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),[…]

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[…]

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[…]

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,[…]

Mitzva Exemption

From: Edward Dear Rabbi, There are many situations where one is in the midst of fulfilling one mitzva, when another mitzva then presents itself. For example, in the middle of prayer, someone asks for charity. Does one have to fulfill the second mitzva, or is he exempt on account of being involved in the fulfillment[…]

Miriam in Egypt

From: Maria Dear Rabbi, Thank you for answering my question about who Miriam was and the meaning of her name. I found your answer to be fascinating, and if you don’t mind I’d like to know more. Could you please tell me about her life and her role in the Torah? This is a continuation[…]