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Recent Questions

Degrees of Non-Kosher

Are there degrees of non-kosher food? Meaning, if I'm going to cook a vegi omelet in a non-kosher pan (let's say that was previously used for pork), does it make no difference if I just go ahead and cook a Western omlette – i.e. using actual ham?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Yes, it makes a big difference! The general rule is to always try to maximize your mitzvahs and reduce your transgressions.

There is a wonderful story which illustrates this concept. The great rabbi the Chafetz Chaim was faced with a question from young Jewish men who had been drafted into the Russian army during the early 20th century. They asked: "If we are on the battlefront, and they serve us pork, what should we do?"

The Chafetz Chaim replied: "If there is no other food available, then you may eat the pork, because preservation of life overrides the kosher prohibitions."

"But," the Chafetz Chaim continued, "when you eat the pork, you may not lick the bones." In other words, if you're going to transgress, minimize it.

As for your specific case, the pork which is real non-kosher food is actually worse than using the pan which has the taste of non-kosher food absorbed into it.

But here’s a solution: just buy yourself a new frying pan!


Chanukat HaBayit

We just bought our first home and will be moving in another few weeks. We wanted to make a house-warming party. Is there anything like this in Jewish tradition?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

A Chanukat HaBayit (literally "dedication of the house") is a Jewish house-warming party.

In a technical sense, the Chanukat HaBayit is when the Mezuzah is affixed to the front door, which should be done immediately upon moving into a new home. (If you're only renting, and the house or apartment is located in the diaspora, then a mezuzah can be put up within 30 days.) See details of how to affix a mezuzah, as well as an instructional video.

Besides that, it is a tradition to infuse the start of a new home with blessings, warmth and holiness. So after you've moved in and unpacked your boxes, invite family and friends to join you for a Chanukat HaBayit celebration. A festive meal is served, words of Torah are spoken, and Psalm 30 is recited. The full ceremony and other details of the Chanukat HaBayit are printed in the book "Sefer HaBayit," by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Lerner.

This is also a good time to appreciate the importance of the Jewish home. It surprises many people to find out that most of the essential functions in Jewish life take place not in the synagogue, but rather in the home -- such as the Passover Seder, the Sukkah, candle-lighting on Shabbat, the Chanukah menorah, and the mezuzah. The continuity of Judaism rests on the home more than anything else.

A "Chanukat HaBayit" can also be held when moving into a new office. This is a good time to remember that Jewish ethics are not confined to the synagogue or holiday celebrations, but rather punctuate every moment of our lives -- including standards of business ethics. There are Jewish laws dealing with employee relations, unfair competition, charging interest, damage to possessions, etc. A Chanukat HaBayit is a good time to commit to following these guidelines, with the hopes that one's business dealings will reflect honesty and integrity, serving as a model for others to follow.


Conversion in Biblical Times

If a person has a Jewish father and was raised Jewish, why are there such strict requirements for him to become Jewish? Abraham was the first Jew and he never converted! Likewise how did Moses marry Zipporah? The Torah does not seem to specify a long-drawn conversion process. Why is it different today?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for your good observation. You are right that before the Torah was given at Sinai there was no formal process for conversion. It was just a matter of accepting the Jewish beliefs and marrying in. Men were also required to have circumcision – one of the few obligations the Jewish people had been given before Sinai (see Genesis 17). This is how, for example, Jacob’s sons took wives and Moses was able to marry Zipporah.

Once, however, the Torah was given at Sinai, God outlined a formal process of circumcision, immersion, bringing certain offerings (in Temple times), and acceptance to observe the Torah, all done before a Jewish court.

(Sources: Talmud Keritut 9a, Ramban Leviticus 24:10, Chidushei HaGriz Sotah 9.)


Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. Note that this is not a homework service!

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