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Q. Do Carrots have to be “Bishul Yisrael”? The fact they’re edible raw is that an exemption?

A. Yes it is an exemption from the Bishul Yisrael law (which says that a Jew observant of the Kosher Law must participate to some degree in the cooking preparation). As long as all ingredients and equipment is certainly Kosher, … Read the rest

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Q. Is Tree-Planting allowed in Israel during the Shemittah year?

A. I’m not sure of JNF’s policy, but Halacha forbids planting in Israel’s soil during the Shemitta (sabbatical) year. 5768 / 2007-8 (when this question was originally posted) is a Shemmitah year. There are several different ways that observant Jews … Read the rest

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Q. So who wrote the Torah – the Five Books?

A. Ah, the million-dollar question! Obviously, the issue of whose words they are has far-reaching implications. Reform Jews, much like secular academics, believe that a number of different human authors wrote the Torah. Conservative Jews believe somewhat the same, only … Read the rest

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Q. “Ayin-Hora” the evil eye – is it superstition or what?

 A. The concept has basis in classical Jewish sources, but some of its grandmotherly application has a nice dose of superstition to it. I’d say, generally speaking, it’s one third religious lore, a third psychology and another third superstition. It’s … Read the rest

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Q. Snowballs on Shabbos – what’s the verdict? 

A. Without an “Eruv” there’s no carrying outdoors on Shabbos, and throwing is including in carrying, so that would be out. Even within a permissible carrying place, there are some issues with snowball making. Most Rabbinic sources consider intentionally compacting … Read the rest

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Q. Did the Rebbe assume his wife’s (maiden) name “Schneersohn”? 

 A. No. The Rebbe and his wife shared a last name before they got married in 1929. They were actually cousins, sharing a common great-great grandfather, the 3rd Rebbe of Lubavitch (also named Menachem Mendel) also known as the Tzemach … Read the rest

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Q. Why aren’t we worried about breaking twigs when walking on grass on Shabbos?

A. Two Shabbat rules are in play here. (1) Breaking twigs is not your desired intent as you walk across the grass, the goal is to get from Point A to Point B. (2) It is not absolutely certain that … Read the rest

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Q. Do Chabad Rabbis take special storytelling courses?

A. I didn’t. But storytelling and parables are important Chassidic (and generally Jewish) traditions, so it was a big part of our learning experience.… Read the rest

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Q. Is there a point of praying in a synagogue even without a Minyan?

A. Yes. Personal prayer is good anywhere, but being in place of heightened spiritual sensitivity is an added dimension.… Read the rest

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 Q. How does the Talmud view Herod?

A. Mixed feelings. He surely was not a descendent of the House of David and therefore traditionally unworthy of kingship, and the beginning of his reign saw much bloodshed when he killed much of the Rabbinic leadership. But later on, … Read the rest

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