Recent Questions
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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

In Vitro Fertilization

I’ve been married for three years and have yet to get pregnant. I’m getting on in age and don’t want motherhood to pass me by. We are considering IVF but thought it may be circumventing God's will.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I commend you for consulting with a rabbi before moving forward.

IVF is not a problem of circumventing God's will, because it was God Himself who gave mankind the wisdom and tools to develop IVF in the first place.

Many contemporary Sages allow IVF under certain circumstances, such as when other options have been exhausted. But there are Jewish legal issues involved with IVF which can be problematic, and therefore it must be conducted under strict rabbinic supervision of the process.

(See Rabbi Nebenzahl – Assia 34, Tishrei 5743; Rabbi Ovadia Yosef – Yabia Omer EH 8:21; Rabbi E. Waldenberg – Tzitz Eliezer 15:45; Nishmat Avraham – Vol 3, p. 15)

The Synagogue

What is the significance of the synagogue in Jewish life today? Do you think that the role of the synagogue has changed over the years? What are some of the challenges facing the modern American synagogue? And how are we responding to these challenges?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The synagogue is important for Jews to gather together and pray to God, as explained in the verse "A multitude of people is a kings glory" (Proverbs 14:28). In other words, when many people gather together for a spiritual purpose it shows respect to God. In fact, Jewish law requires that prayer services be conducted with a "minyan" of 10 adult men.

The synagogue also serves as a central point of community gatherings – such as lifecycle events and Torah study.

The phenomenon of suburbs is a challenge for the modern American synagogue. For many years, Jews lived together in one small neighborhood, and therefore the synagogue was located within walking distance of each home. This is important because there is a Torah prohibition against driving on Shabbat ("You shall light no fire on Shabbat" – Exodus 35:2).

But with the advent of suburbs, people live far apart, and now they are driving to the synagogue rather than staying home. Some argue that this is an appropriate exception to Jewish law (i.e. surely God would approve!). But in fact, a community driving on Shabbat eliminates the necessity to live close together. There is no longer a need for the neighborhood Jewish school, Jewish bakery, Jewish clubs, etc. The experience of growing up in a Jewish community is lost, and children are absorbed into the melting pot of secular society. The result is that the American Jewish community is experiencing massive assimilation and 60 percent intermarriage, with many Jews being lost to the Jewish people forever.

Fortunately, there are many people today dedicated to doing something about it. Aish branches, community kollels and others are forming core communities that attract young people with a warm, open and intellectually stimulating approach. These communities continue to grow and expand, and are now found in virtually every city around the Jewish world.

If you tell me what city you're located in, I'll be happy to recommend a place for you to contact.

Buying Fish

I am a frequent traveler and sometimes I find myself in a motel with a kitchenette. Am I able to go to the local fish store and purchase kosher fish?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

One may not purchase cut fish from a store that sells non-kosher fish, even though the fins and scales of the fish that you want to buy are recognizable. The knife used may have residue from a non-kosher fish, and the proprietor cannot be relied upon that the knife is used exclusively for kosher fish.

Also, if the fins and scales are not recognizable, the fish pieces may be from a non-kosher fish.

One who has no alternative to purchasing cut fish from a non-kosher store should purchase only whole fish, have the fish cut in his presence, or purchase only pieces that have recognizable scales. If the fish was cut in the store, the cut pieces should be thoroughly washed and the cut surfaces lightly scraped with a knife edge.

(source: Teshuvos Chavas Yair 179; Laws of Kashrus – artscroll.com)

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