Project Genesis


Why Be Nice?

Question:Why should one be nice? When one is nice they can miss out on stuff. When I was playing ball and I saw a kid at the side so I was nice and invited her in the game. Then what happened is she got me out! Now I have mixed feelings ever inviting her again or anyone else on the sidelines because I just lost out on my fun. Thanks so much.

Answer: Perhaps your question is actually far bigger than just “why be nice?” Perhaps we could rephrase it: “why choose one particular option above any other?” Or, in other words, how do we make decisions in a way that both reflects intelligence and produces that greatest value?

You are of course correct that being nice carries the risk of pain and loss, but it also brings benefits. For instance, if you are nice to the people around you when they need it, you might well get some of that back when you’re the one asking for help. I’m sure that you also feel good after having done some act of kindness. Most significantly, by being kind, we are performing the commandment (Mitzva) to emulate our Creator Who is Himself kind (see Devarim 13:5) – and such a Mitzva has all kinds of benefits, including the opportunity to refine our character, bringing us closer to our highest goals in life.

Still, just because something is a Mitzva and can change us in a positive way doesn’t mean that it is always automatically the best thing to do. Sometimes doing kindness for one person can harm another or even oneself (if, for instance, someone gives up necessary sleep or the things he himself might desperately need). So how do we choose? Ideally, moral choices should be the result of conscious deliberation. This is often called a cost-benefit analysis. One might write down on a piece of paper all the reasons why a particular act should not be done. He could then create a second column on the paper to list all the benefits of doing it. Sometimes simply reading through the list is enough to clarify the right choice. Other times, one might have to carefully weigh costs against benefits (working hard to anticipate all the possible consequences of each choice).

But either way, thinking things through in advance will certainly lead to a more informed choice and make it easier to know when a bit of self sacrifice is worthwhile.

With my best regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

Mixtures of Fibers

Question: Does the Torah forbid all mixtures of fibers?

Answer: The “shatnez” mentioned in Lev.19:19 is defined more precisely in Deut.22:11. The prohibition applies only to mixtures of wool and linen; mixtures involving other types of natural or synthetic fibers are permitted.

How to Avoid Thinking of Torah

Question: How can one prevent oneself from thinking thoughts of Torah while in places of uncleanliness where it is not permitted to do so?

Answer: Thank you for your remarkable question! Most people wonder how they can think words of Torah in places in which they are permitted to do so, and you have the opposite concern- your head is so full of Torah thoughts that you are wondering how to not think them in places where it is forbidden! That is truly remarkable!

One way would be to have some non-Torah reading material on hand, which would force you to focus your thoughts on what you are reading. Another possibility would be to make a concious decision before entering such a place that you will think about a specific non-Torah topic, i.e. summer/ vacation plans, menus, etc., and your mind will not wander into Torah topics.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Rebuilding of Jericho

Question: I read the following” Joshua…declares that nobody shall ever rebuild Jericho, nor another city elsewhere called by that name nor one on the same site but with a new name .There is to be no monument to this first conquest, no place that future generations can visit to take pride in the greatness of their victory, nor anything to commemorate the brilliance and bravery of Israel’s generals and soldiers. Rather empty space bearing testimony only to G-d.” Isn’t there currently a city built in Jericho? 
Answer: Thanks for your question. The basic answer is that Jericho today is not a Jewish city. Modern Jericho was built and is being sustained by Arabs. The current city is not an existing Jewish city that was rebuilt against the promise that it would not be rebuilt, but rather, it exists today as another example of how the population that controls it does not recognize the existence of the state that they are living in. One of the major industries
in the area is a water processing plant called Jericho water. The bottle says, “Made in Palestine.” Currently, the area where the water is made is Israel. I know that this is a tangent and you did not ask about this, but it is important to note that the people that are currently occupying the land are not Jews.

It is also interesting to note that a few years ago there was an intriguing discovery made. When archeologists dug around the city of Jericho they discovered a thick stone structure surrounding the city. Obviously a wall or boundary, the archeologists were amazed.

Unfortunately, there is not so much exploration in the area because those in control in Jericho have no interest in uncovering Jewish historical evidence to their right to the land.

Regarding the last sentence of your question, this place is a testimony to G-d. It stands as a monument for people to realize that this land of Israel is a land that the Jewish people have lived in for 3000+ years. Israel has always had a Jewish presence. Other people lived there as well because we were exiled from the land, but that does not mean that the land is not rightfully ours. Jericho is a symbol of the Jewish nation. Never forget that!

Be Well,
Rabbi Litt

I Cheated on a Test

Question: I cheated on a school test and I feel guilty. What do I do?

Answer: We all make mistakes in life. That is why Hashem created Teshuva, repentance, to correct our actions. In order to do a proper teshuva, one must regret their act, speak out what they did wrong and commit to not do that deed again.

What type of teacher/administrator runs your class/school? Would s/he be understanding if you came clean and admitted your mistake? If so, it may be worth it to tell them. You may feel better after doing so.
—Rabbi Meir Goldberg,
Meor Rutgers Jewish Xperience
Rutgersjx.com

G-d’s Names

Filed under: G-d and Torah

Question: What is the personal name of God?

Answer: G-d does not have any Names. What we think of as Names are actually attributes, each expressing various aspects of G-d. We can never understand G-d but these representations help us to appreciate small bits of Who He is. There are quite a few “Names,” but there are rules as to which ones may be spoken and under what circumstances. It is serious stuff.

Regards, Eliahu Levenson

Black Hebrews and Racism

Question: What is the relationship and or difference between the Black Jews and the European Jews? I live in Virginia and I do not see many Black Jews that fellowship with White and European Jews. I have also met some Black Hebrews that make subtle statements about racism within the Jewish nation. Why is skin color an issue?

Answer: Working on an article for Essence Magazine, some years ago, I interviewed some of the Black Hebrews’ leadership in Israel, mostly in Dimona, as well as the U.S. Embassy people assigned to their issues. I wanted to contrast the Black Hebrews, who were mostly very nice black folks from Chicago, D.C., St. Louis, Detroit, New York and Baltimore, with some actual black Jews, the B’nai Israel or Falasha, the Ethiopian Jews.

After just a little prodding, the Black Hebrews made it clear to me that they do not believe in HaShem, the God of Israel. Most of the ones I talked to declared that they believe in Jesus, and they held to the usual Xtian idea that all those statements in the Bible, where G’d commands the Jews to keep His laws and statutes Ad Olam, from here to eternity, had all been wiped away and nullified by the advent of the Xtian man-god, Jesus. One of the Black Hebrew elders told me that, besides Jesus, he considered the main leader, Ben-Ami Carter, to be god, or G’d – whatever.

The Black Hebrews regard themselves, or anyway claim to regard themselves, as truer Jews than any “so-called” Jews or Hebrews – partly because they are mostly Xtians, who consider themselves to be the True Israel, or Spiritual Jews, and partly because they think that Judaism, or Hebrewism, or Israelism (whatever), is purely a matter of ancestral blood descent, that the “original Jews” like Abraham, Moses, David, etc., were black, and that black people are, therefore, their only true heirs.

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Personal Health and Hygiene

Question: What are the specific needs that people who follow Judaism have in relation to personal care?

Answer: I’ll assume by “personal care” you’re referring to the full complement of activities associated with health and hygiene that are required by Jewish law.

There is one verse in the Torah that aptly sums up Judaism’s attitude towards health and hygiene, namely, “guard yourselves and carefully guard your souls” (Deuteronomy 4:9). This is the quintessential guideline: one should take care of one’s own health needs in order to be fit to serve G-d.

Because the paradigm of health and hygiene changes as cultural and medical practices shift and progress over time, the practical application of this commandment also changes. For example, smoking and eating fatty foods were once considered to be health-promoting activities. Today, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are quite the opposite. The commandment mentioned above creates an obligation to stay away from behaviors that are unhealthy, and in an auxilliary way, to be aware of current research; you can’t fulfill this commandment in the year 2006 by implementing the medical practices of 1906.

Recommendations for health and hygienic practices appear in the Talmud, as well as in the writings of Medieval scholars (such as Maimonides, who was an expert physician) and later Jewish legal authorities. Some of these recommendations may contradict modern-day health practices (although many do not); we are generally enjoined to heed the orders of modern-day health practioners. But the main idea is for one to zealously guard one’s physical health, primarily so that one can serve G-d with a sound body and mind.

All the Best,

Rabbi Azriel Schreiber 

A Jew Who is British

Question: I live in the United Kingdom. Do I consider myself a British Jew or a Jew who is British.

Answer: While loyalty to one’s country is very important (see Jeremiah 29:7) one’s primary job in life is becoming G-dly, which is done through studying Torah, performing G-d’s commandments, and developing a relationship with G-d through prayer and faith. Thus, I would say that you should be a Jew who is British.

Rabbi Meir Goldberg


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