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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Rachel Ain

Question: We often hear after a tragedy, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” What does it mean that "our prayers are with you," in particular after one loses a limb due to a spineless terrorist attack against innocent civilians? The innocent person's life is changed forever. What does this mean in Judaism?
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Question: I am an Orthodox Jew and all in my family are Orthodox too. Recently the man I am dating told me that whilst his father is Jewish, his maternal grandmother converted to Judaism through the Liberal Movement, which technically means he is not Jewish according to Orthodox halachah. He attended a Jewish elementary school, works for a Reform Synagogue and considers himself to be Jewish. Indeed, he has a stronger Jewish identity than many people I know who are halachically Jewish! I know that if we were to get married our children would technically be Jewish, through me, but I still have concerns such as: Would we be able to have an Orthodox Jewish wedding? Would my Synagogue call him up/give him a aliyah (honor of being called to the Torah) were he to visit one Shabbat? Would he be counted in a Minyan (quorum for prayer), etc? Are there any other practical implications I haven't thought of that I need to consider? This is a very difficult subject for him as he is quite sensitive about not being recognised as Jewish by other Jews.
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Question: My wife's aunt just died. I have resolved to only attend funerals of my closest family members (father, mother, sister, brother, and those with whom I have had a very close relationship). Must I attend my "aunt-in-law's funeral?
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Question: If a Jewish lady (or really anyone) will be away from home for the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), and cannot attend services, what are the repercussions, if any, Is this a problem in regard to Jewish values or morals? Thank you.
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Question: I am a Jewish woman, as my mother is Jewish. My father is not Jewish. I was raised as a Conservative Jew. I am in a relationship with a modern orthodox man who is a Cohen (a descendant of Aaron, one of the High Priests). We want to marry, but we have been told there are restrictions on him marrying me, because in addition to other restrictions on Cohanim (High Priests), one of the restricted classes of women for Cohanim are those whose fathers are not Jewish. Can you please clarify this for me? Is this true? I have done a lot of reading and I keep seeing the restrictions for widow, divorcee, convert, but not for a Jewish woman whose father was not Jewish. Since my mother is Jewish and Judaism is a matrilineal religion - and I have read in some places Judaism doesn't even recognize the religion of the father - I am Jewish. If it is true that one of the marriage restrictions of the Cohanim is to a woman whose father is not Jewish, can you please advise on what we can do in our situation to marry?
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Question: Is it acceptable to read instead of chant Torah for a public reading? When a person celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah wants to read Torah or haftarah instead of learning the chant, what can one say other than "It's tradition!"
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Question: What is the major blockage to women entering the rabbinate, if any, in each movement? Why does it differ between them?
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Question: Is it wrong to look for the “what’s in it for me” aspect of Torah observance? After all, God Himself gave the Jews selfish reasons to follow His Torah. Why shouldn’t I base my observance on what I enjoy or find meaningful?
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Question: I often see guests at simchas (celebrations) waste so much food, putting mounds on their plate. We seem to take more than we need. Should we be promoting a more responsible balance between hospitality and waste?
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Question: It seems that often, in the Jewish community, mental illness is hushed up and not spoken about. Do we have an obligation to report to social services (or elsewhere) a member of our community that we feel needs professional psychiatric help? What is the best course of action to report a member of the Jewish community that seem to be mentally unstable? Should we report this to our community Rabbi, Jewish Family Services, public social services, the police? Where is the line between hurting someone with Lashon hara and helping to prevent tragedies?
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Question: Is it true that Orthodox [and other] Jews are not allowed to hear a woman's singing voice? Does this rule out broadway shows, opera, and concerts? A woman's voice seems rather innocuous...what's the deal? How can this be so if Judaism values women so highly?
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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: If I get a tax return refund for (having given) charity, can I consider myself as having tithed? Or should I re-tithe the return?
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Question: My father is near death, and among many anxieties I'm going through is the feeling of dread at having to arrange the funeral etc. I know this seems trifling considering what my dad's going through, but I'm also terrified of speaking in front of a gathering; I'll have to say something at the funeral...will it be OK if I just say I LOVED MY FATHER VERY MUCH, AND I MISS HIM TERRIBLY, then walk off the dais? Or do I have to mention this and that...Sorry, I'm "Fahklumpt" at the moment.
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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: A neighbor is going through a really hard time after both members of the couple lost their jobs last year. What is a community’s responsibility towards its own members? Does this trump other, broader giving (like to umbrella organizations) when triage must be done? Does it change your answer if I tell you that this neighbor is not Jewish?
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Question: Are there any Jewish laws or ethics that govern salaries in non-profits?
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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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