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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Benjamin Hecht

Question: If someone has a good job in America and making Aliya means that he will earn significantly less money, what should be done in view of the obligation to live in the land (haaretz). So too, what should be done if a spouse does not want to make Aliyah and objects?
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Question: Even though circumcision is to enter into the covenant of Abraham, what about aesthetics, health, hygiene, and sanitation? Isn't circumcision for those things, too?
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Question: The following question is based on an inquiry to The Ethicist column in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. When there are scientific studies that point to the media having an impact on violent behavior, is it unethical to write, produce or direct violent films and TV shows?
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Question: I was never given a Hebrew name. My father is a non-Jew and my mother is a Jew. I understand that the last part of the Hebrew name is the first part of the father's Hebrew name. What would the method be for determining my Hebrew name be? [Administrator's note: A related question is found at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=298.]
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Question: I am a religiously-unaffiliated philosophy professor seriously considering conversion to Judaism, and am currently learning as much as I can in order to make a decision. My reasons for wanting to convert are entirely my own - I find myself drawn to the religion's beliefs and practices and feel it may be where I belong. In my research I have found numerous books on the subject of conversion, however they normally focus on the process of conversion itself - the 'how'. Whilst this is certainly important, I feel I first need to tackle the question of 'should' on a deep and careful level. I would like to make a sincere spiritual and moral commitment, and I know that converting to Judaism is not a small or trivial commitment to make. Are you able to recommend any reading material that explores the question of 'should I convert?' in a deep and contemplative way? Something that explores not just the practicalities of the decision, but its deeper meaning in terms of one's moral commitments and relationship with God? I am particularly interested in the pros and cons in this respect, as I have sometimes encountered dire warnings that "It is better to be a righteous Gentile than to make a commitment that you cannot keep". I feel I will need to study and contemplate the pros and cons of conversions very deeply in order to choose wisely. Thank you for your time (and feel free to edit this overly-long question for clarity).
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Question: My daughter has a child with a non-Jewish man with whom she has since split. She leads a totally non-Jewish life, although she comes for Seder, etc. Her own father, who died at the age of 24, was not Jewish. I have since married a Jewish man. I truly hope and wish that my daughter ends up with a Jewish man, but given her choice of lifestyle I do not see how this can ever happen. Should I give up hoping and accept that this is a lost cause? She is my only child and I sense that she feels lost and is unhappy. All she wants is to have a family life. My own father was the only father figure in her life, but he died when she was six years old. I blame myself entirely for this situation as I was hardly a good example.
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Question: Why is there a Jewish leap year this year? (2014?)
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Question: If a medicine is applied to the skin near the mouth, and some is accidentally swallowed, is it a problem if the ingredients may not be kosher? [Administrators note: A related question is found at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=123.]
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Question: The Chofetz Chaim (of blessed memory) states that a Torah written by a heretic must be burned. At an economic loss of $15,000 upwards, is it permissible ethically and according to Jewish values to make full disclosure of the defects of such a Torah, and sell it under those conditions to a Conservative or Reform (or any) congregation that is in need of one? It is assumed that the text of the Torah itself is without error or shmad (heretical defect).
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Question: Are extremists on both sides (left and right) of the Woman of the Wall ordeal going too far to push their agendas? It seems like most Israelis would prefer peace and unity when it comes to personal praying at the Kotel.
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Question: My brother recently married a non-Jewish woman. I went to the wedding, not because I wanted to, but because my mother insisted I go. My husband and I sat in a corner with our kosher store-bought sandwiches (no kosher food in sight) and made a presence. It was a very uncomfortable evening, and has led to even more questions for me. I love my brother very much and want to be part of his life, but I truly do not want to be around his non-Jewish wife. We do not live in the same city, so it's not like we run into each other frequently, but I am not sure what I am supposed to do for the occasions that we do meet. I would consider myself modern Orthodox and my brother has gone beyond non-observant; he now considers himself an atheist. What is the Jewish view on these situations? Does one just try to be polite to the non-Jewish spouse to maintain a relationship with the Jewish family member? My husband and I hope to have a family soon. How do you handle exposing your children to something you are teaching them is wrong? I know the fact that I do not want to be at a table (or in the same room) as his wife hurts my mother tremendously (she does not like what my brother has done either, but fears losing him). Is my difficulty with my brother and his wife a lack of respect for my mother as her children cannot spend quality time together? I know there are several questions listed here. I thank you in advance for your assistance with this.
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Question: How do Jewish values apply to this question, which appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Ethicist column. I am a single woman in my mid-20s. I recently learned from my dear friend that she has developed a longtime pattern of cheating on her husband of five years. I understand cheating happens for various reasons - but if I remain friends with her, am I condoning her ongoing behavior? If I am "anti-compulsive-cheating," do I therefore have to be "anti-her?" I value many aspects of our friendship, but don't see her (or my) views on philandering ever changing. What is the Jewish response to this?
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Question: In the story of Purim, why was Esther willing to marry a non-Jewish king? What do we learn from this?
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Question: Can we apply the lessons learned from the Maccabees in the story of Chanukah (to have courage, to stand up and fight, not to bow to outside pressures) to Israel's current struggle for its rights and independence?
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Question: We have made decision not to attend weddings between Jew and non-Jew as a statement that we do not approve of intermarriage. But now that our Jewish nephew has married a non-Jew, we felt that we should give him a wedding gift since it was after the fact. We felt that not attending the wedding was enough of a statement. I know that it sounds illogical, but we didn't want our family to think that we are mean people, but rather we were only making a statement before the fact and would not change the situation. Were we wrong in giving a wedding gift after the fact in this situation?
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Question: During the High Holidays, in the process of teshuvah, we repent for past sins. I understand that in our (Jewish) view, repentance means that we are sorry for the sins that we have committed, we try to repair the injuries we have caused, we ask forgiveness from God and man, and we resolve to do better in the future. Christianity appears to have a very different idea of what it means to repent and atone for a sin, and how a sin is forgiven. Can you try to explain this difference, please (I understand that I am asking Jewish rabbis, and not Christians to speak to these differences)?
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Question: Is a husband obligated to provide for his wife? My husband and I have been married for one year. We are both in our sixties. I agreed to sign a prenup because my husband (who is financially quite comfortable) wanted to protect his estate for his son. I have worked all my life and have always taken care of myself. I earn about half of what my husband does and never inherited any family money. The bottom line is that the prenup became very contentious and I saw the final version at the signing - 48 hours before our wedding. Our guests had already begun arriving. I walked out of the signing and spoke with my attorney who advised that this document was the "best he could do given that my husband started on the process two weeks before our wedding." Against my better judgement, I signed it. Within the first three months of our marriage I wanted it changed. We went to a therapist and he agreed to make changes. There have been continuous fights and multiple promises from him (lies) to make changes.To date, nothing has been done. My fear is that if something happens to him I will not be able to afford to live in the apartment that we presently share. My husband owns the apartment, our prenup stipulated that I pay him rent. EVERYTHING he has goes to his son. I secretly discovered his will- which he refuses to discuss with me. In order to be in compliance with state law he is obligated to leave me something. He is leaving me 2% of his estate and a minimum monthly allowance (administered by his son whom I don't care for) toward the apartment upkeep. Prior to our marriage I was an independent self-supporting woman had an apartment which I could easily afford, lived quite comfortably, and was not dependent on anyone. I gave away most of my furniture, have lost my apartment, and if something happens to my husband will be dependent on the generosity of his son. Even more shocking is that in his will it states, " If I am unable to keep up with the monthly maintenance for the apartment, the estate has the right to evict me in 90 days." My husband and I dated for 5 years prior to our marriage.I lived with him for two of those years although I always kept my own apartment. I saw him as generous of both his time and money to charity, overly generous towards his son, and as a well-liked and respected member of the community both professionally and socially. Until the prenup, I never experienced this side of him or had any indication that he would behave like this. Is this a moral and ethical way to treat one's wife ? What can I do?
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Question: My girlfriend runs a business selling hand-spun tzitzit (fringes for a ritual prayer shawl). Recently, a customer asked her if he could send her his tallit (prayer shawl) and have her tie the new tzitzit directly onto it. She agreed, but was surprised to find, when the tallit arrived, that it was a Messianic (a non-Jewish, fully Christian group that usurps Jewish ritual and incorrectly incorporates it into non-Jewish worship) tallit, complete with a New-Testament quote on the atarah (the neckpiece). Would it still be OK to sell tzitzit to this customer? On the one hand, we're profiting from an arguably idolatrous practice, but, on the other, she's helping a (presumably) fellow Jew (albeit an apostate one) fulfill the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit. What Jewish values are at work here? And what should we do?
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Question: Is it possible to consecrate private property for a burial site? What are the requirements, according to Halachah - Jewish law (as opposed to secular law)? And if so, what kind of rituals does the consecration consist of and who may do so?
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Question: About the Six Remembrances. Lots of discussion about the six themselves. But some history and context please. When does the very idea of "the six" enter Jewish theological, textual or liturgical history? Do the rabbis discuss why God nominated THESE six, and not six others? Please advise
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Question: I live in Israel, where most people eat “kitniot” on Pesach (Passover) and it can be hard to find non-kitniot products. Can I “break” my family’s tradition of not eating kitniot because it’s so much harder to keep in Israel?
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Question: One of Purim’s (reportedly) most beloved traditions is to drink “until you can’t tell the difference between evil Haman and righteous Mordechai.” Is drunkenness really a Jewish value? What about for those who have issues with drinking (nazirites, and recovering alcoholics, for example)? [Administrators note: A related question about drinking on Purim is found in the JVO database at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=364]
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Question: Should we look for or expect to see “Jewish values” in US presidential candidates?
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Question: JTA is reporting that a New York area rabbi has invoked Mesira as a legal defense. How is this concept reconciled with dina d'malkhuta dina? Which concept is paramount?
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Question: Is it normal or acceptable to be confused about the truth of God this day and age? Can one have doubts or be uncertain and still be a "good Jew?"
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Question: I hear the question asked, but I have not heard a good answer to it: for both purposes of inclusion, and for Israeli citizenship, what is a Jew?
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Question: I know many friends—honest, God-fearing people—who have no problem “stealing” entertainment in the form of illegal downloads. Why have we let our attitude toward this kind of theft become so permissive? Can we stop it? Should we? Or, as many people claim, since they wouldn’t have paid for the show/music in the first place, it’s not like anyone lost money on their download. What is right? What is the Jewish view?
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Question: What is the difference between "Glatt Kosher" and "Kosher?"
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Question: Why does Hillel choose “What is hateful to you, do not do unto your neighbor” as his version of “the entire Torah?” Why not “Love God” or “Keep mitzvoth.” HiIlel’s tenet is never actually mentioned in the Torah itself.
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Question: My wife wants to watch porn from time to time to help with arousal, where would that fall with regard to the law?
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Question: If New York state is not forcing Jewish institutions to perform same-sex marriages, why are Jewish groups still against the gay marriage bill?
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Question: What is the reason behind the "no swimming during the 9 days" rule? Is it because it's fun? Because it's dangerous? Or because it's bathing? (If it's the last reason, does that really apply nowadays, when people pretty much bathe as usual during the 9 days?)
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Question: Tell me where I can find information or examples about Jewish values in the movies.
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Question: What is the Jewish thought behind revenge, and how does that apply to the recent decision to boycott a certain whiskey distiller is Scotland because they boycotted Israeli products? "You boycott us, we boycott you" is not necessarily a Jewish response.
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Question: In President Obama’s recent speech on the Middle East, he endorsed Palestinian demands for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 lines. This brings fears that Israel will be vulnerable to repeated attacks, like those that occurred between 1948 and 1967. As a Jew, how can I vote for a President that is pressuring Israel to withdraw to indefensible borders even though I support the President’s domestic policies?
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Question: Watching the Royal Wedding, I was struck by how different it is to a Jewish wedding. Traditional Jewish ceremonies seem not to include vows to each other, for example. How can that be? Isn't that the whole point of the ceremony?
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Question: I have two boys close in age who are constantly fighting. I know this is normal, but I have tried everything. The normal rewards and punishments don't work. I was wondering if there were any Jewish-values-based approach to sibling rivalry that I might try as a parent, or that I might try to tell the boys; Perhaps something "Divine" will have more of an effect....
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