Recent Questions
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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Priest on a Rope

I heard something about tying a rope to the High Priest in the Holy Temple. What was that all about?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

In the Second Temple period, some people who were unfit took the position of High Priest. When they entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, they died, since they lacked the ability to handle the spiritual power of that place.

The other priests had to devise a plan to pull the dead body out, since no one other than the High Priest was allowed to enter in the Holy of Holies. So they tied a golden rope to the High Priest’s leg when he entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.

Those waiting outside the Holy of Holies would listen for the bells on the bottom of the High Priest's robe, to see if he was still alive.

(sources: Zohar – Acharei Mot 67a, Emor 102a; Talmud – Yoma 53b; Me'am Loaz; Arbanel – Exodus 28:33)

Separation between Fish and Meat

I was recently invited for Shabbat dinner. It was a wonderful, uplifting experience. One thing I was unfamiliar with is that everyone was told to take a drink between the fish and the chicken. I am familiar with separating between meat and milk, but not meat and fish. Can you give me some guidelines about this?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The separation we make between meat and fish is actually based on a health concern. The Talmud (Pesachim 76b) writes that eating meat and fish cooked together is harmful to one’s health (and also causes bad breath). (I've heard that some actually find that the combination these two types of proteins is difficult to digest.) Although some later authorities have noted that we are not familiar with any such health issues today, practically speaking, we make a small separation between the fish and meat courses of a meal. To ensure that the meat and fish do not come in contact with one another:

(a) We serve the fish on a separate plate and eat it with a separate fork.

(b) We take a drink between the fish and meat course. (It needs not be alcoholic, although some take the opportunity to make a “l’chaim” at this point during the meal.)

(c) We eat a little bit – such as a few bites of challah – between the fish and meat course. (see Rema Yoreh Deah 116:3)

One of the important messages of this is that Judaism is equally concerned for our physical as our spiritual wellbeing. Deuteronomy 4:15 states, “You shall be very careful with yourselves” – which many take figuratively to mean we must care for our health (see Talmud - Brachot 32b). We take seriously as remote a health concern as consuming meat and fish together; all the more so visible dangers.

Jewish Leadership

In biblical times, there always was a prophet of God who was guiding and advising Israel's kings. At the present time there is no such prophet. How does Israel's prime minister know he is doing the right thing, according to God's will?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Prophecy ended in the 3rd century BCE with the deaths of Ezra, Nechemiah and Zechariah.

Although God no longer communicates with us through prophecy, He left a lifeline for all generations. The biblical prophets not only prophesied for their own generation, but even for future generations. That is the unique power of prophecy; since it's divine, it can speak of the future.

The details of these prophecies, and how to interpret them for today, are for the most part explained in the Talmud. Optimally, when a Jewish leader has a question, he gathers all the available political and military information, and then – in consultation with our Sages – looks into the classical Jewish sources for guidance.

This applicability of Torah principles to every place and time has been a key factor in Jewish survival as the "eternal nation."

Unfortunately, many Jewish and Israeli leaders today do not always give due respect to our biblical heritage, and sometimes foray into delicate national issues without properly considering the Torah perspective. This cuts us off from our greatest source of wisdom and national strength.

We pray that out leaders’ eyes will be illuminated with the light of God and His Torah.

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