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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Mark Greenspan

Question: I am the Jewish Chaplain in a University in the U.K. Our graduation ceremony is held annually in our nearby city cathedral. The building is over 1000 years old and the experience is awe inspiring. One of my students is strictly orthodox and is concerned that he is not permitted to enter therein. He is also concerned that in entering the cathedral he will be walking through the attached cemetery where some of the graves are marked with a cross. He is not a Cohen so the cemetery prohibition does not apply. I would like to assure him that attendance by him and his parents will be permissible.
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Question: What is the Jewish view on putting the good of others before what is good for oneself, even when it may conflict with what it good for oneself? (I'm not talking about life and death issues here.) [Administrator's note: I interpret this question as asking about altruistic behaviors, such as Taharah for a deceased person. Respondents may read it differently - if so, please explain your understanding.]
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Question: I received a request for forgiveness in the spirit of Yom Kippur. I am not familiar with this process, as it is from someone who is new to the faith. My question is, does the person asking for forgiveness have to specify what the wrongs are? This person did not specify, just asked generally. I feel that I need to know what they felt they did wrong, otherwise how do they know what I'm forgiving them for? Specifically, I do not believe that some of the wrongs are understood. If I offer forgiveness in my heart, I don't see how that can resolve an issue if it's not understood fully.
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Question: How are African-American converts viewed in Judaism?
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Question: Should I refrain from consuming media produced by celebrities who later became known as Anti-Semites? For example, the Lethal Weapon series includes Mel Gibson, although it was produced before he became known as an Anti-Semite. Another example is the music of Pink Floyd, which included Roger Waters, but was produced before Waters became known as an Anti-Semite. [Administrator's note: This issue appears in various forms. For example, one question on the website has to do with purchasing German-made autos (and other products): http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=991. In another context, many rabbis advise the couples they counsel not to use any music at their wedding composed by Wagner or Mendelsohn because they either worked with/supported the Nazi regime, or they were seen as destroyers of Judaism - which is why it is rare to hear "The Wedding March" by Mendelsohn at a Jewish wedding. Not too long ago, a fashion designer expressed vile anti-Semitic views, and there were repercussions, including at least one famous person publicly refusing to wear anything by him, or from the design house he worked for, raising a massive amount of negative publicity for that fashion house. The issue that underlies this question is whether the person, and their actions/politics, can be separated from the art they create. It deals with memory, repentance, forgiveness, compassion, and punishment, among other matters.]
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Question: I am an employee at a Jewish institution who was abruptly elevated to fill the role of my superior a few years ago when my superior unexpectedly retired. I was under contract with multiple years still to go on that contract. As the employing organization was in turmoil over the sudden retirement, there was a great deal of confusion, distress, a precipitous loss of supporters, and there was a financial crisis due both to the economic downturn and the loss of support. On taking the role of my superior, I turned my attention to reassuring the staff, retaining and recovering supporters, and providing continuity of leadership, in order to stabilize and to rebuild the organization. All those efforts have proven successful. Now that the employer has seen support re-established, and has largely restored and even begun to improve its overall financial position, I have asked them to renegotiate my contract to reflect my current position and role, the role I have actually fulfilled during the past several years, rather than continuing to hold me in the lessor role that I previously filled. The organizational leadership did not choose to bring up the issue, or consider making this change on their own. I have now raised it. Assuming that the renegotiation proceeds as expected, I will be confirmed in the superior role, and will be awarded a compensation commensurate with that role. My question is whether it is appropriate for me to ask the organization to compensate me for the difference in the amount I was paid in the junior role while serving in the role of the superior? In other words, am I owed 'back pay' for stepping up and fulfilling the more challenging role? I believe that there is an argument to be made that the organization may have transgressed several Jewish values and principles in this matter, including Kavod HaBriyot, Yosher, and perhaps even Geneiva. I am asking specifically in regard to Jewish values, not secular law issues here. What is your take on this?
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Question: I've been struggling with attending High Holiday services when I don't believe in God. I grew up Orthodox so the push from my parents to attend is quite strong, but I feel that the services are becoming less meaningful every year. I'm feeling very confused about what I should do: 1) attend services even though I don't find them meaningful because it would make my parents happy, or 2) do something meaningful during that time which pushes me towards my other values in life (friends, helping others, etc.)?
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Question: Is watching pornography hypocritical? Most people watch porn, but when I imagine that my daughter would come to me one day with something like “Dad, I decided to play in porn“ (well, it would probably by a neighbor and not my daughter...), I don't think I could take that (I think that most people couldn't take that) and those “actresses“ are someones' daughters, too. Problem is that when I start to consider pornography to be hypocritical, I start to be judgmental, and since (I think) most people watch porn, it is quite a problem. (Moreover, I think that being judgmental is definitely worse than watching porn). I should probably add that I am a secular Jew, but for most secular people pornography is not a problem, so I ask here.What do Jewish values tell us about this? Thank you for any answers.
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Question: Can a non-Jewish female, who had a Jewish father and who has wholeheartedly embraced Judaism at the age of 50, legally become a prominent member of importance in a national and international Jewish women's organisation? Also can this person be a member of an Orthodox synagogue?
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Question: I live in the US southwest, where there are not a lot of Jews. I was raised in a place where it was the total opposite, and there were synagogues within walking distance. What are some suggestions for developing a closer relationship with G-d in my circumstances? In my opinion, everyone needs to work on their relationship with G-d. It seems funny, but I do not remember ever in Hebrew/religious school learning about the subject of how to develop a relationship with G-d when you already believe in G-d. What does Judaism tell us about this?
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Question: Is a husband obligated to provide for his wife? My husband and I have been married for one year. We are both in our sixties. I agreed to sign a prenup because my husband (who is financially quite comfortable) wanted to protect his estate for his son. I have worked all my life and have always taken care of myself. I earn about half of what my husband does and never inherited any family money. The bottom line is that the prenup became very contentious and I saw the final version at the signing - 48 hours before our wedding. Our guests had already begun arriving. I walked out of the signing and spoke with my attorney who advised that this document was the "best he could do given that my husband started on the process two weeks before our wedding." Against my better judgement, I signed it. Within the first three months of our marriage I wanted it changed. We went to a therapist and he agreed to make changes. There have been continuous fights and multiple promises from him (lies) to make changes.To date, nothing has been done. My fear is that if something happens to him I will not be able to afford to live in the apartment that we presently share. My husband owns the apartment, our prenup stipulated that I pay him rent. EVERYTHING he has goes to his son. I secretly discovered his will- which he refuses to discuss with me. In order to be in compliance with state law he is obligated to leave me something. He is leaving me 2% of his estate and a minimum monthly allowance (administered by his son whom I don't care for) toward the apartment upkeep. Prior to our marriage I was an independent self-supporting woman had an apartment which I could easily afford, lived quite comfortably, and was not dependent on anyone. I gave away most of my furniture, have lost my apartment, and if something happens to my husband will be dependent on the generosity of his son. Even more shocking is that in his will it states, " If I am unable to keep up with the monthly maintenance for the apartment, the estate has the right to evict me in 90 days." My husband and I dated for 5 years prior to our marriage.I lived with him for two of those years although I always kept my own apartment. I saw him as generous of both his time and money to charity, overly generous towards his son, and as a well-liked and respected member of the community both professionally and socially. Until the prenup, I never experienced this side of him or had any indication that he would behave like this. Is this a moral and ethical way to treat one's wife ? What can I do?
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Question: In some apartments and dorm rooms, people are not allowed to have open flames [by regulation or by law, usually for safety considerations]. I have seen many electric Shabbat candles, but not havdalah candles. What does one do to properly end Shabbat if they are not able to light the havdalah candle? Or are there electric havdalah candles available?
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Question: Hello, my name is Gabriela, I am from Argentina. My question is: why G'd created soul mates and then separated them and made them look for each other during their lives? What is the purpose of that? I dont understand.... [How does this fit into Jewish values?] Thank you.
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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: Is “freedom of speech” a Torah/Jewish value as well? Or does Judaism believe that there should be a limit on what we say?
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Question: Please can you help me understand the modern meaning of the word 'chayav' (to be guilty of a transgression / to owe someone something) and give examples. Can you tell me whether such a word appears in the Tanakh (Bible)?
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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: I live in the United States. My brother lives in Israel. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and his life prognosis is between days and months. I work as a teacher and my job would not allow me to take off more than a few days. Also, financially, I cannot afford to go to Israel twice. Therefore, I feel a conflict of mitzvot (commandments). Should I go to visit my brother when he is alive and miss his funeral or should I wait until he passes away and go to the funeral. Which mitzvah is more important and what would you advise me to do in this situation? How do I balance these mitzvot?
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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: 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: If a person advanced money for the care of his mother [parent], can he then say that he wants the whole sum returned, and not agree to be part of a 4 way division of the estate to the four siblings? This would effectively mean that he would not contribute at all towards the costs of the care of his mother, because he is charging his siblings for the cash he forwarded to the estate to pay for the care of his mother. Is that money he does not pay considered interest, and would it be excessive usury (25%) and not allowed? What do Jewish values say about this situation? CLARIFICATION: This is the fuller scenario: My mother a'h' was hospitalized and then sent to a nursing home where we supplied extra aides for the night shift to watch her. It was very costly. I suggested to my 3 siblings that we should sell my mothers house, or take out a mortgage or an equity loan or a reverse mortgage on her home to cover these costs. My brother said no, he would not do that. I pointed out that our mother had a house, social security, some other money, and a rental income from a lease on the first floor of the home, so no one should be responsible to pay from their pocket for her care because she has income and can afford it herself. He (on his own) decided to shell out the cost of her care from his own pocket, rather than take it out of the value of the property. The total bill for expenditure that he gave out from 2004 till 2008 was $300,000 for aides in the home. Now skip to the present. Mother died in 2008. It turns out that my brother had been given a power of attorney over the property, though he did not tell us this. We want to settle the estate. We finally sold the house. He wants the whole sum of money he shelled out paid back to him, before we settle. The result would be that he would not pay his one-fourth share of the $300,000 costs ($300,000 divided by 4=$75,000). He refuses to accept anything less than the $300,000 amount because he shelled out the total amount, and now he says he is exempt from paying his share for the care of my mother. In other words, effectively, he is charging the estate $75,000 dollars for the use of his money, or a fee of one-fourth (25%). Is this legitimate per Jewish law (Halachah)?
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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: How should donors to synagogues be thanked?
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Question: The Torah describes Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) as a holiday based on agricultural themes. How did it come to be a commemoration of Matan Torah (the giving of Torah, Revelation)?
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Question: If we have arrived in a post-racial world, why is intermarriage still apparently a big deal for many people?
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Question: Many good initiatives - like phone-free driving or diets or teen celibacy - are based on the premise of making a pledge. What does Judaism say about these types of promises and pledges, and are there "religious" implications if you breach your pledge?
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Question: If I develop a screenplay/script to a movie, and my friend took my script/screenplay and actually made a movie out of it, without my permission, and if he made money from the movie, what do Jewish laws say that could help me prove that I am the rightful owner of the script and should be paid by my friend?
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Question: Purim (as I understand it) celebrates Jewish victory over enemies who sought to destroy us. We killed a bunch of them before they killed us. Two things: What's with the costumes? And: In this day and age where we actually have a sovereign state with an army, isn't it rather insensitive to celebrate this holiday?
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Question: I work for a web marketing company and I know that they work with casinos, which I don't love, but can live with. However, I just learned that they have taken on a porn site as a client. My job is to build links and it doesn't require me viewing the material. But is it forbidden for me to in any way aid this industry? Or is it just part of my job?
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Question: When was the story of the miracle of the oil to light the lamp first told? Is it true that the story was only first told years later by the rabbis of the time so as to create a role for G-d in the Chanukah story?
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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: The phrase "Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh" means "all Jews (or all the people of Israel) are responsible for one another." What is the best way to interpret this phrase today, that we are all responsible for the world's Jews, or that we are responsible for everyone in the world?
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Question: My grandfather celebrated a second bar mitzvah. Can you explain the reason behind his doing so and if this is a ceremony expected of all Jews of a certain age?
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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: Is it true that music sung for Shabbat services should not be sung for a concert?
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Question: People across the country are up in arms about the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero. The Jewish community, too, seems divided. What sort of Jewish values & teachings should we take into account when determining where we stand on the issue?
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Question: What is Judaism's view on the current same-gender marriage debate? Is Judaism completely against homosexual relationships? Is it for only civil unions? Is it for complete marriage?
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Question: I'm going into the Marines, but I also want to keep Shabbat. How can I do that? What can and can't I do regarding Shabbat pertaining to being a Marine, if I am based in the USA, as well as if I get shipped overseas?
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Question: How can I politely, yet firmly, explain to Christians that their faith does not supercede mine; the Hebrew Bible is not merely the "Old Testament" and that Jews are not simply Christians without Jesus? I am concerned with Derekh Eretz (proper behavior), but also with clearly stating the validity of my views and beliefs.
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Question: What does Judaism say about intermarriage? What if the couple intends to raise their child to be Jewish?
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