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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Daniel Plotkin

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: My question is about the Jewish ethics of using a false identity to post comments on the web. In particular, if I want to comment on something posted (perhaps in a blog, or write a review of some book or product), am I acting ethically if I create a 'fake' name and use an email address that can't be identified as me? Is the answer different if I am writing critical things about a product or work, even if I am telling my actual opinion and/or experience with it? Does this change if I am writing comments telling people about my own work and encouraging them to go see it on another site, or praising things that I sell? What are the boundaries? I know there are some because I recall an incident in which an academic created false identities and praised his own work, while denigrating others' works, and that was thought to be unethical, if not illegal. What do Jewish values and ethics teach in this area? Is it ever okay to use an alias or false identity, and if so, what are the limits or boundaries?
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Question: Dear Rabbis, I want to ask about the concept of resurrection. Although it is not clearly stated or described in the Torah, the afterlife and resurrection of the dead has held an important position in (some of, at some times) Jewish belief and thought. We know that some people die very young, and some very old, many in a very bad physical condition, unable to walk etc. According to Jewish thought, in what condition will resurrection take place (if it does)? Will someone be resurrected as an age 95 year old person who is unable to walk and disabled, or will it be as one in the full power of their youth, etc.? Thank you in advance for your answer.
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Question: I sometimes find it difficult to contain my emotions in front of my child when I feel that certain teacher’s methods for teaching are damaging my child’s “self esteem”. I don’t want to teach my child that it is okay to speak disrespectfully about their teacher; at the same time I don’t want my child to think that improper actions by a teacher are acceptable. Any tips?
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Question: I was brought up in a secular Jewish home. My grandparents were victims of the Holocaust. We celebrated the major holidays in a non-reigious way but with deep attachment to our Jewish identity, and perpetuating our family traditions. Can I consider myself Jewish in the full sense of the term?
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Question: I am a 14 year old girl and a Conservative Jew. I am also gay. No one in my family knows. They are not homophobic. I wish I wasn't gay. Is it rational to pray to G-d to make me not gay anymore, or is there something I can do?
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Question: What happens at a Jewish funeral?
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Question: My wife and I are thinking about how our children should dispose of our bodies once we have passed. Having no love for the traditional methods, we went in search of alternatives. We discovered a body farm. In this method the bodies are staked out (often) in the open on a protected plot of land so that they might be studied concerning natural decay, then the information gathered is used for forensic studies and training concerning murder investigations and other such things. We like the idea of this for two reasons: First, it helps to assist the living, and second, it returns the bodies to the earth in the quickest way possible. We will not go any further in this plan without guidance. Can you help? [Administrators Note: There is a related question on the importance of burial in a Jewish cemetery in the JVO database at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=223. The concept of a body farm was foreign to me and I had to research it. There are multiple in the US at this time. They are used for training purposes, as the question states. However, the bodies are not always placed on the ground: some are buried, partially buried, covered with materials, placed in shade or sunlight or under water, and so on. The bodies are then examined at various intervals ranging from daily to weekly to monthly, depending on what is being studied, and photographs and samples are taken. This is not, strictly speaking, a completely natural decay process, as it may include exhumation and sampling multiple times.It is certainly not a traditional burial, and the body does not remain undisturbed.]
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Question: What specifically does Judaism say about money? I often tell people that Christians believe that there is nobility in poverty (the meek will inherit the earth) but Jews have no such concept and encourage people to have means to take care of their families. This is me spewing out gibberish based on no actual facts. Is this in fact true and if so, what does Jewish law/wisdom say about money?
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Question: How (should or) does a father make amends to an adult son regarding what the (near adult) son feels are boundary issues around school, work ethics, respect for others, use of free time, etc.
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Question: My mother is 90 years old, in frail health but of sound mind. Last year, one of her 3 grandchildren and the youngest of my 2 sons died in an accident at age 29. My son and my mom were close. As an adult, my son moved to another state but made a point of visiting every few years. He has remained in contact with regular phone calls and other correspondence. My sister has demanded that my mother not be informed of my son's death. She argues that my mother will die in a few years anyway and so should be spared the sad news, and that the grieving process could hasten my mom's death. "Let mom die in peace." I've complied with my sister's demands. Whenever my mom asks me about my son, my rehearsed response is "Your grandson loves you dearly." But as time passes without contact from my son, I'm concerned that my mom has concluded that my son has lost interest in his grandmother. For my mom's sake, I'm uncomfortable with keeping her in the dark. But I'm also conflicted. I miss my son so very much. To include my mom in my own grieving would benefit me. After all, she is my mom. Any ideas?
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Question: Can Jews of one ethnicity adopt holidays and customs of another? For example, some Ethiopian Jews celebrate “Chag HaSigd” around Sukkot, and Moroccan Jews celebrate “Mimouna” after Pesach. Is there anything wrong with an Ashkenazi Jew taking on these celebrations?
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Question: If a Jewish women has a hard time finding a place where she can bathe in a mikveh (ritual bath) after her menstrual period, what should she do if she is married (and observes rules about niddah/family purity)?
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Question: In my dormitory there are automatic motion-sensitive fluorescent lights. If my only intention is to enter and exit my room and not to illuminate the hallway, would this pose any problem on Shabbat?
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Question: What’s the Torah view on the “green” movement, such as recycling and electric cars?
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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: Judaism has changed and adapted over the course of time; polygamy, for example, is no longer allowed. So today is gay marriage something that Judaism should adapt to as well?
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Question: What can be done in the Jewish community to help get the word out and steer young couples with sexual conditions to proper treatment?
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Question: If a pre-programmed "Shabbat elevator" is acceptable, then could a pre-programmed autonomous boat, trolley or automobile be used on Shabbat?
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Question: Watching the Royal Wedding, I was struck by how different it is to a Jewish wedding. Traditional Jewish ceremonies seem not to include vows to each other, for example. How can that be? Isn't that the whole point of the ceremony?
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Question: I have two boys close in age who are constantly fighting. I know this is normal, but I have tried everything. The normal rewards and punishments don't work. I was wondering if there were any Jewish-values-based approach to sibling rivalry that I might try as a parent, or that I might try to tell the boys; Perhaps something "Divine" will have more of an effect....
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Question: What self-censorship boundaries should there be on non-Israeli Jews in talking about Israel, if any? Is it disloyal for a Jew to point out the faults or flaws of the state of Israel?
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Question: Given the deceitfulness of Jacob in his dealings with Esau and Isaac, how is it that he became a patriarch and his name synonymous with Israel? In other words, why should a person who acts in less than an exemplary manner be revered as one of the patriarchs?
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Question: What’s the tradition on the correct order of placing the Chanukah candles in the menorah and then lighting them in the reverse order?
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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 it true that music sung for Shabbat services should not be sung for a concert?
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Question: What is the best advice you can give to a victim of domestic violence, whether a spouse, parent, child, boyfriend, girlfriend?
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Question: According to Judaism, what is an acceptable gift to bring to shiva? Are flowers and or food appropriate?
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Question: What does Judaism say about pre-marital sex?
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Question: I heard that shomer negiah applies to siblings past the age of puberty and other family members. I do not understand why such a law should apply to people who are related. Can you please explain this to me?
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Question: Are Jews required to do anything special to "repair the world" after the gulf oil spill? Is there a Jewish perspective on how this tragic accident should impact our view on offshore oil drilling moving forward?
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Question: I sometimes feel disrespected by my bosses, but am hesitant to defend myself. What does Jewish law say about how employers should treat employees? Are there a set of rules that one should follow?
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Question: Alcohol seems to be a part of many Jewish holidays. At Purim we are even commanded to drink so that we can't differentiate between certain characters in Megillat Esther. Is there a Jewish perspective on drugs that would similarly impair our thinking? While some drugs certainly are dangerous to use, many would argue that marijuana - if used in moderation - simply makes the human mind think differently for a period of time, just as a few "l'chaims" do.
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Question: Some people feel it is better not to tell a person information that they feel would be hurtful to them. Is leaving information out considered lying and is that acceptable or an act that needs forgiveness?
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Question: Why cannot Ashkenazic Jews be named after a living person? Why are Sephardic Jews named after a living person? Is this law or just custom?
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Question: Should the laws governing kashrut be amended and/or applied to include the ethical treatment of workers, including wages, working condition and respect of employees?
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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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LATEST BLOGS  view all blog entries

Is There Anything All Jews Share?

Posted on 08/21/2017 by Moshe Daniel Levine in Beliefs and Practices
We are in the middle of an age of intense disagreement. Between politics, religion, and other public topics - it seems that...

The Hate That Is Being Revived Before Our Eyes

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My father was born in Poland, born at a time when anti-Semitism was not just prevalent, it was a fact of life. Yet while Dad...

Criticizing Critics of Biblical Criticism

Posted on 08/14/2017 by Moshe Daniel Levine in Beliefs and Practices
One of the reasons why I love the Jewish blogging world so much is that at any given time there is a whole array of topics...

Social Media and God

Posted on 08/14/2017 by Moshe Daniel Levine in Beliefs and Practices
It is easy to tell what a society is deeply worried about by the entertainment it produces. In this case, it is clear that...

National Despair

Posted on 07/27/2017 by Rabbi Ben Hecht in Holidays
During these Three Weeks which we are presently experiencing on the Jewish calendar, we are not just marking the historical...

Intermarriage: The Beginning of the End

Posted on 07/23/2017 by Moshe Daniel Levine in Beliefs and Practices
Believe me, I completely understand why a Jewish community would want to do away with the ethnocentric notion of Jewish...
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