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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:


Is gambling in a casino permitted?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Judaism generally looks disparagingly on gambling. The Talmud says that someone who earns their salary from gambling is invalid to serve as a witness in a Jewish court. Since the person who lost the bet doesn't really pay with a full heart, the winner's earning are considered a form of theft.

According to another opinion in the Talmud, only a professional gambler -- who has no other source of income -- is invalid as a witness. This is because he is not involved in productive activity and contributes nothing to the betterment of society.

Some rabbinical sources allow buying lottery tickets, if the money is for mitzvah purposes, and it is as such not a matter of "losing money" (as with gambling) when the winner is declared. Thus the meager amount given in the beginning to buy the ticket, is given with a full heart for the mitzvah.

(sources: Talmud - Rosh Hashana 22a; Code of Jewish Law - C.M. 92:3, 370:1)

Leaving Israel

I am of the understanding that if you go to Israel, you can't leave. And yet we see people doing this al the time – not only visitors to Israel, but people living there who take vacations in Europe or America, or go to visit relatives. Can you locate for me an authoritative responsa on this issue?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Talmud (Avodah Zara 13a) says that one may only leave Israel for one of two purposes: To get married and to learn Torah.

The reasons cited by the authorities are varied: Nachmanides (Numbers 33:53) explains the prohibition on account of the mitzvah to settle the land of Israel. Rashbam (Bava Batra 91b) explains that the prohibition exists because by leaving the land, one is actively removing oneself from the mitzvot that are uniquely dependent upon being present in Israel. The Lechem Mishnah (Melachim 5:12) explains that because Israel is holy, it is forbidden to leave it.

Besides that, there appear to be few exceptions. Most of the responsa we have do not distinguish between a visitor and resident. Perhaps before the advent of plane travel, when one went to Israel, he did not go just to visit.

May one leave Israel for business? Maimonides (Laws of Kings 5:9-12) writes that the only other acceptable reason to leave is in case of a famine, i.e. for the need to earn a livelihood. This is on condition that one returns to Israel as soon as business is done

Are there other exceptions?

• One may leave Israel in order to attend to his parents, under the mitzvah of honoring one's parents. (Tashbetz 3:288; Tzitz Eliezer 11:94 and 14:72)

• Certainly, one is permitted to leave Israel to seek medical care or for health reasons in general.

• It is permitted to travel to the gravesites of tzaddikim, in order to pray there. (Sha'arey Teshuvah 568:20)

• It is permitted to leave Israel to teach Torah to others. (Yechaveh Da'as 5:57)

• One may leave Israel to visit a good friend. (Mishnah Berurah 531:14)

But all of the above are conditional. One may leave but must return as soon as whatever he set out to do is taken care of. (see Yechaveh Daat 3:69, 5:57)

Is there a time limit? Maimonides lived in Israel, and then went to Egypt for the last few decades of his life. It would seem that Maimonides' mind-frame in Egypt was one of a temporary sojourner, with the intent to return to Israel as soon as the situation availed itself. Though we see that "temporarily" leaving Israel can last for many years.

Parental Guidance

We have three children, ages 14 to 19. We see so many Jews marrying non-Jews, and we want to prevent that from happening in our family. What can we do at this stage?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Someone once went to a rabbi and asked, "At which age should I begin my child's Jewish education?"

"How old is your child?" the rabbi asked.

"Age 5."

"Well, you should have started about 10 years ago."

But that is all past history.

Once the child has become an adult, it is obvious that their chances are great of meeting and marrying a non-Jew, if for no other fact than that non-Jews comprise 98% of the American population.

So what can you do? The most effective method – as a pre-intervention strategy – is to make a commitment to infuse your life with Jewish energy and joy.

It is never too late to demonstrate in actions and thoughts your commitment to Jewish calendar and traditions. You can build a sukkah and invite your children to spend an evening with you. You can invite a rabbi to your house to give a class on Passover, etc.

And even if your child doesn't attend, he will hear you talking about it, see your commitment, and realize that any relationship with a non-Jew will be distancing himself from you in a profound way. And that will give him many reasons to think twice.

Having said all that, you should also realize that marrying the right person is largely based on the effort we make. Inquire about Jewish singles programs in your town, or have him post a profile on Network for him. Encourage him to date Jews. Show him that he can "have it all" – a wonderful committed relationship, and a Jewish life, too.