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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Paul Steinberg

Question: If a medicine is applied to the skin near the mouth, and some is accidentally swallowed, is it a problem if the ingredients may not be kosher? [Administrators note: A related question is found at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=123.]
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Question: What is the Jewish response to this question in the "New York Times Magazine" Ethicist column, May 19, 2013? It is common practice to decline to give colleagues and students a reference if one has nothing positive to say about them. When someone looks good on paper but is less competent in real life, is it ethical to act against someone to ensure that the work goes to someone who is a better fit? [There are related questions at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=31 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=354.]
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Question: Is it inappropriate to invite my housekeeper [or friend, or neighbor] to my son's Seder? She is not Jewish. [Administrator's note: Please see related questions and replies at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=384 and at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=962.]
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Question: I am a Jewish man interested in marrying a Jewish woman. I often ask women why they want to be with someone Jewish and they tell me it would be "easier" or it would make their mothers happy. These to me don't seem like good enough reasons. My reasons are strongly tied to character traits, mainly accountability, that I associate with Jews. What I wondered was what do you consider the biggest and most tangible problems with interfaith marriages?
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Question: Ethically, should an observant (traditional or trthodox) Jewish man attend a shiva minyan when it is not known if there will be a mechitzah (divider separating the genders during prayers)? If there isn't one, can he still attend & be counted, even if he doesn't daven (pray)?
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Question: Why it is okay to give and/or receive (and use) clothing from someone else, including a deceased person, but not shoes? I have heard this as a minhag (custom). Is this proper? What is the basis for this, and what does Judaism say about it?
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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 perspective on trust? Is it ever permitted to betray someone's trust? What type of person should be trusted? Is being trustworthy a mitzvah (commandment)?
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Question: Cleaning for Pesach (Passover) always causes a great deal of stress. What are the absolute minimum requirements for ridding the house of chametz (leavened items)? Is it really so terrible if there is a crumb here or there? [Administrators note: A very similar question appears on the JVO website at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=378]
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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: Is there a Jewish position on how long one should date before getting married and what attributes one should look for in a spouse/mate?
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Question: Where does the concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) originate, and is it a mitzvah (commandment) or does it hold the same level of importance as a mitzvah?
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Question: Discussion about the status of women in Israel has been featured heavily over the years. What is the biblical and rabbinic view of the status of women in Jewish society? What do the various movements in Judaism say about this?
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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: Does Judaism allow couples struggling with infertility to hire a surrogate mother? What do Jewish ethics say about paying someone to carry another's child to gestation? Are there any limitations on who can act for this purpose?
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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: I am frustrated with my son who is not motivated with learning Gemara. I try to be a good role model. He is a smart kid and does fine in his secular studies. I feel that he is starting to get turned off from Jewish studies. How far should I push?
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Question: Should we continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple in this day and age, when the Jewish people once again have sovereignty in the land of Israel?
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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: 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: 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: Shouldn’t American Jews, who collectively benefit from living in a free and open democratic country, be supportive of the “gay marriage bill” that gives equal rights to another minority group, regardless of how we feel about their lifestyle?
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Question: Do you think it could be helpful to women in the Jewish community to have a private place to talk about things of a sexual nature?
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Question: What is the idea behind “kol yisrael arayvim zeh lazeh?” Are we really responsible for each other’s actions? How can a nation spread out throughout the world truly bear responsibility for each other?
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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Is swordfish kosher? Why or why not? Would it be proper to serve swordfish to friends who keep kosher?
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Question: I am a retired military officer who is eligible for burial in Arlington National Cemetery. I would like to be buried in Arlington Cemetery because I believe that it is important to demonstrate that Jews helped defend the US by serving in uniform. However, I understand that there are some Jewish rules (no burial in a mixed-religion cemetery, burial within 24 hours of death) that are not compatible with the procedures for burial in Arlington Cemetery, although there are quite a few Jews buried there. What is the basis for these burial restrictions - custom, tradition, law, etc? Is it a sin for a Jew to be buried in Arlington Cemetery? [NOTE: I was raised in the Conservative tradition, but I am not particularly observant at present]
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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: Is circumcision absolutely necessary for baby boys?
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Question: How strict is the Mitzvah of kavod av v'em? In other words, how much "honor" do we owe our parents?
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Question: Are there any limitations about having sex during marriage? Is it ok to use birth control?
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Question: A friend of mine committed suicide. He was not Jewish; I've heard that Christianity teaches that those who committed suicide will go to hell. What does Judaism say about it?
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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: What should a Jewish person do if his or her loved one (also Jewish) wants to be cremated after they die?
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