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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Dr. Natan Ophir

Question: I have been raised a Roman Catholic my entire life. I have always loved the Jewish faith and customs. I have recently discovered that my mother and her parents and her entire ancestry were Jewish. They converted to Christianity to avoid persecution in Poland before coming to America. I now have a whole history, culture and way of being that I was unaware of. I want to study and learn more of Judaism. I do not yet know if I want to convert. What should I do? Thank you for your answer. Eleanor
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Question: What is the 'Carlebachian legacy'? I have heard that Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach was an Orthodox Rabbi who brought tens of thousands to Orthodoxy through music and stories. I read recently that Neshama Carlebach, the daughter of Carlebach, announced that she has made aliyah to Reform Judaism. What can you say about the Carlebach legacy, if there is one? [Administrator's note: Shlomo Carlebach was a popular singer and storyteller. Some said Orthodox, others Hasidic. You can find his music and much more about his music and life in an online search. In the interests of full disclosure, one of the panelists who is responding to this question has authored a book on Carlebach.]
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Question: I have a question about names. I am converting to Judaism, and my mikvah date is in just a few weeks. I have been exploring Judaism and learning for about 3 years. I have already picked a Hebrew name, which my rabbi at the time began to call me by. I found that I liked being called my Hebrew name, and began to use that name rather than my birth name/English name. I don't ask my parents or siblings to refer to me by my Hebrew name, though they know I use it. I want to legally change my first name to my Hebrew name. However, a friend suggested that maybe this would be disrespectful to my father, who named me for his deceased mother. My friend made the case that even though my English name is not a Jewish one, since my parents followed the Jewish tradition of naming for a deceased relative, I should not legally change my name. Is it disrespectful to my father to change my name? What is the Jewish perspective on name changes?
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Question: Both my parents are Jewish. I live as a Jew, embrace Jewish values and culture, and believe in Jesus as the Messiah. I identify as a Messianic Jew. My question: Most rabbis dispute the validity of my faith and assert that I have lost my right to be called a Jew. I am troubled and perplexed by this prejudice. Why is there an empathetic understanding towards Messianic Chabadniks or Jewish Buddhists (JUBUs) but not towards Messianic Jews? Why am I ostracized while secular, atheist and non-believing Jews are accepted? [Administrator's note: A very similar question was posted and answered at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=139. Messianics are not Jews by the definition of any branch of Judaism.]
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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: What are the Jewish values associated with pollution? [Administrator's note: related questions can be found on JVO at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=117 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=295 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=293 and http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=598.]
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Question: My beloved mother, 97 years old, is in intensive care in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I am in Canada, and also sick with bronchitis. My question is: if she seems to be ready to pass (go to olam habah) and wants me to come see her before that happens, but I am not able to go, what should I do. [What obligations do I have to honor my mother's wishes when it affects my own health?]
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Question: What are the differences (if any) between an Orthodox (Traditional) marriage ceremonies and a Progressive (Liberal) marriage ceremony?
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Question: In the Bedtime Shema, (Artscroll Sefard Edition), the opening verse says: "I hereby forgive anyone..." but ends with "I forgive every Jew." Why does it not say "... and every Gentile?" Ultimately, all come from HaShem and all require forgiveness. Why not carry through the universality?
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Question: My wife and I have no sexual relations, which I find frustrating. Masturbating has become the norm. I feel that divorce may be necessary, because I am missing the closeness of a relationship. I am Jewish and she is not. What do you advise?
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Question: Just wondering if there is a simple and appropriate prayer for friendship. I teach preschool and I was hoping to find a prayer of thanks to others for their friendship.
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Question: What is structured (fixed) prayer all about in Judaism? Cant we just speak directly to Hashem (G-d) in our own words and language?
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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: 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: 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: I am an avid meditator, and given that the eastern meditative techniques are so prevalent, I have grown accustomed to doing certain "chakra meditations." However, the Chakras are an eastern concept, and Judaism has the sefirot. So for a Jewish soul, do the Chakras exist? Or, do we use the sefirot instead because our souls and bodies resonate with a different divine energy altogether?
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Question: Is the divide between the ultra-Orthodox and other denominations (modern orthodox, conservative and reform) too great to promote a better understanding and respect between each other?
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Question: Why do [most] synagogues around the world position the Torah ark so that the congregants face in the direction of Jerusalem? What is the source for the spiritual concept that prayers do not ascend directly to heaven but rather go first to the Jerusalem Temple and from there upwards [if this is the concept]?
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Question: What is your view on child marriages?
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Question: Is it wrong if I have no desire to live in Israel? I like my friends, family, community, job, etc. where I am now. I support Israeli causes, but I have absolutely no desire to pick up and live there
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Question: It is important to light Shabbat candles, but my husband comes home too late on Fridays to do this before sundown. What should we do?
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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: Do you think that sometimes there are things that a person should simply not do because it would compromise their beliefs too much? Or is there always a workaround?
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Question: Do you think we have we lost sight of the original tragedy of Tisha BAv 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 its natural that the tragedies of long ago are mourned less and less as time goes on.
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Question: Do you think rabbis and educators in the Jewish community should take a more active role in sex education to newlyweds in light of stories coming forth about couples who cant consummate their marriage because of certain painful gynecologic conditions?
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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: 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: 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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THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN ANSWERS PROVIDED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL JVO PANEL MEMBERS, AND DO NOT
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