Recent Questions
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Recent Questions:

Creative Seder

Since everyone else is recovering from various broken bones this year, I'm doing the Seder at my house. So I took the opportunity to try to add a few creative ways to tell the story of freedom. Oy vey, did my brother-in-law fuss. He says we must do the "real" Seder.

I want to do a Seder that is meaningful to us, so we'd be involved instead of biding our time until the meal. I want the idea of freedom to translate to our lives today from the Sages of the past. Should I feel guilty about this?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Regarding the content of the Passover Seder and unlimited creativity, I would like to make the following suggestion:

Keep to the traditional Seder, and also make time for creative adventure.

Why? Not to placate your brother-in-law. But in order to preserve the true message of the Seder.

Which is?

National redemption from the shackles of Egyptian oppression by the All Powerful Creator of the World, Who subsequently gave us the Torah, the guide to life that teaches us how to free ourselves from our own personal shackles of oppression and live a life which brings true joy - which is closeness to the All Powerful Creator of the World.

With all due credit and admiration for creative input, the concept of freedom can easily be misunderstood. For some people, "freedom" might mean releasing oneself from God's rules - exactly the opposite of what the Passover Seder is supposed to mean!

Sticking to the traditional Seder guarantees that God will be part and parcel of the freedom. And frankly speaking, any Seder that He isn't part of, is not a Passover Seder.

I'm all for creativity. At my own Seder we act out different parts of the Haggadah and we all have a blast. We have big plastic animals and ping pong balls (hail) flying around the room during the Ten Plagues. But we have the basic structure of the Haggadah there to preserve the integrity of the message that has been passed on for thousands of years. A time-tested message, woven with the self-sacrifice and devotion of countless generations. A priceless message which is the key to Jewish identity and survival.

China Dishes, Porcelain

We inherited a beautiful set of china from my in-laws, who did not keep kosher. They haven’t been used for at least 20 years. I would like to give them to my married daughter. Is there a way they can be made kosher?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Utensils used together with hot non-kosher food absorb some of the non-kosher taste and must be kashered to remove the taste. However, only certain types of material can be kashered. The Torah distinguishes between metal and earthenware. Leviticus 6, when discussing the laws of sacrifices, describes what to do with utensils a sacrifice was cooked in. (Sacrifices which are eaten may be consumed for only a short period of time; afterwards they become forbidden.) Verse 21 distinguishes between a copper utensil, which can be boiled to be kashered, and an earthenware one, which must be destroyed.

Numbers 31 discusses a similar topic. Israel defeats Midian in battle and carries off much booty. In verses 21-23 Elazar the Priest explains to them how to make the captured utensils kosher. He lists several types of metal (most of the ones known in their time), telling the people to purify them via fire or (boiling) water, depending how they were used for non-kosher.

(The simple rule is that items which were used for non-kosher directly on the fire, without the medium of water, must be kashered with fire. Most other utensils may be kashered with boiling water. See here for the details of the kashering process.)

In practice, most natural materials which do not resemble earthenware may be kashered. Apart from metals, this includes wood, bone, stone and natural rubber. (Pure granite or marble countertops may likewise be kashered with boiling water.)

However, many materials in common use today are considered questionable. These include china, porcelain and stoneware. In general the practice is not to kasher them. However, in cases involving great loss, one may wait 12 months, kasher them in boiling water 3 times, and then use them (Igrot Moshe Y.D. I 43).

Immutability of Torah Law

I was born with a neuromuscular disease known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy and have been confined to a wheelchair my entire life. Unfortunately my sister and I were raised without any religious instruction or guidance. My father wasn't Jewish and although my mother is, she openly claims to be an atheist. The "good news" is that both my sister and myself - independent of each other and at different times in our lives - realized that we are Jewish and chose to live a Jewish life.

Because of my disability, I'm not always able to attend services on Shabbat, but I always light candles, pray from a Siddur and read the weekly Torah portion. I would like to know whether, considering my situation, if using a computer is allowed during the Sabbath? I found the complete Bible online and since my computer is voice-activated I don't have to struggle to turn pages or continuously ask for assistance.

Thank you to everyone at Aish.com for making it possible for myself and so many others to learn about being Jewish and grow in the most important part of our lives.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you so much for your encouraging words and for sharing your inspiring story.

God gives each of us a set of challenges. To those more capable of conquering difficulties, He gave bigger challenges. A challenge from God is a sign that He cares about us and has confidence in our ability to become great.

It sounds like you're doing great!

As for using the computer on Shabbat, that is prohibited. A foundation of Judaism is that we need to respect God's wishes, even if we think that doing otherwise is "for a good reason." Consider this story:

A king calls in his trusted minister and says: "I have an important mission for you to perform. Go to the neighboring kingdom and meet in the palace with their leaders. But remember one thing - under no circumstances must you remove your shirt during this meeting. Now go and do as I say."

The minister sets off on his merry way and soon arrives at the neighboring kingdom. There he heads straight for the palace where he meets with the King. In the midst of their discussion, he sees some of the king's officers pointing and laughing at him.

"Why are you laughing?" asks the visiting minister.

"Because we've never seen someone with such a pronounced hunchback as yourself," they say.

"What are you talking about? I'm not a hunchback!"

"Of course you are!"

"No I'm not!"

"We'll bet you one million dollars that you are!"

"Fine - I'll gladly take your bet."

"Okay, so take off your shirt and prove it."

At which point the minister remembers the parting words of the king... "under no circumstances must you remove your shirt during the meeting." Yet, the minister reasons, a million dollars would certainly bring added wealth to the king's coffers. I know I'm not a hunchback, so I'll surely win the bet. Of course, under these circumstances the king would approve...

The minister removes his shirt and proudly displays his perfect posture. With pride in his achievement, he holds out his hand, into which is placed a check for one million dollars.

The minister can barely contain his excitement. He quickly ends the meeting and runs back to give the wonderful news to his king. "I earned you a million dollars!" exclaims the minister. "It was easy. I only had to remove my shirt to prove that I wasn't a hunchback."

"You did what?!" shouts the king. "But I told you specifically not to remove your shirt. I trusted that you'd follow instructions, and so I bet the other king $10 million dollars that he couldn't get you to remove your shirt!"

The Torah tells us "Do not add or subtract from the mitzvahs." (Deut. 4:2) Jewish law is a precise metaphysical science. Consider a great work of art. Would you consider adding a few notes to a Bach fugue, or some brushstrokes to a Rembrandt portrait?!

Perfection, by definition, cannot be improved upon. Altering Torah law is an unacceptable implication that God is lacking.

The verse in Psalms 19:8 declares: "Torat Hashem Temimah" - the Torah of God is complete. For just as adding one wire to a transistor radio means it no longer can pick up reception, so too we mustn't tinker with Jewish law. The mitzvahs of God are perfect.

May the Almighty give you strength to continue your growth in Judaism.

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