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Why All the Questions?

Question: What would you say is the most important aspect of the Seder? AskTheRabbi.org answered: More so than any other festival, the Seder-night is dedicated to children, because the Torah dictates that we must tell the history of the Exodus to our children on this night. The Haggada directs us to do many unusual things to arouse the children's curiosity so that they will want to know "why this night is different than ...

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The Passover Haggadah

Question: What is the Haggadah? AskTheRabbi.org answered: The Haggadah is a book that Jews read on the first night of Passover - and on the first two nights outside of Israel. It tells about our slavery in Egypt and the miracles God did for us when freeing us. The word haggadah means "telling," which comes from the Biblical command: "And you shall tell your child on that day, saying: 'God did (miracles) for me ...

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Appreciation and Applause

Question: Hi Rabbi, I have a question for you. I recently went to a class about the “Portion of the Week”, and when the Rabbi concluded the lesson I felt that I should clap my hands to applaud in appreciation for the very interesting class. However, the other attendees didn’t clap, so I decided not to either, although I did tell the Rabbi how much I enjoyed the class. My question ...

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The Kindness of Human Diversity

Question: I have always wondered how from Adam and Eve came all the different races and colors of the people in the world. I appreciate your insights and appreciate your “Just Ask” service. Thanks. AskTheRabbi.org answered: Thank you for your kind words and you’ve posed a really great question! The Talmud deals with the diversity found in humans some 1800 years before Darwin was born! The Sages teach us that in order to help ...

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Why Don’t I See Any Miracles?

Question: I was reading my son Bible stories and he asked a simple, “child-like” question: "Why doesn't God punish bad people the way he did in the Bible, such as what happened in Egypt in the Passover story? I was flustered for an answer as to why we don't see God's great powers the way they did in the Bible. Any thoughts? AskTheRabbi.org answered: Why does God seem to allow evil, and let ...

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Shabbat of Blessing – Shabbat Mevarchim

Question: I recently started going to the Synagogue on Shabbat and noticed this past week that the congregation said a special prayer called “Blessing of the New Month”. Would you please tell me more about this blessing? Thanks. AskTheRabbi.org answered: Good question. On the Shabbat before the new Jewish month begins (except for the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana for mystical reasons), an announcement is made to the congregation to inform them when the ...

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Shakesprayer

Question: Why do many people sway back and forth while praying?  I’ve seen others who do not and this seems more respectful to me. Is either way the correct way or the better way? AskTheRabbi.org answered: Both are correct and acceptable. The deciding factor is which way helps a person to have better concentration on the prayer. Swaying during prayer (and Torah study) – is often called “shuckling” – and is a widespread and ...

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“Mazel Tov” & Energy from Above

Question: Hi Rabbi, a friend just had a baby and everyone keeps telling him “Mazel tov”. It sounds like they’re wishing the parents congratulations and good luck. But is that really what “Mazel tov” means? Thanks. AskTheRabbi.org answered: Although “Mazel tov” is used almost universally as a phrase of congratulations and a wish for good luck, the words do not literally say that exactly. Nevertheless, the words convey a deeper meaning which is ...

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Ask The Rabbi: Happy New Year for the Trees

Question: I saw an ad on campus about a Tu B’Shevat celebration, called “New Year’s Day for the Trees”. Is it like a Jewish Arbor Day? Thank you. AskTheRabbi.org answered: "I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree." Joyce Kilmer, "Trees" The poet sees the work of God in a tree. But why a tree? Why not a mountain, ...

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Ask The Rabbi: Who Should Hold the Baby?

Question: Hi Rabbi, we are expecting our first child – a boy. How do we decide who should be Sandak (the person who holds the baby at the circumcision)? Each of our fathers wants the honor. But it’s stressing my wife out! Any advice you have about how to decide whom to choose, while also avoiding family politics and drama, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much. AskTheRabbi.org answered: Firstly, may God ...

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