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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

Question: Even though circumcision is to enter into the covenant of Abraham, what about aesthetics, health, hygiene, and sanitation? Isn't circumcision for those things, too?
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Question: What sacred text is prophetic vision contained in, as well as where is the concept of tikkun olam (repair of the world)?
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Question: According to Jewish values, are we allowed to breed dogs for money?
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Question: Whats does Jewish law and thought say to a woman whose father never provided for her a husband? Even though I know that modern society tells her that she is to find her own husband? I am now 44, and I have been led astray by lust, yearning for love and companionship. I had a child: now if I were to find a potential husband I couldn't offer him the opportunity to have a first born son. What should I do????
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Question: In prison, must someone eat their kosher meals in their cell to keep (observe) kashrut? Or can they eat these meals in the common area, as long as the food is heated and served in Styrofoam or plastic containers, with plastic utensils (using separate dishes and utensils to avoid mixing meat and milk, and to avoid any forbidden foods being included), and wear a yamulke (often called a kippah, or head covering) and say the appropriate prayers?
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Question: I would like to hear your take on the article in The New York Times (October 2, 2012, "Tattoos to Remember," by Katherine Schulten). Livia Rebak was branded with the number 4559. Now her grandson, Daniel Philosof, has the same tattoo. At right, three men who stood in the same line in Auschwitz have nearly consecutive numbers. .WHY did Eli Sagir get a tattoo with the number 157622 inked on her forearm? WHY might this tattooing practice be unsettling or offensive to some? WHY did people in the camps “treat with respect the numbers from 30,000 to 80,000,” according to Primo Levi? About HOW many Holocaust survivors are still alive? etc. Judaism, as the article mentions generally frowns on tattoos (and body piercing) as it alters G-d's image. I will be using this lesson, for 8th and 9th graders. Others, in my school will be using it for 7th graders. Thanks.
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Question: I am an adult woman with a developmental disorder (autism/asperger's Syndrome). I have two young adult children who both also have this disorder. It is genetic in our family. What does the Torah/Talmud say (if anything) about such disabilities and how disabled people should be treated?
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Question: What are Jewish values when it comes to work and working?
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Question: A non-married Jewish man, in a seriously committed relationship with the woman whom he loves with all his heart and plans to marry, made the biggest mistake of his life and committed one physical incident of infidelity with no emotional component, and which did not include any form of intercourse, but did involve pleasureful contact, when he was solicited by another woman, and acted in this way in a moment of weakness. If that man later confessed most of the pertinent details of the incident to his significant other, but minimized the full extent of the physical contact in his confession by lying about it, would Jewish ethics and values indicate that he must confess the rest of the details, and also that he lied to his significant other in the earlier confession? The S.O. has already moved forward and forgiven him for what he has revealed. Is the rest of the information irrelevant if the woman knows that she was betrayed and nearly the full extent of the contact? This man wants nothing more then to remain 100% committed to their relationship with all his mind, body and soul, but feels like he has kept something from her that she deserved to know and is suffering from guilt. Is this genevat daat (stealing the mind - deceit/deception/fraud)? Does this fall under preserving shalom bayit (peace in the home)? At this point further confession will only lead to more hurt, mistrust, pain to the innocent partner and deterioration of the relationship, with little benefit from the additional information to either party, and only feed her doubts. What should this man do, and can he repent and do teshuva for his unfortunate conduct? He has shown genuine remorse and vowed to never betray his significant other ever again.
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Question: What does Judaism have to say about aging, the aged, and the treatment of the elderly?
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Question: Sometimes my girlfriend and I discuss the possibility of having sex in public places, I am open to doing this but would like to get someone's thoughts. We do not intend to do it literally in front of people, we mean doing it in a dark corner of a night club or something where people can't really see but we are still in the public.
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Question: Was the Torah originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic? What are your/Jewish beliefs on the other books written after the Torah?
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Question: What is the Jewish view on factory farms? I am asking from the perspective of Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim (Chayim) as well as our role as Jews to be moral examples to the world (or le'goyim). Are factory farms "kosher"? If the meat that comes from them only signifies they were slaughtered in a kosher way, how could a rabbi indirectly be approving of the very cruel factory farms? Shouldn't the value of avoiding unnecessary cruelty be one that is maintained across the spectrum of observance? [Administrators note: Similar questions have been answered on JVO in past. See www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=47. A search on the site for 'Kosher' or 'Kashrut' will find other questions and responses.]
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Question: If a condo association requests a Jewish resident to remove their Mezuzah from the door frame. What takes precedence - following the law of the land (din de malchuta dina), or the mitzvah (obligation/commandment) in Jewish law to hang a mezuzah? Can regulations by property owners/managers be allowed to restrict Jewish religious expression?
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Question: Is it proper to postpone a scheduled bris (brit milah/ritual circumcision) an extra day for a funeral in the family or are you expected to observe both on the same day?
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Question: What can a “regular Jew” do to defend misleading media bias against Israel?
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Question: An Orthodox Jewish day school, joined a local sports organization that played games on Shabbat, though the school itself never violated the Sabbath. Should they never have joined in the first place? In other words, as Jews, do we have an obligation to distance ourselves from situations if we know there may be a conflict with our religious principles?
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Question: Do you think Jews appearing on reality television shows can be a good thing for the Jewish people? When so much press about religious Jews is negative, could this be a positive step?
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Question: An article (in the Science & Health section of the Feb. 14, 2012 edition of the New York Times) stated that a senior residence facility passed an edict that residents in the assisted living and nursing facility can not eat in the same dining room as the independent living residents. (I recommend you read the article). Some couples and friends can no longer dine together. Various reasons were cited for the decision, including space, mobility, safety and concern about depressing the independent residents. This is screaming out to me as a great discussion topic in Jewish values. I can point to the values of caring for the sick and disabled, treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, honoring the elderly, etc., but I am looking for specific sources and quotes to use as a teaching lesson. Thanks.
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Question: Is it permitted for a practicing Conservative Jew (or others) to follow a Western Sephardic minhag (customs, other than their own family's)? I am Conservative through and through, but follow a Spanish-Portuguese minhag at home and with children and grandchildren. I don't make an issue of this in the community (which is largely Ashkenazic, not Sephardic), but prefer to attend a Spanish-Portuguese synagogue during the High Holidays if possible.I feel the two traditions are very close. Please understand, I am clear that I am a Conservative Jew. Is there any problem with this?
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Question: Do you think it’s important to give the Haredi fanatics a different name and not call them “Haredim” or “ultra-Orthodox?” Those names imply they are extra observant and pious, which clearly they are not. Wouldn’t this also help differentiate between the fanatics and more moderate Haredim?
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Question: I hear the question asked, but I have not heard a good answer to it: for both purposes of inclusion, and for Israeli citizenship, what is a Jew?
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Question: Is it normal or acceptable to be confused about the truth of God this day and age? Can one have doubts or be uncertain and still be a "good Jew?"
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Question: According to Jewish law and custom, may I buy a plastic Buddha head for a house decoration?
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Question: Are "yibum" and "chalitzah" (ceremonies related to the process of levirate marriage) still relevant today?
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Question: Where does the bracha of “shehechiyanu” come from? Who wrote it and when was it instituted?
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Question: For a Jewish veteran, is it appropriate to drape the aron (casket) with the flag prior to the military graveside? Or should the flag be folded and merely presented to the family?
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Question: My wife wants to watch porn from time to time to help with arousal, where would that fall with regard to the law?
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Question: What is the reason behind the "no swimming during the 9 days" rule? Is it because it's fun? Because it's dangerous? Or because it's bathing? (If it's the last reason, does that really apply nowadays, when people pretty much bathe as usual during the 9 days?)
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Question: Can we (those of us who feel support for it) feel justified with our sense that Netanyahu was correct in his decision to finally cut privileges of jailed Hamas militants in response to the Palestinian Islamist movement's refusal to allow Red Cross visits to Gilad Shalit for over 5 years? What does Judaism say about this?
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Question: Naama Shafir, an Orthodox Jew, has recently gained stardom by scoring 40 points to lead the University of Toledo to victory in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament championship, a game that took place on Shabbat. She was crowned the basketball tournament’s MVP. After the game, she walked about two miles home, and did not take part in any interviews. Would it be fair to say that Naama is a great role model to all girls in general, because she is pursuing her dreams, while holding steadfast to her Jewish values and commitment to religion? Or is there a problem with her actions because she apparently violated the Sabbath restrictions by playing? How should we view what she did?
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Question: What does Yom Haatzmaut mean to proudly identified American Jews? Is it purely an Israeli holiday which we celebrate vicariously as allies / co-religionists, or is the creation of Israel something to celebrate even if my personal values do not include ever living there?
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Question: I am very distressed about the very public racism coming from Israeli rabbis and their wives – about not selling houses to Arabs, or urging young Israeli women to stay far away from Arab men, who are ostensibly trying to entrap them. The language used was incendiary and completely racist. Is this really how Judaism wants us to relate to non-Jews?
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Question: How can I convince my parents to let me get married in a simple, outdoor ceremony, and not make a huge, fancy deal? My fiancee and I do not want to elope, but just see the whole hall/food/etc. thing as a huge waste of resources, especially in today's world. My parents (in addition to being very upper middle class and slaves to society) are very traditional, so some Jewish sources from a rabbi might help our case....
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Question: How far can one go in internet communications with another person without crossing a line and violating one’s vows to a spouse?
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Question: I consider myself a Conservative Jew, however I have recently begun to consider covering my hair (since I'm married) and only wearing skirts (not pants). I have started by wearing long headbands. What does that make me? Am I still a Conservative Jew? If not, what am I?
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Question: Jon Stewart called for sanity at his rally in Washington. Does Judaism provide a path for achieving this?
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Question: A San Francisco man has proposed a ban on circumcision. If such a thing became legal, what would that mean for the Jewish tradition?
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Question: What are acceptable means of teaching children about matters such as pregnancy and its potential complications? What does Judaism say about how we should teach our children values? Former President George W. Bush shared in his memoir that when he was a teenager, his mother, Barbara Bush, showed him her miscarried fetus in a jar. Is this kind of approach condoned in Judaism?
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Question: Some members of Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield, N.J., are not happy that their former synagogue building was sold to the Islamic Center of Union County. Are there any reasons a former Jewish house of worship shouldn't be turned into a different religion's house of worship, or for that matter, anything else?
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Question: With the latest news of bombs sent on airplanes to target Chicago synagogues, people are justifiably even more nervous about terrorism than usual. But how do we reconcile being cautious with appearing in any way racist or prejudiced?
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Question: I pass a homeless man every morning on my way to work. How obligated am I as a Jew to give him money? Friends have said that it is better to give to agencies and charities that help the homeless, but I always feel horrible when I pass him.
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Question: We haven't heard much about the death penalty lately, but public debate surrounding capital punishment seems to flare every so often. I'm never sure how I feel about it - on one hand, "an eye for an eye" is surely justice served. On the other, who are we to play God, particularly when the US criminal justice system is so flawed? How can jewish values inform our views on the issue?
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Question: Typically, why don't Jews evangelize? That's what the book of Jonah and so many other books and events in the bible are about (in the questioner's reading of them).
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Question: I truly support Israel, but in this day and age it is difficult to do so, with so much dissent in the news and on the streets. Where in the Torah does it state that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews? Does the Torah delineate borders?
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Question: I have heard that my grandma's parents came from Israel. How do I find out about that? Does that make me Jewish?
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Question: Governors and Christian leaders in the Gulf Region called for a day of prayer on behalf of the devastating oil spill. Why haven't Jewish leaders also come together in prayer over this? Does Judaism allow prayer in this form?
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Question: Sustainability and environmental protection are becoming popular discussions these days and I want to play my part in the movement. Is there anything that Judaism forbids me to do to help the environment?
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Question: A lot’s been made of our constant interaction with information. Does Judaism have anything to say about powering down from computers, cell phones and the like?
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Question: What are the causes of the disconnect between religious teaching and practice, and ethical personal behavior? How can religious people be influenced to act more ethically?
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Question: Did Maimonides believe in an afterlife? Resurrection of the dead?
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Question: Is there a Jewish-specific perspective to the recent oil spill in the gulf? In general, what is the Jewish view on the importance of our environment? Are we obligated to respond - either financially, socially, or otherwise - in a manner different than non-Jews?
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Question: I get very frustrated when members of my Jewish community say they don't have time to be involved in the Federation or synagogue or other organizations because they're too busy with their job and/or family. We're all busy with the personal aspects of our lives, but some of us make time to be leaders in the Jewish community because we want to see it flourish. What is reasonable to expect from people in the Jewish community in terms of volunteering their time and resources?
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Question: If G-d is omnipotent, why doesn't He clarify for us which religion is correct, once and for all, to stop religious wars?
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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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