Ask the Rabbi

9647972522_eb1f0c3ca7_zDo you have questions about Judaism? 


Here are three options for finding answers on this website:

1. USE THE SEARCH BOX at the right side of this screen. Fill in a keyword, and see if the search brings up an article I’ve already written.

2. CLICK ON A CATEGORY in the “cloud” just below the search box. That will bring up all the articles I’ve written on a given topic. In the case of “Especially for Beginners” it will bring up every article I’ve written with beginners in mind – no assumed background whatsoever.

3. ASK! If you don’t have any luck searching and clicking, ask your question in the “Comments” at the bottom of this page. I will use those questions for future articles, and will let you know as soon as an article is posted. All articles that result from reader questions will be tagged as “Ask the Rabbi” pieces.

I reserve my right to edit questions and to delete offensive or rude comments.

147 thoughts on “Ask the Rabbi”

  1. Hello from France!

    As a member of Keren-Or, the Reform synagogue in Lyon, France, I’ve heard about your blog, browsed it, and found a lot of fascinating stuff. Particularly the Nine tips for newcomers, and How to succeed in congressional life…
    I realized we don’t have that in French, though we need it!
    Would you mind my translating these into French and passing them on?
    Of course, quoting your references!
    So many people expect rabbis to look and act the same way morticians do, at least in Europe, that I was glad to discover that a lot don’t! Among them, ours, René Pfertzel.

    Jacques Hennebert

    1. Jacques, I would be honored for you to translate anything here, as long as links and my name accompany them. If you put the translations online, I would like to link to them, if possible. Thank you so much for the offer and the kind words!

      1. Oh dear! Thank you so much! And… It was not an offer I proposed, but a favour I begged for!
        Anyway, you can be sure your name and links will accompany any material from your site; this, in respect of your work and vim!


        Jacques Hennebert

      2. Shalom Rabbi Adar

        D’rabbanan mitzvot do not appear in the Torah. One kind of d’rabbanan mitzvah is set to keep us from accidentally breaking a Torah commandment.

        You speak of fences around the Torah to prevent straying or breaking His commandments. Hashem did answer those who built that fence around His Tanakh.

        Ezekiel 13:9-16

        “9My hand will be against the prophets who prophesy falsehood and utter lying divination. They shall not remain in the assembly of My people, they shall not be inscribed in the lists of the House of Israel, and they shall not come back to the land of Israel. Thus shall you know that I am the Lord GOD.
        10Inasmuch as they have misled My people, saying, “It is well,” when nothing is well, daubing with plaster the flimsy fence which the people-a were building,
        11say to those daubers of plaster: It shall collapse; a driving rain shall descend—and you, O great hailstones, shall fall—and a hurricane wind shall rend it.
        12Then, when the fence collapses, you will be asked, “What became of the plaster you daubed on?”
        13Assuredly, thus said the Lord GOD: In My fury I will let loose hurricane winds; in My anger a driving rain shall descend, and great hailstones in destructive fury.
        14I will throw down the fence that you daubed with plaster, and I will raze it to the ground so that its foundation is exposed; and when it falls, you shall perish in its midst; then you shall know that I am the LORD.
        15And when I have spent My fury upon the wall and upon those who daubed it with plaster, I will say to you: Gone is the wall and gone are its daubers,
        16the prophets of Israel who prophesy about Jerusalem and see a vision of well-being for her when there is no well-being—declares the Lord GOD.”

        Rabbi, do you disagree with Hashem’s prophet Ezekiel?

        1. Dear Robert,

          The rabbonim are neither prophets nor false prophets. Placing fences about Torah-prescribed commandments is not prophecy. Hence, you misapplied these verses from Ezekiel.

          Rabbi Bünyamin Aryeh Uchytil

          1. My name is Binyamin, not Bunyamin. Spell checker is too smart for it’s own good. 🙂

  2. I converted to Conservative Judaism in 2000 (after starting out in Reform). About two years ago I left my shul and began a journey on the Karaite path. Although I love the Karaite path I miss a community and there are certain topics where I am more closely aligned with Reform than Karaite.

    Would I as someone who is not really rabbinic nor karaite be welcomed into the Reform world?

    1. Jewish study is a lifelong journey. While Reform Judaism is definitely an expression of Rabbinic Judaism, you would certainly be welcome as a visitor in a Reform congregation. I suggest that you find a congregation that feels good to you, then meet with the rabbi to sort out the rest.

    2. Once a Jew, always a Jew! No worries. And I say this from an Orthodox perspective.

  3. Quick question: During prayers when the reader says Baruch Atah A…, they pause and the congregation says what exactly? Baruch hu shemo, or something like that. Could you let me know, thanks.

    1. Generally speaking, when one hears the Name of G-d recited as part of a Beracha, he or she answers,”Baruch Hu U’Baruch Shemo.” Translates as “Blessed be Him and His name.”

  4. Thank you for your blog. I follow you on twitter and always get your updates. I really enjoy your site. My question is this, and I hope I am asking in such a way as to really express my question, what is the Reform movement’s position on merkabah literature? Thank you

  5. Do you believe African-Americans are the real Jews? Moses prophesied the curses that would befall Israel in the last days for breaking YHUH’s commandments. A detailed list of curses were given in Deuteronomy, specifically chapter 28, I have concluded through tireless research and through process of elimination of ALL peoples on this earth that these people (African-Americans) are in fact YHUH’s chosen people. Your thoughts?

    1. No, Mr. Adams, I don’t agree with your analysis and I find it offensive to both African-Americans and to Jews. Neither group is “cursed” by God. Jews (who come from many nations and races) live in a covenant relationship with God to this very day. People of African descent, including those who are Americans, may find any of several paths to God: some are Christian, some are Jewish, some are Muslim, some are Bahai, some subscribe to other faiths.

      I believe that all of us are children of God.

      1. Hello Rabbi! I’ve been teaching at a Yeshiva for almost a month and I’m seeing increasingly extremist rhetoric in the student essays. Recently, one of the submissions called for the deportation of “all Blacks,” even though we have Jewish-Moroccan students as well as African American employees on campus. Is this something you think can be reconciled for a moderate/conservative Jewish educator like myself? Or am I better off just keeping my distance from the orthodox community from now on? Thank you very much for your counsel.

  6. Hi Rabbi Adar (how do you prefer to be addressed, btw?) I have some questions! I’m a UK Reform Jew, with massive holes in my Jewish education and a lack of understanding of the day to day traditions of Judaism. My first question I suppose, is about mitzvot – I know we’re supposed to ‘do mitzvot’, but what are they? Where is the list? I see this discussed everywhere, but always from the perspective that the reader will already know what they are and all about them… As I’ve said in my blog post, I often feel I don’t quite know the rules, that everyone else knows what they’re supposed to be doing but I missed it all somehow…

    1. Chabad is a great place to start, I find myself drawn to them even because they teach but do not judge. While we may not like some of what they do, they are a good place to start.

  7. Head coverings: I recently visited a synagogue where a few women along with the men wore a kippah for the service. Our local synagogue has a piece of lace in a bow that some women wear only on high holidays. My question is: what is the background for women covering their heads during services? Is it optional in most US conservative and reform synagogues now? And from a practical viewpoint, if it is really warm and a woman wishes to cover her head with a kippah instead of a scarf would that be acceptable in most US conservative or reform synagogues? (I know it’s individual but just looking for some idea). Anything that you could say about head coverings and tradition would be great to hear!

  8. Dear Rabbi, this is a loaded question (smile 🙂

    When it comes to.. personal issues .. whether:..Spiritual,.. Morals, .. Principles & Values … to governs one’s …numerous aspects of life, …would the Torah/Tanach/New Testament .. be considered as ..Thee ..Final Authority (the True .. End-all ..&.. Be-all, ..biblical word) …to structure one’s life around as their foundation of beliefs?

    Since the Bible does Not ..defy the laws of the land .. but the Tanach is superior …as guidance to adhere to… especially for the practicing Jew, .. would it be safe to say .. that if one chooses to firmly plant their beliefs within the principles of the Tanach, … can they truly count on God’s Written Word of instructions .. as TRUTH …and take those Words.. to Heart via ..digest & make it a part of their being .. in reality, ..both, physically, & spiritually?

    Is the Bible looked upon as .. Antiquated …even in the 21st Century?!?

    Or, do the Rabbis & leaders pick-n-choose ..what’s relevant for today .. and dismiss the rest?

    So, if a person sincerely .. trust & rely upon .. the Word of God .. & put their complete faith & total confidence … in the scriptural message of instructions, values, and way of living, .. will that individual .. reap the benefits of the Deuteronomy 28 – Blessings of Obedience .. & protection?

    Does the Rabbinical Courts based their decisions predominantly from the Torah/Tanach? Especially when it comes to Sin & Judgment?!

    Shalom, VM

    1. Do rabbinical students study from the
      • “most original” written & oral Torah available
      • .. in order to compare the text
      • .. with more recent translations, commentaries
      • .. to ensure that (even) the great scholars have not substituted nor omitted ..anything?
      • Shouldn’t the students curriculum include .. a raw, independent research, investigation, & evaluation with the “same authentic – earliest documents” .. available .. to see if the students will come to the same conclusion .. BEFORE .. they declare its validity as an ordained Rabbi, leader?

  9. A question about synagogue decorum. In the Conservative shul I attend, people are milling about (and even talking) during the silent Amidah. It gets worse during the Cantor’s public recitation of the Amidah. Worse yet, some women are dancing in the aisles during the L’dor v’dor at the end of the Kadusha. There are no ushers, but several board members are always in attendance. Therefore, I have to assume that neither the Rabbi nor the board find this behavior bothersome. Is my assumption correct? What are my options besides finding a new synagogue. And yes, this has always been a not very well behaved congregation. Thanks.

  10. In the MANY versions of the Christian Bible, in Genesis chapter 1 verse 28 it uses the word “replenish”, and I was wondering: What word is used in the Hebrew version?

    1. The phrase is וּמִלְאוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ in Hebrew, the original text of Genesis. U-milu, the first word, is based on the root “fill.” With the vowels and prefix, I would translate the phrase “fill the earth.”

      Translators have to make choices. As soon as you move from one language to another, things shift. I can say “fill” instead of “replenish” but both are legitimate choices in English.

  11. Do rabbinical students study from the
    • “most original” written & oral Torah available
    • .. in order to compare the text
    • .. with more recent translations, commentaries
    • .. to ensure that (even) the great scholars have not substituted nor omitted ..anything?
    • Shouldn’t the students curriculum include .. a raw, independent research, investigation, & evaluation with the “same authentic – earliest documents” .. available .. to see if the students will come to the same conclusion .. BEFORE .. they declare its validity as an ordained Rabbi, leader?

    1. I can only speak from my own experience at HUC-JIR between 2002-8. There I was expected to study the texts in the original and to familiarize myself with many different commentaries, ancient and modern.

      However, it would be impossible, even in that length of time, to study with equal depth all the texts comprised in Written and Oral Torah. They call it “The Sea of Talmud” for a reason!

      I’m very interested in where you are coming from, VM. I think I could answer your questions better if I knew a bit more about you. What’s your background, and what inspires your questions?

  12. Hello Rabbi!

    I am from the Midwest .. and the questions (along with my other new set of questions presented after the initial one)

    .. evolved from my own exegetical studies which has been conducted for over 5 years.

    During that time I have read & studied the entire Tanakh as well as the Christians New Testament

    .. in order to ascertain the “real” foundation of their beliefs & values, … both spiritual & practical.

    It has been an exhilarating experience to gain a deeper understanding of both points-of-view regarding G-d & His Ways.

    I’ve finally completed my research about a week ago .. & the questions I had presented to you .. as well as other Rabbis on the internet

    .. evolved as the culmination of my extensive studies. I have a Liberal Arts .. Masters Degree .. but not in any type of Religious Studies.

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s response and am respectful to each one’s opinion.

    It’s All About Shalom!

  13. Is a sukkot machzor good to have to observe sukkot or are the prayers in the shabbat/yom tov siddur sufficient?

  14. Shalom, I am a Conservitave Jew and wear a kippah always.
    I’ll be attending a funeral service for a wonderful lady who lost her fight with cancer. We have been neighbors for years. They are of the catholic faith and I’m unsure about wearing a kippah to the funeral in a catholic church. It’s during the week so there will be no conflict with the Sabbath.
    Thank you for your guidance in this matter.

    David Speck

    1. David, I am so sorry for the loss of your neighbor. We share our lives with them, and it is a wonderful mitzvah to attend her funeral.

      From a Jewish point of view, comforting mourners and assisting in the burial of the dead is a mitzvah. Some Orthodox and perhaps some Conservative authorities will take exception to attending a funeral service in a Catholic church, but I see it as an act of generosity and kindness. If you normally wear a kippah to worship, I don’t see any problem with doing so at the service (for an answer from the Catholic point of view, you should contact the pastor of the church.)

      If it is a funeral mass, it is not appropriate for a Jew to take communion. My own practice in such a setting is to stand and sit with the congregation, and to sit quietly when they kneel.

      I’m going to do a bit of research before I write a post on this, but I hope these answers are helpful. Thank you for an excellent question!

  15. my mother and I are non Jews and i’m looking for someone to help me pray for her. She has been diagnosed with cervical cancer and now the doctors stated that the chemo is not working. I pray every morning for a miracle. now my mother might have to go through a complicated surgery which includes removal of her ovaries bladder rectum and intestines. my mother is so young she is only 60 years old and I don’t want her going through this difficult surgery. I am scared for her life and I want and pray for a miracle. I’m trying to be strong but it’s been so difficult for me I know that my mother would like to see all her grandchildren grow up and I pray everyday for her cancer to go away and for her to have a long life. she still has two other children who do not have Children of their own and I know that she would like to see those grandchildren. I need someone out there to pray with me. I would want my mother to have many many more years to live. I pray that she heals as soon as possible and hopefully the surgery does not have to be done. thank you

  16. As usual, rabbi Adar has it right: judaism is an understanding faith! Thank you so much for all the hinsights, and the caring words you bring along. Well, I don’t want to make you sound too much of a tsadik, anyway! 🙂
    Anyway, for someone sharing seemingly opposite ways (Reform and Lubavitch! Don’t spread it! :)), you’re dear to many!
    Thank you,


  17. The book of Job is an extraordinary admission in a book that often seems to say “Be good and you are guaranteed only good things.” Job admits that sometimes life stinks, no matter what we do.

    I’d like to ask you how we can get across to the general public that this Deuteronomic theology applies to only the last of the 5 books of Torah; none of the other 4 hold that view. (There are too many clear examples to mention here.) It is strictly Moses’ black and white admonition, like a parent taking to a child. This is not the theology of reality as exhibited in the other 4 book; you have concluded that as well.
    Yet many people have accepted this as Jewish theology without considering the other nuanced, complicated, theological issues . It is easy to ingest a sound-bite. But that is definitely not Judaism, where we are invited to ask, consider, argue, discuss, present different points of view ( viz: Hillel and Shamai) . This leads to horrible accusations such as: “maybe the Shoah happened because Jews were being punished by Adonai”. You’ll agree that this is a disgusting conclusion!

    Adonai may not have dictated Devarim, ie Moses’ musings, but Tradition says that Adonai said “Amen” to it.

    Please consider a blog column about the fact that these are Moses’ thoughts as he is just a month or so away from death and not going into the land with his people. He is trying to protect them knowing what they are like, so he paints this (fanciful) black and white picture.


    Frances Hellen

  18. Dear Rabbi

    I feel hopeful that I found a channel to communicate my long-held desire to convert to Judaism. Unfortunately I was raised in a Muslim country (Egypt) where freedom of religion is not at all guaranteed. I have been haunted by Judaism for four years now. I have started reading about Judaism and the Jews ever since I was in high school. I know that Judaism is pretty challenging, but it is not the fact that it is challenging that hinders my way. The problem is that I cannot go to the Synagogue in Cairo, and I heard that it has been turned to a museum since there is a very tiny Jewish minority in Egypt, mostly women. I have no way to go, and I am really enthusiastic about conversion. I find Judaism to be the best lifestyle for me to lead. I am just wondering who can help me in this pursuit. What should I do to get out of the country (I am doing political science at college, and there still remains one and a half years for me to finish). I am thinking of migration, but it would be difficult to get a visa on my own. Is there an organisation that can help prospective converts out of intolerant countries? I really need someone to help me, to give me a sense of hope that I will be able to convert one day. My heart sinks every time I realise that I have no way of meeting a rabbi face to face to speak my mind before him. I feel lonely, desperate and persecuted. I would really really appreciate it if any one can help me. What are the steps I should take? Thank you.

    1. I don’t know if there is an active Jewish Community in Cairo at this time, but it is not possible to make a valid conversion without a local rabbi and community. You are welcome to live your life according to Jewish precepts if you wish (historically there are many people who did just that, without converting) but to actually become Jewish, you will need to live in a place with a Jewish community.

      If you are serious about conversion, then you will need to move to a place where the Jewish community is able to function openly. Since we don’t seek out converts, we do not provide programming for immigration – you will have to do that on your own.
      What I would advise now is that you concentrate on finishing your education. After you have completed your education, you will be in a better position to consider your options.

  19. I am stuck. I converted to Conservative Judaism almost a year ago. Four months later my rabbi moved to a position in a different state. The congregation, in a nearly split vote, decided to bring back the rabbi that use to be there. I’ve met that rabbi, and attended services he conducted during the High Holy Days, but am not comfortable with nor really trust him, as I did the Rabbi that assisted with my conversion. What is more upsetting is the way the congregation has acted, both in their remarks about the rabbi who left and the blatant politics behind rehiring the previous rabbi. I’ve attended Chabad services, but as a Conservative, I am not counted in the Orthodox minyan, and cannot convert to Orthodox unless my christian spouse converts to Orthodox, which I seriously doubt will happen. I’ve attended Reform services lately and really, REALLY enjoy the services there and the people are great. But I am conservative in ideology and the Reform is more liberal, and that makes me a little uncomfortable. I really appreciated the candor of the reform synagogue’s president when I asked him about it. His response was: “You’ll get use to it!” His candor really put me at ease. So, here I am a nearly newly minted Conservative Jew, no longer comfortable going to a Conservative shul, welcomed but not completely accepted at Chabad, and not sure if Reform is right for me. I’m stuck.

    BTW: I love your blog posts. Keep it up! They’re great!

    1. Jim, I would encourage you to keep in mind that ultimately, we’re Jews. You had a Conservative conversion, and there are many rabbis and communities in the world that will recognize that conversion as legitimate. There is no Jewish community I know of where everyone is in complete agreement on all theological and halakhic details. You may be more observant than the average Reform Jew, but you may also find that there are Reform Jews who think and behave much as you do. I’m glad you’ve found a place where you enjoy the services and the people. That’s what really counts, once you are out of the mikveh.
      I’m glad you enjoy the posts! Thank you for your kind words.

  20. I understand that the Torah was divinely and directly inspired words of G-d to Moses.

    Who revealed the Ketuvim and Nevi’im and who received them.

    1. Excellent question! Nevi’im are the stories and words of the Prophets. Human authorship understood to have Divine input. Ketuvim are the writings of human beings, included in the Canon.

  21. I assume that the culture at the time of the giving of law to Moses was an oral culture. If that is correct, how could the law have been written (implying literacy)?

  22. Hello,

    Rabbi, I am someone interested in converting. I’m nineteen years old, about to be twenty, and I’ve always felt a strong attraction to Judaism. I was raised Evangelical Christian, and I became an atheist thereafter years ago. I became more agnostic and spiritual as times went on, but even throughout the driest spiritual patches of life I always wished I had been born Jewish. I always was enamored by the ways of Jews. I don’t know why, but I love Judaism. I had a friend recommend a Judaism course on campus first semester and I took it my second. It only served to set a small flicker of fire into a great flame of love for it. I read Torah almost everyday, was given a yarmulke (I had always wished I had one when I was little), and love the concept of Oral Torah/scholarship in the faith. My grandfather even taught me that mixing meat and milk was bad, certain foods were ‘unclean’. Not that I am of Jewish descent, but some customs of the faith feel already in me somehow. I would need to actually speak to get my point across. Many students at school assumed I was Jewish (by which I am still confused) and I received antisemitic insults for a while as a young teenager for being mistaken as Jewish. I never claimed it, but even then I felt a degree of solidarity when I defended Jews (and myself) from the insults.

    Are there any helpful words of guidance/comfort for me? I plan on regularly attending synagogue within the next month or two and asking questions there respectfully. What I really want to get across is not that I don’t know how to get more involved in a Jewish community, but I’ve never heard of someone being so pulled to Judaism. I know what to do to learn more, but it’s the inward aspect of dealing with a not-very-heard-of situation where I live that I’m wanting a Jewish perspective on. (BTW, I’m planning on studying much more before if I ever do it. I’m also a young gay man which may complicate certain situations.)

    Thank you for your time. I appreciate every second of it.

    1. Justin, you’re on the right track: visit your local synagogue, and talk to the rabbi. I recommend that you call the synagogue office and make an appointment to talk with the rabbi, since he or she will want to give you their full attention and that’s impossible before or after services.

      Talking to a local rabbi is the doorway to becoming officially Jewish. For more about the conversion process, I recommend

      Good studies!

  23. Dear Rabbi,

    My daughter has been invited to attend a bat mitzvah. We are not Jewish and this is her first. She is unable to attend the morning ceremony but is free for the evening reception. Is it considered disrespectful if she does not attend the synagogue ceremony yet attends the reception? Should she RSVP that she cannot attend, or attend only what she is able? She certainly does not want to
    offend anyone.

    1. Laura, I am sorry that I am only now getting to this; a recent health challenge has me somewhat behind at work. Tell the family the situation and ask them if it is OK for her to come to the evening portion only.

  24. i wonder what the Jewish faith has to say about psychic abilities? I am a christian who hides in the closet because of my gifts. I have always had this gift and at at early age was told it was the work of the devil. These were not gifts but a curse according to my parents and grandparents. so as a good little girl I obeyed and spent years trying to drown them out. I married a good christian man and had two beautiful children. Here’s the kicker, I didn’t grow up in a christian home. My parents didn’t attend church neither did their parents but my abilities made them fearful. So they reacted on that fear and decided it was evil. I was only about 5 yrs old and I remember very clearly being told that it was evil. I felt so confused and I remember thinking to myself, if this is evil then there must be something wrong with me. I didn’t feel evil and I remember praying before I went to bed even though I wasn’t raised in a christian home! I decided I wasn’t going to hide anymore and began to research about what exactly was happening to me. I shared with my husband and children. Only my son was okay with everything. My husband of 30 yrs is trying to understand. I once considered my marriage to be unbreakable but now I am not sure. My daughter, who is married to a christian children’s pastor have with two beautiful children. They didn’t take the news so well and I am no longer allowed to see them even my grandchildren. Tough times for my heart. I would be interested in your thoughts. Since coming out of the psychic closet, i am happier and feel more self assured. I even enjoy being around others and I am full of live again. My heart is hurting over the divide this has caused in the family. You should know I have decided NOT to go back in that closet. I feel this isn’t evil and if used for the good of all, I can make a difference in this world. I can contribute more than just being a wife and mother to society.

  25. Hi I really want to convert to judaism and I already found this conservative synagogue and the rabbi wants to meet me later to start the conversion but I am not sure if it would be a scam or not. i am just worried because there was this girl who went through a conversion for two yrs and paid a LOT of $$ but when she went to Israel they didnt accept her conversion certificate. What should I ask to my rabbi to see its not a scam? And what should I know if he IS a rabbi? Is there a license and some other thing?

    1. Angel, if you are in the U.S., the synagogue has already done a lot of the “vetting” of the rabbi for you; most congregations do a lot of checking before they hire a rabbi. Tell the rabbi your concern about Israel recognizing the conversion and see what they say. You can also ask the rabbi which rabbinical association he or she belongs to. A Conservative rabbi probably belongs to the Rabbinical Assembly; a few belong to the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). Either way, they are bound by the ethical code of the rabbinical organization. (Full disclosure: I’m a Reform rabbi, a member of the CCAR.)

      The rabbi may require you to take a class which charges tuition, or a mikveh fee. However, the conversion itself should not be for sale.

  26. Rabbi Adar — You posted today about Eilu D’varim, and I have a question about that prayer, but my question is a bit long and off topic, so I thought I’d ask it over here.
    A while back, I was praying the morning prayers from the Sinai Edition of the Union Prayer Book. The English text for Eilu D’varim was essentially the same as the translation you provided in your post today. But I noticed that the Hebrew contained additional text. I took a picture of the text, translated it, and found that (before the list of mitzvot your post discussed) it said:

    “These are things for which there is no measure: the corner of the field, and the first fruits, and the pilgrimages, acts of loving-kindness, and study of Torah;
    These are things that man eats their fruit in this world and their principal remains for him in the world to come, and these are them: ….”

    Is the longer Hebrew version the “original” prayer? Can you give me a sense for when and/or why the prayer was redacted?
    Thank you!! jen

  27. Dear Rabbi!
    I have a few questions regarding the issue of refugees, I would be really grateful if you could answer them.
    Sincerely, Lili Feher

    Does Jewish law regulate the treatment of refugees?
    Does Jewish tradition provide any guidance whether we should help refugees?
    Is there a halachic obligation/prohibition to support them? Is the answer dependent on whether the refugee is Jewish or not?
    What kind of assistance does Jewish tradition command us to provide to refugees?
    Are our personal feelings /fears/suspicions or even dislike of a specific group relevant in deciding how to act?
    In a modern nation state, where most Jews live, does Jewish law compel us to act, even if there is a national policy in place, regulating refugees?
    Is our Jewish past, our history of exile, of discrimination relevant in determining how we treat refugees?

  28. Hi, I have been invited to my first Bat Mitzvah. I would like to know if different outfits would be needed for the service and party?

    1. Sorry to be slow with this, Sayaat. That is a question you should ask the people giving the party. Clothes for the service should be neat, clean, and modest, much like you would wear to any religious service. Party clothes would depend on the party. If the party is right after the service, then sure, same clothes, but if the party is much later, ask your host or hostess ahead of time.

  29. I’m currently enrolled in an introduction to Judaism class at my local conservative shul. I’m currently keeping (strict) kosher, observing Shabbat, wearing kippah during prayer, saying brachot, practicing holidays (though I haven’t made it through a whole year of them yet), and reading as much as I can from as many sources as I can.

    I had planned on converting under the rabbi here, but have made the decision to transfer to a university in a town with a conservative congregation but no rabbi or cantor. 

    I’ve discussed the issue with my current rabbi and with individuals involved in the congregation where I’ll be moving and they’ve all expressed support and approval for me to continue to practice at the same level I am currently knowing that I’ll be unable to formally convert for the next two years or so. 

    My question is, while those in my community have given positive responses, will those in other conservative communities find it disrespectful for me to continue these practices or be uncomfortable if I attend services with them because I am not officially able to dedicate myself to Judaism yet but do in practice? 

  30. Kohanim with certain physical blemishes were not allowed to perform the service in the Temple (Vayikra 21:17,18). The Torah, the source of all Jewish values, has numerous laws which prohibit insensitivity towards others, despite any physical, material, or spiritual shortcomings they may have. Appearance, from the Torah’s perspective, is surely insignificant, especially when compared to character. Why, then, would the Torah exclude a perfectly decent kohen from performing the service simply because of a physical (seemingly superficial) physical blemish?

    (P.s. These verses reminded me of Vayikra 21:6, which teaches that the kohanim should be holy for HaShem and shouldn’t defile/profane His Name. Offerings made with fire, food for their G-d they bring near, and they shall be holy. It seems that when a kohen has ‘a defect in his holiness’ he defiles/profanes the Name of HaShem).

  31. Our 12 year old daughter is excitedly invited to a friend’s bat mitzvah. We (the parents) have never met the honoree’s parents as all interactions have been between the girls…

    My question is; what is the protocol for us as parents? Are we to drop-off and be on standby for pickup OR is it expected for a parent (or both) to attend?

    Not sure what to do, please advise.

    Damon B.
    Johns Creek, GA

    1. You are welcome to the service at the synagogue, no question, but your presence is not required. As for any party after, if the invitation seems unclear, it’s perfectly ok to call ahead (well ahead!) and ask. Generally, parents aren’t expected but it doesn’t hurt to clarify.

      Thanks for your question!

  32. Some time ago I read a Jewish teaching I really liked about seeing the two trees of Eden as always before us with our actions in life representing choices between life and death. I am wanting to refer to this in some of my own work, but I am having trouble finding the source. Can you help me?

      1. I am still working on this question as I do not want to steal anyone else’s ideas. But, I am beginning to think what I read was commentary on reading Torah in the present tense with the choice before us always to “Choose life.” Maybe I made the extension back to Genesis…

  33. Thank you! It is connected to the instruction to “Choose life,” as a continuing part of our lives. For me it is a contrast to the teachings I received as a child about a “fall” that happened once and for all, vs daily choices we all make to bring life or death, healing or harm, in our decisions and actions.

  34. good evening, Rabbi Adar. we live in a community that used to have a jewish community, reform synagogue and established a cemetery in the 1800s. today there are few or no jews or synagogue, but of course the cemetery remains, as part of the community’s cemetery. what is appropriate for my husband and me to do for the memory of the jews buried here that might not have anyone praying kaddish for them. our synagogue is an hour away so it would most likely be just the two of us visiting the cemetery.
    thank you, Meredith

      1. thank you Rabbi Ruth; we are not aware of any nearby relatives, we’re new to the area ourselves. It is a maintained cemetery which is good.
        shabbat shalom

  35. Can a transgender (man to woman) individual convert and would they need a brit-milah? Is the conversion still valid if the male genitals are later sugically removed? Can a transgender (woman to man) individual convert and if they had surgery to create male genitals, do they need they a brit-milah, or hatafat dam brit? Can they get married in a synagogue and if so who to?

    1. Good questions all. A trans individual can indeed convert. The questions about brit milah will be worked out with the rabbi who sponsors the conversion, because there are many variables. And yes, in the Reform movement there are no issues about them marrying the person they love. You would need to ask other rabbis about other movements.

  36. I recently emailed a Rabbi at a nearby reform synagogue because I’m looking to convert myself. The clergy administrative assistant got back to me, asked for more details about my background and after I gave her all the details she never got back to me. She was quick to reply to my initial request to the Rabbi, but I haven’t heard from the clergy in 3 days. Does the clergy administrative assistant have the right to deny someone a conversion?

    1. Mary, I am so sorry that they have not gotten back to you.

      The clergy administrative assistant should not turn people away, but if they did not expect the rabbi to return your call, they should not have said the rabbi would call.

      I can think of a few possibilities. Sometimes if there are deaths in a congregation, or some other crisis, returning calls can be delayed. Sometimes rabbis are not as good about returning calls as we should be. And sometimes messages don’t get delivered as they should. I have no idea what has happened in this case, and it doesn’t really matter – you’ve been left hanging!

      You could call again, and point out that you have been waiting 3 days for a call back. Alternatively, If there is another congregation that you think might work for you, you can call there.

      I hope that you find a rabbi with whom to learn, and that whatever went wrong with this phone call, you are able to make a connection.

      1. Our contacts were through e-mail. They never told me I would speak to the Rabbi, they just asked more about my background and never got back to me after I explained myself. You mention calling. Should I call them instead? Anyways, I want to thank you for the clarifications. I’ve never been involved in anything relating to a religious organization so deaths and other religious crisis seemed to have slip my mind. I just kind of feel really judged for having been from a non-conforming religious background, explaining that to them, and then not getting the quick response I had before. I used to be a witch. Can they turn me down for that?

        1. I can introduce you to a rabbi who spent years as a Wiccan.

          Calls are a better way to go. Email can go sideways in all sorts of ways. Don’t give your life story to an assistant. Just say you would like to talk with the rabbi about conversion.

  37. Hello Rabbi! I am a young lesbian woman that was raised an atheist. I have been searching for spiritual guidance, and a safe community to enrich my life with. I’ve been looking into Reform Judaism for a little while, and I’m wondering if it really is an accepting community. I know that my great grandparents were children of immigrant, German, Jews, and I was always very close to my great grandmother before her passing last month. Do you have any advice to not be terrified attending a Jewish service? I know that the community is so close-knit.

    1. Dear Miranda, you are right, Jewish communities can be very close knit and that can be intimidating. All I know to tell you is that my life was enriched one thousand fold when I approached a Reform congregation and began attending services. It took time to get to know people, but it was well worth the effort.

      I was very worried that being a lesbian would be an issue, and while there have been a few people who haven’t gotten the memo, the Reform Movement has been officially supportive of LGBTQ Jews for a long time. In 1990, the Union for Reform Judaism announced a national policy declaring lesbian and gay Jews to be full and equal members of the religious community. The Reform Rabbinical school, Hebrew Union College, has been ordaining “out” rabbis since the early 1990’s. When I entered the College in 2002, my orientation was a complete non-issue.

      Let me make a suggestion: call the synagogue office during the week, and make an appointment to talk with the rabbi. It will be a lot easier to walk into services if you’ve already met them and had a chance to share your story. They may be able to arrange for one of the regulars to greet you and sit with you.

      However you choose to approach, I hope you will prevail over your misgivings, and that your spiritual journey is a great adventure!

  38. Hi. I have questions about the upcoming New Year. First will it be 5778? Next is that the year of Ayin Chet? Is that the Year of the Capstone? Pictorially does the chet represent or look like a wall topped by a capstone? I registered for Basic Hebrew Course in Seminary and looked at some online resources but want to be sure. Thanks.

  39. Hello,
    This is a note for Rabbi at the movies.

    Dear Rabbi,
    There is another excellent film, a Canadian production, released in 2014, Felix and Meira. I’m not sure if it’s been dubbed or subtitled in English.
    It’s set in Montreal, both in the Hassidic community and the secular world.
    The story unfolds delicately (apart from a fight in winter, in NYC street), with no unsavoury nor dubious scenes, so it is appropriate for young teenagers. A great movie!

  40. Hag Sameach Rabbi Adar from Lisa and Max! I hope you remember us from your days at Congregation B’nai David. We are in Oakland now and this may be the only way for us to make contact with you??? Jessica Hart will be here 12/20 for a couple of days and we are wondering if you are free and inclined for some re-connection. Happy to host or meet in “neutral space” as you may prefer.

  41. I am attending a Jewish funeral today 23/01/18 at 14:00 in Liverpool, England, so I understand I may not receive a reply in time.
    I am a caregiver and used to look after the deceased lady prior to her passing, I am not jewish so found your tips above very informative. I am also in touch with the niece of the lady concerned, who for health reasons and other will not be able to attend. My question is would it be disrespectful to take a couple of pictures to send to the deceased niece after the service, maybe outside obviously not during the service (shiva). Advise if possible. And thanks in advance

  42. Dear Rabbi,

    I have learned two musical settings for singing a blessing in Hebrew (such as the one over the Shabbat candles) and both of them pause after the Holy Name. I would expect “Adonai Eloheinu” to be treated as a unit, as it is when recited in English, but instead it sounds like we’re saying “Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha’olam”. Why is that? If that’s correct in Hebrew, how did it end up being translated into English with “O LORD our God” as a single phrase?

    Thanks for a great site—I learn so much from you!

    1. Great question!

      You are right, it’s an odd place to put the break. Not all the composers who devised musical settings were concerned with the Hebrew. Also, many English speakers learn prayers in two-word phrases when three would be more appropriate.

      So, you’re right, this is not ideal. It speaks well for your growing Hebrew skills that you caught it!

  43. I have a question about interfaith Jewish weddings. My mother’s family was Jewish, but I was raised very secular and “dabbled” in several different religions but now I’d call myself “spiritual but not religious.” My father remarried 10 years ago and converted to Judaism. My stepmom is Orthodox and both my dad and stepmom would consider me Jewish. When I announced the engagement, they asked if I was going to have a rabbi officiate or do a traditional Jewish wedding with the Chuppah and the breaking of the glass. However, my fiancee was raised Methodist and is now agnostic so we decided instead to have a Unity Church minister officiate at a chapel. I would consider them a liberal wing of Christianity. They believe in following the teachings of Christ on love and social justice, but they do not regard Christ as a deity. We chose this particular minister also because he’s somebody that I’ve known since I was young.

    Anyway, I’m trying to strike a delicate balance. I still think being Jewish is part of who I am. So on one hand, if I leave out all the Jewish wedding customs then I feel like I’m neglecting part of my heritage. On the other hand, I want to be sensitive to the things that are sacred in the Jewish faith and not appropriate them in a way that could be disrespectful.

    Some of the things that I thought might be nice to include in the wedding were: 1) having my father say a blessing at the reception 2) smashing the glass at the end of the ceremony 3) playing erev shel shoshanim during the wedding and 4) playing Hava Nagilah at the wedding.

    Would it any of these be weird or inappropriate to do? Do you have any other thoughts or suggestions?

    1. Rebecca, you ask good and thoughtful questions! First of all, though, mazal tov on your upcoming wedding.

      The four things you would like to include are things you could do at a Unity or interfaith wedding without being offensive to Jews. All of them are customs, and they don’t have to do with the contractual aspects of kiddushin. (I include that language for the sake of your orthodox relatives.) What it means is that they are not things associated with actions or words that we traditionally reserve to a Jewish wedding.

      Your careful reflection on this service bodes well for the success of your marriage. I wish you many long and happy years of love and companionship!

  44. Hello,

    My name is Eli. I am a medical student in New York doing research on religious perspective towards organ/ tissue donation for education and research. I am looking for your help with information on the reform perspective on the issue. I would like to just note that this is organ donation post mortem specifically for education and medical research and not transplantation to another human being as that is directly life saving. I attached my questions below and can provide any further information if necessary. Thank you in advance.

    1) What are your views on tissue donation/organ in general? ( Is it allowed or not allowed?)

    2) What are your views on tissue/organ donation for research? (Is it allowed or not allowed?)

    3) Would this change knowing that tissue/organ donation will directly save a life? (Yes, No)

    4) Are there any exceptions to this viewpoint? (Yes, No)

    5) How do you come up with this viewpoint? i.e. interpretation of text, oral law, tradition

  45. Rabbi Ruth, everything o.k. @ your end? Haven’t gotten a new post from you since 8/22, & hoping you are well & upbeat as you go through Elul.

    Best wishes,

      1. Thanks for your reply, Rabbi. So glad all is well at your end. Burying an old friend later today; a high-school classmate. She was deathly ill, but it’s a bittersweet loss.

  46. Hello Rabbi Adar
    I was reading the interesting story about the Ner Tamid by Rabbi Katz. I think there may be a name error in the story – in the paragraph towards the bottom, starting ‘It’s 1937 again … I think the name should be Alfred, not his son Walter.’
    Kind regards
    Joanna Gerson

  47. hi, i took a dna test and i found that i am related to jewish people trough my mother side and also father side. is this a proof of judaism?

    1. Pedro, Jewish identity is not determined by DNA. It does mean that you are a person with a Jewish heritage. I recommend that you learn more about Judaism and find a local rabbi to discuss this further.

  48. Dear Rabbi Adar,
    Boy oh boy, its a long way to the bottom of this page. I have questions about your Introduction to Judaism classes taught online. I’m sorry to say that I missed the class that started on 01/20/2019 due to financial constraints. Can I just wait until the class that is scheduled for 3/30/2019 and pick up from there? I know the classes are titled differently. Can I not catch up on what I missed at a later date?
    Also, when I click on the payment window it says 100%, 80%, 60%. What does this mean?

  49. Question:

    Looking at the basis for our covenant with G-d, I noticed G-d said to Avraham (Bereshit 17:1): “Walk before Me”, which is sometimes understood to mean: “Serve Me”. And also (Bereshit 17:9): “You shall keep My covenant”.

    Afterwards G-d Himself says regards this in Bereshit 26:5 that Avraham obeyed the Voice of the Almighty and indeed kept it.

    I noticed some similarities looking at the story of Mount Sinai. First G-d says (Shemot 19:5): “If you will obey My voice” and “keep My covenant”.

    The people response was: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient (i.e. we will obey and keep).”

    Secondly I noticed G-d saying (Bereshit 17:7): “I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to thy G-d and to thy seed after thee.”

    While in Shemot 6:7 G-d promises that He will take them as His own people and that He will be their G-d.

    Many more similarities can be found.

    These covenants seems to be based on two principals. From G-ds side He makes certain promises, from the human side commitment and obedience is being asked. It all starts with acknowledging G-d, and accepting Him as G-d, but once we do this, it seems one needs to show obedience (we make ourselves avadim, to be His servants, and He promises to be our G-d).

    With obedience to seem to be such a big part of our covenant/relationship with G-d, why isn’t it the first commandment given (after getting to know G-d) at mount Sinai?

    Isn’t serving/obedience to G-d the biggest Mitzvah of them all? One that covers all other commandmens, one that enconpasses the entire range of what’s being asked of us?

    P.s. I’ve found a comment stating all mitzvot are contained in the mitzvah of emunah, i.e. “Anochi HaShem Elohecha” (Maharsha Middos 23b). While I also think emunah (acknowledging and accepting G-d) is the main principle, it is shown by yiras, ahavah etc. but these and all what we do, our role in the covenantal relionship, is based on our given proclamation na’aseh v’nishma

  50. Rabbi,

    I have a question regarding ordination, specifically what a non-Congregational Rabbi could do for a career? I have been looking into the Rabbinate, but I am not sure that I can commit to a year in Israel and a four year program at HUC. At the same time, I don’t know if I want to affiliate with a universalist sect because I am not sure how seriously they would be taken by the four major streams. What do you think?

    1. Eric, the best way to approach this might be to ask yourself, what is it that draws me to the rabbinate? What is it that I want to DO? What about the role of “rabbi” calls to me?

      Rabbis outside the pulpit are educators, chaplains, and administrators of Jewish organizations. In most cases that requires study beyond the 5 year rabbinic program.

      However there are also programs that are less than 5 years and do not require a year in Israel that lead to degrees in Jewish education and management in communal organizations. They don’t confer the title of rabbi but they include text study etc.

      I’m not clear what you mean by a “universalist sect.” Say a bit more?

      1. The universalist sect I was referring to is JSLI. I’d like to be able to perform lifecycle events. I also wouldn’t mind being some type of educator. The chaplaincy does interest me, but I am 15 years into a military career at this point; it’s almost time to hang it up and let my wife have a go at a career since I have been dragging her all over the world. It wouldn’t be fair to commit her to the life for even longer and I am not sure the sponsoring agencies accept any Chaps outside of the the Ortho/Conservative/Reform movements. I am committed to a lifetime of study (I believe) by virtue of Judaism being a lifetime journey. Basically, I want to be involved in the community. We don’t have kids and I want to make sure that Judaism continues L’dor Vador.

  51. Hi! I’ve really been enjoying your perspective and writing melding both tradition and modern perspectives. I have a farm and have decided to embark on raising some chickens for meat this year. I don’t know that my slaughter techniques will be strictly kosher, however I raise all my farm animals as humanely as I can and plan to do the same for their end of life experience. I’m wondering what you have to say about the prayer before slaughter and any other perspectives on this sacred act informed by Judaism. I do my best to treat everything, plant and animal, as sacred on my property and although I have experience in a number of different traditions, I’d like to bring in more of my own Judaic background. Thank you!


    1. Oh! I meant to also say that I have in front of me this: תפילה לפני שחיטה | Prayer before Kosher Slaughter, by Eliyah ben Shlomo Avraham haKohen (Sefer Shevet Musar, 1712) but the translation feels difficult to understand/relate to.

  52. Rabbi Adar — Does Halakah forbid the belief in, or the use of metaphors about, God being an old man in the sky? The chariot “merkevah” mystics we’re always traveling up to a “throne room,” which implies the existence of a God who would sit on the throne. Even on that throne, inside castles in the sky, was God still considered a “Presence” … like the way God would descend as a Presence to the Tabernacle in the desert?
    There is, of course, a broader context for this question, but it’s too complicated to explain here.
    Thank you for any wisdom you can provide!!! shavua tov and Chag Purim Sameach, jen

  53. Dear Rabbi Adar,

    My (already bad) hearing took a turn for the worse, and long story short, I’m eligible for a Cochlear Implant, CI for short. However, during medical testing we found that my vestibular system is compromised as well, only my right organ is still functional. Sadly, my right ear is also the ear that would give me a far better result for the implantation, but it may be damaged during the surgery. One team of doctors has advised me to have my left ear implanted, but another team (as a second opinion) advised me to have my right ear implanted.
    My problem is thus basically: Do I take the lowest risk and have my left ear implanted, with sub-optimal results for hearing, or do I take a higher risk and have my right ear implanted, with the risk of losing my sense of balance but with a far better result in hearing?
    Can you offer some wisdom for making my choice?

    With regards,


  54. I realize now why I get you, I’m in a relationship with a devout Catholic and many of your answers are on point when I have the inevitable religious discussion, you can’t get through to dogmatic Catholics or is there a way to bring Hashem into the life of a catholic

    1. In my family we try to be respectful when we deal with each other. There is a basic ground rules of “no prosetylizing.” We may sometimes compare but we don’t compete, out of love.

      1. I guess the real question is how do you break through layers of dogma that brooks no discussion, as you know in Catholicism there is no express debate, there is only the way ( Whichever team you on be it Jesuit, Franciscan or other )

        1. Mostly we figure that we are all responsible for ourselves, and love is stronger than dogma. I suspect some are praying for me, but they are kind enough not to bother me with it. Educated by Dominicans, most of us, and Irish-American Catholic (ex, in my case.)

  55. Rabbi,
    I am currently in the process of converting to Judaism, my partner, who is not Jewish proposed and we are excited to get married! However, in the process of planning they asked if I wanted to have a Jewish ceremony, and well, is that even possible? We would love to, we want to have a Jewish home, however because my conversion isn’t finished and won’t be before we get married, is that even possible?




  56. I converted pretty late in life. My parents are long gone, and I’ve never been sure whether or not I should observe their yarhzeits. Both were gentiles. What do you think?

    Thanks, and Shana Tovah

  57. Dear Rabbi,

    Looking into conversion, a consistent theme I see is telling ones parents you are converting. Now, I recognize the importance of this, the family is extremely important to Jewish life and should be informed. However, what about for people who’s relationship with their parents is more complicated and they can’t talk to them for certain reasons. Asking this as a trans person who may not even tell my parents I’m trans and have really good reason to think they’d react poorly if I did. I’m an adult who would likely be in a different state from them by the time I started the process of conversion in the first place.

    Thank you,

  58. good evening Rabbi Adar, i have been using vegetable oils with herbs for making my own skincare and i am coming across articles for making tallow salves or balms. since it isn’t being eaten (and i am not vegetarian) what is the halachic perspective of using chelev/tallow in homemade skincare products? thank you and Happy Hanukkah.

    1. Meredith, if you don’t put it in your mouth and consume it, nonkosher ingredients are not an issue. For instance, the oldest complete copy of the Talmud is bound in pigskin.

      That said you should be careful about salves or cosmetics that might wind up in your mouth – lip balms, for instance, if you are keeping kosher.

      Are there Jews who would reject a salve that wasn’t kosher to eat? You bet. This is where I draw the line but not every rabbi will say the same.

  59. Dear Rabbi Adar,
    I have been following you on Twitter for a couple of years and I am drawn to your honest, practical and empathetic responses to comments.
    I was raised in “the church of the month club” (whichever local church sent a Sunday school bus to our neighborhood is where we went).
    In my 30s I decided I needed to find a place where I felt at peace. I was always drawn to Judaism, but I had so many questions I was too afraid to ask. I started dating a Jewish man and finally had a chance to ask. I was so happy.
    By then I had been inhaling books on Judaism and conversion.
    I finally contacted the local Synagogue and spoke to the Rabbi. He was very kind and invited me to that Fridays Shabbat, so I went. Although my understanding of Hebrew consisted of Shalom and good Shabbos, by the end of the service my heart was filled with peace and I had finally found where I belonged.
    In 2006 I began the process of conversion. I attended the Introduction to Judaism classes; however, I have Multiple Sclerosis so some weeks I was unable to attend. I attended as often as I could, and prayed wherever I happened to be. I even went back several years later to make up some. I attended High Holy day services there as well as Pesach and other congregation functions. I even joined the Sisters knitting/crochet group to crochet lap blankets for veterans and hats for cancer patients.
    In 2007 I moved to Missouri for a year. There was only one Synagogue within 50 miles of where I lived, but I attended services there and even ran into a couple that used to attend my other one but had moved. I attended High Holy Day services as well as other holidays.
    I moved back home in 2008, but was working long hours and spending three hours a day in L.A. traffic. I had spent several Seder dinners with my boyfriend and his parents. We have since split.
    My family is essentially Christian although my moms family is Mormon. None of them have understood my yearning to become Jewish, but I was determined. My sister-in-law told me she would pray that I “come to my senses”. I have walked most of this path alone.
    I contacted another local Synagogue about making up the last class I was missing and complete my conversion. I was told by the Rabbi that lead the classes that all I needed to do was work with a sponsoring Rabbi to compete it.
    Before I could finish my life was thrown in disarray. My Grandmother passed away in March 2012, my Stepmom of 20 years (my “other” mom) passed away three weeks later. My father required round the clock care which I was sharing with my mom while working 70 hours a week. It took another year to get my dad into a board and care facility, and my mom and I were taking turns visiting him, even though he hated me. He even told me to my face that he never wanted to see me again. Although I did not care for him as a person, he was my father and a fellow human being.
    All the stress took its toll on my physical health. I had a major flare of my MS that left me with permanent nerve damage in my left hand. As a System Administrator (read: keyboard jockey) who could no longer type I was more or less forced into early retirement at 48.
    I was trying so hard to take care of myself, living alone, and started watching services on Youtube and Livestream. I watched Yom Kippur services one year from my hospital bed. The nurses were kind and kept everyone out of my room other than to check my blood pressure and stuff. It meant a lot to me.
    I had to move to my mothers house in 2016 since I could no longer keep up with the house. I haven’t been able to drive in two years either. I know my conversion is not official but I consider myself Jewish. My nieces and nephews get Chanukah gifts from me. They’re in their early 20s now so it’s a thing that they get to decorate their tree and still get to eat latkes and donuts while they open their gifts.
    Sorry for the super long message, but this has been a super long journey for me. I’m so close, but I can’t progress any further without someone to help. I still watch services on Friday nights. I had to get electric Shabbat candles because I only have my room here. I’m still reading. Elie Weisel’s The Sunflower was pretty powerful. I read books about the Holocaust, Jewish philosophy (Maimonides), the 613 Mitzvot, and others.
    Do you think G-d would be angry if I were to buy a Tallit to wear when I pray even though I’m technically not Jewish? I have a beautiful kippa made of gold wire and beads I got as a gift when I first started down this path. I never got a Tallit because my ex boyfriend said it would be a sin to wear one before I became Bat Mitzvah. I even have a Mezuzah to put on the doorframe of my room that I bought years ago but never put up for the same reason. Would that also be taboo? I’ve received different answers from different people.
    I understand that I am not officially Jewish, but would G-d really not understand since he sees my struggles and the fact that I try to continue to educate myself and keep the Sabbath?
    If I had someone I could ask to accompany me, I would. I just don’t. My mother along with the rest of my family don’t want any part of it but that’s okay by me. I’m doing this for myself. My ex boyfriend is not the one that pushed me to convert. I was already headed in that direction. He just reassured me and gave me a nudge. In the beginning he even came to a couple of my classes with me. He actually said he’d learned something.
    I spent half of 2019 in the hospital. I was sick from December 2018 to September 2019. A Rabbi did come see me while I was in the hospital and prayed with me. I was so grateful since not one member of my family came to see me. It’s not like I had the Plague. As far as I know, MS isn’t contagious.
    I would be forever grateful if you would let me know. I consider myself Jewish and try my best to observe the Mitzvot. I need to be able to put my heart at peace again. Even if I can’t wear Tallit or hang a Mezuzah, I will still observe Shabbat so G-d will see my sincere heart.
    Thank you Rabbi.

    1. Ginger, I am so glad that you have felt peace living a Jewish life. A question: are you still in the LA area?

      You are welcome to wear a kipah (head covering) or to put a mezuzah on your doorpost. A tallit normally is only worn by a person who is officially Jewish.

      Right now things are awkward with conversion, because while we can do online classes and even an online beit din, the mikveh is a requirement for conversion and due to Covid-19, no one is conducting those services. Congregational rabbis are overloaded with work right now, between figuring out how to do services, doing pastoral counseling, and a million other things.

      So you aren’t officially Jewish, but right now it isn’t possible to do much about that. The good news is that there are lots of services and classes online and easily available.

      God sees you and sees your heart. You are beloved by God, officially Jewish or not.

  60. Hi Rabbi Adar, My question is: what does one do if one is a sincere, Reform Jew, and can’t find a viable synagogue in the area? We moved when my husband retired, have tried several temples locally, and they don’t reach the caliber of where we were. It is disheartening to me, since I enjoy practice and like to be an active member. I’m ready to move back, but my husband is reluctant to move back, although we still have a house there. What should be our considerations? Thank you!

    1. Dear Melanie,

      What are you looking for in a synagogue community? What are the essentials for you?

      Try to distinguish between what you are homesick for at the previous synagogue, which can’t be replicated anywhere else, and those things that can grow in a new place.

      I think if you and your husband do some very honest thinking about this, the answers to your questions may become clear.

  61. Hello!

    I’m asking this because im curious; Im a 16 year old boy who wants to try and convert to Judaism (Orthodox specifically) but the problem is, the nearest Orthodox synagogue is 37 miles from where I live. What are my options?

  62. I need rabbinical advice but I don’t feel like I can reach out to local rabbis out of respect to my current one. I’ve tried to keep this as anonymous as possible. I’m sorry for the length.

    I’ve been going through the conversion process with my rabbi (after living a predominantly Jewish life for the last 17 years). At our last meeting we spoke about my readiness and I was asked to write an essay for the Beit Din and choose a Hebrew name. Obviously, I was elated.

    Conversion has been a rough road. Or at least converting during a pandemic. My husband and I have been very active members in our temple for several years including board spots and committee appointees and our son is on track to become a Bar Mitzvah in March.

    Like many, our synagogue is split on how we should be reacting to Covid and this has created large schisms within the congregation. During these discussions things have been said by our rabbi that underscore our differences in values. I completely accept this- we both want the best for our community, have concerns about different needs, and accept that there is not “right” way to get through this all.

    During these discussions we’ve brought up that other families share our frustrations and are concerned this is no longer the right congregation for them. We have purposely tried to walk a line between expressing the growing concern within our community while also protecting the those not ready to address the rabbi directly (and yes we’ve asked those concerned to go to the rabbi and board but they either don’t think it will help or don’t want the confrontation we’ve received). These things were said to us in confidence and we only have permission to share so much. I’ve made it clear to our rabbi before that I was unwilling to share names or details.

    How our rabbi has expressed their views, however, makes me question the type of person they are. Other temple board members and employees have reached out on several occasions to apologize on the rabbi’s behalf. We have never put the rabbi’s name to the things said and try to downplay how bad our relationship has gotten.

    During our conversion appointments we (with effort) put aside our opposing views on the congregation and focus on study with an emphasis on creating a relationship with god.

    Last week I received an email from our rabbi that essentially said I needed to give them the names of the families that are unhappy because they are now distrusting everyone or they’re going to assume I’m lying.

    I know they are trying to do their best. I know this has been stressful for them and our community. But I also know that our membership is down and a quarter of our Hebrew students refuse to come to class until it’s back in person because of a lack of engagement and communication. There is evidence that we are not alone in our frustration.

    I feel as though Rabbi has crossed a line by asking me to be a gossipmonger. I don’t want to carry that sin and I don’t like that it’s my rabbi asking me to do it.

    So now after years of contemplation and a year of study I feel closer to God then ever before, closer to Judaism and my faith- but I’ve completely lost faith in my rabbi. I don’t think I want them to sponsor my conversion with the beit din. It feels as though these feelings I’m having towards them will sully the experience somehow. I know innately and from our teachings that god won’t hold me separate as long as I live my life through Torah. Conversion is largely about being accepted into the community and having my faith acknowledged by the beit din. But now I’m struggling with the question of if the congregation and the rabbi I’ve created a bond with is anything I really want to associate myself with. You described your relationship with your converting rabbi as one of the most important in your life.

    So how do I complete this transition knowing I can’t see myself staying at this congregation or being able to learn from this rabbi as our relationship currently is?

    1. Hi May,

      I know your post is dated, but I’m writing in case you are still ‘here’ reading.

      Judaism is not like Christianity – we don’t put our rabbis on pedestals. (Well, the Chasidim do, but that’s another story.) We respect them primarily for the Torah they carry. But we know that they don’t know everything. They are not any holier than the rest of us. They are just doing their best in this world, as are we.

      You are free to shop around, so to speak, and talk to other rabbis, even as a member of your current synagogue. If you do so, you are not betraying your rabbi or your shul.

      Converts grow over time, and often do not stay in the same synagogue under the same rabbi who helped them convert. This is normal. You might be Reform now but eventually go Conservative or even Orthodox. On the other hand, you might start off Orthodox but then go Reform! This is all normal convert behavior.

      Listen to the little voice inside that tells you what to do. That’s HaShem talking to you. Follow your conscience. Don’t get caught up in the political games at your shul.

      If you want to be a Jew, are meant to be a Jew, it will happen. Try not to worry.

      It will be OK.

      Best Wishes,

  63. Rabbi Adar – I am trying to send you an email but can’t find an address. Thank you, Lou Feldstein

  64. Someone committed suicide by running into our van. My husband was driving. This was years ago. He swerved, but the guy did too, determined to hit him head on. The driver is 61, never had anything else happen before or since. Should I be worried?

    My youngest son was asleep at the time, so missed the accident, but woke up afterwards. Is he involved?

    Is there anything we can do to mitigate the “bad karma”?


    1. Shelly, I am so sorry that your family has suffered this terrible experience. I am not clear exactly what you are asking when you say, “Should I be worried?” but it sounds to me like your husband was completely NOT at fault. Thank heavens your son was not injured, and it is in no way his fault, either.

      In Judaism, we don’t talk so much about karma as responsibility. Your loved ones have no responsibility for the accident — your husband took steps to try to avoid it. Your son was asleep.

      I do not think you need to worry about future bad outcomes from this terrible event. If you are worried about legal aspects of it, talk to a licensed attorney in your state.

      Finally, if it is worrying you so much after so many years, you might also want to seek some time to talk with a qualified counselor or therapist.

      I wish you a complete healing.

      Rabbi Adar

  65. How does a nice Jewish man recover from flirting with apostasy ? I was working with a traditional nun and priest in order to convert to Catholicism. I am, thank God, back on the derech, but need advice as to teshuvah, etc. Please help. Zei gezint.

  66. Advice?

    I was Orthodox trained in Monsey, NY. I could be a rabbi, I guess, but I ‘ran away’ in my late thirties due to the high incidence of childhood sexual abuse in the Orthodox community. It sickened me. As a mesivta teacher, I saw too much. Now, I have a sort of PTSD response to shuls. So I stay home alone on Shabbat and holidays. That’s very difficult.

    Am now 61 y/o and still hiding out away from the Jewish community. Am a member of Footsteps – the organization that helps Charedi Jews leave the community, if they wish, but I am still quite isolated.

    Tried non-Orthodox synagogues but they sort of seem like country clubs. And I cannot get into electronics at the bimah on Shabbat. There doesn’t seem to be any mysticism. It’s all sort of church-like to me, with organs and rabbis in black robes.

    How to get past this?

    1. I came from a different outside place — I grew up Catholic in the South. I confess that at first Reform shuls felt like Lutheran churches to me (especially the music – Lewandowski!) and I was more drawn to high-conservative/modern ortho congregations. However, I was a lesbian, and I don’t do closets, so Reform was the only place they’d have me in 1995. I have learned to love some things about Reform liturgy and to live with what I don’t love. That said, I still love to attend a service without musical instruments, without explanations from clergy, just straight-ahead davening in Hebrew. My home congregation is the place where I began as a Jew, and where there are people I care about and who care about me.

      All of that is to say, I do understand your discomfort, and I have a couple of suggestions:

      1. Is there any chance of making a minyan of Jews you know through Footsteps? If you are in a city with any size Jewish community, I suspect there are others who share your tastes in worship.
      2. Another possibility is to Google the geographical area you’re in and “egalitarian minyan.”
      3. Re the PTSD and shuls, many of these small minyanim meet in non-shul like places — people’s homes, or a library, etc.
      4. Another possibility is Renewal congregations. Their roots are in chasidut, but they are generally egalitarian. Again, Google your city and “Jewish Renewal” and see what you get. Here in the Bay Area I’d suggest you check out Kehilla, Chochmat HaLev, and Aquarian Minyan.

      I wish you the very best.

      1. Thank you.

        I’m also LGBT but I have no problem swimming in the charedi sea. In fact, I am much more at home in the Charedi world than in the LGBT community.

        I am now a student in a Sacramento law school. Sacramento has five shuls: one Reform, two Conservative, one tiny Chabad, and an even tinier MO. We do not have minyans in homes or the like. And there are no other Footsteps members here; I participate in a Footsteps support group via Zoom, as they are centered in New York.

        The minyanim you mention by name – Kehilla, Chochmat HaLev, and Aquarian – are in Berkeley. I have friends in Berkeley and hope to relocate there after law school. But those minyanim didn’t work for me, either. How does anyone manage without the Shabbat ‘bubble’ that shuts out the world, that leads life to temporarily stop by shutting down radios, TVs, cars, phones? I do not ‘get’ the non-Orthodox world. I really don’t.

        I want to daven someplace like the Lakewood yeshiva where the services are entirely in Hebrew, and there is no rabbi to announce loudly, just as I am about to step into the Amidah, “And now, let’s all turn to page 328 in our prayerbooks.” I cannot feel the ebb and flow of the davening with all that talking and editorializing.

        Finicky, yes, but that’s what I am used to; and I have a mystical bent that will not be satisfied in Reform or Conservative shuls. I love to sit at a shtender with it pulled close to me, and daven slowly and meditatively in Hebrew with a group of like-minded folk. I need observant friends to share Shabbat meals with, friends who won’t try to feed me treif food, or beg me to ride in their car on Shabbat. And I want to be able to attend a men’s mikvah, even at 1 AM. I haven’t been able to find anything even close in Northern California.


  67. Does the Conservative Jewish tradition allow for cremation? Will Conservative Rabbis officiate at a funeral or memorial service where the deceased has been cremated?

  68. Do you have any reading recommendations for books or articles about the intersection of antisemitism and misogyny? Or about the intersection of antisemitism and homophobia/transphobia, or otherwise stereotyping of Jews as sexual deviants? I’ve been scouring databases and there doesn’t seem to be a lot published about any of those things.

  69. Hi I wanted to know if the commentators disagree much head on.If they disagree with each others SPECIFIC point often

    1. The commentators disagree all the time. Sometimes they are very direct about it, sometimes less so, but in commentary, as in everything else, 3 Jews = 5 opinions.

  70. I am going through the heartbreaking process of losing my mother to Alzheimer’s disease. She has reached a stage of complete non-responsiveness, but her body has not stopped living. I cannot know what she is experiencing at this point, whether she continues to consciously suffer, now without language and with dwindling connection to this world. Whatever she is experiencing, I do know that I continue to suffer for her, as we all feel the pains of our loved ones as our own.

    When she and my father are gone, my brother and I will be all that remains of our lineage (the family was small to begin with, and neither of us has children). Now that I have lost all of my grandparents and am losing my mother, at times I feel unmoored in grief. Lately I find myself longing to say a prayer – almost as though my mouth longs to form the shapes of words unknown [to me], words that might have been said or sung by my ancestors as they bore these eternal losses that come with the gift of living.

    My childhood was secular, but deeply culturally Jewish (I am descended from all Ashkenazi Jews, via NYC, on both sides). I did not have a Bat Mitzvah or learn Hebrew as a child. Rather than Hebrew, Russian Yiddish is the tongue with which I associate my own experience of Jewishness. And while my experience of Jewishness is secular, it runs deep, forming much of the foundation of who I am.

    Is there a prayer that suggests itself for my context? A prayer to ask not that my mother be healed, but that she may find comfort from suffering? A prayer that she not feel alone, even if my support can no longer reach her? I don’t know whether it is “OK” to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for my mother yet, as her body has not stopped living… And of course, discussing the Mourner’s Kaddish leads to the more practical question of the necessity of a minyan, as well. I have read mention of a solitary alternative to the Mourner’s Kaddish – a prayer which does not require a minyan – but I have not been able to find a transliteration (nor do I know if this would even be the appropriate prayer).

    I will be grateful for any guidance you can offer.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

    1. Oh, Jes, I am so sorry for all the suffering you and your family have experienced!

      One very simple prayer is right in the Torah. When Miriam is stricken with a disfiguring skin disease, Moses prays for his sister:

      “Please, God, please heal her!”

      In Hebrew, that’s:

      “El, nah, reh-fah-nah-LAH.”

      If you want to shift the pronouns to pray for the family, you can say:

      “El nah reh-fah-nah-LAH-noo.”

      “Please, God, please heal us.”

      I pray that your mother finds true peace and a relief from all suffering.

  71. Hello!
    My name is Ben and I have a question: I’m 11 and I’m on the autism spectrum and I like to play with dolls. I have an interest in Judaism and I really like the religion. I was wondering if it is acceptable for me to tell others that my favorite doll is Jewish or is that not ok?

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