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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Learning the Laws of Shabbat

I am new to observing Shabbat, and am a bit overwhelmed by all the rules. Is there a systematic way to get all this straight?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

First of all, congratulations on your new-found connection with Shabbat. As you will see, Shabbat is the highlight of every week and provides a crucial base for the family structure, the community, and a link to the Almighty.

The best course of study I can recommend is . This is a comprehensive online curriculum which explores hundreds of practical, common cases; the principle behind each of the 39 labor categories.

For a self-check of understanding, this course has interactive online testing: 10 questions based on the class material. Students automatically receive a test score, along with the correct answers. And all your test results are stored in your personal online account, so you can track your progress as you study the material.

Each Pathways class is also available either online or as a user-friendly PDF version, so you can print out the material and study at your own pace -- anywhere, anytime. And finally, there are dynamic video segments that present common scenarios, and help you work through the practical halacha in each case.

Also, I could suggest these fine books:

"Laws of Shabbos" - by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen

• "39 Melochos" - by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat (

• "Shemirath Shabbath" - by Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth (

Few in Number

I'm doing research on Jewish history and I came across an amazing statistic: when the Common Era began, Jews comprised 10 percent of the Roman Empire. Yet somehow the number of Jews today has failed to keep pace with the expected population growth over a period of 2,000 years. What happened?!

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Let's start from the beginning of Jewish nationhood. It is estimated that 3 million Jews left Egypt at the biblical Exodus (based on 600,000 male Jews between ages 20-60). To get a sense of perspective, 3,000 years ago the number of the Chinese in the world was roughly the same as the number of Jews. Simple demographics tell us that the Jewish people today should number in the hundred of millions.

The reason why our numbers have not grown substantially is due to thousands of years of persecution, servitude, pogroms, expulsions, Crusades, forced conversions, the Holocaust, etc.

Also, the phenomenon of assimilation has sapped Jewish numbers – as we see today in America and elsewhere with over 50% intermarriage.

Amazingly, the Bible predicts this as a historical reality: Deuteronomy 4:27 and 28:62 declares: "You shall remain few in number among the nations where God shall lead you."

How have other nations, China or India, for example, managed to stick around for so long? There have definitely been historic conquests of these civilizations. Why didn't they disappear?

Their sheer numbers! There are so many of them that when the conqueror comes in, the conqueror gets swallowed up! There are just too many of them to simply fade into extinction.

But the Jews keep diminishing and diminishing, yet we're still hanging in there, bouncing along at the bottom of the graph.

Despite the fact that our tiny size would almost guarantee extinction, the Torah predicts that the Jews will be an eternal nation.

The Torah tells us, "Zechor yemot olam." Keep your eyes on history. And when you do, you begin to perceive that something or someone is pulling the strings. It doesn't matter if the world hates you, persecutes you, scatters you throughout the globe... somehow you're going to remain with your identity intact, even if you're the tiniest nation in existence.

Burying a Limb

My elderly father is very sick. Gangrene has set into his leg, and it now needs to be amputated. My question is: What is the proper way of disposing of the leg afterwards?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

A limb that is amputated should be buried in the grave where the person will eventually be buried. If the gravesite has not yet been decided, it should be temporarily buried, and later reburied with the person in his grave.

(sources: Code of Jewish Law – Y.D. 362:1, with Pitchei Teshuva; Noda B'Yehuda Y.D. 2:209; Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:231)