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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Joseph Blair

Question: Both my parents are Jewish. I live as a Jew, embrace Jewish values and culture, and believe in Jesus as the Messiah. I identify as a Messianic Jew. My question: Most rabbis dispute the validity of my faith and assert that I have lost my right to be called a Jew. I am troubled and perplexed by this prejudice. Why is there an empathetic understanding towards Messianic Chabadniks or Jewish Buddhists (JUBUs) but not towards Messianic Jews? Why am I ostracized while secular, atheist and non-believing Jews are accepted? [Administrator's note: A very similar question was posted and answered at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=139. Messianics are not Jews by the definition of any branch of Judaism.]
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Question: May a couple who have been converted in Masorti (connected with Conservative) Judaism celebrate a Jewish marriage ceremony in an Orthodox synagogue?
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Question: JTA is reporting that a New York area rabbi has invoked Mesira as a legal defense. How is this concept reconciled with dina d'malkhuta dina? Which concept is paramount?
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Question: Why is there a Jewish leap year this year? (2014?)
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Question: During the three weeks (of mourning for the destruction of the Temple, between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av) can I get a haircut on erev Shabbos (the eve of Sabbath) or on Rosh Chodesh (the start of the new month) [i.e., what is the custom/minhag during this period]?
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Question: For many years I have stayed up most of the night. I am concerned that this is a sin against G-d. If i worked on it I could sleep at night like other people and be more active during the day. I wonder about this - what does Jewish tradition or law say about this?
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Question: Why does G-d make so many people go through prejudice? Why did G-d let there be slaves in the USA if it already happened in Egypt? Does he care? [JVO Kids: 4-6]
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Question: How important is it that my wedding is catered kosher, if I myself don't keep kosher? What Jewish values, moral, or ethical positions are involved?
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Question: If three people are in love and respect, and accept not being in a monogamous relationship, can they have that relationship in Judaism? Would that be accepted by halachah? Our patriarchs were not monogamous. Why them do we understand only monogamy as the acceptable practice today? Would not acceptance of non-monogamous relationships help to address and reduce the pain of betrayal, which is unfortunately so common, because we are subjected to the ideology and restrictions of monogamy? Is it time to return to the idea of a concubine or pilegesh within halachic Judaism?
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Question: What qualifies a cemetery as a "Jewish cemetery"?
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Question: Is gelatin kosher?
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Question: I came upon a group called the Black Hebrew Israelites in New York when I was there a couple of days ago and they were talking about how they are the first original Jews and that the whites are trying to replace them. Is this true and do they have any proof like genetics that can see if they are really the original Jews?
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Question: I have been self employed for over 6 years and have been trying to find full-time work that would provide me a consistent cash flow. I am a Conservative Jew born to Orthodox parents. I mention all of this background because I have a company who is about to make me a job offer; however, they are in the business of manufacturing crab cakes. Would it be wrong for me to work for a company that produces non-kosher products even though I try to maintain a kosher life style for myself? I truly could use the job assuming an offer is made to me, but I am worried that this would be viewed as unethical or immoral. Can someone let me know what Judaic Law says about such actions? [Administrator's note: some related questions on JVO can be found at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=944 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=847 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=444 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=850]
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Question: I am starting a business as a personal chef. Would there be any halachic issues if I were to cook non-kosher food for a gentile client in the client's own kitchen?
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Question: Is a scheduled Hatafat Dam Brit to be postponed if the convert's mother is expected to die within the week? [Administrator's note: a somewhat similar question was posed in http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=650]
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Question: I got married in Jan, and lost a baby at the beginning of March. My husband left me mid-March. He owes me money; he is in a bad financial way, and I have basically supported him. I paid for the wedding and basically paid for everything, even the rings. He's now refusing to give me a 'get' (a Jewish bill of divorce) [Administrators note: Making this person an Agunah - search for other questions on JVO using this term]. I'm am trying to get the rabbis to mediate, but he's turned vicious on me. I landed up in hospital with severe depression, and he basically said I was looking for attention. He's stalling the civil proceeding, but that's easy, its just this 'get' that I'm worried about. What can I do? I got married in an Orthodox setting, but an issue is that I, not my husband, purchased the ring [used in the wedding]. Can I annul the marriage because it was not 'kosher' since he did not provide the ring for the ceremony? How can I proceed under Jewish law and according to Jewish values? [Administrators note: Other questions on our website also touch on this subject. Please search for the term 'agunah' to find them.]
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Question: Are we judged by G-d for our thoughts and fantasies?
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Question: I am on the personnel committee of a small synagogue. We recently heard that our rabbi may have taken financial advantage of someone he met through employment at another synagogue. We feel he has violated his covenant with us by financially obligating our synagogue in a contract that we cannot afford. He refuses to acknowledge his part in this unfortunate situation. Can you point us towards ways that we can confront him that will be within the bounds of Jewish tradition/law? On many levels he is a good man, but this behavior has really upset our committee and the few other congregants who are aware of the situation. We are afraid that this will cause a rift in our congregation if not handled in a just manner.
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Question: Hi. I met this girl, she is amazing to me, she feels like the one. I've got a problem: I'm a kohain (Kohen), and her mother converted. While her mother was far into the conversion process, this girl was born. Is she considered Jewish, or a convert? Please send me this answer soon. I would not go against my religion, but I feel that Hashem tests us in such hard ways and so many times.
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Question: Is it a sin to move a person's casket to another plot in the same cemetery? My mother does not want to be buried between her husband and her father-in-law and, if they move my father over one spot, the problem is solved.
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Question: If a newborn or child is adopted by Jewish parents and the child is raised a Jew, is the person Jewish since there is no way of knowing if the child came from a Jewish woman? Or, as in my case, the birth mother was not Jewish at time of the birth but did later convert once she married the Jewish birth father?
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Question: What and where is the obligation to honor a parent's last wishes found? Must they be followed?
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Question: I am a Catholic. I love the "whoever saves a life saves the world" passage. My daughter is a health care professional and saves many lives. Is it disrespectful for me to use [a quote of] that passage on a gift to her?
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Question: Is “freedom of speech” a Torah/Jewish value as well? Or does Judaism believe that there should be a limit on what we say?
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Question: I am a soon to be converted Jew by Choice. The problem is, practicing Judaism is really causing problems in my marriage with my non-practicing Jewish husband. I realized how important religion was to me when we had our first child. In the last two years, our marriage has been fraught with arguments because he doesn't want to raise our children Jewish. He did participate in a baby naming, doesn't sulk everytime I light Shabbat candles as he once did and has agreed to a Jewish preschool, but I still feel like it's an uphill battle to raise our kids Jewish. He had trauma in his youth (abuse) that occurred at his shul for which he will not seek counseling. Am I right to keep pushing like this? I certainly want to be sensitive to my husband but feel like I'm repressing my own identity and the Jewish identity of our children.
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Question: I have heard that gossip is considered the same type of sin as murder in the Jewish religion. Could you clarify the reasons for this?
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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: I am Jewish and marrying a Catholic woman who respects my religion and who requested we be married by a rabbi. I will remain Jewish, and my wife will remain Catholic. My parents are both deceased, buried in a Jewish cemetery. They purchased 2 plots many years ago planning for me and my future wife to be buried next to them (my parents). Will it be a problem to have my Catholic wife buried next to me and alongside my parents in the Jewish cemetery?
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Question: Why do Sephardic jews use words that end with "Tav" (like Shabbat) while Ashkenazi jews pronounce it with "Samech" (like Shabbas)? and what was the original pronouciation to say it "t" or "s"?
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Question: What is Jewish law regarding eating cheese and bread and other foods that were made by non-Jews but don't have any non-kosher ingredients on the ingredient list? What if they have no hechsher?
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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: 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: I have been invited to a ceremonial stone unveiling that I will not be able to attend. I would like to acknowledge the event in some way, but I am not familiar with the acceptable customs and do not want to offend the family in any way. Is it appropriate to send a card or a gift of some kind to the family to acknowledge the event?
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Question: I invited a dear non-Jewish friend to my Pesach dinner for the second night. She wrote back stating that her other Jewish friends told her it would be inappropriate for her to attend. As a new Jew I find this off-putting. Were we not strangers in Egypt??
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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: My father is near death, and among many anxieties I'm going through is the feeling of dread at having to arrange the funeral etc. I know this seems trifling considering what my dad's going through, but I'm also terrified of speaking in front of a gathering; I'll have to say something at the funeral...will it be OK if I just say I LOVED MY FATHER VERY MUCH, AND I MISS HIM TERRIBLY, then walk off the dais? Or do I have to mention this and that...Sorry, I'm "Fahklumpt" at the moment.
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Question: Can a woman initiate a Jewish divorce if a husband refuses sexual relations?
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Question: Do you think a new Canaanite Movement, a la Yonatan Ratosh, could be appropriate for our times? Why not?
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Question: Does Judaism believe in"karma"?
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Question: My religious neighbor points to the events in the Middle East and claims that we are seeing the end of days. It does feel rather scary and chaotic, but I'm not sure I believe in that whole concept. Can you explain Judaism's view on "Armageddon"? And could this be it?
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Question: What are the Jewish rulings on cybersex (defined as two people exchanging sexual messages over the internet, often in chatrooms) and pornography, for men and for women?
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Question: If it is true that smoking cigars is against halachah (Jewish law), then why do many religious people have an occasional cigar or pipe? (I am not talking about cigarettes which are known to be Assur/forbidden).
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Question: Is smoking an occassional cigar or cigarette, without inhaling, against halacha? (because you dont really end up being unhealthy this way).
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Question: Is Tu B'Shvat of any significance outside of the land of Israel, and if so, what is that significance?
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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: If a child is born to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, how is s/he named? Is it still ben (or bat) biodad's English name? Or..?
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Question: This is a question of Jewish law in a case pertaining to murder/killing in the course of a robbery. The defendant was in a bank and stabbed a guard with a knife; the guard died instantly. There were two witnesses, one of whom tried to warn the defendant that he would be subject to death if he killed the guard. However, the murderer did not acknowledge her warning. The other witness just stood idly by. If we are trying to offer a defense for the defendant, what would Jewish law say that might help do so?
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Question: Is it possible/acceptable to have a bar/bat mitzvah after the normal age?
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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: If I develop a screenplay/script to a movie, and my friend took my script/screenplay and actually made a movie out of it, without my permission, and if he made money from the movie, what do Jewish laws say that could help me prove that I am the rightful owner of the script and should be paid by my friend?
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Question: My boss always makes me feel stupid, is rude, puts me down all the time, gets other people to tell me how to dress, and so on. Is this in keeping with Jewish law and custom? Are there Jewish rules about how a boss is to treat an employee?
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Question: What does the Torah say about personal injury?
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Question: It seems that some people want to live Jewish lives, but not go through the process of converting? Is it OK for a person to practice Jewish religious rituals if he or she is not Jewish?
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Question: I've always been told that when naming a newborn Jewish child, it was improper to give him/her the same name as a living relative. What is the root of this tradition, and is using the first initial of a living relative's name also frowned upon?
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Question: Why do younger Jewish generations today pronounce many Hebrew words with a “t” sound at the end while older Jews often use an “s” sound?
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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: 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: My grandfather celebrated a second bar mitzvah. Can you explain the reason behind his doing so and if this is a ceremony expected of all Jews of a certain age?
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Question: Can a Jew be buried with a tattoo or body piercing? How has this changed over time, if it has, and what is the reason behind the prohibition?
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Question: Shalom. How do you in Judaism 'Honor your Father and Mother' when you disagree, argue, debate, and disagree some more, and they don't respect you? Isn't it better to agree to disagree and stay distant, than to be in their presence and be disrespectful? Like David to Saul? Jeroboam to Solomon? [sic]
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Question: Can one be Jewish and not believe in God?
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Question: If a child is called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah, if the father has passed away, and a step father is taking the parental duties, how should the child be called to the torah by name, as ben birthfather or stepfather's name? is it possible to call him up as both to respect both men
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Question: I was raised to believe that as Jews, we do not believe in a "life after death"..that we live on through our children. I always wondered if this was truly a Jewish belief. Does the Jewish religion think we have a "soul", an afterlife?
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Question: May a Jew that went through a Reform Conversion move to Israel under the law of return?
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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: What are your views on persons asserting Crypto Jewish heritage in the American SouthWest who want to claim Jewish status?
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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: What are the differences (main ones) between Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Messianics?
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Question: When is the child of a mixed marriage, in which the mother is not Jewish, considered Jewish?
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Question: Were there actually 2 stone tablets for the 10 commandments? If so, why? YHWH [sic] could just as easily get all of them on just one tablet, right?
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Question: How many types of Judaism are there?
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Question: My question concerns the matter of mixing meat and dairy which I understand. How does this include poultry which does not produce milk to feed its young
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Question: Why are some people so outraged by the sight of a woman holding a Torah? Aren’t we all created in the image of G-d?
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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 1˝ 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: Is there a halachic obligation for a Jew to move to Israel? What is the basis for remaining in Chutz L’aretz (outside of Israel)?
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Question: My father is Jewish and I have been raised Jewish my entire life. My mother was not raised Jewish but her side of the family believes that my great grandmother (my mother's mother) was Jewish. We are not 100% percent sure if she was Jewish or not and this has left me very confused. I do not know if I should convert or not and I am very hesitant to do so because I already feel Jewish. Converting would not change my ethnicity or how i feel as a Jewish person. I feel that if i would convert it would mean that I wasn't Jewish before and that is not how I feel. What should I do?
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Question: Should a Jewish person cremate a Jewish spouse, if that is their desire?
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Question: How and where can I be ordained as a female rabbi?
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Question: Why do candle lighting times vary within time zones? 8:08 in Orlando, 8:20 in D.C., this week, for example.
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Question: I have been in a committed relationship for three years. While I'm not married and don't plan on getting married soon, my girlfriend and I do have sex. Is this considered ok, or is it going against the law of the Torah?
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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: Why is there not more modern resistance to the idea that the Talmud, written by rabbis, carries the same authority as the Torah, given by God at Mt. Sinai?
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Question: What is the Jewish position on an afterlife?
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Question: While kashrut, at one time, embodied humane methods of slaughter, today the methods seem outdated. Are there any movements within Judaism that advocate "modified" versions of kashrut that incorporate today's standards of humane slaughter?
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Question: Some Jewish young adults (usually, college age) think that it is 'cool' to have their bodies tattooed. Will these kids be barred from most Jewish cemeteries upon their death many years from now?
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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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THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN ANSWERS PROVIDED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL JVO PANEL MEMBERS, AND DO NOT
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