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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Mark Washofsky

Question: A person believes that she or he has been touched or violated in an unwanted, unsolicited, halakhically forbidden, and therefore abusive fashion. To report or not to report? Is there any reason in Judaism not to go to the police? Should Jewish law ever trump civil law in criminal matters? [Administrator's note: Related questions appear at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=700 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=500]
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Question: Is it OK to sing along with traditional black gospel music? I was raised in the south and in many ways raised by black women (think the movie The Help). While I am an observant Jew, I find the music happy, hopeful and it gives me peace when I am depressed.
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Question: If a Jewish woman becomes pregnant using eggs donated from a non-Jewish woman, is the child considered Jewish or not Jewish? Who is the "real" mother, in terms of matrilineal descent - the woman who donated the genetic material or the woman who carried and delivered the baby? What about the possibility that was raised recently of combing the DNA of two women to avoid genetic diseases - how would that be seen? What does Judaism have to say about this?
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Question: I have a question that I need to have cleared up. Since I was a little girl, I have not wanted children. I don't feel comfortable around them, and I just cant seem to wrap my head around kids at all. The problem comes in with the commandment of "be fruitful and multiply." What should I do and what does Judaism say about this situation? [Administrator's note: a related question is found on JVO at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=185.]
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Question: Can a non-Jew pray using specifically Jewish prayers like the Shema and the Amidah if they are sincere in believing what the prayer states?
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Question: Currently I am in the process of finding an Orthodox Rabbi to sponsor me for conversion, but I heard that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel only accepts Orthodox conversions that were done with Rabbis recognized by Israel. I visited the Rabbinical Council Of America and clicked on the Conversion to Judaism tab, and it provided very useful information, but I want to know where can I find a recognized sponsoring Rabbi in the State of Maryland. For ALL DENOMINATIONS: Can I convert with anyone (Orhodox or other) not approved by the Israeli rabbinate, if I convert in the US? Will that conversion be accepted in Israel? [Administrator's note: A similar question is found on Jewish Values Online at question 848 which you can find by searching for Chief Rabbi in Israel, or entering link "http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=848" in your browser]
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Question: Is a Jewish parent required or obliged by Jewish law or Jewish values to leave anything to their children in their will?
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Question: How should someone in the modern world fulfill the mitzvah for every Jew to write his own Torah scroll? If it's figurative or outdated, what's the modern-day equivalent? If one fulfills it literally, by commissioning or writing a Torah, can the Torah be donated or loaned to a synagogue, or must one retain ownership of one's Torah?
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Question: Does the mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim (redeeming captives) affect the way we look at prisoner exchanges? Does the mitzvah require us to do everything we can to redeem a captive, or are there limits?
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Question: My girlfriend runs a business selling hand-spun tzitzit (fringes for a ritual prayer shawl). Recently, a customer asked her if he could send her his tallit (prayer shawl) and have her tie the new tzitzit directly onto it. She agreed, but was surprised to find, when the tallit arrived, that it was a Messianic (a non-Jewish, fully Christian group that usurps Jewish ritual and incorrectly incorporates it into non-Jewish worship) tallit, complete with a New-Testament quote on the atarah (the neckpiece). Would it still be OK to sell tzitzit to this customer? On the one hand, we're profiting from an arguably idolatrous practice, but, on the other, she's helping a (presumably) fellow Jew (albeit an apostate one) fulfill the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit. What Jewish values are at work here? And what should we do?
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Question: Is there any legitimate basis today to the Jewish concept of mesirah (the prohibition to inform to a secular government) when it comes to child abusers/molesters? Either in Israel, or anywhere else in the world?
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Question: What is contemporary Jewish thought or interpretation of the Stand Your Ground law? [Administrators note: As in the Florida law that grants the right to use a gun without retreating if there is a "reasonable" fear for your own life - note the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman incident and the court case that followed]
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Question: Is a Jew permitted to enter a church, mosque, cathedral, temple, or the site of any other faith?
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Question: Labor union strikes can paralyze a local economy. What is the Jewish position on striking and work stoppages?
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Question: Regarding immunizations for children who will be attending day (Jewish or parochial) schools: What is the Jewish view on whether this is obligatory or optional? What Jewish values or ethics are involved in this question?
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Question: I understand that Judaism takes a relatively more lenient position on abortion than do other religions. What is the position on "embryo reduction" - selectively aborting one or more so that others have a better chance of survival?
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Question: One of the most moving prayers of Yom Kippur is “Kol Nidre.” Yet it’s a rather boring description of how we are nullifying our vows from the past year. Shouldn’t 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: What is the Jewish thought behind revenge, and how does that apply to the recent decision to boycott a certain whiskey distiller is Scotland because they boycotted Israeli products? "You boycott us, we boycott you" is not necessarily a Jewish response.
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Question: We just got married, and I found out that my husband is suffering from impotency (impotence). If I didn't know about this prior to marriage, can this marriage be annulled? Isn't this a basic fact that I should have been told before I was asked to consent to marriage? What is the reason for marriage anyway, if not to have children?
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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: 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 so many things on Facebook status updates and Twitter feeds that seem so improper somehow – why do we all need to know every detail of everyone’s life? But I seem to be alone here. Does Judaism have anything to say about the ethics of privacy? Could this possibly be a “tzniut” issue?
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Question: Tzedakah (giving to others) is a given in Judaism. I know Maimonides wrote about a ladder of levels of giving. Did he also address to whom one should give (picking recipients)? How about how to prioritize? Is there a Jewish approach to how to do this?
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Question: Is the Agunah issue just an "Orthodox problem"? Or is it a "Jewish problem"?
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Question: Israel's rabbis occasionally declare a day of fasting and prayer in the hopes that it could bring rain to the country in a drought. What is the religious doctrine behind such a calling?
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Question: Can a rabbi, congregation, or anyone in need ever knowingly accept a donation of money that was acquired illegally, for instance under extreme circumstances, when it may be very badly needed?
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Question: The 33 Chilean miners rescued on October 13 made a pact with each other while trapped underground for 69 days that they wouldn't share publicly the details of their experiences. But in the midst of their own poverty combined with significant media attention, some of them have broken that pact. Are they allowed to break a promise to each other in order to take care of themselves and their families?
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Question: Is plastic (cosmetic) surgery permitted by the Torah? Is there a difference in the Jewish view between reparative and elective surgeries? Does Judaism approve of cosmetic procedures (not life saving, and not physically reconstructive) if it makes the person feel better?
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Question: We were once strangers in a strange land, but what does Judaism have to say about the U.S.'s immigration policies? Is the recent Arizona law in keeping with Jewish views?
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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: Does the Yom Kippur law of asking forgiveness from your neighbors apply only to those who are of the Jewish faith or all people you feel you may have hurt or wronged or injured of any faith?
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Question: What is the Jewish view regarding abortion?
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Question: As the son of a Pole who lost touch with his Jewish roots and married a non-Jewish woman, I went through the conversion process, including Brit Milah, Mikvah, and Beit Din, to reclaim that heritage. Why, as a person who prays daily, with regard to Aliyah, etc. am I considered less than a Jew in the eyes of those I view as family?
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by Ruti Eastman “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” – Randy Pausch, The...

The Wonder Woman of the Torah

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Today’s film scene is swarming with superheroes. DC Comics and Marvel have moved from the pages of comic books to the...
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