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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Elliot Kaplowitz

Question: Can a non-Jew (or a person studying for conversion, but not yet converted) lead prayers? Is there a difference for different parts or prayers (e.g. Kabbalat Shabbat vs Amidah)? Is there a difference if there is a minyan or not?
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Question: In my girlfriend's parents' Orthodox community, it's fairly common for people to refuse to eat at other families' houses. Sometimes it's for kashrut [keeping kosher, observing the dietary laws] concerns (disagreements over acceptable heckshers) [hecksher=notation indicating supervision for Kashrut by a known group or organization], but the majority of the time it's for seemingly unrelated issues (e.g., the wife not covering her hair or wearing pants) that somehow also reflects on that family's kashrut observance for these people. I find that kind of divisiveness disturbing -- wasn't it "because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza Jerusalem was destroyed"? [Administrators note: this refers to a story about sinat chinam - baseless hatred and shaming another.] Which is the more important Jewish value -- unity among Jews [klal yisra'el] or strictly maintaining your religious standards? Can they be reconciled?
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Question: When choosing between two food types, one of which is healthier than the other, does Judaism have anything to say about which to choose? For example, I recently read a study ( that wild salmon is much healthier and contains far less toxic organic contaminants than farmed salmon. As such, would it be a mitzvah to buy the wild salmon and not the farmed salmon? Further, how would it be treated (prohibited permitted, discouraged, or not addressed) in Jewish law to buy the farmed one? Thank you!
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Question: My mother is 90 years old, in frail health but of sound mind. Last year, one of her 3 grandchildren and the youngest of my 2 sons died in an accident at age 29. My son and my mom were close. As an adult, my son moved to another state but made a point of visiting every few years. He has remained in contact with regular phone calls and other correspondence. My sister has demanded that my mother not be informed of my son's death. She argues that my mother will die in a few years anyway and so should be spared the sad news, and that the grieving process could hasten my mom's death. "Let mom die in peace." I've complied with my sister's demands. Whenever my mom asks me about my son, my rehearsed response is "Your grandson loves you dearly." But as time passes without contact from my son, I'm concerned that my mom has concluded that my son has lost interest in his grandmother. For my mom's sake, I'm uncomfortable with keeping her in the dark. But I'm also conflicted. I miss my son so very much. To include my mom in my own grieving would benefit me. After all, she is my mom. Any ideas?
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Question: Are there Jewish sub-cultures (denominations, communities, burial societies, cemeteries) that permit the presence of photographs or etchings of the departed individual on the headstone. I was in a Jewish cemetery in Queens, NY, and I believe I saw some headstones with images. Is this halachically (by Jewish law) permissible? Preferred? Common? Is it determined by local custom?
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Question: Is there a Jewish position on how long one should date before getting married and what attributes one should look for in a spouse/mate?
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Question: Regarding immunizations for children who will be attending day (Jewish or parochial) schools: What is the Jewish view on whether this is obligatory or optional? What Jewish values or ethics are involved in this question?
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Question: I live in the United States. My brother lives in Israel. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and his life prognosis is between days and months. I work as a teacher and my job would not allow me to take off more than a few days. Also, financially, I cannot afford to go to Israel twice. Therefore, I feel a conflict of mitzvot (commandments). Should I go to visit my brother when he is alive and miss his funeral or should I wait until he passes away and go to the funeral. Which mitzvah is more important and what would you advise me to do in this situation? How do I balance these mitzvot?
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Question: Is it wrong to look for the “what’s in it for me” aspect of Torah observance? After all, God Himself gave the Jews selfish reasons to follow His Torah. Why shouldn’t I base my observance on what I enjoy or find meaningful?
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