concerning the fringes, the tallit provides the person the opportunity to wrap themselves in prayer and symbolically in God's presence.|
| how does conservative judaism view intermarriage and interdating?
|Conservative Rabbis will not officiate at an interfaith marriage. Conservative Judaism believes that marriage within the faith is crucial for the continuation of the Jewish community and, perhaps even more importantly in the individual case, for the stability of a marriage. But, I would make some comments here. First, it is absolutely true that many interfaith marriages have "worked" very well and many interfaith couples have been able to raise their children as Jews with a solid committment to Jewish life and the Jewish people. Secondly, it is undeniably true that the social situation in which Jews find themselves in America in this generation makes the decision to marry outside of the faith based on different dynamics than in previous generations. For so many reasons, committed Jews occasionally intermarry and some Jews who intermarry still want to be a part of the Jewish community. Therefore, we need to be very careful in walking a fine line: on the one hand, encouraging our children to marry within the faith and yet being accepting if the opposite decision is made in order to insure that the wisdom that Judaism can offer, the community that can bring support and meaning is available to all of those who want it no matter what their marital status. Different Rabbis (and parents as well) will find different ways to straddle this line. Some will be much more open to outreach to intermarried couples and interfaith families than others. This is the beauty of the pluralistic approach of Conservative Judaism. Each Rabbi would have to answer for him or herself. I, personally, believe we need to be encouraging to interfaith couples and families to find meaning in the Jewish community and we need to make ourselves available to them non-judgementally while still holding our halachic, Jewish legal positions concerning, for example, involvement of non-Jews in public Jewish ritual etc. This is a tough line to take but it is, I believe, essential, for our future. But, let me give one absolute statement. As disappointed as parents and other family members may be if there is an intermarriage, I believe that they do tremendous damage by rejecting or ostracizing their child or other relative who intermarries. It is a very dangerous and hurtful step to take. Needless to say, when a Jew has reached an age where marriage is a consideration he or she should only date Jews if marrying a Jew is a priority for them. This is critical and I would urge Jews of college age and beyond to be careful in this regard. For teenagers, I would leave that decision to individual parents.|
| why does jewish people dont eat pork
|Traditional Jews observe the system of kashrut: dietary laws based on the laws of the Torah and Rabbinic interpretation. In the case of pork, the pig is one of a whole list of animals mentioned in the Torah as being not fit to be eaten. Kosher animals are those with split hooves and which chew their cud. In addition, there are Rabbinic traditions about how animals must be slaughtered in order to be kosher.|
| do jewish people drink alcholol
|There is no prohibition in Jewish tradition or law against the drinking of alcohol. It is customary to say the blessing announcing the holiness of the Sabbath or holiday over wine. Naturally, Jewish tradition would prohibit drinking to an excess or irresponsibly.|
| Is it permitted for non jews to attend a seder
|The answer is most definitely yes. Many people invite those who are not Jewish to their seders if they think they would be interested or because they are family or they feel that they are like family and want them to join in what is a family ritual. No one should be excluded from a Seder. There is a verse in the Torah which prohibited the "stranger" from eating the Passover sacrifice and, on that basis, some say it isn't appropriate to have non-Jews at the Seder. But, we are so far removed from Temple times and from the issues they faced. This is the holiest night of the year in the Jewish home in many ways and the most important night for our people and to share it with others who are part of our lives or who want to learn is a tremendous opportunity.|
| Did you ever think that in the case of intermarriage, to only recognize the children who's mothers are Jewish a Jews could possibly be hurtful to kids who only have Jewish fathers? Why should it matter which parent is Jewish to be considered Jewish anyway?
|Thank you for an important question. There is no doubt that the traditional position holding that "Jewishness" is determined by matrilineal descent does exclude some people, children and adults, who feel that they are every bit the Jew as one whose mother was Jewish and this seems grossly unfair when a father, and in many cases, the non-Jewish mother as well, raises the child as a Jew only to find out that he or she is not accepted by the traditional community. My heart goes out to people in that situation. Let me try though to make some points clear. First, this is not something that has been invented in the recent past. From the earliest times of Rabbinic Judaism, matrilineal descent was the standard. Just because it is traditional doesn't make it right but tradition, in areas such as Jewish identity, is critical in order to retain a sense of unity among the Jewish people. While some approaches to Judaism have changed this standard, the Conservative movement continues to believe that we must hold on to this tradition. Secondly, it needs to be remembered that this tradition is hardly a secret. If one desires their child to be raised as a Jew and have that identity accepted in Conservative Synagogues, one must only have their child immerse in the mikvah, the ritual bath, and that, along with the bris in the case of a boy, identifies the child as a Jew. This ceremony can be done at any age and can be done not as "conversion" but as "affirmation", approached as a positive ceremony confirming one's Jewishness. Note that I have used the word "Jewishness' which is admittedly a clumsy word. However, it is the only word I can actually find to convey the situation properly. A person whose father is Jewish can consider him or herself a Jew and they are welcome to feel that way. On a personal level, I would respect them and would certainly include them in the general sense of the Jewish community but would not consider them Jewish according to Jewish law for ritual or other purposes. And, that is the final point that has to be made. Judaism is a faith based upon Jewish Law, to one degree or another, depending on your own personal approach. Jewish law draws lines and when you draw lines, you no doubt hurt the person who falls outside the line. That is regrettable but it is inevitable. In my own congregation, I do everything I can to help an individual in the position that you ask about, to support them, encourage them and help them should they desire to go through the ritual which would affirm their "Jewishness" but that does not mean that we should change the law, only act with sensitivity and concern for those whom it negatively affects.|
| is it wrong for non jewish people to eat pork infront of jewish people?
|Actually, no it is not wrong. A Jew who keeps kosher should not be "tempted" by the pork and there is no need for a person who is not Jewish to consider themselves obligated to the Jewish dietary laws. I imagine there might be some circumstances where it might be inconsiderate (such as saying: "I wish you could eat this, it's so good") but under the vast majority of circumstances, a Jew would not be bothered by someone who is not Jewish eating pork.|
| I am 15. I am not Jewish but have many Jewish friends. I am very attracted to the religion. I understand that I can not convert at this time because of my age and that is totally fine. Can I still be as Jewish as possible, like think and believe Jewishly, not believe in Jesus and not go to church and go to temple. I am just so attracted to the faith. Would I be welcome to go to the local temple whenever I wanted to even though I am not a Jew?
|Dear Becky: Thank you for your question. I think that this is something that you need to discuss with your parents because it is important to respect them and their view of religion. Anyone is welcome to come to a synagogue but it would be right to speak to the Rabbi or someone else at the synagogue if you planned to come often so that they could answer any questions you might have. It is also important to read about Judaism in order to learn more. However, from the perspective of Jewish tradition, each religion, as long as it believes in morality and justice is valid so please continue to try to understand your own faith better and see if you can find meaning in it. If you can't as you get older, you can certainly talk to a Rabbi about conversion. I hope this answers your question.|
| What is a chuppah and what does it symbolise?
|The huppah is the canopy which the bride and groom stand under during the wedding ceremony. It symbolizes the home which the couple is building. The tradition is that the huppah is open on all sides to show that the home should be open to everyone.|
| why do jewish people put stones on top of graves?
|There are many answers given to this question. Some are superstitious, others more practical. My favorite answer is that we put stones on the graves to let those who visit know that others have been to visit the grave before us. It is a way of telling people that the person they remember is, in fact, remembered by others as well. This is a great source of comfort for those who remember a loved one.|
| Recently, the Commitee on Jewish Laws and Standards met to contemplate and take action on the status of LGBT members within the Conservative movement. They arrived at a pluralistic approach to the issues of commitment ceramonies and ordination, leaving the final decision to rest on each congregation and their Rabbi. In addition to this, I undestand that one other contentious issue was determining what specific sexual acts were to remain expressly forbidden and what may now be permitted. Can you elaborate where the movement now stands halachically on this? Is this something which will be determined by individual Rabbis? And if so, what is your personal halachic opinion, Rabbi Dobrusin? What are your interperations of the Biblical precepts, and if your opinion is different from that of the Laws and Standards Commitee, what is your rationale? I am aware that you have been a strong advocate for the rights and dignity of LGBT Jews, and I would like to thank you for your support, and for your answer to this most difficult series of questions!
|These are very difficult questions but I will try to answer them as completely as possible. Firstly, it is important to note that the Conservative Movement does have a pluralistic approach as you indicate. The committee on Law and Standards votes to approve or reject teshuvot, responsa, papers as it were, which delineate a specific answer to a specific legal (halachic) question. Often, papers with differing views are accepted as within the legal parameters of the Conservative movement. This is because a paper does not have to have a majority vote in order to be approved. In the recent debates, three papers were approved. One accepts the concept of gay and lesbian Jews being ordained as Rabbis and gives Rabbis the permission to conduct commitment ceremonies. The others take a different view. While welcoming gay and lesbian Jews to our congregations, they consider that the Biblical prohibition against male homosexual acts and the accompanying Rabbinic extension to include lesbian acts must be understood more literally and extensively and view any such acts as being outside of Jewish law. Thus, the ordination of gay and lesbian Rabbis would be inappropriate and Rabbis could not conduct commitment ceremonies or sanction any such relationship. In the paper which permitted gay and lesbian ordination and commitment ceremonies, the authors took a position which held that the verse in the Torah specifically refers to male homosexual intercourse and said that the prohibition against that must stand even as male homosexual relationships would be permitted. Another paper which failed to pass rejected completely the limitation on homosexual intercourse claiming that it was time to realize that given what we known about homosexuality today and given the changing times, the verse should be considered inoperative today. Some have interpreted the verse in Leviticus to refer only to non-consensual sexual relations, therefore putting today's monogamous, mutually consensual relations within permitted grounds. Others simply want to consider the verse non operative today. While some might be surprised that a verse in the Torah could be overturned, there are many examples where Rabbis, throughout the ages, decided that a prohibition or a permission in the Torah can not apply given changing times. Right now, here is where the movement stands: the Rabbinical Schools of the Conservative Movement will each make a decision on whether and when to admit gay and lesbian Jews. It is said that the University of Judaism's Rabbinical School in California will begin immediately to do so. The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York will begin considering shortly how to proceed as will other Conservative schools in Israel and South America. In addition, Rabbis now have the right to perform Committment ceremonies if they wish. I believe that the decision of the Committee is very positive. I believe that if a Rabbi feels it is inappropriate to perform a Committment ceremony or knows that his or her community will not support it, that Rabbi needs to know that there is support for that position formally within the movement. However, I belive the majority of Rabbis, or at least a large number will now feel more comfortable doing commitment ceremonies since it is formally approved as within the parameters of the movement. I have never officiated at a committment ceremony because it was outside of the parameters of the movement's view of Jewish law. Now, I am fully willing to officiating at a committment ceremony provided that I am comfortable with the situation (as would be the case when considering to officiate at a marriage ceremony). Elsewhere on our website, you will see my sermon on the issue which I gave a few months ago. I am very happy that the movement has taken this step. Personally, I would have preferred to see the paper which allowed all acts of mutually consensual, monogamous, commitment based homosexual acts permitted. I do think that the restriction does present a problem for some. However, this, like any other sexual matter, ultimately is a private, personal matter and while Rabbis can advise, I don't believe that it is my place to insist that couples agree to this restriction before I will recognize their relationship. I hope that this helps you understand the issue more clearly.|
| how many candels do you light?
|Hanukkah lasts for 8 days. Each evening, the hanukkiah or menora is lit in the home. On the first night, one candle is lit. On the second day two with one added each additional night. The candles are lit using what is called the shamash, the "helper candle" which lights the others. It is important to note that not everyone lights candles. Many people use an oil menora in which a wick is submerged into a small pot of oil and the wick is then lit. In some families, each individual has their own menora, in others, one is lit for the entire family.|
| Would you put an advertisment for a ham (or any other unkosher food) company in your synagoges bulletin? Why/why not?
|This is really a great question and I appreciate your asking it. We would put an advertisement in our bulletin for restaurants or other food establishments that sell non kosher food if they also served food which, under the guidelines of the Conservative movement and the dominant attitude in the community were acceptable in terms of kashrut, whether that was a cold salad, broiled fish, vegetarian soups or whatever it might be. If a company were known for selling ham, lobster or anything else to the extent that it was in their name and it was what they were generally known for, we might not put it in the bulletin even if they sold something that was kosher (even ham companies might sell bottled water in their stores) because of what is called marit ayin, "the appearance of the eye", namely it might look like we were encouraging the eating of ham or lobster or something else. This is a very interesting question and one which shows a very perceptive understanding of how difficult it is to make decisions concerning Jewish law for synagogues or just for any Jew. You have obviously learned well at your synagogue and your Rabbi is obviously a fine teacher.|
| CAN A BABY BAOY WHO IS BORN TO A NON JEWISH MOTHER AND JEWISH FATHER HAVE A BRIS
|I am going to answer this question from the perspective of a Conservative Rabbi. You may get a different answer from a Rabbi of a different approach to Judaism. The answer the question is yes, assuming that the parents have made the decision to raise the child as a Jew. Since part of the conversion process for a male child (or an adult male) is brit milah, ritual circumcision, the baby should have a bris. This would be a "brit lishem gerut", a bris for the sake of conversion. The conversion would then be completed by bringing the child to the mikvah, the ritual bath, for immersion, at a later time. The bris would be the same as in any other circumstance except that it can not be done on the 8th day if that day is Shabbat or a holiday since, unlike a situation where there is no conversion involved, there is no requirement that it be done on the 8th day. You should contact a local mohel and ask about all of these details.|
| Why do jewish people, put stones on top of a headstone of their relatives? Is there a special reason for doing this?
|There are many reasons given for this, some superstitious, some metaphorical. My favorite explanation was taught to be by my grandmother, may her memory be blessed. When seeing stones on a headstone of a relative, she would say: "Oh look, someone else remembered Max" It is a great comfort for us to know that others have visited the graves of a loved ones or for others to know that a particular individual has been remembered by his or her family. The stones are a visible record of a cemetery visit.|
| What is mean by 'prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies' in Psalm 23:5
|I appreciate this question primarily because it gives me the opportunity to recommend a book which I love. Rabbi Harold Kushner has written a book entitled: "The Lord is My Shepherd Healing Wisdom from the Twenty third psalm". I recommend this book to everyone, especially those who have always loved this psalm. Rabbi Kushner analyzes every phrase from the psalm and finds in each of them relevance and inspiration for our lives. To me, this line in the psalms means that faith in God enables us to go on with our lives even in the face of the enemies we face, whether those enemies be people or situations. When, for example, we face a serious illness, this line in the Psalm encourages us to continue to feel confident in God's protection, confident enough to do the things we have to do in our battle against that illness. The entire psalm is a prayer to God to continue to help us face the dangers that we face and to do so with confidence and faith.|
| What are the basic beliefs of conservative judaism? (as opposed to the other sects of judaism)
|Conservative Judaism encompasses many different specific approaches to the major questions regarding Jewish philosophy and practice. The unifying principle is that Jewish law, mitzvot, commandments and halacha, Jewish legal practice as it has been defined over the centuries are an obligation for each Jew to follow. However, unlike most Orthodox approaches to Jewish law, Conservative Judaism believes that it is the obligation of each generation to continue the process of interpretation and adaptation of the law to be more appropriate to the times in which we live. Of course, tradition has a great hold on us but we must investigate specific legal and ritual traditions and understand that they developed out of specific circumstances: sociological, communal, ethical realities and that we, in our generation, are equally able to shape the law to respond to the situations in which we live. In addition to this principle, Conservative Judaism is based upon a committment to serious study of the texts of our tradition in both an academic and a spiritual manner and endorses pluralism both within and beyond our movement, recognizing that different Jews have different ways of relating to the tradition. Conservative services tend to be traditional as opposed to non-traditional as would be seen in Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, but men and women sit together as opposed to Orthodox services and in most Conservative Congregations, women participate equally with men in leading the services. There are, of course, other principles of Conservative Judaism including support of Jews throughout the world, support for the State of Israel (although Conservative Jews are encouraged to express their personal political beliefs concerning and Israel and to work for peace and justice in the Middle East and throughout the world) and support for tzedakah, charity institutions throughout the Jewish and general communities.|
| WHat does the groom smashing a glass symbolise?
|The Talmud tells a story about a Rabbi who smashed an expensive goblet during a wedding party in which he felt the guests were getting too raucous with joy. The sound was supposed to remind them of the destruction of Jerusalem and that we should temper our joy for that reason. This is the origin of the breaking of the glass, in memory of the destruction of the Temple, we break the glass at the moment of "our chiefest joy" according to the words of the Psalm, to remember Jerusalem. However, there is also another interpretive tradition which says that the breaking of the glass reminds us of the fragility of life and the care which we must take to preserve the joy in our lives. Either way, it is interesting that people immediately greet the sound of the glass (or the sight of the groom breaking it if it can not be heard) with cheers of Mazal Tov (Congratulations!). Actually, the sound is supposed to be sobering and thought provoking but because it usually ends the wedding ceremony, it has become a more celebratory moment which really robs it of its original meaning.|
| what is the significant connection between Sukkot and Chanukah?
|This is a fascinating question as there is a strong connection between Sukkot and Chanukah. According to the book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha (Books which are considered important in Jewish tradition but not part of the Tanach), the Maccabees, upon entering the Temple, cleaned it up and then celebrated a festival. Since they had not been able to celebrate Sukkot during their military campaign, they instead celebrated it two months later, instituting an 8 day celebration similar to the 8 day celebration of Sukkot (including Shmini Atzeret, the additional day at the end). This is critical because the well known story of the oil burning for 8 days is not part of the account in the apocrypha (it is a Talmudic story from a later time) and therefore the celebration of Sukkot is the only reason given in the Maccabees for marking the celebration of Hanukkah as 8 days. In addition to this aspect, it is also noteworthy that the dedication of the Temples took place during the Sukkot season and the word Hanukkah means dedciation of a building. Thus, there is a strong connection between the two holidays.|
| what are latkes
|Latkes are one of the traditional foods eaten during Hanukkah. Since the story of Hanukkah revolves around oil, foods cooked in oil were always popular. Latkes are potato pancakes fried in oil.|
| My father will soon celebrate his 90th birthday. Is it proper to recite the sheheyanu at his birthday party?
|I don;t see any reason why not. There are some who are cautious with saying the sheheyanu because it is traditional not to say a blessing when one really isn't called for and, some might argue, this is not one of the traditional times when one would say it. But, I believe it is entirely appropriate to say the sheheyanu for every meaningful experience in our lives. The sheheyanu for those who do not know is a blessing which acknoweldges that God has given us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach a particular moment in time.|
| My question may seem odd but is it possible to be observant and Conservative. I have noticed that most Conservative Jews are far from what a Conservative Jew should be. Therefore is it worth staying in a movement in which the people do not adhere to its principles?
|This is not an odd question. In fact, it is a question which occurs to many people. Let me give you two ways to look at the issue. The first is by asking yourself: "What does being observant mean?" Even though the Conservative movement is based upon obligation to halacha, it is fair to say that even the most observant Conservative Jew may appear on the surface to be less observant than Orthodox Jews. Even Conservative Jews who are scrupulous about every area of Jewish law according to the parameters of the movement will act in certain ways in areas which Orthodox Jews may not- one simple example being praying in a synagogue without a mehitza or with mixed seating although there are many other examples. It is important of course to distinguish minhag (custom) from halacha (law) and the differences in "observance" sometimes boils down to customs observed in Orthodoxy, sometimes to distance people from violating the halacha. But, even given that distinction, there are clearly differences in what constitutes observance. So, yes without question a Conservative Jew can and should be observant but the criteria might be somewhat different. A second point would be to consider the issue of community. It is difficult to be an observant Jew if you are the only such Jew in a particular community. It is important to find a group of people with whom you are comfortable. Unfortunately, for many Jews who find themselves more attracted to Conservative Judaism philosophically, it is impossible to find such a community and therefore they drift into Orthodoxy. THere is, of course, nothing wrong with being a member of an Orthodox community unless you are uncomfortable iwht the philosophical approach. In that case, people are unhappy. So, the answer is to seek out a conservative community and they do very much exist where people are at your level (or even slightly higher, it's good to be challenged) of observance. Bottom line: if you believe in Conservative Judaism's principles, don't give up, search within your synagogue for a community of people who think and act like you do. Of course, it is important to point out that the Conservative movement itself is changing with the times, perhaps too fast for some, perhaps too slow for others, but is still standing by its commitment to halacha.|
| why can sephardi jews eat rice during pesach and ashkenazis not
|Long story here but I'll try to simplify it at the risk of being too superficial. There is a principle in Jewish law referred to as marit ayin, the way something appears. The way an act appears is to be taken into consideration even if it is permitted. Simple example: it would not be appropriate to take a kosher corned beef sandwich out of a bag inside a non kosher delicatessen and stand there eating it. The assumption from someone who knows you keep kosher would be that you bought the sandwich there. Or, to use a Talmudic example, if you are going to drink coconut milk (which doesn't really look like milk but use your imagination) with a meat sandwich, you have to have the coconut in front of you so that anyone who sees you knows you are not drinking milk with meat. What does this have to do with rice? While hametz (leavened food) only applies to certain grains and rice is not one of them, Ashkenazi Jews felt that a flour made out of rice and allowed to rise looked enough like hametz flour to make it prohibited on Pesach from the principle of marit ayin and also because it might lead one to eat prohibited hametz out of the habit from eating the rice flour. Sefardi Rabbis had no such concern in the Middle Ages and none today. So, rice is permitted in Sefardi tradition. What should a contemporary person do? The easy answer is that if you're ashkenazi you shouldn't eat rice. Although many vegetarians especially are now adopting the custom of eating rice and the beans which fit into this category as well (not all do!) in order to supplement their diet over the holiday. You should talk more with a RAbbi about this issue.|
| I have a friend who grew up in Ann Arbor and has the strangest notions about Judaism I have ever encountered!
He claims that Jews beleive in giant sea monsters, that angel mate with humans producing dngerous halfbreeds and that the commandments issue from winged celestial beasts. My friend claims to have learned of these and countless other bizzare beleifs as a child growing up with religious schooling as a member of YOUR congregation in Ann Arbor! Is she pulling my leg?
|My first reaction when I saw this question was to dismiss the idea immediately but then I thought it about some more and there is an important point to be made here. There are many mystical and mythological views about Judaism that have developed in Judaism over the centuries and I would not rule out the possibility that a teacher at some point told their class the legend about the Leviathan, the ancient sea monster whom God destroyed in order to eliminate chaos from the world and begin the process of creation or the interpretation of a very odd and difficult text in Genesis which refers to creations which were part "angel" and part human beings. But, these are not by any means literal beliefs with in Judaism. They are metaphors, legends which were used to either explain difficult texts in the Torah or to try to put into some literal terms ideas which are very difficult to understand. My own approach to Judaism and the general approach of the teaching that we do is much more rational than to take stories of this kind as serious elements of our faith but there are those whose approach to Judaism is more mystical. One way or the other, these are not foundations of Jewish belief but stories of the kind you mention can be found in Jewish folklore as ways of interpreting texts. I believe that any such stories were not meant to be believed literally and the vast majority of Jews and approaches to Judaism look at ideas you mention as curiosities, not as stories which have impact on our faith.|
| I am going to my best friends Bat Mitzvah.But I don't know some of the jewish customs, such as if I have to wear my hair up, or what I should get her.Can you help me? Thanks.
|It's nice of you to ask. Each synagogue is a bit different but usually how you wear your hair is not an issue. You should dress nicely (not really fancy, just nicely) and be ready to follow whatever directions the people in the synagogue tell you to do (where you can sit etc.) if they give you any instructions but mostly, just sit where you're comfortable and try to be as quiet as possible during the service. For gifts, I think the best thing is to think of something your friend likes and get her a gift card- doesn't have to be a lot of money, just symbolic. Hope this helps!|
| do you bring gifts to bris
|It is perfectly acceptable to bring baby girts to a bris. It is not necessary of course and some would prefer to make a donation to tzedaka (charity) instead of bringing a gift or to bring or send something later but it is perfectly fine to bring a gift.|
| what is the jewish viewpoint on ivf
|The conservative movement approves of the use of In Vitro Fertilization. There are specific guidelines for the procedure from the perspective of Jewish law (including that it not be used for the purpose of gender selection). Please contact a Rabbi in your community for more specific information.|
| Thank you for taking time out of your life to answer questions.
I recently read Rabbi Kushner's book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I understand his logic on free will and how prayer shouldn't be about asking for things like God is Santa. He mentions that he prays for patience, wisdom, and understanding before he counsels his patients. My question is how can you distinguish from the two types of prayers? You are still asking for something whether it is pious or selfish. If Kushner is not "asking" but praying that he will be patient and understanding then doesn't prayer become meditation?
|Dear Nicholas: You ask a very interesting question and I wouldn't presume to answer for Rabbi Kushner but I'll give you my take on it. From my perspective, there are two differences in the prayers. First of all, when we ask for wisdom and patience etc., we are asking for things that already are within our control but that we do not always use to the greatest advantage. We are asking God to help us use the abilities which we already have and to help us to allow ourselves to make the best decision possible or handle a situation in the best way possible. Thus, while it is a petition, it is not asking for something that we do not already have. Secondly, they are different in that asking God to heal someone crosses a line into asking God to intervene physically in our lives. We are all entitled to ask for such intervention and we are free to believe that it is possible or to interpret events that happen as proof of God's intervention. But, when we step back and think about that theologically, many questions arise, the most important being: What happens when prayer doesn't work? Are we to assume that no one in, say, a plane about to crash, was able to say words exactly the right way or was, in some way, worthy of God's saving them? These are terribly difficult questions and the questions shouldn't stop us from pouring out our hearts to God but what Kushner was doing here was stepping back and looking in retrospect at the situation involving his son and other tragedies and trying to come up with a reassuring but honest answer to his questions. You ask if prayer is only meditation. In Jewish tradition, the word to pray in Hebrew is a reflexive verb meaning; to evaluate oneself. Much of prayer in Jewish tradition, while directed to God, is a self-reflective act. I hope this helps with your questions.|
| Is a boy jewish without a circumcision
|Brit Milah, ritual circumcision, is a commandment, an obligation for a Jewish male. It is traditionally done at 8 days if the health of the baby permits. If a brit milah has not been done, it remains the obligation of the boy/man to have the ceremony performed at some point during his life. Not having the ceremony done does not affect the definition of the man as a Jew but it remains a responsibility he must fulfill. Technically, a man who is born a Jew but is not circumcised could participate in public ritual but in certain cases, Rabbis might decide that the circumcision must be done before some life cycle event (bar mitzvah,wedding) can be conducted. A man who desires to convert to Judaism must have brit milah, or, if he is already circumcised, the ceremony known as hatafat dam brit, a symbolic circumcision ceremony.|
| I am trying to be Shommer Shabbat and Conservative at the same time but it is proving to be a hard battle to fight. There is no Conservative community that would make it easier and more comfortable to be Shommer Shabbat. How can one be Shommer Shabbat, Conservative in a place like Ann Arbor?
|This is a question which has plagued the Conservative movement for a long time and needs to be addressed. Let me offer a few ideas based upon what is happening here in Ann Arbor: First, there is no question that it is easier to be shomayr shabbat if you have a community of people around you who are making similar commitments and having a small group is nice in some ways, it can be quite confining. Having a shomayr Shabbat group within a community is, in some ways, a matter of momentum and sometimes that momentum is measured in small ways: people begin walking rather than driving to shul, people stay longer around the synagogue after Shabbat kiddush, people gather together for Friday evening meals. That momentum then tends to build. So, keep at it and hopefully the group will grow. And, it might be that you have to compromise a bit at first. I do not believe that it is halachically correct to drive on Shabbat other than to shul or in emergencies. But, perhaps in the process of building a shomer Shabbat community, driving to someone else's house for a Shabbat lunch and an opportunity to sing, study or have kids play Shabbat appropriate games with each other might be a legitimate decision to make while in the process of building the community. It may seem self-defeating to have to break one of the Shabbat laws to enhance Shabbat observance but, at least in the short run, it might make sense. It can be frustrating no doubt but a feeling that you (or your family) is in this alone will, in the long run, be impossible to overcome. The beauty of smaller communities like Ann Arbor is in the depth of the relationships formed by those who are serious about Judaism and Jewish observance even if some compromise is necessary. But, of course, the eventual long term answer to the question is for Rabbis and educators to keep teaching and keep impressing on people the importance of halachic observance.|
| Is it true that the reason that traditional Judaism only recognizes Jewishness as being passed through the mothers because for years it was only known who the mother was for giving birth to the child? What about this day in age when they can do DNA testing to prove who a child's father is? Why can't traditional Jews just require a paternity test if the father is the Jewish parent? I hope this question doesn't sound dumb, but I was just curious.
|This is a fascinating question. While it seems clear that one possible reason for "matrilineal" descent is the certainty of the identity of the mother, there is to my knowledge no absolute statement in Jewish law that this is the only or major reason for the tradition. We can surmise that it has a big part in it but it will remain somewhat of a question. But, even if we were to have proof that this is the reason, that would also not necessarily call for a change in law even given DNA testing. There is a debate among Rabbis as to whether finding the reason for a particular commandment or tradition is a valuable or even positive exercise. One reason that some say no is the concern that if the reason for a tradition is cancelled out, the law would be cancelled out. An example of this: if the only reason that we say that animals should be slaughtered according to traditional rules of kosher slaughtering is that it causes less pain for the animal, what if a different way, causing even less pain were found? So, Rabbis are prone to give multiple reasons for laws or even for refusing to enter into the discussion so as not to endanger the traditional practices. There are times where there is an overwhelming reason to make a change and some think that that is the case in the issue you raise. I think the debate about patrilineal or matrileneal descent is a valid discussion to have. In the interest of tradition and keeping unity among the general community of Israel (k'lal Yisrael), our Conservative movement has not changed the matrilineal position as others have. The point you make is an interesting one and could be part of a general discussion on the change of the law but, from my perspective, even if it could be proven that this is a reason for the original law, it would not be cause to change the law.|
| I was wondering, are there set rules for becoming a Rabbi? Like a certain age or do you have to be married and have children? I am obviously not Jewish , but I am always interested in learning about all religions.
|The rules for becoming a Rabbi have to do with the learning involved. Once one has appropriately learned and been recognized by a Rabbinical school or a group of Rabbis as having fulfilled the requirements of learning, one can be given the title of Rabbi. Rabbis certainly can marry and have children and most do but there are no requirements that a Rabbi be married of have children.|
| Dear Rabbi,
Iím having a Reform Jewish baby naming for our daughter. Is it ok not to take the exact Hebrew name of the person that you are naming your daughter after? My wife and I named our daughter using the first English initial to give her an English name after my grandmother (Allison named after Anne) and would be looking to create her Hebrew name to describe my grandmother rather than taking her exact Hebrew name.
Thanks for your help,
|In general, there is some flexibility in naming a child after a relative as long as the child knows for whom he or she is named. However, I would defer to your Rabbi's opinion on this issue.|
| Why don't Jews believe in cremation? Thanks.
|This is a very important question. Most Rabbis oppose cremation on several grounds. First, there is a dominant Jewish tradition that the body not be damaged in any way prior to burial. This is considered respect for the deceased. Of course, if an autopsy is required by law or seems prudent for other reasons or if the individual has indicated that he or she desires his or her organs to be taken for transplantation (which I believe is not only appropriate but could be considered a mitzva, a commandment, in that it can save a life), some damage is necessary. However, this is different from the decision to cremate. Secondly, the process of burial assumes a slow decomposition which returns the body to the dust of the earth in a natural way. Finally, given the experience of our people during the holocaust in which millions were killed and their bodies brought to the cremetoria, thus denying them even the honor of a traditional burial, it seems an affront to their memory not to engage in the traditional burial process involving purification, shrouds, and burial in the ground. I understand why some prefer the idea of cremation. Often, there are reasonable concerns. But, from the perspective of Jewish tradition, I believe that cremation in the vast majority of situations is inconsistent with our ideals and our beliefs.|
| If one believed and practiced the laws of Judaism, including the belief of "No other gods before me," would it be acceptable to engage in practices which traditionally belong to other religions, but as a *cultural* activity?
I am talking about things like a Christmas tree, like lighting incense in Buddhism, or like fasting on Ramadan.
If one did not hold the beliefs, could one do these practices as a cultural, not religious, experience? Or would that define one's life as *not* a Jewish life?
|There is no question that active, personal participation in the rituals of another religious faith is contrary to Jewish tradition and law and should not be done. That doesn't mean one can not go to another religious service as an observer or out of respect but active participation is not consistent with Jewish tradition. However, you bring up areas which might not be considered religious: Christmas trees, incense, fasting etc. Each case is different and each needs to be considered separately. I believe that a Jew should not own a Christmas tree or have one in his or her home. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that there is some religious symbolism in a Christmas tree, it is such a prominent statement of cultural connection with the holiday, that it would be inappropriate. Can Jews enjoy looking at Christmas trees? Sure. Can they help their neighbors decorate their trees? Absolutely (Invite your neighbor to help decorate your sukkah in return). But, a Jew should not have a Christmas tree in his or her home. Lighting incense in a Buddhist ceremony, likewise, seems to me to be inappropriate. Incense in one's home is fine. And, I assume, there are some situations in which it might be a more universal statement of faith but when done in the context of a Buddhist ritual, I think it is inappropriate for a Jew to be involved. One can fast any time one wants in Jewish tradition (except on happy holidays) and if it brings spiritual meaning, I can see why one would do it. However, to fast for a day in solidarity with or in compassion towards Moslems may be fine but to engage in a month of fasting and participate in the Ramadan rituals is not appropriate in my opinion. This is not to say at all that we shouldn't learn about, visit and respect other faiths. This is essential in our society and in our world. But, there is a difference between respect and participation.|
| my son is Jewish and his wife is Protestant. They are having a baby next month and want the child to be Jewish. They are having the baby circumsised at birth at the hospital with no Briss. They do, however, want the child to be Jewish and Bar Mitzvahed. My son is Reformed. Do they have to actually convert the baby as in the conservative and orthodox denominations? I was told that in the Reformed denomination as long as one of the parents is Jewish the child is considered Jewish. If he or she married someone who was conversative they would have to take a little blood from the man's penis to be considered a Jewish person. I am conservative and no nothing about the rules of Reformed Judaism. Please answer this as soon as possible. Thank you. sandi
|This is a very serious question and one which I would ask you to discuss your son's Reform Rabbi. I have opinions on the issue and the Conservative movement would view the legal question in a particular way but I think that the Reform Rabbi should answer the question. If you would like to discuss this more from the perspective of conservative judaism, please send me an email with your email address and I can continue the discussion privately.|
| why dont jewish people eat pork?
|Traditional Jews observe a set of dietary laws called kashrut ("Keeping kosher"). Most of these laws are either specifically mentioned in the Torah or derive from verse in the Torah. The Torah specifically prohibits the eating of animals which do not chew their cud and have split hooves and mentions the pig among many animals which are not to be eaten. Only fish with fins and scales can be eaten and birds of prey are not to be eaten. Traditional Jews observe these laws and many others today.|
| what is the cap, the jewish men wear, called?
|The cap is called a kippah in Hebrew or a yarmulke in Yiddish. It is worn by men, and many women, as a sign of respect to God during prayer and study. Often it is worn as well while eating and some wear a kippah at all times while awake.|
| why don't jewish people eat pork
|According to the Torah, the only animals which can be eaten are those with certain characteristics. Only animals with cloven hooves and which chew their cud are considered kosher. The pig does not fall into this category. For fish, the distinguishing characteristics that make a fish kosher are fins and scales.|
| Is a boy jewish without a circumcision
|The answer is yes but. Not having a ritual circumcision or any circumcision for that matter does not remove the Jewish status of a child who would otherwise be Jewish (born of a Jewish mother). However, it is a commandment which the child must fulfill at some time during his life and in certain situations, Rabbis might decide that failure to circumcise a child through brit milah excludes one from the community in specific ways.|
| I write a monthly column for a Yiddish
website named "GantsehMegillah.com." My
next column deals with Jewish women who
conceive a child via IVF. My question:
If the eggs were donated by a non-Jewish
woman, is the child considered Jewish or
will be conversion be necessary? I think
I read somewhere that "if the child is
born from a Jewish womb, it is considered
Can you please answer this question?
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
author, "Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?
|According to the Conservative movement, babies born through this procedure are considered to be Jewish as the "birth mother" is the one who carries the child through pregnancy and gives birth to the child.|
| What does the huppah symbolize?
|The huppah, the canopy used during the Jewish wedding ceremony, is symbolic of the Jewish home the couple is building. It is open on all sides to show that we should our homes should always be open to guests. It is covered to symbolize God's presence. I believe that the presence of the huppah offers an interesting contrast. While it is open on all sides for the reason above, the presence of a structure symbolizing a home hints as well at the intimacy of the marriage relationship. While our homes are open to others, they also protect us and allow us the privacy to develop the relationship which is appropriate for each couple. Thus, the huppah sends both a message of openness and privacy.|
| what do people eat for a hanukkah celebration
|In general, there are two widespread customs of special foods for Hanukkah. Each are foods which are fried in oil to remember the "miracle of the oil" which is part of the Hanukkah story. The two foods are potato latkes, pancakes, and sufganiot, jelly filled doughnuts. But, Jews throughout the world have many other customs of special foods. These are the two most popular.|
| why do jews kiss the mezuzah
|The Mezuza is a small box on the right side of the doorway entering into a house or a room which contains sections from the Torah. It is the fulfillment of the commandment to inscribe the words of the Torah on your doorposts. Kissing the mezuza is done for different reasons. Some do so to express their love of Torah and the tradition. Others do it to make sure that they have concentrated on the principles of Torah and ethical living before leaving or entering their house. Kissing the mezuza is a custom while having it on the doorpost is a law. As with any custom there are many different reasons for doing it.|
| What are Jewish beleifs about death?
|It is impossible to answer this question sufficiently in this format. There are many books on the subject and I urge you to look into them. Briefly, Jews believe that death must be approached realistically and wisely. It is an end to life and therefore is a time for sadness. While many approaches to Judaism believe in an afterlife, the anticipation of what might lie ahead is not used as a reason for minimizing the sadness surrounding death. At death, all are equal. Therefore, Jewish funeral customs call for modesty and simplicity in all ways. Funerals are done as soon as possible following a death and it is considered a commandment to attend to the burial needs of family members and for other community members to support those in mourning through appropriate mourning rituals, including shiva, the seven day mourning period following the burial.|
| why do we light chanukah candels for 8 days if the miracle was really 7 days
|This is actually a very interesting question which commentators have discussed for many centuries. On one level, it is not an important question because the lighting of the menora for 8 days has its origin in the story in the Book of Maccabees in which the Maccabees celebrated Sukkot, the harvest holiday, which they had missed because of the fighting, once they arrived in the Temple. The story of the oil in the menora is either a secondary tradition or one which developed in order to focus the story on Divine salvation rather than the military victory. But, be that as it may, the question is still interesting. It is based on the fact that there was enough oil for one day, thus only 7 days constitute a miracle. So, why would we light the candles for 8 days indicating there was a miracle all 8 of those days. One idea is that the 8th candle is for the military victory, the other 7 for the miracle of the oil. Another is that the Maccabees, upon entering the Temple and finding the oil, divided the oil into 8 cups, lighting one eighth of the oil each day and thereby teaching us the lesson that even a Divine miracle needs the assistance of human beings to set up a situation in which God can act: through our bravery, our faith or our commitments to tikkun olam, perfecting the world. Thank you for an interesting question.|
| Do you have to be a certain age to meet with a rabbi to talk about conversion? Do you need parental consent to make an appoitment with a rabbi about it? -Ari
|Each Rabbi will answer this question differently. My own personal approach is that I will talk with anyone, of any age, who has an interest in Judaism. However, I will not actively work with someone for conversion until a person is, in my mind, old enough and mature enough to make a personal decision on their own. With regard to someone under 18, I believe I have an obligation to the parents to not interfere with the religious upbringing of their child. If a parent wants to bring their son/daughter to meet with me or if the young man or woman has their permission, I would be glad to talk with them about what conversion entails. This is my general policy although I would advise anyone to speak directly with a Rabbi for a more detailed answer.|
| can you get married before sundown on saturday
|According to traditional Jewish practice, weddings can not be conducted on the Sabbath.|
| how do you become a Jew?
|Judaism is not a proselytizing religion but a person wishing to become a Jew can convert to Judaism. A person desiring to convert should first contact a Rabbi who will, after determining that the individual is sincere and committed to Jewish practice and the Jewish faith, work with that individual through the conversion process. Traditionally, conversion involves serious study, evidence of continued, serious committment to following the traditions, appearance before a bet din, a group of Rabbis or other trained individuals who would interview the individual, immersion in the mikvah, the ritual bath and, for males, circumicision or the symbolic circumcision ceremony called hatafat dam brit. When a person has converted to judaism, they are a Jew in every respect and there is no difference in the status of one who has converted to Judaism properly and one who was born as a Jew. For further information, please contact a Rabbi directly.|
| What kind of clothes do Rabbi's wear?
|There are no special clothes for a Rabbi to wear. In some synagogues it is customary for Rabbis to wear a robe similar to robes worn by other clergy but this is becoming less common. Rabbis, like all adult Jewish men and many women, will wear a tallit, a prayer shawl during services.|
| Does the menorah symbolise anything
|The Hanukah Menorah is an 8 branch candle holder (or some might use oil to light instead of candles) used during the holiday. In the Temple in Jerusalem, there was a large menora with 7 branches. When the Temple was re-dedicated following the Maccabees victory, the menora in the Temple was lit. According to tradition, it took 8 days to produce pure olive oil and there was only one day's supply to be found. The traditional story of the miracle of Hanukkah is that this oil burned for 8 days. The menora symbolizes the victory of the Maccabees, faith in God and the importance of our traditions.|
| What is the view of converted Jews among the rest of the Jewish community (I know this is a very general statement--perhaps in relation to the divisions of the Jewish community is a bit easier)? Are those converts with Jewish fathers held in higher esteem than those with no immediate Jewish roots? Do converted Jews realistically ever attain positions of leadership/respect in the contemporary Jewish community? Thank you for any help.
|I can not speak for every Jewish community but I can say with complete certainty that in most Jewish communities, it is very possible for and frequently happens that those who have converted to Judaism attain positions of leadership and respect. Whether we are talking about leadership on the Synagogue board of directors or participants as leaders of ritual (reading Torah, leading services etc.), Jews by choice frequently are active in the community. In addition, I know many Rabbis who have converted to Judaism. I suppose that if one who had a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother and was raised as a Jew decided to convert to Judaism according to Jewish law, there may be some ways in which their path to leadership/respect might be easier since they had grown up in a Jewish community but I think that is a minor distinction. A person who converts to Judaism and who desires to be active in the community should have no barriers to such participation and will, hopefully, receive the respect that any Jew would in these positions. This is an excellent question and I hope this answers it completely.|
| Do Jewish people eat meat during hanukkah? What are the customary foods that jewish people eat during hanukaah?
|There are no restrictions concerning eating meat on Hanukkah. It is customary on Hanukkah to eat foods which have been fried in oil to remember the story of the oil that is one of the important stories of the holiday. Most Jews in the US associate Hanukkah with potato pancakes fried in oil, called latkes. But Jews in other parts of the world eat different foods with the common characteristic being that they are fried in oil.|
| WHY DONT JEWISH PEOPLE EAT PORK
|Traditional Jews follow the laws of the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, as interpreted by the Rabbis of our tradition. In several places in the Torah, we are taught that we should not eat animals which do not have cloven hooves and do not chew their cud, pigs being among them. So, Jews will not eat pork because of this law in the Torah.|
| Rabbi Dobrusin, I have two questions regarding a friend of mine interested in conversion. If one is already circumcized how is the issue of religious circumcision handled by a conservative rabbi? And is one who converts into a conservative congregation not viewed as a Jew by an orthodox rabbi/congregation and what impact does this have? Thank you.
|If a man is already circumcised, in order to fulfill the mitzva, the commandment, of brit milah, he must undergo a ceremony called hatafat dam brit in which a drop of blood is drawn from the area of the original circumcision and blessings are said. This is usually performed by the mohel, one who is trained to do ritual circumcisions. It is a simple procedure with very little, if any, discomfort. With regard to the second question, much depends on the individuals involved. There are some Orthodox Rabbis who will accept some conservative conversions although I believe that it is fair to say that the majority do not. In these cases, while a person might be recognized as having gone through a process of learning, an Orthodox conversion would be necessary in order for them to participate fully in the ritual.|
| Why do JEWS cover their HEADS ?
When praying or even at all times ?
|It is interesting to note that the covering of heads for men is an ancient tradition but not necessarily strictly a matter of Jewish law. However, it is a tradition which clearly has attained the status of law over the many centuries. There are many reasons given for the tradition but they are all conjecture. Some say it is simply a matter of showing respect for God. My personal favorite is that the kippah, the headcovering, serves as a symbolic boundary between ourselves and God reminding us that we are mortal, imperfect human beings who are trying to use the traditions to attain a higher level of holiness.|
| how can i check if my ketuba is kosher without going to a rabbi?
|You would have to check a ketuba with a Rabbi in order to ascertain its kashrut.|
| why can't jews eat pork?
|Traditional Jews follow the laws of the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, as interpreted by the Rabbis of our tradition. In several places, we are taught that we should not eat animals which do not have cloven hooves and do not chew their cud, pigs being among them. So, Jews will not eat pork because of this law in the Torah.|
| Often in the tanach G-d commands that the color blue be embroidered orincluded. Why doesnt modern talitot include this thread of blue? What is the signifaigance of the thread of blue?
|There is no indication of exactly the significance of the blue although many texts compare it to the color of the heavens and talk about it being symbolic of creation. At one point the source of the color blue, which was in fact said to be a mollusk, was unavailable and the commandment to use blue was therefore not in effect. That remains true to this day.|
| Is it appropriate to greet Jewish friends (in Hebrew or English) on a Jewish holiday if one is not Jewish? For example on Rosh Hashanah?
|What a timely question! Absolutely it is appropriate and it is appropriate for Jews to greet their friends of other faiths a good holy day as well on their holidays. The greeting for Rosh Hashana is shana tova (all short "a"s) meaning: "A good year".|
| Is it possible to have both a baby naming ceremony and a baptism for a new baby?
|Thank you for this question. My answer would be a firm: "no". Both of these ceremonies imply that the child is being raised in that particular faith. They are meaningless ceremonies if that determination has not been made. If it is the desire of the parents for their child to be educated in both faiths and to make a decision later in life, that is their perogative which, although I have very serious opposition to this idea, I have seen it work. But, educating a child in a religious faith is different from bringing them into that faith and that can not be done with two religious faiths which present opposing views of faith and relationship with God. From my perspective, both of these ceremonies are holy moments signifying a particular relationship with God and a religious community and out of respect for both religious faiths and communities, they should not both be done for the same child.|
| Dear Rabbi Dobrusin,
I first want to say that you have a very interesting website with all sorts on interesting questions and answers. I was looking at some of the ones about non-Jewish kids wanting to become Jewish. In some you mentioned that a kids (who I guess was under 18) could not convert, and others you mentioned that you would only do help them convert if you talked to the parents. Which is it? Can kids convert with parental consent or not? I ask because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormon Church) allows kids under 18 to become a part of it if they have parental consent. I think that's good because I believe that kids should be allowed to practice whatever religion they want, and I think that parents should be supportive of their kids religous choices as individuals.
|I hope that I have been consistent with what I have written and any confusion may come from the fact that there is no hard and fast rule. Let me summarize. I would be glad to talk with anyone about conversion to Judaism but I believe that one needs to be of a certain maturity to understand the implications of conversion and one needs to be independent enough to be able to observe the commandments of Judaism in one's home. I believe that teenagers are mature enough to understand many things but my general approach is that there is no rush to convert. One can learn, pray and observe Jewish holidays to the extent possible in the parents' home and then formally convert later. But, the major issue is that under no circumstances should there be any sense of pressure to convert and, as a Rabbi, I would not want to appear to be encouraging the teenager to make decisions against the wishes of the parent. Thus, in general, I would wait until the individual was on their own before working with them for conversion. I suppose if parents came to me and said they completely endorsed the child's decision and would do all they could to help the child observe Judaism and if I felt he or she was mature enough, I might make an exception but I have not encountered that situation.|
| Procedure for girl baby naming
|There are different traditions regarding naming baby girls. Some families have their daughters named at the Synagogue during a service in which both parents (or the father in more traditional situations) would participate in the Torah reading service and a special naming blessing would be said. Often the baby will be brought to the pulpit during the service and the naming prayer said combined with other blessings. Other families choose to compose or put together their own service for the home from various sources.|
| Dear Rabbi,
I am a practicing Catholic that has been invited to attend Synagogue with my Jewish friend. I wear a crucifix and religoius medal around my neck. What is the etiquette for non-Jews regarding wearing Crucifixes in the Sanctuary?
|I would encourage you to wear whatever religious symbols you would normally wear into a synagogue. If you felt comfortable wearing it underneath another article of clothing and were used to doing that on occasion, it might be appreciated by some. But, as a Rabbi, I will tell you that I do not find it offensive at all or inappropriate for people to wear the religious symbols they normally wear in the synagogue.|
| Is it proper for a non-jew to wear a yarmulke when attending jewish services
|It is proper for a non-Jew to cover their heads during the service as this is considered a sign of respect. Technically, a person need not wear a yarmulke but any head covering would be appropriate.|
| You don't have to answer this question if you feel it is inappropiate, but I am just curious. How does the Jewish faith feel about people having sex outside of marriage. Like Christianity, is it considered a sin, or does Judaism not care about it. What do Jewish leaders and Jewish parents teach Jewish kids about sex. If it's considered wrong in your faith to have sex before marriage, does Judaism have any abstainance pledge program like Christianity? Like I said you don't have to answer this question if you feel it's inappropirate.
|I don't think this question is inappropriate at all but I have to preface my answer by pointing out that what I am offering is only one perspective on the issue and that many Rabbis and many Jews might disagree. With that in mind, let me address the issue. First, Judaism does concern itself with sexual issues. There are Jewish laws and traditions related to every issue within the broad range of subjects dealing with sexuality. There are laws governing behavior and principles of ethics and morality and any parent who does not teach his or her child about sexual issues is not fulfilling his or her responsibilty to her child. Curricula are presented in Jewish educational settings for children and adults of all ages regarding sexual issues. Sexual activity is not considered only for procreation but also to provide pleasure and an expression of love and sexual relationships conducted properly are considered to be one of the greatest gifts we have as human beings and not an evidence of our weakness or sin. Sexual relationships are to be conducted with mutual consent, proper treatment and in the context of a loving relationship. Promiscuity or sexual behavior without emotional commitment is wrong. There is no doubt that Jewish law and tradition considers sexual intercourse to be most appropriate within the commited relationship of marriage. The question is: can an adult couple who are committed to each other engage in mutually consensual sexual intercourse before marriage? I would answer that this way: Although it is not the ideal within Jewish law, adult couples in committed relationships do engage in sexual intercourse in our society and have done so throughout all time. Given that, I would say that Judaism would expect that those relationships are treated with the same amount of respect, concern, compassion, responsibility and kindness that sexual intercourse within marriage demands. It may not be the ideal but those who engage in such relationships have the same responsibilities as others and if those exist, I feel the relationship is at least somewhat of a sanctified relationship. There are lines which can not be crossed: adultery, non-consensual sexual relations, promiscuous relationships and sexual intercourse by young people who have no ability to handle the emotional and physical issues involved. So, there are definitely relationships which are wrong. But, as much as Judaism would teach that any sexual intercourse outside of marriage is wrong, I believe that there are degrees of that "wrong" and those adults in a committed relationship who approach sexual intercourse with sensitivity and care are to be honored for respecting the values that Judaism teaches in a world which at times denies the importance of any values relating to sexuality.|
| investtigate the jewish Torah to find the origins of the laws relating to: prohibiting the eating of animals without cloven hooves and that dont chew their cud
|You will find the laws concerning the prohibition against eating animals without cloven hoofs and that don't chew their cud in various places in the Torah including the book of leviticus chapter 11|
| How do you think that the keeping of the Jewish laws affects the lives of Jewish people today as children or teenagers
|This is a very interesting question and as the parent of a 12 year old and a 10 year old it is something that I have thought quite a bit about lately. From my own experience, if a home is one in which Jewish law is observed, the kids become accustomed to it and take it as a given. That isn't to say that there aren't complaints now and then, particularly, it seems about Shabbat and how observance of Shabbat can infringe on their social lives. But, with creativity, flexibility where it is possibility and a focus on the positives, we can usually survive even the longest of Michigan Sabbaths. But, the bigger question is: "What do the kids get out of it?". FIrst of all, it doesn't matter what they get out of it from the perspective that these are commandments, mitzvot, and this is how we live. But, taking a different look, I want my kids to get out of it the simple statement that Judaism is important and that its importance is reflected in how it affects our day to day lives. They should be concerned for "the Jewish people". They should be concerned for Israel. But, they should understand that a Jew acts in certain ways around his/her house and in his or her public life as well. We do not hammer home the message of ethical behavior based upon the fact that the kids are Jews. All people should act ethically and it is obvious that Jews don't have a monopoly on ethics in this world-far from it. But, I would hope that the kids see that the observance of Shabbat and ethical values like honesty and compassion and all of the others are, in fact, related in that they come out of a religious conviction that we are created in the image of God and should act that way.Then, hopefully, they see the ritual observances as reflecting our uniqueness as Jews. Will they grow to resent some of them? Perhaps. We all have our rebellions in life. But, at the same time, they may grow so accustomed to them that living another way just doesn't seem right and that will affect their life choices later. This was a great question and perhaps I'll return to it another time.|
| what are the jewish beliefs on life after death?
|It is impossible to answer this question in detail in this format but I will give a general answer. Traditionally, Jews have believed in the eternality of the soul and an existence after physical death. However, there are no "revealed" texts which produce one standard traditional description of such an existence. Therefore, among Jews who believe in an existence after death, the beliefs run the gamut from those who believe in a physical resurrection, body and soul, at the time of the Messiah, to those who believe that the existence after death is only in the memory of those who remain physically alive and the evidence of the good works a person has done on earth. All of this is considered speculation since we have no means to "prove" one idea over another. Thus, while Jews might believe in life after death, our focus is to be on this world and the good that we can do here. Those who believe in life after death take it as a matter of faith. Many believe the quality of one's existence after death relates to God's judgement of our deeds and in that way serve as a further encouragement to act properly during life. However, for most Jews, proper behavior is considered an end in and of itself, not viewed as gaining further blessings in a world to come.|
| Why isn't a sheheyanu recited at a wedding ceremony?
|This is a very interesting question. First of all, there is no reason why someone couldn't say a sheheyanu at the wedding ceremony. Parents or other family members could say it as a sign of their joy and the couple, as well, perhaps could say it. But, it is not part of the formal liturgy. I think that sheheyanu is more frequently said during specific moments in the cycle of time which repeat on a yearly basis or with some other predictable frequency (holiday observances, the first sign of spring etc.) and that it is not usually said for one time events. Again, I would not find it objectionable for families or others gathered at an event to say the sheheyanu out of gratitude but its absence from the formal liturgy is, I believe, for the reason above.|
| How does someone approach the topic of converting? What appropriate steps are supposed to be taken? When and where can study commence? What duration of study do you suggest prior to the actual conversion? Thank you for your help Rabbi Dobrusin!
|There are several books that one could find that describe the process of conversion to Judaism. They are easily available in bookstores and through the internet in most book dealers. There is also a webpage www.convert.org which can tell you everything you would need to know about the beginning steps. In addition, I would strongly urge you to contact a Rabbi in your area if you are interested in proceeding.|
| What does bet din mean?
|A bet din is a "Rabbinic court". This can take two forms. A city may have a permanent bet din which would consist of three (or more) Rabbis who would rule on issues relating to Jewish law. It is possible that individuals may choose to settle differences solely based on Jewish law in the presence of a Bet Din or that the Bet Din might have authority to rule on issues such as kashrut (the dietary laws) or other aspects of Jewish observance. For many, the more common use of the term bet din refers to three Rabbis who would convene a Bet Din in order to supervise a conversion or other ritual within Jewish law. When a person wishes to convert to Judaism, they would come to such a Bet Din to be interviewed and questioned after a long period of study. If the individual is sincere and has learned sufficiently, the members of the Bet Din would sign a document after witnessing the rituals of conversion. In that case, usually, the Bet Din is convened for the purpose of that conversion ceremony. The words bet din literally mean: "house of judgement"|
| Could you please explain about the blessings of Ephraim and Mannesseh given to infant boys?
|The traditional blessing that is given to sons of all ages by their parents is: "May God make you like Ephraim and Manesseh". This is often followed by the priestly blessing from the book of Numbers ("May God bless you and keep you..."). The blessing given by parents to daughters is: "May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah". Many question as to why the blessing for the boys does not invoke the name of the Patriarchs. If you look at the book of Genesis, chapter 48:20, you will find that Jacob blesses his grandchildren, Ephraim and Manasseh, sons of Joseph, with the blessing: "By you shall Israel invoke blessings saying: May God make you like Ephraim and Manesseh". Jacob wanted his grandchildren to be the epitome of blessing and, whether it turned out that way over the course of the life or not, we honor Jacob's wish and therefore the Patriarchs by quoting Jacob in blessing our children.|
| what does the prayer shawl symbolize in Bar mitzvah?
|The prayer shawl, worn by men and many women above bar/bat mitzvah age is in fulfillment of the commandment to put fringes on one's garments in order to remember the commandments of the Torah. The important part of the shawl, called a tallit, are the fringes which are called tzitzit. The entire shawl takes on a meaning as wrapping oneself in the tallit calls to mind enwrapping onself in prayer or in God's presence. Many traditional Jews will wear tzitzit throughout the day but others only wear them during prayer.|
| Can a non-jew attend a Passover Seder?
|The simple answer to this question is yes. There are few, if any, Jewish rituals which are more fascinating and more meaningful than a Passover Seder conducted in the home and most Jews would be more than willing to invite non-Jewish friends or relatives to the Seder. However, there are some who feel that since the original Pesach sacrifice, spoken about in the Torah, could not be eaten by non-Israelites, that tradition should be carried over to indicate that the Seder should only be attended by Jews. I do not hold that opinion but respect the motivation of those who do.|
| is mahi-mahi a kosher fish? k
| We have been invited to my son's classmate's Bar Mitzvah.
As non-Jewish friends, are we expected/allowed to attend both the morning ceremony at the Synogogue and the evening party, or only the party?
If we attend the morning service, are we expected to stand up during parts of the ceremony and recitals of the Torah?
When and where should we give the birthday presents to the Bar Mitzvah?
-Mohammed A. Safi
|These are excellent questions. In general, being invited to the bar mitzvah assumes that you would attend the service in the morning since the party is not the essence and only makes sense in the context of the religious service. Thus, if not indicated otherwise, I would assume that you should attend both. Of course, some people are uncomfortable attending other faith's religious rituals and that should be respected. But, non-Jews attending a Jewish service are not expected to participate in any substantive ways in any of the rituals. There is an expectation that people would stand when the Congregation stands and in traditional synagogues, boys and men would be expected to cover their heads but beyond that there is no expectation for participation. It is most appropriate to bring presents to the party and not to the synagogue. I hope that you will feel comfortable attending and will enjoy the service.|
| what is the differenca between a liberal jew and an orthodox jew?
|This is a question deserving of a long, comprehensive answer. In this forum, though, I'll answer it briefly. Usually, the distinction between orthodox and liberal Jews rest on their interpretation of the obligation to Jewish law. Orthodox Jews generally consider the observance of Jewish law to be an obligation on each and every Jew and view the law as largely unchanging from the past traditions. Of course, some changes are necessary but those are very carefully done and only when absolutely necessary. Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism tend to look at Jewish law as less an obligation than a guide. So, there is no requirement that one observes traditional Jewish law although many of the traditions are considered valuable guides for life. Conservative Judaism views Jews as having an obligation to observe Jewish law. However, the law is considered to be fluid, changing in each generation as situations change. Change is present throughout the history of Jewish law but in the Conservative movement, that change is highlighted and encouraged as people try to determine what is the best way for the law to respond and shape the current times. There are many other ways to answer the question but I believe this is the basic difference between the movements.|
| When attending a Brit, is it appropriate to bring a gift? If so, what are examples of gifts that would be appropriate?
|I think it is certainly appropriate to bring a gift to a brit milah or to send something at another time. This of course depends on your relationship to the family involved but in general it is certainly appropriate. Examples of appropriate gifts might be anything that one would bring to a new baby under any circumstances: clothes, baby books, toys, music etc. There are many books and cds available with Jewish themes. Those might be particularly appropriate. But, it is one's presence that is most important at a brit milah-more important than any gift.|
| why do we circumcise boys
|That question can be answered very easily: it is the sign of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. That is what the Torah says. What is not so easy is to answer why circumcision is the sign of the covenant. There are many ideas as to why circumcision was chosen: perhaps it has to do with procreation, perhaps the intensely personal nature of circumcision is intended to reflect an intensely personal relationship with God. Perhaps it was considered as an indelible sign which would under most circumstances be hidden or perhaps it is exactly the opposite: being visible at the most personal of relationships. We can speculate forever about what the reason might be. Whatever an individual decides, brit milah has been observed for milennia as the symbol for males of the covenant and belonging to the Jewish people and that fact is more important than any reason one might decide is the most relevant.|
| what ffods do a devout jew not eat?
|Observant Jews will eat meat which comes from animals which have split hooves and which chew their cud and which have been properly slaughtered and prepared according to Jewish law. Fish must have fins and scales in order to be eaten. In addition, dairy and meat products are not eaten together.|
My book club is reading THE JEW STORE, by Stella Suberman. Can you provide me with a Jewish prayer before our meal? We are of different faiths, but open to learning about the unfamiliar. Thank you for your consideeration.
|The basic prayer before a meal which includes bread is the blessing which is said over bread: "Blessed are You O Lord our God ruler of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth." This blessing is often referred to as "ha-motzi", the Hebrew for the english "who brings forth". A much more extensive blessing is traditionally said following meals.|
| I have a question about Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. I have been reading online articles about how non-Jewish kids who have Jewish friends and attend their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. The non-Jewish kids envy their Jewish friends nice parties and gifts and as a result want such a celebration for their own. A lot of these kids parents do such things. There are different opinions from the Jewish community about this. Some Jews think that it's good because it makes Jewish culture even more popular in a predominantly non-Jewish socirty, and see it as not being any different than someone who is not a devout Christian celebrating Christmas. That is true, many non-Christians celebrate Christmas, and most Christians do not have a problem with it. Other Jews see it as a mockery of their faith and culture, because the celebration is recognizing the Jewish child's milestone of becoming a Jewish adult. How do you feel? Do you find it offensive that non-Jews want to participate in a Jewish tradition or do you see it as something positive? Because I have Jewish neighbors who think it is kind of neat, and takes away the stereotype that many Christians and non-Jews are anti-Semitic.
|This is an excellent question. I welcome the interest that people who are not Jewish have in Bar/Bat Mitzvah observances but it seems to me that the majority of this interest is focused on the celebration aspect of the bar/bat mitzvah rather than the deep spiritual meaning and important milestone that these ceremonies have. This is inevitable because so many Jewish families overemphasize the party and deemphasize the learning and the religious significance. So, we need to be clear to ourselves and to those outside of our community that the real important aspect of bar and bat mitzvah happens in places other than the party. Yes, celebrating a simcha, a joyous occasion, is appropriate. But the word mitzvah means commandment and the entire idea of bar/bat mitzvah focuses on the obligation the child, now a young adult, takes on at this point in time. Thus, a bar/bat mitzvah party without any kind of religious significance is, in my mind, meaningless. So, I am completely opposed to any attempts to encourage non-Jews to celebrate these types of events but would encourage two things instead: first, that within the context of their own religious faith, they endeavor to create proper and meaningful "coming of age" ceremonies and celebrate them in any way they feel is appropriate and secondly, that we as Jews do a better job of showing people what bar/bat mitzvah really means. Thanks for a great question.|
| I am not trying to get into any debate. That's not my purpose. My only question is, why was Jesus rejected as the messiah? Thank you for your time
|I appreciate your question and I, too, will not try to get into a debate. I think that it is important to note, right from the start, that Jewish tradition recognizes the importance and respects any religious faith which expresses belief in God and works for the general good of the world. So, this is not to be seen as an attempt to "convince" anyone one way or the other. Simply speaking, the rejection of a covenant based upon the law of the Torah and the adoption of a covenant based upon faith in Jesus as Messiah is the reason why Jesus is not accepted as Messiah within Jewish tradition. There are other reasons as well but the core is that this "new covenant" is not in keeping with the revelation at Sinai and the statements of the Torah that our relationship with God is based upon law and observance of commandments. Again, however, I believe that it is crucial that all faiths work together and that all of us have respect for and seek cooperation with those of all faiths.|
| How come jewish people aren't suppose to eat pork.
|Traditional Jews follow the laws of forbidden foods as expressed in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. These laws prohibit the eating of animals which do not have split hooves and which do not chew their cud. Among those are the pig. These laws also prohibit the eating of fish which do not have fins and scales. There are many other dietary laws in Judaism. These are the most well known.|
| Why do the Jewish people wear a head covering?
|Actually, there is not one definitive answer to this question except to say, in general, that the covering of one's head is thought of as showing respect for God. There are some who say that the head covering separates us from "the heavens" and therefore, shows that there is a distinction between God and human beings. Others claim that the covering of one's head was, in ages past, a sign of respect shown to a ruler. From one perspective, the covering on one's head is part of Jewish tradition and that custom itself becomes the reason for the continuation of the tradition over and above any particular meaning it might have had at one time in history.|
| When Did the miracle of Chanukkah occur?
|The story of Hanukkah took place around the year 165 B.C.E. during the period of the 2nd Temple. At that time the Greek influence was gaining strength within the Jewish people and the tradition is that the family of the Hasmoneans, the Maccabees, stood against this influence in restoring the Temple to purely monotheistic worship and against those who sought to bring Hellenistic influences into the ritual and into the community.|
| why can't jewish people mix meat and dairy?
|The Rabbis of the tradition interpreted the phrase in the Torah which prohibits boiling a kid in its mother's milk as referring to the separation of dairy and meat products. This is an example of "midrash", an interpretation, in this case, a legal interpretation of a Torah text. While some legal interpretations were disputed with other conflicting interpretations, traditional Judaism has considered this interpretation to be universally valid and results in the separation of milk and meat products and utensils as well.|
| Dear Rabbi Dobrusin,
I thoroughly enjoy your web site and have a question for you. Why should one have to observe a law that is man-made and not specifically dictated by G-d? Is man supposed to base his "religious" tenets on principles promulgated by other human beings? I am referring to the Kashrut law that prohibits one from mixing chicken with milk or butter? The Oral Torah (Exodus and Deuteronomy) prohibits the "boiling of a kid in its mother's milk," also a rabbinic interpretation but certainly direct enough. In that fowl have no milk, why the proscription other than, as I previously stated a man-made law? Also, if in fact, we are referring to progeny, the kid, as being in conflict with milk or other dairy products, why not a chicken's egg which is considered parev, except for blood in the egg?
I look forward to your response.
|In Jewish tradition, the laws of the Torah are viewed as incomplete from the perspective of the feasibility of following them without interpretation. While the Torah gives guidelines, if there is a desire to have a community which observes laws in a roughly similar way, many of the specifics needed to be addressed and given the force of law. Thus, the law of separation of milk and meat, while not mentioned specifically in the Torah, is given the force of a Torah law since its interpretation is derived from the verse in the Torah. This is crucial because it allows us to observe the Torah in a practical manner. While this particular interpretation may in fact not be the intended meaning of the verse, it is given the authority of a Torah law. In some cases, marriage and divorce being an example, the Torah's laws are not specific enough therefore the Rabbis had to add to the law with interpretation which would guide our observance of the commandment in a unified way. With all of these cases, the human interpretations enable us to observe the laws of the Torah in a more complete way.Why would we sense an obligation to observe these laws? According to some traditional approaches to Judaism, the "oral Torah", these interpretations were given to Moses at Mt. Sinai and only were revealed by Rabbis in later generations. Others look at the value of the cooperation between Divine revelation and human intellect as being a crucial means to understanding and observing Torah. Still others believe that we are responsible to observe these because we feel community authority is crucial and therefore the acceptance of these laws by a community obligate each individual to observe them.|
| what do jewish people wear on their heads?
|A kippah, also called a yarmulke, is worn by Jews during prayer, study of religious texts and whenever one is in a Synagogue. Many Jews will cover their heads at all times, whether with a kippah or with any head covering. The head covering is traditionally thought of as a sign of respect to God.|
| Dear Rabbi,
Can you tell me how old is the prayer that is said before eating bread and where did it come from? "baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam ha motzi lechem min ha'aretz."
|The phrase hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz, "who brings forth bread from the earth" is found in the Mishna, (chapter 6 of Berachot). The Mishna is the earliest post-Biblical code of Jewish law which was completed around 200 C.E. Many of the blessings which we say today in response to situations in the natural world or before enjoying of something in the world are found in that text. The introduction to the blessing is not found in that part of the Mishna's text but is assumed to have been a standard liturgical introduction.|
| What prayers do you say at a Jewish birth
|There is no traditional prayer said at the time of birth itself but some would say the traditional "sheheyanu", a prayer which acknowledges and thanks God for keeping us in life to participate in this particular special moment. Prayers are said at brit milah, ritual circumcision ceremonies and at naming ceremonies for girls. These are prayers of thanks for the health of the mother and prayers of petition for a life of health and "good deeds" for the child. During the course of these prayers, the child's Hebrew name is announced publicly, often for the first time.|
| why the name of God isn't mentioned in the book of Esther
-Elizabeth B Thompson
|I'm going to take the liberty of rephrasing the question a bit because I think it is the way that it has generally been addressed in Jewish tradition. The question is: "Why is the book of Esther part of the Bible considering that it doesn't mention God's name?" The book must have had a certain religious significance for it to be included in the Tanach. Many assume that the book's emphasis on national loyalty and committment to the traditions of the faith (as expressed in Mordecai's refusal to bow before Haman) were sufficient reasons to include the book. However, there is another idea raised by some Rabbis that there is, in fact, a reference to God in Mordecai's statement to Esther that if she were to keep silent and not reveal her nationality, "Help would come to the people from another place". The word place, makom, in Hebrew is used in some texts to refer to God. Thus, Mordecai is infering God's presence and concern. One of my favorite quotations is one which states: "standeth God within the shadows keeping watch above his own". I have always looked at this story as conveying the idea that God is watching over human beings as we struggle to "do the right thing". Thus, the lesson of the book is that we are in the end responsible for making the right choices whether we directly see God's intervention or not.|
| We are not Jewish however we have a wonderful Menorah. It is proper for us to light the candels during the holidays?
|This is a rather difficult question to answer but I will give you my best response. First, it would be inappropriate for someone who is not Jewish to light the Hanukkah candles with the Hebrew blessings which are said. The blessings infer a commitment to the tradition and to Jewish law. However, can one light the candles without a blessing? On the one hand, I am tempted to answer no because the lighting of the menora properly includes placing it in a window near the street to "publicize the miracle" of Hanukkah and to identify the home as a Jewish home. Thus, while you are free to light the menora, the implied statement is that you have a Jewish home. On the other hand, I am tempted to say yes and tell you that it is acceptable to do so if, in doing so, you wish to show support for and solidarity with the Jewish people who have been, of course, subject to persecution in many eras and in many places today. There is a beautiful story that came out of Billings, Montana, I believe, in which a home was vandalized by an anti-Semitic group during Hanukkah. In support of the Jewish residents of the town, many non-Jews placed pictures of menoras in their windows to show their support for the Jewish townspeople. Thus, the act of lighting a menora is an act of respect for the Jewish people. However, on balance, I think that unless there is a particular reason in a particular community why such an act would be important to the Jewish people of the town, I would suggest not lighting the menora because it is first and foremost a religious act, not a cultural or national act, and in doing so implies the acceptability of the assimilation of religions which is exactly what Hanukkah's story opposed. We take our kids every year to see beautiful Christmas lights and trees but we would never have a tree in our home, of course. Similarly, having a menora as a decorative piece and going to a Jewish home to see it lit, I think is the proper course of action. This is a question which is difficult and shows a great deal of respect and love for Judaism which is very much appreciated. But,in the long run, the message of Hanukkah which is the message of loyalty to our tradition to perform the commandments seems to be the deciding issue here. Have a wonderful holiday season!|
| why dont jews mix meat and dairy
|The Jewish dietary laws call for the separation of meat and dairy foods and utensils. These foods are not eaten at the same meals and are prepared using different utensils. The amount of waiting time between eating meat and milk products varies depending on tradition but most wait either 3 or 6 hours after eating meat products before eating dairy. The origin of this law is the Rabbinic interpretation of the verse which appears in the Torah prohibiting "boiling a kid in its mother's milk". Whatever was the intention of this particular law, it has been interpreted from the earliest Rabbinic texts in connection with this dietary prohibition.|
| i am sure that my beleifs are of the jewish faith but i was raised roman catholic how can i convert to the jewish faith Rabbi Dobrusin?
|The first step in conversion to Judaism is to contact a Rabbi in your area. He or she would be able to suggest books, study materials and, if you decide to proceed with conversion, a plan for how that could be accomplished. Judaism is not a proselytizing faith but we welcome those who are sincerely interested in conversion. You should realize that conversion is not only a matter of belief-one can believe in Jewish principles without conversion. Conversion involves a matter of identity, community involvement and committment to living a Jewish life, which means different things to different people but which must be expressed in action not just in beliefs. I encourage you to do some more reading and to contact a Rabbi.|
| Why can't Jewish people eat pork?
|In the Torah, the pig is among a long list of animals which are not to be eaten. The mark of a kosher animal (one which can be eaten) is that it has cloven hoofs and chews its cud.The laws of kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws, develop from statements in the Torah (in Leviticus and Deuteronomy) and include the prohibition against eating these animals.|
| Dear Rabbi, In a question from a 12-year-old intrested in judaism you mentioned that you thought that the child should read about and learn about judaism while studying the parent's faith. Does that mean that you think that kids should still follow the parents beliefs despite feeling uncomfotable about them? If so why do you feel that way?
|There comes a point when each of us forms our own opinion about the different things that we have been taught to believe in. I believe that each Jew should seek a different understanding, of his or her faith and attachment to Judaism and the Jewish people than the one our parents taught us. It might differ a great deal. It may just be a bit different. But, it must be ours, it must be personal. I don't believe that one can say for certainty at what age that change occurs. Some 12 year olds have developed a critical, personal, understanding of Judaism. Others continue to model the traditions and the faith that their parents have tried to teach them. Similarly, some 12 year old children are mature enough to have developed their own ideas about the faith they grew up in. Others are merely looking for ways to be an individual and may rebel against their parents' faith as a statement of individuality. My answer to the previous question and to yours is that no one can tell a person what to believe, especially as they reach the age of maturity. However, I believe that it is inappropriate for a 12 year old simply to decide to reject that which they've been taught without attempting to understand it in a mature way. Therefore, let the 12 year old study about Judaism but let them also learn in a more mature way the faith their parents hold before just dismissing it. As the father of a soon-to-be 12 year old, I hope that my son and my daughter as well would respect what we have taught them enough to at least continue to struggle with it through their teenage years.|
| dear rabbi i would be very pleased if you could answer my question as i have looked all over for the answers and connot seem to find them.my question is.what is a/the Bets din and what does it do?
|The term bet din refers to a Rabbinic court. There are two types of bet din. The first would be a permanent established "court" of Rabbis who would judge situations within the Jewish community according to Jewish law. There is a principle of Jewish law that the law of the land is the law. So, no one could turn to a bet din to handle a legal issue that had implications in the world outside the Jewish community. The Bet Din can not and does not take the place of a regular civil court. But, if there is a matter solely regarding Jewish law, a bet din could be turned to to make a ruling. For example, if someone had a complaint about the fact that an individual claimed to observe the Jewish dietary laws in their restaurant and someone claimed that they were not being careful enough, the entire matter could be brought to the bet din. The second type of bet din is one which is formed specifically for the purpose of, for example, questioning someone who wants to convert to Judaism. As part of the process of conversion, it is required that the individual answer questions before a bet din. Usually, the bet din is convened for that purpose on that day and consists of three Rabbis or other educated Jews who could serve for that day as an ad-hoc bet din to issue a decision in the name of the Jewish community.|
| Must a Christian man were a Yarmulke at a Bar Mitzvah?
|THis is a matter for each individual congregation to decide. In our synagogue, all males are asked to cover their heads when in the synagogue for a service. It is not considered a religious committment as much as it is a matter of respect for the Congregation. If a person absolutely refuses, we do not insist. However, it is considered proper etiquette for a male to cover his head when in a synagogue in which head coverings are worn.|
| I have a question about non-Jewish kids interested in Judaism and attending a synagogue. Are kids asked by the rabbi, cantor, or whatever when they get there if there parents approve of them attending services there or not? If so, and the kid admits that his/her parents don't know about their visit and just told Mom and Dad they were going somewhere else, are they send home? Let me know.
|Dear shelly: Everyone is welcome to come to services and no one is going to stop someone who wants to attend. On several previous questions, I indicated that I thought that children or teenagers ought to let their parents know if they are attending the synagogue if they felt that that would be an issue for the parents. But, anyone is welcome in the synagogue.|
| I am interested in the Jewish life and religion. Can I attend a service or are they for members only? I also would like to make an appointment talk one on one with someone or a couple people willing to teach me or at least answer some questions. Please let me know if this would be possible. Thank you very much for your time!
|You are more than welcome to come to services at Beth Israel. If you would like to talk with me at some point, please send me an email at email@example.com or call at 663-5543 Rabbi Dobrusin|
| My mother was often called a
"shiterein" cook. She never
used a recipe, but estimated
how much sugar, flour, etc.
should be used in the recipe.
Where did the term "shiterein"
|I'm told by a professor of Yiddish that the term comes from 2 yiddish words which mean: "pour" and "into". Many of us have memories of the same method from our families!|
| WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE CAP JEWISH PEOPLE WEAR?
|In Hebrew: kippah In Yiddish: Yarmulke|
| what's a bris?
|The word bris or brit as it is alternatively pronounced is the Hebrew word for covenant or agreement. It is a common word throughout Jewish text and tradition to designate the relationship between ourselves and God. However, the word is most often thought of in relation to the ritual circumcision ceremony performed, when the baby's health permits, on the 8th day of life. The name for the ceremony is brit milah, the covenant of circumcision, but is referred to commonly as the brit or bris. The ceremony marks the welcoming of a baby boy into the community and the covenant as proscribed in the Torah. It is a time of celebration and joy and in most situations is one in which family and friends are invited to join together to celebrate.|
| what was the original reason of thought regarding circumcision?
|Many different reasons have been suggested but in the final analysis, it must be remembered that in Judaism today, the principle reason for ritual circumcision is because it is a commandment regardless of what was the intention of it originally. Among the thoughts are that it was for hygienic reasons. Others related it to the responsiblity to transmit the covenant to the next generation and thus, the connection with procreation. Some others call it a physical mark to separate from other peoples.|
| what is the name of the prohet for whom a place is reserved at the table during the passover?
|The prophet at the Passover Seder is Elijah.|
| In a Jewish wedding what does a Huppah symbolise
|There are many different answers to this question as you can imagine but usually, the huppah is said to symbolize the home which the couple will build and/or the presence of God. The huppah is supposed to be open on all sides to symbolize the openness of the home to guests and to concerns for those outside. The covering of the couple by a canopy is the symbol of God's presence in the world.|
| Why don't jewish people mix dairy products and meat together?
|The Torah prohibits the "boiling of a kid in its mother's milk". This was interpreted by Rabbis in the earliest times of development of Jewish law to prohibit the mixing of dairy and meat products.|
| How do I go about having a baby naming service ? Could you plase give me some pointers on what we are to do. We already have a jewish name picked out. Our daughter will be 1 year old in April, We are adopting her from Russia.
|You would have to contact a Rabbi in your area to discuss this issue. There are many questions which must be answered but you would be able to discuss them completely in person with a Rabbi. Congratulations on the adoption. All the best.|
| What does the word synagogue mean?
|The word synagogue means a place for people to gather together. The Hebrew word for synagogue is bet knesset which means precisely the same thing.|
| I have a question about a previous question from this website. A person asked, if you believed in boycotting the lifecyle ceramonies of kids from interfaith families where the Dad was the Jewish parent.
You mentioned that you would never tell those in your congregation to do such things even if your movement doesn't believe such individuals are really Jewish unless converted.
I have a problem. I am married to a Jewish man, and I am not Jewish and we are raising our 2 kids as Jews at the local Reform synagogue. Our oldest daughter will be having a Bat Mitzvah this April.
She has a somewhat close friend who she met at the local JCC summer day camp, and the girl and her family are members of the local Conservative synagogue. The parents will not allow their daughter to attend our daughter's Bat Mitzvah since they know that I am not Jewish. They are firm believers in Jewishness only being transmitted through the birth mother or through halachic conversion, and no other way. They believe that even if the Reform, and Reconstructionist movements accept patrilineal descent, that those who are patrilineal descent Jews in those movements, are not real Jews, and that such individuals should have their lifecycle ceramonies boycotted and Jewish identities challenged. This has caused my daughter a lot of pain. Is it possible these parents are like that because of their synagogue's rabbi, or could it just be them?
Because as you mentioned, if the Reform and Reconstructionist movements accept such individuals as Jews in their settings they are then Jews, and shouldn't be boycotted and challenged. That is very nice of you to say that, and also how you stated that you don't believing in challenging the identities of patrilineal descent Jews. Let me know what you think the problem might be.
|This is a very difficult question. First, let me repeat what I said and make sure it is clear. I do believe that "Jewishness" is passed through the mother or by conversion. This is the tradition for millenia and I embrace it without question. However, as you pointed out, I do respect completely the rights of other movements to interpret differently. I respect completely your right and her right to consider her Jewish and certainly believe that within your synagogue and community, she is not doing anything wrong by having a bat mitzvah etc. There is no issue there. Were she to come to me 15 years from now to be married, I would require that she go to the mikvah for immersion although given the situation, I would call it an "affirmation" ceremony, not a conversion. I would gladly work with her assuming she did not have to go through the conversion process of study etc. But, without the ritual, I could not perform a marriage ceremony for her and, if I knew of her status, would not allow her to participate in the ritual in our synagogue (such as having an aliyah). Now, let's get back to the situation. I do not believe it is right for people to use the patrilineal descent issue to divide themselves from other Jews. I do believe that individuals should not ignore ceremonies involving patrilineal descent Jews just because they want to show their displeasure. However, if a person firmly believes that engaging in Jewish ritual when one is not a Jew according to halacha is wrong no matter where it happens, I would not blame them for feeling very uncomfortable about participating in such a ceremony. It is a very fine line. I think that parents need to decide what to teach their child about this and how to proceed but I don't think it is an issue of who is nicer or kinder. Being a mentsch is very important but standing firm to principle is as well. I would not fault their Rabbi at all for teaching this nor them for following it if they are doing it in a kind and considerate way. Yes, it is difficult for your daughter to understand it and I feel bad for her and for the other girl involved as well and hope it won't affect their friendship but sometimes we do stand on principle and sometimes we let our desire for better relationships with others take precedence. So, bottom line is I think it is legitimate for a person to say we won't participate because we just can't accept the Reform movement's position. Remember, and I say this without criticizing the right of the movement to take such a position, that it is the Reform movement which changed the "policy" not the other way around. It is legitimate despite my own beliefs that we should be more inclusive in our willingness to celebrate happy events but I would expect that people would find some way to handle the situation so that your daughter's feelings were taken into account.|
| what if the religous reason behind circumcision?
|In the book of Genesis, God tells Abraham to circumcise his son and commands Abraham that all of his descendants should be circumcised on the 8th day of life. This is the religious basis for circumcision. Rabbis have debated for years the significance of the circumcision ceremony. While there is no agreement on the reason for circumcision, the Torah's commandment has been followed for millenia.|
| What does matzoh mean?
|Matzah and bitter herbs are two of the symbols of the holiday of Passover. Matzoh, unleavened bread, is eaten as a fulfillment of the Torah's commandment to eat unleavened bread throughout the holiday to remember that the Hebrews left Egypt without time for their bread to rise and to recall the unleavened bread eaten with the original sacrifice of the lamb prior to the Exodus (Exodus 12). Bitter herbs were also eaten with that sacrifice and the tradition is that we eat bitter herbs at the Passover Seder to remember the bitterness of slavery.|
| What is a prwer shawl and what does it look like? I would like to see a picture of it.
|A prayer shawl, called Tallit in Hebrew, is a garment worn by men and by many women during morning prayers. It's purpose is twofold. First, at the corners of the prayer shawl are the tzitzit, the fringes referred to in the book of Numbers which are intended to remind us of the commandments. Secondly, the tallit is intended to give us the feeling of being embraced by God and by the commandments during prayer. The best way to see a picture is to go to one of the search program and type in tallit. I did this on google.com and saw many sites which show different tallitot (plural).|
| what is the formal name of the hat jewish people oftenly wear?
|The cap is called a yarmulke in Yiddish or a keepah in Hebrew.|
| My Wife and I are both practicing Conservative Jews. We, however, were not married under a Chuppah or by a Rabbi. We would, more than anything else, like to have a Jewish Wedding. While this may not seem necessary to many and even a trivial point to some, but to us it is of the greatest importance. Can this "remarriage" be performed?
-Avraham & Golda
|Absolutely. If you contact a Conservative Rabbi and discuss the situation, it should definitely be possible.|
| Dear Rabbi Dobrusin,
In the most recent question, you mentioned how in Judaism that you encouraged people to find spirituality in their own faith, instead of encouraging poeple to become Jewish. Take this for example. What if a person, is interested in becoming Jewish and doesn't come from a different faith, and was raised in a non-religous household? What would you tell those individuals?
|Obviously, if a person was not raised in a particular religious faith, my statement wouldn't apply. But, let me explain my point further: I see Judaism as a beautiful religious tradition with great wisdom and potential for spiritual growth. And yet, I do not feel that Judaism is the only appropriate or potentially meaningful path. I believe strongly that one should understand one's own roots before considering another faith. In the long run, Judaism can be very attractive and I recognize that and appreciate why many turn to Judaism. I am thrilled when I hear from someone outside of the Jewish faith that they find great meaning in our faith and am very willing to help them learn and, if they feel it is appropriate, convert to Judaism. In general, I don't think that choosing to be part of a religion when raised without one is the same as leaving the faith one was raised with to join another. But, in the case of one who was raised in a particular religious faith, their choice of Judaism must stand up against any other choices they could possibly make, including staying within their original faith. Thus, I think it is valuable for someone who was raised in a faith to think about what they would be giving up to become a Jew. If they are sincere about Judaism, they will not see this as a problem. With a person from a non-religious background, there might be one less set of questions to consider but one must still be sure that one is ready to accept the obligations of Judaism before conversion.|
| Dear Rabbi: My life has been based around Christian values but I (personally) have always studied and believed more so in Jewish traditions and beliefs. My aunt married a Jewish man so we celebrate Chanukah with his side of the family every year. I am very interested in converting into the Jewish faith. I live near Lansing, Michigan and I am 19 years old. I go to school at Adrian College so I am near Ann Arbor. I need your opinion and advice on what I should go about doing. Please e-mail me back. Thank you.
|Conversion to Judaism is a very serious matter. You would need to talk with a Rabbi at length and work with him or with her to fulfill the educational and ritual requirements. Judaism is not a proselytizing faith, that is we don't seek out converts and instead encourage people to look into their own faith first. I would advise that you do that but if you are convinced that you want to convert to Judaism and leave your original faith, you will find Rabbis and communities to be very welcoming. I would suggest that you speak to a Rabbi in the Lansing area. I would also suggest that you be patient with this process, read some books, speak to one or more Rabbis and think about for a long time before making the decision.|
| I would like to cnvert to Judaism. I would like to know what steps I need to take to convert. Also, I am married to a catholic, does this make it difficult to convert or will it be OK.
|You should consult a Rabbi personally about the conversion process or you can read about conversion in many books on the subject or on the internet. Most Rabbis would be inclined to refuse to work with someone for conversion who was married to a non-Jewish person because it would be difficult to observe home rituals. However, I would not a blanket statement that such a marriage would preclude conversion. Talk to a Rabbi in your area and you can discuss the issue.|
| Does your congregation offer any instructional classes teaching an introduction to the hebrew language. Are there any hebrew language classes available in this area?
|Beth Israel cooperates with Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor regarding Hebrew language instruction. You can contact TBE for more information about their classes. In addition, Hillel at University of Michigan holds some classes in Hebrew language.|
| dear rabbi what is a synogue i am doing a newaspaper report and would like to now
|A synagogue is a place where Jews gather to pray, to study, to observe life cycle events and often is the center of a community where people can stay in touch with each other and come together at times of need. The Hebrew word for synagogue is bet knesset, a place where people gather, which is exactly the meaning of the word synagogue, which comes from the Greek. Jews can pray anyplace, can study anyplace and can find other centers for their communal lives but the synagogue has always stood as a place where Jews can come together in prayer, study, and community.|
| why dont jews mix milk and meat
|The prohibition against the mixing of milk and meat is derived from the verse in the Torah which reads: "You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk". While there is no claim that this was the intended meaning of the verse at the time of its inclusion in the Torah, the interpretative meaning leading to the separation of milk and meat products has been standard Jewish practice since the earliest times of Rabbinic interpretation (at least 2000 years).|
| WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE CAP JEWISH PEOPLE WEAR?
|The head covering, worn to show respect for God, is called either a kee-pah (Hebrew) or Yarmulke (Yiddish)|
| Dear Rabbi i am doing a school project on jewish weddings and read that a day before the jewish couple get married they fast. why do they do this? does it symbolise anything? Also are there any symbols used at a jewish wedding?
|The tradition to fast before a wedding stems from the idea that the wedding begins a new phase in a couple's life and, therefore, it should be entered in as pure a state as possible. Fasting, as on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is one of the traditional ways in which one considers the actions in one's life and the fasting before the wedding is combined with traditional prayers seeking forgiveness. Not all couples fast but it is a tradition to do so among observant Jews. The other symbols of the wedding are the huppah, the canopy under which the wedding takes place, symbolizing the home which is to be built; a glass which is broken at the end of the ceremony which reminds us of the fragility of the blessings of this world and the sad times in the history of our people; the ketuba, the marriage document or "contract" which spells out the traditional responsibilities of each party in the marriage.|
| IS there any special clothing worn for Rosh Hashanah?
|I have received many questions about clothing. I'll answer them all here. The only special clothing associated with Jewish tradition is a) the kippah, or yarmulke, a head covering worn by men, and by some women, during prayer, study and at other times. It is intended to symbolize respect for God and, some say, to act as a reminder of the separation between ourselves and God. b) A tallit or a prayer shawl which contain the tzitzit, the fringes referred to in the book of Numbers as a way of remembering the commandments. There are other traditions concerning clothing followed by some groups of Jews or related to particularly special occasions- for example a "kittel", a white robe is often worn by those who lead a service on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur.|
| What do each of the candles signify on the Menorah. I am non Jewish and am trying to understand my neighbors.
|The story celebrated at Hanukkah occured around the time 165 B.C.E. when the Maccabees, a priestly family, successfully regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been desecrated by those who wanted to bring more Greek culture and belief to the Jewish community. There had been many persecutions and limitations placed upon the Jews. When the Maccabees regained the Temple, they cleaned it up and lit the menora, the lights within the Temple to signify the Temples purified status. According to one story, there was not enough oil to burn for even one day and the process of purifying oil took a week but God performed a miracle to allow the pure oil to burn long enough for more oil to be prepared. For this reason, 8 lights are lit in the menora, one the first night and one more each night to show the increasingly miraculous nature of the oil. There are other reasons why 8 candles are lit according to other versions of the story. The book of Maccabees links the 8 candles to the celebration of the 8 day holiday of Sukkot which the Jews had not been able to observe since the war was going on at the time. According to this story, the Maccabees came back to the Temple and celebrated Sukkot and then instituted the festival for later years.|
| Which Jewish Holiday is somewhat associated with Thanksgiving?
|The holiday of Sukkot, the festival of the ingathering of the fruits of the land, has been connected with Thanksgiving in the sense that it is a time to thank God for the harvest. However, as in many religious faiths, thanksgiving is not limited to one moment or one holiday. Our prayers include thanks to God on every day for all that we have.|
| why don't jewish people eat pork?
|Jews who observe the Jewish Dietary Laws (Kashrut or "keeping kosher) eat meat only from animals with split hooves and which chew their cud. The origin of these laws is in the book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Torah. There are many other laws involved in kashrut including the separation of milk and meat products, the requirement that blood be completely drained from meat before it can be eaten, following the traditional means of slaughter of an animal which takes into account the pain the animal might feel and many other traditions. Many of these come directly from the Torah, others come from Rabbinic interpretation.|
| in Judaism what happens when a baby girl is born?
|There are many different traditions that have developed concerning the welcoming of a baby girl into the community and into the covenant of the Jewish people and God. Traditionally, the father would be called to the Torah ("an aliyah") on the first day on which the Torah was read following the baby's birth and a special prayer was said on behalf of the mother and the new baby and in the course of the prayer the baby's name was announced publicly. In more recent times, it has become customary in many communities to postpone the naming until the baby and the mother are ready to come to the synagogue and to be present and participate in a similar ceremony. Others hold more extensive ritual ceremonies in the home or in the synagogue in which the baby's name is announced and expressions of hopes and ideals and thanksgiving are shared with the family and friends.|
| I have a question about the policies of enrollment in your religous school. For a child to enroll in your religious school in the case of an interfaith marriage where Dad is the Jewish parent, do you require those kids to be converted before they can attend, or can they attend without conversion and convert shortly before Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Because I read about another conservative synagogue somewhere in America whose rabbi allowed kids with only Jewish Dads to attend the religious school at the synagogue, but were required to convert just before Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Does your synagogue have the same policy? And if it does, to you also consider those conversion ceramonies ceramonies of affirmation since the kids considered and identified as Jewish for so many years, or are they considered just as much gentiles converting than anybody else?
|This is a very difficult question and really entails a personal discussion with the Rabbi of a particular synagogue as I would not presume to answer for anyone else. In our congregation, there have been cases in which we have accepted a child into the religious school before a conversion ceremony has taken place. These are the exceptions rather than the rule and are based on personal discussions, a look at the entire context of the family situation, the age of the child involved etc. In most cases, the child would have the conversion ceremony before entering religious school and that is certainly the ideal. In every case, the conversion must be completed before the child begins to prepare for bar/bat mitzvah.|
| Why dont Jews have meat with dairy
|The prohibition against eating meat and dairy products together is based upon an interpretation of the verses which read: "You should not boil a kid in its mother's milk". While this might not have been the intended meaning of the text, the Rabbinic interpretation of this verse was that this prohibited the mixing of dairy and meat products.|
| What is the hat that Jewish people wear?
|The hat is referred to as a kippah (Hebrew) or yarmulke (Yiddish). Some wear a kippah or another head covering at all times. Others wear it only during prayer or study and while eating. The covering is intended to be a sign of respect to God and some say, to show the separation between God and human beings. It is an ancient tradition observed among many Jews today.|
| Does your congregation welcome homosexuals?
|Thank you for your question. Our congregation welcomes individuals and families without regard for sexual orientation.|
| why dont jews mix milk and meat?
|There is a verse which appears twice in the Torah which commands that "you must not boil a kid in its mother's milk". The prohibition against eating milk products and meat products together is based on this verse. There is no certainty, of course, that this is what the verse originally was intended to imply. In fact, that is highly unlikely. But, many aspects of Jewish law are based upon interpretations of verses, not the actual intended meaning of the verse. As a result of this interpretation, those who observe Jewish law will not eat milk and meat together at the same meal, waiting a certain number of hours after eating meat before eating dairy products and would have separate cooking and eating utensils for milk and meat products.|
| i'm not sure if it's proper to ask this here. is it against jewish law for a single person to masturbate
|I think this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask. The Torah's prohibition against masturbation has its roots in a completely different culture with complete different priorities and concerns. Without minimizing at allthe priority within Judaism to marry and have children, I think it is reasonable to look at this entire issue from our perspective instead of the Torah's. Taking into account the fact that there are different views from a psychological standpoint and even from a medical standpoint, I believe thatg one should not feel guilty about masturbation and, in fact, I would argue that it would be entirely appropriate in a society which faces some of the issues we do today such as the spread of AIDS or the reality of unintended pregnancies especially at a young age. Everything has its context. There are issues here of privacy and appropriateness which enter into the subject and must be taken into consideration. But, I think that in the right context and in a situation where it is not seen as a replacement for meaningful relationships with others, I believe that it would absolutely not be against Jewish law as viewed today.|
| Is it okay for perspective converts to wear Stars of David around their necks, or is that considered offensive in the Jewish community since they are not (or at least not yet) Jews. Also would a rabbi be offended if a potential convert saw a Star of David around the person's neck, or would many if not most rabbis see it as a serious sign of the person wanting to become a Jew. Also, if a person show's sincere desire to convert right from the very beginning is that person given as much discouragement or challenge than anybody else, or is it made to be easier for them. Because I am not Jewish and would very much like to become so, and I really hope that any rabbi will give me as much discouragment or challenge as they say is done, because I couldn't help not being born Jewish. If I had a choice before birth what I could be, I would have chosen to be Jewish. Like I mentioned, I haven't met with a rabbi to talk about it yet, as I don't know where to find one. I live in Pleasant Hill, California, which is near Oakland. Do you know any good rabbis near me? Let me know.
|Wearing a star of David would not be inappropriate for an individual to wear if they were considering conversion to Judaism. I don't believe it would affect how a Rabbi would react to an individual's stated desire to convert. Most Rabbis today are encouraging if an individual desires to convert. However, most Rabbis would not want to appear to be coercing an individual or advising them to convert to Judaism since it is an individual's choice therefore the Rabbi might be careful in not appearing to be too encouraging. Some Rabbis do discourage people actively at first but most are quietly supportive, urging the individual to be absolutely sure this is what they want to do. If you are interested in finding a Conservative Rabbi to speak with, you can go to the website of the United SYnagogue, uscj.org and contact them. They will be able to make a suggestion for a Rabbi in your area.|
| Dear Rabbi Dobrusin,
I have a certain question about patrilineal descent of the Reform Movement.
You were saying that in the Conservative Movement, you would not allow such an individual to take part in leading services, and such an individual who was a kid would not be allowed to have the lifecycle ceramonies like a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in a Conservative temple.
I ask because I am Jewish by patrilineal descent. It does not bother me that Orthodox and Conservative Jews that I am not considered as Jewish, because quite frankly who am I to say what they can and can not think of me as?
Take this for instance. Say my father was your brother or some other male relative of your's. As I said I was raised Jewish in a Reform Temple, and had a Bat Mitzvah, had a baby naming ceramony when I was born, ect.
Like I mentioned, say you were my uncle or whatever, and were invited to my life cycle ceramonies. Would you have still attened say my Bat Mitzvah, and congradulated me and given me gifts, or since I am not considered Jewish by your movement, would you have not participated? And if you wouldn't I also wanted to ask, do you tell those in your congregation who do have patrilineal descent family and friends not to be involved in their Jewish lives since they aren't really Jewish in your eyes, or do you not care? Let me know.
|I would never suggest to my congregants that they ignore or in some way separate themselves from patrilineal descent Jews in their family or their community. I do think that there are occasions in which the definition of who is a Jew becomes essential in one's relationship or in the life of the Congregation. I do not believe that it is necessarily undermining tradition to attend the bar or bat mitzvah of a patrilineal descent Jew even if one believes that that individual is not halachically Jewish. As a Rabbi, there are sometimes assumptions that people make when they see a Rabbi involved even as a "congregant" in a public ceremony but that would not bother me in this case. If a Congregation and a RAbbi accepts one as a Jew, in that setting, he or she is a Jew and should be respected for that and embraced. This is a very difficult line because I still believe that patrilineal descent Jews who have been raised as Jews and embrace Judiasm should strongly consider going to the mikvah and having an "affirmation" cerermony but I don't believe that people should be "punished" with any kind of ostracization for being a patrilineal descent Jew. I wish you well.|
| What's the reason behind serving chick peas at the seudat mitzvah following a bris?
|I've heard that this has to do with the fact that chickpeas being round signify the cycle of life. I'm sure there are other explanations as well.|
| Dear Rabbi D,
You mentioned in one of your more recent answers about patrilineal and matrilineal descent you indicated that you have no problem with patrilineal descent Jews considering themselves as Jews, and you wouldn't be offended by claiming such an identity and you are a conservative rabbi. You mentioned that was just how you felt. However would most other conservative rabbis and conservative Jews be offended by someone with only a Jewish Dad claiming to be Jewish, and say that without a Jewish Mom you have no business considering yourself Jewish? Also would Orthodox rabbis and Orthodox alone feel the same way and say since your Mom's not Jewish you have no business claiming to be Jewish? Because I think that is very nice of you alone to give people with Jewish Dads the right to at least considering themselves Jewish without challenging them just because they don't have a Jewish Mom.
|I am not sure how other Rabbis would view this question. It is my belief that there can be a distinction between the halachic, Jewish legal, status of an individual and their own definition. How could I say to someone who was an active member of their own Jewish community under that community's definition of a Jew that he or she is not entitled to consider him or herself as a Jew? It doesn't mean that I need to accept that definition for my community. Thus, if a person is a Patrilineal descent Jew, he or she would not be able to participate actively in our service, leading the prayers or reading from the Torah. However, I would completely respect that person's consideration of him or herself as a Jew and would respect it. I think the key here is whether the person is recognized as a Jew by any synagogue or community within the larger Jewish community. If so, then I think, even with the legal restrictions concerning ritual, that person should be respected as a Jew. I think some other Conservative and perhaps even Orthodox Rabbis would feel the same way but I can't answer for them. Thank you for your question.|
| Dear Rabbi,
If a person is born Jewish and then converts to Christianity, is he still considered Jewish by the Jewish people?
|According to Jewish law and tradition, a person can not convert out of Judaism in a legal sense. Thus, a person who has converted is still considered a Jew in the strictest sense of Jewish law. However, I, and am quite sure many other Rabbis would agree, would not want to call to the Torah or count in a minyan (the number needed for a complete prayer service) someone who had converted to another faith. Such an individual would be welcomed back to the Jewish faith if they so desired but I would, under those circumstances, work on an appropriate re-affirmation ceremony.|
| I hope this question does not sound too wierd. How come the Conservative movement allows women to become rabbis, but doesn't accept paternal descent? Because I thought it was just as traditional for only men to be rabbis, as it was for Jewishness to be passed through one's mother.
|This is not an unreasonable question. While it is true that women in the rabbinate is certainly a change from dominant tradition over the years, the Conservative movement's leaders demonstrated the halachic (legal) justification for this. With regard to patrilineal descent, I offer a few explanations. First of all, for the sake of klal yisrael, the unity of the people of Israel, the movement has determined that it is essential that we do all we can to make the determination of one's Jewishness uniform throughout the movements. We can not change what the Reform movement decided but we do not have to agree with it either. This change by the Reform movement, as well meaning as it was, has caused many problems within other approaches to Judaism as individuals who were accepted as Jews in their communities would find exclusion in others. THis is sad (although easily rectified) and will not be helped by our movement going along with this change. And, it would be a change for which there is no ultimate reason. I think it is clear that there was a desire to bring women into the Rabbinate. Thus, whatever reinterpretations of tradition which were necessary to allow for this were researched and taught. However, with regard to the patrilineal descent, this is a very specific law that can not be reintrepreted halachically and for which no great need exists to do so. I say that not to demean patriliineal descent Jews but the reality is that with a simple ceremony, in most cases, a person can affirm their Jewishness and be accepted at least within Conservative congregations. My own perspective on this is that I endorse the right of a patrilineal descent Jew to consider themselves a Jew and I wouldn't challenge that on an emotional, identity level. But, when it comes to, say, participation in the leading of a service in our synagogue, we would not allow patrilineal descent jews to take that role. Instead, I work with these individuals to confirm their Jewishness from a traditional point of view.|
| i heard an orthodox rabbi say the torah used to be written without spaces between the words and only later the words were divided. also i heard someone else say this. have you ever heard this?
|I certainly have heard this. I believe that this was the standard way of writing Hebrew at one point in its development as a language. The spaces between the words, the division into verses, chapters and weekly Torah portions are all later developments.|
| why can one not eat milk and meat together?
|According to Jewish tradition, the verses in the Torah which say: Do not boil a kid in its mother's milk are interpreted as referring to not eating milk and meat together at the same meal. Later Rabbinic authorities have expanded these prohibitions so that Jews who keep the dietary laws today do not eat milk and meat at the same meal, do not cook the foods together, use separate utensils for food preparation and serving and wait a certain amount of time following the eating of meat before once again eating dairy. There are many variations in the specifics of these observances but these are the general guidelines.|
| I am a girl of 12 years old. Rabbi I am right now a christian girl. I have a strong feeling that God wants me to Become Jewish. How could I convert? and is it wrong for me to want to convert?The only one in my family that is
jewish is my step mother. she is half- jewish.
|Dear Stephanie: Let me try to give you a general answer then you can decide where to go from here. First, I think that you should speak to your parents and your own pastor about your thoughts. I think that is the place to begin. If you feel that you can't, then you should try to find someone in your church that you can speak to because it is important to look for answers in the place that you are before you start to look elsewhere. If you speak to your parents and someone from your church and they are supportive of your interest, find out more about Judaism, maybe visit a synagogue or read some books. But, understand that no Rabbi, at least none that I know of, would help a person of your age convert. There are situations where that might happen, say where both parents were Jewish and they adopted a child at a young age and the child decided he or she wanted to be Jewish because he or she had been raised as a Jew. But, in a situation like yours, most Rabbis would be glad you were interested and ask you to think about and read about Judaism but continue to study your own faith and respect your parents and your parent's home until you were old enough to make a wise and mature deicsion about something so important. Please understand, there is nothing wrong with being interested in Judaism or in any other religion. But, we should look for answers at home first before looking elsewhere. Hope this helps.|
| Dear Rabbi,
I am 20 years old and am an atheist. Can I convert to Judaism? Also, I can never get this straight: what is the relationship between Judaism and a Jewish people (or "Jew", kinda of afraid to use this word, is it offensice in anyway?). Also, is being converted to Judaism means being a Jewish person? Thank you
|This is a very serious question and one which is difficult to answer. There is no question that there are many who consider themselves active and committed Jews who are atheists. At the same time, I believe that the traditional conversion ceremony assumes some form of belief in God which raises the level of the ritual above just a formality to something that is divinely inspired or commanded. There is no set dogma of theology in Judaism beyond the belief in one God so one can find oneself on any place on the spectrum of theology, whether believing in God literally or metaphorically but there has to be some acceptance at least of the willingness to struggle with theological ideas. Now, this is my perspective, not all Rabbis would agree. If you asked the same question, and I urge you to do so, to a humanistic Rabbi, you would get a much different answer. There is a place in the Jewish community for people all over the spectrum in terms of belief. If you find it meaningful to become a Jew and retain your atheism, you will be able to find a Rabbi to endorse that. At the same time, you may find, in talking about your beliefs, that you are closer to some Jewish beliefs about God than you think. That is certainly a possibility but it is worth investigating if you are interested in Judaism.|
| what is the formal name of the hat jewish people oftenly wear?
|The head covering is called either a keepah (accent on the second syllable) or a Yarmulke (accent on the first syllable). Keepah is a Hebrew word. Yarmulke, a Yiddish word. Both mean the same thing, referring to the skullcap. Some Jews cover their heads at all times. Others will wear the kippah during prayer, study, and during meals.|
| My Granddaughter is under 3 years of age
Does she have to observe Passover??
|Traditionally, Jews are obligated to observe the positive commandments from the age of 12 for a girl, 13 for a boy. However, it is the obligation of parents to instruct their children (or grandparents instructing their grandchildren) in the observance of the commandments from a very early age. In addition, the assumption is that the negative commandments ("You shall not...") apply for everyone. Bottom line is that a 3 year old should be observing Passover ("You shall not eat hametz") especially since if the rest of the house is doing so, she would not have access to hametz. However, I think that one needs to judge each situation on its own and I would not personally make a very major issue out of the fact that she might eat a piece of bread at pre-school, for example (a situation which came up with our children when they were very young) or if she is outside the house and someone hands her a cookie. The question we need to ask is: "How do we educate our children to embrace the commandments when they are old enough to make their own choices?" I think that we need to set very clear standards for our children if we want them to observe Judaism when they are older. At the same time, we need to have a bit of flexibility when it comes to our pre-school age children.|
| I hope that you don't find this question inappropriate or offensive. How come those under 18 can't undergo conversion, but can buy condoms? I just don't understand that.
|I think that this is a very serious question and I don't find it offensive. At the same time, I'm going to separate the issues in the question because I think the issue of whether 18 year olds should be able to buy condoms is a separate issue entirely. It is true that they can but that decision is made by a different authority than the authority which makes the decisions about conversion so I'll answer the first part and leave the second part for a different debate. (By the way, one could look at the question of birth control from a Jewish point of view as well but, again, that's for another time.) I would not consider it a hard and fast rule by any means that an 18 year old can not convert to Judaism. I don't know if your statement reflects something I previously wrote but it is true that I have indicated in this site that I would expect a high school student to wait at least until college to undergo the conversion process. There are exceptions, of course. Children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers or children adopted by Jewish parents can undergo the conversion process before age 13 if that is what the parents desire for them and if the child, at least of a certain age, is comfortable with the decision. But, once a child becomes of bar or bat mitzvah age, 13 for the sake of argument, the decision can not be made by the parents. It has to be made by the teenager. There have been cases that I have been involved in in which a 14 year old, for example, whose mother converted to Judaism a few years before decided to join her after having been exposed to Jewish rituals and synagogue life. But, these are exceptions. It is my feeling that a teenager is not old enough to make these decisions for him or herself considering the gravity of the choice. In addition, living in a home with non-Jewish parents and siblings would prevent the teenager from observing Jewish traditions. I would tell him/her to learn about Judaism, read books, attend services with their parents permission and understanding and then undergo the conversion process a few years later when they were old enough to see the entire picture. One of the major issues involved in my stance is my concern that no one feels pressured into converting to Judaism. I fear that parents or representative of another faith would view conversion of a teenager as in some way reflective of pressure on the individual to convert since they would not be mature enough to understand all of the issues. For this reason as well as the others, I would want to wait until the individual was older. Yes, there are exceptions, but it seems to me that this is the most prudent course of action.|
| Dear Rabbi,
How can I give a simple answer to my 7 year old when he asks, "why do we drink wine on Passover?"
|I would tell him or her that from a time very long ago, Jews looked at wine as a symbol of God's blessing. When Moses sent scouts out to view the land of Canaan, they came back with a bunch of grapes to show the people the frutifulness of the land and so wine became a symbol of how wonderful our world is. Our ancestors also believed that wine had the power (if used carefully and appropriately) of bringing us joy. So, we've kept wine or grape juice as a way of thanking God for all the wonderful things in the world and the wonderful events that have been taken place for our people, including the Exodus from Egypt. Let me know if this works.|
| a time that you learned something important at school
|I once learned at school, in a very clear and somewhat embarrassing way, how important it is to listen to other people closely before you give your own opinions. I won't go into how I learned the lesson but it was made very clear to me thanks to something that came up at school.|
| I have read how conversion is discouraged in the Jewish faith. Is it discouraged to everyone attempting to do it? Take me for instance. My Dad is Jewish and my Mom is not. I would very much like to become Jewish. Would I be given as much discouragement from converting as anybody else or do rabbis make exceptions for kids who have Jewish Dads who want to become Jews? Let me know.
|Each Rabbi must deal with this issue on a case by case basis. I would encourage you to speak to your father about this (and your mother as well of course)and see if you can make an appointment to talk with a local Rabbi. There are many factors involved here, your age, the religious commitment of your parents etc. but the only way to approach the situation is to talk with a Rabbi personally. If you can not locate a Rabbi near your home, let me know and I will see if I can make a suggestion.|
| how old is the jewish religion?
|Although his religion, his beliefs and practices were vastly different from those held and observed by Jews today, Abraham is considered to be the first Jew. According to most scholars, Abraham would have lived about 4,000 years ago. The religion has changed considerably since those days but we look to Abraham and Sarah as our ancestors.|
| Dear Rabbi Dobrusin,
My daughter was involved in a car accident and was almost killed Thank G-d all is well and we would like to have a ceremony to give our thanks to Hashem. Could you please tell us what we should do for this ceremony and what passages we could read for the occasion.
Thanking you in advance
Please send the answer to my e-mail address:
|I am glad to hear that your daughter is well. There is a tradition known as birkat gomel, which is said by one or on behalf of one who has escaped serious danger. It is a rather simple blessing which is tradtionally said during the Torah reading service in the Synagogue. You maight want to contact a Rabbi about this blessing. However, one could also say personal prayers of thanksgiving to God. My favorite traditional reading is Psalm 30 which talks about turning my mourning into dancing. Words spoken from the heart and some contribution to tzedakah, to a cause which is life enhancing would of course be appropriate.|
| what clothes are worn in bt and bar mitzvahs
|There is no special clothing associated with bar or bat mitzvah with the exception of the tallit, the prayer shawl worn by adult men, and many adult women, during prayer.|
| Rabbi - Why is it customary to turn away perspective converts to Judaism three times? Is there significance to the number three? - Regards,
|I don't think that there is any specific reason why the number three is important except in that in many situations in Jewish law to do something three times means you have established a routine which is accepted as having a sense of permanence. THus, a Rabbi who turned a prospective convert away three times could be said to have done the complete job necessary in discouraging someone. Many RAbbis today, myself included, do not follow this tradition but a first and even a second meeting might include a significant number of questions meant to, if not discourage, at least challenge the individual. It is important to note that at many times in Jewish history, the conversion process was not nearly as long and detailed as it is now, thus once the person kept coming back, the conversion process might have been rather quick. Because of the length and complex nature of the process of education and preparation today, the sending away three times is not as necessary. A person who participates fully and actively in the process is demonstrating sincerity.|
| I hope that this question does not make you uncomfortable. Did you know that Hitler recognized patrilineal descent? He didn't care if your Mother of Father was Jewish. If either Mom or Dad was Jewish then so were you in his book, and would also be send to Concentration Camps. Like I said sorry if this question makes you uncomfortable.
|This question does not make me uncomfortable. It is a fair and reasonable statement. I assume that what you are saying is: If a patrilineal descent Jew would have been included among Jews in the eyes of our enemies, why would we not welcome that individual with open arms now? My answer to the question is as follows: first, there are approaches to Judaism and movements within Judaism which do just that, welcome patrilineal descent Jews with open arms. In some cases, there are some conditions to this: having been raised as Jews and not practising another religion. In some cases, there are no conditions. However, as you know, many approaches to Judaism, our Conservative movement among them, have stood by the traditional approach to "Jewishness" being passed on through the mother or through the process of conversion. My own practice is to welcome patrilineal descent Jews into our synagogue and to work with them on an affirmation ceremony consisting of going to the mikvah, the ritual bath, and affirming their prior commitment to Judaism. I do not hide from anyone the fact that our tradition would call this conversion but that in specific circumstances such as these, refering to them as affirmation and being extremely lenient on other aspects of the conversion ceremony: interview by a "bet din" consisting of three Rabbis or going through long educational processes underline the fact that a person who comes having been raised as a Jew can become a Jew according to Jewish law very easily. There may come a time when our movement will consider the issue of patrilineal descent identity but in the interest of "klal yisrael", respect for issues of the unity of the people of Israel, we have and probably will for the forseeable future continue with the process of matrilineal descent or conversion. Your question is thought provoking and I am sure a Rabbi would be glad to discuss this further with you.|
| why do jewish people not eat pork?
(this is not a joke an enquiry)
|Traditional Jews follow the dietary laws of the Torah (in Leviticus as well as other places) in which, among other laws, there is a prohibition against eating animals which do not chew their cud and do not have split hooves. Pork is the most "popular" meat which doesn't fall into those categories. The tradition of kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws derive from these laws as interpreted by the Rabbis of the tradition. However, the prohibition against pork is there clearly in the Torah.|
| I am interested in your comments to teenagers about conversion and keeping a Jewish home. My question is a--perhaps strange--variant of that. My husband and I (married 20 years) are not Jewish. He is very interested in converting to Judaism and has been studying, etc. I am comfortable in my own religion. We are eating kosher food, lighting candles and having a Sabbath meal Friday, etc. My question is whether, in the Conservative tradition, he can convert if I do not, and what level of "Jewish home" is considered appropriate and acceptable. We have one 16 year old child at home who has been raised in my tradition and does not want to convert.
|I would suggest that you contact a Rabbi personally and discuss this face to face. It is unwise, I think, to make specific suggestions without being aware of all of the details. If you can not find a Rabbi, let me know where you are and I can recommend someone.|
| do jewish people, like the Muslims have certain foods that they do not eat
|The Jewish dietary laws, kashrut, are well developed and very detailed. They derive from the laws in the Torah as interpeted by the Rabbis of the Rabbinic period and later generations. You can find information on kashrut on the web or in any book on basic Judaism.|
| What do you wear if you are a jewish on hanukkah?
|Several questions have come in about whether Jews wear special clothing on holidays. With the exception of the ritual garments: the tallit, prayer shawl or the tallit katan, the fringed garments worn by traditional Jews under their clothing, the kippah, the head covering, and the kittel, a white robe worn by some on several special occasions such as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur or during the Pesach Seder or by a groom during a wedding ceremony, there are no special items of clothing worn during Jewish holidays or boservances.|
| I just have a question and I hope it doesn't sound too stupid. I recently learned more about a Disney movie that was in theaters a year and a half ago. It was called The Princess Diaries, and Garry Marshall who is Jewish was the director of the movie. I heard he is a very liberal Jew and doesn't believe in any of the ancient traditions of Judaism, number one being that Judaism should accept both maternal and paternal descent. I heard one of the reasons he liked directing Princess Diaries was because it was about a girl who had a royal father, but non-royal mother, and because of her father she was royal. I heard basically Garry believes it's just as silly and ridiculous to consider only those to have royal mothers royal as it is for Judaism to only consider those of Jewish mothers as Jewish. Did you hear anything about that? Like I indicated, sorry if my question was stupid. Also if you don't mind me asking, how do you feel about paternal descent? Let me know.
|Thanks for the great question. I have not heard this story and can't tell you whether it is one of the so-called urban legends or if it in fact accurate. I love hearing stories about people who find meaning in music or movies since many times I base my sermons on aspects of popular culture but this one is not one I can confirm one way or the other. As far as patrilineal descent goes, the Conservative movement holds to the principle of matrilineal descent saying that a person is Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish or if he or she converted to Judaism. This is difficult for some to accept, particularly those who have a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother and who have been raised as a Jew and consider themselves Jews. It is especially difficult when someone born to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father is considered Jewish even if they have not been raised as a Jew. But, Judaism is a tradition based upon law and this law has been a part of our tradition for millenia. I think we need to show extraordinary sensitivity in this area. For example, I believe that a person whose father is Jewish and who has been raised as a Jew should not be required, under most circumstances, to go through a long and detailed conversion process but should have a ceremony of "affirmation" we might call it consisting of the traditional immersion in the mikvah and, for men, ritual circumcision if it hasn't been previously done. I think that even if we don't accept a person whose father is Jewish but whose mother is not as a Jew in terms of Jewish law, we can still very much respect their involvement and identity within the Jewish community especially if they are active members of a synagogue which accepts patrilineal descent. Hope that this helps and please let me know if you find out any more about the movie.|
| what is your opinion on the religious conflicts in the middle east?
|I think that the major issue in the conflict in the Middle East is political, not religious. However,the fact is that much of the political scene is influenced by religious groups, particularly extremist groups who see exclusive control over certain areas as being part of religious dogma. There have been in past centuries close connections between Jews and Muslims and that reflects many basic similarities between the faiths. While Jews have suffered greatly over the centuries from Christian Anti-Semitism, there is a different attitude among most Jews and Christians today as people have experienced at least the beginnings of mutual respect and continue to work to enhance that. However, the political situation in the Middle East leads to distrust again and, as one who is very active in interfiath dialogue, I believe that we must do everything we can do to continue our interaction with different faiths and hope we can continue to find common ground. As the situation in the world grows more tense, the challenge becomes more difficult but the need becomes greater.|
| tell me about the candles on the menorah
|Usually, when Jews think of the menorah today, we think of the chanukah menorah and I'll assume that is what you want to know about. The menorah for chanukah, often called a hanukkiah to distinguish it from the 7 branched menorah which was a major visible symbol in the Temples in Jerusalem, is lit to commemorate the miracle of the holiday. According to the story of the holiday as related in Jewish tradition, the Macabbes defeated the Syrian Greeks who held the Temple and as importantly rooted out the "Hellenists" among the Jews, those who wanted to bring Greek rituals and Greek life into the Jewish community. According to the story, when the Macabees entered the Temple, they wanted to light the menora but found only one day's supply of oil. It took 8 days to get pure olive oil for the menorah but they lit the one day supply and miraculously it burned for 8 days. Actually, this is only one story told about the menora but it is the one which has captured the most attention over the centuries. Another story from Jewish tradition has the Macabbees taking 8 spears and pushing them into the wall of the Temple and lighting them. In addition, it seems completely reasonable to assume that the lighting of the candles at Chanukkah time is related to the bringing of light to the darkest time of the year.|
| Hello, I am Seventh Day Adventist and I respect jewish health laws. Please, help me with the following questions:
are mahi-mahi clean fish?
How are meat, fowl, and fish prepared properly?
|Mahi Mahi is considered a kosher fish according to Jewish law. Assuming a fish is kosher, there are no guidelines concerning the preparation of fish. Fowl and Meat must be slaughtered in a "kosher" manner by a slaughterer, that is done through the cutting of the jugular vein in a very quick and relatively pain-free manner. Then the blood is drained as completely as possible in fulfillment of the Biblical commandment that one should not eat the blood. Before the meat can be eaten, it must be soaked and salted in fulfillment of religious law. One additional point is that with meat (beef, lamb etc.) is that the sciatic nerve must be removed according to Jewish law. FOr most butchers, that means that the hindquarters of the meat can not be eaten. Many butchers especially in large religious communities do undertaken this process while in some places, that process is not undertaken but the hindquarters are sent to non-kosher butchers.|
| Dear Rabbi,
I was born a Jew but have had no formal training. My parents could not afford membership to the synogue. As an adult I cannot afford it either. I observe Yom Kippur in my home with a prayer book that a friend had given me. I choose to remain Jewish and follow the faith as best as I can. My concearns is that I am forever burdoned with what my Christian friends tell me about excepting Christ as our savior. I do not even have a educated response I don't know how Jews feel about this issue. I know the commandment that "Thall shalt have no God before thee". And I cling to it as the only logical rebuttal I can think of. Is this correct? They respond that Christ and the Holy Spirt and God are one in the same. I have asked my mother, she has been of no help. Her reply is that only gentiles believe in Christ. Please tell me where I can find the answers of Jews beliefs on Christ and a response to the comments that I will not be able to go to heaven if I dont except Christ. I am troubled and confused. I want so much to be a good Jew but I dont know where or how to seek the education. I REFUSE to believe that God would not let me into heaven if I dont believe in Christian beliefs. You may post this question if you think that it would be of some help to others but kindly respond via my email so that I am sure not to miss your answer. Thank you,
|You ask several important questions and hopefully, I can provide you with some answers. First, you should not feel in any way that financial issues should keep you away from a synagogue or learning about Judaism. If you live near a synagogue, call up and make an appointment to talk with the Rabbi or someone else at the synagogue. I frequently meet with people in your situation, those who are trying to learn something about their heritage and I urge you to take the step of going in and talking to people in your community. If you are not near a synagogue, there are many books that are available or even information to be learned through the Internet. Write me back if you would like the names of some books. The question you ask about Christianity is also very important. Obviously, I agree with you that a failure to believe in Christian doctrine would exclude one from God's blessings. When I am confronted with opinions like those you hear from others, I prefer not to get into a discussion about it. I want to fall back on what I believe and what my tradition teaches. So, my answer to this part is the same as the first, try to take the first steps in learning more about Judaism. Go to a synagogue, read synagogue web sites, find books and grow more knowledgable about Judaism. Please write again if I can help further.|
| what is clothing like during hanukah
|There are no special requirements or traditions that I am aware of regarding clothing during Hanukkah.|
| I am stuck on my homework and wondered if you could help me.What are the jewish kosher foods?
i have asked this befor and i am desperate for an answer.
|There are several different answers to this question. First, regarding fish, all fish that have fins and scales are considered kosher. There are some fish that are questionable but, by and large, it is a simple fact that if a fish has fins and scales it is kosher. This excludes all shellfish and some others as well. Regarding animals, an animal must chew its cud and have split hooves in order to be considered kosher. This means that beef, lamb, goat and some other animals are kosher. However, the animal must also be slaughtered in a kosher manner (with a quick cut to the vein in the neck), the blood must be drained from the animal and the animal must have been healthy at the time of slaughtering as a animal suffering from a life threatening illness is not considered ot be kosher. Birds are kosher if they are not birds of prey. It is also a law of kashrut(the "kosher" laws) that meat and dairy products can not be eaten at tthe same meal, with a minimum of three hours passing between the eating of meat and the eating of dairy (some wait longer periods of time). There are many other specific laws of kashrut but this should be sufficient to answer your question.|
| What do Jewish people eat
|The Torah prohibits the eating of fish without fins and scales and animals which do not chew their cud and do not have split hooves. These and other laws are called the laws of kashrut. In general, traditional Jews will not eat dairy and meat products together at the same meal and will eat meat only from animals which have been prepared properly according to Jewish law.|
| I am doing this for a class report and its due really soon. My question is "HOW OLD IS THE JEWISH RELIGION" please answer my question cuz I have submitted this question like 3 times already.
|The Jewish religion began, according to our tradition, with Abraham in the Bible. This was probably about 4000 years ago. Judaism, as it is practised today, is based on the interpretations of the Rabbis of our tradition, who began their work 2000 years ago. So, I would answer that Judaism is part of a 4000 year old tradition which has changed many times over the years but still is based on that ancient tradition.|
| I am a 13 year year old girl who's father is Jewish, and mother is not. I would really like to become a part of the Jewish people. I attended a Jewish day camp this summer, and it was the most spiritual expiriece of my life. Even though my mother is not Jewish, the fact that my father is, and I don't belong to any other religous group made me Jewish enough for them at camp, especially with such a Jewish last name. However, I was told that to get my Judaism more recognized in other parts of the Jewish world I would need to convert. My parents don't have a problem with me converting. Even if my parents don't mind would I still be allowed to convert? Also I have heard how many rabbis will turn the convert away several times to test their seriousness. Even though I already have a Jewish father, and am only 13 would I still be discouraged from conversion?
Thanks for your help and I look forward to joining you all in the Jewish community very soon.
|Dear Erin: I'm glad to help you with this question. I appreciate the situation you find yourself in and appreciate also that you seem to have all the facts down correctly. A lot of times, people aren't clear on the issues. This is only my personal opinion. You would have to speak to a Rabbi in your area for more information. First, are you a member of a congregation? If so, I assume from your description that it would be a Reform congregation or at least that the camp that you went to might have somehow been associated with the Reform movement. If so, I think your first step would be to talk with a Reform Rabbi. You need to get his or her thoughts on this issue. Many would be willing to help you formalize a conversion to Judaism. I should say quickly that when a child has been raised as a Jew but is not formally Jewish according to law, I prefer to refer to the ceremony as an "affirmation" not as a conversion but that is a minor point. That Rabbi might be able to connect you with a Conservative Rabbi in the community or could handle a traditional conversion him or herself. If you have been raised as a Jew and identified only with Judaism as a faith,there would not be a problem with your parents' permission of having a conversion ceremony. I don't think you'd be discouraged from conversion. Without your parents'permission, I think it would be better to wait until you were a bit older, maybe 16 or 18 but in the meantime, you could continue to see yourself as a Jew and ocntinue to learn and have Jewish experiences while you wait for that time to come. Iwould be glad to help you further if you would like. RD|
| are there any special clothes worn at a jewish birth and naming ceremony
|There are no special clothes that are worn. It is up to an individual decision although there is a tradition that the father would wear a prayer shawl, a tallit. That, however, is not universal.|
| is there any special food eaten at a birth and naming ceremony
|No special foods are eaten (except for the wine as a symbol of joy). There are some traditions to eat foods which are round (eggs, chickpeas etc.) to symbolize the cycle of life but this only a tradition and not observed by all.|
| Dear Rabbi,
Can you please tell me the significance of the 8th day when it comes to the circumcision ceremony?
|The circumcision is done on the 8th day because that is the way the commandment from the Torah reads. There is no explanation given in the Torah and only speculation by later Rabbis as to why the 8th day. The nicest explanation I have heard is that in this way, the baby's first Shabbat (Sabbath) would not be ruined by the discomfort caused by the circumcision (which, although it would seem to be minimal is still considered to be serious for the child). This answer is only a folk tradition, there is no actual reason given for this commandment to take palce on the 8th day.|
| 1.What do jewish people wear ?
2.How do we know that someone is jewish?
3.What do jewish people eat ?
4.How does a jewish person celebrate a birthday ?
5.What is the holiest day for a jewish person?
6.Where do they worship ?
7.Who do they worship ?
8. When do they worship ?
9.How many times does a jewish person pray ?
10.Do Jewish people fast alot ?
|I think the simplest way to answer this question is to suggest that you get a hold of a book such as "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Judaism" (it's great) or other introductions to Judaism. To answer a couple of your questions: There are several fast days over the course of the year, the most widely observed being Yom Kippur (the day of Atonement) and Tisha B'av (the anniversary of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem). Jews traditionally pray 3 times a day (morning afternoon and evening) although people also pray spontaneously in response to a particular situation. Jews can worship anywhere although communities try to gather in synagogues for prayer. The holiest day of the year is Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement. Birthdays are celebrated by Jew sin the same way anyone would celebrate a birthday. The only distinctive Jewish clothing is the head coverning, the yarmulke, worn during prayer and study and by some Jews at all times and the prayer shawl, the tallit, worn during morning prayer by men and by some women. There are detailed dietary laws, kashrut, which effect what Jews eat. Traditional Jews observing kashrut will not eat pork or shellfish and will not mix milk and meat together at the same meal and will not eat milk products until a certain time has passed since they ate meat. Hope these help.|
| Dear Rabbi,
I was given the honor of being my great-nephew's G-dfather by his parents. I may have to give this newborn boy a blessing. Can you tell me what words or thoughts to say to the invited guests. Thank you for your kindness and information.
My Email is firstname.lastname@example.org
|It is an honor to be chosen as a god-parent, although different people have different roles in mind when they select an individual for this role. In terms of a blessing, the best thing is to say the words that come from your heart and your hopes for the child in the future. If you wish to say a traditional blessing, the blessing for boys: yiseemcha elo-im kiefrayim uk'minashe may God bless you as Efraim and Mannaseh, said with hands on the baby's forehead or top of the head would be appropriate. Mazal Tov!|
| dear rabbi,shalom.my question is;where can i find a used/inexpensive jewish bible that is written in the Spanish language??Toda-rabba.also,i was in La paz,Bolivia & i went into a catholic cathedral & i saw the biggest "Magan David" on the top of the alter.I loved it but what was it doing there?? toda rabba.
|There are usually ways to acquire Spanish bibles through Sefardi sources (Jews of spanish origin). Try looking at the internet under spanish/portugese synagogues and see if by writing to them, someone may send you a copy of a Spanish bible. I'm not sure about the magen David. I know that some catholic and other chrisitian churches use Jewish symbols occasionally to reflect the connection with the Jewish scriptures and Jewish history.|
| Dear Rabbi,
My brother and his family are converting to the Jewish faith and are having a naming ceremony for my neice and nephew. I am Catholic and I would like some information on what this ceremony is about and what I can do to be involved so that I can support their choice.
|It is traditional to have a naming ceremony for a newborn baby boy or girl. With a boy, this takes place traditionally as part of the brit milah, the ritual circumcision ceremony. With a girl, this ceremony takes place as soon as possible after the baby is born. It is also traditional to include a naming ceremony in the conversion ceremony for an adult or a child. I can't really comment on the particular ceremony involving your neice and nephew because there are so many factors which might affect how the ceremony is done. Suffice it to say, that a naming ceremony is the time in which a child (or an adult who has gone through conversion) receives formally and with an accompanying blessing, their Hebrew name which would be used in Jewish rituals both in the synagogue and in life cycle events. This is considered an important element in one's Jewish identity. Hopefully, this gives you some idea but there is so much variation among the different movements in Judaism and in individual synagogues that I think you need to ask specific questions of your brother.|
| IN GENESIS 48:8-20 JACOB BLESSES HIS TWO GRANDSONS. TO THE YOUNGEST EPHRAIM HE GAVE THE GREATER BLESSING WHY? WHY DID HE CROSS HIS HANDS TO BLESS THEM BOTH? WHY DO JEWISH PARENTS SAY GEN 48:20 OVER THEIR CHILDREN? WHAT WAS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THESE TWO BOYS? WHERE THEY TWINS? WHY DID JACOB CROSS HIM ARMS AND USE HIS RIGHT HAND TO BLESS EPHRAIM? WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT EPHRAIM AND MANASSEH? THANK YOU FOR ANY ANSWERS.
|This is a difficult question to answer as so much is open to interpretation. Let me give you my idea. The Torah continuously stresses that blessing doesn't depend on birth order and holiness doesn't depend on any such characteristic. Thus, continuously the younger siblings are the "favored ones". Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses all have older siblings. My own interpretation of this and it is not the straightforward meaning but one I read into the story is that Ephraim, being younger, was being taught about his past at an earlier age than his older brother. Jacob, newly arrived in Egypt from Canaan, met his grandchildren for the first time and while we don't know how old they were, we certainly know that Ephraim is younger and I believe the earlier one starts to teach a child about his or her religious and spiritual heritage, the better the chance that they will embrace it as their own. Perhaps this is why Jacob blessed Ephraim first. Jewish families bless their sons with this blessing because Jacob says to them: may you be so blessed that in the future people will bless their children by saying may you be blessed like Ephraim and Manasseh. In other words, Jacob expresses the hope that they will be the epitome of blessing. While it might not have turned out that way in the lives of Ephraim and Manasseh, we still honor Jacob's wishes by blessing our children in this way.|
| what is peasch?
|Pesach is the Hebrew name for the holiday of Passover, which celebrates the exodus from Egypt. The word itself refers to the sacrifice which was made from which blood was taken and placed on the doorposts of the house as a sign. The Torah says that God, upon seeing the sign, pasach, passed over, those houses in the 10th plague of the killing of the first born.|
| what is the origin of rabbi
|The word Rabbi, literally meaning my teacher, began to be used during the period of the Mishna, the first post-Biblical code of Jewish law. It has remained as the title for the authority within the Jewish community who is appointed to interpret law and tradition and be a teacher of Torah.|
| Dear Rabbi,
I have a serious problem. I am the child of a Jewish father and a Christian mother.
It is my understanding that somebody is only Jewish if their mother is Jewish. Why is that? That fact really bothers me.
I was also looking at some of the questiosn from other people on this site, and it stated that how with conversion that most rabbis will not work with someone who is not of a certain age to convert. Why is that?
Because my Mother is not Jewish, that means I'm not and would need to be converted. However I am 15 years old. Is that too young to undergo conversion if so, why?
I have always been very drawn to Judaism. I have Jewish feelings and Jewish beliefs. I have never believed in Jesus or anything in the Bible about him. I have always enjoyed doing Jewish activities with my Jewish relatives, Hannukah, Passover, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs ect. What do I need to do? Do I need to talk to a rabbi or something for conversion.
As I stated I am 15 years old. I would hope that I can convert if I so desire to excersise the right I have as a citizen of the United States of America to practice free religion. That is a very sacred right in this great nation because many men fought for their lives to death for this right, and it is a right that should be honored after last Fall's devastating terrorist attacks against this great nation. Please help, I feel that being legally Jewish would make me a much happier person, and I feel that not being raised Jewish like I have missed out on so much.
|Dear Dave: It is true that according to traditional Judaism, both Orthodoxy and Conservative Judaism, a person's Jewishness is dependent either on their mother being Jewish or their having converted to Judaism. Reform Judaism has a principle that a person is Jewish if either parent is Jewish and the person was raised with the appropriate Jewish life cycle ceremonies, in other words, if the person was raised as a Jew. The traditional approach, of following the Jewishness of the mother, is a very old Jewish tradition, dating far back into our history as a people. At this point, here is what I would think you might want to do. Conversion is always a possibility and you can certainly speak to a Rabbi about it. However, given your age, I would think you would speak to your parents first. I would not work with a person under the age of 18 (or in some cases even older) without first speaking with his or her parents because conversion means living a Jewish life style, observing Jewish law (to one extent or another) and as a teenager, living in a home in which judaism may not be observed, it would be difficult to make these commitments. If your parents were comfortable and supportive, it might make a difference in how one might proceed. However, you should also realize that even if conversion isn't possible right at this moment, to consider yourself a Jew, to think of yourself as a Jew, to learn more about Judaism by reading or going to a service or keeping yourself aware of things happening in the Jewish community and to the Jewish people should be your first step. By all means, you could speak to a Rabbi in your home town but I would think this is something you should speak to your parents about first. In a few years, this will be a decision you could make on your own and the more you think about it now and the more you learn now, the easier a process that might be.|
| 1. How do you become a Rabbi?
2. Is there such a title as Honorary Rabbi?
3. Is there a list of 'qualified Rabbis to look at?
|There are many different ways to becoming a Rabbi. Technically, one can be ordained as a Rabbi by another Rabbi if that person feels one has had the appropriate amount of education in order to serve in the capacity. However, for all practical purposes, ordination as a Rabbi today reflects the fact that an individual has studied in a program of RAbbinic studies, usually after college. These studies can take place at any of a number of Rabbinical Schools or in the case of Orthodox Jews, yeshivot, academies. At a certain point in one's training or at the end of a certain course of study, the title of Rabbi would then be conferred on an individual. I don't think that there can be said to be honorary Rabbis. Each individual Rabbinical organization would have a list of Rabbis whom they recognize within their organization. I would assume those lists might be available on the web.|
| how when where and by whom were the commandments boiled down to ten
|In Jewish tradition, there are 613 commandments in the Torah. The designation of the 10 commandments from the Jewish perspective is significant only in the sense that these 10 were apparently, according to the Torah, engraved on the stone tablets which Moses brought down but there is no special significance in Judaism to these 10 over and against the others. That they are among the most basic is not questioned but there are many other commandments which are as important as these from the perspective of Jewish thought.|
| Dear Rabbi, I am doing a school assignment on two different world religions and i was wondering what the Jewish people believed happened after death, and what rituals take place once someone had died. Thank you.
|This is a very difficult question that requires a longer answer than I have space for here. Let me try to give you some general thoughts: Judaism believes that what we do in this world and how we live in this world is more important than speculation on what happens after death. There are those who believe that existence after death is only a poetic way of saying that our influence in the world lives on after our death while others believe that at the tmie of the Messiah, we will be resurrected completely in our earthly bodies and live again. Then there are those who fall anywhere in the middle of these views. I think the important point is that Judaism believes that something within us is eternal, the image of God, the soul, call it what you will, and that it continues to exist in one form or another eternally. Jewish customs of death stress several principles; the equality of human beings, the reality and finality of death, the concern for the mourners. Any good book on Basic Judaism will discuss these more fully. I hope that this helps. RD|
| We want to have the groom's sister design the ketuba, and we would like to use our own text. Our rabbi is quite progressive, as we are. Do you have suggestions for a place to find sample text in Hebrew and English?
|I think that the internet can come in handy on this one. There are several websites dedicated to ketubot (try searching for ketuba or ketubah and see what you come up with). In addition, The New Jewish Wedding Book by Anita Diamant has some variant texts of a more contemporary nature. RD|
| Dear Rabbi:
What is the Hebrew insription written on
the Elijah's Cup?
|I don't know that there is a standard Hebrew on Elijah's cup. I've seen many different inscriptions (as well as some of course without inscriptions at all). It might say Eliyahu Hanavi, Elijah the prophet, or kos eliyahu, the cup for Elijah or almost anything inspirational and hopeful.|
| I am a high school senior planning on attending the University of Michigan this fall. I have attended Solomon Schechter Day Schools in Chicago and an orthodox high school for two years. I am interested in tutoring kids during the school year in both Hebrew and secular studies. Do you know of any families that could use a tutor? Thank you, Ariel Kiken, Reliskiken@juno.com
|Dear Ariel: We do occasionally need tutors. The best thing to do is to contact me by phone or email when you get into town (Rdobrusin@provide.net) and we can get together or I can hook you up with our education director. Looking forward to hearing from you in Ann Arbor. RD|
| Does displacing women and children in order to create settlements (Kibutzes) not bother you? I believe Israel has a right to exist. But is the creation of over 700 settlements on Palestian lands in the past 2 years not bother groups like yourself in this country?
|The situation in Israel and in the Middle East in general is very disturbing and there are many disturbing aspects of it. I, personally, find the settlement issue to be very troubling. I am not going to make a blanket statement saying that all settlements are wrong and unjustified. Some places which people refer to as settlements are actually moderate to large cities just on the border of pre-1967 Israel and very important for security. But, many are not and I personally oppose the building of new settlements at this time. I also believe that in the interests of a true and lasting peace, many of the settlements should be disbanded as land is turned over to the Palestinians. You will find many people expressing many different opinions about the settlements and all MIddle East issues within the Jewish community. What binds us together is a belief that Israel not only has a right to exist but is a democracy with much to give to the world and to the Jewish people. Different Jews feel differently about the issues and situations like we have today where security issues come to the fore again after so many terrorist attacks do affect the way people think. But, again, to answer your question, strictly personally, I think that the Israeli settlement policy is one of the issues on both sides which must be changed if true peace is going to come.|
| I am not a jew, but my jewish friends are to have her naming ceremony soon. I wish to participate in some meaningful way to express my thanks to G-D, and to also express my respect for their faith and culture. How may I best do both of these things? Is there a proper prayer that I may memorize and offer that would be appropriate?
Many thanks and blessings to you for your kindly response.
|I assume this is a baby naming ceremony. Depending on the attitudes of the individuals involved, they may find your recitation of a Jewish blessing either a wonderful expression of your love or inappropriate despite your sincerity. Because I don't know the circumstance, I would suggest that you speak or write something from your heart which incorporates the three fold blessing given to babies in the Jewish tradition: that they grow to Torah, marriage and a life of good deeds. You could give your own interpretations of the blessing that each of these provide. Anything spoken or written from the heart will be a wonderful addition to the ceremony or to a private moment afterwards.|
| Are there symbols eg special clothes, used at the Brit Milah ? I am doing a Studies of Religion assignment and I am comparing ang contrasting Brit Milah to Baptism in the Christian religion. Thank you Amelia.
|There are really no special clothes or other symbols that are directly part of the brit milah. The one tradition that might fit into the category of "symbol" is what is referred to as the chair of Elijah. Before the brit milah, the child is placed in or held near a chair designated as the chair of Elijah referring to the prophet Elijah who, according to Jewish tradition, is the herald of the Messiah and serves symbolically as the protector of the baby during the brit milah. Elijah's presence is invoked in many different Jewish rituals as a symbol of our hopes for the perfection of the world and an encouragement for all of us to work for the betterment of the world. With Elijah's symbolic presence at the brit milah, it reminds us of the child's potential to do his part in the repair of the world. In addition, it is customary to use a special cup for the wine at the brit milah. This cup called a kiddush cup is used also for kiddush, the blessing said at the beginning of the Sabbath and holidays. There is not a special cup specifically for the brit milah itself. Families would use the cup that they use to celebrate the holidays.|
| can you explain what happens in a brit milah in detail?
|The brit milah ceremony includes two parts: the procedure itself and the ceremony of naming the baby. Both are interrelated in that traditionally a naming is not be done separate from the brit milah. After the baby is welcomed into the room, several verses are said which invoke the presence of Elijah to protect the baby and to represent the fondest wishes of all for goodness in the life of this child. At that time, the father and mother may give the mohel, the person who does the circumcision, the honor of doing it through words which appoint the mohel as their agent in performing this act. The circumcision itself is done quickly and is followed by prayers over a full cup of wine. The last part of the ceremony is the naming which links the baby's name with the ancestors of our people. It is common for parents and grandparents and others to say words of welcome and hope for the child. Following the brit milah, food is served as a way of celebration.|
| In the Jewish religion can you be married on Saturday before sundown?
|Traditionally, no. A wedding can not be performed on Shabbat (Sabbath from Friday evening through Saturday after sundown) or on religious holidays.This is because the wedding is a legal ceremony and legal ceremonies are generally not performed on those occasions.|
| I am a Jewish female who is marrying a non-Jewish guy. We are not planning a Jewish household, but some of the Jewish traditions are important to me. I would like a ketubah, and want to make it spiritual but non-religious. Is there anything wrong with creating a ketuba with out reference to the Jewish faith?
|This is a difficult question because, on one level, there is no problem whatsoever in using the concept of the ketuba to reflect your own feelings of commitment and then expanding on the words or taking them in a different direction with your own thoughts and priorities. The only problem is that when one calls it a keutba, one could possibly lead people to thinking that it is a valid ketuba in terms of Jewish law which it is not. On the one hand, you don't have the responsibility to worry about what others might think, on the other hand, it is incorrect to use the traditions in this way. My suggestion is to write whatever you would like and either not call it a ketuba or say that it is inspired by the traditional Jewish document called the ketuba. That way, you can have it as part of your own wedding without misrepresenting yourselves or Jewish tradition.|
| Can you please explain why it is Jewish tradition not to announce a newborn's name until the official ceremony?
|Traditionally, this only applies to boys prior to the brit milah, the circumcision ceremony which takes place on the 8th day. It is a tradition which probably has its roots in superstition, not wanting to be subject to the "evil eye". I have heard many explanations of this. One is that since the baby had not yet been circumcised, it was not fully a member of the community and was somehow unprotected from potential evil times. To confuse the angel of death who is, according to some traditions, powerless if it doesn't know the name of the individual, the baby is thus protected until after the naming which is part of the brit milah. This is clearly superstition and many who observe this today just do so to keep the family and the community guessing and add an element of surprise to the brit milah process.|
| What happens when a baby girl or boy is born in the Jewish culture?
|One of the oldest of Jewish tradition is known as brit milah, the covenant of circumcision. It dates back to the Torah, to the book of Genesis where it is commanded as an obligation for every new born baby boy. On the 8th day (or later if the baby's health does not permit), a ceremony is conducted in which an individual called a mohel, trained in the law and in the procedure of circumcision, performs this ceremony in the presence of family and friends. It is a joyous time (although nervewracking for the parents) and one in which the baby's ritual, Hebrew name, is announced for the first time. The ceremony welcomes the baby into the covenant and into the community. For a baby girl, there is also a naming ceremony and a welcoming into the covenant. In many congregations, including ours, the family, parents, siblings and newborn baby girl are welcomed to the bima (the front of the synagogue) and the parents say the blessings over the reading of the Torah. Then, special prayers and songs are sung to welcome the baby into the covenant, announce her Hebrew name and celebrate the joy of a new member of the community. Many choose to have the naming ceremony at home (hat is usually where the brit milah takes place as well) and to construct their own ceremony around songs and Biblical verses. Needless to say, the birth of a child is a great joy in the community and is reflected through communal ritual.|
| During the Shabbat Morning Serivce, I was lucky enough to see a "Naming Ceremony?" My question is what is the actual name of it? And what is it's importance to the Jewish Culture?
|It has always been customary for the father of a newly born baby girl to be called to the Torah for an aliyah, the saying of the blessings before and after the reading of a section of the Torah. Then, a prayer was recited which expressed hope for the health of the mother and baby and announced, publicly, the baby's Hebrew name. (The announcement of the name of a baby boy takes place at the Brit Milah, the ritual circumcision ceremony.) In recent years, it has become customary for the naming to be postponed until the mother and the baby are well enough to come to the Bimah for an aliyah and for that naming prayer to be said in the presence of the baby. When that happens, it is also appropriate to speak words of hope and good wishes to the baby and the family. Some families prefer instead to have such a ceremony at home and that can also be appropriate. The name has great significance in Jewish tradition as the link with the ancestors of the past and this is an opportunity to formally welcome the child into the covenant and the community.|
| Who is Leah? I mean Leah from the Bible
|Leah was the first wife of the Patriarch Jacob. Jacob had fled to his extended family's home after his conflict with his twin brother, Esau. Upon meeting Laban, he contracted to work 7 years in order to then marry his younger daughter Rachel. On the night of the wedding, the older sister, Leah was substituted for Rachel. Jacob later married Rachel as well. Leah, while described in the Torah in not the most flattering physical terms was always thought of as representing wonderful emotional qualities. Hers was a very difficult life in terms of the fact that her husband never loved her as he loved her sister. She was however the mother of many of Jacob's children.|
| This is a stupid question and if you dont want to answer it I will understand. But does the jewish faith welcome outsiders ( I mean other races black people to be more specifics). You see I don't have a religion and I was I quess I looking for one.
|This is not a stupid question at all. Judaism welcomes those who wish to learn about the faith whether or not for the sake of conversion and does welcome those who wish to become Jews. THere are absolutely no restrictions regarding race, prior religion or any other factor (except for age, most Rabbis will not work with someone for conversion who is not of a certain age). However, Judaism is generally not a faith which proselytizes. We encourage people to learn more about their own faith and find within that faith what they are looking for. If one can not find within their own faith the meaning they seek or if they do not have a faith that they have been raised in, Most Rabbis would be glad to talk to that person about Judaism. You should contact a Rabbi in your community if you are interested.|
| Hello, I live in West Branch Mi and I wanted to know where I can find A synagogue in my area. Im 16 years old and I want to convert to the jewish faith. Please write back as soon as you can I can under stand if it takes a while but It would really mean alot if you be swift about it
|I see by my map that West Branch is in the northern part of the lower peninsula. If you are near to the tri-city areas of Saginaw, Bay City and Midland, you will find a synagogue in that area. With regard to conversion, Judaism welcomes people who are interested in conversion although it has always been a belief within Judaism that religions which work for the common good and profess a belief in God and a moral life style are all equal in the eyes of God. So, one should look into one's own faith first before starting to consider conversion. However, if one is sincerely interested in learning about Judaism and adopting a Jewish life style, conversion is a definite possibility and we welcome converts to Judaism without question. Age is an issue. I, personally, would only work with someone for conversion who was of college age or above and usually would encourage someone in their late teens or early 20s to take their time in learning about Judaism and delay the conversion until they were absolutely sure. This is something that one should talk about personally with a Rabbi.|
| 1. How do Jews view the Catholic Faith in modern society?
2. If you had to choose a few practices or ideas within Judaism, and
only those, to carry with you for the rest of a life without Judaism,
what would they be?
|In general, Judaism views other faiths as to be respected and honored as long as they adhere to basic principles of justice, fairness, respect to us and are based on a belief in God. These are sometimes refered to as the "Noahide" laws, a tradition of Jewish interpretation which says that God gave 7 commandments to the children of Noah following the flood and that these laws are to be viewed as the basis for a moral society. There have been many times in recent years in which Jews and Catholics have come together and worked together for the betterment of the world and sought to understand each other better. Needless to say, there have been serious issues that have arisen in the past due to Anti-Semitic teachings of the church which have led to disastrous situations for Jewish communities. We hope and pray that these are in the past and that we can work together to understand each other better. I don't feel it is appropriate for me to comment on any specifics of the Catholic faith. The second part of your question is intriguing. I can't answer it the way it is phrased but can answer a question which I feel is similar: what are some of the central teachings and practices of Judaism. To this question, my own personal answer would be the laws of the Sabbath, which teach us to appreciate and find great meaning in time, the tradtion of teshuva, repentance, which teaches us that we have, in our power, the ability to transform our lives into lives of holiness and goodness and finally, the tradition of study and learning which helps us to find, in our ancient texts, meaning for today. There are so many others that I could have picked but I'll leave it at that.|
| Can you provide some thoughts on the issue of stem cell research from the perspective of Jewish law and tradition?
|You will find some thoughts on this issue in the Rabbi's messages column. This is a difficult issue but one which Jewish tradition can shed some light on.|
| (my computer ws dead 5/16-24, so I received no mail then) Question: why does Rachel precede Leah in the list of mothers? She preceded Rachel in all ways except Jacob's favor. I know many of the first born sons ended up badly: Cain Ishmael Esau Reuben etc but why is this extended to poor Leah?
|Actually, in some siddurim (prayer books) which contain the names of the matriarchs in the Amida, for example, Leah is listed before Rachel precisely because she was the older. The general tradition however is to list Rachel first and I think there are two reasons for this. First is simply because she was Jacob's favorite and was the mother of Joseph. Despite the fact that Leah does precede her sister in so many ways, Rachel is considered the favored one of the tradition as well because of Jacob's love for her. I would offer one other reason which might factor in this discussion. I have always found that the cadence of the names sounds better with Rachel coming before Leah. I readily admit part of the reason for that might be that we're used to it but knowing the concern for the cadence and the rhythym of the sounds in the words of the liturgy, I think that that might be a minor reason for the continued use of this order.|
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