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[…]

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[…]