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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Human Greatness

I want to achieve greatness in my life, but it seems that I don’t have a lot of natural talent. I also don’t have much money and resources, and don’t come from a well-connected family. I wonder what my future will be and this is getting me depressed. Any ideas?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

In the secular world, it's only the "big" achievements that get attention. World leaders, movie stars and business tycoons are splashed on magazine covers and glorified as symbols of humanity. But that's not reality. Because if you ask 100 people, "Who was the greatest influence in your life?" chances are not one of them will mention an Olympic gold medalist or President of the United States. More than anything, parent and teachers have molded and shaped who we are. Not because of any dramatic, life-changing discoveries. But because they demonstrated care and compassion, day in and day out.

One religious young woman that I know was visiting her family, and a family friend asked her what she plans to do with her life? She answered, “I want to be a good person.”

Another woman I know, with many talents and abilities, revealed to me her secret desire for how she would like to spend her days: sitting in the preemie ward of the hospital, holding babies’ hands and stroking their cheeks.

In life, we can inherit many things from our ancestors: Medical conditions, hair color, money. In Judaism we say we inherit spiritual DNA as well. When our biblical ancestors exhibited character beyond the bounds of human expectation, they ingrained that for all eternity. Metaphysically, that genetic coding has been bequeathed to each of us, giving us the innate potential to rise to those heights. These acts require no money, so spectacular talent, or intellectual prowess.

We possess a great power – of loyalty, sincerity, and true concern for others. Our task is to actualize that into reality.

Tasting Food

I often need to taste the food I’m preparing to see if it’s ready or seasoned properly. I’m usually not particularly hungry at the time, and I’m not eating to satisfy my hunger, just to see what the food tastes like. Does such tasting require a blessing?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Talmud (Brachot 14a) states that one who tastes food does not recite a blessing (bracha). There is a basic debate in the commentators over what constitutes “tasting”. According to some, “tasting” means any time one eats (and swallows) but only to see what the food tastes like – as in your case – so long as the quantity he consumes is relatively small. Others maintain that only eating without swallowing constitutes “tasting”.

Both opinions are mentioned in Jewish law without resolution (Shulchan Aruch 210:2). Thus, one who eats and swallows to taste would not say a blessing, based on the principle in Jewish law that one does not make a blessing in cases of doubt (Rema there).

However, it is best to avoid this situation so as not to enter a situation of doubt. There are two suggestions offered by the later commentators for doing so:

(a) Taste the food without reciting a blessing on it, and subsequently spit it out.

(b) Recite a blessing first and then taste and swallow the food. You must, however, have in mind that you are not eating only to sample the food, but to enjoy it as well (Mishna Berura 210:19).

As an important aside, even if you’re not especially hungry, if you enjoy the taste of the food you’re eating (assuming you didn’t burn it completely), you may recite a blessing on it. The only person who does not recite a blessing on food is someone who is so stuffed that he feels a revulsion towards eating anything more (Mishna Berura 197:28).

Also, for an excellent overview of the laws of blessings, you might be interested in signing up for the Laws of Blessings course provided by Jewish Pathways.

Wedding Dates

I am planning my wedding for next year and I want to make sure that we don't schedule it in conflict with any Jewish holidays, etc. What days on the calendar are off-limits? And what day of the week is good to get married? I heard that it is good luck to get married on a Tuesday or Thursday.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The general rule is that we do not have weddings on Shabbat (Friday evening or all day Saturday) nor on the Jewish holidays -- which includes Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

In addition, many do not schedule a wedding on the eve of Shabbat or a holiday, lest friends and relatives travel home from the wedding on Shabbat or the holiday itself.

In the summertime, for the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 10th of Av, there are no weddings. This is a period of national mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples.

In the springtime, we do not have weddings for approximately one month during the Omer period. There are two major customs: either there are no weddings 1) from the second day Passover until Lag B'Omer, or 2) from the first day of Iyar until Shavuot. (source: "Code of Jewish law" OC 493, with Mishnah Berurah 14). In this regard, one may change from one custom to another in different years (Igrot Moshe OC 1:159). Thus, a wedding may be scheduled between the second day of Passover until Rosh Chodesh Iyar, or from Lag B'Omer until the day before Shavuot, as long as one observes the Omer restrictions during the other period.

As for the day of the week, a couple may marry freely from Sunday through Thursday. However, some prefer Tuesday, because on the third day of creation, the words "it is good" appears twice (Genesis 1:10, 12). (Note that "Tuesday" on the Jewish calendar means from Monday night until Tuesday sunset.)

Some prefer to marry on Thursday, because on the fifth day of creation, the living things were blessed to be "fruitful and multiply." (Genesis 1:22)

Mazel tov on your upcoming wedding. May it be at an auspicious time!