Recent Questions
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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Married at Different Levels of Observance

My husband and I have been married for two years, happily. I am Orthodox and he is not. He has learned how to make Kiddush and say Grace After Meals (with transliteration), and happily accompanies me to peoples' homes for Shabbat meals (including local Aish folks, who are terrific). However, he shows little inclination to go further. We have agreed that our children will go to Orthodox day school. I try very hard not to push, but to be a quiet example. Yet it can be very frustrating at times.

My question is: Aside from prayer, which is the most powerful thing I do, is there anything else I can do to spur him along? We really have a wonderful relationship, and he has an incredible Jewish spark which glows, despite no nurturing in youth.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I think the answer is to expose your husband to role models. Rabbis are good, but I think even more important are successful, intelligent, worldly orthodox men. A rabbi can inspire your husband, but your husband can never imagine himself fitting that model. He will relate a lot more to a couple where the husband is working. Besides, since it's essentially a rabbi's job to reach out to people, the non-rabbi may be perceived as more sincere.

The other thing is you can have a religious man (even a rabbi in this case) come to your house and teach, say, a 3-part series on a topic like parenting, marriage, kindness, or business ethics. This way your husband can see how Torah wisdom directly applies to issues relevant to him – and provides meaningful answers. Perhaps it is worth the investment for you to underwrite the cost, just to get the ball rolling.

Another important thing: Give him a chance to see how your observance and learning directly increases your appreciation, respect and affection for him. In other words, do something really nice, and then when he thanks you, tell him that you got the idea from having heard a certain Torah lesson. Once he sees the correlation, and how your Jewish involvement is "good for him" – in a practical, everyday sense – he is bound to be more encouraging and interested himself.

Also, has he been to a Discovery seminar? That frequently can give a big jump-start to someone's interest and involvement. The seminar is given in hundreds of cities throughout the world. For more info: http://www.aish.com/dis/

Finally, ask the Almighty to open his heart.

Rolling and Wrapping a Mezuzah

What are the rules for rolling a Mezuzah parchment? Can the scroll be wrapped in Saran Wrap or plastic before putting it into a case? I'm especially concerned about protecting a Mezuzah which hangs outdoors.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Here's the best way to roll up your mezuzah:

1) Place the parchment in front of you so that the text of the "Shema" is facing you.

2) Begin rolling from the left side (i.e. from the end of the Hebrew text), so that the words are on in the inside.

3) Be careful to roll smoothly and not crease the parchment. Scratching off any ink would render the Mezuzah invalid.

4) It is best to wrap the parchment in a material that breathes, like wax paper. Plastic wrap makes the parchment sweat and could destroy the letters, especially if the Mezuzah is placed outside.

5) When placing the Mezuzah on the wall or in the case, make sure that the Hebrew word "Shaddai," which is written on the back of the parchment, is facing outwards (i.e. toward the entrance once it is affixed). Also, make sure the Mezuzah is not upside down!

6) If you are putting the Mezuzah outside, be sure to buy a waterproof case!

Here is the blessing that is said before attaching a mezuzah to a door-post: "Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to affix a mezuzah."

Once the Mezuzah is up on the wall, are you done? No! Consider the following story:

Mr. Johnson, the owner of "Johnson Widgets, Inc." was famous for running a profitable factory. Everyday he followed a detailed management routine to ensure the utmost productivity and efficiency.

One day, Mr. Johnson decided that he needed a vacation, so he asked Jake the janitor to look after the factory while he was gone. Jake was a little skeptical about his own ability to manage such a complex operation. "Don't worry," said Mr. Johnson. "I've got it worked out as a science. We'll write down all the instructions and tape it to the office wall."

Johnson, feeling assured that Jake would do everything according to plan, enjoyed a marvelous vacation.

But when Johnson returned to the factory, he found it in a complete shambles: Equipment was broken down, materials were strewn across the floor, workers were standing around idly, and worst of all - the office area had been completely destroyed. Jake was standing there, his clothes torn and his face charcoal black, with the taped instructions smoldering on the wall.

"What happened!?" cried Johnson.

"I put those instructions on the wall just like you told me to," said Jake, "but I guess I forgot to read them!"

So too, the Torah gives us instructions for living - how to actualize our potential, how to have a successful marriage, how to raise healthy children, and how to find happiness, meaning and fulfillment. God's got it worked out to a tee.

God told us to put the verses Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:12-21 on our door-post, to remind us of these "instructions for living" every time we pass through the doorway.

But don't make the mistake of Jake in our story. Find the time to study these passages - and follow their instructions!

The Name "Eliezer"

My Bar Mitzvah is coming up in a few months, and I have to prepare a speech to say in front of the whole congregation. The rabbi suggested that I talk about the meaning of my Hebrew name, Eliezer. Can you help?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The first biblical record of the name Eliezer is in reference to Abraham's servant (Genesis 15:2). It is a beautiful name, meaning “God is my helper.”

Here is an inspiring Talmudic story about Rabbi Eliezer Ben Hurkenas, which you may enjoy incorporating into your Bar Mitzvah speech.

One day, Eliezer was plowing on the mountain, and began to cry. Eliezer's father, Hurkenas, a leading rabbi of his generation, said to him, "Why are you crying? If it's hot up on the mountain, I'll move you down to the plain." So Eliezer began to plow in the plain and cried there too.

"My son, why are you crying?" Hurkenas asked.

"I want to learn Torah."

"Study Torah? Come on Eliezer, you're 28 years old! It's time to get married and start a family!"

But Eliezer would not stop crying. He cried until Elijah the Prophet came to him and asked, "Eliezer, why are you crying?"

"I want to learn Torah."

"Very well. Go to Jerusalem and seek out Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakkai."

So Eliezer went to Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakkai, the greatest sage of his generation. And you guessed it – Eliezer was crying.

"Why are you crying?" Rebbe Yochanan asked.

"I want to learn Torah."

"Didn't they teach you to say the Shema, the Amidah and Grace After Meals?"

"No."

"Come, I'll teach you."

And so the great sage, Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakkai, taught Eliezer the ABC's of Judaism. Then he said, "Very good, Eliezer. We were successful. Now it's time for you to go."

When Eliezer heard this, he cried.

"Why are you crying?"

"I want to learn Torah."

"Alright, I'll teach you more Torah."

(Meanwhile, since Eliezer had failed to return home, Hurkenas got angry and cut off his inheritance.)

Rebbe Yochanan taught Eliezer the Five Books of Moses and the Oral Law. After this, Rebbe Yochanan said, "Eliezer, it is time for you to go."

Eliezer cried: "I want to learn Torah!"

And so it went, until one day... Eliezer was learning in the back of the yeshiva study hall, when unexpectedly, his father Hurkenas walked in. At which point, Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakkai told Eliezer to move to the front and recite his Torah aloud.

After Eliezer had finished, Hurkenas stood up, and beaming with pride, said: "Eliezer, at first I wanted to give my property to all of my sons but you. Now I am going to give everything I have to you and you alone!"

Eliezer replied, "My father, if I wanted gold and silver, I would have stayed working on the farm. All I want is Torah." And Rabbi Eliezer Ben Hurkenas went on to become the leader of his generation, and the teacher of the great Rebbe Akiva.

There are many difficulties with this story:

1) How could it be that Hurkanas, a great rabbi himself, did not teach his son Torah? Even the simplest Jew teaches his son the Shema, the Amidah and Grace After Meals. Furthermore, Hurkanas was a wealthy man. He could have hired the best teachers in the world for his son!

2) Why did Hurkanas make his son do the menial labor of plowing? He could have hired 100 workers to plow, and given his son a supervisory position.

3) Why did Elijah the Prophet tell Eliezer to go learn basic Judaism from such an esteemed rabbi as Rebbe Yochanan ben Zakkai? Any intermediate yeshiva student could have done that!

4) And finally, why was Eliezer crying all the time?!

There is only one answer that explains all of these difficulties. Rabbi Eliezer Ben Hurkanas had a head made of straw. He was extremely slow.

Of course, Hurkanas had hired a teacher for his son. He got him the best teacher there was. He was rich and could afford anything. But even the best teacher could not get Shema into the thick head of Eliezer. So what should his father do – make him a foreman? No way! Give him a plow. At least he'll be productive.

But Eliezer cried. He wanted to learn! His father told him, "We've tried everything, son. Forget it." The only option left was the leader of the generation. Only someone with such genius could stand a chance of getting through to Eliezer. That was why Elijah sent him to Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakkai.

Rebbe Yochanan struggled and achieved a major accomplishment: He taught Eliezer the basics and was then ready to send him home. But Eliezer cried for more, and Rebbe Yochanan decided to take a chance. It had worked once, maybe he could teach him more. And so it went, until Eliezer Ben Hurkanas became one of the greatest scholars of his generation.

From all of this we see that even the slowest of the slow can achieve greatness. The secret? You have to want it so badly that you will cry for it. This was the merit of Eliezer Ben Hurkanas.

So remember: Reaching great heights does not depend upon our natural talents and capabilities. Everyone can become great. Everything we accomplish is a gift from God, and God will give us whatever we need to succeed. He is just waiting for us to make the effort.

Mazel tov on your Bar Mitzvah. I am certain that with the trait of persistence, you can become as great as the Talmudic sage whose name you bear.

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