Befit to Bless

From: Dennis Dear Rabbi, In our shul, there are kohanim who I am sure are not observant and who even transgress in public. I am wondering if they are allowed to perform the priestly blessing for the community, or if their blessing might be a curse, G‑d forbid. Dear Dennis, This question should rightly be[…]

Karet

From: Misha Dear Rabbi, Would you please explain the Torah punishment of “karet”? Dear Misha, The word karet means to be “cut off”. According to the classic Torah commentator Rabbeinu Bachya, Rabbi Bachya ben Asher ibn Halawa 1255-1340 (not to be confused with R’ Bachya ben Joseph ibn Paquda, author of Duties of the Heart,[…]

Blessing over Bad

From: Gil Dear Rabbi, I recently came across the concept of blessing G‑d over bad things that happen to a person just as one would do for good things that happen. What does this mean? Dear Gil, The concept you are referring to is based on a teaching of the Sages which states (Berachot 60a),[…]

Prophets of Passover

From: Felice Dear Rabbi, Moses, Aaron and Miriam play such a central role in the Exodus. Are they featured in any way in the Haggada? Dear Felice, You are correct that all three siblings – Moses, Aaron and Miriam – brought about the Redemption from Egypt. This is as in the verse, “For I brought[…]

Rest in Peace

From: Joseph Dear Rabbi, What is the source and significance of erecting a tombstone and what purpose does it fulfill for the deceased? Dear Joseph, One source in the Torah for erecting a tombstone over the grave is found regarding the death and burial of Rachel: “So Rachel died, and she was buried on the[…]

Judaism or Judah-ism

From: Motti Dear Rabbi, Does the term “Judaism”, and hence the term “Jews”, come from the name of the Tribe of Judah? If so, why would the name be taken from that tribe as opposed to any of the other tribes? Or maybe the term “Judaism” does not come specifically from Judah? Dear Motti, It[…]

Facade of Fury

From: David Dear Rabbi, I have learned that the reason for the decree against the Jews in the Purim story is that they partook of the feast of Achashverosh. Yet, I have also learned that the king had kosher food and kosher wine served for the Jews at his feast. If so, what was the[…]

Matrilineal Descent

From: Nathan Dear Rabbi, What is the source of matrilineal descent in Judaism? Dear Nathan, The Mishna (Kidushin 66b) states that if a child’s mother is not Jewish, the child is not Jewish. The ensuing Gemora (Kidushin 68b) explains that this is derived from a verse within the Torah’s prohibition of intermarriage: “And you shall[…]