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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:


I'm a big fan of Matisyahu, the chassidic reggae singer. What is the origins of his name?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Matisyahu (also pronounced, Matityahu) is known from the Chanukah story as the father of Judah the Maccabee. During the second century BCE, the Jewish community was divided in response to the Greek appeal for assimilation. Some saw assimilation as a positive and modernizing influence and they welcomed the release from Jewish parochialism. In general, two camps polarized: the Jewish assimilationists (called Hellenists) on one side, and the religious community on the other.

The matter came to a head in a small village called Modi'in, not far from Jerusalem. Greek soldiers came one day and demanded that the Jews sacrifice a pig to the pagan god. At first, no one stepped forward and the Jews stood in proud defiance of their pagan oppressors. But then a Jewish Hellenist volunteered to perform the mock offering.

Furious at this outrage, Matisyahu, from the family of Hasmonian priests, killed the man on the spot and then killed the soldiers who were present. Matisyahu and his five sons fled to the nearby caves and became the core of a guerrilla fighting unit. Led by Matisyahu's son Judah, they fought to preserve the exclusive worship of Judaism - battling the Greeks not only militarily, but religiously as well.

In the end, we know who prevailed! It was, in the words of the singer Matisyahu, "a miracle!" (see

Seasons Greetings?

Do you wish someone "Happy Chanukah" in the same way you wish someone "Merry Xmas"? I have met some Jewish friends on my travels, and I wish to send them seasons greetings. But I'm unsure what to write. Thank you.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

If you'd like to send your Jewish friends greeting cards, they should say "Happy Holidays" or "Happy Chanukah" - but not the name of other holidays like Xmas, Ramadan or Kwanzaa.

To make your life easier, many Jewish sites provide free, online holiday greeting cards.

Baal Teshuva Under Attack

I recently became a baal teshuva and on my first trip back home, my friends and family started peppering me with questions: Why do I do this, and why do I do that? I'm really new to this, and I could not answer many of the questions. So now I am having doubts about whether all of this is really true.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

You are not the first to experience this. But there's a simple method to help you handle it.

When someone asks you a question, it is important to distinguish between a question which merely addresses a detail of your observance (e.g.: “Why do you salt the bread at the Shabbat table?") versus a question that attacks the very foundation of your observance (e.g.: “How do you know that God spoke at Mount Sinai?").

In the first case, the proper response is: "Judaism is so rich with customs and traditions, and I haven't had the opportunity to learn the deeper reasons behind everything. But that’s a great question and I am going to do some research and get back to you – and then we'll both know the answer!"

In the second case - a foundational question - if you don't have a decent answer, then perhaps you may want to sit with a rabbi and discuss the issue in-depth. For although "evidence" is not a prerequisite for belief in the veracity of Torah, in today's day and age, with so many people trying to attack religion, it is wise to have a solid intellectual basis for one's belief. And given that Judaism is very, very solid in the area of rational basis for belief, it's a good idea to have that knowledge clear.

I hope this helps.