Natalie Portman, the Israeli-born American Oscar-award-winning actress, announced that she will not appear in Israel to accept the Genesis Prize. How should we respond to her proactive actions?
1. Why does the Torah say, “When a woman conceives and gives birth, she shall be contaminated for a seven-day period?” However, it seems redundant to say when she conceives and gives birth, for she is only rendered impure after giving birth.
Answer – Rabbi Shlomo Goren (Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1972-1983) explained that the Torah speaks of conception to indicate that motherhood begins at conception, not birth. For example, according to this line of thought, in the case where an egg donor was Jewish, the child would be Jewish even if the birth mother was not. Conversely, if the egg donor was not Jewish but the birth mother was, the baby would not be Jewish unless converted. It should be noted that other Poskim (rabbinic legal authorities) are of the opposing point of view.
2. Why does a woman become impure after childbirth?
Answer – The closest a human can come to God is when a woman gives birth because she becomes a partner in creation. The impurity is caused by the detachment of one life from the other. No longer is the baby a limb of the mother, but it is a separate being (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks).
3. What is Tzaraat?
Answer – Tzaraat is often equated with leprosy, but it is not. Tzaraat is a spiritual malady with a symptom that resembles leprosy. The Metzora (person afflicted with leprosy) suffers a white discoloration. When people are afflicted with Tzaraat, it is considered to be a heavenly message that they must examine their actions and change their ways for the better. Typically, first the person’s home was afflicted with Tzaraat, and then, if the person failed to improve, clothing is then afflicted and, finally, the person’s skin.
4. For what sin is one afflicted with Tzaraat?
Answer – According to our sages, one is stricken with Tzaraat for speaking Lashon Hara (evil speech) against another. The sages derive this from the fact that Miriam was stricken with Tzaraat immediately after speaking about Moses’ wife. It should be noted that the purification process for a Metzora includes a seven-day period of quarantine. The Metzora is punished Middah Middah K’neged (measure for measure). Speaking negatively about an individual makes the person feel excluded; therefore, the perpetrator of the harmful speech is now excluded from the community for seven days as part of the rehabilitation process.
5. Is it okay to share negative information about someone if it is true?
Answer – No, on the contrary, Lashon Hara is defined as harmful speech which is true and cannot be shared except in certain extenuating circumstances. If one speaks derogatorily of using false information, that person is guilty of another serious sin, Motzi Shem Ra (slander).
Think Again: Trump’s Jerusalem Decision May Actually Revitalize the Peace Process (Delaware News Journal op-ed)
Conventional wisdom is that President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will hinder the peace process. Is this really the case?
It has been said that the God of the so called “Old Testament” is a judgmental God. Is that truly the case?
By performing the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) we can help to physically heal the sick.
Is observing the law enough or do we need to do more in order to do Teshuvah (repentance)?
In reaction to the Israeli government’s announcement that it is suspending plans to create a mixed prayer area at the Western Wall diaspora Jews have announced that they need to rethink their relationship with the Jewish State. Is this the correct reaction?
Delaware changed its law to provide for the needs of parents of stillborn children. Can Jewish law learn from Delaware’s example?
Part two of this series addresses the question of how Judaism distinguishes between the natural and man-made and why these differences are significant.
Rabbi Steven Saks
Enjoy these sermons from Rabbi Steven Saks.