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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Sanford Shudnow

Question: My fiance and I want to get married on a Saturday in the late afternoon (during Shabbat). We do not have any issues with this choice as we do not keep Shabbat. We are both Jewish. My father is orthodox and told us attending our wedding would be sacrilegious and would violate the sanctity of Shabbat, so he is not attending. He is not giving any reason beyond that. Is there anything in scripture that truly states a father cannot attend the wedding of his daughter if it is on Shabbat?
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Question: I received a request for forgiveness in the spirit of Yom Kippur. I am not familiar with this process, as it is from someone who is new to the faith. My question is, does the person asking for forgiveness have to specify what the wrongs are? This person did not specify, just asked generally. I feel that I need to know what they felt they did wrong, otherwise how do they know what I'm forgiving them for? Specifically, I do not believe that some of the wrongs are understood. If I offer forgiveness in my heart, I don't see how that can resolve an issue if it's not understood fully.
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Question: My father is over 90. He has remarried and will not be buried with my mother, his wife of almost 50 years who has passed. I don't love my father. I don't believe he loves me; we have not spoken in years and when we have it just opens old wounds and literally makes me ill - physically and mentally. Both parents were abusive in different ways. Do I have any obligation to mourn?
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Question: After an adult conversion, is there any halakhah, etiquette or rule regarding a celebration for the convert?
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Question: How do I respond to my adult children's objections to burying my husband's ashes at Arlington vs. the local cemetery (that is out of my price comfort level). My husband served 2 years as LCMC. [Admininstrators note: Related questions are found on Jewish Values Online here: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=178 and http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=223.]
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Question: Is a child who converts to Christianity still Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish? What must that child do to return to Judaism?
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Question: I have a question regarding my status as a Jew and whether it is proper to call myself one. My father is Jewish, my mother is not. I had a bris milah performed by a rabbi shortly after I was born, but was then raised Catholic by my mother. I always identified with being a Jew and when people ask I answer affirmatively. I have made aliyah to Israel and am studying in ulpan if that makes any difference. If I am not considered Jewish, I plan to undergo a recognized conversion. What is involved in that?
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Question: Are there Jewish values about being a vegetarian (not killing animals)?
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Question: I am a Hispanic male that decided to convert to Orthodox Judaism. My best friend belongs to the Reform movement of Judaism and she told me that Hispanics are not allowed to convert to Orthodox Judaism and that only the Conservative and Reform movements allow Hispanics to convert. I wanted to see what Rabbis from the various movements would say, and if an Orthodox rabbi agrees with her.
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Question: My son wishes to volunteer to help disabled children in a program that takes them in a pool in a local church. Given halacha re: entering churches and mixed swimming is this permissible?
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Question: My father died suddenly 10 days ago. What are my obligations or what is custom for an adult daughter to be doing after sitting shiva? Thank you in advance for your help.
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Question: I had a child with a Jewish man 33 years ago. At the time he wanted me to get an abortion, but I did not, and I did not tell him. He just found out of our son's existence a year ago. What if any are his obgligations to this child? He left when he found out I was expecting. We are now in contact with each other, and he came to meet his son this last month. Is this child entitled to have his father's last name? The child has always known who his father was. I raised this child by myself as I don't believe in abortion. His father and I do talk often now. For a lot of years I had no way to contact his father. didn't know where he was, but recently I found him and told him he has a son. I am not Jewish and don't know the laws in that faith, or if he has any obligations to his son. Any answers would help me. Thanks.
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Question: What does the Jewish quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel "wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge" mean?
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Question: I met a girl that I would like to marry. Her mom converted through an Orthodox process. I come from a community that doesn't accept converts - or maybe we do - but my parents wouldn't let me marry a convert. How can I convince them, and my whole big family, that this girl and her family are Jews just as much as we are, and this should be okay?
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Question: Is it wrong to light a yahrzeit or want a memorial service for a beloved dog?
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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: Do we have an obligation to correct misleading media bias when it comes to news coverage of Israel? For example, during rounds of rocket fire from Gaza, some media stations makes it seem like Israel is the aggressor, when they are actually the ones defending themselves against rocket attacks.
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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: When Jews and non-Jews abide by the same ethical and moral behaviors, what makes the Jews' compliance uniquely Jewish?
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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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Question: Can a female child be named for a deceased grandfather if his Hebrew name is Meir Eliazor ben Meir hakohen? What would a feminine form of this name be?
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Question: How are we supposed to feel sad about the destruction of the Temple? It happened so long ago – are we also supposed to feel saddened about the Jews’ enslavement in Egypt?
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Question: Should we be proactive and try to explain our customs to non-Jews, or is it better not to, since many of our customs may seem strange and be viewed negatively by the larger world? For examples: circumcision, and waving the Lulav & Etrog (palm branch and citron - four species).
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Question: If a child (teenager or older) chooses to observe mitzvot differently than their parents, does a parent have a right to try to persuade them otherwise? Where is the line? What if the child wants to observe tzniut (modesty) or a level of kashrut (dietary laws) with more stringency?
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Question: How do you fulfill a sense of obligation and emotional ties when a person is narcissistic and self-serving?
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Question: If I am taking time out of my work schedule to meet with an interviewer for a job, am I obligated to tell my current employer? I don't know how to get away from the office for the interview without lying & going against my Jewish & personal values, but I do not feel comfortable telling my employer that I am seeking employment elsewhere.
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Question: Is there a Jewish obligation to look after your health - diet / exercise / etc? I feel like the centrality of food in Jewish culture and ritual is really damaging to other values, like guarding your life. Is there a real basis for my discomfort?
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Question: In religious [observant] Jewish communities, how much room or tolerance is there for secular interests and desires? I live near a large Jewish community, and from an outside perspective I have the impression that with the emphasis on [following the norms, such as] getting married, upholding family values, and [engaging in] Torah study, and everything that goes with living in a such a community, following their [community members'] heart and doing something they may want to do, such as going travelling or learning an instrument, is either not considered acceptable, or not their 1st priority. In addition to this I can't help but think that they view gentiles and the secular world with a touch of suspicion. What do religious Jews think of the secular world and secular values? Is there room and tolerance for them to follow their interests, or do they have to conform only to Jewish community values and expectations? I don’t mean this to be a rant, and apologies if it is seen as one - its just something that’s on my mind and I would be interested to know the truth.
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Question: If I get a tax return refund for (having given) charity, can I consider myself as having tithed? Or should I re-tithe the return?
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Question: Over 18 years ago a Reform rabbi and a cantor officiated at my wedding. Now I am going through a divorce. I am interested in having a get (Jewish divorce decree). Being a Reform Jewish professional, what should I do? Is it necessary to have an Orthodox beit din? Are there other (non-Orthodox) means to acquire a get? What are the consequences of the various options, if they differ? And what are the expenses and requirements associated with this process?
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Question: I see a lot of my friends posting “status updates” about their parents, kids or spouses – anecdotes that are funny, but at times seem to be bordering on derogatory. Where is the line between sharing things with friends, or insulting your family or friends in public?
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Question: I teach my kids that recycling and saving the planet is a mitzvah, but I don’t really have any sources to base that on. Can you help me?
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Question: A Jewish co-worker often uses the word “goy.” It really irks me. Is it truly Jewish to think of everyone else (non-Jewish) as an “other”? Many classical Jewish texts I’ve read seem to take this view. How can this coexist with the modern concept of plurality, and how can these texts be relevant today if they seem so offensive to the modern ear?
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Question: Is it appropriate to criticize Israel when other nations and states commit the same actions, and much worse, without any comment from the world community? At what point does self examination become almost masochistic?
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Question: How important is it to be buried in a Jewish cemetery versus a secular or other place of burial?
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Question: Why don't Jewish mothers-to-be have baby showers, and does that mean it's not OK at all to give a mother-to-be a gift before the baby is born?
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Question: I've been married for 14 years. My wife has told me she no longer wants to have sex. She says she doesn't love me any more. She has stopped going to mikveh, so it is not possible for us to engage in sex. I am not satisfied with the situation. What does halacha say about this? Am I required to give her a get (divorce bill) and divorce her? Is it permissible that I do so? Would it be right to do so?
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Question: Is masturbation a 'sin' according to Jewish law? I am not married, and find it very hard not to engage in this behavior. How would you suggest a single man abstain from masturbating, if it is not permitted?
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Question: In what way should we welcome back men and women who spent time in prison? How about sex offenders?
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Question: I am married to a gentile man who is of Italian background. When I discussed with the Rabbi who married us if we have a child that is raised of a different religion will he still be considered Jewish, she advised yes. I am a 100% Ashkenazic Jew. My problem is my son (who is now 1½ yrs old) was circumcised by a Jewish doctor training to be a mohel. He did not have a bris. If he grows up and wants to marry a nice Jewish girl (like his momma) will he have to convert and/or be bar mitzvahed? Is he considered Jewish? Thank you.
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Question: If a Jewish woman isn't married but would like to have a child, does Jewish law permit in vitro fertilization?
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Question: What does Judaism say about intermarriage? What if the couple intends to raise their child to be Jewish?
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Question: Al and Tipper Gore are getting divorced after a 40 year marriage. What is the Jewish view on divorce? Does the length of the marriage or status of children (all of theirs are adults) at all impact the Jewish perspective?
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Question: Is there a Jewish viewpoint on the immigration law passed recently in Arizona? Are we supposed to make a concerted effort to welcome others because of our own history of being shut out or expelled from other countries?
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Question: What is the Jewish position on an afterlife?
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Question: What is the Jewish view regarding abortion?
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Question: How has the Shoah (Holocaust) affected rabbinic Judaism? Has there been any change as a response?
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Question: If am trying to keep kosher why can't I mix dairy and chicken since chicken does not produce milk?
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Question: Is there olam habah? How do I measure whether I'm living up to what God/I expect of me? Is there a God/personal God in the traditional sense and if so what is his/her nature?
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