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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Gidon Rothstein

Question: What is the Jewish view point of having adult children living at home with parent(s)?
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Question: Children are commanded to honor their parents. How are parents commanded to treat their children? Is a parent who seeks to destroy their child through abuse still considered a parent? {Administrator's Note: Related questions about honoring parents are found on JVO at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=546 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=132 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=160 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=1188]
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Question: What sacred text is prophetic vision contained in, as well as where is the concept of tikkun olam (repair of the world)?
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Question: How are African-American converts viewed in Judaism?
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Question: A person buys merchandise and pays fair value, only to suspect that the seller may have stolen the goods. The buyer feels guilty about keeping the goods. Throwing them away does not right the situation. Selling them to someone else is no better. Reporting the seller seems hypocritical - there is no evidence. What is the buyer's obligation according to Jewish values? (This question is based on an inquiry appearing in the "New York Times Sunday Magazine" The Ethicist column.)
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Question: My husband and I are considering IVF to treat infertility. I have a question about one of the procedures used to evaluate the sperm before IVF can take place. "The sperm penetration assay (also called the hamster zona-free ovum test or hamster test) checks whether a man's sperm can join with an egg. Sperm are mixed with hamster eggs in a laboratory. The number of sperm that penetrate the egg (sperm capacitation index) is measured. This test is done most often at special fertility centers that do in vitro fertilization" (taken from WebMD) I know that Judaism as a whole accepts IVF. How can this be ok? Doesn't this violate laws against bestiality?
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Question: Is watching pornography hypocritical? Most people watch porn, but when I imagine that my daughter would come to me one day with something like Dad, I decided to play in porn (well, it would probably by a neighbor and not my daughter...), I don't think I could take that (I think that most people couldn't take that) and those actresses are someones' daughters, too. Problem is that when I start to consider pornography to be hypocritical, I start to be judgmental, and since (I think) most people watch porn, it is quite a problem. (Moreover, I think that being judgmental is definitely worse than watching porn). I should probably add that I am a secular Jew, but for most secular people pornography is not a problem, so I ask here.What do Jewish values tell us about this? Thank you for any answers.
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Question: What are three questions I can ask on a date or in a relationship if I'm seeing someone who isn't Jewish to understand how compatible or incompatible our values are? For example, I know I'm uncomfortable with the symbol of a crucifix, but I'm not really sure why. I am hoping for questions I could ask or scenarios I could present that really flush out the core value differences between Jews and non-Jews.
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Question: I want to convert but I have a unpredictable schedule.What would you suggest?
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Question: My first wife and I divorced many years ago. My oldest son (from that marriage) sided with her at that time, and still has no contact with me today, more than twenty years later. What action, if any, is necessary on my part in order to rectify this situation?
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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: Was the Torah originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic? What are your/Jewish beliefs on the other books written after the Torah?
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Question: In some apartments and dorm rooms, people are not allowed to have open flames [by regulation or by law, usually for safety considerations]. I have seen many electric Shabbat candles, but not havdalah candles. What does one do to properly end Shabbat if they are not able to light the havdalah candle? Or are there electric havdalah candles available?
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Question: I recently lost my 23 year old son to an unintended drug overdose. My family is all beyond consolation. He did not "appear" to have a drug problem. He was living with his family post-college, in which he did well. He never pushed himself or really had goals, but he was so bright he always excelled. He held down a full time job after graduation, but he was caught 6 months ago stealing medication and other things in the home. He constantly lied to everyone. He started taking substances in his room and appearing "totally wasted". I started to get into conflicts with him over this not being acceptable. I consulted experts about what I should do. For his stealing I wanted him to show remorse and take responsibility for his actions by helping people less fortunate than himself - I wanted him to do do volunteer work at a hospice for people dying of AIDS, to maybe lessen his selfish self-destructive behavior, and because I thought he might learn what the fruits of drug abuse are. My wife said I was too severe on her baby,and a hospice was depressing. I wanted him to get in touch with Jewish culture and values. My wife laughed at me. I arranged for him to see a psychiatrist, but she did not learn enough about him in 6 months to help him. I am furious at my wife for undermining my efforts to help him. No one will know if my efforts would have have helped. But maybe they would. My wife refuses to say she might bear any responsibility for what happened because she sabotaged my efforts to help him.We have been married 35 years and have one living child, a 21 year girl who is much that our son was not. More pious than me. A scholar who hopes to go soon to medical school. She studied Hebrew and Yiddish and speaks to family in Yiddish. I know that I am just so angry, etc. Am I being unfair to my wife? Does it make any difference if she takes responsibility for prior actions? Unfortunately, it was never her nature to own up to the things she did. What should I do now?
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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: My husband converted to Judaism (Conservative). He had a daughter from a previous marriage who was raised Christian (before my husband converted). His daughter just had twins, and we want the babies to eventually know that their grandfather, his wife and their children are Jewish. We were wondering if it would be ok to send the twins tzedakah boxes. We feel these will not only let them know they have Jewish relatives but also teach them the importance of charity. Would this be ok?
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Question: My parents are quick to disbelieve any medical issues I have, and often get angry when I seek treatment. They think I'm a hypochondriac, though I usually only seek medical attention after I'm sick enough that my friends start to get worried. This came to a head last summer, when I was suffering from clinical depression. My mother vehemently argued with me about whether I was depressed and told me not to get counseling, when I was in fact suicidal, and those arguments drove me further into depression & towards hurting myself. I'm seeing a therapist now, and the mental issues are clearing up. However, I'm still in a bind about how to deal with my parents. I know that honoring your father & mother is a mitzvah, but how do I honor my parents when listening to them -- or, sometimes, even speaking with them at all -- can be hurtful or even dangerous? What can Jewish values, ethics and law tell me about how to handle this?
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Question: As no movement in Judaism completely follows all the "revealed" mitzvot (commandments), what right does any voice have in specifying which ones to follow?
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Question: One of the most moving prayers of Yom Kippur is Kol Nidre. Yet its a rather boring description of how we are nullifying our vows from the past year. Shouldnt the highlight of the Yom Kippur eve service be something more along the lines of repentance, forgiveness, or supplication? How did vow nullification get such prominent status?
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Question: Is it okay for an unmarried 22 year old couple to sleep together in the same bed, in the same room as the woman's 11 year old brother?
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Question: For a Jewish veteran, is it appropriate to drape the aron (casket) with the flag prior to the military graveside? Or should the flag be folded and merely presented to the family?
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Question: At what point should parents give up their efforts to control how their children observe religion? For example, if a child decides they do not want to attend weekly Shabbat services or wants to stop wearing a kippah, what should the parents' response be?
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Question: I am a soon-to- be-converted Jew by Choice. When I told my parents, they didn't take it very well but have gradually come to accept it (they participated in our baby naming and Mom was most recently helping shop for a deal on my Passover china, for example). However, I know my parents are keeping my conversion a "big secret" from my grandparents, aunts and uncles. My extended family would definitely not be as accepting, but am I wrong to be bothered by this? I feel very uncomfortable talking to them (mostly by phone; we live 10 hours away) when I know they don't know. They have even sent "First Christmas" teddy bears to my children. I feel like they are going to be horrified at a future family gathering when my son blurts out something like, "We don't celebrate Christmas." Should I go ahead and tell them myself?
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Question: A woman in her 3rd marriage refuses to give her husband a get (divorce). For 5 yrs she has promised, and then refuses. The home life is very negative for the children, the woman has been in therapy for years...What can this man do? Does this differ in different movements in Judaism?
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Question: Why don't some Ultra-Orthodox Jews celebrate Yom Haatzmaut? If they have a reason, wouldn't it also apply to other parts of the Jewish world?
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Question: Can someone transfer their obligation of saying kaddish for parent over a 12 month period to another person or organization for pay (Tzedakah)? Or is this just a tradition with no real obligation?
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Question: What is the Jewish response - besides of course helping those in need - to environmental tragedy, like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan? For starters - How do we understand a God who wreaks this kind of havoc on His creations?
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Question: I work for a web marketing company and I know that they work with casinos, which I don't love, but can live with. However, I just learned that they have taken on a porn site as a client. My job is to build links and it doesn't require me viewing the material. But is it forbidden for me to in any way aid this industry? Or is it just part of my job?
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Question: A friend of mine has been asked to do a bible reading at a wedding of a friend of his. My friend is Jewish, the wedding is Christian. They have not decided if the reading willl be from the Christian bible, i.e. one of the passages on love. Are there any issues with a Jewish person doing this? However, if it is from the Hebrew bible then that would not be a problem, correct?
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Question: Is there an obligation for every Jew to visit Israel (at least once, if not annually....), particularly now that it is no longer an arduous journey? If not - why not???
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Question: Is it better, if one is going to gamble or do other shady ethical activity (and yes, I know it is better not to do it at all, but whatever), to remove signs of Jewishness like a Magen David or a kippa before? Or is that worse?
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Question: I am completely disgusted with Israels politicians behaving so self-interestedly. But I am afraid to say anything about it in conversations with non-Jews for fear of further tarring Israel with a bad image. How open can I be in political conversations about Israel, and does it matter who I am speaking to?
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Question: I have two tattoos. I got them when I was younger (of course). I would like to do what I can to be forgiven by G-d for such a sin. Since I am not a practicing Jew (but deeply believe in my religion (sounds hypocritical) I do not know what it is that I can do. Remove them? There is no guarantee that they would be totally removed. I feel as if a tattoo is a worse sin than others. If you grew up eating bacon, you can stop. Guidance would be appreciated.
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Question: To what extent can/should donors to an institution - when donations constitute a majority of the budget - expect to have a say in that institution's policies?
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Question: Given the inequality in Jewish Law regarding marriage, is it better to just have a civil marriage and avoid a rabbinic wedding altogether? What advantages does a Jewish wedding have? What can my rabbi do to guard my (the woman's) position and assure safety and security in this type of union?
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Question: What is the proper response of the American Jewish community when Israeli policy seems misguided?
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Question: When was the story of the miracle of the oil to light the lamp first told? Is it true that the story was only first told years later by the rabbis of the time so as to create a role for G-d in the Chanukah story?
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Question: Is it preferred for an intermarried family, in which there is a celebration of both Jewish and Christian traditions, both to light a Chanukah menorah and to decorate a Christmas tree in their home, or should they just have the Christmas tree? In particular, what is preferred when the circumstances involve the teaching of their children about Jewish tradition? What is best way for them to proceed?
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Question: Fox news commentator Glenn Beck accused financier and Holocaust survivor George Soros of "sending Jews to the death camps" as a teenager without any factual basis. As Jews, we struggle to honor the memories of those who perished, and to ensure such atrocities never happen again. As Americans, we honor and uphold the right to free speech of every person, generally no matter how wrong, stupid, or hateful it may be. How and where should we draw the line between Holocaust denial and revisionism, and political attacks on a controversial figure as a form of expression? How do we balance these two important values?
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Question: There is always a lot of talk about compromise in Washington. What does Judaism teach us about the need to compromise vs. standing by your principles?
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Question: I have old hagaddahs and booklets from undertakers with prayers and old yarmulkas. Which items can I destroy without disobeying religious tenets?
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Question: While I believe that as Americans, it is our civic duty to participate in the electoral process, is there also a specific Jewish obligation to vote?
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Question: It's so difficult to be understanding & forgiving in the face of man-made tragedy, like the recent story about the mother who killed her two young sons. As Jews, how are we taught to go about doing this? Are criminals worthy of our forgiveness? Some more than others? How can we reconcile this with our grief for the victims?
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Question: Does a child born of a Jewish mother, but conceived via donor eggs from a non-Jewish woman, need to be converted?
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Question: How strict is the Mitzvah of kavod av v'em? In other words, how much "honor" do we owe our parents?
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Question: I just found out there is medicine made from pigs, like insulin and some others. Is this kosher, coming from a pig and being medicine and not food? And on the other hand, there are also organ transplant components made from parts of a pig (like skin, and some internal organs). Is this kosher? The pig is not being eaten, it is just the source of the transplant component. If we can use human transplant components (which certainly aren't kosher to eat!), can we use pig transplant components? Thanks!
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Question: Times are tight, and Im trying to tighten my belt a little bit regarding my finances. Am I still required to give tzedakah when Im having tough times of my own?
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Question: How and where can I be ordained as a female rabbi?
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Question: If a person has a terminal illness what does Judaism say about that person ending their own life?
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Question: If a baby is buried before a bris milah (circumcision) or naming is he considered Jewish? Can he have a Jewish name?
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Question: If my divorced parents get a get, does that make me and my siblings illegitimate?
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Question: What is the Jewish view on returning captives? When a soldier is in captivity, as Gilad Shalit was for five years, do Diaspora Jews have a responsibility to draw attention to his plight?
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Question: Are some acts of kindness considered more important than others? There is so much need in this world - does Judaism prioritize some needs over others?
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Question: Israel received a lot of criticism for its handling of the flotilla #1. To what extent in Jewish law is Israel justified in balancing its security interests over allowing "humanitarian" supplies to reach Palestinians in Gaza?
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Question: Is it more important to give to Jewish charities or charities that impact all types of people, regardless of religion?
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Question: One of my close friends is in a relationship, but I'm pretty sure his girlfriend is cheating on him. Am I obligated to confront her? Should I tell him what I think is going on? I don't think I can just leave this alone.
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Question: Is there a Supreme Being that created man or did man create a Supreme Being because of a need not to be alone in the Universe?
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Question: What is the Jewish view on organ transplants?
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Question: What is the Jewish view on obligation to care for aging parents?
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Question: People say what comes around goes around, and others add "and I would like to be there to see it". Is the idea of 'payback' actually a core belief of any religion, especially Judaism, and is that attitude of wishing to witness the repercussions of their acts on another person coming home to roost an act of a wholesome and ethical individual?
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Question: What is the essence of "a good life" ?
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Question: People generally think their sins are committed against others and ask for forgiveness. This forgiveness does not always enable one to forgive themselves. How does one deal with forgiveness of yourself? And the guilt that may come along with doing or not doing that?
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Question: Can a person who does not believe in God still be a Jew?
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Question: My boss insists that our lunch break during the work day be no longer than 1 hour. I have one coworker who consistently takes 2 hour breaks. Do I have an obligation to tell my boss?
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