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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi John Sherwood, Deceased (z"l)

Question: I live in Israel, where most people eat kitniot on Pesach (Passover) and it can be hard to find non-kitniot products. Can I break my familys tradition of not eating kitniot because its so much harder to keep in Israel?
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Question: Are there Jewish sub-cultures (denominations, communities, burial societies, cemeteries) that permit the presence of photographs or etchings of the departed individual on the headstone. I was in a Jewish cemetery in Queens, NY, and I believe I saw some headstones with images. Is this halachically (by Jewish law) permissible? Preferred? Common? Is it determined by local custom?
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Question: Small groups of violent ultra-Orthodox in Israel seem to have strayed from Torah values, which is a chilul Hashem. Are there collaborative or independent initiatives from the three main denominations to meet with and inform the ultra-Orthodox leadership how their violent actions (rock throwing, spitting on others, verbal abuse) negatively portray the Jewish people to the world?
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Question: How important should the Israel factor be when deciding who to vote for during a presidential election? Do American-Jewish voters have an obligation to vote for the most pro-Israel president, even if he conflicts with them on other values?
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Question: Should we look for or expect to see Jewish values in US presidential candidates?
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Question: Where does Hoshana Rabba come from? What are its traditions? Why do we celebrate it?
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Question: As Jews, what is an appropriate way to commemorate the anniversary of the September 11 attacks?
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Question: When a bad situation arisesfor example, drought in Israelwe come together as a nation to pray or fast, hoping that will have some effect on the situation. Theres an assumption that it is our lack of good deeds (or our evil deeds) that is causing this to happen. Yet, conversely, when something good happens to the Jewish people, the rabbis never come out and say, Wow, we must have done something great! Lets institute a day of celebration! Why the contradiction?
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Question: What can we learn about Israel's vs. America's social protests? The majority of the Israeli public wholeheartedly supported the summer's social protest movement with peaceful large mass rallies nationwide, while in America, there was a lack of positive, peaceful support for the Occupy Wall Street protests.
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Question: Many of the movements, and even individual congregations, are writing their own prayerbooks/siddurim. Is this valid and inline with Klal Yisrael (All Israel) and other Jewish values?
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Question: There were many miracles that God performed during the Jews sojourn in the desert the man, the ananim, water spurting out from rocks, etc. Why on Sukkot do we focus on the most mundane and man-made aspect of Gods protectionthe huts the Jews dwelt in?
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Question: I, as a Pakistani Jew, would like to draw your kind attention towards those Pakistanis who intend to convert to Judaism, leaving the religion of their forefathers. Unfortunately, there are no synagogue(s) and no rabbi(s) here. What can be done? Can you advise or help those in this situation?
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Question: How does the concept of tzedakah apply to government, especially in Israel, since it is a Jewish state? Does the government also have a religious obligation to provide for the needy members of society? Or is this just an issue for individuals?
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Question: We hear from many politicians (most often those running for high office) that 'Everyone agrees' on issues concerning when life begins, homosexuality, marriage, etc., all based on using 'our religion' as the premise for the assertions. Should Jews enter the discussion in religious terms based on Judaism and Jewish values and Jewish law, especially where they disagree with these assertions?
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Question: God warns us explicitly not to follow in the ways of the other nations. How does this apply to our custom to give gifts on Chanukah, which seems to have been taken from the very not Jewish tradition of giving gifts on Christmas?
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Question: Is there a special Jewish prayer that we can say at Thanksgiving dinner in commemoration that we were granted religious freedom in America?
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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: We pray daily for the rebuilding of the Temple. But when it is rebuilt, will Korbanot be reinstituted as well? It seems like a custom that is not really in tune with our modern ideas and sensitivities.
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Question: "A man is not his crime" is a famous saying about looking beyond the criminal act to the person, to their inherent dignity, as a way to help them find hope, remorse and renewal. Is that from Talmud? A young cousin just went to prison and we are struggling to comprehend how this happened and how to rebuild.
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Question: Our Orthodox Jewish neighbor always knocks on our door during their sabbath to turn on lights, turn off things. This happens every weekend and it is driving us nuts. We live in a Condo and they live below us. What is the Jewish view on this use of someone as a 'Shabbos Goy'? Is this ethical and in line with Jewish values?
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Question: Tell me where I can find information or examples about Jewish values in the movies.
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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: What do you do when work ethics conflicts with social responsibility?
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Question: Is Israel justified in 'strong arming' foreign journalists from participation in the 2011 Flotilla to cover the story from sea by its statement that participation in it, as a reporter, was liable to lead to being denied entry into the State of Israel for ten years?
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Question: I heard a friend saying that we are at "the end of days" because the world has gotten so crazy, the weather seems to be changing, rules of morality and nature seem to have gone haywire. Do we as Jews believe in an end of days? Do we know when it is? [Ed. Note: see somewhat similar question at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=357]
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Question: Is copying music muttar (permitted)? i've heard someone quote Rav Eliyashev and other rabbonim saying yes, and that you can ignore disclaimers on cds (not to copy). The second part of the question is: I like a band which permits crowd [attendees] recording their concerts [at the concert] and giving the recording out for FREE to others (very rare). But the band has a site which sells recordings of those exact same shows, recorded in better quality. Based on Halacha can I ignore their rules (on the site) prohibiting downloading their online recordings of these shows because they permit me to have a copy of that same show downloaded from a friend who gives it to me, just in a slightly worse quality recording?
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Question: I am reading my kids the biography of Benjamin Franklin and am completely in awe of his accomplishments and morality; He would write down his flaws at the end of every day. Can you give me names of any Jewish role models in the last 400 years with similar credentials to share with my kids as well?
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Question: What is the explanation for some observant Jewish women wearing wigs that are more attractive than their own hair?
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Question: What is the Jewish view on stewardship? We are told that we were given dominion over the land and all within it it seems that some have taken that to mean ownership and the right to destroy or waste. Is that the Jewish view?
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Question: Does Judaism have any thoughts on press issues such as the Wikileaks fiasco? In Jewish thought, when does freedom of the press and the public's right to know become a security threat? This issue has come up again recently with the arrest and trial of Julian Assange, and other leaks of other government documents from various sources. What does Judaism say about this?
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Question: The rules on what constitutes Passover chametz vary according to Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions. Since we are all Jews, what really prevents those of Ashkenazi descent from eating foods such as rice or legumes during Passover? [What is the basis for following the tradition, custom, or minhag that one was brought up in, and when, if ever, may one properly change it?]
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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: With Oscar season upon us, I find myself once again so disappointed in how much more my kids know about Hollywood than about their own culture and texts. My daughter has spent literally hours talking about what she thinks and has heard and read that the stars will wear. Any ideas of how to make Judaism glamorous / engaging for teens?
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Question: When there is a conflict between "siding" with one's spouse vs. one's parent - is there a Jewish view on marriage vows vs. obligation to respect parents? How does one balance these two obligations when they seem to conflict?
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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: Today's business world is built on advertising and PR...From mainstream media, and down to google, with its tantalizing 25 character ads that have an entire industry built around them. Ads tell half truths...What do Jewish values say about being in advertising, PR, marketing, etc? If it's not totally false, but just "spin"...how bad is it?
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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: A more religious neighbor does not allow her housekeeper of 5 years to turn on her stove when cooking for her; she says it breaks some law of non-Jews cooking for Jews. Can you possibly explain this very offensive rule? Is my neighbor correct?
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Question: Is there a difference between 'just words' and images in terms of suggestive Internet content in terms of being unfaithful?
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Question: Is flirting on the Internet considered cheating? What are the parameters of infidelity in Jewish thought? Is it physical sex only, or more broad?
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Question: There are a seemingly significant number of Christians who are claiming to be Jewish. Some of these are the deceptive and lying groups that are founded and funded by various Churches, like Jews for Jesus, whose purpose is to convert unwary Jews to Christianity, but others claim to be Messianic Jews who do not seek to convert anyone, and who want to practice Jewish rituals while still being Christians. What is the Jewish view on these peoples actions and status?
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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: Veteran's Day is an opportunity to honor our veterans. What does Judaism say about defending one's country and fighting for freedom?
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Question: Some religions prohibit drinking alcohol and consuming caffeine. Is there any similar prohibition in Judaism?
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Question: November is National Adoption Month. When Jews adopt, are their children automatically considered Jewish?
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Question: Is it true that the giving of presents instead of gelt (money) on Chanukah is a borrowed tradition from Christmas?
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Question: What are Ephraim and Manasshe so significant that they are referenced in the blessing of male children? The Bible tells us little about them.
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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: Some of Bernie Madoff's property is up for auction. While selling his wares to raise money to repay those he scammed is a good thing, isn't it kind of unsettling for people to want to own things formerly used by a fraudster? What does Judaism say about this?
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Question: President Obama's administration was talking about possibly needing to reduce Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age to combat the deficit. What does the Jewish faith say about taking care of our society's elderly?
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Question: Are there any Jewish legal or religious traditions that run counter to celebrating Halloween, traditionally a pagan holiday, but now more or less a secular one?
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Question: The latest rumor of a celebrity practicing Kabbalah is supermodel Naomi Campbell. What is the celebrity draw to Jewish mysticism and can a non-Jew legitimately "practice" Kabbalah?
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Question: Tea Party adherents claim global warming is a myth. As politicians spread such lies, and during an election year when odds are likely that Republicans will gain ground in Congress, the danger that fewer government programs will be put in place to combat climate change becomes more and more real. As Jews, how can we help to share scientific truths about global warming and continue to do our duty to repair the world?
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Question: What is a woman to do if her husband just won't work? He won't seek a job out. What should I do?
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Question: I have lived as an Orthodox Jew for the past 20 years, and while I love the frum (observant) community and lifestyle, I have no desire to have children. I find them annoying. If I let my feelings be known in the community I won't get set up on dates. Why am I being forced to lie about liking kids? What should I do?
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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: Is swordfish kosher? Why or why not? Would it be proper to serve swordfish to friends who keep kosher?
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Question: Do Jews believe dogs and cats have souls?
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Question: The Jewish community seems divided about the Israeli conversion bill. As individual Jews living in the Diaspora, what should we be paying attention to or responding to? How are the denominations responding?
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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: Can an observant Jew be a freemason?
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Question: The Torah and Midrashim tell us stories of Jewish fighters defending themselves and the Jewish people. What do contemporary Rabbis say about self defense and gun control in the present?
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Question: Between soccer games, choir concerts and everything else that seems to accumulate by weeks end, my family doesnt really have time for a typical Shabbat. What can we do to keep the Sabbath special?
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Question: Has the Jewish perspective on the state of Israel evolved over the years since the position of Jews in the Diaspora has changed? Is it a central focus of the religion today?
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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: 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 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: 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: I don't make a lot of money but I am able to live comfortably. I know the importance that Judaism places on tzedakah, but is there some specific standard that I should be trying to reach regarding what I give to charities?
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Question: What is the Jewish faith's belief about afterlife or eternity?
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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: My reform family, in efforts to make sure that our 40 closest relatives can make it to our Passover seder, for the past few years has held the seder on the closest convenient date. This year, the "first night" seder at my house will be on Saturday following the Monday that is everyone else's first night. Is there anything in Jewish law that says this is a wrong/bad practice?
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