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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Michael Zedek

Question: What qualifies one to be a Jew both ethnically and religiously? Has it always been so? (From Jacob/Israel to now). The Old Testament (in part) uses a patriarchal (the male side) genealogy to substantiate parentage. Paul of Tarsus was considered a Jew , yet had a non-Jew parent [Editors note: this is not clear- the only source is apparently the Greek Scriptures, and Paul's writings which can be questioned. It is possible either that Paul's parents converted, or that Paul did. Tarsus was a very non-Jewish area]. I've read that a Jewish mother qualifies the children as Jewish for religious purposes. Please edify me as regards this topic.
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Question: I am a non-denominationally affiliated Jew. I am not frum, but I am constantly working on observing more mitzvot and find myself enjoying different things about Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox communities. I want to know what the stance would be on me wearing a tallit katan. Up until this point I have not because I feel like it would be misrepresenting myself (I already wear a kippah and that alone often leads people to think i'm Hareidi even). It is not that I am offended by being seen as Orthodox, quite the opposite - I don't think I deserve to be viewed as that observant when I am not. I do not want to do something akin to chillul Hashem (or rather.... hillul frum communities? if that makes sense?) if I were ever to do something not-frum while donning them. However on the other hand I hold a firm belief that the mitzvot are not dependent on each other, and that every little step is progress. I also think that if a mitzvah or custom is going to make me better and has a meaningful significance to me, then it is appropriate to observe it. What are your thoughts, either on the points I mentioned, or new points all together in regards to a more "liberal" Jew wearing a tallit katan? Thank you for your time and knowledge.
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Question: I am Orthodox, and an artist. From time to time I go into Churches, not during services, to admire the art and architecture. I have no desire for any other religion, but know the Talmud in Avodah Zarah 17b says a Jew should not even go past the doors of a pagan temple. What is the leeway halachically and from a values point of view?
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Question: What is G-d's gender? in the prayer books and the Tanakh (bible) it says He, Him, and His? [JVO Kids: 4-6]
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Question: Rabbi, I live in a small area without many Jews. When I am traveling for sports, is my only option for food a cold salad? Is there a priority for the laws of Kashrut? [JVO Kids: 4-6]
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Question: If Adam and Eve didn't have any girls, who did, or who had the next generation? [JVO Kids: 4-6]
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Question: My father was Jewish. I am married to a Jewish man. My children were raised in a very Conservative Jewish way, and have married into almost Orthodox families. I consider myself a Jew. Where can I convert to be accepted as fully Jewish in ALL Jewish communities?
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Question: Reading your website concerning cremation, it appears the more liberal sects in Judaism discourage it, but tolerate the wishes of those who choose it, while the more observant or strict sects absolutely discourage or prohibit it, on various grounds. My thought was that cremation would be a way to be in solidarity with those who died in the WWII ovens, 9/11 and so forth, that their death circumstance was not a dishonor to them. A cremation, in my view, would dignify their situation. I do understand that the circumstance was not their choice, but nonetheless, it is their factual situation. Also, cremation would solve a problem for me personally. I'm a widow with two spouses buried in two states. Having two cremation urns would allow me to spend eternity with my two basherts, which would save me from making a choice of whom to be buried near. Any thoughts? Given what I read on your site about what Judaism says, is there any leeway? What Jewish values might help me to decide this issue, and resolve my problem concerning choosing which husband I should be buried with?
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Question: I have a question concerning sexuality: My wife likes harder sex and other things like that from time to time (but nothing extreme). What to do?
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Question: Is there a value to attending daily organized prayer groups (minyans) [quorum of 10] at a synagogue or temple if we don’t feel like we are connecting to structured prayer?
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Question: A few months ago, I accidentally discovered that my wife of almost 3 years (the complete love of my life) was having an affair with another man. The circumstances were just horrific. I was just stunned and devastated to learn all this. I had no idea of my wife's frustrations, and no idea she was someone that was even capable of doing such a thing. We have been to regular counseling for months now, and even now my wife is still at a loss to completely explain what happened and how it evolved. Here is my question... Now, 3-4 months removed from the affair, I am still occasionally dealing with hurt and pain that I may never fully get over 100%. Nonetheless, I have forgiven my wife and chosen to stay with her. In spite of what occurred, I do love her tremendously. I do believe she is my beshert/soulmate. I am happiest when I'm with her, and I still see my future with her, and I believe that she feels the same way about me. Tears beyond tears have been cried by both of us, and my wife has expressed an enormous amount of regret, remorse, and an appropriate amount of self-loathing, all of which I judge to be genuine. At times, she has even suggested attending Shabbat services at our local synagogue to atone and ask G-d for forgiveness. For sure, I am not fully over what happened, and I may never be fully over it altogether. Likewise, she may never be able to get over the fact that she committed adultery and betrayed and acted against someone she loves. It is a terrible tragedy in both our lives that can never be undone. But I'm pleased to say that my wife and I are currently in a very good place. We are extremely happy with one another and extremely in love. And ironically, the communication which has resulted since the affair (which should have come prior to the affair) has taken our relationship to an even far better place in so many ways than where I perceived it to be prior to the affair. In short then, I have forgiven my wife. I hope that she can eventually forgive herself. Will G-d do the same? What does Judaism say about this situation?
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Question: Does a funeral arranger (who is in constant contact with the deceased, caskets, etc) remain in a state of permanent uncleanness? Are there certain practices or principles that ought to be observed from a Jewish perspective as regards shaking other people's hands, handling food etc, or is regular washing of the hands acceptable?
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Question: I am a Jewish woman, as my mother is Jewish. My father is not Jewish. I was raised as a Conservative Jew. I am in a relationship with a modern orthodox man who is a Cohen (a descendant of Aaron, one of the High Priests). We want to marry, but we have been told there are restrictions on him marrying me, because in addition to other restrictions on Cohanim (High Priests), one of the restricted classes of women for Cohanim are those whose fathers are not Jewish. Can you please clarify this for me? Is this true? I have done a lot of reading and I keep seeing the restrictions for widow, divorcee, convert, but not for a Jewish woman whose father was not Jewish. Since my mother is Jewish and Judaism is a matrilineal religion - and I have read in some places Judaism doesn't even recognize the religion of the father - I am Jewish. If it is true that one of the marriage restrictions of the Cohanim is to a woman whose father is not Jewish, can you please advise on what we can do in our situation to marry?
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Question: Can we apply the lessons learned from the Maccabees in the story of Chanukah (to have courage, to stand up and fight, not to bow to outside pressures) to Israel's current struggle for its rights and independence?
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Question: I want to convert but I have a unpredictable schedule.What would you suggest?
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Question: Hello - I'm wondering if there are any laws or guidelines about our obligations to those that help us. I'm familiar with the concepts of tzedakah that refer to charitable acts and methods of giving, but am seeking suggestions or links for appropriate guidelines when one receives or is the one who is assisted. Thanks kindly in advance, Kathryn
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Question: My girlfriend and I are both in our 40s. We are both divorced and have children, the youngest of which is in high school. I am Jewish (Conservative), and she is non-Jewish. We have known each other for several years, and recently our relationship took a more serious turn, and I have found it difficult to find any resources that speak to this situation. In short, every thing I have read about intermarriage goes very quickly to "the kids." We will not be having children together, so these other resources seem to get very irrelevant very quickly. In addition to any help finding appropriate resources, I would be interested in any type of experiences you have had and what issues came up etc. Thank you all very much.
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Question: Does Judaism include any aspects to protect against the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy?
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Question: What is the concept of "ohr lagoyim/le'ohr goyim" [a light to the nations], and how much should it be emphasized as an ultimate purpose of the Jewish nation/people, and/or the Jewish state of Israel? Did the concept exist before the time of the prophets, as an underlying, obvious, goal, or was it something new from those times? Is it something we are supposed to bring about on our own, and work for, or something that will naturally happen through miracles of G-d's will? What are the sources and the different ways of understanding it since the times of the prophets? -thank you! chag pesach sameach/moadeem le'simcha!
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Question: How can we try to be respectful and understanding of the ultra-Orthodox when they are at the forefront of hostile activities like rioting at places which are open on Shabbat and fairly recently, vandalizing a girls’ school in Bet Shemesh because it bordered their neighborhood?
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Question: My husband and I have been married for 19 years. Ten years ago, he was diagnosed with dementia, and more recently Parkinson's disease. Other health issues include heart failure and psychosis. I became a nurse to take care of him, and I gladly and willingly do so everyday. However, I have lost my intimate partner and friend. He is not the same man I married, and have been alone physically and mentally for 10 years. I have met another man who has been my friend for years. We have strong feelings for each other, though I refuse to leave my husband, as there is no one else to take care of him. If I were to have a relationship with this man, emotional and/or physical, will I be condemned by God as an adulteress?
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Question: Hello, my name is Gabriela, I am from Argentina. My question is: why G'd created soul mates and then separated them and made them look for each other during their lives? What is the purpose of that? I dont understand.... [How does this fit into Jewish values?] Thank you.
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Question: We live in Germany (I am American, my husband is German, working for a German airline). After various postings to foreign countries, we are now here permanently with our 12-year-old daughter. We have purchased a piece of property and will be building soon on it. Currently there is an old house on the property, in which many generations of the same family were born and raised, until the remaining elderly owner passed on with no heirs, just 1 year ago. The property reverted to the state, from whom we purchased it. Before the bulldozers come I would like to: 1. Pay tribute to the almost 100 years this family dwelt in the place. All who enter the old house express that it feels warm and inviting, with an overgrown but lovely garden. 2. Address any Nazi connections which may have existed. There is no indication of this in the deceased's history (I've googled him and asked many neighbors) but he was of that generation. 3. After the old house and yard have been removed and prepared for building, I would also like to bless the property prior to building. To summarize, I am interested in an appropriate Jewish: 1. dedication 2. acknowledgement of possible misdeeds 3. property blessing My upbringing was as Conservative Jew in San Diego, later practicing Reform.
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Question: What is the best, most meaningful way to fulfill the mitzvot of “mishloach manot” (sending portions) and “matanot l’evyonim” (giving to the needy) on Purim?
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Question: What happens at an "unveiling ceremony"? Are there prayers said, and by whom? [Admin. note: Another related question on unveilings can be found on the JVO website at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=134]
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Question: How can we truly, practically implement “v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha” (you shall love your fellows as yourself) into our everyday life? It’s one of Judaism’s most famous sayings, yet with small pockets of infighting and hatred among groups of Jews in Israel, it seems to have been forgotten.
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Question: Kosher is kosher. But is there a moral or ethical problem with eating a kosher food that very closely resembles a non-kosher food? What about the issue of “marat ayin?”
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Question: My three Reform Jewish children have each married non-Jews. Each of them are raising their children as Jews. What is the best practice with respect to Christmas trees in their homes? [Administrator's Note: A question on this topic arises periodically, particularly in the December timeframe (for obvious reasons). For related responses that may offer additional information, please see other questions on the JVO website that address this topic.]
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Question: Please can you help me understand the modern meaning of the word 'chayav' (to be guilty of a transgression / to owe someone something) and give examples. Can you tell me whether such a word appears in the Tanakh (Bible)?
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Question: What does Jewish law say about respecting the Law of the Land? Can one jaywalk, drive over the speed limit or cheat on taxes and still be religious?
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Question: I know many friends—honest, God-fearing people—who have no problem “stealing” entertainment in the form of illegal downloads. Why have we let our attitude toward this kind of theft become so permissive? Can we stop it? Should we? Or, as many people claim, since they wouldn’t have paid for the show/music in the first place, it’s not like anyone lost money on their download. What is right? What is the Jewish view?
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Question: Is it wrong to look for the “what’s in it for me” aspect of Torah observance? After all, God Himself gave the Jews selfish reasons to follow His Torah. Why shouldn’t I base my observance on what I enjoy or find meaningful?
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Question: The rabbi of our synagogue is always exhorting the members to come to services. Come for selichot, for shacharit every morning, for mincha/maariv on Shabbat afternoon. Honestly, I’m busy, I have work and family, and I don’t find prayer services particularly meaningful. Why should I go to shul? What’s in it for me?
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