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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Worship, Conversion, Intermarriage (5/12)

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               Frequently Asked Questions on Soc.Culture.Jewish
   Part 5: Worship, Conversion, Intermarriage, and other Practice Questions
                    [Last Post: Tue Mar  2 11:07:29 US/Pacific 2004]


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Subject: ORGANIZATION This portion of the FAQ contains answers to the following questions: Section 9: Jewish Worship 1. [5]How does a rabbi differ from a priest? 2. [6]Do you need a rabbi for a wedding? 3. [7]Do you need a rabbi for a divorce? 4. [8]How do Jews pray? 5. [9]Is there a distinctly Jewish form of meditation? 6. [10]Does Judaism have a strong tradition of religious art and music? 7. [11]What is a synagogue? 8. [12]What will I find in a synagogue? 9. [13]How is a synagogue operated? 10. [14]What functions does a synagogue serve? 11. [15]What is the name of the Jewish God? 12. [16]What is the reason for a "minyon" (a quorum of 10 men requried for certain prayers)? 13. [17]What is the "Shema"? 14. [18]Where can I learn about the prayers before eating? 15. [19]What is the structure of the morning service? 16. [20]When should morning services start? 17. [21]Why do people put their tallit over their heads when they pray? 18. [22]What is the importance of collective worship in Judaism? 19. [23]What is the difference between Conservative Prayer and Orthodox Prayer? 20. [24]What is the Timeline of Women in the Rabbinate? 21. [25]Are extremely observant men permitted to pray at home? 22. [26]What is the Qetzatzah Ceremony? 23. [27]What time of day were the sacrifices offered? Section 10: Conversion, Intermarriage, and "Who is a Jew?" 1. [5]Does Halacha (Jewish law) permit intermarriage? 2. [6]I'm a Jew who married a gentile. Am I still Jewish? 3. [7]I'm a Jew who accepted the tenets of another religion, but now wants to practice Judaism again. Am I allowed? Am I still Jewish? 4. [8]OK, then apart from halachic considerations, why do many Jews of all types oppose intermarriage? 5. [9]Is objection to intermarriage a form of bigotry? 6. [10]But I still want to intermarry? Do you know of a Rabbi that performs intermarriages? 7. [11]How does one convert? 8. [12]What about adults who are not circumcised? 9. [13]What does the word "Jew" mean? 10. [14]Who is a Jew? 11. [15]What is the origin of Matrilineal Descent? 12. [16]I've heard that Jewish parents consider an intermarried child as "dead". Is this true? 13. [17]Why is the conversion process so complicated? The matriarchs didn't have to convert. Section 11: Miscellaneous Practice Questions 11.1. Dress 1. [5]Why do some Jewish women wear wigs or cover their hair with a snood, beret, tichel, turban, kerchief or hat? 2. [6]Why do many Jewish men wear head coverings (variously referred to as "yarmulkas," "skullcaps," and "kipot")? 3. [7]What is a Tallis? Tzit-tzit(those fringes)? Why do Jews wear them? 4. [8]What are those black boxes and leather straps Jewish men wear? 5. [9]Why do many Jewish men sport beards and/or long sideburns? 6. [10]Why do some Orthodox Jews, especially Chassidim, wear a distinctive style of clothing (i.e., fur hats, black coats, gartel)? 7. [11]What is Shaatnez? 8. [12]Are there any special dress rules or customs for women? 9. [13]What is a Kittel? 10. [14]What is the large high ceremonial hat that the Rabbi wears in the synagogue called? 11.2 Sex and Purity 1. [15]What's this I've heard about a hole in a sheet? 2. [16]Can a Jewish man only uncover his wife a hands-breadth? 3. [17]What is a "mikveh"? 4. [18]What are Jewish hygene practices? 11.3 Writing 1. [19]Why do some people write "G-d" with a hyphen instead of an `o'? 2. [20]Why do some Jews write "J-s-s" and "Xianity"? 3. [21]Why are somethings written in Hebrew, and others in Aramaic? 11.4 Practices towards others 1. [22]Does Judaism permit slavery? 2. [23]What does "eye for an eye" mean? 3. [24]Is it permitted for a Jew to sell Christian objects? 11.5 Weddings * This material has been moved to [25]Section 8. 11.6 Death and Burial 1. [26]Is it true that someone with tattoos cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery? 2. [27]I've heard about a custom of putting stones on the grave. Do you know where this custom originated? 3. [28]Is "stone setting" at the cemetery within a year after death is a Jewish tradition? 4. [29]What are the Jewish mourning customs after the death of an immediate relative? 5. [30]What are Jewish funeral customs? 6. [31]Is getting cryogenically frozen against Judaism? 7. [32]Are Jews buried facing West? 8. [33]Can Jews be cremated? 9. [34]What is the Jewish position on Suicide? 10. [35]Can pregnant women attend a funeral? 11. [36]If a Jewish person lives in an area where there is no synagogue, no Jewish funeral home, and no Jewish cemetery, what would the rules be in regard to burial? 12. [37]Can Jews and Non-Jews be buried together? 13. [38]Must the Chevra Kedisha be family members? 14. [39]How have burial customs changed over time? 15. [40]Why do Jews emphasize burial within 24 hours? 11.7 Charity 1. [41]What are the levels of giving? 11.8 Sacrifices 1. [42]When did Jews stop making animal sacrifices? 2. [43]What replaced animal sacrifices in Jewish practice? 3. [44]How do sacrifices relate to compassion for animals? 4. [45]Will sacrifices be restored if the Temple is rebuilt? 11.9 Symbols 1. [46]Why are Jews called Jews? 2. [47]What does the Star of David represent and what is its symbolism? 3. [48]What is the signficance of "Chai" and the number 18? 4. [49]What is a Mezuzah? 5. [50]What is a Menorah? 6. [51]What is the significance of the number 5? 7. [52]What is the significance of the number 3? 8. [53]What is the significance of the number 40? 9. [54]What is the significance of the number 7? 10. [55]Are there any Jewish housewarming rituals? 11. [56]What is the significance of blue in Judaism? Are there other special colors? 12. [57]What is the significance of the number 8?
Subject: Question 9.1: How does a rabbi differ from a priest? Answer: A rabbi has no actual powers in the written Torah, although the Talmud does provide the Rabbi with the authority to make interpretations of Torah (which, in Orthodoxy, provides authority). Rabbis are, however, ordained (a term used in the progressive communities) or given semichah. This is a recognition of a certain level of training or education as defined as appropriate for the community in which the Rabbi has studied. One of the traditional names for semichah is hatarat hora'ah, which translates as a license to instruct. In the Orthodox community, semichah is granted in two forms: Yoreh Yoreh (to instruct) and Yadin Yadin (a higher level, meaning to judge). This was seen in earlier times. For example there was the "Magid" or preacher (the role of teaching Jewish law and judging being separated from moral instruction). Because of the rabbi's training, the rabbi often takes on other roles. Rabbinical presence at religious services is desired insofar as everyone likes the rabbi and the rabbi can rule on questions that come up related to the service (e.g. does a particular smudge render a Torah scroll unkosher?) If the rabbi has a nice voice, and no one else has priority, the rabbi may even lead the services. The state gives rabbis the permission to perform weddings and so on since the state trusts them. Priests are male descendants from Aaron, the brother of Moses. They are usually called cohanim [cohen singular]. The cohanim perform Birkat Cohanim (blessing the congregation using the Hebrew text found in Bamidbar [Numbers] 6:23-25) on the following occasions: Daily ...in Israel (except the Galil, per Minhag Tzefat) Shabbat and Yom Tov ...in many non-Israeli Sephardic congregations Yom Tov ...otherwise (non-Israeli Ashkenazic congregations) Cohanim are traditionally granted priority in numerous details. They are also traditionally forbidden to attend funerals other than their closest relatives and may not marry divorcees or converts. When the Temple is standing, the cohanim run most of the Temple service. The "Star Trek" Vulcan "live long and prosper" sign is roughly one-half of the gesture the cohanim make when blessing the congregation.1 You can see it engraved on many cohen tombstones: \\//_ _\\// \ / \ / The Pharisee/Sadduccee conflict was a sectarian division in the period of the Second Temple, although some view it as a rabbi/priest conflict. When the Second Temple was destroyed, the priests lost most of their power. Oh wait, you meant maybe, like Catholic/Anglican priests? Heh. On this note: Priests are often used as intermediaries between man and G-d. Rabbis are nothing more than regular people who have learned much Torah. Catholic priests can give absolution for sins, rabbis can't (unless you're asking forgiveness for something you've done against the rabbi personally). On the other hand, in the traditions of the Chassids and in the Sephardi communities, holy men sometimes have a role as intermediary (though not obligatory, of course). The tales of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev are filled with stories of his intercession On-High. This was a dominant theme in Chasidic "maasehs." Footnote: 1: The Vulcan's learned of this symbol from Leonard Nimoy, who is Jewish.
Subject: Question 9.2: Do you need a rabbi for a wedding? Answer: Technically, you don't need one; however, it's very important to have a rabbi in order to make sure that the complicated marriage ceremony is done properly. Valid witnesses are needed to make the marriage official. The criteria constituting a valid witness differ among the movements. The purpose of a rabbi is like that of using a judge or a lawyer in civil matters to ensure that the law is complied with. This differs from the non-Jewish concept of a minister having some necessary mystical connection with G-d that is required to make the ceremony valid. In Israel, the Rav is also needed for the secular legality of the wedding.
Subject: Question 9.3: Do you need a rabbi for a divorce? Answer: The appropriate answer to this depends on the movement with which you are involved, and whether or not you had a "Jewish" wedding. In this context, a "Jewish Wedding" is a marriage that was recognized as being under the laws of Moses and Israel. Intermarriages, regardless of the amount of Judaism practiced in the household or who performed the ceremony are not "Jewish" weddings because halacha (traditional Jewish law) does not recognize marriages between Jews and non-Jews. There are other types of marriages that are not recognized; consult your local rabbi for information. Conservative and Orthodox Judaism require (and Reform recommends) that if you have a Jewish wedding, you should get a Jewish divorce, which is called a "get". This is because Judaism regards marriage as a special relationship between a man and a woman that begins with a holy bond. Just as that relationship is created through a religious act of marriage, it can only be abrogated through a Jewish act, the "get". Note that a "get" is required even if you already have a civil divorce (with one exception: Reform, but not the other movements, accepts the civil divorce papers as equivalent to a "get"). According to Jewish law, a marriage is not dissolved until a bill of divorce (get) is exchanged between husband and wife. Most Non-Reform American Rabbis, and all Rabbis in Israel, will not officiate at a wedding if either party has been divorced without the benefit of a get. Regardless of one's personal convictions or practices, or one's movemental affiliation, obtaining a "get" is important. This simple procedure does more than just assure the couple that they will be free to remarry should they so desire. It also prevents a tragic problem: a child born to a Jewish woman whose previous marriage did not terminate with a "get" may be considered illegitimate. Any Jew, whether observant or non-observant, needs to share in the concern for Jewish unity and in providing their children with a clean slate for the future. A Jewish divorce is similar to many present-day legal transactions. A divorce contract (get) is drawn up under expert Rabbinical staff (consult your local Rabbi to find an appropriate party to do this) and signed by witnesses. The husband and wife are not subject to personal questions. If they choose to, they need not be present together. A Jewish divorce usually takes an hour or two, during which time the get is prepared and executed. The parties are expected to provide proof of identification, and will be asked some formal questions to make it clear that the get is being executed on their behalf without coercion. Costs may vary in different cases, but on the average, a get costs US$350.00. Note that we should add here that many rabbis will not issue a get until the civil divorce has been finalized in order to avoid problems.
Subject: Question 9.4: How do Jews pray? Answer: In public and in private; in groups and alone. Jews pray loudly and in silence; in Hebrew, English, and any other language you can name. Sometimes Jews even pray without language. Jews pray from the depth of their souls, at the tops of their lungs, and from the quiet of their hearts. It is difficult to point to a specific "Jewish" way of praying. However, one's prayers must fulfill certain daily obligations, so a standard order of prayers has been developed to accomplish this. Still, even in a structured prayer service, there are many opportunities for a silent, personal supplication to G-d. The introduction to the Artscroll Siddur (Orthodox) provides a good overview of the Jewish view of prayer, and the book [5]To Pray as a Jew discusses more of the particulars. The next question is: So, why do we pray at all. Often, when we think of 'prayer', we think of needs and requests. This is not necessarily the Jewish concept of prayer. In Judaism, prayer is an introspective process. It is process of discovering what one is, what one should be, and how to achieve the transformation. Prayer is described in Torah as a service of the heart, not of the mouth (Talmud Bavli, Ta'anit 2a). By improving ourselves with prayer, we become capable of absorbing G-d's blessing. The Hebrew word for prayer is tefila, based on the words 'to judge' or 'to differentiate'. The exercise of judgements is called 'pilelah', whose roots mean 'a clear separation'. Prayer is viewed as a means to define what truly matters, to ignore the trivialities. So why pray? Doesn't G-d know our requirements already? In Jewish tradition, the purpose of tefila is not to tell G-d something, but rather to raise the level of the person praying by improving their perceptions of life so they can become worthy of blessing. Note that Jewish law requires the worshiper to be aware that it is G-d being addressed, to "know before Whom you are standing" (Talmud Bavli, Berakhot, 28b). Thus, Jewish prayer is more than reading from a prayer book. Prayer requires the sense of standing in the presence of G-d and the intent to fulfill at least one of G-d's commandments. This intent is called kavanah. Talmud teaches that the minimal level of kavanah required is that "one who prays must direct one's heart towards heaven" (Berakhot, 31a). The next higher level of kavanah is to know and understand fully the meanings of the prayers. The level following that is to free one's mind of all extraneous and interfering thoughts. At the highest level, kavanah means to think about the deeper meaning of what one is saying and praying with extraordinary devotion. Should circumstances make it necessary for a person to choose between saying more prayers without kavanah or saying fewer prayers with kavanah, the fewer are preferred. (Shulkhan Arukh, Orah Hayim 1:4)
Subject: Question 9.5: Is there a distinctly Jewish form of meditation? Answer: Yes. Meditation has long been a part of Judaism. Today, there is a revival that is discovering the richness of the Jewish meditative tradition. Part of this comes from regularity of practice (think of this like the repeating of a "mantra" in other cultures, although there is much more). Meditation and reconnecting yourself to G-d occurs through daily and regular Jewish observances such as daily prayer, kashrut (keeping kosher), Shabbat and holydays. The silent "shemoneh esrei" prayer is also a form of meditation. There is much information on Jewish Meditation available on the web: * [5]Kavannah. The Kavannah site ([6]www.kavannah.org or [7]http://www.crosswinds.net/~kavannah/) provides a collection of resources for Jewish Meditation. * [8]Jewish Mystical Traditions. Zos Imos has a page on Jewish Mystical Traditions at [9]http://www.mnsmc.edu/merton/zos/jewish.html * Chocomat Halev. This organization has an [10]online bibliography specifically about Jewish Meditation at [11]http://www.chochmat.org/biblio.htm Readers might also consult Section [12]4.10 of this FAQ, which contains a discussion of [13][KQ]abbalah. You might also look at some of the books in the [14]"mysticism" portion of the reading list.
Subject: Question 9.6: Does Judaism have a strong tradition of religious art and music? Answer: Emphatically, yes! Cantorial music goes back a long way, and there have been Jewish artists since Abraham's time. You should investigate many of the exhibits at the local Jewish Community Centers, synagogues, and rabbinical schools (such as the Skirball Museum at [5]Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles). Often, Jewish art focuses on ceremonial objects, such as spice boxes, menorot, mezzuzot, wimples, kippahs, breastplates for the Torah, Torah covers, etc, as opposed to portraits or statues. Judaism does have a strong tradition of religious music, it's just that there haven't been that many Jewish composers with great popular success outside of the small Jewish circles (as opposed to classical composers of the 17th-19th centuries who wrote liturgical music that was a great success in its own right, without the liturgy underneath it) There is also an emerging tradition of modern Jewish music, including such artists as Debbie Friedman, Rabbi Joe Black, and others. Some of this music is more appropriate to the liberal streams. Those interested in modern Jewish music should investigate some of the online Jewish music stores, such as [6]Sounds Write ([7]http://www.soundswrite.com/) or [8]JewishMusic.com ([9]http://www.jewishmusic.com/). Some other links of interest include: * American Conference of Cantors - Reform (Progressive) Judaism: [10]http://rj.org/acc/ * The Cantors Assembly - Conservative (Masorti) Judaism: [11]http://www.cantors.org/ * Cantorial Council of America - Orthodox Judaism: [12]http://www.yu.edu/belz/ * Chazzanut Online: [13]http://www.joods.nl/~chazzanut/. A comprehensive site on Jewish liturgical music, with a large collection of cantorial sheet music, midi files, annotated links and background information.
Subject: Question 9.7: What is a synagogue? Answer: A synagogue is a Jewish place of assembly for worship, education, and communal affairs. One tradition dates synagogues back to the Babylonian exile of the 6th cent. BCE, when the returnees may have brought back with them the basic structure that was to be developed by the 1st cent. CE into a well-defined institution around which Jewish religious, intellectual, and communal life was to be centered. Other scholars believe the synagogue arose after the Hasmonean revolt (167-164 BCE) as a Pharisaic alternative to the Temple cult. In any case, the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) and the Diaspora over the following centuries increased the synagogue's importance. Services in the synagogue were conducted in a simpler manner than in the historic Temple. Services were conducted by a chazzan (reader), as opposed to a formally appointed priest. Some congregations today continue to use a chazzan, but in most, services are led by a rabbi. The place of Jewish worship has many names. The Hebrew term is beit k'nesset (literally, House of Assembly). Many people use the word "shul," which is a Yiddish word derived from a German word meaning "school" (which demonstrates the synagogue's role as a place of study). "Synagogue" is a Greek translation of Beit K'nesset and also means "place of assembly" (related to "synod"). Progressive Jews often use the word "temple," because they consider every one of their meeting places to be equivalent to, or a replacement for, the Temple (this usage offends some traditional Jews, because they believe there was only one Temple). Lastly, some Jews just use the term "Congregation". Note that the word "Temple" is often used to refer to the place in Jerusalem that was the center of Jewish religion from the time of Solomon to its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE. According to tradition, this is the one and only place where sacrifices and certain other religious rituals were performed. It was partially destroyed at the time of the Babylonian Exile and rebuilt ("the Second Temple"). The "Wailing Wall" is the western retaining wall of that Temple, and is as close to the site of the original Sanctuary as Jews can go today. Traditional Jews believe that The Temple will be rebuilt when the Moshiach (Messiah) comes. Also, note that a synagogue serves many purposes. It is a house of prayer, of course, because people go there to pray in group prayer. It is a house of assembly, because people assemble there for social events, such as dinners, fundraisers, and other non-religious activities. It is a house of study because life-long learning is a part of Judaism: we teach our children there, and we teach ourselves there through adult education.
Subject: Question 9.8: What will I find in a synagogue? Answer: Sanctuary Prayer services are normally performed in a "sanctuary" (although some congregations use a general meeting room, which is configured as a sanctuary). Synagogues are generally arranged so that the front of the sanctuary is facing Jerusalem, which is the direction Jews face when reciting certain prayers (probably because the original Temple was in Jerusalem). Ark The most important feature of the sanctuary is the Ark, which is an acrostic of the words "Aron Kodesh," ("holy cabinet"). The Ark holds the Torah scrolls, and is generally placed in the front of the room, on the side towards Jerusalem. These Scrolls contain the first five books of the Bible. The Ark is in place of the Ark that had at one time been in the most Holy place of the Temple (which was in the Eastern part). In the Bible we are told that the tablets of the Ten Commandments had been placed in this Ark, hence we place the Torah Scroll in an ark on the Eastern side of the shul. The Ark has doors as well as an inner curtain called a "parokhet", which is in imitation of the curtain in the Sanctuary in The Temple., and is named for it. During certain prayers, the doors and/or curtain of the Ark may be opened or closed. Opening or closing the doors or curtain is performed by a member of the congregation, and is considered an honor. One stands when the doors of the Ark are open. Ner Tamid In front of and slightly above the Ark, you will find the ner tamid, the Eternal Lamp. This lamp symbolizes the commandment to keep a light burning in the Tabernacle outside of the curtain surrounding the Ark of the Covenant. (Ex. 27:20-21). Menorah Many synagoguges have a menorah (candelabrum), symbolizing the menorah in the Temple. The menorah in the synagogue will generally have six or eight branches instead of the Temple menorah's seven, because exact duplication of the Temple's ritual items is improper. Note the distinction between a menorah, which has seven branches, and a chanukiah, which is used on Chanukkah and has nine branches. Bimah In the center of the room or in the front, is a pedestal or lectern called the bimah. The bimah holds the Torah scrolls when they are read, as well as serving as a podium for leading services. There is an additional, lower lectern in some synagogues called an amud. The tables/seats surrounding the bimah are facing towards Jerusalem. This is based on Jewish law, but also appears in the Bible. (1 Kings 8 where King Solomon instructed to pray towards the place of the Holy Temple) Mechitzah In traditional synagogues, you will also find a separate section where the women sit. This may be on an upper floor balcony, or in the back of the room, or on the side of the room, separated from the men's section by a wall or curtain called a mechitzah. Traditionally, men are not permitted to pray in the presence of women, because they are supposed to have their minds on their prayers. The source for this is ancient. In the holy temple that was in Jerusalem, they seperated men from women during prayer and services to reduce frivolity. Synagogue Attire People going to a synagogue dress in a manner as to show respect for G-d, that is nicely, formally, and modestly. Men should wear a kippah if that is the custom of that congregation; such congregatins often make them available by the door. Men also often wear Tallit; these are often also available by the door (these should not be worn by non-Jews). In progressive congregations, women also wear kippahs and tallit. In some synagogues, married women also wear a head covering, such as a piece of lace. If you are in an traditional synagogue, be careful to sit in the right section: men and women are seated separately.
Subject: Question 9.9: How is a synagogue operated? Answer: Synagogues are operated in a manner similar to most non-profit organizations. They are generally run by a board of directors composed of lay people, which manages and maintains the synagogue and its activities, and hires religious staff for the community. There is typically a congregation president, and other common positions include secretary and treasurer. There are positions that deal with religious practices, social action, membership, and other functions provided by the organization. Typcially, the religious staff is not a member of the board (although they could be); they are typically employees of the congregation. In many congregations, they earn a salary. The religious staff typically includes a rabbi and an cantor. The latter position is sometimes called a music director. The educational leadership is often part of the relgious staff. It is worth noting that a synagogue can exist without a rabbi: religious services can be, and often are, conducted by lay people in whole or in part. It is not unusual for a synagogue to be without a rabbi, at least temporarily. However, the rabbi is a valuable member of the community, providing leadership, guidance and education. Synagogues do not pass around collection plates during services. Traditionally, this is because Jews are not permitted to carry money on Holy days and Shabbat. Instead, synagogues are financed through membership dues paid annually, through voluntary donations, through community fundraisers, and through the purchase of reserved seats for services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the holidays when the synagogue is most crowded). There are two primary approaches to synagogue dues. Some congregations set a fixed fee based on membership categories. Other congregations base dues on a small percentage (often 2%) of one's income. There are two important factors to note about synagogue dues: (1) they are often less, overall, than the donations done in some churches that have a policy of tithing 10%; (2) they are often negotiable through the membership committee if one is unable to pay, and such negotiation are kept private. People are not turned away because of ability to pray. It is important to note, however, that you do not have to be a member of a synagogue in order to worship there. If you plan to worship at a synagogue regularly and you have the financial means, you should certainly pay your dues to cover your fair share of the synagogue's costs, but no synagogue checks membership cards at the door (except possibly on the High Holidays mentioned above, if there aren't enough seats for everyone). Synagogues are, for the most part, independent community organizations. Individual synagogues do not answer to any central authority. The various movements of Judaism do have organizations for their synagogues, but these organizations have no real power over each synagogue (the synagogue can always go independent).
Subject: Question 9.10: What functions does a synagogue serve? Answer: Synagogues typically serve in three different capacities: 1. Beit tefilah, a house of prayer. Synagogues serve as a place where Jews come together for community prayer services. Jews can satisfy the obligations of daily prayer by praying anywhere; however, there are certain prayers that can only be said in the presence of a minyan (a quorum of 10 adult men), and tradition teaches that there is more merit to praying with a group than there is in praying alone. The sanctity of the synagogue for this purpose is second only to The Temple. In fact, in rabbinical literature, the synagogue is sometimes referred to as the "little Temple." 2. Beit midrash, a house of study. Jewish education does not end at the age of bar mitzvah; the study of Judaism and sacred texts is a life-long task. Synagogues offer education to both children and adults and often have a well-stocked library. 3. Beit knesset, a house of assembly. Synagogues often have a social hall for religious and non-religious activities. The synagogue provides a place where matters of importance to the community can be discussed, and social action concerns can be aired. Synagogues often provide social welfare functions, collecting and dispensing money and other items for the aid of the poor and needy within the community.
Subject: Question 9.11: What is the name of the Jewish God? Answer: In Judaism God has several names. The most important name of God is the Tetragrammaton, YHVH. Because Jews considered it sinful to pronounce, the correct pronunciation of this name was forgotten -- the original Hebrew texts only included consonants. Some conjecture that it was pronounced "Yahweh". The Hebrew letters are named Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh. Jews also call God Adonai, or "my Lord." Since pronouncing YHVH is considered sinful, Jews would use Adonai instead in prayers. When the Masoretes added vowel pointings to the text of the Tanach in the first century CE they gave the word YHVH the vowels of Adonai, to remind the reader to say Adonai instead. Many Christian bible translators misinterpreted this to mean that God's name was Jehovah, which is the result of combining Adonai's vowels with YHVH's consonants, written using Latin orthography in which "J" is prnounced as the English "Y." All denominations of Judaism teach that the four letter name of God, YHVH, is forbidden to be uttered except by the High Priest, in the Temple. Since the Temple in Jerusalem is no longer extant, this name is never pronounced in religious rituals by Jews. Orthodox Jews never pronounce it for any reason. Some non-Orthodox Jews are willing to pronounce it, but for educational purposes only, and never in causal conversation or in prayer. Instead of pronouncing YHVH during prayer, Jews say "Adonai". Jews often build "fences" around the basic laws, so that there is no chance that the main law will ever be broken. As such, it is common Jewish practice among to restrict the use of the word "Adonai" to prayer only. In conversation many Jewish people will call God "HaShem", which is Hebrew for "the Name". Many Jews also write "G-d" instead of "God". While these substitutions are by no means required by Judaism (only the Hebrew name, not the English, is holy), they do it to remind themselves of the holiness attached to God's name. English translations of the Bible generally render YHVH as "LORD" (in small capitals), and Adonai as "Lord" (in normal case). Scholars disagree as to the meaning of the name Yahweh - many believe it means something like "I am the One Who Is," or "I am that I am, and I cause what is." Other Jewish names of God include: * Adonai Emet (Truth) * Tzur Yisrael (The Rock of Israel) * Elohei Avraham, Yitzchak v'Ya'acov (God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob) * Ehiyeh sh'Ehiyeh (I Am That I Am) * Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, our King) * Ro'eh Yisrael (Shepherd of Israel) * Ha-Kadosh, Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Praised be He) * Melech ha-M'lachim (The King of Kings) * Makom (literally, the Place; means "The Omnipresent") * Magen Avraham (Shield of Abraham) There is more information in answer [5]12.24
Subject: Question 9.12: What is the reason for a "minyon" (a quorum of 10 men requried for certain prayers)? Answer: Note that the requirements for a minyan are not biblical in origin. The reasons are rabbinic. The following are some sources: * M Megillah 4:3 and BT. Meg. 23b list the required occasions for a minyan: the sheva berakhot at a wedding; the chazarat ha-shatz of the Amidah; the reading of Torah from the scroll and of Haftarah; the kedusha (derived from Lev. 22:32, ve-nikdashti betokh benei yisra'el, matching the word tokh with Num. 16:21, mitokh ha-edah, where the context makes it clear that sanctification requires a public. * The number 10 is derived from Num. 14:27, where the ten spies opposing the invasion were called an edah ra'ah. There were also other derivations, one of them being the "ten righteous people" that were lacking in Sodom. * Soferim 10:7 adds Kaddish and barekhu to the rubrics requiring a minyan, though here, the plain text would suggest that the minyan could be seven (or even six) worshippers, after the number of words in Judges 5:2. But later interpretation favored the reading of this prescription as signifying that the numbers six or seven refer to persons who, within a regular minyan of ten men, have not heard the Kaddish or barekhu. If we read the Soferim passage plainly it appears that the author(s), writing in Palestine, meant to deal with situations when it was difficult to gather a minyan. * The Talmud (YT Meg. 4:4 and Ber. 7:3 ) provides that if a minyan was present to start with, but some people had left afterwards, the service could conclude as if they were still present, provided that the majority remain (so Rambam, Yad, Tefillah 8:8, Sh. A. O. H, 55:4; and the Hafetz Chayim, Mishnah Berurah, # 24). Note: If one cannot scrape up 10 minyan-qualified individuals (traditional Judaism only accepts adult men; Reform also accepts adult women), one can count the Torah as part of the Minyan. One can also count a minor holding a chumash, as long as the group looks like it could be 10 until you bother counting them. This is based on Tractate Berachos 47b. The source is that Abraham first begged G-d to save Sodom, Gemorra and 3 smaller towns if they had 50 people. He then fell back to 45. Apparantly, therefore, if you can't get 10 per city, you can rely on 9. But this is only if you can not possibly scrape up 10.
Subject: Question 9.13: What is the "Shema"? Answer: The "shema" is perhaps the "supreme" statement of Jewish belief. Traditional Jews recite it four times a day and was to be the last statement on a Jew's lips as they slip from life. The four times are: * During the morning service (shacharit) * During the afternoon service (mincha) * During the evening service (ma'ariv) * When sleeps come upon one Children are often taught it at bedtime. The last letter "dalet" is the numerical number "four"; in Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism), this is a daily reference to the divine in the mystical "four corners of the earth", similar to the tzitzit on the four corners of the garment. Reform Jews have refered to it as the "affirmation of Jewish faith." The main part of the Shema reminds us to hear and remember that G-d is one. It commands us to write the shema on the doors of our house and on our gates (mezuzah), to speak the shema when we get up and when we go to bed. It commands us to wear garments that remind us of G-d with fringes. Note the differences between the first and second paragraphs of Shema. The first paragraph of Shema is written to the individual, and therefore is in the singular. There is little guarantee in this world that the righteous would prosper or the wicked fail. Therefore, the first paragraph enjoins us to "love Hashem your G-d with ... all that you have". Be it more, or be it less. The second paragraph is written in the plural because it addresses the nation as a group. The fate of the Jewish people does depend on whether or not we are found deserving. Although this only holds in a group sense -- the group suffers, not necessarily the least worthy of the nation. When the nation is undeserving, there would be a famine in Israel. Eventually, we deserved exile altogether. Therefore, when speaking to the nation as a unit, the contingent basis of our posessions is noted.
Subject: Question 9.14: Where can I learn about the prayers before eating? Answer: Artscroll's siddur (see the [5]reading list) is a good place to start, as is the Metzudah (linear) siddur. There are also a number of English books on prayer by traditional sources. Again, the reading list is a good place to start. Another good resource is NCSY's guide to blessings, which is just a list of blessings made before or after around a thousand different foods, along with a small guide to the laws of blessings. It's a tiny booklet, staple-bound like a bencher. It is available at [6]www.ou.org.
Subject: Question 9.15: What is the structure of the morning service? Answer: Morning services are composed of 7 parts: 1. The morning blessings. In this part we thank G-d for another day. Originally each blessing was said as you did that particular thing for the first time that day--gird your belt, tie your shoes, learn Torah, etc.. However today they are folded onto the begining of services. 2. The order of sacrifices. The prophets tell us that someone who sincerely studies the laws of sacrifices gets as close as possible to offering one. So, we read the Mishnayos about the various offerings in order to gain some measure of atonement. 3. Pesukei diZimrah (lit: verses of songs of praise). Some chapters of Psalms, bracketed by an opening and closing blessing. The main point of this part is to be a "warm-up", to get into the proper frame of mind, before the next three parts. If you get to services too late to say Pesukei diZimrah and still say the main prayers with the congregation, you should skip them. Or perhaps skip all but "Ashrei"--depending upon the time available. Most decisors opine that you should still say the ones you skipped some time during the day. The Vilna Gaon ruled that you should not. The debate is whether the section exists only as warm-up, or primarily as warm-up but also serves other purposes. As to whether someone who has a short attention span is best served using up all of one's attention on Pesukei diZimrah so that the later prayers become mindless is a question for that person's Rabbi. It's probably also related to where you stand on that debate. Those of us of the Sesame Street sound-bite generation should be working toward slowly building up that preparation time. Still, there are days where such a person should just say the opening blessing, Ashrei, the closing blessing, and then study Torah at their seat while waiting for the congregation to get up to Shema. The next three parts are three actual and distinct mitzvos. 4. The Shema, with two blessings before and two after. 5. The Amidah, the actual formal prayer. 6. Tachanun, a framework in which one is supposed to insert informal prayers. In other words, the Amidah serves to remind man what he ought to consider important, and therefore what his relationship with G-d ought to look like. Tachanun has some of that, but it's more actually relating to G-d, turning to your Parent with what's on your mind. [Not that the masses actually remember that this is what Tachanun is for. In practice, it is far too often yet another formalized text with nothing personal interjected.] 7. The closing. Most famously, this includes Aleinu. The afternoon service, coming in the middle of the workday, has only Ashrei as an intro, leading to the Amidah, Tachanun and Aleinu. People simply don't have the time for a longer service. The evening service is obligatory only because universal customs ought not be broken. It's not an obligation of the same magnitude of the other two, and therefore they started it with the Shema, with no warm-up.
Subject: Question 9.16: When should morning services start? Answer: The night ends at "Alot haShachar", the "rising of the morning". It has two halachic definitions: Most rule it is 72 minutes before dawn, some use the solar equivalent--16.1o (degrees) below the horizon. The latter would come dawn+72 min if the sun were up for exactly 12 hours that day. In the summer it would be longer, in the winter, later. Others use 90 solar minutes. The earliest you can say the morning blessings is Alot. The earliest one can wear tzitzit is at "Misheyaqir", when "one can recognize" which of the tzitzit strings are uncolored, and which are blue. (When the proper blue dye used for tzitzit was / will be available.) Misheyaqir also has two definitions: 11 degrees below the horizon or 50 standard minutes. The first is the norm. Since you are supposed to wear tzitzit and tefillin for Shema, Shema must be said after Misheyaqir as well. The Amidah must be said at or after Haneitz haChamah, the sparkling of the sun, i.e., sunrise. This is when the leading edge of the sun is at the horizon. If you're checking your newspaper, you should find out if they're publishing the time the leading edge of the center of the sun crosses the horizon. If you say Shema well before Haneitz, you will have to say it again as a lead-in to the Amidah. However, this may mean that you can say it with tallit and tefillin at Haneitz, and then say it again with the Amidah without equipment. There are a number of packages out there that show you these times for various locales. At the Aishdash site ([5]http://www.aishdas.org/kaluach), there is a front end to Kaluach's JavaScript sunrise calculator. It's kind of unweildy, but it is accurate within a couple of minutes for locations well below the arctic circle.
Subject: Question 9.17: Why do people put their tallit over their heads when they pray? Answer: Normally, they don't cover their heads for the entire service. Typically, it is done just from Borechu through Shema, the Amidah, and the Chazan's repetition of the Amidah. These are the times at which talking is to be minimized. Even answering "amen" depends on where you're up to, and what blessing or Kaddish one is answering. Covering your head is a straightforward way to minimize distraction. There is a second reason. The talmudic discussion of covering one's head when praying is a little vague. Some take it to mean that this is in /addition/ to the yarmulka. So, for many this is another reason to cover one's head during the most critical parts of prayer.
Subject: Question 9.18: What is the importance of collective worship in Judaism? Answer: Collective worship is critical in Judaism. There are actually two notions behind gathering to pray: 1. One is praying as an individual, where the others provide an environment more condusive to that prayer. This factor was even more critical before the printing press, when many people also relied on the cantor to provide the words. 2. The second is praying as a community. Not merely as a group of individuals within a community, but the community's prayer to God. After all, the covenant at Sinai (or, for non-Jews, the covenant God made with Noah as he left the ark) was with the community as a collective unit. There is a sanctity to the community that exceeds the sum of its parts. In both issues, the communal prayer is superlative over praying alone. Of course, other factors come into play. Someone broken-heartedly praying outside their child's hospital room, speaking to God from the core of their being is still the superior prayer over one who might feel confined from fully expressing themselves in public.
Subject: Question 9.19: What is the difference between Conservative Prayer and Orthodox Prayer? Answer: The following are some of the changes made by Conservative Judaism in regular prayers: * Birkhot HaShakhar - Morning Blessings Three of the early morning berakhot were modified to praise God for having created each individual in God's image, a free person and a Jew, rather than the conventional version which express gratitude for not having been created a woman, a slave or a non-Jew. Details on this modification can be found in "Siddur Sim Shalom - A Halakhic Analysis", Conservative Judaism, Vol.41(1), Fall 1988. Conventionally Birkhot HaShakhar contains a number of passages describing sacrifices and offerings in ancient times which can only be recalled, not carried out. Most of these passages are deleted from the Silverman Siddur, and even more from Siddur Sim Shalom. The sacrificial ritual in ancient times was construed as means by which a Jew gained atonement for sin. After the destruction of the Temple and the consequential end of sacrifices there, the Jewish people were deprived of this means. To replace the readings on sacrifices, modern Conservative prayerbooks cite the talmudic teaching that deeds of loving-kindness now atone for sin; they draw upon rabbinic tradition to emphasize teachings about atonement and necessary behavior. Texts that have been added to this part of the service include Leviticus 19:2, 14-18, Avot de Rabbi Nathan, 11a and Tractate Sukkah 49b. * Al HaNissim and the State of Israel An innovation in Conservative prayer books is a liturgical response to the creation of the modern State of Israel. It was felt that this should be made in a manner that is integral to the fabric of the service; Such a liturgical model already existed: Al HaNissim, which is added to the service on Purim on Chanukah. Thus a new, third Al HaNissim was composed, adapting the language and style of the standard Hebrew text to produce a text that is used on Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. A Torah and Haftarah reading for this day is also indicated. In the Al Hanissim prayers, Siddur Sim Shalom follows the text of Rav Amram Gaon, emending the text which expressed gratitude for miracles "in other times, at this season" to now read "in other times, and in our day". This adds a basic theological dimension that miracles are not confined to a remote and unavailable past. * Sacrifices in the Amidah "Siddur Sim Shalom" presents multiple alternatives for the Shabbat Musaf, but the Orthodox version that explicitly prays for the resumption of animal sacrifice in a rebuilt Temple is not one of them. Instead, Siddur Sim Shalom adopts an innovation from "The Shabbat and Festival Prayerbook" in the Musaf Amidah; it changes the phrase na'ase ve'nakriv (we will present and sacrifice) to asu ve'hikrivu (they presented and sacrificed). The petition to accept the "fire offerings of Israel" is removed from the Amidah. There are similar modifications in the Rosh Hodesh Amidah. "Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals" does not present multiple services; it presents one musaf for Shabbat, for festivals, and for Rosh Hodesh. Within each service, the reader is offered a traditional text, as well as an alternative text which eliminates mention of sacrifices. The traditional Y'hi Ratzon meditation ("May it be your will, Adonai our God, and God of our Ancestors, that the Temple be restored in our day...") following the Musaf Amidah is restored. This is also restored in Va'Ani Tefilati. * Other changes in Musaf Following a modification found in the siddur of Rav Saadiah Gaon, the Hebrew word ba-olam (in the world) is added to the daily prayer for peace at the end of the Amidah, making explicit the traditional Jewish concern for universal peace. A prayer for the welfare of the community, recited following the Torah service on Shabbat, was modified to include a phrase commending those who are devoted to helping rebuild the Land of Israel. * Tahanun - supplications following the weekday morning Amidah The earliest sources about saying Tahanun is from the Tosefta in Berakhot; The Geonim viewed this section as optional, the contents were flexible as well. In his Siddur Maimonides also makes it clear that there are various customs and he is merely citing his own custom. Originally this point in the service was considered appropriate for the personal supplications of each individual, and it still is. Over the years, however, certain stylized passages were printed as the fixed text; these contain references to the physical desolation of Jerusalem and statements of extreme self-abasement. To reflect present reality, such statements have been deleted, other passages have adapted or abridged, and brief portions of supplications by Rav Amram and Rav Saadiah Gaon have been added. These are closer to us in spirit than many passages of later origin which were canonized by the printing press. One's own prayers are appropriate, and traditional. * Egalitarian Hebrew formulations The language of liturgical formulas in Siddur Sim Shalom reflects the reality that in many congregations both men and women participate in the service. Some prayers include references to both the patriarchs and the matriarchs. Passages designed for use on Simchat Torah include texts appropriate for formally designating women as well as men as honorees on that occasion. The prayer on behalf of the congregation (recited after the Torah reading on Shabbat) has been emended to reflect the fact that women as well as men are members of the congregation. The Mi Sheberakh prayers contain forms for both male and female readers. The meditations prior to putting on the tallit and tefillin provide masculine and feminine forms. * Nahum, on Tisha B'Av Tisha B'Av commemorates the days on which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed. The conventional text (Nahum) speaks of Jerusalem as "a desolate and vacant city", laid waste and deserted. These lines no longer bear any relation to reality. As such the new text recalls the tragedy of ancient times, over which we mourn, and recalls the desolation of Jerusalem in the past. It also speaks of a "Jerusalem rebuilt from destruction and restored from desolation". It asks that all who mourn Jerusalem of old rejoice with her now, and it prays for the peace of that city. * Shoah (Holocaust) Remembrance "Siddur Sim Shalom" (original version) adds many passages for Yom HaShoah that can be added to any weekday service, as well as a formal reading. Several pages of readings are included in the supplementary section for addition to any of the services held on that day, and are followed by a formal reading arranged for responsive use. The section concludes with a Mourner's Kaddish similar in structure to the one on Yom Kipur. * Mysticism and Hasidism A surprising mystical and Hasidic influence appears in Siddur Sim Shalom, as is illustrated by the numerous additions to the prayer book which originated in these movements. The blessing for the new moon (kiddush levanah) appears at the end of the Sabbath liturgy. Another mystical element is the Raza DeShabbat, the "Vision of Shabbat", which precedes the Sabbath evening service. Taken from the Zohar, this passage depicts the enthronement of the Shekhinah. Several of the alternative meditations which follow the amidot stress joy, and request freedom from atzvit (sorrow) in classic Hasidic fashion. In fact, a number of these passages are based on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Some benedictions for mitzvot are preceded by kavanot (meditations) which were introduced into the liturgy by the Kabbalists. * Adding Matriarchs to the Amidah Two positions have been accepted by the Conservative movement on this issue. One position states that, for a variety of reasons, it is wrong to add the names of the Matriarchs to the Amidah. A second position advances a halakhic argument that shows that such changes are permissible. In all cases where the law committee has validated more than one possible position, a congregation must follow the ruling of its rabbi, who as mara d'atra [local halakhic authority] has the sole responsibility and authority in making such a p'sak [decision]. Note: When presenting the Matriarchs in the opening passage of the Amidah, Conservative/Masorti siddurim do not add the word "Imoteynu" (our Matriarchs), as the word "Avoteynu" is held to be correctly understood as "our Ancestors", and not as "our Patriarchs". To better understand Conservative teshuvot and siddurim one should be familiar with the findings of modern liturgical scholarship; this has demonstrated not only the flexible nature of the liturgy in general, including the Amidah. Suggested references: * "Liturgy" entry in the "Encyclopaedia Judaica" Ismar Elbogen and Raymond P. Scheindlin. * "Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History", JPS, 1993. * Louis Finklestein's article on the Amidah in the "Jewish Quarterly Review" (new series) volume 16, (1925-1926), p.1-43 * Joseph Heinemann "'Iyyunei Tefilla" Magnes, Jerusalem, 1981 * Seth Kadish "Kavvana: Directing the Heart in Jewish Prayer" Jason Aronson Inc., 1997 * Jakob J. Petuchowski "Contributions to the Scientific Study of Jewish Liturgy" Ktav, NY, 1970 * "Who knows four? The Imahot in Rabbinic Judaism" Alvin Kaunfer. Judaism Vol 44. Winter 1995, p. 94-103
Subject: Question 9.20: What is the Timeline of Women in the Rabbinate? Answer: The web site [5]http://www.loyno.edu/~wessing/docs/KeyDatesJudaism.html provides a timeline of Women's Leadership of Judaism in the US. There's a whole chronology of women's ordination, in all religions, at [6]http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/Chronolgy_Ordination.htm. Some key dates, drawn from these sites as well as other sites, are: * 1846. Reform Judaism in Gemany states that women are equal to men in Judaism in terms of "religious privileges and duties." The result is that in Reform Judaism, women are counted in the minyan or quorum needed for public worship service, the daily prayer in which a man thanks God for not having made him a woman is dropped, girls and women are taught Torah and Talmud, and women and men sit together in the congregation. * 1875. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise founds Hebrew Union College (Reform) in Cincinnati, and encourages women to attend. However, they cannot be ordained as rabbis. * 1886. The Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) is founded to train rabbis. * 1893. Two Jewish women, Josephine Lazarus and Henrietta Szold, address the World's Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition. The Congress of Jewish Women, organized by Hannah G. Solomon, is held in conjunction with the Parliament. The Congress of Jewish Women continues after the Parliament as the National Council of Jewish Women (Reform), the first national Jewish women's organization, with Hannah G. Solomon as President. * 1911. Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, is founded by Henrietta Szold (Conservative), who had earlier attended Jewish Theological Seminary, to bring improved health care to Palestine. * 1921. The issue of ordaining a woman rabbi is first raised by Martha Neumark, a student at the Hebrew Union College (Reform) and daughter of a HUC professor. The HUC faculty and the Central Conference of American Rabbis conclude that there is no reason not to ordain women, but the HUC Board of Governors maintains the policy of ordaining only men as rabbis. * 1922. The first bat mitzvah in America takes place for Judith Kaplan, daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, who subsequently becomes the inspirer of Reconstructionism. * 1935. Regina Jonas was ordained by the liberal Rabbi Max Dienemann in Offenbach GERMANY, who was the head of the Liberal Rabbis' Association. Being ordained was one thing, but finding a pulpit was another. Regina Jonas found work as a chaplain in various Jewish social institutions. Because of Nazi persecution many rabbis emigrated and so many small communities were without rabbinical support. This made it possible for her to be a rabbi and to preach in a synagogue, but not for a long period. She was soon ordered - like all Jews - into forced labor in a factory. Despite this, she continued her rabbinical work, i.e. she continued to teach and to preach. For more information, see [7]http://www.hagalil.com/deutschland/berlin/rabbiner/jonas.htm. * 1938. Tehilla Lichtenstein is the first woman (non-ordained) to serve her congregation as rabbi after death of her husband, Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein. Tehilla Lichtenstein serves as Leader of the Society for Jewish Science from 1938 until her death in 1973. * 1951-54. Paula Ackerman (non-ordained) in Meridian, Mississippi, serves as rabbi to a congregation after the death of her husband, Rabbi William Ackerman. * 1968. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College is founded in Philadelphia based on the ideals of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, a strong advocate of the equality of all persons. * 1972. Sally Priesand is the first woman rabbi ordained in the United States by a Jewish theological seminary, Reform Judaism's Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. * 1973. The first Jewish feminist conference convenes in New York City. * 1974. Sandy Eisenberg Sasso is the first woman ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. * 1979. The Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) Faculty Senate tables the issue of admitting women for the rabbinical training as "provoking unprecedented divisions . . . . The bitter divergence of opinion threatens to inflict irreparable damage." * 1983. The Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) Faculty Senate votes to admit women for rabbinical training. * 1984. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College faculty vote to admit gay and lesbian students. Conservative Judaism's Jewish Theological Seminary admits 18 women into its rabbinical program. * 1985. Amy Eilberg is ordained the first Conservative woman rabbi. * 1987. There are 101 Reform women rabbis, constituting 7% of 1,450 Reform rabbis. * 1988. The Jewish Women's Studies Project is begun by students and faculty at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College to promote Women's Studies at that institution * 1990. Survey by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform) shows that 57 out of 153 Reform women rabbis work full-time in congregations that belong to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; 16 are Assistant Rabbis, 10 are Associate Rabbis, and 31 are solo Rabbis. There are only 37 Reform women rabbis with the requisite experience making them eligible to become senior rabbi of a congregation of more than 900 members . Three years earlier, there were only 7 women rabbis who were so eligible. As of 1990, no woman rabbi has become senior rabbi of such a large congregation. Only 3 women rabbis head congregations of 300-600 members, while 90 women rabbis have the qualifications to do so. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform) votes to admit openly and sexually active gay men and lesbians to the rabbinate. Earlier, Reconstructionism, Unitarian-Universalists, and the United Church of Christ had begun ordaining lesbians and gay men. * 1991. There are 168 women rabbis ordained by the Hebrew Union College (Reform); 40% were ordained during the previous five years; 80% were ordained during the previous ten years. Women rabbis constitute about 10% of Reform rabbis. * 1992. Rabbi Susan Grossman is elected as the first woman to serve on the Committee on Law and Standards of Conservative Judaism's Rabbinical Assembly. * 1993. Conservative Judaism has ordained a total of 52 women rabbis between 1985 and 1993. Of the total of twenty graduates who were ordained in 1993, eleven were women (55%). June 1993 The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Reform) has ordained a total of 205 women rabbis. Of the 224 currently enrolled in the Hebrew Union College, 101 are women, constituting 45% of the student body. * 1995. Bea Wyler, who had studied at the JTS in New York, became the first woman rabbi in post war Germany at the Jewish community of Oldenburg.
Subject: Question 9.21: Are extremely observant men permitted to pray at home? Answer: Yes. It's common for a man to pray at home on a day off if the schedule of the day's activities can't be reworked to fit it. However, there are a few other factors that come into play. Monday and Thursday have Torah reading. Many Orthodox men will work harder to fit congregational prayer ("minyan") into the schedule on those days. This is even more true on the first day of the Jewish month (and the thirtieth of the previous month, when there is one), which has both a special Torah reading /and/ additional prayers. Similar concerns would apply on the minor holidays (limiting to days where work is permitted), such as Hannuka and the intermediate days of Sukkot and Passover. Additionally, when someone is in mourning (for example, the first eleven months after one has lost a parent), there is strong motive to attend every service due to the custom of saying kaddish for the deceased.
Subject: Question 9.22: What is the Qetzatzah Ceremony? Answer: The "qetzatzah ceremony" is described in the Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi Kiddushin Chap. 1 and Midrash Ruth Rabba), and also appears in the Babylonian Talmud (the Talmud referred to when no adjective is used) at Kesuvos 28b. In general, it is a means of effecting a deal. For example, the Malbim (a 19th cent commentator) mentions it when writing on the book of Ruth. Ruth 4:8 says "that [handing someone your shoe] was the contract in Israel." Malbim notes that between the time of the story and the time of its writing, the standard means was changed to ketzatzah. Both are still valid today, the comment was about a shift in popularity, not validity. Ketzatzah involes breaking a barrel of fruit in the middle of the street and then making a formal announcement. An example of its use is a ceremony used to publicize a family's disapproval of the lineage or sexual history of someone marrying to one of their offspring. The family would revoke the child's right to inherit. To formalize this transfer, ketzatzah was performed announcing (translation from the Talmud): Hear our brothers Israel! Our brother so-and-so married a woman of improper lineage. We are afraid that our seed will be mixed with his. Come take some fruit as a rememberance, so our seeds will not get mixed. According to the Malbim, the point of ketzatzah is to do something that would make an impression not only on the adult witnesses, but on the children as well. Ketzatzah was used to keep the memory of something alive as long as possible.
Subject: Question 9.23: What time of day were the sacrifices offered? Answer: Pretty much all times of the daylight hours and part of the evening. The morning Tamid (perpetual) offering was performed at or close to sunrise every day. The evening Tamid was right before sunset. The daily minchah (gift) flour offering was in the early afternoon. On holidays there were also mussaf (additional offerings). In between were voluntary offerings and various kinds of sin offerings, offerings after birth or certain other lifecycle events. After sunset, anything remaining from the day's services were offered.
Subject: Question 10.1: Does Halacha (Jewish law) permit intermarriage? Answer: According to post-Sinaitic Jewish law, a marriage can be contracted only between two Jews, so an intermarriage is not recognized as a Jewish marriage. In some countries, the progressive Jewish movements recognize civil marriages as Jewishly valid, irrespective of religion.
Subject: Question 10.2: I'm a Jew who married a gentile. Am I still Jewish? Answer: Yes. Marriage doesn't change your status. With respect to your children, according to Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, the children of Jewish mothers are Jewish, and the children of gentile women are gentile unless converted. (An adult who converts must accept the Obligation of the Commandments at the time of conversion. A child who converts delays this acceptance until age 13 (12 for girls), thereby validating the childhood-conversion. If he doesn't accept the commandments, he is not considered Jewish.) Reform requires that a child born of a mixed marriage identify publicly with Judaism (e.g., have a Jewish naming, Brit (if appropriate), Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, etc.) to be considered Jewish by Reform. This is called the [5]"patrilineal descent" decision. The liberal Jewish movements (Reform, Progressive) often try to work with intermarried couples to encourage them to remain involved in Judaism, to raise their children as Jewish (with subsequent formal conversion, or to meet the requirements for Reform Judaism), and to educate the non-Jewish partner so that Jewish life at home is not sabotaged (often, as a side-effect of this, the non-Jewish partner makes an independent decision to convert). There is a group that works on promoting services to intermarried families, called the [6]Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI) <[7]http://www.joi.org/>. Since 1989, this group has held several national conferences for Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders to foster expertise in programming for the nearly 600,000 intermarried families and their more than 700,000 children in North America. If you are interested in JOI's publications or obtaining a directory of services, visit their [8]homepage, write them at 1270 Broadway, Suite 609 New York NY 10001; contacted them via Email at [9]info@joi.org, or via telephone at +1-212-760-1440.
Subject: Question 10.3: I'm a Jew who accepted the tenets of another religion, but now wants to practice Judaism again. Am I allowed? Am I still Jewish? Answer: A Jew cannot become a non-Jew. This is because any Jew can do tshuva (repentance or "return") up to the moment of death, and this includes forsaking one's estrangement from Judaism. The three steps of Teshuvah are based on the [5]Rambam. A Jew who sins (e.g. by joining another religion) may lose the privileges of being a Jew (e.g. participation in the Jewish community) but at no point does a Jew become a non-Jew. For example, if a particular activity is permitted to non-Jews, but forbidden only to Jews, it remains a sin for this person. In Judaism, repentance consists of admitting the sin, regretting that one sinned, and resolving not to repeat the sin. In the case of a sin that consisted of joining another religion, recanting would certainly be involved--one would (in addition to admitting "I believed in X") say "I regret that I believed in X" and "I will no longer believe in X". In English, one does not "repent to", one repents. In Hebrew, "to repent" and "to return" are the same word. One returns to G-d. But one returns to G-d by doing the above three actions.
Subject: Question 10.4: OK, then apart from halachic considerations, why do many Jews of all types oppose intermarriage? Answer: Children of intermarriages are statistically less likely to identify with Judaism than children raised by Jewish parents, so intermarriage weakens the Jewish people. Therefore, Jews across the spectrum oppose intermarriage in order to prevent this weakening. A large part of Jewish observance and identity centers on the home, family, and community. Religion is a part of daily life, in areas as diverse as making a blessing before wearing new clothes for the first time to thanking G-d before and after meals. Special occasions such as Shabbat and holidays carry special customs and observances. A home made by a Jew and a non-Jew is much less likely to be a "Jewish home". Where children are involved, they are most likely to grow up with a positive Jewish identity when they see both parents Jewishly connected. Also, for many people, a difference in religion is an added stress on a relationship. For this reason, many Jewish parents discourage intermarriage in their children in an honest attempt to help their children find long-term happiness. Given all this, what should be our attitude when intermarriage occurs? There are some that believe the intermarried couple should be ostracized. Others take a different view. First, if there are no children involved (as sometimes happens with elderly couple), then there is no real loss to the community in terms of future generations. If there is no conversion, each partner just practices their own religion. If there are children, or potential children, involved, the issue is different. Ostracizing the couple may have the side effect of destroying any positive attitudes towards Judaism, ensuring the children will not be Jewish. Remaining open to the couple, inviting them to family ceremonies, and showing them the beauty of Judaism can help educate the non-Jewish partner. Even if the partner doesn't want to convert, it may convince the partner to raise the children Jewish, and (if appropriate) have the children be formally converted into Judaism. Often, having children will make a parent want to reconnect with their spiritual heritage. The Jewish parent may feel an increase desire towards reconnecting with Judaism, and keeping their children connected. This desired would be destroyed if the couple had been ostracized. The best thing to do is to keep an open mind. Believe that the couple is not lost. By demonstrating to them the joy and beauty of Judaism, they may choose to return or increase their Jewish practices.
Subject: Question 10.5: Is objection to intermarriage a form of bigotry? Answer: The traditional objection to intermarriage is simply that it is one of the 613 Mitzvot (commandments) that a Jew cannot and may not marry a non-Jew. Of course one may and should look for reasons for this Mitzvah, but the bottom line is that Mitzvot are done because they were commanded by G-d. Is this bigotry? Perhaps. Yet such exclusiveness is common in religion -- and not just Judaism. On the other hand, the dictionary definition of a bigot is "A person who is rigidly devoted to his own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ." Although Jews are devoted to their own group or religion, they are not intolerant of the other groups. Rather, the attitude is "live and let live", and if one wants to become part of the Jewish community, one should join the community.
Subject: Question 10.6: But I still want to intermarry? Do you know of a Rabbi that performs intermarriages? Answer: Sigh. As Eliot Shimoff wrote: I do not like this thread, it's dead I do not like it, mark it "read" I could not, would not, on the Net I shall not, must not, on a bet Decimal, octal, or binary It isn't good to intermarry I would not co-officiate I wouldn't even approve a date! I must not officiate-co Absolutely, NO NO NO I don't approve of marriage, inter Summer, fall, spring, or winter I know deep down I should hit K Kill this thread, and save the day I don't approve of intermarriage But here is comes, our next net barrage. :-) If you really insist on going through with the intermarriage after everything you have read and you are in the United States, Frank F. Smith wrote on soc.culture.jewish that you might want to contact [5]The Rabbinic Center for Research and Counseling ([6]http://www.rcrconline.org/) in Westfield, NJ (908-233-2288 (automated message); 908-233-0419 (real person), 908-233-6459 (FAX)). Founded in 1970, the Rabbinic Center for Research and Counseling is the first organization established to promote research on intermarriage and to serve the needs of intermarrying and intermarried couples. The Rabbinic Center provides a list of rabbis who officiate at intermarriages, conducts and promotes research on intermarriage, offers premarital and marital therapy for intermarried couples and their families, and presents a variety of programs specifically geared to the needs of intermarried couples. Their [7]list of rabbis is available at [8]http://www.rcrconline.org/rabbi.htm. To obtain the list by mail, send your name and address with a check for $20 to the Rabbinic Center, 128 East Dudley Avenue, Westfield, New Jersey 07090. In addition to the list of over 290 rabbis, you will receive some articles on intermarriage and on the programs the Center offers for intermarried couples. The list will be sent by return mail. Please add $10 if you want the list sent by fax or email and add $20 for Federal Express. For telephone information on the List of Rabbis Who Officiate at Intermarriages, call (908) 233-2288. Note: All rabbis on the list are members either of the Central Conference of American Rabbis or of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; the list is updated monthly, and that some rabbis have conditions under which the officiate (such as raising the children as Jewish).
Subject: Question 10.7: How does one convert? Answer: Please Note: Potential converts should be aware that, depending on the movement that performs the conversion, other movements may or may not recognize their conversion. For example, Orthodox movements do not recognize all Reform conversions, most Conservative conversions, and even some Orthodox conversions. In general, the more liberal the movement, the more accepting it is of other movement's conversions; the more orthopractic the convertion, the more acceptable it is more movements. However, the question of Jewish status in Israel is different. Jews (regardless of affiliation; regardless of conversion status) may receive Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Once in Israel, one's acceptance as a "Jews" is usually up to the Orthodox religious authorities, who may or may not regard a non-Orthodox conversion as halachically-valid regardless of the affiliation on your Israeli identity card. Conservative and Orthodox Jews require that the potential convert be instructed about how to live as a Jew, and undergo kabbalat ol mitzvot [agreement to do the commandments], mila [circumcision for men], and tevila [immersion in a 'mikvah' ritual bath], and that the procedure be supervised by a beit din [court] of three. Note that the members of the Bet Din must be acceptable witnesses. According to the Orthodox Jewish law, a witness must scrupulously observe all the laws, particuarly Shabbat. From an Orthodox standpoint, therefore, any Jew who does not follow Orthodox standards of practice--rabbi or not--would not be qualified to sit on a Bet Din. The [5]Reform movement requires that the potential convert agree to observe the commandments (according to Reform standards) and participate publicly in the community, but they do not require mikva or mila. Reform recommends that the potential convert be made aware of mikva and mila, and that their conversion would be unacceptable to Orthodox Jews, but such notification is not required. In fact, in the pamphlet "Becoming a Jew", published by the UAHC/CCAR Commission on [6]Reform Jewish Outreach, it says in response to the question "If I convert with a Reform rabbi, will all rabbis consider me to be a Jew?": Reform, Reconstructionist, and under certain circumstances, Conservative rabbis recognize the validity of conversions performed by rabbis of all branches of Judaism. Many Orthodox rabbis, however, do not recognize non-Orthodox conversions. Your sponsoring rabbi will be able to discuss further any implications of conversion under his or her auspices for you. The Reform portion of the FAQ contains [7]contact information on how to start the conversion process. Conservative rabbis will accept Reform conversions with mila and tevila, regardless of the observance level of the beit din, for the sake of intergroup harmony. The debate among movements as to the acceptability of different procedures remains unresolved, and is unlikely to ever be resolved (and certainly will not be resolved in network discussions). The reasons for this depend on from which movement the question is asked. And so the reasoning of each movement needs to be stated separately. Liberal Judaism views this as a question of stringency. Therefore, for Liberal Judaism to say "I will comply with the Orthodox standard" is to acknowledge an insufficiency of its own standards. Obviously, then, non-Orthodox rabbis are unwilling to leave all conversions to the Orthodox (even though this may seem like an efficient compromise from a practical point of view.) Conversely, for a Orthodox Judaism to say "Liberal standards are acceptable" is to acknowledge a superfluity of its stricter standards, an equally unlikely scenario. Orthodox Judaism views this as a question of objective reality. A non-Jew does or does not become Jewish by a particular procedure. This is in some ways analagous to the procedure by which a person becomes a naturalized citizen. Just as the oath of allegiance that the person takes to become a citizen is only the end of a process, and only certain judges may administer that oath; so to (l'havdil) the Beit Din, Tevilah (immersion), and circumcision (if male) are the culmination of a process and may only be administered by certain rabbis. This is obviously unacceptable to Liberal Judaism, as part of the procedure is an understanding and acceptance of the world view of Orthodox Judaism. If you are still interested after reading the above, the following will help you start: 1. First, get in touch with a rabbi in the movement with which you wish to associate: + Orthodoxy: Consult your local rabbi. + Conservative: The Rabbinical Assembly, the organization of rabbis affiliated with the Conservative movement in Judaism, has established a national hotline to provide free advice, information, and literature on the Conservative movement's programs for people who wish to convert to Judaism. The number in the US is (800) 275-6532 [800 ASK-N-LEARN]. + Reform: Consult a local Reform rabbi. If you want to talk to someone by Email, look at the answer to [8]Section 18.7, question 4 in the Reform FAQ. Rabbi Celso Cukierkorn also provides conversion support for those in far-flung communities interested in Reform conversion; see [9]http://www.convertingtojudaism.com/ for details. 2. Second, start reading. A good place to start is the General part of the S.C.J reading list, in the section [10]Where do I start?. 3. Third, you might consider exploring the [11]Conversion Web Site (<http://www.convert.org>). This site, run by Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein, contains information on conversion to Judaism in a manner that hopefully avoids any partisan leanings. USA addresses and phone numbers for obtaining information from the Orthodox (RCA), Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements are provided. Another good site is Rabbi Celso Cukierkorn's [12]http://www.convertingtojudaism.com/ .
Subject: Question 10.8: What about adults who are not circumcised? Answer: Adult converts must also undergo some form of circumcision. In the Orthodox and Conservative movements, actual circumcision is required unless, of course, the convert is already circumcised (at which point a pinpricking is performed to draw blood, an inherent part of the act). In the Reform movement, circumcision for converts is recommended but not required.
Subject: Question 10.9: What does the word "Jew" mean? Answer: There are at least two totally distinct meanings of the word Jew. The one that is germane to most of the issues of SCJ is what might best be described as a "member of the Jewish people." The people who are generally considered to belong to this group are enumerated under the heading "Who is a Jew", below. Although membership in "Am Yisrael," as we call the Jewish people, is determined by religious criteria, these criteria do not include the actual practice of Judaism. So Am Yisrael is truly a group of people who identify themselves as such, and not just a religion. Some people refer to Am Yisrael as a nation. Because many people have joined Am Yisrael through conversion over the years, Jews are not, at this point, a single ethnic group, any more than the French people. There are Jews of several different ethnicities, as described elsewhere in this FAQ. Nevertheless, there is an group that, for better or worse, is often described as Jews: the descendants of the ancient Hebrews, many of whom were dispersed across much of the earth during Roman times. And the vast majority of Am Yisrael belong to this group. To avoid confusion, we shall refer to this group as "descendants of the ancient Hebrews." It is sometimes unclear whether a frequently asked question about Jews refers to Am Yisrael or to the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. We shall give separate answers in case of confusion. In soc.culture.jewish, speaking as a Jew has the implication that one is currently Jewish, and not practicing another religion. Hence, a person born Jewish but practicing Islam should not write "I'm a Jew who accepts Muhammad's prophecy" but rather the more truthful "I'm a practicing Muslim of Jewish ancestry." Of course, Jews who practice other religions are welcomed and encouraged to return to practicing Judaism at any time.
Subject: Question 10.10: Who is a Jew? Answer: You had to ask this question? You really had to ask "who is a Jew?"?? Come on, couldn't you have asked a hard question, like whether Adam had a pippik or not? (pippik means navel, a/k/a 'belly button') For thousands of years the answer was simply someone born of a Jewish mother, or someone who undertook a conversion, which involved accepting the yoke of the commandments, an immersion in a mikveh [ritual bath], and for men, circumcision, the latter two in the presense of witnesses. And then came modern times. Hooboy! You sure you aren't interested in Adam's pippik? Anyway, then came modern times, and along came new answers. First the oldtimers complained that the newtimers weren't kosher to do a conversion and then the newtimers got newfangled about the yoke and/or the immersion and/or the circumcision and boy did the oldtimers really got unhappy with this and then the issue got more confusing when the Israeli government started guaranteeing automatic citizenship to Jews resulting in a play it by ear like no one who takes up other religions is accepted but the latest round of yelling was when the newtimers started accepting Jewish father and Jewish upbringing and at this point we give up and are asking all prospective posters of this question to first tell us whether Adam had a pippik. The only thing that is universally agreed is that the practicing of other religions is the same as the rejection of Judaism. Even within Orthodoxy the answer gets, uh, "flexible" at times. (You thought this was just newfangled vs oldfangled? Heh!) When the Nazis were trying to figure out whether to murder the Karaites quickly or slowly, they asked several Orthodox rabbis if the Karaites were Jewish or not. (You figured out the answer? Maybe you belong in yeshiva!) Nineteenth century Samaritan massacres by Islamic zealots were stopped when they got official word that Samaritans are Jews, i.e., people of the book. There have been conflicting answers regarding the Ethiopian Jews. Another bit of Orthodox "flexibility" comes regarding Conservative conversions. Such a person (a sofek) is not counted as Jewish for anything positive, but is often treated as Jewish for things negative, just in case. Thus, a sofek may not be called to the Torah, or even be counted for a minyan, but would not be treated as a Shabbos goy. (He would be expected to do a divorce in the traditional manner, but this shouldn't be a problem, since as a Conservative he holds by that too.) Conservatives often act the same towards Reform conversions, and even within all three movements, there is often rejection of lenient leaning conversions. Reform Judaism rules that the children of two Jewish parents are considered Jewish. Reform also rules that when one parent is Jewish and the other gentile, the identity of the child as Jewish must be established subsequently through Jewish education and positive Jewish acts such as Bar Mitzvah, Confirmation, etc. This is known as the "[5]Patrilineal descent" ruling, because it considers the child of a Jewish father and gentile mother to be Jewish without a conversion ceremony, as opposed to "Matrilineal descent" in which the child of a Jewish woman is automatically Jewish, irrespective of paternity or subsequent practice. If you want to look at [6]the text of the decision, which is a recurring debate topic on S.C.J, it may be found at the URL [7]http://www.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/resodisp.pl?file=mm&year=1983. While countless treatises have been written on this subject, some readers recommend the Chabad/Lubavitch booklet "Who is a Jew?" by R' J. Immanuel Schochet, available from SIE, 788 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
Subject: Question 10.11: What is the origin of Matrilineal Descent? Answer: The Torah does not always state every law explicitly. In the case of Matrilineal Descent, the practice is derived from Deuteronomy 7: 4, "Because he will lead astray your son from before Me" To understand this verse, look at the preceding verse, which states: "And you shall not intermarry with them, your daughter you shall not give to his son and his daughter you shall not take for your son". Verse 4 should have stated "Because SHE will lead astray your son", for the non-Jewish girl that your son married ('your' meaning Jewish) should be the one that would lead your son astray. So who is the 'HE'? It might be the girl's father, but in general, women leave their father's house and live in their husband's house; they would then not be living with her father. Hence, it would not make sense for the girl's father to lead "your son" astray if your son doesn't live with him. The Rabbis concluded that 'HE' is the man that your daughter married, and 'your son' mentioned in verse 4 is your grandchild, meaning Jewish grandchild. Thus, verse 4 is referring back to the middle section of verse 3. It reads like this, "your daughter you shall not give to his son because he will lead astray your son" This shows that the child of a Jewish girl and a non-Jewish boy will be Jewish. It is not uncommon for the Torah to refer to a grandchild as an actual child. For instance, Kings I 15: 11 states, " And Asa did that which was correct in the eyes of God just like David his father". David was not Asa's father. He was his great-great-grandfather. Additionally, Leviticus 24:10 speaks of the son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian man as being "among the community of Israel" (ie, a Jew). On the other hand, in Ezra 10:2-3, the Jews returning to Israel vowed to put aside their non-Jewish wives and the children born to those wives. They could not have put aside those children if those children were Jews.
Subject: Question 10.12: I've heard that Jewish parents consider an intermarried child as "dead". Is this true? Answer: There are many believe that Judaism teaches that the family must consider as dead (and as a result, perform appropriate mourning practices such as sitting "shiva") for a child who marries a non-Jew. However, it is not clear the anyone does this. It is definitely not halacha (Jewish law), nor is it widespread enough to be a custom. This "legend" arose because, until recently, those who had interfaith marriages often abandoned Judaism, becoming apostate Jews. The custom of sitting shiva for apostates seems to be based on a misunderstanding of a passage in the Or Zarua (13th cent), which stated that Rabbenu Gershom (11th cent) sat shiva for his son, who had become a Christian. My understanding is that Rabbenu Gershom sat shiva when his son died, despite the fact that he had apostasized, not when the son became a Christian. The halakhic discussion of this point, which starts in the Or Zarua, goes back and forth on whether or not we follow that practice, but, there is no suggestion that we should sit shiva when someone leaves Judaism.
Subject: Question 10.13: Why is the conversion process so complicated? The matriarchs didn't have to convert. Answer: Jewish tradition dates itself back to Sinai. In other words, "the Torah" that the Jews recieved in the desert includes not only the text of the Five Books, but also a vast body of what we generally call Oral Torah. This means that the laws of conversion, or at least, the principles from which they derive, are as old as the Torah. Before the covenant at Sinai, there wasn't really Judaism per se. One could join the earlier covenant that G-d made with Abraham, but there could be no parallel to the conversion of today. The forefathers' wives therefore didn't need to formally convert. And, depending upon the sequence of events, if Jethro became a Jew before the revelation at Mount Sinai (which is the order the stories are told in the text) he didn't have to formally convert either. We do find that the Israelites who left Egypt were taken through the same steps that a convert would take today: the men were obligated to circumcise themselves before leaving Egypt, they immersed themselves three days before the revelation, and they were formally asked if they would accept the yoke of observance the day before recieving the decalogue. The Talmud find allusions in the book of Ruth that indicate that she converted according to the current process. The same word, "geir", is used in the Torah to describe two kinds of people. As this causes confusion, the Talmud utilizes adjectives to distinguish the two. The "geir tzedek" (righteous convert) is what we usually think of when we say "geir". However, there is also the person who decides to observe the 7 categories of laws required by G-d's covenant with Noah. In modern parlance such a person is called a "Noachide" (or Noahide). How does this relate to "geir"? Here's how. A Noachide who agrees to live in a Jewish Israel, within a government run by Torah law (such as that of the 1st Temple period, or under the Sanhedrin, or after the messiah establishes a third commonwealth), but as a non-Jew is called a "geir toshav" (a resident alien). A geir toshav only goes to court (which can be any three observant Jewish men of sound mind) and proclaims his/her acceptance. Because of the ambiguity of the term "geir", people reject our beliefs about the origins of the Oral Torah assume the two, geir tzedek and geir toshav, are identical. This would make it seem that the text is only obligating a proclamation of acceptance. This, however, leads to inconsistancies. On the one hand, "one law shall you have for yourselves, for the geir and for the native of the land". Including rituals. This expression is used (amongst other places) in discussing fasting on Yom Kippur, where the punishment is phrased as "he will be cut off from amongst his people, Israel". So, this geir is a member of Israel. However, the word "geir" as used in a verse about working on the Sabbath does not assume that when G-d speaks to Israel, the geir is included. "Do not do any work, [neither] you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid-servant, your animal, and the geir who is within your gates." The geir isn't included amongst the "you". There are numerous examples of each side of this dilemma.
Subject: Question 11.1.1: Dress: Why do some Jewish women wear wigs or cover their hair with a snood, beret, tichel, turban, kerchief or hat? Answer: Within Orthodoxy, it is considered a breach of modesty for a married woman to have uncovered hair while in the presence of men other than her husband. Customs differ as to how much hair can be showing beneath the head covering, or if a wig is better/worse than a hat of some sort.
Subject: Question 11.1.2: Dress: Why do many Jewish men wear head coverings (variously referred to as "yarmulkas," "skullcaps," and "kipot")? Answer: The customary Jewish head covering (for simplicity, we'll call it a kipa (singular of kipot), although all the terms refer to approximately the same thing) is a sign of humility for men, acknowledging what's "above" us (G-d). An additional explanation is that in ancient Rome, servants were required to cover their heads while free men did not; thus, Jews covered their heads to show that they were servants of G-d. It's necessary for men to cover their heads during certain prayers (whether it be by a kipa or another headcovering), and for one making blessings all day, it's inconvenient to keep donning and removing a kipa. In some places, the type of kipa and way of wearing it expresses affiliation with a particular yeshiva or political viewpoint. In other places, it doesn't really matter. Many Ashkenazi rabbis acknowledge that wearing a head covering at all times was once considered an optional "midat chasidut" [pious act] but that nowadays, full-time head covering is the norm except under extenuating circumstances. Sephardic communities generally did not have the custom of wearing a kipa all the time. Some diaspora Jews leave off the kipa at school, work, or when testifying in court, because of real danger or uneasiness in appearing in the secular world with an obvious symbol of Jewishness. Many non-Orthodox Jews (and some modern Orthodox Jews) do not always wear a kipa. This is because some sources make covering the head by a Jewish male a special practice of the pious (midat chasidut). However, these movements do recognize that it is a Jewish way of showing reference and respect, as well as a positive means of identification (which can serve as a barrier against assimilation). Some movements have specific recommendations as to the time that a kipa is worn; for example, Conservative practice is to cover the head in the following situations: * Whenever in the sanctuary of a synagogue. * When praying and when studying or reading from sacred literature. * Whenever performing any ritual. * When eating, since eating is always followed by a benediction. Some follow the minhag of certain Jewish communities in Germany where they cover their heads during the blessing before the meal and during the benedictions after the meal, but not during the meal itself. In Israel wearing a kipa also has a social significance. While wearing a kipa shows that you are somewhat religious, not-wearing one is like stating "I'm not religious". The style of kipa in Israel can also indicate political and religious affiliations. The wearing of the kipah at school and work has increased in recent years. These are also affectionately called "beanies," "holy headgear," "Yamahas," "Yid-lids," and "Kapeles." (Similarly, some hair coverings for married women are affectionately called "shmattehs.") On Usenet, some related, but not necessarily common, "Jewish" smilies might be: (;;:-) Clean-shaven smiley wearing a kipa @:-) Modest married smiley wearing snood/beret {:-) Modest married smiley wearing sheitel (wig) [|:-)} Smiley wearing black fedora and short beard {|B-)== Smiley wearing glasses, streimel (fur hat), and long beard (;{8-{)} Smiling bearded guy with (most of) his own hair and a kipa :---) Antisemitic long-nosed smiley From whence does the term originate? The word yarmulke is Yiddish. According to Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish, it comes from a Tartar word meaning skullcap. Some rabbis claim it comes from the Aramaic words "yerai malka" (fear of or respect for The King). The Hebrew word for this head covering is kippah or kipa (pronounced key-pah).
Subject: Question 11.1.3: Dress: What is a Tallis? Tzit-tzit(those fringes)? Why do Jews wear them? Answer: The Torah commands us to wear tzitzit (fringes) at the corners of our garments as a reminder of the commandments [Num. 15:37-41, which is in the third paragraph of the Sh'ma, recited during the morning and evening prayers]: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them that they shall make themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations and they shall place upon the tzitzit of each corner a thread of blue wool. These shall be your tzitzit, and when you see them, you shall remember all of God's commandments so as to keep them. You will then not stray after your heart and eyes after which have lead you to immorality. You will thus remember and keep all My commandments, and be holy to your God. This is reiterated in Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 22:12: You shall make for yourselves twisted threads on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself. This commandment only applies to four-cornered garments, which were common in biblical times but are not common anymore. Since the normal clothing in our time does not have four square corners, Traditional Jews wear a garment that is specifically made to have four corners so that the mitzvah can be fulfilled. This is known as the "Tallit Katan" and is usually worn under the shirt. This garmet is similar to a poncho. The tallit katan is worn under the shirt, sometimes with the tzitzit hanging out so they can be seen. All garments of a certain size or larger that have at least four corners must tzitzit attached. The original requirement was to have a blue thread among the other threads. However, since the precise shade of blue is no longer known and the source of the dye used, only the other threads are used (except among certain chassidic groups that claim to know the dye formula). Typically, these threads are white. Why? Although technically, they can be of any color, there is a debate as to which color is the ideal: some say they should be white, some say the color of the garment. The question is avoided by wearing a whilte garment. Note: There is a complex procedure for tying the knots of the tzitzit, filled with religious and numerological significance. The tying pattern symbolizes the 613 traditional commandments in the Torah. Why do tallit typically have blue or black stripes? The reason why the tallis is striped is simply because that was the fashion in Greece and Rome. But this doesn't answer the question of why blue or black? Tzitzis are supposed to include a thread of blue wool in each tassle. Most believe we do not know the specific dye needed for the mitzvah. In memory of this dye, some adopted a custom to place a blue stripe on the garment itself. Others decided to add a black stripe of mourning for the lost element of the mitzvah. The black stripe gained popularity in Europe of the 15th through 19th centuries, when black-and-white clothing was more common for Jews in general. The blue stripe is now seeing a revival in the 20th and 21st centuries, but it's actually the older of the two customs. It just seems to us to be more modern. Sepharadic Jews believes the debate over what color is appropriate precludes wearing colored stripes, so they wear white stripes (or a different weave) on their talleisim. Maimonides was of the "same color as the garment" camp. For Baladi Yemenite Jewry (those Yemenite Jews that resisted the influx of Syrian customs), Maimonides is the final word on Jewish law. So, they do not wear a tallis of any particular color. One will often find an older, more traditional, Yemenite man wearing a rich blue or red tallis with matching strings. With or without stripes. A tallis can be made of any fabric. Ideally it should be wool or linen, as there is a rejected opinion that requires one of those two. However, since it's a rejected opinion, using anything else is no big deal. In practice, however, since you can't find linen strings to hang on the tallis and you can't put wool strings on a linen garment due to shaatnez, Wool is the norm (at least in Orthodox, Sepharadi, and Yemenite circles). Some even make a point of wearing a wool garment for the tzitzis worn under the shirt. As for the minority of the garment (if it is made of wool): assuming you avoid linen, any other thread can be included in the minority of the garment -- silk, artificial fibers or metal. During prayers, the custom is to wear a four-cornered shawl with tzitzit (Tallis Gadol) and pray while wrapped in it. There are different customs as to when this is done. Most Ashkenazic men will begin wearing the Tallis when they get married. In some Sephardic and German-Ashkenazi communities, a boy will put on a tallis when he becomes a bar-mitzvah (13 years old). There are some communities that begin this earlier. Customs vary among liberal Jews as to who wears a tallis, and when it's worn.
Subject: Question 11.1.4: Dress: What are those black boxes and leather straps Jewish men wear? Answer: They are called "tefillin" (mentioned in the Torah as "totafos", and often seen in English translations as "frontlets"). They contain parchments with verses from the Torah. During the weekday morning service, one of the boxes (the "Hand t'filluh") is placed upon the left arm so that it rests against the heart, and the suspended leather strap is wound around the left hand, and around the middle finger of that hand. The other box (the "Head t'filluh") is placed upon the head, above the forehead, so as to rest upon the cerebrum. This is in fulfillment of the Torah commandments. If you go to a traditional shul and lack tefillin, you can be sure that someone will lend you his and assist you in fulfilling this mitzvah. Note that the actual commandment is to wear them anytime, all the time. That is, anytime a day for a moment to fullfill the obligation, and all the time to fullfill the non-obligatory commandment. The rabbis forbade wearing them at nightime (except under very specific circumstances) so they must be worn during the day only. Traditionally, we consider wearing them for prayers important, though that should not be confused with the actual commandment. Hence, their primary use during services. The two boxes each contain four sections of the Torah inscribed on parchment. These passages cite: 1. The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) - pronouncing the Unity of The One G-d. 2. Vehayah (Deuteronomy 11:13-21) - expressing G-d's assurance to us of reward that will follow our observance of the Torah's precepts, and warning of retribution for disobedience to them. 3. Kadesh (Exodus 13:1-10) - the duty of the Jewish people to always remember the redemption from Egyptian bondage. 4. Vehayah (Exodus 13:11-6) - the obligation of every Jew to inform his children on these matters. A good summary of the laws and customs regarding Tefillin may be found at [5]http://www.ahavat-israel.com/ahavat/torat/tefillin.asp. One of the medieval blood libels was to tell gentile peasants that Jews poisoned wells, and received coded magic instructions in small black boxes. The mobs would destroy the expensive tefillin to open them, and mistake the Hebrew verses as "magic codes," followed by the usual rape, murder, and pillage of Jews that (alas) characterized much of medieval Europe. Note that in some congregations, women also wear tefillin. Although halakha exempts women from this mitzvah, it does not explicitly prohibit them from following it. Some segments of Orthodoxy do feel that actions that are not commanded must be considered as forbidden. Others feel that people should not take on additional responsibilities until they fully carry out those actions that are commanded. Thus, while women such as Bruria (Rabbi Meir's wife) or Rashi's daughters may have been on a high enough level, women nowadays are not on a level that would allow them to wear tefillin. However, non-Orthodox movements, and some liberal segments of the Orthodox community, do permit it. In those movements that permit the practice, the wearing of teffilin has become an important way for Jewish women to express their Judaism.
Subject: Question 11.1.5: Dress: Why do many Jewish men sport beards and/or long sideburns? Answer: The Torah, the Five Books of Moses, has a commandment not to shave the corners of the head. [Specifically, Leviticus 19:27 says, "Do not round the corner of your head."] The Torah also forbids a male Jew from removing hair from one's sideburns and temple are (known as pei'ot ha-rosh). Actually, the sideburns merely have to be long enough that one can pull on the hair, and the beard area can be shaved with something other than a sharp blade (many people accept the use of electric shavers). But specifically within the Chassidic community, there is a custom not to shave (and frequently not even to trim) the beard, and to permit the sideburn area (all the way up to the top of the ear) to grow long as well (the long sideburns are called peyot) . Some tuck the hair up under their kipot/skullcaps, while others curl the hair. Many Orthodox say the payes (a.k.a. earlocks/sidelocks) begin right at the temple, to just behind the ear, and must grow no shorter than the top of the cheekbone. Then they are to be worn pushed forward of the ear so as to be visible. Many, following Rabbi Nachman, grow them long because he said he could "pull them by their payess out of hell" once he was in Paradise! Another note related to the "not rounding of the corners". This is in direct relation to the passage about not harvesting the corners of the field, but leaving it alone for G-d. Finally, in not rounding "the four corners" of the face, we have a comparison with the tzitzis at the four corners of the tallit. People forget that the hair, the harvesting, and the tallit are all mitzvot. On a practical level, shaving or trimming of the beard is not permitted on the Sabbath or Holidays, and for a few stretches during the year [such as portions of the time between Pesach and Shavuos]. A beardless man will grow days or weeks of stubble, but a bearded man who doesn't shave or trim his beard during that time will not look significantly different. To be specific, the Law is that one must not use a straight razor (including safety-razors) on one's temples or to shave one's beard. Those Jewish men who have wanted to be clean-shaven have had various options; in the past century, either depilatory powder (ancestor to Nair), or electric shavers. Electric shavers (at least most of them; check with your local Orthodox rabbi for acceptable brands) function like a scissors: two relatively dull blades pinch off the hair, rather than one very sharp blade slicing it off. Chasidim and some others have kabbalistic reasons for growing a beard, so they will not take advantage of modern technology. Otherwise, Jewish men having beards have it for other reasons, be they simply "to look Jewish" or style or whatever. As for sidelocks, that is a result of a peculiar interpretation of the law against shaving one's temples. The basic law is that there must remain enough hair to bend it over with one's fingers; that can be as little as 1/2 inch or so. Some, notably Hungarian chasidim and Yemenites, do not cut the sidelocks at all, and they grow very long. Most chasidim have short sidelocks: thin, 2-3", that they tuck behind their ears, so you won't see them. Many who grow long peyos do so for Kabbalistic reasons. One of the opinions in Kabbalah is that the peyos need to be worn long only until the beard grows in. Once the beard grows, the peyos of the side of the head should not be allowed to grow down beyond where the sides of the beard begin to appear. Finally, some Jewish men just don't like to shave.
Subject: Question 11.1.6: Dress: Why do some Orthodox Jews, especially Chassidim, wear a distinctive style of clothing (i.e., fur hats, black coats, gartel)? Answer: The particular appearance is a matter of local custom for the group. Black Clothes: Black is the color of Gevurah (severity), and thus is a symbolically appropriate garb for serious and important events (praying, holidays, etc.) Those who wear such clothes all week are thus indicating that their daily life is also bound up in divrei yirah shamayim [fearing heaven]. It is worth noting that black was the traditional colour of formal wear among many circles in the 18 Century CE. Hassidic garb is based on what the first Rebbes wore, and by and large represents the colours worn by Polish and other central Europeans. Gartel: It is required by the Shulchan Aruch (code of Jewish law) to have a separation between the top half of the body and the bottom while praying. Those who do not wear a gartel hold that other clothes satisfy the halacha; e.g., a regular belt or the waistband of his pants. Hat: A double head covering (and more complete head covering than a kippot) is used during davening. Some choose to wear it all the time, but it is not required. Some wear it while eating. The style of hat varies by groups, and the black hat is relatively modern. In the pre-war Lithuanian Yeshivot, grey suits and grey fedoras were the style and many in the Litvish tradition still wear grey and blue suits. In Jerusalem until the 1960s, Panama Hats were worn in the summer by some Haredim, and one very occasionally still sees Haredim wearing them. Right now in the yeshivah world, black suits and black [5]Borsalino hats seem to be de rigeur; yet it wasn't that long ago that many yeshivah bocherim wore black berets, and flat caps were not unknown. Some wear a (distinctive) gartel or hat (or simply a not-so-distinctive jacket) just for davening, to provide extra honor when talking to G-d. There is also a kabbalistic justification of the double head covering that refers to two distinct aspects of one's soul.
Subject: Question 11.1.7: Dress: What is Shaatnez? Answer: `Shaatnez' is the occurence of wool and linen in the same garment. There are various prohibitions (Lev 19:19, Deut 22:9-11) against the mingling of different kinds; this is one of them. A linen tie worn with a wool suit is permitted, but a wool suit with linen threaded buttons is prohibited. While in practice, many garments do not have any Shaatnez and may be assumed to have none, the particulars vary by garment type. The padding in many garments such as suits or the embroidery thread, such as designs on sweaters (men's and women's) may cause shaatnez problems. The padding filler in many suits is made of assorted rags which may be mixed linen and wool in themselves (so it is not just a worry of linen threaded padding in a wool shell suit). Nowadays, the usual way of observing the Shaatnez prohibitions is to first check the fabric list (careful: lana/lino is Spanish for wool/linen). If the fabric list shows a forbidden mixture, don't bother, you probably can't get it fixed. If the label shows "other" it may or may not be linen. Even if the label shows 100% wool, there may still be problems. Since the fabric list on suits usually refer only to the shell (and ignore padding or ornamental threads), the label can only be used to identify garments that definitely have shaatnez. Thus if the label indicates that the suit (for example) can be good, take it to a Shaatnez lab for testing. Most cities with at least a medium sized Orthodox community have qualified Shaatnez testers. If the city has a local Vaad Hakashrus they can usually refer you to a reliable tester.
Subject: Question 11.1.8: Dress: Are there any special dress rules or customs for women? Answer: Traditionally, there are halachic rules and community customs that lead to a particular pattern of dress for those that observe the halacha regarding modesty. This is most typical among the Orthodox segment of Judaism, but is occasionally found elsewhere. It is good to keep these rules in mind if you visit traditional communities, especially in Israel. These dress rules/customs include: * Sleeves are typically covered as far as the elbow. * The neckline does not expose any cleavage. * Skirts are long enough to cover the knee when seated. * Depending on the area, pants or slacks may be allowed; for example, in many religious kibbutzim the women wear pants out of habit, for the simple reason that they work in agricultural areas or other activities where a skirt would be less modest. However, this is the exception; when not performing these activities, skirts are worn. Women not in such situations at all are encouraged not to wear pants. The problem with pants are two-fold: first, some communities still consider them banned under the laws that prohibit cross-dressing. The other is that any attire that shows the location of the croch is considered immodest attire for women. If the problem is only the latter, then perhaps a skirt or apron over pants would be permitted. Different rabbis and communities follow different norms * Married women cover their hair either completely, or with approximately 2 finger widths showing of the bangs. As to unmarried women, hair covering is not required, although there are Sephardi customs that even unmarried women should "put their hair up", so that it's not flying 'wildly' (but not necessary to cover it). In some communities, particularly amongst Hassidim and Sepharadic Jews (those from Arab countries), wearing a wig is NOT sufficient head covering. In some Chassidic groups women wear a hat over their wig. Amongst Sepharadic Jews, the wig is of no relevance to this law, and the hat would have to be large enough to cover all of their hair--making the wig pointless. The origin of this law is murky--in one place the Talmud makes this seem to be a rabbinically set modesty issue, in another it is a scriptural reference. This too is followed by all but the most modern edge of Orthdoxy (and even in their camp, most acknowledge that they are violating the rule as set forth in the Talmud).
Subject: Question 11.1.9: Dress: What is a Kittel? Answer: A kittel is a white robe worn in the synagogue on such major festivals as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The rabbi wears it, as does the cantor, the blower of the shofar, and male members of Ashkenazi congregations. Before a Seder dinner in traditional households, the leader of the Passover seder dons a kittel, and in Orthodox communities the bridegroom wears it at his wedding. Pious Jews use the kittel as a burial shroud.
Subject: Question 11.1.10: Dress: What is the large high ceremonial hat that the Rabbi wears in the synagogue called? Answer: There isn't one. Many traditional Rabbis tend to wear fedoras, but then, so do most of the congregation as part of formal Sabbath wear. Some with more Chassidic leanings would wear a Hamburg, a felt hat with a flatter brim, no pinches in the hat itself like you would find on a fedora. Chassidim themselves tend to wear fur hats. Those communities from Russia and eastern Poland wear a "spodik", a brown (nearly black) fur hat that is taller than it is high. Those from Hungary, Galicia and therabouts wear a "shtreiml", an almost disklike hat whose center is felt surrounded by a brown mink ruff. But these are worn by the entire community for the Sabbath, and aren't specific to Rabbis. At one point in time, during the 19th and early 20th century, cantors -- the ones trained in the melodies and meanings of prayer -- tended to wear high Cantorial Caps. They were actually elaborate versions of the style of Yarmulka worn amongst Latvian Jews. (The plainer version looked something like an old seargent's hat or cooks cap, but in black.)
Subject: Question 11.2.1: Sex and Purity: What's this I've heard about a hole in a sheet? Answer: We don't know what you've heard, but what we've heard is that when it comes time for three men to "witness" a woman's conversion [involving nude immersion], what's commonly done is for the water's surface to be covered with a thick, opaque sheet with a hole in it, just big enough to let her head through while discreetly shielding the rest of her body. Anything else is probably just your warped imagination, and no, we still have no idea of what you're thinking, but you should be ashamed of yourself, just in case. And another thing, it's not true, so there! Actually, there is an urban legend regarding what you think. As with any urban legend, there is a spark of truth in it. Here are two explanations: * The myth derives from seeing Jews in religious neighborhoods hanging their "talitot katan" out to dry. This poncho-like garment is about two feet by four feet, has a fringe on each corner, and a hole in the center for the wearer's head, and it looks somewhat like a small sheet with a hole, and many people have vivid and warped imaginations. * There is such a practice, but it is based on a misreading of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a poor source for information on mainstream halakhic opinion on sexual matters. Most consider the legend to be an incorrect practice. Nevertheless, the practice does seem to survive in some "fanatical" extremes of Orthodox Judaism, without Rabbinic agreement.
Subject: Question 11.2.2: Sex and Purity: Can a Jewish man only uncover his wife a hands-breadth? Answer: This "legend" is derived from a one of several conflicting interpretations of what was said about Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkanos in Nedarim 20a,b. It runs as follws: "Ima Shalom [R. Eliezer's wife] was asked why her children were so very good-looking. She told them " ` ... and when he speaks to [Rashi: copulates with] me, he uncovers a handsbreadth and covers a handsbreadth and he seems to be coerced by a demon." The conflicting interpretations are as follows: * Rashi (ad loc.). Handsbreadth: of her clothing. Seems to be coerced by a demon: Comes upon her powerfully, as if a demon were coercing him. However, some say that he covers himself completely [and only uncovers as much of himself as necessary], as if he were afraid of a demon. * Ra"N [R. Nissim bar Ya`kov] (ad loc.). Handsbreadth: [citing Berakhot 23B] a woman is permitted to uncover two handsbreadths when she urinates. He uncovered only one handbreath, leaving the second one covered. Seems to be driven by a demon: He would hurry [through the act] like a man coerced by a demon, but would [literally] speak to her during intercourse. * Ro'Sh [R. Asher ben Ye`hiel] (ad loc). Handsbreadth: [An obscure reason not easily figured out] or perhaps in order not to enjoy direct body contact, as in [intercourse] through a sheet (Yerushalmi Yebamot 1,1) [This reference to Rabbi Jose ben Halafta's behavior, while he was levir to his brother's widow, may be the origin of the urban legend about the "hole in the sheet"]. * Hameiri (ad loc). ...he should uncover a handsbreadth of her clothing and cover that handsbreadth with his own ... * Rambam (Hilkhot De`ot 5,4). ... he should speak to her and sport with her a bit until she relaxes, and then couple with her modestly and not brutally ... Not much of a consensus, as you can see. Choose whatever interpretation you like. Rashi's first explanation has the ring of truth: It was R. Eliezer's way of building up sexual excitement by foreplay. As supporting evidence, we continue to read the text: "I (Ima Shalom) asked him `Why do you do this?' He aswered `So that I should not look [with desire] at any other woman'". Note that the Talmud in Ketubot 48 states that the proper way for a man and woman to have sex is for both to be nude; in fact it goes on to state that if one insists on wearing clothes during the act, that can be considered grounds for divorce. This was later codified in the Shulkhan Arukh (16th century), Even ha-Ezer 76:13 For a detailed and sensitive discussion of Jewish views towards sex and sexuality, see "Does God Belong in the Bedroom?" by Rabbi Michael Gold (published by JPS), and "Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy" by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (published by Doubleday).
Subject: Question 11.2.3: Sex and Purity: What is a "mikveh"? Answer: A mikva or mikveh is a place used for ritual immersions. A proper mikva contains a minimum of 40 SE'AH--about 191 U.S. gallons (Sorry, but you'll have to do your own metric conversion.) of undrawn water. In general, if there are more than 40 SE'AH, then the remainder of the water may come from any source. "Undrawn" means not filled by bucket or by metal pipes. Natural lakes, whether or not fed by streams or rivers, fall into the category of "undrawn waters." Many synagogues also provide indoor mikvas. Additional information may be found in [5]N. Lamm, A Hedge of Roses; and I. Klein, A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice (Chapter 37).
Subject: Question 11.2.4: Sex and Purity: What are Jewish hygene practices? Answer: While traditional Judaism has a number of practices that are hygenic, there appears to be only one that is motivated by hygene. There is a law called "machayim achronim" (water after [the meal]), a rule that one must wash one's hands after eating. The claimed reason for this law is that people tended to eat sodom salt with their food. [Our common table salt, sodium chloride, was quite expensive. The Roman army paid their soldiers in it! Thus the expression "worth his salt".] Sodom salt, whatever it is, could injure the eye, so one should wash one's hands after the meal to avoid blindness. Today, since we don't use this kind of salt anymore, most do not feel the law is in practice. Others still keep the rule, as there is an allusion to it in the Torah. However, other practices have hygenic effects: * There are seven distinct prohibitions involved in eating insects--they are less kosher than pork! People inspect their vegetables very carefully to get rid of all of them. Some Jews don't even eat brocolli or cauliflower because they are nearly impossible to inspect. * Right after you wake up, before doing anything else, you are supposed to wash your hands because: (a) your hands could be anywhere when you're asleep; and (b) sleep is a modicum of death, and there is a state called "tum'ah" (untanslatable) which is associated with death. * You must wash your hands before eating bread, so most meals are preceded with washing your hands. This is to get people used to being un-tamei (different conjugation of tum'ah, still untranslatable) when eating, which was necessary for eating from sacrifices, or if a priest or levite wanted to eat from their respective tithes. This washing is called "mayim rishonim", water before [the meal], and was considered less stringent than the post-meal washing (back when the latter was for health reasons). In general, Jewish law sees health as a higher priority than itself. (Barring three do-or-die commandments.) The three hand washing laws, upon waking up and before and after meals, had significant impact on survival during the Black Plague. Jews faired much better than the rest of the population. To the extent that it was taken as "evidence" that the plague was some kind of Jewish conspiracy, leading some to set arson and murder. * There are no sexual relations from the time menstruation begins until a week after bleeding stops. Before resuming marital relations, the wife immerses herself in a mikvah, a ritual bath. Before going to the mikvah, she must be entirely clean, so that at least in potential, nothing comes between her and the water. In practice, this means soaking in a regular bathtub for roughly half an hour, flossing, making sure her hair has no knots, and other things. * In many communities, men go to the mikvah the day before a holiday, and often on every Friday. (Most only twice a year: before Rosh haShanah, and before Yom Kippur.) Some immerse themselves before prayers the morning after having sexual relations. The preparations are less grueling, as these are only custom, while the post-menstual immersion has a biblical source. However, it still means that men in these communities bathed quite often, as these things went before indoor plumbing.
Subject: Question 11.3.1: Writing: Why do some people write "G-d" with a hyphen instead of an `o'? Answer: Based on the words in Deut. 12:3-4, the Rabbis deduced that it is forbidden to erase the name of G-d from a written document. Since any paper upon which G-d's name was written might be discarded and thus "erased", the Rabbis forbade explicitly writing the name of G-d, except in Holy Books, with provisions for the proper disposal of such books. According to Jewish Folklore, G-d has 70 names. However, only one of these names is the ineffable name, which cannot be erased or pronounced. Further, of the 70 names, seven may not be erased but they can be pronounced on certain occasions (such as when reading the Torah). The other names may be erased and pronounced, but still must be treated with respect. The Talmud (Shevuot 35a-b) makes it clear that this prohibition applies only to seven Biblical names of G-d and not to other names or attributes of G-d, which may be freely written. The prohibition was later codified by Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 6:1-2). The practice of writing "G-d" is supported in Shut Achiezer, 3:32, end, where it is endorsed and accepted as the prevailing custom. Rambam cites Deut. 12-03:04, which states "and you shall destroy the names of pagan gods from their places. You shall not do similarly to G-d your Lord." The intent of this is to create an atmosphere of respect for G-d's name vs pagan gods names. As a result of this, people acquired the habit of not writing the full name down in the first place. Strictly speaking, this only applies to Hebrew on a permanent medium, but many people are careful beyond the minimum, and have applied it to non-Hebrew languages. Hence, "G-d". One explanation is that using G-d is a reminder that anything which we may say about G-d is necessarily metaphorical. Spelling out the Name (even in a language other than Hebrew) would imply that one could speak meaningfully (not just metaphorically) about G-d. However, the Shach (Yoreh De'a 179:11) ruled that "God" spelled in a foreign language does NOT have the status of a "shem" and thus may be erased, lehatkhila. There is a story about Rav Soloveitchik (z"l) intentionally writing GOD on the board while teaching a class and then just as deliberately and intentionally erasing it, so as to demonstrate by his own example that this was not a halakhically a problem. Conservative (ref: [5]http://communities.msn.com/JudaismFAQs&naventryid=160) and Reform practice is to use "God". However, even some who are not strict (or even observant) in general will write "G-d", to emphasize that Jewish conceptions of G-d are meant. Note: There is one exception to the destruction of G-d's name. In Numbers 6, the Suspected Wife Ceremony, a man who suspects his wife of adultery (with witnesses seeing a forbidden seclusion) brings his wife to the temple. The Priests test the women by pronouncing the horrible Biblical curse. After reading the curse it is written on parchment and dissolved in water (which the women drinks). If she is guilty she dies and otherwise the couple gets their marriage back. Thus, G-d actually allows the ineffable name to be dissolved in water that the women drinks. As the Talmud notes: G-d allows the ineffable name to be erased for the sake of bringing peace between a husband and wife. Note that if you disagree with another poster's decision to omit or include the hyphen, you should not publicly criticize or ridicule said poster.
Subject: Question 11.3.2: Writing: Why do some Jews write "J-s-s" and "Xianity?" Answer: Some Jews consider Jesus to have been an ordinary man and write his name like that of any other man. Some question whether or not he even existed, possibly being a myth borrowed from similar stories. Others ascribe to him the status of a "deity worshipped by others," whose name Jews should not pronounce. Many extend this ban to the written form. Some write "Xianity" as a simple shorthand, like "Xmas," while others prefer not to write "Christianity" lest it appear that they consider Jesus to have been the Messiah. Note that the shorthands "Xianity" and "Xmas" do not derive from attempting to "blot out" the Jesus's name; rather, they arose because the first letter of the Christ in greek (Christos) is a Chi, which looks like an "X". In fact, the shorthand is used by many Christians. The possible halachic problem with writing Christ derives from the fact that "christos" is the Greek word for Messiah/moshiach. Hence some argue that writing the name Christ in full tacitly acknowledges (G-d forbid) that Jesus was the Messiah.
Subject: Question 11.3.3: Writing: Why are somethings written in Hebrew, and others in Aramaic? Answer: Aramaic was the Jewish vernacular from the second Temple period until well after the closing of the Talmud (700 CE). That period includes the last remnant of the Sanhedrin in Yavneh. Thus, documents during this time are in Aramaic. According to tradition, our affiliation with Aramaic dates back to Abraham, who was a native of Aram Naharaim (note the name).
Subject: Question 11.4.1: Practices Towards Others: Does Judaism permit slavery? Answer: There are really two questions here: Question 1: Does Halacha Permit Jews to Own Slaves? First, note that "Slavery" in the Torah generally refers to temporary indentured servitude to one's creditor. Such slavery was permitted under Jewish law. However, the treatment of Jews towards their slaves was much more humane than that of the surrounding culture, for a key element of Judaism is to remember that Jews were once slaves in Egypt (in fact, this is the central theme of the holiday of Pesach). In Judaism, the slave was protected. Exodus 21:2-11 defines the rights of the servant. Quoting from the Hertz Penatateuch and Haftorahs: Slavery, as permitted by the Torah was quite different from Greek and Roman Slavery, or even the cruel system in some modern countries down to our own times. In Hebrew law, the slave was not a thing, but a human being; he was not the chattel of a master who had unlimited power over him. In the Hebrew language, there is only one word for slave and servant. Brutal treatment of any slave, whether Hebrew or heathen, secures his immediate liberty. Jewish law required that a slave could go free in the seventh year of service (Exodus 21:2), although his family would not be freed; although if he came into servitude with a wife, that wife would also be freed. The slave could, however, indicate that they perferred bondage to freedom. Every fiftieth year (the "Jubilee"), the slaves with their families would be emancipated, and property (except house property in a walled city) would revert to its original owner. (Lev XXV:8-55). In Judaism, there is also the concept of an "Eved Canani", a non-Jewish slave, who is the property of a Jew, as is discussed in Vayikrah 25:46. This concept of slavery is nothing like slavery that occurred in America to the Negroes. The slaves were not kidnapped, but rather were purchased from themselves; i.e., they were offered a sum of money, or guaranteed shelter and food, in exchange for becoming slaves. The obligation to treat your slave humanely applies to both Jewish and non-Jewish slave, as does the obligation to make sure they have all necessary comforts, even at the expense of their master's own comfort (e.g., if there are not enough pillows for all, the master must provide his slaves with pillows before himself). Slavery is clearly discussed in the Torah, especially in reference to Canaan, who was cursed by his grandfather Noach to be destined to be the slaves to the rest of mankind, as stated and repeated a number of times in Beraishis 9:25-27. Is slavery moral? We live in a society where same sex marriages, partial-birth abortions, and mercy killings are considered moral by many--and perhaps even the majority--of our society. Additionally, it is considered "sport" to watch two men get together in a ring, and attempt to injure each other, and we roar in approval when one has managed to draw blood from the other and knock him unconscious. We must realize that what we consider moral or immoral is the sum total of the society in which we live. In Judaism, we've been blessed with the Torah, which tells us very clearly what is moral and immoral, and directs us to elevate ourselves above our society and accept the Torah's definition of morality. When the Torah says that theft is forbidden, this is not because society has determined that theft is forbidden, but because G-d is telling us so. Hence, it is forbidden to steal even in situations that society would not necessarily consider it theft, such as pirating software from large corporations. Additionally, when the Torah tells us that there is a Mitzvah to eradicate Amalek (evil) from the face of the earth (Shemos 17:14-16, and Devarim 25:17-19), as difficult as it is for us to swallow this, we must realize that this is the moral thing to do. This means, that when a Jewish doctor was summoned to save little Adolf Shicklegruber's life when he was an infant (later known as Adolf Hitler), rather than save his life, he should have smothered him to death (assuming that he knew that he is from Amalek). Of course, everyone there would have been horrified--but can you imagine how much less the world would have suffered had he realized that there is a divine code of morality that is higher than his own understanding and society's definition of what is moral and immoral! Similarly, when we find the concept of slavery in the Torah, while we certainly may and should question and try to understand, it must be with the realization that our Torah is actually the only code of morals that we have that we can be certain is correct (based on our beliefs), and we must accept the Torah whether it fits into our own preconception of what is moral and what is not. Question 2: Did Jews own Slaves? It is true that some Jews in the Southern U.S. before the Civil War did own slaves (alas), and there were intense antebellum debates on the subject; for example, Rabbi Morris Raphall of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New York, preached a sermon in 1861 defending slavery, while David Einhorn of Baltimore, a committed abolitionist, was forced to flee town. Additionally, recent research [FABER, ELI : Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight. ; New York University Press, (1998)].suggests that Jews in the Caribbean held slaves in numbers approximately similar to non-Jews of equivalent socio-economic strata. However, Jewish Law prohibts treating a slave like chattel and abusing him or her. A good site with information on Jewish participation in the Civil War is [5]http://www.jewish-history.com/civilwar.htm
Subject: Question 11.4.2: Practices Towards Others: What does "eye for an eye" mean? Answer: The Written Law does, in Exodus 21:24 demand an "eye for an eye" (Exodus 21:24). However, the Oral Law explains that the verse must be understood as requiring monetary compensation: the value of an eye is what must be paid. Note that the Written Law does NOT imply "lex talionis" - gouging out the perpetrator's eye as retaliatory punishment. Gandhi and many others misunderstood this verse.
Subject: Question 11.4.3: Practices Towards Others: Is it permitted for a Jew to sell Christian objects? Answer: Most rishonim (medieval halachic authorities) considered Christianity to be avodah zarah. A notable exception were the Tosafists. They felt that the trinity is shutfus (assigning partners to G-d). That the Father is the Creater, and identiable with the Jewish G-d, and the other persons of the trinity are minor deities that mediate. The practical distinction is that while Jews are prohibited from believing in shutfus, it is permitted to non-Jews under the covenant of Noah. The Tosafists are a major force in Ashkenazic ruling. On their ruling, many Orthodox Jews who work in jewelery sell crosses and crucafixes. A necessary factor is the assumption that the overwhelming majority of customers will be people who aren't Jewish (in the sense of peoplehood, not just religion). Others do not rule like the Tosafists. Another issue is whether the Tosafists' statement about the Catholicism of their day applies to any / some / most of the plurality of Christianities that exist today. For a pragmatic ruling, it's something you'd need to discuss with a rabbi.
Subject: Question 11.6.1: Death and Burial: Is it true that someone with tattoos cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery? Answer: While tattooing is against Jewish law, there is also a principle that a person can repent up until the moment of death. The assumption is that the person did teshuva (repented) before they died, and so there should be no problem burying them in a Jewish cemetery. Of course, it is probably appropriate to CYLAR* (appropriate rabbi) as well as CYLAFD* (appropriate funeral director). There is a story that relates to this (courtesy Micha Berger): There was a ba'al teshuvah (returnee to Orthodoxy) who went to the mikvah on erev Yom Kippur. Before discovering Judaism, he got a tatoo on his upper arm. By the time of the story he was learning in a yeshiva and quite embarassed of it. An older man saw how this teen was standing with that arm toward the wall. And then "just happened" to throw his towel over that shoulder. In short, squiriming around to make the tatoo less noticable. The man walked over to the boy and showed him his arm. "See I too have a tatoo. I wear it with pride. It reminds me where I have been, and how far I have come." Note that deliberate tattooing is against Jewish law: "Do not lacerate your flesh for the dead, do not tattoo yourselves." (Lev. 19:28). Cutting of the flesh and tattooing was associated with idolatrous usages among the Canaanites. Many traditional mortuaries and cemeteries will not officiate at a funeral of one who is tattooed. However, since this practice has become more and more common, even among Jews, the policies may become more relaxed with time. If you intend to be interred in a traditional Jewish cemetery, you should contact them to verify their policies. Do remember: today, tattoos are in; tomorrow they might not be. And though there are ways to remove them, why risk the potential cost and pain? Let the beauty of your soul be the example people will see and not a "heart with Mom" inside. And take the money you would have spent on this body art and give it to a noble cause. *[CYL = "Consult your local"]
Subject: Question 11.6.2: Death and Burial: I've heard about a custom of putting stones on the grave. Do you know where this custom originated? Answer: Originally, there were no engraved tombstones like we have today. Originally, tombs were marked with a simple cairn, a simple pile of stones. This meant that wind and rain would cause the tomb marker to wear down. Each visitor would therefore add to the pile again, to show respect, that the deceased was remembered. Over the years, a mound of stones would accumulate, memorializing the deceased through the hands of his/her loved ones. The tombstone we have today serves as another form of cairn. Originally, names were not put on a tombstone; this is a more modern custom. Although Jews now follow this practice, many people still continue the earlier custom of leaving stones.
Subject: Question 11.6.3: Death and Burial: Is "stone setting" at the cemetery within a year after death is a Jewish tradition? Answer: In the Torah, we read that Jacob set up a marker for Rachel (Genesis 35:20). This led to the practice whereby Jewish graves are marked with the name of the deceased. Rabban Gamaliel's instructions for burial emphasized equality and simplicity (which is a hallmark of the Jewish burial customs); thus, large ornate stone markers are discouraged. His son, Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel is quoted in Beraishit Rabbah (82:11) as saying, "We need not erect monuments for the righteous; their accomplishments are their memorials." In fact, stone markers were not normative until the Middle Ages; Rabbi Solomon Adret (13th century, Spain) prescribed the use of a matzeivah (burial marker). Nowadays, tt has become traditional to mark a grave with a stone monument or metal plate on the ground. This is generally done some time during the first year, prior to the Yahrzeit (first year anniversary of the death), but traditions differ widely. The dedication of the marker is a rather late tradition of American Jewry (19th century). Now, it is widely done and carried over to other countries, including Israel. The tradition is that the dedication is done at the end of the Avelut (mourning) period or 11 months following the death. It is an act of spiritual closure ending the time of recitation of the Kaddish prayer for a loved one. It is traditional not to return to the cemetery for 30 days (Sh'loshim). Therefore, one would not even order a marker until after that period, assuming the mourner would want to compare stones and inscriptions, etc. Israelis occasionally dedicate the headstone (Matzevah) at the end of the Shiva (7 day) period. The reason I have been told that Israelis do a quick unveiling is that family might have traveled far (e.g. from outside Israel) for the funeral and it would be too expensive to return 11 months later. A problem for such a quick unveiling is that the stone cutters cannot prepare the stone in time for such a quick ceremony. In many communities outside of the United States, the unveiling is often done after 30 days. Some Sephardim do return to the cemetery and have a ceremony marking the end of shiva. Their burial customs vary with those of Ashkenazim. The unveiling ceremony itself is a simple graveside religious service marking the formal setting of a loved one's headstone at the cemetery. It is a brief ceremony, with a few psalms, an actual unveiling of the stone, and the Kaddish. The presence of a rabbi or cantor is not required.
Subject: Question 11.6.4: Death and Burial: What are the Jewish mourning customs after the death of an immediate relative? Answer: Judaism has three mourning periods for immediate relatives. The first is Shiv'ah, the seven days starting at the time of interment. Since the Hebrew calendar day begins at sundown, the evening of the funeral is actually the second day. The basic rules for shiv'ah (lit: 7, the first week after burial) are as follows: 1. One wars the garment torn at the funeral. 2. One does not wear leather shoes, but other leather clothing is allowed. Typically, one wears slippers. 3. One does not eat meat. 4. One does not bathe their entire body (except as needed for basic sanitation, and as preparation for Shabbat), nor wear cosmetics. 5. There is no sexual intimacy. 6. One sits on or near the ground. Typically, one sits on low wooden stools. 7. One does not cut their hair for 30 days (including shaving, for men) Additionally, mirrors are covered, and Religious Services take place morning and evening where the mourners can recite the Kaddish, a doxology acknowledging the greatness of G-d.The last day one arises in the morning, walks around the block, and Shiv'ah is over. Thus, the period is actually five days, surrounded by a few hours on each end. During Shiv'ah, we remain at home and refrain from just about all activities. Why does Shiv'ah have these rules? If you note, all relate to signs of physicality. Shoes are to the body as the body is to the soul; both "cover" the lower extremity of the other. Hair care is symbolic of fashion and concern with appearance. Meat, furniture and sex are physical pleasures. Confronting death is a time at which one can reaffirm in themselves the idea that man is more than a clever mammal. To spend time thinking about our physical selves would waste that opportunity. The whole procedure, having you interrupt your life for a definite period of time, is quite cathartic. By having the duration fixed, one doesn't feel that they short-changed their love-one's memory. When Shiv'ah is over, we enter a period called Sh'loshim, which means thirty. This period actually includes Shiv'ah, so in effect, it is only twenty three days long. During this time, we get back into the outside world. This would include going to work, pursuing volunteer or political activities, or return to school. In other words, we get on with the activity of life. However, we do not go to parties or other "light hearted" events. The Kaddish prayer is recited at three daily services for 11 months. On the thirtieth day after interment, official mourning is over, except for the year long mourning period for a parent, during the first eleven months of which, one is obligated to say Kaddish daily. All of the above is according to Halachah (rabbinic law). On the anniversary of the death, every year, those who losed loved ones recite the Kaddish prayer. Four additional times during the year, memorial prayers are recited at the synagogue. The earliest reason for Kaddish was to elevate the soul of our loved ones to a high level in the Olum Haba, (heaven or literally, The World to Come) Additionally, there are many psychological reasons for remembering parents and relatives. Note that Shiv'ah, and the practices during it, are a Rabbinic enactment from the late 2nd Temple period. Many Reform Jews observe Shiv'ah for only three days. Many do not observe Sh'loshim at all. Many do come to synagogue every Friday night for a year to say Kaddish. So who should say Kaddish? The traditional laws governing mourning is that a son (child) is obligated to sit shiva and officially perform the Jewish mourning rituals. It doesn't apply, in traditional Judaism, to grandchildren; in such cases, the obligation would fall on the grandchild's father and any uncles. Traditional Judaism, in fact, prohibits reciting Kaddish if your parents are alive. Sometimes (again, in traditional practice), people hire someone to recite kaddish for them if they are unable to attend the synagogue, or are unable to participate in a minyon (for example, a daughter). Progressive movements, such as Reform, permit anyone to say Kaddish for someone they wish to remember. The first reference to remembering the dead on Yom Kippur is found in Orkhot Khayim by Rabbi Aaron HaKohen of France of the 14th century. It is also mentioned earlier that there was a practice at the time of the Maccabees of "taking a collection amounting to 2000 silver drachmas from each man and sending it to Jerusalem... to pray for the dead... to make atonement for the dead so that they might be set free from their sin." (II Maccabees 12:43-45). Formal Yizkor remembrances were instituted in the 19th century by the earlier reformers. The custom began to be incorporated by other branches of Judaism shortly there after. At Yizkor, we recite a prayer that we remember our loved ones. That we pledge Tzedakah (righteousness and not necessarily charity) to their memory. We ask that G-d keep our loved ones under the wings of his Divine Heavenly Presence.
Subject: Question 11.6.5: Death and Burial: What are Jewish funeral customs? Answer: The following is a summary of Jewish funeral customs: * Funerals should take place as soon as possible, often done on the day of death or the following day. * Autopsies are not routinely done unless required by law. * Cremation is not allowed. This is because traditional Jews are prohibited to desecrate a body by artificial means. According to Rabbi Maurice Lamm "Even if the deceased willed cremation, his wishes must be ignored to observe the will of our 'Father in Heaven." * Burial is a plain wooden casket with no metal, that includes no metal handles or even nails. They are put together with wooden pegs. Actually, Jewish tradition is to bury the person without a coffin; if a coffin is mandatory by local law, tradition dictates choosing a simple one. As Rabbi JB Soloveitchik put it, the deceased can't appreciate the fine furniture. Better you spend that money getting your synagogue a new pew! * The body is clothed in a white linen shroud and not street clothes. Shrouds are sewn without knots, and are a multiple piece garment. In earlier times, the sisterhoods or women's auxiliaries used to make shrouds for their community; this practice may still occur in traditional communities. Today, virtually all (Jewish) mortuaries carry shrouds, the prices vary. This is done because of a rabbinic decree of around 1800 years ago. People were spending more than they could afford on funeral expenses because no one wanted to show the deceased, typically a parent, less honor than others showed their loved ones. So, Rabban Gamliel, the "prince" of the Jewish community of the time (and therefore his estate would be quite wealthy), demanded that he be buried in simple white linen, and that this become the custom for everyone. He patterned this clothing after that worn by the High Priest in the Temple on Yom Kippur. If G-d asks the High Priest to enter the Holy of Holies and confront the Divine Presence in simple white linen garments, it seems fitting to do the same when preparing someone to meet their Maker. To this very day, we bury people in a hat, shirt (kittel), pants, belt -- all of plain white linen, if a man, his tallis, and simplified (and ritualized) shoes. No pockets, since you can't take it with you. And the belt isn't knotted, for Kabbalistic reasons. * Objects are not put into the casket as we come into this world with nothing and so we leave with nothing. All of us are equal in the world to come. Men are attired in a Tallis (prayer shawl). Note: This include pet remains (yes, we've gotten the question of people wanting to bury their pet remains with them). If you must have your pet that close to you, consider putting the ashes besides your casket (if this is acceptable to all parties). * A Shomer, guard, remains with the body from time of death through to the burial. * After the ritual funeral, the casket is put into the ground and the mourners and those attending the funeral fill the grave. * A holy society (the Chevra Kaddisha) takes charge of a body at death. They clean and bathe the body, perform a ritual of pouring water over the corpse (called Tahorah), dress the body in the shroud (Tachrich) and put the body into the casket. * Once the funeral is over, all attending ritually wash their hands as they leave the cemetery. * Condolences are made at the home of the mourners. * At the funeral, an article of clothing is torn by the direct morners. This is called kriah. It is usually a lapel of a dress or shirt, a tie or sometimes a black ribbon that is placed over the heart. * Flowers are normally not sent, for the following reasons: + Simplicity. The tradition in Judaism is to keep funerals as simple as possible, to make everyone equal in death. + Tradition. Although flowers are not prohibited, the custom arose over time of not sending flowers, and making contributions instead. In ancient days, the Talmud informs us, fragrant flowers and spices were used at the funeral to offset the odor of the decaying body. Today, this is no longer essential and thus, many Jews do not use them at Jewish funerals at all. Most feel it is much better to honor the deceased by making a contribution to a synagogue or hospital, or to a medical research association for the disease which afflicted the deceased. This method of tribute is more lasting and meaningful. There is a reason for the plain wooden casket and linen shroud. First, it demonstrates that everyone is equal in death--the rich and the poor. Secondly, it frees the bereived family from any sense of duty to spend more than they can afford. A note with respect to cremation: For non-traditional Jews, the answer with respect to cremation is more difficult. While frowned upon by Jewish law, liberal Jews have wide opinions concerning cremation. On the negative side, cremation flaunts the death of our co-religionists in the Holocaust. They were burned (cremated) to ashes against their desired will. It is difficult to understand why a post-Holocaust Jew would wish his/her body to be so destroyed after death, as if giving the Nazis another small victory in obliterating the remnant of our people. On the other hand, the great Rabban Gamliel (Moed Kattan 27a) wrote the ruling that Jews subscribe to today. There should be respect of the dead and not undo financial burden placed upon his/her family. While he was a prominent and wealthy man, the leader of the Jewish community two millennia ago, he chose to be buried in a plain casket (substitute cheap) and dressed in simple linen/shroud (substituted cheap garment as opposed to burying in an expensive suite.) His rational is solid in as much as funeral costs today are very high. Cremation is a way to substantially reduce the financial burden on the family. This is in keeping with Rabban Gamliel's position. But even if there is cremation, the cremains should be buried. First, it conforms to the Jewish view of returning the ashes/dust to the primordial earth and second, it gives the family a site to direct their mourning. Many Jews find great comfort coming to the graves of parents and relatives at special times of the year to pay homage and respect. Scattering of ashes or leaving grandma in the hall closet does not have the same sanctifying power.
Subject: Question 11.6.6: Death and Burial: Is getting cryogenically frozen against Judaism? Answer: Such an action involves many difficulties in the law: Does a person the right to consent to such a procedure with regard to himself? What is the status of his wife and children? Are they mourning as if the person were dead? When shall he be revived? Who will decide? etc. These are often theoretical questions, as no revivals as of yet have been successful. Typically, this question arises for situations where a person is gravelly ill; the approach involves freezing the body for years and then reviving it when some cure will have been found for the sick person's disease. Such a proposal, theoretically amounts to the delaying of the death of a dying person. This is clearly prohibited by Jewish law. While one may not do anything at all to hasten the death of a dying person, one may also not do anything at all to prevent his dying. Such a person has the right to die. Ecclesiastes says: 'There is a time to live and a time to die.' In other words, if there were a trustworthy remedy already available for the disease, and this remedy involved freezing, it would all be permitted. But if there is only speculation that some day a remedy might be discovered, and on the basis of that speculation the process of dying is prevented, that is contrary to the spirit of Jewish law.
Subject: Question 11.6.7: Death and Burial: Are Jews buried facing West? Answer: The custom is that the body is buried with its feet facing east, so that when the Messiah comes and we awake from our slumber, called death, we will already be on the right path toward Jerusalem. So, if someone were buried in South Africa, their feet would face North. As a matter of fact , many Lubavitch Hasidim communities bury their loved ones with walking sticks for their eventual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. However, many Jews are buried with their heads towards Jerusalem (i.e. East) to be closer to that holy city.
Subject: Question 11.6.8: Death and Burial: Can Jews be cremated? Answer: It is contrary to Jewish tradition for a Jew to be cremated. Traditional Jewish authorities hold that the body must interred, in tact, in the earth and this ruling is almost 2000 years old. In the post-holocaust generation, an additional argument against cremation relates to the Holocaust experience. When millions of our co-religionists were cremated as expedience and as a form of disrespect of Jewish sensitivities by the Nazis, for a Jew to wish such a body disposal is painful to the memory of the holocaust victims. However, especially among progressive Jews, cremation is becoming an alternative burial choice because of financial considerations. Rabban Gamliel II argued for simple burial (wooden caskets, plain shrouds, closed caskets) in order to give great equality for all Jews. Wealthy Jews used to have extravagant funerals while poor Jews might abandon their dead for public burial. Rabban Gamliel's ruling was to lessen the financial burden on families. A similar argument is used for cremation, for it makes all equal. If one chooses cremation, one should bury the cremains as opposed to keeping them in the closet or scattering them to the winds/seas. There is psychological value to having a site to focus one's mourning. This may ease the pain of the mourners.
Subject: Question 11.6.9: Death and Burial: What is the Jewish position on Suicide? Answer: The Jewish position on suicide is well summarized in the background of the Reform Responsa on whether a suicide can be buried in a Jewish ceremony: Surprisingly enough, there is no clear law against suicide in the Bible or the Talmud. Perhaps suicide was so rare that there was no need for such a law. The Bible mentions only two suicides in the entire long span of history which it covers: King Saul on Mount Gilboa (I Samuel 31:4) and David's counselor, Ahitophel (II Samuel 17:23). Nor does the Talmud find it necessary to speak of the sin of suicide. Some of the earlier scholars base the objection to this crime upon the verse used by God to Noah when he and his family left the Ark: "Surely your blood of your lives will I require" (Genesis 9:5). But neither Maimonides nor Aaron Halevi in the Chinuch count this as one of the negative commandments. The first clear-cut statement about the crime of suicide is in the post- Talmudic booklet Semachot, at the beginning of chapter 2. There it is stated that those who commit suicide are to receive no burial rites. The phraseology used there is important, since from this source it has found its way into all important later discussions. "He who destroys himself consciously (lada-at), we do not engage ourselves with his funeral in any way. We do not tear the garments, and we do not bare the shoulder in mourning, and we do not say eulogies for him; but we do stand in the mourner's row and recite the blessing of the mourners because the latter is for the honor of the living." Then follows a definition of the crime of suicide as follows: If a man is found hanged or fallen from a tree or a wall he is not to be deemed a suicide unless he says, "I am going to do so," and they see him climb up, etc. Then it is stated that a child who commits suicide is not to be counted as a suicide, clearly because he is not to be judged as acting with a clear mind (lada-at), which must be presupposed before the crime is to be considered a crime. Then follows the law that those convicted and executed by the Jewish courts should not be mourned for in any way lest the mourning imply that the Sanhedrin had made an unjust judgment. From this statement in Semachot the law spread to all the codes and frequently appears in the Responsa literature. In this original source it is evident that only a person who commits suicide with clear mind and with an announced intention beforehand, is to be treated as a suicide. A mere presumption of suicide is not sufficient. This desire to be cautious with the accusation of suicide had many motives, of course. One was that the law itself spoke of circumstances under which one should willingly accept death, when threatened with the compulsion to violate any of the three sins of idolatry, immorality, and murder (B. Sanhedrin 74a). This type of suicide, often carried out in wholesale fashion in the Middle Ages as well as in earlier times, was honored as noble martyrdom. Therefore, it was clear that not all surrender of life could be deemed blameworthy by the law. At times it was even noble. Thus, the Talmud speaks in praise of the mass suicide by the drowning of young boys and girls being taken captive for a shameful life in Rome (B. Gittin 57b). Besides martyrdom, the law also considered personal stresses. Thus, the tradition never seems to have blamed King Saul for his suicide. In fact, his case became a frequently cited case in the following way: King Saul was afraid that the Philistines would subject him to torture, and he saw himself as dying anyhow, and therefore, while the sin is still a sin, it was a forgivable one. With Saul as a pardonable prototype for most suicides under stress, the Rabbis, in many a specific case that came before them, sought and found reasons why a person who took his own life should not be stigmatized legally as a suicide. They generally said that whoever is under stress as Saul was ('anus keSha-ul"), is not to be considered a suicide legally, even if he takes his own life. A number of cases will indicate their considerate mood in this regard. Jacob Weil, a German rabbi of the 13th-14th century, in his Responsa (no. 114) speaks of the case of a Jewish criminal who was executed by the German courts. Should not such a criminal be deemed equivalent to a suicide (since he willfully risked his life) and therefore not have a regular burial and be mourned for? He gives a number of reasons why this man should be mourned for with full mourning ritual. First, he was tortured, and pain is considered a purification of sin. Then, we assume, he made confession of his sins, and that, too, brought him atonement. So Mordecai Benet, Rabbi of Nicholsburg, early 19th century (Parashat Mordechai, Yoreh De-a 25), discusses a criminal who was found in his cell, having committed suicide. He says that such an act is to be called suicide only if it is done with full and clear awareness (lada-at). This man certainly was in terror of being executed, or of being imprisoned for life in the dungeons of the city of Bruenn, which is worse than death; therefore he is to be considered as having acted under unbearable stress, as King Saul was. In general, he said that a man is not wholly responsible for what he does in his grief. Solomon Kluger of Brody (middle of the 19th century, Ha-elef Lecha Shelomo, Yoreh De-a 301) speaks of a man heavily in debt who attempted suicide, failed, and some days afterwards died. First, there was a question of whether he really died because of the wound he inflicted on himself; secondly, he was under great stress; and Kluger concludes that whoever is under stress, as Saul was, is not to be considered a suicide. Also based upon the original source in the baraita Semachot, chapter 2, all children who for some reason or other commit suicide are not to be treated as legal suicides because they certainly cannot be assumed to act lada-at, with full knowledge. A summary of the thoughtful, sympathetic attitude of the law to such unfortunates is summed up in the latest code, Aruch Hashulchan, Yoreh De- a 345 (Yechiel Epstein). He says, in general summary: "We seek all sorts of reasons possible to explain away the man's action, either his fear, or his pain, or temporary insanity, in order not to declare the man a suicide." Whatever the secular coroner or medical examiner would declare, the concern of Judaism, which deals with a man's religious rights, depends upon what Jewish traditional law says and feels. It would amount to this: Only a man who commits suicide calmly and with clear resolve is to be considered a suicide. In fact, some of the scholars say that he has first to announce his intention and then to fulfill it at once. If he announces such intention and is found dead much later, or if he is found dead under suspicious circumstances but did not declare such an intention, he is not to be treated as a suicide. Since the definition for legal suicide was so strict, there were many cases of presumed suicides which were not definitely so stigmatized. Therefore, the scholars could allow themselves to permit full funeral rights for many whom-- out of kindness--they declared as not being legal suicides. They were frequently uncertain as to how much ritual should be permitted. The original source in Semachot says that there must be no mourning at all--no tearing of garments, no eulogies, no mourning rituals after the burial. In fact, it begins by saying, "We do not deal with them at all" ("Ein mitasekin bahem"), which would imply that we do nothing even about burial. But, inasmuch as they were loath to declare anybody a suicide, they proceeded, as it were, to nibble away at the wholesale prohibitions just described. The strictest of all codifiers is Maimonides (Hilchot Evel), who says that there should be no mourning rites, etc., but only the blessing for the mourners. The Ramban, in Toledot Ha-adam, says that there should be tearing of the garments. The next step is taken by Solomon ben Adret, the great legal authority of Barcelona (13th century) in his Responsum no. 763. He says that certainly we are in duty bound to provide shrouds and burial. A later authority, Moses Sofer, in his Responsa, Yoreh De-a 326, says that we certainly do say Kaddish, and he would permit any respectable family to go through all the mourning ritual, lest the family have to bear innocently eternal disgrace if they do not exercise mourning conspicuously. The one part of the mourning ritual about which there is almost no permission is the custom of giving a eulogy of the dead. Thus, Jacob Castro, in his notes to the Shulchan Aruch, while saying in general that public mourning is forbidden but private mourning is permitted, adds emphatically that we do not give a eulogy and certainly do not have a professional eulogist. Why they were increasingly lenient about mourning rituals but were firm against eulogy is easily understood. Although the man who committed suicide may be pardoned, he should not be praised as an example. In the words of Rabbi Akiva, in the original source in Semachot: We should neither praise nor defame him. In other words, he should be quietly forgiven. Nevertheless, there are one or two opinions which would permit even a eulogy. One is Ezekiel Katzenellenbogen, Rabbi of Altona, early 18th century (Keneset Yechezkel, no. 37), who says that whenever there is any sort of reason, we eulogize him. And the other is the statement in the Talmud specifically about Saul, the prototype, that the children of Israel were punished because they failed to eulogize Saul adequately (B. Yevamot 78b). But, in general, the mood was as summarized by the Pitchei Teshuva, Abraham Zevi Eisenstadt, who said: "We mourn but we do not eulogize." The long and complicated succession of discussions in the law on the matter of suicide amounts, then, to this: An increasing reluctance to stigmatize a man as a suicide, and therefore, an increasing willingness to grant more and more rights of burial and mourning. The only hesitation is with regard to eulogy. It would therefore seem to be in accord with the mood of tradition if we conducted full services and omitted the eulogy, provided this omission does not cause too much grief to the family. If the family is deeply desirous of some address to be given in the funeral service, then the address should be as little as possible in the form of a eulogy of the departed and more in the form of consoling of the survivors. For the general principle is frequently repeated in discussing this law: "That which is for the honor of the living shall be done."
Subject: Question 11.6.10: Death and Burial: Can pregnant women attend a funeral? Answer: It is Jewish tradition that a pregnant woman not attend a funeral. The exception would be one of the seven relatives who one is obligated to mourn (father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, spouse). A pregnant woman would traditionally remain outside the fence/gates of the cemetery.
Subject: Question 11.6.11: Death and Burial: If a Jewish person lives in an area where there is no synagogue, no Jewish funeral home, and no Jewish cemetery, what would the rules be in regard to burial? Answer: The general rule is to attempt to follow the most traditional observance and deviate from that as circumstances prevail. One would not say that since there is no Jewish cemetery, I will just be cremated. The question to ask is how far away is the nearest Jewish cemetery? Is it acceptably close? If so, be buried there. If not and there are other Jewish families in your community, consider a non-denominational cemetery in your area and see if they will block off a small (or large) section of property for Jewish burial. Fencing it with hedging and consecrating it as a Jewish burial site would work. If that doesn't work, select an isolated plot in the cemetery.
Subject: Question 11.6.12: Death and Burial: Can Jews and Non-Jews be buried together? Answer: Traditional Judaism would not permit such mixed burial. However, there are circumstances where a non-Jewish cemetary sets aside a demarcated region of land to be used exclusively by Jews, in which case it is permissible for Jews to be buried in this section. Conservative Judaism holds with the traditional rules. Reform Judiasm, in principle, will bury non-Jewish spouses of Jews next to the Jewish spouse; they also bury as Jews some whom the more traditional movements would not consider Jews. However, if the Reform Jew is using a recognized Jewish cemetary, the latter is more likely to occur than the former (it all depends on that cemetary's practice, so ask). Conservative Judaism has issued a responsa dealing with the impacts of Reform Jewish practice. These subjects are discussed in "A Matter of Grave Concern: A Question of Mixed Burial" Rabbi Ben Zion Bergman, approved by the Committee of Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), January 30, 1991. Published in "Response 1991-2000" The Rabbinical Assembly, p.418-425
Subject: Question 11.6.13: Death and Burial: Must the Chevra Kedisha be family members? Answer: The burial society ("Chevrah Kadisha" is literally "Holy Friends") is never the deceased's family. Rather, they are a group of volunteers who know the laws, customs, and the simple pragmatics of preparing the deceased for burial, and who organize cemetary space, the pragmatics of the funeral, etc. They need to be people who have experience, and really can't be a different group for each deceased.
Subject: Question 11.6.14: Death and Burial: How have burial customs changed over time? Answer: Customs, although relatively static, do change over time. Consider the following changes in customs between now and the 2nd Century CE: * R' Shim'on ben Gamliel, in the 2nd Century CE, was frustrated with the competitiveness in funeral arrangements. People felt that they weren't doing enough for their loved one if they didn't do as much--or out-do--their neighbors, sometimes to the point of impoverishment. He was a descendent of Hillel, a nasi (prince; ie not merely the rabbinic leader of the day, but also lauded for being a descendant of David), and quite wealthy. He insisted in his will that they bury him in a simple white linen garment, figuring that everyone would follow. And such became custom. * Jews in the 2nd Century CE placed the body of the deceased in the ground by using caves rather than digging graves. Usually there would be shelves in the walls of the cave, like a subterranean mausaleum. However, burial space was running low. So, after a year, when the body was reduced to dry bones, they would take the bones out of their original location, and re-bury them in a smaller box. (Note that this is similar to the custom seen today in family crypts in locations where the water table is too high, such as New Orleans)
Subject: Question 11.6.15: Death and Burial: Why do Jews emphasize burial within 24 hours? Answer: Jews normally bury the dead within 24 hours, however, there are exceptions. A funeral could be held up for a day or two if it would save a mourner the additional pain of missing the funeral. Second, we do not bury people on the Sabbath or any of the holidays on which work is prohibited. Why do Jews do this? The most straightforward reason is that the Torah says so. In discussing capital punishment, the Torah says the body must be buried before nightfall. And if a murderer deserves that much, so ought any deceased person. But this isn't enough? Why might there be this commandment? It's considered disrespectful toward the dead to leave the body unburied. Perhaps it's because it means people will witness the body's decay, or see and remember something that seems like the person, but is inanimate and without fears or dreams. There is a second reason, based on kabbalah. During the course of a lifetime, a soul forms an attachment to the body. Part of the punishment for sins comitted out of a pursuit of the physical is the subsequent disillusionment with the body and with the values that lead to that pursuit. This is called "chibut haqever" (attachment to the grave). Burial hastens the end of this punishment, by bringing the soul "closure" in its relationship to the body. It is therefore merciful to the deceased to bury as soon as possible.
Subject: Question 11.7.1: Charity: What are the levels of giving? Answer: Maimonides defines nine levels in giving charity (Tzedakah): 1. Giving assistance to a someone who has fallen on hard times by presenting a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with the person, or finding them work, thereby helping that person to become self supporting. 2. Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other. 3. Donations to the community charities, which should only be done if there is confidence that the charity is administered in an honest, prudent, and efficient fashion. 4. Donations when the donor is aware to whom the charity is being given, but the recipient is unaware of the source. 5. Donations when the recipient is aware of the donor's identity, but the donor still doesn't know the specific identity of the recipient. 6. Donations where each party knows the other, but the gift is given unasked. 7. Donations where each party knows the other, but the gift is given only after a specific request. 8. Donations where each party knows the other, but the gift is given only after a specific request, and the donor gives less than should be given (but does so willingly). 9. Donations given grudgingly. (based on Yad, Matanot Ani'im X 1-14)
Subject: Question 11.8.1: Sacrifices: When did Jews stop making animal sacrifices? Answer: Jews stopped making animal sacrifices when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Jews are forbidden to offer any sort of sacrifice outside of the Holy Temple.
Subject: Question 11.8.2: Sacrifices: What replaced animal sacrifices in Jewish practice? Answer: It is important to note that in Judaism, sacrifice was never the exclusive means of obtaining forgiveness, and was not in and of itself sufficient to obtain forgiveness. For some transgressions sacrifice was not even effective to obtain forgiveness. Jews believe that sacrifice is the least important way to gain forgiveness from G-d. Repentance is more important. Very few sins required sacrifice (per Leviticus). For example., the animal sacrifices are only prescribed for unwitting or unintentional sin (Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:5, 15 and Numbers 15:30). The one exception is if an individual swore falsely to acquit himself of the accusation of having committed theft (Leviticus 5:24-26). Intentional sin can only be atoned for through repentance, unaccompanied by a blood sacrifice (Psalms 32:5, 51:16-19). This is re-enforced: "And you shall call upon Me, and go, and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you. And you shall seek Me, and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). Given its relative unimportance even in Biblical days, what comprised an acceptable Jewish sacrifice? Many people think that Jewish sacrifice required blood sacrifice. This is not true. The primary commandment about blood is that it shouldn't be eaten. (Leviticus 17:10) "And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people." This can be paraphrased: "Don't eat blood." The next phrase (Leviticus 17:11) goes on to say, "For the soul of the flesh is in the blood and I have assigned it for you upon the altar to provide atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that atones for the soul." This explains why blood is not to be eaten, and that when it is used as part of a sacrifice it must be sprinkled on the altar of the Temple. Note that it doesn't say, "blood is the only way to atone" it says that you shouldn't eat the blood because its only use is for sacrifice. Since this is a little confusing lets use an example: we can say that all little boys are people, but does that mean that all people are little boys?. So Leviticus says "Don't eat blood. You can use it for sacrifice," but it doesn't say that blood is the only acceptable sacrifice. What is an acceptable sacrifice? Well, we know what isn't: the Torah strictly forbids human sacrifice, unlike most religions of the Biblical era. What kind of sacrifices were allowed? Throughout the Book of Leviticus, only distinct species of animals are permitted for use in blood sacrifices. There is also atonement by a cereal offering (Leviticus 5:11-13), atonement by gold (Num. 31:50), and atonement by the burning of incense: "So Moses said to Aaron, 'Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the L-RD." (Numbers 17:11). Remember that prayer and repentence must accompany sacrifices. When Jews were not near the Temple (they lived too far away, or were captives as in Babylon) sacrifice was not done by them. King Solomon said that even in the days of the Temple prayer could be used by those away from the temple to obtain forgiveness (I Kings 8:46-50). Synagogues from the time of the Temple have been excavated by archeologists. They were used, as they are today, for prayer. Once or twice a year sacrifices were sent to the Temple from these Synagogues. Now that there is no Temple there are no sacrifices. In accordance with the words of Hosea, we render instead of bullocks the offering of our lips (Hosea 14:3); i.e., prayer and repentence.
Subject: Question 11.8.3: Sacrifices: How do sacrifices relate to compassion for animals? Answer: It is difficult to understand how one reconciles the fact sacrifices were demanded in the temple and animals had to slaughtered for G-d, with the requirements for compassion for animals (for example, resting on Shabbat, freeing the mother bird, and helping an overloaded animal). First, note that although animal sacrifices were required, they were not to appease a meat-eating god. This is because in Judaism, G-d is incorporeal and does not eat. While it is true that there are clear expectations in regard to proper treatment of animals (the hebrew term is "tzar baalei chaim", a prohibition from causing pain to living creatures), it is also true that the Torah approves of human use of animals. In fact, there are detailed laws on how to kill an animal to eat it. If asked to describe the Torah's expectations for our treatment of animals (and in fact for the whole environment), one could summarize them as follows: The world and everything on it was created for humankind's spiritual growth. Specifically, we are expected to use the physical world to enable and develop our spiritual side. That is, some physical acts we do so that we continue to exist, which enables us to continue doing spiritual acts. Other physical acts we do for their intrinsic spiritual value. Often we try to merge the two: taking an act which we must do in order to exist, and infuse it with some intrinsic spiritual value (e.g., we eat in order to live, but as Jews we do much to change the way we eat [blessings, the kosher laws, etc.] to make even eating a spiritual act). We therefore have a responsibility to use the physical world appropriately. When we use a physical object for spiritual purposes, it suffuses that object with spirituality. That is to say: humans achieve spirituality through their choices, we have free will and our choices matter, and the rest of the physical world achieves spirituality by how it is used by human beings. To use an animal in the development of spirituality (by offering it on an altar, or by eating it as part of a holiday celebration) is good both for us and for the animal: it makes the creation of that animal meaningful. Additionally, the Torah recognized the human capacity for personification. Humans who treat animals cruelly develop their capacity for cruelty to other humans as well. Humans who treat animals kindly develop their capacity to treat humans kindly. There are thus two considerations in evaluating a human's use of an animal: 1. Is it truly useful (preferably in a directly spiritual sense, but at least in a spiritualy enabling sense) 2. Does it develop the human capacity for kindness or for cruelty. For those interested in this subject, some references for further reading are: Talmud Baba Metzia 32a-b and 85a; Talmud Shabbat 128b; Maimonides, Laws of Shabbat, 25:26; Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzvah 451; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 223 (very end); Responsa Noda B'yehuda Vol1, Yoreh Deah, 10; Responsa Yechava Daat 3:66; and Responsa Igrot Moshe Even Haezer 4, 92:3. For information on vegetarianism, compare the verses in Genesis 1:29-30 with Genesis 9:3-4, and then see the Talmud Sanhedrin 59b and Olat HaRiyah Vol 1 p 292.
Subject: Question 11.8.4: Sacrifices: Will sacrifices be restored if the Temple is rebuilt? Answer: There is some disagreement about this. Most authorities believe that with the rebuilding of the temple would mean the reestablishment of animal sacrifices. Rav Kook suggests that animal sacrifices would not be brought back, he connects this to a suggestion that animals will be more humanlike in messianic times, and hence we will return to an Eden type vegetarian existence. The actual positions of the movement differ: * Orthodox. Orthodox Judaism calls for restoration of Temple and resumption of animal sacrifices. * Conservative. Conservative Judaism calls for the restoration of Temple, but does not ask for resumption of animal sacrifices. Most of the prayerbook passages relating to sacrifices are replaced with the Talmudic teaching that deeds of loving-kindness now atone for sin. In the Amidah the phrase na'ase ve'nakriv (we will present and sacrifice) is modified to read to asu ve'hikrivu (they presented and sacrificed), implying that animal sacrifices are a thing of the past. The petition to accept the "fire offerings of Israel" is removed. * Reform. Most of Reform Judaism calls neither for the resumption of sacrifices or the rebuilding of the temple, although some prayerbooks are moving towards calling for the latter. Note that we do not rebuild the Temple yet for a simple reason: ignorance. We do not know where on the Temple mount the altar or holy-of-holies are supposed to be. And places it a few feet off would violate the notion of only making offerings "in the place where I will show you." In fact, if we had the proper location down pat, we could rededicate the altar without building the Temple.
Subject: Question 11.9.1: Symbols: Why are Jews called Jews? Answer: The word Jew is English and is only used by Jews who speak English. It is derived from the Hebrew word, yehudi meaning Judean, which comes from the name of the tribe of Yehudah (Judah). Before the Babylonian exile, the Northern Kingdom of Israel essentially disappeared and only the Southern Kingdom of Judah remained. As a result, the name of the Southern Kingdom began to be used to refer to all the descendants of Jacob (Israelites). Note: Arabs are also descended from Abraham, but they certainly do not call themselves Jews. Why? Because they were not part of the tribes of Israel. Rather, they claim lineage through Abraham's son Ishmael.
Subject: Question 11.9.2: Symbols: What does the Star of David represent and what is its symbolism? Answer: The Star (Shield) of David, also called Magen David, is a relatively new Jewish symbol. Supposedly, it represents the shape of King David's shield (but there is no rabbinic support for that claim). The symbol is very rare in early Jewish literature. Is there any theological significance to the symbol? Some claim that the top triangle strives upward, toward G-d, while the lower triangle strives downward, toward the real world. Others note that the intertwining represents the inseparable nature of the Jewish people. Still others claim the three sides stand for the three types of Jews: Kohanim, Levites and Israel. A similar claim could be made for the three major movements. However, these theories have little basis in historical fact. What is the history? Intertwined equilateral triangles is a common symbol in the Middle East and North Africa, where it supposedly brings good luck. Originally, it was primarily associated with magic or family/community insignia. Its geometric symmetry made the symbol popular in many cultures. A common claim is that the upward triangle represents female sexuality, and the downward triangle represents male sexuality; combined, they symbolize unity and harmony. In alchemy, the two triangles symbolize "fire" and "water"; together, they represent the reconciliation of opposites. Where did Judaism come into the picture? The earliest known Jewish use of the star was as a seal in ancient Palestine (6th century B.C.E.). It was next used eight centuries later in a synagogue frieze in Capernaum. These may have only been ornamental designs. In the Middle Ages, the star appears frequently on churches, but rarely in synagogues or on Jewish ritual objects. Also note that Jews of this time often wore badges proclaiming their Judaism (similar to those in Nazi Germany). However, these badges used a six-pointed badge similar to an asterisk, as illustrated in a fifteenth century painting by Nuno Goncalves. The menorah served as the primary Jewish symbol, not the star. Some historians have attempted to trace the star back to King David; others trace it to Rabbi Akiva and the Bar Kokhba ("son of the star") rebellion (135 CE); still others trace it to the kabbalists, especially Rabbi Isaac Luria (16th century). However, there is no documented evidence of these claim. Instead, evidence suggests that the early use of the star was limited to "practical Kabbalah", probably dating back to the 6th century. It is connected in legend with the "Seal of Solomon," which was a signet ring used by Solomon to supposedly control demons and spirits.The original ring was inscribed with the Tetragrammaton; but medieval amulets imitating the ring substituted the six-pointed star or five-pointed star, often accompanied by rampant lions. Hence, the star was called the "Seal of Solomon." Additionally, medieval Jewish texts spoke of a magic shield possessed by King David that protected him from his enemies. These texts claim the shield was inscribed with the seventy-two letter name of G-d, or with Shaddai (Almighty) or angelic names, and was eventually passed down to Judah Maccabee. The kabbalist Isaac Arama (15th century) claimed that Psalm 67, later known as the "Menorah Psalm", was engraved on David's shield in the form of a menorah. Others suggest that Isaiah 11:2, enumerating the six aspects of the divine spirit, was inscribed on the shield in the outer six triangles of the star. In any case, over time, the star replaced this menorah in popular legends about David's shield, while the five-pointed pentagram became identified with the Seal of Solomon. The star was also widely regarded as a messianic symbol, because of its legendary connection with David, ancestor of the Messiah. On Sabbath eve, German Jews would light a star-shaped brass oil lamp called a Judenstern (Jewish star), emblematic of the idea that Shabbat was a foretaste of the Messianic Age. The star was also popular among the followers of Shabbatai Tzevi, the false messiah of the 17th century, because of its messianic associations. Among Jewish mystics and wonderworkers, the star was most commonly used as a magical protection against demons, often inscribed on the outside of mezuzot and on amulets. Another use of the star in medieval times was as a Jewish printer's mark, especially in Prague and among members of the Jewish Foa family, who lived in Italy and Holland. In 1354, Emperor Charles IV of Prague granted the Jews of his city the privilege of displaying their own flag on state occasions. Their flag displayed a large six-pointed star in its center. A similar flag remains to this day in the Altneuschul, the oldest synagogue in Prague. From Prague, the star spread to the Jewish communities of Moravia and Bohemia, and then eventually to Eastern Europe. The star has achieved its status as the most common and universally recognized sign of Judaism and Jewish identity only since 1800. In the 17th century, it became a popular practice to put Magen Davids on the outside of synagogues, to identify them as Jewish houses of worship in much the same way that a cross identified a Christian house of worship. In Vienna, the Jewish quarter was separated from the Christian quarter by a boundary stone inscribed with a hexagram on one side and a cross on the other, the first instance of the six-pointed star being used to represent Judaism as a whole, rather than an individual community. With Jewish emancipation following the French Revolution, Jews began to look for a symbol to represent themselves comparable to the cross used by their Christian neighbors. They settled upon the six-pointed star, principally because of its heraldic associations. Its geometric design and architectural features greatly appealed to synagogue architects, most of whom were non-Jews. Ironically, the religious Jews of Europe and the Orient, already accustomed to seeing hexagrams on kabbalistic amulets, accepted this secularized emblem of the enlightened Jews as a legitimate Jewish symbol, even though it had no religious content or scriptural basis. The star gained additional popularity as a symbol of Judaism when it was adopted as the emblem of the Zionist movement in 1897. Theodor Herzl chose the Star of David because it was so well known and also because it had no religious associations. In time, it appeared in the center of the flag of the new Jewish state of Israel and has become associated with national redemption. The symbol continued to be controversial for many years afterward. When the modern state of Israel was founded, there was much debate over whether this symbol should be used on the flag. During the Holocaust, the Nazis chose the yellow star as an identifying badge required on the garments of all Jews. After the war, Jews turned this symbol of humiliation and death into a badge of honor. Nowadays, the Star of David is the most universally recognized symbol of the Jewish People.
Subject: Question 11.9.3: Symbols: What is the signficance of "Chai" and the number 18? Answer: The word CHAI means LIFE in Hebrew. The "CH" is pronounced with a gutteral sound. The word CHAI is written in Hebrew as CHET YUD. Every hebrew letter has a numeric value, and CHET=8, YUD=10. Thus, the "numeric value" of Chai is 18.
Subject: Question 11.9.4: Symbols: What is a Mezuzah? Answer: In Deut. 6:4-9, a passage commonly known as the Shema, G-d commands us to keep His words constantly in our minds and in our hearts, by (among other things) writing them on the doorposts of our house. This is done using a mezuzah. Almost all Jews have a mezuzah on the main external door of their house. More traditional Jews have them on all external doors, as well as on internal doors (except bathrooms), especially bedroom doors. I have even seen mezuzah's for cars! A mezuzah is a small case that is mounted on the doorposts of Jewish homes. It is not a good-luck charm. Rather, as noted above, it is a constant reminder of G-d's presence and G-d's commandments. The mezuzah contains a tiny scroll of parchment, which has the words of Deut. 6:4-9 and the words of a companion passage, Deut. 11:13. On the back of the scroll, a name of G-d is written. The scroll is then rolled up placed in the case, so that the first letter of the Name (the letter Shin, which looks like a "W") is visible (more commonly, as the mezuzah is not transparent, the letter Shin is written on the outside of the case). The scroll must be handwritten by s sofer (scribe) in a special style and must be placed in the case to fulfill the commandment. It is commonplace for gift shops to sell cases without scrolls, or with mechanically printed scrolls, because a proper scroll generally costs more than the case. According to traditional authorities, mechanically printed scrolls do not fulfill the mitzvah of the mezuzah, nor does an empty case. Once a mezuzah is ready to be affixed to a door (i.e., it has a proper scroll inside), it is nailed or otherwise affixed, at an angle, typically with the Shin angled towards the inside of the house or room. At this time, a brief ceremony called Chanukkat Ha-Bayit (dedication of the house) is performed. Why angled? First, angling is an Ashkenazi custom, but as to why we angle, well, as with anything in Judaism, there are multiple explanations: * One explanation is that until the 12th or 13th century, all Sepharadim and nearly all Ashkenazim put their mezuzos into the doorframe so that it was positioned vertically, with the letters in the same position as when you read them. However, there is an opinion in the Talmud that was followed by a minority of Ashkenazim that the mezuzah should be placed horizontally. The Tosafists were the first to propose current Ashkenazi practice of implementing a compromise. The current 45o angle satisfies both opinions. * Historians of halachah, however, wonder about this. First, the Tosafists were staunch supporters of assuming Ashkenazi norms were halachic, even if there was no souce in the published texts. So why would they be the ones to suggest a change here? The second problem is that we rarely take comprimises rather than following a single ruling. If you're unsure, then be stringent in Torahitic matters, and follow a lenient ruling in more minor Rabbinic ones -- as we do for other doubts. But this approach is nearly unique. It was therefore suggested that there is a second reason for this ruling. In houses that belonged to Jews and were taken over by Crusaders, the mezuzah was removed and the new Christian residents would add a horizontal line to the scar to make a cross in the doorframe. This couldn't be done with the new diagonal scheme. Therefore it was theorized that maybe the Tosafists were trying to outmaneuver the Crusaders in a battle for our doorframes. * The Chaim Mageni of Chevron had a different answer, based on his studies of history and the gemoro. He states that the original dispute was not about how to place the mezuzah but about which way was forbidden; specifically, it is forbidden to place the mezuza in such a way as to appear to be a lock on the door. Those who placed it vertically, held that this was the horizontal position (as dropping a bar across the door). Those who used the horizontal position, stated that the vertical position was that of the locking bar being inserted into holes on the top and bottom. Thus, the compromise is a position which is acceptable to both views. This is not really a "compromise", but is a method chosen so that (though not preferable according to both views) the mezuzah would still be kosher according to both views. Speaking of doorframes. The norm in most areas until the 19th century or so was to place the mezuzah inside the doorframe. Our current practice of hanging a case on the doorframe is halachically equivalent to enlarging the frame and putting it inside. In fact, the original custom remains in the older parts of Jerusalem. If you go to the Old City, to the current Moslem Quarter, you will find patches in the doorframes where mezuzos were torn out of the Jewish homes in 1948. When traditional Jews pass through a door with a mezuzah on it, they will touch the mezuzah and then kiss the fingers that touched it. This is done to express love and respect for G-d and G-d's commandments. It also serves to remind them of the commandments. When you move, unless you know for sure that the new occupant is Jewish, it is proper to remove the mezuzot (plural for mezuzah). This is because if you leave it in place, the subsequent owner may treat it with disrespect, or treat it as a superstitious object. More information on Mezuzahs may be found at [5]http://www.jewfaq.org/signs.htm#Mezuzah
Subject: Question 11.9.5: Symbols: What is a Menorah? Answer: A menorah is a 7-stick candle holder, typically with one holder higher or different than the others. It is one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish faith. It is mentioned in Exodus 25:31-40, which describes how to construct the menorah. the priests (kohanim) lit the menorah in the Sanctuary every evening and cleaned it out every morning, replacing the wicks and putting fresh olive oil into the cups. According to [5]www.jewfaq.org: The menorah is often considered a symbol of the nation of Israel and its mission to be "a light unto the nations." (Isaiah 42:6). The sages emphasize that light is not a violent force; Israel is to accomplish its mission by setting an example, not by using force. This idea is highlighted in the vision in Zechariah 4:1-6. Zechariah sees a menorah, and G-d explains: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit." In synagogues, there is often a light above the ark, called the ner tamid (usually translated as the eternal flame). This symbolizes the menorah. In a menorah, one of the holders is typically higher or different than the others. This holder is called the shamash (head), and contains the candle used to light the other candles. Note: During Chanukkah, a nine-branched menorah is used. Technically, this is called a Chanukiah. It contains eight holders, one for each day of Chanukkah, plus the shamash.
Subject: Question 11.9.6: Symbols: What is the significance of the number 5? Answer: Well, the number10 denotes a complete set, because we have (assuming we're healthy, thank G-d) 10 fingers. Five is therefore representative of half of a set. The 5th letter, with a gematria of 5, is the letter hei. Hei denotes an outcry; that is, the letter is literally named "Hey!" In kabbalistic understanding of the Tetragrammaton, the letter "hei" represents the spreading of G-d's beneficience from a point outward. It it therefore composed of a point-like yud and a dalet showing orthogonal axis, 4 (the gematria of dalet) compass points. We find in Genesis 1 that creation can be described through the metaphor of speech. "And G-d said 'Let there be light!'" So, this permeation of G-d's Goodness through the universe is very much an outcry. The Talmud sees in the shape of the letter the theme of repentence -- the choice of descending or finding that small window near the top. They too touch on a theme related to outcry -- but not G-d's call to man, but man's cry to G-d. The song toward the end of the seder asks "Who knows one?" and makes its way up to 13. For 5, the answer is "5 are the books of the Torah". Which is why there are 5 books of the Torah -- because only with including the Oral Torah with the written text are we dealing with a complete set. This idea, of two halves crying out for each other, is what the symbology of five revolves around in Judaism.
Subject: Question 11.9.7: Symbols: What is the significance of the number 3? Answer: Three is extremely significant in Judaism, as the human condition is seen as tripartite: mans relationship to himself and the world of his mind, mans relationship to others in the quote real world unquote and mans relationship with God. According to the Maharal, this is the meaning of the three pillars in Avot 1:2--Torah, Avodah (Service of God), and Acts of Kindness. Next, we have R Samson Refaeil Hirsch, who speaks about the messages mitzvot convey through symbols. He speaks of the primary colors in the following terms: 1. Red. The most bent by physical matter (in the rainbow). Also, adom (red) is similar to adama (earth), representing mans physical nature. This is why the red heifer is burnt as a means of ending impurity, and the red string turns white on Yom Kippur when atonement was gained, etc. 2. Green. The color of growth and human growth. 3. Blue. Spirituality. The color of tzitzis, the walls of Herod's temple, the color of the sky. Spirituality. Note the same triad. Similarly Hirsch's treatement of numbers: 6 days of physical creation, the 7th day of rest, and 8--going beyond the natural order. The eight strings of tzitzis (the eighth, according to Maimonides, the blue one), the eighth day of Shemini Atzeres, why Chanukah had to be eight days, etc. We can do the same with the three do-or-die sins, the three forefathers, the three mitzvos of the seder (the lamb, matzah, and maror), the three means of gaining atonement (teshuvah, tefillah and tzadakah -- repentance, prayer and charity), the three items in the fore-room of the Temple--the table of showbread (12, one for each tribe), the menorah (representing wisdom and Torah), and the gold altar (for a quote pleasing odor before Gd end-quote), etc. Kabbalists, such as the Vilna Gaon, ties this back to the three aspects of the soul discussed in the Zohar: the nefesh, the life-force we share in common with animals (do not consume the blood [of the animal], for the blood is of the nefesh); the ruach (lit wind), the unseen mind which causes change and motion; and the spiritual neshamah.
Subject: Question 11.9.8: Symbols: What is the significance of the number 40? Answer: Forty days after a child is conceived, the Talmud tells us, the soul enters the body. Forty, therefore, is a symbol of birth, rebirth and change. It is interesting to note that it was recently found that neural activity does begin at 40 days after conception. This also means that abortion is permitted in more instances within the first 40 days of pregnancy than during the rest of pregnancy. For the same reason, ritual immersion is done in a minimum of 40 seah (a unit of volume) of water. Note that the letter mem, whose name is from mayim (meaning water or fluid in general), is 40 in gematria. When God wanted to rebirth the world, it rained for 40 days causing a flood. Similarly, the Jewish People were born during 40 years in the desert.
Subject: Question 11.9.9: Symbols: What is the significance of the number 7? Answer: Consider the following: A cube has six sides. We live in a universe of three dimensions. Each dimension has two directions: front-back, right-left, up-down; yielding a total of six. The seventh is then the middle point, a thing of zero dimensions, and untouchable. Present but intangible. It therefore represents the holiness which is inherent in the universe. Thus, the physical world was created in six days, and imbued with sanctity on the seventh, the Shabbos. Dr. Isaac Levy includes this explanation in his English translation of Rabbi Samson Refa'el Hirsch's commentary on Numbers 16:4): The origin of this meaning is to be found in the work of the Creation. The visible material world created in six days received with the seventh day a day of remembrance of, and bond with its invisible L-rd and Creator, and thereby its completed consummation. Similarly the symbolism of the number seven in the Menora, in the Temple, in the Mussaf offerings, in the sprinklings of the blood on Yom Kippur, in the Festivals of Pesach and Succoth, in Sabbath, Schmita, Tumma etc. etc. The symbolism of the number eight: starting afresh on a higher level, an octave higher. The eighth day for Mila, Schmini Atzereth and Israel as the eighth of G-d's Creations. With the creation of Israel G-d laid the groundwork for a fresh, higher mankind and a fresh higher world, for that shamayim chadashim and the `eretz chadashah for which Israel and its mission is to be the beginning and instrument (Is. LXV,17). So that there are three elements in us. (a) our material sensuous bodies, like the rest of the created visible world = 6; (b) the breath of free will, invisible, coming from the Invisible One = 7; (c) the calling of Jew, coming from the historical choice of Israel = 8. Jews entered a covenant to assume a role as a "kingdom of preists". This preisthood requires reminding the world of the notion of "8", so that the world can get beyond the physical "6" and reach the free-willed, created, human, sanctity of "7". Eight is therefore not above all of creation, but beyond this universe. Eight represents man's ability to rise to angelic heights -- yes an image of growth, but not unobtainable. Man connects two worlds, eight connects those worlds. (Which is why the letter chet, the eighth letter, is drawn in the Torah as two copies of the seventh, zayin, connected by a bridge.) Which is why the laws of the covenant G-d made with Noah and thereby all of humanity are grouped into *seven* commandments, and the sign of that covenant is seen in the seven-colored rainbow. For Rav Samson Rephael Hirsch, the week gives meaning to the numbers six and seven. The Maharal, though, finds that the week itself is based on a more primary idea. He attributes the symbolism of six and seven to the structure of space: When you look closely you will find that the physical has six opposing sides, which are: top and bottom, right and left, front and back. All these six sides are related to the physical, because each side has extent, and limits physical objects. But, it also has in it a seventh, and this is the middle, which has no exposure on any side. Because it is not related to any side it is like the non-physical, which has no extension [takes up no volume of space]. (Gevuros Hashem 46)
Subject: Question 11.9.10: Symbols: Are there any Jewish housewarming rituals? Answer: In traditional Judaism, there are none, save for putting up a mezuzah. However, folk custom involves bringing wine, bread, and salt to the house in addition to the mezuzah? Why? The answer may be found in Reform Judaism's ceremony for the consecration of a house. According to "Gates of the House" published by the Reform movement, the items needs for the consecration of a house are a mezuzah, a bible, wine, challah, and salt. The ceremony begins with the Shema/Vehafta. The Challah is then dipped in the salt and hamotzi is said. The specific symbolism is not said, but it may be to symbolize that there will always be food in the house. The blessing is then said over the wine, which symbolizes the joy that will occur in the new house. The bible symbolizes the Torah, and a blessing is said (...bemitzvotav laasok bediverei Torah) that there will always be learning and doing in the house, and the house will be filled with love of Torah. Psalm 15 is then said. The affixing of the mezuzah follows, with the appropriate blessing (...bemitzvotav vetsivanu likboa mezuzah). There appears to be no speciifc blessing for entering the new house, other than shehechianyu.
Subject: Question 11.9.11: Symbols: What is the significance of blue in Judaism? Are there other special colors? Answer: In his analysis of the meaning of the mitzvah of tzitzis (tassles placed on the corners of a four cornered garment), and in particular the thread of blue that one is supposed to place around it, R' Samson Refa'el Hirsch (Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, 19th cent) writes (in Collected Writings vol III pg. 126): We find only three terms to encompass the colors of the spectrum: adom for red, yaroq for yellow and green, and techeiles for blue and violet... Red is the least refracted ray; it is the closest to the unbroken ray of light that is directly absorbed by matter. Red is light in its first fusion with the terrestrial element: adom, related to adamah [footstool, earth as man's footstool]. Is this not again man, the image of G-d as reflected in physical, earthly matter: "vatichsareihu me'at mi'Elokim" (Tehillim. 8,6)? The next part of the spectrum is yellow-green: yaroq. Blue-violet is at the end of the spectrum: techeiles. The spectrum visible to our eye ends with the violet ray, techeiles, but additional magnitudes of light radiate unseen beyond the visible spectrum. Likewise, the blue expanse of the sky forms the end of the earth that is visible to us. And so techeiles is simply the bridge that leads thinking man from the visible, physical sphere of the terrestrial world, into the unseen sphere of heaven beyond... Techeiles is the basic color of the sanctuary and of the High Priest's vestments; the color blue-violet representing heaven and the things of heaven that were revealed to Israel... no other color was as appropriate as techeiles to signify G-d's special relationship with Israel. A thread of techeiles color on our garments conferred upon all of us the insignia of our high-priestly calling, proclaiming all of us: "Anshei qodesh tihyun li--And you shall be holy men to Me" (Ex. 19, 6). If we now turn our attention to the pisil techeiles [blue thread] on our tzitzith, we will not that it was precisely this thread of techeiles color that formed the krichos [windings], the gidil [cord], the thread wound around the other threads to make a cord. In other words, the vocation of the Jew, the Jewish awareness awakened by the Sanctuary, that power which is to prevail within us, must act to unite all our kindred forces within the bond of the Sanctuary of G-d's law. The Talmud's desciption of the blue woolen thread reads: "The blue wool resembles the ocean, the ocean resembles the color of the sky, the sky resembles the purity of the sapphire, and the sapphire resembles the throne of G-d." (Chullin 89). Along similar lines, Israel's leaders get a vision of G-d on His Throne during the revelation at Sinai. The throne room is seen as being paved with "sapphire brick, like the essence of a clear sky." (Exodus 24:10) And the Midrash writes that the two tablets themselves were sapphire. Issacar, a tribe that was known for studying Torah full time, had a standard with a picture of a donkey on it on a field of sapphire blue.
Subject: Question 11.9.12: Symbols: What is the significance of the number 8? Answer: 8 is 7 plus 1. If 7 is completion, and the 7th is Shabbos, the sanctity inherent in the world, 8 is "beyond nature" and going beyond the world. The following was inserted by Dr Isaac Levy to his translation of R' Samson Refael Hirsch's commentary on the Pentatuech (Numbers 16:41): The origin of this meaning is to be found in the work of the Creation. The visible material world created in six days received with the seventh day a day of remembrance of, and bond with its invisible L-rd and Creator, and thereby its completed consummation. Similarly the symbolism of the number seven in the Menora, in the Temple, in the Mussaf offerings, in the sprinklings of the blood on Yom Kippur, in the Festivals of Pessach and Succoth, in Sabbath, Schmita, Tumma etc. etc. The symbolism of the number eight: starting afresh on a higher level, an octave higher. The eighth day for Mila, Schmini Atzereth and Israel as the eighth of G-d.s Creations. With the creation of Israel G-d laid the groundwork for a fresh, higher mankind and a fresh higher world, for that shamayim chadashim [new heavens] and the aretz chadashah [new earth] for which Israel and its mission is to be the beginning and instrument. [The Hebrew is a reference to Isaiah 65:17.] So that there are three elements in us. (a) our material sensuous bodies, like the rest of the created visible world = 6; (b) the breath of free will, invisible, coming from the Invisible One = 7; (c) the calling of Jew, coming from the historical choice of Israel = 8. The highest drive Rav Samson Rephael Hirsch calls the drive to be beyond human. To go beyond the seven days of creation and into the eighth day of the bris. This is the neshamah, which lives in a higher realm, constantly seeking communion with Hashem. The idea that eight represents "an octave higher" can be seen in the form of the letter ches. Its shape as written in the Ashkenazi variant of Assyrian Script, the script used in Sifrei Torah, is that of two zayin's connected by a bridge. Zayin is seven in gematria. Ches is eight. Ches shows the bridge between one seven, one complete world, and the next.
Subject: How do I obtain copies of the FAQ? Answer: There are a number of different ways to obtain copies of the FAQ: * WWW. If you are reading this on Usenet, and would like to see an online, hyperlinked version, go visit [2]http://www.scjfaq.org/. This is the "web" version of the FAQ; the version posted to Usenet is generated from the web version. Note that the www.scjfaq.org version is a copy of the actual master version; if you want to access the master, visit [3]http://master.scjfaq.org/. * Email. Scjfaq.org also provides an autoretriever that allows one to obtain a copy of the FAQ by return Email. To use the autoretriever, you send a retrieval request to [4]archives@scjfaq.org with the request in the body of the message. A more reliable way to retrieve these files is through the [5]FAQ autoretriever ([6]http://www.mljewish.org/bin/autoresp.cgi). For the FAQ, the request has the form: send faq partname For the reading list, the request has the form: send rl partname "Partname" is replaced by the name of the part, as shown in the general index. The following is a short summary of the mapping to partnames for the FAQ: + [7]01-FAQ-intro: Section [8]1: Network and Newsgroup Information. + [9]02-Who-We-Are: Section [10]2: Who We Are + [11]03-Torah-Halacha: Sections [12]3, [13]4: Torah; Halachic Authority + [14]04-Observance: Sections [15]5, [16]6, [17]7, [18]8: Jewish Holidays; Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut; Sabbath and Holiday Observance; Woman and Marriage + [19]05-Worship: Sections [20]9, [21]10, [22]11: Jewish Worship; Conversion, Intermarriage, and "Who is a Jew?"; Miscellaneous Practice Questions + [23]06-Jewish-Thought: Section [24]12: Jewish Thought + [25]07-Jews-As-Nation: Section [26]13: Jews as a Nation + [27]08-Israel: Section [28]14: Jews and Israel + [29]09-Antisemitism: Sections [30]15, [31]16, [32]17: Churban Europa (The Holocaust); Antisemitism and Rumors about Jews; Countering Missionaries + [33]10-Reform: Section [34]18: Reform/Progressive Judaism + [35]11-Miscellaneous: Sections [36]19, [37]20: Miscellaneous; References and Getting Connected + [38]12-Kids: Section [39]21: Jewish Childrearing Related Questions + [40]mail-order: Mail Order Judaica The following is a short summary of the mapping of partnames for the Reading Lists: + [41]general: Introduction and General. Includes book sources, starting points for beginners, starting points for non-Jewish readers, General Judaism, General Jewish Thought, General Jewish History, Contemporary Judaism, Noachide Laws, Torah and Torah Commentary, Talmud and Talmudic Commentary, Mishnah, Midrash, Halachic Codes, Becoming An Observant Jew, Women and Judaism, and Science and Judaism. + [42]traditional: Traditional Liturgy, Practice, Lifestyle, Holidays. Includes Traditional Liturgy; Traditional Philosophy and Ethics; Prayer; Traditional Practice; The Household; Life, Death, and In-Between; and The Cycle Of Holidays. + [43]mysticism: Kabbalah, Mysticism, and Messianism. Includes Academic and Religious treatments of Kabbalah, Sprituality, and the Jewish notion of the Messiah. + [44]reform: Reform/Progressive Judaism + [45]conservative: Conservative Judaism + [46]reconstructionist: Reconstructionist Judaism + [47]humanistic: Humanistic Judaism (Society for Humanistic Judaism) + [48]chasidism: Chassidism. Includes general information on historical chassidism, as well as specific information on Lubavitch (Chabad), Satmar, Breslaw (Breslov), and other approaches. + [49]zionism: Zionism. Includes Zionism and The Development Of Israel, The Founders, Zionistic Movements, and Judaism in Israel. + [50]antisemitism: Antisemitism. Includes sections on Antisemitism, What Led to The Holocaust, Medieval Oppression, Antisemitism Today (Including Dealing with Hate Groups), Judaism and Christianity, and Judaism, Freemasonry and other rumors. + [51]intermarriage: Intermarriage. Includes sections on "So You're Considering Intermarriage?", The Traditional Viewpoint, Conversion, and Coping With Life As An Intermarried. + [52]childrens: Books for Jewish Children. Includes sections on Birth and Naming, Raising a Child, Family Guidebooks, Upsheren, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, Holiday Books for Children, Liturgy for Children, Bible and Torah for Children, Jewish History for Children, Jewish Theology for Children, Israel, Learning Hebrew, and Jewish Stories. Alternatively, you may send a message to [53]mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu with the following line in the body of the message: send usenet/news.answers/judaism/(portionname) Where (portionname) is replaced by the appropriate subdirectory and filenames; for example, to get the first part of the reading list, one would say: send usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists/general * Anonymous FTP: All portions of the FAQ and of the reading lists are archived on [54]rtfm.mit.edu and are available for anonymous FTP from the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/FAQ directory (URL [55]ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/FAQ/). Similarly, the parts of the reading lists are stored in the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists directory (URL: [56]ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lis ts). Note that the archived versions of the FAQ and reading lists are the posted versions; that is, they are each one large ASCII file.
Subject: Who Wrote the FAQ? Answer: The original version of the Frequently Asked Questions was developed by a committee consisting of Mike Allen, Jerry Altzman, Rabbi Charles Arian, Jacob Baltuch (Past Chair), Joseph Berry, Warren Burstein, Stewart Clamen, Daniel Faigin, Avi Feldblum, Rabbi Yaakov Feldman, Itzhak "Jeff" Finger, Gedaliah Friedenberg, Yechezkal Gutfreund, Art Kamlet, Joe Kansun, CAPT Kaye David, Alan Lustiger, Hillel Markowitz, Len Moskowitz, Colin Naturman, Aliza Panitz, Eliot Shimoff, Mark Steinberger, Steven Weintraub, Matthew Wiener, and headed by Robert Levene. The organization and structuring of the lists for posting purposes was done by [2]Daniel Faigin, who is currently maintaining the lists. Other contributors include Aaron Biterman, A. Engler Anderson, Ken Arromdee, Seymour Axelrod, Jonathan Baker, Josh Backon, Micha Berger, Steven M. Bergson, Eli Birnbaum, Shoshana L. Boublil, Kevin Brook, J. Burton, Harvey Cohen, Todd J.Dicker, Michael Dinowitz, Rabbi Jim Egolf, Sean Engelson, Mike Fessler, Menachem Glickman, Amitai Halevi, Walter Hellman, Per Hollander, Miriam Jerris, Robert D. Kaiser, Yosef Kazen, Rabbi Jay Lapidus, Mier Lehrer, Heather Luntz, David Maddison, Arnaldo Mandel, Ilana Manspeizer, Seth Ness, Chris Newport, Daniel Nomy, Jennifer Paquette, Andrew Poe, Alan Pfeffer, Jason Pyeron, Adam Reed, Seth Rosenthall, JudithSeid@aol.com, David Sheen, Rabbi John Sherwood, Michael Sidlofsky, Michael Slifkin, Frank Smith, Michael Snider, Rabbi Arnold Steibel, Andy Tannenbaum, marktan@aol.com, Meredith Warshaw, Bill Wadlinger, Arel Weisberg, Dorothy Werner, and Art Werschulz, and the soc.culture.jewish.parenting board. Some material has been derived from other sources on the Internet, such as [3]http://www.jewishwebsite.com/, [4]http://www.jewfaq.org/, and [5]http://www.menorah.org/. Comments and corrections are welcome; please address them to [6]maintainer@scjfaq.org. A special thank you... Special thanks for her patience and understanding go to my wife, Karen, who put up with me hiding at the computer for the two months it took to complete the July/August 2000 remodel of the entire soc.culture.jewish FAQ and Reading Lists. If you think the effort was worth it, drop her a note c/o [7]maintainer@scjfaq.org. ------------------------------------------------------------ -- Please mail additions or corrections to me at maintainer@scjfaq.org. Questions should be sent to questions@scjfaq.org. Last Modified: $lastmod End of SCJ FAQ Part 5 (Worship and Who is a Jew) Digest ************************** -------

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