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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Cy Stanway

Question: My father's last words were that he never wanted to see my sister again. I never told my sister about this, but my sister's last act was to have herself buried next to my father without consulting me. I feel that I should commemorate my father by placing some barrier or inscription between his gave and hers. How would I do that?
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Question: I have a question regarding a charitable endeavor my shul is involved in. For many years, we have hosted homeless guests (from a nearby shelter) for a week in our building. About three years ago, we started taking them in during the week of Christmas. Our homeless guests are non-Jews, and we have had a Christmas tree placed in our building for them. We have even brought in a "Santa Claus" to pay a visit to the children. As we are a Conservative congregation, there are, naturally, members who oppose the tree and other signs of Christmas in the shul building. I am one of those who also dislike the practice, however, I continue to volunteer to care for our guests. But I wonder, are we going too far, in terms of the Christmas celebrations? Our rabbi states that we shouldn't take offense because, after all, many of the symbols connected with this holiday are from pagan origins, rather than being specifically connected with Jesus. Personally, I view that (pagan symbols) as being just as bad, perhaps even worse! It is my opinion that we should go back to hosting the homeless on a week other than that involving the Christmas holiday. This would solve the problem about causing offense to some of our more traditionally-minded congregants (regarding the tree and Santa). I was wondering what your take on this situation might be.
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Question: Hello rabbi, I will apologize ahead of time for the words I'm about to write. I'm 14 years old, and from what I know masturbation is against Jewish law, but I find it really hard not to do so when my body really demands it. Maybe I could do it one last time because I haven't done so in three months. Please tell me what I can do that is acceptable within Jewish law and thought. [Admin Note: A similar question was answered on Jewish Values Online previously; see - http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=153.]
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Question: I'm a single male Jew, 35 years old, well established in my career. I am now at the point where I am considering dating for marriage. I know intermarrying is wrong. However, I am terrified of dating a Jewish girl for fear her family would inevitably discover my entire family is dead, and that I would be by definition be a poor choice for suitor into any good family. All grandparents are dead. My father died of old age, my mother and sister committed suicide (presumably due to abuse by father). I've had my share of abuse by father as well, which has affected me. I've been nonobservant and have not gone to synagogue for the entire past decade just to avoid being reminded of the hurt. I've engaged in a lot of therapy, which has helped me to hear, an that is why I am even considering dating at all. Do I just throw up my hands, tell myself I am not fit to marry, and just live for work? Or would the other side be at all understanding of my background and situation? What should I do and how can I balance the mitzvot to marry and have a family, against my situation which makes me question if I can be a decent spouse and parent and fulfill the obligations to a family?
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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: My parents used to take me to visit my grandparents. It seems that today children want their parents to come to their home to see the grandkids .Must I visit my son's home to see his children? Should they not visit me with their kids? I was recently told "you know where we live," as if it is my obligation to go to them to see the grandkids. What does Judaism say about this?
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Question: Sometimes, when I sin, I know its because I have not fully explored the deepest meaning possible of what lies at the heart of the transgression, yet at the same time, it also draws me closer to HaShem, because I realise how weak I am before HaShem; my pride is taken from me in that lowly state. Rabbi Nachman said something about one having to begin again and again. I find that by having to return to the beginning, I gain a deeper insight into the nature of the matter yet feel this is paradoxical, for I also need to not return to that sin. Any advice please?
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Question: What is the connection between the Land of Israel, the natural cycle, and Jewish practice? Especially for Jews living outside the land of Israel, is this still important?
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Question: What is structured (fixed) prayer all about in Judaism? Can’t we just speak directly to Hashem (G-d) in our own words and language?
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Question: My father died suddenly 10 days ago. What are my obligations or what is custom for an adult daughter to be doing after sitting shiva? Thank you in advance for your help.
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Question: Does penetration by any part of a male into any part of a female make the status of the girl change for her ketubah (marriage contract) in Jewish law or thought?
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Question: Do you think we have we lost sight of the “original” tragedy of Tisha B’Av – the destruction of the Temple – in all of the more “modern” tragedies? Or is it supposed to be this way, since 9 Av is our national day of mourning, perhaps it’s natural that the tragedies of long ago are mourned less and less as time goes on.
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Question: I'm a Russian Jew. I see myself as Jewish, even though I don't live Jewishly. I practice Buddhism, have non-Jewish boyfriends, and think that believing in G-d the way prayers show me makes man into a weak and helpless being. And yet I feel united with all Jewish women through the centuries when I light Chanukah candles, get liberated from Egypt and certain personal slaveries each Pesach (even though I don't keep any Pesach mitzvoth), and etc. It hurts me to feel that I would not be accepted as I am by other Jews. I don't want to comply and be "a good Jewish girl" just for the sake of it - it's not the kind of life I see for myself. Yet I want to find my place among my people and I don't know where it is... What can you tell me to help me? How can I find a way to fit into Judaism?
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Question: What does the Jewish quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel "wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge" mean?
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Question: I will start sitting shiva at my brother's house and conclude it in my own. Is it permissible to bring some of the food to my house?
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Question: What is the Jewish perspective on the illegal immigration crisis in Israel? The Torah commands us to care for the foreigners and immigrants among us. Does that extend to illegal immigrants? Is it right to send them back, as is happening now, or are we obligated to take them in and help them?
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Question: Is it okay for a Jewish woman to wear short shorts, spaghetti straps, or bikinis? What concerns might there be as far as Jewish values? Is the answer different in the various denominations or movements of Judaism?
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Question: I would like to convert to Judaism. My fiance is Muslim. He fully supports my decision to convert and has agreed to raise any children we may have Jewish, although he does not want to abandon his own religion. Is this a problem? May I convert in this situation?
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Question: I'm a bit overwhelmed in trying to sort out the various Jewish beliefs about the afterlife (I'm 61 and terrified). The overarching idea seems to be: Don't worry about it so much; Judaism emphasizes doing good works on Earth and that should be our focus. Well, maybe so. But having studied it all, I trust, have you reached any firm conclusions? I cannot bear the thought that this is all there is and all that implies. The Christians have such simple answers and feel-good stories---Judaism is hard. What can you tell me about this?
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Question: What does Judaism say about dating? In modern society people commonly lead to marriage through dating. Is there a different prescribed method in Judaism? [Administrators note: See also related JVO question: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=618]
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Question: A married friend confided that she had an affair with a colleague. They had full contact and pleasured each other sexually - completely, but short of intercourse. She now feels very bad about it and has left that workplace, as well as terminated the relationship. Her husband has no idea that anything was amiss. She wonders about the following: Is she obligated to inform him? Is she considered an adulteress? What is the status of her marriage? What can she do for teshuva?
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Question: From a Jewish view, what is the true name of G_d? It is my understanding that one name was given to Abraham and another to Moses. Can you please clarify this for me? As an example of the confusion, in the KJV (Christian bible, King James Version) there are three spellings of G_d, LORD and Lord and they each seem to have different meanings. So is there one true name of G_d to call upon and to pray to? Thank you for your response.
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Question: I am dating a non-Jewish man who I love deeply. I'm still a virgin but thinking about having sex sometime soon. I still want to marry a Jew in the end, so if I've had sex with a non-Jew, will a Jew still marry me or would I be considered tainted?
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Question: My father is Jewish, my mother had a Catholic upbringing but doesn't identify with a religion. I was raised Jewish and had a Bat Mitzvah in a Reform synagogue at age 12. In order to be recognized as Jewish in a Conservative or other Jewish communities, should I "convert to Judaism?" Or does the fact that I've been deemed a Jewish adult by the Reform community count me as Jewish for these other communities?
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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: Lack of rain in Israel used to be a death sentence for its inhabitants—no water to drink, no crops, etc. Now, with modern technology (such as desalinization plants), a lack of rain is serious, but no longer life-threatening. Should we still institute fast days during a dry winter?
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Question: I would like to address with my 8th grade class the recent articles and reports that workers at iPad factories in China are mistreated. What is our obligation as Jews? Should we boycott? Protest? Write letters? How should we seek justice? I could use some specific quotes from sources that will assist me in pointing them to how we should consider this issue as Jews. Thanks.
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Question: I know this has been asked before, but my situation seems "impossible" though I believe with G-d all things can be done! I am a married woman, currently Catholic, married to a devout Catholic man with six devout Catholic children. I KNOW I am supposed to be Jewish. I cannot any longer set aside G-d's calling, much like He called Samuel and after three tries or so, Samuel finally realizes that it is G-d who is calling him. I desperately want to convert and am now, after all this time ready. My husband will be supportive and will come with me to classes, though I am not certain he will convert. The children will be another story. Can we lead two lives--them a Catholic life and me a Jewish life--but as a family celebrate both? (Though I will choose not to participate at Mass or rosary or anything Christian-related). I pray and hope with all my heart that this is possible.
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Question: According to political experts, the social protest movements in the U.S. lack clear demands and strong leadership. Should Jewish leaders stay on the sidelines or help lead?
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Question: Is it okay to shave your face with a razor instead of an electric shaver? I understand the electric shaver acts more like scissors than a blade, but I also understand the Halachah (Jewish laws) pertaining to this custom is intended to avoid a pagan practice. I used a razor for years, and changed to the electric shaver - the razor was much more efficient. Can you explain this, and comment on why it is so - what is the reason for this practice in Judaism, and is it universal?.
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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: My parents are quick to disbelieve any medical issues I have, and often get angry when I seek treatment. They think I'm a hypochondriac, though I usually only seek medical attention after I'm sick enough that my friends start to get worried. This came to a head last summer, when I was suffering from clinical depression. My mother vehemently argued with me about whether I was depressed and told me not to get counseling, when I was in fact suicidal, and those arguments drove me further into depression & towards hurting myself. I'm seeing a therapist now, and the mental issues are clearing up. However, I'm still in a bind about how to deal with my parents. I know that honoring your father & mother is a mitzvah, but how do I honor my parents when listening to them -- or, sometimes, even speaking with them at all -- can be hurtful or even dangerous? What can Jewish values, ethics and law tell me about how to handle this?
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Question: When I was young, I was abused by my father. My mother, who knew, did nothing. Must I still honor them?
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Question: When placing a Menorah in a high rise lobby are there Jewish rules that need adhering to? Should it stand alone? Does it need to be placed on a white cloth? There seem to be some discrepancies among the residents in our building.
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Question: I am taking a college course on Politics and Religion. Why don't Jews, like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and other faiths go out and spread the word?
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Question: What is your view on child marriages?
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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: My girlfriend believes that she is Jewish, but actually only her father was Jewish. She did not commit yet to undergo conversion. Meanwhile, I try to convince her that she needs to go to mikvah every month, but my friend told me that there is no point in her going to mikvah until she is fully Jewish. Please advise. Thank you.
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Question: How are we supposed to feel sad about the destruction of the Temple? It happened so long ago – are we also supposed to feel saddened about the Jews’ enslavement in Egypt?
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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: I am a stock trader, and I want to live a balanced life of spirituality, wealth, and joy. In my field, the primary measure of success is the money that is made. However, is there a limit to how "successful" one should be? That is, if I am able to live a well-balanced life, is it ok for me to be driven to make more and more money? It's clear that if money takes you away from all the other important things in life then you become a slave to it and that is indeed very bad; but what if you are able to live a very balanced life and simply strive to make more and more as a consequence of your desire to strive for more success and abundance?
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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: Are any of the considerations of granting a Kashrut certificate things like humanitarian treatment of the animals prior to slaughter? Good treatment of workers in the factory? Etc? How can you have kosher goose liver pate, for example? Isn't that an internal contradiction?
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Question: Are we, the Jewish people, doing enough to help the aging population of Holocaust survivors?
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Question: Passover is around the corner and I was wondering how much of the pre-Passover madness is really necessary. Must we really Spring Clean like the Good Housekeeping ladies, or is getting rid of bread and cookies enough? And as to the products in the stores - my goodness!! I feel a little bit like the holiday has become a corporate festival, commercialized like Christmas. Is there an answer to the madness??
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Question: What is the Jewish response - besides of course helping those in need - to environmental tragedy, like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan? For starters - How do we understand a God who wreaks this kind of havoc on His creations?
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Question: A colleague (actually by now a friend) slightly below me on the company totem pole is about to get really unfairly screwed over (excuse my language) by another colleague, his direct boss. I know about it, but I am not supposed to know about it. I could say something, but I could easily get in trouble because it will be obvious it was me. However, if I do, he may be able to preempt the worst of it. Are there any Jewish ethics to guide me here?
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Question: Why are there no "kashrut" standards imposed on products that are good vs bad for the environment? Shouldn't aluminum pans and non-bio-degradable plasticware be "treif"?
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Question: Is there an obligation for every Jew to visit Israel (at least once, if not annually....), particularly now that it is no longer an arduous journey? If not - why not???
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Question: My teenage son’s teacher (a young rabbi) has a Facebook account, where he jokes around with students, friends, and colleagues. He is a personable guy and has never posted anything truly inappropriate, but I still feel this level of familiarity and ‘jocularity’ with a teacher erodes boundaries. Am I simply being Old School? Or is there something strange about it?
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Question: What does Jewish law say about coping with spousal addiction to cybersex for 10 years in a 20 year marriage? (The addict was deceitful and betrayed trust.)
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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: If I know that a friend's husband is having an online "fling" - only online - is it my responsibility to tell her, the way I would if I knew about an actual affair? Or is there a difference?
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Question: When does reproof cross the line into criticism - regarding diaspora Jews and Israel in particular?
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