Three Steps

From: Kenneth Dear Rabbi, I have seen people pray at the Western Wall, and I’ve noticed they seem to step back or step forward during prayer, and I’m wondering if you could explain to me that aspect of the Jewish prayer. With all due respect, thank you. Dear Kenneth, Most of the formal Jewish prayer[…]

Tu b’Shevat Bounty

From: Alison Dear Rabbi, On Tu b’Shevat we celebrate the bounty of the Land of Israel. But If the Land of Israel is supposed to be flowing with milk and honey, why don’t we see that kind of abundance in the Land of Israel today? Dear Alison, First of all, while Israel may not be[…]

Scents and Sensibility

From: Maya Dear Rabbi, What is the Jewish perspective on perfume for women or cologne for men, and when, or when not, are they considered appropriate? Dear Maya, From the Jewish perspective, the use of “perfume” in its many forms is considered simultaneously feminine and sensual. That means that it is considered appropriate only when[…]

Life Before Death

From: Andrew Dear Rabbi, My uncle recently passed away after a prolonged illness and many of those who were close to him who accompanied him throughout his illness, hospice and death noticed an elevated, spiritual “feeling” that surrounded him which strangely seemed to increase as he got more and more sick. Another thing we noticed[…]

Leniently Stringent

From: Gavriel Dear Rabbi, I am wondering when it is appropriate to act upon “chumrot” [stringencies] and when it is not. Is it ever forbidden to be stringent even though being lenient would compromise one’s standard of observance? Dear Gavriel, Following “chumrot” (stringencies) and being “machmir” (being stringent) is a very delicate matter. For one,[…]

Yearly Usages

From: Ryan Dear Rabbi, Is it OK to use the non-Jewish system of counting years, or must we use specifically the Jewish year? Dear Ryan, The Jewish year is based on the Torah’s reckoning of the passage of years from Creation. Using this system of counting the years thus recognizes the existence of G‑d, the[…]

On the Button

From: Phil Dear Rabbi, If a button unexpectedly pops off a garment on Shabbat, is it permitted to pick it up in order to save it to sew it back on after Shabbat, or does it become “muktze” and thereby forbidden to handle on Shabbat? I don’t see why it would be forbidden, but a[…]

Smacks of Slander

From: Melanie Dear Rabbi, There are two people I know who are not on good terms. In my opinion, one is the antagonist who makes up false accusations about the other. The antagonist, let’s call her A, was part of a group conversation where the other, let’s call her B, was mentioned. I took the[…]