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Ask JewishAmerica

This page contains answers to questions that were recently posed.
Names and details are modified to respect confidentiality and privacy.

You May Mail Your Own Question Or Comment To Webmaster@JewishAmerica.com

We also have an archive of questions and answers. It currently contains around one-hundred-sixty entries.

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1/17/01
>A few days ago I read in some book that King David
>built the kotel and that is the reason why
>its still there after 2 thousand years. Is that true?

Solomon built the first Temple and it was razed to the ground.

The Jews who returned from the resulting Babylonian Exile built the Second Temple.

As with most (Jewish) building projects, there were donors. The Western Wall was reserved for the impoverished to have the merit and pride of building a tangeable portion. They sacrificed bread from their mouths in order to make this dream come true.

No wonder it stills stands through today.

May we soon merit to see G-D's full restoration of the Temple, of our people.


11/15/00
The Jewish Family
>I am a student at Georgetown University
>and I was wondering if you could
>provide some information about the role
>that family plays in Judaism.
>
>I would like to know, for example,
>what role the mother, father and children
>play in the family, how the religion is passed on
>and how, if in any way, the role of the family
>has changed in the last 100 years.

It's difficult to squeeze an answer to your question into an e-mail.

One aspect is the obligation for parents to train children to cherish and practice Judaism as it was defined some thirty-three centuries.

Another aspect is the obligations that spouses have for eachother.

Jewish identity is passed through the maternal line.

Basically, the roles have not changed over time. Only their packaging and context have.

All the best from JewishAmerica.


11/15/00
Eternal Torment
>I am a Christian who believes that Christianity
>is in the state of apostasy predicted by the
>Christian books of the Bible.
>
>One teaching that I find fault in is the idea that
>God is so cruel that he will take all the people
>(who He created and loves), give them eternal life,
>and throw them into fire to be tormented
>throughout all eternity. A fate far worse than death.
>
>Is the teaching of eternal torment taught
>>or ever been taught as part of the Jewish faith?

Details of the future are not clear.

After death and again after revival, the time will finally come when it will be clear that everyone is/will be treated and rewarded according how they lived.

Whatever happens, those who do bad will be very sorry people.

Fires or whatever punishment is given, we do not believe that they will last forever.

However, no matter what is dealt to the wicked, it is my belief that they will kick themselves very hard and that over time, this will hurt more than anything else. Realization of the loss of opportunity and shame to face people that one wronged can and will become unbearable. This type of torment will be eternal.

For that matter, many people who will be judged righteous will realize that they could have been better, that they could have done more.

Keep on pumping while you can.

All the best from JewishAmerica.


8/30/00
Joe Lieberman
>I am perplexed at your comments concerning Joe. Lieberman.
>About him, you say, "You demonstrate the vibrance and viability
>of Torah life in America."

>How can you say this about a man who supports
>Partial birth abortion? The Torah teaches us
>not only to celebrate life but also to recognize
>the potential for life. This concept is evident
>in our laws of separation.

>A man such as senator Lieberman who demonstrates
>such a manifest disrespect for life is in the final analysis
>merely Jewish by birth. - Which is still a considerable
>advantage. Torah study must have enriched "his" life,
>and his views does not necessarily make him
>a bad person. But far from demonstrating the
>vibrance and viability of Torah life, he has in fact
>misrepresented it to the world.

Joe does not represent Judaism. He claims to represent part of the State of Conn., but not Judaism. No one represents Judaism. Everyone I know, including myself, is full of poor excuses for not living in a manner that in EVERY aspect of his/her life, totally reflects the expectations of the Torah.

I don't give up on Joe. I don't give up on myself.

I don't say that Joe is a tzadik (righteous person). That would be chanifus (flattery). I don't say that I am a tzadik, either.

I expect more from Joe. I expect more from myself.

As a VP candidate, his flaws are magnified. Thank G-d I am not a VP candidate.

What is important is that Joe openly subscribes to Torah Judaism. This debunks the myth that anti-traditionalists espout, that the only way a person can get ahead is by dumping or altering the Torah. To date, they put a blind eye to the the thousands of professionals, (doctors, lawyers, politicians, scientists, etc etc) who are Torah observant and who also subscribe to the Torah's guidelines for living.

All the best from JewishAmerica.

>Examine his voting record (www.congress.org)
>where you will discover that as late as
>October 1999, your Torah model has voted
>against a ban on partial birth abortion -
>thus allowing people to murder their unwanted children literally
>a few days before their birth.
>
>Please, Please, don't tell me that what counts
>isn't how he votes, but what he believes in -
>What does the Torah say about
>giving the impression transgression.
>
>Moreover, I think your comments are severe.
>I never intimated that I am
>giving up on Joe (or anyone else for that matter).
>Nor did I in any way suggest that I am a better
>person than him (or you).
>
>We all have our faults. But not all issues are
>created equal. I am sure you
>have been as infuriated as I have been to hear
>so-called messianic jews claim
>to be 100% jewish, the only difference
>with traditional judaism being the
>small matter of accepting Jesus as the messiah -
>as if eating latkes on Chanukah is really
>what it is to be a Jew . Nevertheless you could not
>justify proclaiming such a person as a model of
>Torah living merely because you, T. Black, are not a tzadik.
>It is not as if I am reproaching Sen Lieberman
>for forgetting to recite Birkat Hamazon once in a while.
>
>I am saying that someone so indifferent about the issue of
>partial birth abortion is disqualified as being
>a model for Torah living.

Where have I said that Mr. Lieberman is a Torah model?

Your words have made me think about the Mazel Tov. I revised it to read:

"You demonstrate the vibrance and viability of subscribing to Torah life in America. Your nomination is a credit to the American people. We wish you well."

A short while later, I removed it altogether.

Partial-Birth abortion is an outright atrocity. You don't have to be Orthodox or even Jewish to be reviled by this practice.

I don't believe that congressmen vote according to their own personal standards. He certainly was not representing any religion when he disgracefully voted against the ban. When in congress, Mr Lieberman is a representative of those who elected him, not of the Torah. He was not elected to implement Torah Law.

Aseh Lecha Rav. (Establish a teacher for yourself). Mr. Lieberman does not claim to be a Rav. He is not my model of Torah Judaism but neither are most people. He does subscribe to Torah Judaism and this is very significant.

Once a person subscribes, as long as he is not a mumar (repeated offender) and does not act in a manner of 'Ain Lo Chelek L'Olam Haba' (having no share in the world to come) then he/she will get to Gan Eden (Heaven), even if he/she is a rasha (wicked) (albiet the person may need a detour to Gehenim (Hell) for a while.)

Knowledgeable people who don't subscribe will probably not make it to Gan Eden.

As an aside, I must add that Mr. Lieberman's remarks about intermarriage were downright shocking and very disappointing. I am waiting for a public retraction on the same scale of the statement.

All the best from JewishAmerica


4/28/2000
Heaven and Hell
>I need to know the Jewish viewpoint on death.
>Is there a Heaven and Hell?

We believe that life continues on after death.

The experiences that follow throughout eternity are directly related to what the person did during his/her lifetime.

Heaven and hell are defined many ways by many religions. I can't say that we believe in heaven and hell without giving it a definition, which I can't at this time.

We believe in reward and punishment and that a person can become purged from some defects. Many teachings about heaven and hell reflect these concepts.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism


4/30/00
Homos
> I am a Christian would like to know
> how a Jewish person can support homosexuality.

The Torah, which specifies our instructions for living, is most definitely and most certainly NOT supportive of this type of behavior.

A Jew who supports this is deviating.

We are not all perfect and we have deviants. No religious group is immune to having subscribers that are deviants. That's why we have jails.

All the best from JewishAmerica - Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism


Skullcaps In School
> Where and why can I where a skullcap?
> I have been told by some Jews that I
> am not supposed to where one at school.
> I have never heard of any such thing.

You can wear on whenever and wherever you want. Thank G-d this country is gracious to support your freedom to do so.

Perhaps your friends don't have the pride or courage to do so and would feel uncomfortable seeing a peer that does.

All the best from JewishAmerica.
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


4/28/2000
Role Of Women
> What are the roles for women within modern day Judaism?
> What is expected of women?

This is a huge topic and I can't do it justice with my available resources.

Men and woman are different. They do different things. In no way does this imply that women are inferior to men.

A woman has equal opportunity to achieve greatness, closeness to G-d, perfection, and afterlife.

All the best from JewishAmerica.
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


4/15/2000
Marriage Tragedy
>I married a non-Jewish woman in a civil ceremony.
>
>Several years later, she began inquiring about
>converting to Judaism.
>
>We eventually joined a Reform congregation and she completed
>the conversion classes and ceremony (including a Mikvah).
>
>We later decided to re-affirm our vows, and had a Jewish wedding.
>
>Then she became unfaithful (adultrous) several times and
>I decided to leave the home.
>
>She initiated civil divorce proceedings after which she
>married someone else.
>
>Question: Should I be concerned about the validity of the reform
>wedding/contract that took place after we had already
>been married in a civil ceremony?
>
>Did the civil divorce nullify the Jewish wedding as well?

I'm sorry to learn about your ordeal. May G-d give you healing. May He give you strength overcome, to move onwards and upwards.

Questions of this nature are very serious and need to be handled by a knowledgeable and competent Torah scholar on a personal basis. I do not feel that the Internet is a forum to make determinations for these questions.

However, I do feel that it is acceptable to discuss and clarify the issues involving the people involved.

The events occurred within the Reform environment. I assume that you know that I am Torah observant, not Reform.

I will address the issues from both perspectives.

From the civil law perspective, you write that there are no issues. The marriage was formally terminated.

From the religious law perspective, there are issues relating to you and to the former spouse.

This comes from entering a marriage without formally exiting it.

For you personally this appears to be of no concern unless you plan to re-marry. If you do, then the question is whether religious law would view a second marriage as bigamy. (Again, this needs to be formally investigated.)

Bigamy depends on whether you were legally married to the first woman. In turn, this may depend on whether she was ever legally Jewish.

For the former spouse, again from the religious perspective, her relation with another man may be personally catastrophic for her if she is still considered as a Jewish woman married to you. If so, her relations are incestuous and the resulting children would be mamzerim, legally illegitimate.

I will focus on the concern relating to you, that of bigamy.

Since we are only dealing with the religious perspective, it is vital to bear in mind that there are two religious perspectives. They must be deal with separately.

You must know that the traditional Judaism and the Reform are fundamentally different, even mutually exclusive.

Both operate within guidelines.

Traditional Judaism's guidelines are those of Moses'. They have not changed for over thirty-three centuries. They have been applied to a myriad of cultural environments throughout our history.

Traditional rabbis rarely legislate. When they do, it is to provide safeguards for the Torah of Moses. And, the Torah of Moses expects them to do so.

From the perspective of traditional Judaism, the definition of Judaism and its guidelines rest solely in Moses, who received these definitions directly from G-d during the forty years in the desert.

The traditional rabbi thus acts as a consultant, researching that which Moses said or determining that which he would have said, based on what we know he did say.

Not so with the Reform movement.

Their definition of Judaism and its guidelines are based on their own legislation. They were founded very recently in our history, their first synod was in Germany, in 1844. They initially made no commitment to be bound by the Torah of Moses and this held true for most of their evolution.

Rather than viewing the reform rabbi as a student of Moses, it is more appropriate to view him/her as a 21st century Moses, minus the communication with G-d. Their synods, platforms, and clergy are assigned legislative powers to override and redefine just about any aspect of Judaism.

Therefore, there is no comparison to the detail, maturity, and stability of standards between the two movements.

Having said this, we now look at how a traditional rabbi may view the issues.

It would be very difficult for him to view the religious status of the former spouse as having been Jewish.

This is because the tradition determines Jewish identity in one of two ways. One is whether a person's mother was Jewish. I assume that her mother wasn't Jewish, or else she would not have needed a conversion in the first place. The second is through conversion.

The tradition formally defines the process of conversion. This provides standards with which a conversion can be objectively validated.

For example, a convert must commit to live in accordance with above-mentioned Mosaic standard of conduct.

For the most part, the Reform community has not committed itself to this standard of conduct. For that matter, the average Reform rabbi has not committed himself/herself to this standard, for personal or communal life. He/she may even be knowledgeable of the tradition. Therefore, traditional rabbis have great difficulty with validating conversions performed by non-traditional clergy.

If the conversion is invalidated then the spouse was never Jewish. If she was never Jewish then there was never a legal marriage to her from the religious perspective and your marrying another woman should not be bigamous.

Again, this must be investigated and determined by a competent and knowledgeable Torah scholar for your particular case.

From the reform perspective, the resolution is less clear.

I'm not knowledgeable about their current guidelines. The movement has a web site and the current platform is openly available. However, one can't tell whether and how they have have chosen to live by them. They don't provide a lot of detail. Perhaps they would accept the civil divorce in lieu of a religious divorce. Even if the movement would not and you would need a religious divorce to remarry within their community, it may be possible to find a Reform rabbi to use his/her legislative power to make local exceptions. That is, even if the movement views you as having been married, you may be able to find a Reform community that would not view you as being married. For that matter, you may be able to find a Reform rabbi to invalidate the first conversion and view your relationship with her as having been out of wedlock.

Two final notes.

One is that the tradition does not accept a civil divorce in lieu of a religious divorce.

The proceedings for divorce are formally defined within the tradition, providing clear criteria to validate and invalidate them.

I must say that one of the greatest tragedies for the world Jewish community comes from the departure of some movements from the long-standing processes that define Jewish identity and family.

Using anti-monopolistic slogans, they refuse to refer conversion or divorce candidates to recognized bodies the perform the process in a universally accepted manner.

Frequently the consumer unknowingly commits his/her life, and the lives of their descendents to the consequences of processes that can be easily questioned and invalidated.

As we evolve, this can only wreck havoc on the Jewish family and community. This is divisive. It is an unfair and irresponsible theo-political maneuver.

The second final note. The tradition does have mechanisms to protect a husband from being strangled by the law of bigamy when the wife is unreasonably uncooperative.

May G-d give strength and wisdom.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring behalf of Torah Judaism.


4/15/2000
Conversion confusion
> I am the daughter of a Jewish father and a Christian mother
> I was not raised in any religion but have always been
> sort of identified as Jewish. (For example, we celebrated
> Jewish holiday's at home, but my father never took us to temple.)
>
> I am now in a serious relationship with a Jewish man.
>
> I am would be willing to consider converting.
>
> I want to do the right thing, but I'm confused.
>
> What steps would I have to go through to convert?
> Would I have to stop seeing my boyfriend during the conversion process?
> How long does the process take?

You want to do the right thing.

As a friend, I suggest that your priority must be determining your own religious identity.

Marriage and relations with others come after committing to a religious identity simply because they are defined by it. Also, religious identity transcends personal relations, surviving even death.

You need a strong commitment to become Jewish.

You must decide whether you want to be Jewish or not, regardless of how this effects your relationship with him.

If the effect on your relationship is still of significance then I suggest that you honestly question whether you have a sufficient commitment to become Jewish.

As difficult as this sounds, the right thing may very well be to stop seeing him until you clarify this for yourself.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


4/11/2000
Scientific Plagues
>I was interested in the current scietific efforts
>to explain and examine the ten plagues and other Exodus
>related phenomona.

The 10 plagues happened some 33 centuries ago. This pre-dates modern science.

There is no scientific account of the 10 plagues. Their only reference is from the Bible.

The bulk of those who are inclined to explain away the 10 plagues don't believe in the Bible so I can't see their basis for discussion in the first place. Perhaps their motive for discussion is sensationalism. Perhaps it is jealousy.

The Bible records that Moses publicly predicted the plagues and they happened according to his prediction. This happened ten times. While possible, it is downright absurd to assume that they were the result of chance and natural cause.

Rather, G-d guided and changed nature to make them happen.

All the best from JewishAmerica

- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


1/9/2000
Spiritual Heights
>I always understood that Kabalist were people who study scripture for
>spiritual attainment, yet you seem to dismiss it in your pages.
>
>Is it considered a superstition?

I certainly don't discourage spiritual attainment or the study of scriptures.

I have myself been discouraged to delve into mysticsm, the not so obvious portions of our Torah, without first becoming completely familiar with the open and obvious portions.

Some people tout mysticsm as being a quick fix to attaining spiritual heights. I believe that this is downright spiritual quackery.

Throughout our history we have suffered from people who used mysticm to mislead people. Unlike scholarly Talmudic material, it is fakeable.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


1/9/2000
Flat Earth
>Ancient Christians saw the Earth as flat found the evidence in the Bible.
>Did the ancient Hebrews envison the planet as round and flat or spherical?

The only thing we know for sure is that at one time, Christian scholars believed that the Earth was flat.

Ancient is a relative term. Some 2000 years ago, when Christianity was in its infancy, Judaism as we know it was already quite ancient, with the Jewish people having stood at Mt Sinai some 1300 years prior to that time.

Many Christian scholars that subsequently arose during the Common Era were not committed to read the scriptures in the manner that it had always been done by the Jewish people.

So, if they read into the Bible that the Earth is flat, it is their reading, not ours. Furthermore, it may very well be that the early followers of Christianity did not even share this reading, as some were Jews and had the traditional interpretation.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


1/9/2000
Jewish Continuity
>As a senior in high-school, I have chosen to research assimilation of Jews
>in America for my senior paper.
>
>Of the sources I have encountered, the future of Diaspora Jewry seems rather bleek.
>
>I have come across the thesis that the only thing that has held the Jewish people together
>this long is antisemitism, but I refuse to believe that this is our only uniting force.
>
>Yet, I have yet to discover any other explanations for the survival of
>Judaism. So I ask for help, as a concerned Jew, and a student.
>
>Please guide me to some possible reasons for the continual existence of our
>people.

You are very wise in questioning this thesis. Throughout history, many nations have been persecuted and have disappeared. The Jewish people are indeed a notable exception, both in the degree of persecution that we have endured and the length of our existence.

The best explanation that I feel comfortable can be summed up in one concept: G-d and the covenant he made with our ancestors.

G-d actively manages history to bring mankind towards completion according to the way that He defines it.

According to what I have studied, some 33 centuries ago G-d assigned the Jewish people with the focal role in bringing this about. He did this because of covenants and promises he made with our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

G-d gave us the Torah which serves, among many other things, as our guide for how we are to behave in order to make this happen. I firmly believe that it is the Torah that was instrumental in holding together for the past 33 centuries. (As an aside, this is one very important reason why it is so crucial to maintain the Torah in its original state and not to introduce unauthorized changes.)

It is up to the Jewish people to exert themselves and follow these instructions, thereby shortening the time that is needed to bring the world to completion. To the degree that they do not exert themselves, history will take its course and it will take a longer time for this the Jewish people to make this happen.

This time of completion is the Messianic era, may it happen soon. At that time, all mankind will realize that G-d exists and was, is, and will be King.

We discuss this in our Tour of Jewish and World History.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


12/19/99
Caring and Suffering
>How does the Judaic point of view explain the apparent tension between
>a caring God, the existance of evil, and the suffering of innocence?

G-d provides man with the ability to earn eternal afterlife. This is one of the greatest forms of caring.

To earn afterlife, Man must work to do good and resist temptation.

Evil comes from man succumbing to temptation.

G-d controls the damage that man makes. Again, this exhibits caring.

If one calls Evil those forces that tempt Man, then these forces are some of G-d's tools to provide Man with opportunity for his greatness. This is a form of caring, too.

One can't explain the suffering of an individual unless one has a full knowledge of his/her background and destiny.

That is, a person may have lived before and perhaps the suffering serves a healing purpose for that which the person did. Or, perhaps sufferring can provide a person opportunity to earn a quality of afterlife that he/she will later be very greatful for, provided that it was G-d who brought it on, not the person.

As we can only see part of reality and only in a portion of history, we are not in a position to make judgements about the fairness of a person's lot. We are taught to accept the good together with that which seems to be bad.

As far as we are concerned, only G-d has the full picture before Him. In His caring love, He guides the events of a person's life for his/her best.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism


12/19/99
Rabbis
>What is the function of a rabbi in Judaism or whoever leads a religious
>service and what does that say about Judaism as a whole?

There are very few qualifications for leading a service. Let's focus on the Rabbi.

Jewish behavior was defined for us by G-d and through Moshe (Moses), this began to be recorded some 33 centuries ago. It is documented in the Torah, Written and Oral.

When questions of appropriate Jewish behavior arise, a Torah scholar is in a better position to know that which Moshe said, or assess that which he would have said, based on that which we know he said.

A qualified Rabbi must achieve some level of scholarship. He can provide information on what the Torah says from that which he studied. For questions that are beyond his studies, he should be able to pose the question to greater scholars and obtain their response.

A Rabbi also should be providing guidance to his congregation, insuring that they keep growing and that they are on the road to the right forms of perfection. He is a teacher, a role model.

A Rabbi may very well be best likened to a consultant. Like a professional, a good Rabbi should be telling his congregants what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.

Rabbis provide pastoral care, too (marriages, funerals, counseling, etc.). Hopefully, your Rabbi will do more than just serve the role as a Jewish pastor.

As a member of the clergy, Rabbis must deal with people who may have not sufficiently worked on refining their personality as much as they should. A Rabbi should be a good peace-maker/keeper.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism


12/19/99
Original Torah?
>When was the Torah actually written down in its current form?
>I understand, perhaps incorrectly, that the orignal written Torah was
>distroyed. After that the Torah was transmitted only orally, and then
>finally written down.
>
>How do we verify the accuracy of the Torah we use today. Accuracy meaning
>that it is the same as the original written Torah. Or am I totally confused?

Moshe (Moses) received two Torahs from G-d. That which he recorded is called the Written Torah. That which he did not, but transmitted orally is called the Oral Torah.

The Written Torah was completed shortly before his death, year 2488 from creation. (Today is year 5760).

He made thirteen copies. One was placed in the Ark of the Covenant.

We have none of the originals. However, they were and are still meticulously copied.

World-wide, there are only two versions of the Written Torah. They differ by only one letter.

We have no doubt that our Torah scrolls are faithful to the originals. As a matter of fact, the quality of our transmission was recently verified by the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was demonstrated that the scriptures we read today match these ancient documents, written some two-thousand years ago.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism

1/9/2000
Spiritual Heights
>I always understood that Kabalist were people who study scripture for
>spiritual attainment, yet you seem to dismiss it in your pages.
>
>Is it considered a superstition?

I certainly don't discourage spiritual attainment or the study of scriptures.

I have myself been discouraged to delve into mysticsm, the not so obvious portions of our Torah, without first becoming completely familiar with the open and obvious portions.

Some people tout mysticsm as being a quick fix to attaining spiritual heights. I believe that this is downright spiritual quackery.

Throughout our history we have suffered from people who used mysticm to mislead people. Unlike scholarly Talmudic material, it is fakeable.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


1/9/2000
Flat Earth
>Ancient Christians saw the Earth as flat found the evidence in the Bible.
>Did the ancient Hebrews envison the planet as round and flat or spherical?

The only thing we know for sure is that at one time, Christian scholars believed that the Earth was flat.

Ancient is a relative term. Some 2000 years ago, when Christianity was in its infancy, Judaism as we know it was already quite ancient, with the Jewish people having stood at Mt Sinai some 1300 years prior to that time.

Many Christian scholars that subsequently arose during the Common Era were not committed to read the scriptures in the manner that it had always been done by the Jewish people.

So, if they read into the Bible that the Earth is flat, it is their reading, not ours. Furthermore, it may very well be that the early followers of Christianity did not even share this reading, as some were Jews and had the traditional interpretation.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


1/9/2000
Jewish Continuity
>As a senior in high-school, I have chosen to research assimilation of Jews
>in America for my senior paper.
>
>Of the sources I have encountered, the future of Diaspora Jewry seems rather bleek.
>
>I have come across the thesis that the only thing that has held the Jewish people together
>this long is antisemitism, but I refuse to believe that this is our only uniting force.
>
>Yet, I have yet to discover any other explanations for the survival of
>Judaism. So I ask for help, as a concerned Jew, and a student.
>
>Please guide me to some possible reasons for the continual existence of our
>people.

You are very wise in questioning this thesis. Throughout history, many nations have been persecuted and have disappeared. The Jewish people are indeed a notable exception, both in the degree of persecution that we have endured and the length of our existence.

The best explanation that I feel comfortable can be summed up in one concept: G-d and the covenant he made with our ancestors.

G-d actively manages history to bring mankind towards completion according to the way that He defines it.

According to what I have studied, some 33 centuries ago G-d assigned the Jewish people with the focal role in bringing this about. He did this because of covenants and promises he made with our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

G-d gave us the Torah which serves, among many other things, as our guide for how we are to behave in order to make this happen. I firmly believe that it is the Torah that was instrumental in holding together for the past 33 centuries. (As an aside, this is one very important reason why it is so crucial to maintain the Torah in its original state and not to introduce unauthorized changes.)

It is up to the Jewish people to exert themselves and follow these instructions, thereby shortening the time that is needed to bring the world to completion. To the degree that they do not exert themselves, history will take its course and it will take a longer time for this the Jewish people to make this happen.

This time of completion is the Messianic era, may it happen soon. At that time, all mankind will realize that G-d exists and was, is, and will be King.

We discuss this in our Tour of Jewish and World History.

All the best from JewishAmerica
- Sharing and caring on behalf of Torah Judaism.


12/19/99
Caring and Suffering
>How does the Judaic point of view explain the apparent tension between
>a caring God, the existance of evil, and the suffering of innocence?

G-d provides man with the ability to earn eternal afterlife. This is one of the greatest forms of caring.

To earn afterlife, Man must work to do good and resist temptation.

Evil comes from man succumbing to temptation.

G-d controls the damage that man makes. Again, this exhibits caring.

If one calls Evil those forces that tempt Man, then these forces are some of G-d's tools to provide Man with opportunity for his greatness. This is a form of caring, too.

One can't explain the suffering of an individual unless one has a full knowledge of his/her background and destiny.

That is, a person may have lived before and perhaps the suffering serves a healing purpose for that which the person did. Or, perhaps sufferring can provide a person opportunity to earn a quality of afterlife that he/she will later be very greatful for, provided that it was G-d who brought it on, not the person.

As we can only see part of reality and only in a portion of history, we are not in a position to make judgements about the fairness of a person's lot. We are taught to accept the good together with that which seems to be bad.

As far as we are concerned, only G-d has the full picture before Him. In His caring love, He guides the events of a person's life for his/her best.

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12/19/99
Rabbis
>What is the function of a rabbi in Judaism or whoever leads a religious
>service and what does that say about Judaism as a whole?

There are very few qualifications for leading a service. Let's focus on the Rabbi.

Jewish behavior was defined for us by G-d and through Moshe (Moses), this began to be recorded some 33 centuries ago. It is documented in the Torah, Written and Oral.

When questions of appropriate Jewish behavior arise, a Torah scholar is in a better position to know that which Moshe said, or assess that which he would have said, based on that which we know he said.

A qualified Rabbi must achieve some level of scholarship. He can provide information on what the Torah says from that which he studied. For questions that are beyond his studies, he should be able to pose the question to greater scholars and obtain their response.

A Rabbi also should be providing guidance to his congregation, insuring that they keep growing and that they are on the road to the right forms of perfection. He is a teacher, a role model.

A Rabbi may very well be best likened to a consultant. Like a professional, a good Rabbi should be telling his congregants what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.

Rabbis provide pastoral care, too (marriages, funerals, counseling, etc.). Hopefully, your Rabbi will do more than just serve the role as a Jewish pastor.

As a member of the clergy, Rabbis must deal with people who may have not sufficiently worked on refining their personality as much as they should. A Rabbi should be a good peace-maker/keeper.

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12/19/99
Original Torah?
>When was the Torah actually written down in its current form?
>I understand, perhaps incorrectly, that the orignal written Torah was
>distroyed. After that the Torah was transmitted only orally, and then
>finally written down.
>
>How do we verify the accuracy of the Torah we use today. Accuracy meaning
>that it is the same as the original written Torah. Or am I totally confused?

Moshe (Moses) received two Torahs from G-d. That which he recorded is called the Written Torah. That which he did not, but transmitted orally is called the Oral Torah.

The Written Torah was completed shortly before his death, year 2488 from creation. (Today is year 5760).

He made thirteen copies. One was placed in the Ark of the Covenant.

We have none of the originals. However, they were and are still meticulously copied.

World-wide, there are only two versions of the Written Torah. They differ by only one letter.

We have no doubt that our Torah scrolls are faithful to the originals. As a matter of fact, the quality of our transmission was recently verified by the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was demonstrated that the scriptures we read today match these ancient documents, written some two-thousand years ago.

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12/11/99
Nine Candles
>Could you please explain the shape of the Menorah?
>
>The reason for the question is this:
>While watching the "The Rugrat Chanukah" my eight year old
>understands about the lamp burning for eight days.
>But the real question is why are there 9 candles instead of 8.

Good question.

The menorah of the Torah is specified for service in the Temple. Our menorah is to remind us about the miracle of Chanukah.

The Torah menorah has seven branches. Ours has eight, for the eight days of miracles.

Whether you realize it or not, the light of our Chanukah menorahs is consecrated solely for this remembrance. It is for being looked at, not for usage as a source of light to play draidel with, to find the VCR remote control, or for anything else.

So, just in case the room has no other source of light (or the power goes out), we light an extra candle for the draidel players to use.

Happy (Post) Chanukah and All the best from JewishAmerica
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12/5/99
First Jews
>I'd like to understand more about how the Jewish people originated.
>
>I understand that people are Jewish if their mother was.
>However, Abraham and Sarah gave birth only to a boy,
>who then married Rivka. Since she was not involved
>with Abraham's pact with G-d she would presumably be non-jewish.
>Even if she converted or in fact was involved in
>the pact, she and Issac had only sons.
>
>Esau seems out of the picture.
>
>Then Yaacov marries several women
>(all presumably non-jewish since they are not descended from Abraham),
>and in any case almost all their children are boys.
>
>At some point it is necessary for there to have been several Jewish
>women for a population to develop.
>
>How did this occur???
>
>Is there any mention in the Bible of women
>converting to Judaism at that time, how would
>they have gone about converting?

Excellent questions.

The Torah pre-dated creation, Adam knew the Torah and he passed it down to the generations. Its precepts were not binding until Sinai but great people such as Abraham kept them.

Up to Sinai, humanity had a uniform code of conduct, the Seven Noahide Commandments. Until then, there may very well have been no such thing as a person who was Jew, in the technical sense.

The only thing we know for certain about Abraham is that he fully acted like a Jew and that G-d designated him as the founder of a nation that will become the Jewish people.

The Jewish people formally converted into Judaism at Sinai. From then on, Jewish identity is determined by the mother's religion.

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12/5/99
Messiah Rabbi
>I live in a small town without an organized Jewish community or synagogue.
>Recently a gentleman from an out-of-town Messianic congregation began
>offering Hebrew classes and Talmud study.
>
>Can anyone tell me about the Messianics?
>They consider themselves to be Jews, but I am having a hard
>time understanding how that can be, when they consider Y'shua to be
>the Messiah.
>
>The rabbi said that Y'shua was the Messiah ben Joseph, and
>that the Messiah would come again as the Messiah ben David.
>
>I feel very confused. I would love the opportunity to become fluent in Hebrew,
>for myself and my family, and have my children involved in a Jewish
>community... but I am having a hard time with the Y'shua thing.

I have a hard time with the Y'shua thing, too.

This individual simply does not represent the Jewish religion. Rather, he represents a covert operation to ensnare Jews into Christianity. I advise you to keep away from his shameful activities.

Perhaps we can help you get a long-distance study partner. Would you like more information about the "Partners-In-Torah" no-cost service?

Where do you live?

All the best from JewishAmerica
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11/28/99
Jewish Boyfriend
>I am 18 and a freshman in college. I am also new to Judaism.
>I began attending a synagogue this summer.
>
>I met my boyfriend this semester at school.
>He is Jewish by blood but his family is non-practicing.
>
>Though I am a gentile, I know more about Judaism than he does.
>He has become interested in Judaism as well and we intend on persuing it together.
>
>We have just begun our relationship and I would like to know
>what Judaism teaches about dating and marriage.
>
>How can we best serve G-d in our relationship? Many
>Christians preach "courtship" which stresses no physical contact (like
>hugging), strong parental involvement, and very short engagements.
>
>How does Judaism compare? Thank you! Shalom.

You know, true and athentic Jewish practice is by far a greater responsibility and obligation than marriage.

Since dating may very well result in marriage, I urge you to first focus on your feelings and reasons for taking on a conversion.

If it's just for compatability with your current boy friend, then to best serve G-d and your own needs, I suggest that you not persue either the conversion nor your friendship with him any further.

Both conversion and Judaism transcend marriage, even life and death. You really have to want to be Jewish and fully observant.

If you don't convert in the proper manner and you marry a Jew, then you will be party to his violating G-d's commandments. It seems from the way you write that you don't want that.

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11/28/99
What Is This?
>Is it OK for a Conservative Jewish congregation to celebrate Thanksgiving
>Eve in a United Methodist Church, together with a Rumanian Pentecostal
>congregation?
>
>This is what I witnessed today and I am amazed how come. Each minister
>delivered a short sermon mentioning that 'unity' is what counts after all.
>
>Please help me understand this. I am not a Jew, but I am studying Judaism
>and am considering conversion.


11/21/99
Converting?
>I am a Christian and would like more information on the parallel of Judaism
>and Christianity and what the converting methods are for me to become Jewish.

Perhaps I can be of better help by understanding why you want to convert.

>I am considering dating a gentleman who is Jewish. If we prolong our
>relationship into serious steps, then I would need to consider attending
>training courses to better understand Judaism. If we go one step further in
>becoming husband and wife, I want to prepare myself as another and if our
>children are to be born legally Jewish, then I as their mother would need to
>consider Judaism.
>
>We both believe in God and there are other parallelism, of
>course the difference is Christ.
>
>So please. elaborate on Judaism and give me something to think about and
>consider.
>
>He is a good man raised by a decent family who believes in family! We have
>much in common and work well as a team. I am a believer and not one for
>compromise on behalf of satisfying another soul. But with him in my life I
>would consider making it an investment to consider Judaism.

True to the role as a conselor of sorts, I can not advise you to convert under these circumstances. Neither can I advise you to continue seeing this gentleman.

A commitment to Judaism in its truest sense is much greater than the commitment to get married. It is far more encompassing and demanding. It survives marriage, even death.

Judaism is not something to put up with in order to land a man.

You must first consider investing in Judaism.

Furthermore, if you are sincere, you will probably not want to marry a man who wanted to date and marry a non-Jew, unless he turns his life over, in a way that is similar to that which you will be doing in order to convert in the proper manner.

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11/21/99
Switched Torah
>A couple of weeks ago, a Torah was taken out of the
>Aron and placed on the Bima. The shul's rabbi
>immediately explained to those around him that
>another scroll had to be taken out instead (he
>somehow could tell by the parchment I believe).
>I did not hear the reason and forgot to ask
>later on. Can you tell me why this is so, and
>how one can decide between which scroll to
>choose?

I'll have to guess.

The letters on parchment sometimes fade with age or get smeared. Perhaps this happened to the scroll, making it unfit for public reading until it gets repaired.

This is one of our mechanisms for insuring that every Torah has the same text.

Why don't you ask the Rabbi? It will make him happy to know of your interest.

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11/21/99
Stressed Out
>I am a member of a reform synagogue.
>
>I do not  wish to change my affiliation I just want to know
>if there are simple specific prayers that can
>be used to quiet the mind, reduce anxiety and depression and help one to
>have a fuller more serene life.
>
>I heard there is a group called EMET that uses
>specific quotes from Jewish litature to reduce
>stress manage your fears and anger.
>Please let me know.

I respect your affiliative preferences.

I am personally very skeptic about the approach that you mentioned. I encourage you to speak to people for whom it actually worked before you make any commitment or form any expectation. See if their problem is similar to yours and if they are like you.

Other than this, I can speak only from the viewpoint of traditional Judaism.

For the past 33 centuries, the Torah has charged us to take care of our health. For your sake I hope that the synagogue which you are affiliated with has not made any changes to this commandment, as it may have done to many others.

Some stress is due our hectic lifestyle. Therefore, according to Orthodxy, you should take care that your lifestyle does not affect your health.

Rather than focusing on chants, you can still maintain your synagogue affiliation if you wish, while accepting some Orthodox's beliefs that can only provide you with peace of mind.

For instance, I have learned that many reform leaders do not profess a belief in the afterlife. Neither do they believe in a G-d that actively manages the world for the best of each and every person.

Together with the commandments, these beliefs have kept Jewish identity and the Jewish people alive for the past 33 centuries. In discarding these mainstay beliefs, I believe that the reform has generated unnecessary stress in many people and families. Put another way, I sincerely believe that it is too costly to sustain a faith as defined by the reform.

How can the average person endure the pressures, discomforts, and uncertainties of life without the knowledge that there is a G-d who is guiding his fortunes to maximize his life in this world and in the next? How can the average person experience peaceful and deep happiness with the knowledge that at any moment his/her very livelyhood can suddently end, that his/her life can suddenly end for all eternity?

Such unorthodox approaches to these deep-rooted beliefs reduce meaning of life to popular banalities that are generated on the fly by a spiritual leader.

Again on a personal level, besides the fact that I deeply believe in truth of the Torah's principles of faith, I believe that G-d did not design people to be fully happy without them.

Please let me know if you would like more information about Torah Judaism.

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11/21/99
Eyes For Eyes
>What is the meaning of the phrase "eye for an eye"?
>How does it respect or disrespect the Jewish culture?
>If you have any information on this topic please help!!!

G-d gave us two Torah at Sinai, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah teaches us how to read and understand the Written Torah.

The Oral Torah clearly says that this is NOT to be taken literally. The Jewishly authentic interpretation of this verse is that a person must pay damages amounting to the value of an eye for damaging another person's eye.

The same goes for 'a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.'

All the best from JewishAmerica
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11/21/99
A Jewish Noah?
>My friend and i discuss torah and recently were at odds if NOAH
>was Jewish.
>
>I was taught that Ahraham was the father of our religion. My
position was that even though he was in the bible, pre-Abraham, he was a
pagen, because the "TORAH" wasn't given to the people yet.

Knowledge of the Torah and receiving the Torah are two different things.

The Torah existed prior to Abraham, prior to even creation. In fact, we  believe that G-d referred to the Torah when He created the world, that the world and a human being are perfect reflections of the Torah, in some way.

While Noah and Abraham had Torah knowledge and while Abraham kept every precept of the Torah, G-d gave the Torah to neither person.

G-d selected Abraham to be the ancestor to a nation that will receive the Torah at a later period. He was the father of the Jewish people, not of the Torah.

Until Abraham's time, everyone was expected to observe the Seven Noahide Commandments. Abraham was given an additional commandment, circumcision.

I believe that the term 'pagan' was coined at a later historical period. If true, then we don't know the term that was given to the people who lived during Abraham's time and who did not observe the Seven Noahide Commandments.

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11/21/99
Jewish Ed
>Do you think that there is a problem in American Jewish Education, when
>most children who attend Jewish Day schools graduate with only a basic
>knowledge of Hebrew and can not understand the vast majority of prayers
>that they are reciting daily?

We have to first the children to want to pray on a daily basis.

I think that it would help if they saw their parents praying on a daily basis.

I pray for this almost every day.

==================================

Jewish education can always stand improvement.

Jewish Day Schools provide our children with the best opportunity for Jewish continuity.

We can't afford to compromise with our children's opportunity.

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