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Q. I saw a dance at a Jewish wedding with people dancing with bottles on their heads. What’s the point?

A. There’s a big Mitzvah to be joyous at wedding and rejoice with the bride and groom. This is one interesting form of entertainment. It happens to be a Russian talent and tradition and is quite difficult to perform. A … Read the rest

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Q. Something’s wrong. Calendar says to burn Chametz on Friday, and then eat it until Saturday morning?

A. That only happens when Passover begins on Saturday Night. We can’t burn Chametz as usual on the day before Passover, since that would be prohibited on the Sabbath. So we do it on Friday, but we are allowed to … Read the rest

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Q. Why do we pray towards East, but to a Western Wall?

A. We in the diaspora pray toward East to the direction of Jerusalem. (The Jews of Babylonia and Syria prayed to the west, towards Jerusalem). The Western Wall is named such because it is the wall surrounded the western side … Read the rest

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Q. I always thought Megillah referred to the Book of Esther, and now I hear there’s five such books?

A. There’s only one Book of Esther and Purim story, but there are five books in Jewish scripture which bear the name Megillah. But you are right, when people say Megillah they are almost always referring to the Book of … Read the rest

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Q. I need to know what it took to become a Rabbi in the 1st Century?

A. A lot more than it does today. Not all scholars were automatically Rabbis back then. The title “Rabbi” referred to the “Smicha” ordination of the earlier generation (represented by one of its outstanding leaders) conferring special authority, transmitted down … Read the rest

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Q. My Jewish tenant asked me to switch the outdoor light’s motion-sensor to a photo-sensor. Is a motion-sensor unclean? Does it violate individual privacy?

A. There’s nothing unclean or unacceptable about motion sensors. But they do present a one day a week problem to a Sabbath observant Jew. Those who are strictly observant do not manipulate or change electrical devices on the Sabbath. We … Read the rest

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Q. What’s a “Psak”?

A. This refers to a clear decisive authoritative ruling on a Halachic issue by a respected expert Rabbinic figure. It also has a Yiddish slang meaning a firm and decisive punishment.… Read the rest

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Q. What’s the point of fasting?

A. We don’t do it very often, but the few Jewish fasts a year are a form of personal suffering to better appreciate and relate to what these fast-days represent. And getting away from food for a while helps us … Read the rest

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Q. My great-grandfather’s gravestone has a “Shin, Vav & Bet” after his name. What does that stand for?

A. “Shochet uBodek” – Ritual Slaughterer and Inspector/Investigator. This is the title for advanced Shochet certification.… Read the rest

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