Just Ask asktherabbi.org

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Question: What is “Holocaust Remembrance Day” and when is it this year? AskTheRabbi.org answered: The official date for “Holocaust Remembrance Day” — “Yom HaShoah” in Hebrew — is the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. It commemorates the millions of Jewish people who were murdered during the Holocaust. This year, 2018, it is observed on Thursday the 27th of Nissan, which is on April 12th. (On other years, if this date is ...

Read More
Just Ask asktherabbi.org

“Count Up”: From Pesach to Shavuot

Question: Why is the idea behind the mitzvah to count the days during the seven weeks from Pesach to Shavuot? AskTheRabbi.org answered: When you look forward to something very much, when you fix your gaze on a special moment in the future, you count the days to that event. When the Jewish People left Egypt, even though their new-found freedom was very sweet to them, their gaze was fixed on a moment that ...

Read More
Just Ask asktherabbi.org

Four Children — Four Generations

Question: Rabbi, what is the significance of speaking about the four types of sons (children) at the Passover Seder? Thank you and happy Passover! AskTheRabbi.org answered: Good question! By speaking of the four types of children — wise, wicked (or wayward), simple and ‘one who doesn’t know to ask’ — the author of the Haggadah teaches us about the responsibility and privilege that each generation has in its mission of Jewish continuity. This is ...

Read More
Just Ask asktherabbi.org

Shabbat before Pesach – Shabbat HaGadol

Question: I heard that the Shabbat before Passover is called “The Great Shabbat”. Why is it called this? Thank you. AskTheRabbi.org answered: Actually every Shabbat is a “great Shabbat”, but it is a custom to refer to certain ones with a special name. For example, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is called “Shabbat Shuva” — i.e., “Shabbat of Return” (to God), “Shabbat Nachamu” — the “Shabbat of Consolation”, which follows ...

Read More
Just Ask asktherabbi.org

J-Walking

Question: Dear Rabbi, according to Jewish law is it an obligation to obey all traffic laws without exception? I don’t ever recall seeing this in any book of Jewish law. Thanks. AskTheRabbi.org answered: You ask a really important question! I assume the reason that the subject of traffic laws doesn’t appear in classical Jewish writings is because there were no cars until relatively recently. But this doesn’t mean that Judaism doesn’t address this ...

Read More
Just Ask asktherabbi.org

Abra Cadabra – Judaism and Magic

Question: Dear Rabbi, I recently hired a magician for my son's birthday party only to be told by a well-meaning friend that doing magic tricks is banned by Judaism. Is this true? AskTheRabbi.org answered: First let's separate between two fundamentally different forms of Magic, that of the "Occult" and that of the "Birthday Party." Any conjuring or manipulation using occult practices is prohibited by the Torah. Although seemingly innocuous, pure sleight-of-hand is also Biblically ...

Read More
Just Ask asktherabbi.org

Purim Costumes

Question: What is the significance of wearing costumes on Purim? AskTheRabbi.org answered: A simple Jew was once traveling on a journey. He arrived at a certain town near nightfall, and desperately sought lodgings at the town inn. To his dismay, he learned that there was no room in the inn since a group of soldiers were staying there. He pleaded until the innkeeper let him stay in the room of the General, who was ...

Read More
Just Ask asktherabbi.org

Adar Month of Happiness and Laughter

Question: What is special about the month of Adar that requires us to increase happiness? I assume it is related to the fact that the holiday of Purim is during this month. Thanks. AskTheRabbi.org answered: Describing the month of Adar, the Talmud explicitly mentions the direct connection between Adar and happiness, as it says: “When the month of Adar enters we increase happiness.” We also associate this month with laughter.  To understand the ...

Read More
Just Ask asktherabbi.org

The Whole Picture — A story may have many sides

Question: Hi Rabbi. I heard that Judaism teaches to judge others favorably, which to me sounds similar to not really judging them at all. What does this principle mean and would you give me an example? Thanks! AskTheRabbi.org answered: Yes, we are taught to “judge everyone favorably” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:6). Judging favorably means finding excuses for questionable behavior, excuses which make sense to us and leave us with a positive feeling ...

Read More
Just Ask asktherabbi.org

Moving to Israel – Factors to Consider

Question: Dear Rabbi, I plan to graduate from university this year and am considering my options for the future. Specifically, I’m thinking about going to Israel and seeing what it would be like to live and work there. I’m not all that religiously observant, but I am interested in learning more about Judaism and I’m also already thinking about where the best place to raise a family would be. Any insights ...

Read More