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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Sexual Morality

On an intuitive level, I believe that intimacy should be reserved for a husband and wife. But on a philosophical level, I have no good reason to explain why to friends (or my children!) who insist on a more liberal view of these issues. Can you help me articulate what I am feeling?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Judaism understands that the family unit is the key to the psychological health of children, and the stability of society as a whole. To ensure the preservation of that family unit, Jewish law places boundaries on human sexuality. Historically, those societies that did not adhere to such sexual boundaries eventually broke down and failed.

Philosophers explain that when human nature is undisciplined by values, physical drives will dominate his life and the life of society. When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world. It is not overstated to say that the Torah's prohibition of non-marital relations made the creation of Western civilization possible.

In contrast to other societies, where sexuality is a function of pleasure (secular) or procreation (Christianity), Judaism considers sexuality a mechanism to bond with one's spouse. This powerful tool aids a couple in their life goal of self-perfection. A human being can only achieve perfection through a marriage with the opposite gender, because only by the joining of opposites – male and female – can this bonding occur.

A proper marital context directs one to grow and adapt to each other's differences and become one. Through that bonding, perfection can be achieved, and by extension – through bringing children into the world – the perfection of society is likewise attainable. It is the Jewish sexual revolution, and it has proved a pillar of civilization throughout history.

Naming Baby After Relative Who Died Young

My uncle passed away from cancer at 59. A grandchild was just born in the family and the parents would very much like to name him after our dear uncle. He was a wonderful human being and we feel it is very appropriate to name the child after him. I am concerned, however, because of his premature death. Is that a legitimate concern or are we just being superstitious?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is certainly appropriate to name a baby after a righteous relative. However, some have the custom not to give the baby the precise name of a person who died young, especially if he was killed rather than dying naturally.

Some consider passing away before 60 a premature death (based on Talmud Mo’ed Kattan 28a). Others disagree based on the Prophet Samuel and King Solomon, both of whom died at 52 and whose names are popular today (although again, some distinguish between dying naturally and unnaturally).

As an interesting aside, many are lenient to name after Holocaust victims even though they died young. Clearly, perishing in the Holocaust is no indication that a person’s name is not suited for long life.

In your nephew’s case, there is room to be strict not to give him your uncle’s exact name but to add a name – either before or after his name. If the parents prefer the exact name, it is appropriate to state, while speaking at the brit, that they are naming the child in memory of your uncle’s good qualities and values, rather than his tragically short life.

Otherwise, mazal tov! May you and your family be granted many blessings in life!

(Source: Igrot Moshe Y.D. II 122.)

Calendar Software

Is there any way I can get hold of a Jewish calendar for the current year?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

You can get a copy of a software program called "Kaluach" which is a Jewish calendar covering thousands of years, giving you dates of holidays, parshas, candle-lighting times, etc. It covers hundreds of cities throughout the world, and switches from English to Hebrew - plus lots of other fun gadgets.

It is available free at (where else?) Aish.com. http://www.aish.com/jl/hol/o/48970511.html