Teachings: Mitzvah Guidance

Do Children Belong Under the Huppah?

Are there good alternatives?

Those who have children of their own, or in the family, and who are planning a Jewish wedding often wonder as to the wisdom of involving the children in the ritual. There are a number of considerations involved and every family is different. 

Bris, Brit, What Is the Jewish Covenant

What Is the Jewish Covenant? Entering the Covenant of Jewish Peoplehood

Healthy Integration of the Sad with the Glad

How to include the memory of loved ones during happy rites of passage

A challenging point in weddings, b'nei mitzvah and baby namings can be the absence of loved ones recently deceased, who are too far off to be able to attend, who are doing military service, or who can’t be present for other reasons. What to do?

• You can have the person leading the rite invoke the absent one’s memory/honor early on, if you wish; immediately after the opening verses of song, psalm or prayer is generally a good spot for this.

Is Organic Kosher?

Dear Rabbi:
I'm making the transition into observant Judaism. I've already incorporated many different aspects of Jewish life and practice in my own. The one thing that is most difficult for me is finding kosher meats in my area, specially lamb and red meat, which are meats I love to eat from time to time. Can I purchase organic meats instead, which are more accessible in my area and in this way observe Kashrut? Thanks!


Do Jewish Burials Require a Coffin?

Dear Rabbi:

My cousin who is dying of pancreatic cancer keeps talking about wanting to be buried without a coffin. Don't Jewish funerals require a plain wooden box?

Thanks for the favor of your reply, Orna

Dear Orna:

Why Jews Leave a Small Stone When Visiting a Grave

Why Jews Leave a Small Stone When Visiting a Grave
This article is dedicated in memory of Rabbi Michael Tayvah—friend and colleague

Adoption, Ethnicity and Jewish Baby Naming

Adoption adds special considerations to rituals for welcoming a new baby or child. Here is one recent example:

What to Put on Parents' Gravestone?

I have to decide by tomorrow what to put on my parent's gravestone. They are doing one together. Any ideas?

In many ways the process of deciding what to engrave on the headstone - matzeiva-  is part of the spiritual process.

What is Shabbat? A Time Manifesto

Once normal to civilizations,
The observance of holy days
Has become a radical spiritual act of self care.

Sacred time is shareware.
It’s free.
The only condition is you have to use it before you go,
There’s no refund at the finish line.

Hand Washing, How to Do The Jewish Spiritual Practice of Netilat Yadayim

"Wash your hands!" This is a basic message which our inner child recognizes instantly. Increasing the moments of significance in life is a major function of spiritual practice. At times this leads life to resound with the beauty of pure awareness of the simple importance of a single movement.

Will my grandchild be Jewish if his mother who has converted to Judaism has stopped her religious practice?

Dear Rabbi Milgram: My son married a woman who converted to Judaism through the London Beth Din. She now refuses to follow any Jewish practice. Is her conversion still valid? They have a baby boy who is now a year and a half will he be considered Jewish? By the way she forbids me to have any contact with the child. She is highly unstable and also prevents my son from having any contact with me or his brothers. I am in regular email contact with him. We are a shomer mitzvot family.... Though I doubt my son keeps anything now.

Creating a Personal Community

A personal kehillah, "community" is a small group of mentors/advisors that the student and family create to meeting monthly and contemplate the roles and issues of adulthood, to help the student emerge with dignity and awareness into adult life. Besides, it's terrible to be isolated and this can happy in suburbia, small towns, and some families - here's how to get past all that to meaningful connections. [Credit for the basis of this idea is due to Rabbi Geelah Rayzl and Dr. Simcha Raphael.]

Book Review: Bringing Zayde Home

This review by Rabbi Goldie Milgram of Sheri Sinykin's Zeyde Comes to Live was first published in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Parent Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation Rituals

As the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student become known to their peers in religious school, or through another context, it becomes clear that this experience is an initiation for them too, into being parents of a(nother) teenager, an evolving adult. This is a season of new parenting skills and perspectives.

One community of which I am aware holds a session of Bar/Bat Mitzvah prep where the parent(s) aren’t present so that the youth can outline any concerns that have been repressed. At such a session an assignment is planned for the parent(s)/guardian(s) that will help them prepare for the B-mitzvah day.

Is it Right to Serve and Film the Homeless on Christmas at a Synagogue

Dear Rabbi: (Note: This first appeared on Jewish Values On-Line)

Introduction to Tefillin and How to Put Them On

How are Tefiillin made?

Tefillin are a set of two leather boxes filled with parchments on which a scribe has written specific verses from the Torah, then attached the boxes to leather straps, each knotted so that one can go around your head and one around your weaker [non-dominant] arm. It is quite complex to make Tefiillin, and one is best served by buying good quality ones made by a scribe. The term tefillin (Aramaic) shares the root of tefillah, prayer.

What's Involved in Converting to Judaism

a. It is a process to which a soul feels internally called.

b. This feeling may rise and fall, or ultimately abate. It may turn out that your soul needed to learn about Judaism, experience it and then return to another tradition or move on to another religion, no religion, or a different denominational context. There will be no hard feelings about this among your teachers, soul journeys vary in every life time.

c. Converstion involves a minimum of a year of study and engagement with the core practices of living as a Jew. During this time you will:

Must we use wine in Jewish ritual?

What is the significance of wine in Jewish Ritual?

Dear Rabbi:

I'm know a couple who doesn't want wine or grape juice used for the wedding blessings. What's your opinion about this? Is there a good and honorable substitute?

with appreciation, Rabbi C

Dear Rabbi C:

a. I have had occasion to serve a congregation that often used a cluster of large purple grapes for all "wine-"related blessing moments due to the number of recovering alcoholics in that "bunch."

Being Queen Esther

Guided Purim Visualization

In less than a minute enter Purim consciousness. Enter the dilemma of Queen Esther and identify the relevance of your conflict within your own life during this audio experience led by Rabbi Joyce Reinitz, ACSW.

The Jewish Vision Quest

When life feels like an uphill climb,
accept it and head right to the Top;