(photo credit: Courtesy Yaakov S. Cohen)
JPost.com is happy to announce the launch of its newest Ask the Expert column -- Ask the Rabbi, in cooperation with Rabbi Chaim Brovender, president of the ATID Foundation (www.atid.org) and Rosh Yeshiva of Web Yeshiva.
To read more about Rabbi Brovender, click here for Jerusalem Post columnist Barbara Sofer's June 22, 2007 article titled, "The Human Spirit: Synthesizing past and present," in which she details the Rabbi's achievements.
Or click here for the recent "In Jerusalem" profile.
Send us your questions
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Q: Hello, I am a young Jewish woman who is planning on building a life and a family with a Catholic man. He is not observant of his own religion, but wishes to remain Catholic out of respect for his parents. I also don't want him to convert to Judaism, as this is not who he really is, and I love him as he is.
We have talked it over many times, and our children will be Jewish (according to the halacha, since their mother is Jewish), but will also receive a Jewish upbringing and Jewish education and be Jews in all aspects. They will receive their Israeli nationality from me and will learn Hebrew and Ahavat Israel just as I did.
Considering this, and that our union will not stop the perpetuation of the Jewish people, is there any way that we could have a Jewish wedding? Is there any synagogue or rabbi who would accept to marry a "mixed" couple in the Jewish tradition? I want the Chuppah and the breaking of the glass and the Sheva Brachot and the Ketubah for my children to prove their mother was Jewish and to hear the words "Betabaat zo harey at..." said to me. Is this at all possible for me?
A: I think that marriage should be the way we solve our problems in life and not a way to organize incipient tragedy. When Jews and non-Jews marry it is almost always disastrous.
Even in Israel where identity is not soley based on religion, being the child of a non Jew who lives in the country, may not be pleasant. I mention this only because it is so difficult to evaluate the long-term effect on yourself and your children. It is true that a Jewish mother produces Jewish children, but a non Jewish father represents another world and tradition. Israelis are not always sensitive and accepting.
I understand that honoring his parents wishes is important, but for the sake of your children perhaps it would be wise to consider conversion.
Everything would be more relaxed.
Q: Dear Rabbi, one of Hashem's statements, require us to make sure, that we (The Jewish people) enlighten the world and also to teach the world about the ten commandments or at least the seven statements that all peoples must follow. Why do we not do this? After all this is one of the duties that we must do as his chosen people.
A: It is true that we are supposed to teach the world about the Torah, especially its morality and the seven mizvot that all the people of the world are obliged to follow. However, our position in the world, or at least in the places that we found ourselves, has not always lent itself to teaching the others. In fact we had to make sure that no one would think that we were operating from some position of
superiority and try to affect others with our theories and conclusions. Nevertheless, we have managed to convey certain truths to a large majority of the world population. This is the truth of Christianity and of Islam, both influenced by Judaism
In our time things have changed a bit and we are more willing to take a stand, and have even begun to teach the seven noachide commandments
energetically. Habad has such a program, as do other groups. Nevertheless, it is only the beginning. At the present time, our manifold difficulties prevent us from applying energy to the issue.
Q: With the desire to be more inclusive and consider the needs of the disabled, is it permissible to have a blind person read Torah as Baal Koreh?
A: The question of giving a blind man an aliya, the honor of reading a part of the Torah portion for shabbat, has been discussed in many
responses. The primary source is the shulchan aruch, 139, 3 where R Yosef Karo states: a blind person does not read from the Torah since
it is forbidden to read even one letter by heart. The Rema adds that today the blind person can get an aliya just as we give aliyot to
ignorant persons who nay not be able to read Hebrew. Since we have a chazzan who reads the Torah, someone who knows the words, and is able
to see them well, it is possible to allow someone who doesn't understand or who doesn't see the letters to get an Aliya. This person is included by the principle of Shomea Ke-one.
It would seem that even if the blind person knew the Torah reading by heart he would not be able to read for the zibbur, for the community
in shul. I am not sure that this has much to do with being inclusive and in order to consider the needs of the disabled. Could you make
and argument for having a person who could not speak become the chazzan in the shul that you attend?
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Q: I have been extremely confused and disgusted at the attitude of certain rabbinical authorities both in Israel and abroad in their refusal to recognize the legal status of other orthodox rabbinical conversions or to call into question the Jewishness of the converts.
As far as I was aware, conversion according to Torah precepts cannot subsequently be undone even if the convert stops leading an orthodox life. In such a case he or she should be treated as an errant Jew as long as the original conversion was honestly entered into. As I understand, one is even forbidden to remind a convert of his non-Jewish origins. I personally see this trend as a Challul Hashem and wish to know what your attitude is to this.
A: Mr Altman
We live in troubled times. We all know that the people who call themselves conservative or reform or sometimes non-believers, are often very nice people. Further they are often people who try to lead ethical and productive lives, educate their children carefully, and often preserve some of the traditions of our people. As a result, it is difficult to dislike them and what they stand for.
On the other hand I would find it difficult to eat in their homes or to trust a kashrut organization that they organized. After all, it is hard to maintain the standard when you don't think that it is really not important. I would not like to depend on people who don't eat kosher food themselves to be responsible for the kashrut in the kitchen that I am eating from.
This is not to say that they are purposefully wicked, only that they are less devoted to the matter that they think is unnecessary and superfluous.
Conversion needs a Rabbinical court to determine if the candidate is worthy. The court needs judges who believe in the process, and respect the Torah completely. If this is not the case, it is hard to imagine that the court can be trusted.
Sometimes the issues become confused. The strategic with the tactical. A person might think that the multiplicity of conversion courts might be a problem even though the courts might be performing properly since there is no guarantee about the standards in the future. Unfortunately this often leads to confusion and at times to injustice. We have to pray that people who honestly convert will not be dealt with in an unfortunate manner.
Q: Rabbi, you said that if the Dome of the Rock was destroyed, Israel would have to rebuild it because it is an ancient ruin. What about the Temple that was destroyed in 70 A.D.? Why can't you build the Temple beside The Dome? That's the rightful place. Actually, the whole mount is where the Temple was.
A: I don't think I said that we would have to rebuild the Dome of the Rock because that is the right thing to do. However, we find ourselves in a strange position. We know what is right, but our closest allies may not see things in a similar vein. The US is very strong in its backing of Israel, but would also like to defuse the animosity that exits between the west and Islam. Destroying the Dome of the Rock would not help in that effort. Our allies have different agendas. Some are closer to ours and some are further away. We have to always be on guard that we navigate between these various interests successfully.
Q: Do husband and wife reunite after death?
A: The details of what happens after death are beyond my competence. I have to say that I don't know. However, the Rambam when considering life after death speaks of it as an experience of the spirit. The souls of the departed are granted access to the spirit which is Hashem and this is the most wondrous thing that the Rambam can imagine. I think that spiritual unity with G-d may even outdo being reunited (in some way) with one's spouse; but who knows.
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Q: What does the Rabbi propose we do about the growing number of religious and secular singles over the age of 35 years old who do not marry, may not marry or get married and divorced then become disillusioned with marriage? Why are our rabbis silent on this issue confronting our Jewish community?
A: You ask about divorce in our times and the responsibility of the rabbis.
Everyone is responsible to change the general feeling that marriage and family are not such serious endeavors. Rabbis naturally find themselves on the front line of this battle, and they are not always appropriate or successful. The fact that a person has studied Torah and can deal with certain intricacies on the page of gemara doesn't mean that he is a natural guidance person. Every person, including the rabbis, have to learn their own shortcomings, try to improve, and most important to send the clients to the competent professional.
No one can do more.
Q: If David was not strong enough to wear the armor of King Saul then where did he get the strength to lift the sword of Goliath?
A: The verse that describes David's attemt to wear King Saul's armor is 1Sam 17 39. it is translated (Koren) as follows.
"And David girded his sword upon his armor and he essayed to go; but he had not tried it out. And David said to Shaul: I cannot walk with these; for I have not tried them. And David put them off him."
It is possible that this refers to the fact that the armor was too heavy for David; Shaul was very big and David was still a younger and smaller man. If that is the case then it seems odd that David tried to wear the armor. I should have been clear to him that there would not be a :"fit". Another possibility is that David knew that Shaul did not really want to see David wearing his armor which were also a kind of princely raiment. Therefore David cleverly protested saying that his could not live up to the standard demanded by Shaul's armor.