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Rabbi Do you have a question about Jewish law, tradition, history or any other topic? Please contact Rabbi Mark at rabbi@shomreitorahwcc.org, and he will respond personally as soon as he is able. Answering of questions might be delayed, but he will do so as quickly as possible.

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Can you tell me what ERUSIN and NISUIN mean?

Question:

Rabbi, my brother in law is getting married in Florida this weekend....his future wife asked me 2 terms that I am not sure of, can you tell me what ERUSIN and NISUIN mean ? Thank you.....

Answer:

Erusin and Nisuin are the technical rabbinic terms for the two parts of a Jewish wedding. The reason we have two cups of wine at Jewish wedding is that at one time these were two different ceremonies done at two different times that have become fused into one. Erusin is technically the engagement – the blessing over the first cup of wine binds bride and groom to one another and forbids them to all others. This is when the ring is given and the declaration "Harey at" "By this ring you are consecrated to me, as my wife, in accordance with the laws of Moses and the people of Israel" is recited. Often today we then read from the Ketubah to separate the two parts of the ceremony. Part II is Nisuin this is the part that needs to be done under the Chuppah and with the second cup of wine we recite the Sheva Brachot, the seven wedding benedictions.

Erev Tavshilin

From an email by Rabbi Mark (question follows):

"This year we have the unique combination where the two days of the holiday fall on Thursday & Friday leading directly into Shabbat. This will be the case this week for Rosh Hashanah and then again for Sukkot and finally for Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah. As you may know cooking is prohibited on Shabbat and while it is allowed on Festivals, it is only permitted to cook for that day, but not for the upcoming Shabbat unless you begin to cook for Shabbat before the start of the holiday and make a connection between the pre-holiday cooking and Shabbat itself; this process is called Eruv Tavshilin. The text is found in the front of a Passover Haggadah.

Here's what you do - on Wednesday before the holiday begins place two cooked items on a plate, often people will use a hard boiled egg or a piece of chicken or fish along with a baked item like a challah roll or a piece of matza. Holding the plate recite the bracha, the blessing - "Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha'olam, asher kideshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al mitzvat eruv." Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of time and space, who instills in us the holiness of mitzvot by commanding us concerning mixtures. And then you make the following declaration: "With this eruv it shall be permissible for us to bake, cook and keep food warm, to light candles from an existing flame, and to do all things necessary on the Festival for Shabbat. This shall be permitted to us and to all Jews who live in this city." And then you set the plate aside until Shabbat when you are permitted to eat your cooked item."

Question:

Thank you for this information but could you please expound on the below statement in the context of Conservative and not Orthodox Judaism? "...to light candles from an existing flame,..." I cannot use a match or a cigarette lighter to light my Shabbos candles?

Answer:

That is correct you should not light Shabbat candles on a chag from a match or lighter. As Conservative Jews we are prohibited from lighting a flame on Shabbat or Chagim. So on a Chag when a flame is permitted it must come from an pre-existing source; most common include a pilot light from a gas stove or a yahrzeit candle lit before chag begins

Is it ok to visit a grave prior to the stone unveiling?

Question of the Month:

Is it ok to visit a grave prior to the stone unveiling? I would like to visit my father's grave on Memorial Day but I am not sure if it is allowed.

Answer:

Yes it is allowed to visit a grave prior to the Unveiling. There is a prohibition of returning to visit the grave after the burial during Sheloshim, the first 30 days; but once you are beyond that point there are no further restrictions. In the Sephardic community they often do the Unveiling after Sheloshim as a way of marking it and showing that one can now visit the grave. However, in the Ashkenazic community it is most common to do the Unveiling around the first Yahrzeit as a way to mark it, but one need not refrain from visiting the grave during that year.

How do you determine whether you are a Kohen, Levi or Yisrael?

Question of the Month:

How do you determine whether you are a Kohen, Levi or Yisrael?

Answer:

The mother determines if the child is Jewish or not according to Halakha and then if the child is Jewish, the father determines if the child is Kohen, Levi or Yisrael. All of this was ritually based and in the orthodox world only men/boys were involved in those rituals, so being the daughter of a Kohen or a Levi didn't mean much. However, in today's egalitarian world the situation has become more complex because there is no agreement or uniformity of practice. At our synagogue we consider a Bat-Kohen or a Bat-Levi to be the same as a Kohen or a Levi for all ritual functions which means that we will call either a Kohen or a Bat-Kohen for the first aliya to the Torah and a Levi or Bat-Levi for the second aliya. However, there are egalitarian Conservative congregations that only give the first two aliyot to men and treat a Bat-Kohen or a Bat-Levi the same as a Yisrael. A Bat-Kohen can get up and Dukhen here, but that is not true in all congregations where Kohanim offer the Priestly Benediction. A Kohen has right of first refusal in leading Birkat Hamazon after a meal and we would offer it to a Bat-Kohen in the same way. The main difference between being a Kohen and being a Bat-Kohen is that a Bat-Kohen does not transfer her Kohanut to her offspring, since she is determining her children's Jewishness, but the father of her children determine the tribe.

Why did you not do a Rabbi's Kaddish after Ein Keloheinu at my daughter's Bat Mitzvah?

Question of the month:

Why did you not do a Rabbi's Kaddish after Ein Keloheinu at my daughter's Bat Mitzvah?

Answer:

Kaddish D'Rabbanan is not generally done following Ein Keloheinu; it is an optional practice to include it following Amar Rabi Elazar which is the Talmudic piece on the same page as Ein Keloheinu that we sometimes include, but not usually at a Bar/t Mitzvah and we did not at her Bat Mitzvah. Having said that, let me add that we don't do the Kaddish D'Rabbanan even when we do the Amar Rabi Elazar, while it is an optional practice, we generally follow the flow of the siddur which does not include the Kaddish D'Rabbanan at that point, but rather includes a note saying some people include it and if you want to do so, you can turn from page 182 back to page 71 to find it.

Can a Gentile be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

Question of the Month:

Can a Gentile be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

Answer:

Good questions! A person who converts to Judaism follows all the same mourning practices for their non-Jewish parents as one born Jewish. You sit shiva and you say kaddish. At times one may have to make modifications because of the other non-Jewish relatives, but as much as possible one mourns as a Jew. Non-Jews are not allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery; however, there are now some mixed religion cemeteries where interfaith couples can be buried together.

Can you say Kaddish for someone who is not Jewish?

Question:

Do people say kaddish for someone who is not Jewish? What occurs under those circumstances? Also, can a non Jewish person married to a Jew ever be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

Answer:

Good questions! A person who converts to Judaism follows all the same mourning practices for their non-Jewish parents as one born Jewish. You sit shiva and you say kaddish. At times one may have to make modifications because of the other non-Jewish relatives, but as much as possible one mourns as a Jew. Non-Jews are not allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery; however, there are now some mixed religion cemeteries where interfaith couples can be buried together.

Being late for the Silent Amidah...?

Question of the Month:

Is it more important to daven the Amidah to yourself or to listen & participate in the Reader's Repetition? Because of being late, I wanted to daven the most important prayers - such as Sh'ma and then I found myself starting the Amidah quite late. Is it more important to daven the Amidah to yourself, or to listen to and participate in the Reader's Repetition? During the Reader's Repetition is it ok, bad (or neutral) to put money in the Tzedakah box? Some of these questions came up today because I was reading the Rabin Mishnah Study group - most of it is way over my head. but there was a discussion of what to do or NOT do during the Reader's Repetition. Please point me in the right direction (Could I find answer in Klein's book?) During the Reader's Repetition, is it ok, to put money in the Tzedakah box?

Answer:

Rabbi Isaac Klein's Guide to Jewish Religious Practice has a chapter devoted to daily prayer that is rather extensive, however, he does not deal with the questions you are raising. But we can find what you are looking for in Rabbi Hayim Donin's To Pray as a Jew. The basic goal of public prayer is to be able to recite the Kedusha with the congregation when they say the Amida. However, the Amida has to be said after the Shema. So it is a question of how late one arrives at the service. If you can start at the Shema section in time to join the congregation for the Amida, then that is what you do. And then, after you have done the Shema & Amida, you can go back and pick up most of Birkhot Hashachar and Pezuke D'zimra.

There are some parts that you cannot technically add later, they are al netilat yadiyim, the Torah blessings and Elohai neshamah as well as Baruch She'amar and Yishtabach. Consequently, if you arrive earlier, and you you can include more of the service prior to the Shema section you start with those. The first three can be said on their own, while the later two are the opening and closing blessings of Pesuke D'zimra, so you'd at least have to do the Ashrei in between. If you have more time, you can include more of the preliminary service, but all the rest can be done later on.

On the other hand, if you are so late that you can't do the Shema section prior to joining the congregation for the Amida, then you forfeit the privilege of joining them and simply begin at the start of the service and go at your own pace. I know that this can be confusing, if you need further clarification, I'd be happy to look at the siddur together with you.

As to your question on when to put money in the pushke - customs vary. Our practice is to do it after finishing the Amida. Some communities do it at the end of services, while others do it during the Ashrei after reciting the line "Potayach et yadecha" which praises God as the one who opens our hands to provide for the poor. You can do this during the Reader's Repetition of the Amida, as long as you don't do it during the Kedusha, when movement or talking is prohibited.

About the Silent Amidah...?

Question of the Month: Silent Amidah:

Is it possible to do a silent Amidah and reader's repetition at the same time? Exactly what is a Heycha Kedusha and how is it different from a full repetition of the Amidah?

Answer:

The Amida was traditionally said by a knowledgeable leader, everyone else listened and said amen at the end of each bracha. Then with the advent of the printing press, we put siddurim in everyone's hands and they could say it for themselves, hence the development of the silent Amida, however, there were those who did not know how to pray, so the reader's repetition of the Amida was done after the silent reading. In Medieval Germany to shorten the service, they developed the Heycha Kedusha, the High Kedusha - in this variation the Amida is said out loud from the beginning through the Kedusha and the rest is said silently. Some synagogue's make use of this others do not.

Answering your child's questions about God

Question of the Month:  Answering Your Child's Questions About God:

I hope that you might be my husband and I with a small problem. Ben just began kindergarten, both at public school and at Shomrei Torah, and he has asked us "What is God?" Usually we are able to field very tough questions from Ben, but for some reason this one has us stuck. This is a hard question for adults, let alone a five year old. My intellectual understanding and experience is simply not up to providing him with an answer he can understand. I was hoping you might have some suggestions, both as a Rabbi and as a parent, on how we might explain this to him so that he has a better understanding. I appreciate your thoughts, and your help.

Answer:

I think that it is important to answer children's questions about God when they ask them, rather than put them off. We want it to be a topic that they are comfortable discuss with us. There are no right answers, it's about being honest and sharing our own beliefs with our children. There is nothing wrong with their learning that we don't have all the answers and that this is a topic that adults wrestle with too.

There are some nice Jewish books for children on God - you can find a selection at www.judaism.com (go to books, then children). A publisher that has an extensive list is www.JewishLights.com (again click on children's books).

What are the 3 requirements for Teshuvah (repentance)?

Question of the Month:

You mentioned there are 3 requirements for teshuvah. Can you please remind me what they are?

Rabbi Mark's answer:

The term 'teshuvah' means repentance. The three requirements are:

  1. Acknowledge that you have done wrong.
  2. Feel remorse.
  3. Commit to NOT doing it again.

While we promote teshuvah on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur along with the days in between, it applies all year round.

Why was the Cantor standing sideways on the Bima during Rosh Hashanah service?

Question of the Month:

Why was the Cantor standing sideways on the Bima during Rosh Hashanah services?

Rabbi Mark's answer:

In some communities the person leading services faces the Congregation, in others they face the Aron HaKodesh or Ark. Here at Shomrei Torah you'll see both styles depending on who is leading and what they are doing. Even in a Congregation where they leader faces the members, one turns to face the Ark for the Barchu, for the silent Amida and whenever the Ark is open. Additionally, during the time you do the silent Amida you are not to talk or move and for the leader this is true for the entire Reader's Repetition of the Amida. So the problem the Cantor was trying to solve is that 1. Our prayer leaders face the Congregation most of the time, 2. During the Amida she can't move & 3. Periodically, we open the Ark; she solved the dilemma by standing sideways where she could see the open Ark as well as the Congregation and do all of it without having to move while she was leading the Amida

On what day is Tashlikh?

Question of the Month:

On what day is Tashlikh?

Rabbi Mark's answer:

I'm glad you asked! Tashlikh is traditionally done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, unless RH falls on Shabbat, then we wait until the second day. But if you don't happen to live close to a body of water and can't get to Tashlikh on RH, then you can do it on any of the days between RH and Yom Kippur, known as the Aseret Yimey Teshuva or the Ten Days of Repentance

What is a Bedeken?

Question of the Month:

We've been invited to a wedding this weekend. Before the services [at a Chabad center], the bride is going to have a "Bedeken". Could you tell me what this is all about.

Rabbi Mark's answer:

A Bedeken is the term for the Veiling of the bride just prior to the start of a Jewish wedding ceremony. The Torah tells us that when Rebecca gazed upon Isaac for the first time, "she took her veil and covered herself" (Genesis 24:60). The veil symbolizes the value of modesty. The word itself means to "check" or confirm and is drawn from the Biblical story of Jacob's wedding. He has fallen in love with Rachel and they are to be married. Jacob does not look under the veil and discovers after the ceremony that he has married her older sister Leah. And so today, at the veiling of the bride, the groom is present to make sure that he is marrying his intended.

The Bedeken can be a private ceremony, done with the wedding party while the guests are being seated for the ceremony. Alternatively, it can be done as a public ceremony for all to see. Generally, at a public Bedeken there is a large whicker chair for the bride; she is danced into the room by her attendants and seated. The veil is lowered in the grooms presence and some Biblical verses are read by the Rabbi or the Bedeken Officiant (who may also provide explanation) and then the bride is danced out of the room by her attendants to await the start of the wedding ceremony.

Which readings are read on Thursday mornings?

Question of the Month:

Which readings are read on Thursday mornings? Are they the first 3 from the upcoming Shabbos?

Rabbi Mark's answer:

The Torah reading that we do on Shabbat Minha, Monday & Thursday mornings the traditional Kohen aliya is divided into three parts. When one reads in the triennial cycle, as we do, then in year I the three weekday aliyot are usually the first three aliyot of Shabbat. In years II & III there is no overlap between weekday and Shabbat readings other than they are from the same parsha.

Why do we put rocks on the gravestone, and why do we wait so long for the unveiling?

Question of the Month:

My brother recently attended a funeral and had a few questions about Jewish funeral customs. They were: why do we put rocks on the gravestone, and why do we wait so long for the unveiling?

Answer:

Placing rocks on graves that we visit is a minhag - some connect it to the use of the term Tzur Yisrael - Rock of Isreal as a name for God. Others trace it back to our early nomadic days, as a way of marking that a visit had been made to a gravesite. The only time you are not supposed to put rocks on graves is when you go to the cemetery for a funeral. The custom is not to visit other graves when you attend a funeral. But rather to go for the express purpose of burying the dead.

There are different custom as to unveilings - in the Sephardic community they do it after Sheloshim - while in the Ashkenazic community is has become a way of marking the first yahrzeit and combines with the idea of visiting the grave yahrzeits.

Why do we put salt on Challah after the Motzei?

Question of the Month:

Why do we put salt on Challah after the Motzei?

Answer:

It is a minhag that connects the table to the altar in the Temple. When we offered sacrifices on the alter one of the ingredients was salt. So when we bless the Challah, we add the salt - zekher l'migdash, to remember the Temple.

Thu, October 19 2017 29 Tishrei 5778