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Ask the Rabbi - 266

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Ask the Rabbi - 266

Ask the Rabbi

5 February 2000; Issue #266

Does Bob Equal Fred?


Name@Withheld wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I am pondering the role of women in religious activity and maybe home life. I was raised with the feminist viewpoint, and view women and men as equals. Though it seems that the Torah, G-d's will, does not. I struggle with this in trying to give my will over to G-d's. What does the Torah say about this situation?

Dear Christensen Low,

Logically speaking, no two people are equal. Otherwise, why would G-d create them both? One of them would be redundant.

The Torah views each person as a world unto himself. That, says the Talmud, is why Adam was created alone (whereas the animals were created en masse all at once), to teach that each person is different, and the whole world was fitting to be created for any one individual. (That includes you!)

The Torah doesn't view people as equal, as we see from the fact that Jews are given special commands that are not given to the other nations, such as keeping Shabbat, as the Torah says "The Children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath...It is a sign between Me and the Children of Israel." And among Jews, there are kohanim (priests) who are commanded by the Torah to serve in the Holy Temple, whereas if an ordinary Jew who is not one of the kohanim tries to do the Temple service, he is doing a sin, as the verse says "The zar (non-priest) who approaches shall die."

In short, no person is exactly the same as any other person, and therefore there are differing roles among people, based on the situation into which G-d has seen fit to put their soul. Yet, each individual has cosmic importance, so much so that the entire world was worth it just for him.

In G-d We Trust (All Others Pay Cash)


Steve Weiss from Chicago wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Do you know if there is any truth to the following article that I read? I am somewhat skeptical, but wonder if you have any knowledge of this: "A couple of years ago, at West Point, there was a display about Hyam Salomon and the Revolutionary War. He died penniless, having used all his resources to aid the newly formed and poorly supplied American "army." The following story is told about him:

General Washington's financial advisor and assistant was a Jewish man by the name of Hyam Salomon. During the cold winter of Valley Forge when American soldiers were freezing and running out of food, it was Hyam who marshaled Jews in America and Europe to provide money in relief aid to these stranded American troops and turned the course of history. Without this help, our "army" would have perished before they could have defeated the British. If you take a one dollar bill out of your pocket and look at the back at the Eagle, the stars above the Eagle's head are in the six point Star of David to honor Jews. If you turn the Eagle upside down you will see a configuration in the likeness of a Menorah...both at the insistence of George Washington who said we should never forget the Jewish people."

Dear Steve Weiss,

The small Jewish community in colonial America gave more than their share toward the United States' revolutionary cause. One such patriot was indeed Hyam Salomon, who gave $300,000, an immense fortune for those days.

But I doubt that the "Great Seal of the United States" which appears on the dollar bill makes any hint to Salomon's contribution, or that George Washington had anything to say about it.

The first bill to bear this symbol was the $1 Silver Certificate, Series 1935, long after Washington's death.

The "Great Seal" itself was commissioned by Congress in 1776 and adopted six years later, but during this time George Washington was busy fighting the war. The designing committee, which included Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, did not include Washington. Nor did Washington become president until seven years after this seal had been adopted, so it's questionable that he would have had any input.

The thirteen stars, representing the 13 original states, do indeed form the Star of David (also known as "Solomon's seal"). Exactly why, I don't know. In general, though, it's clear that Franklin and Jefferson had "biblical" motif in mind, as their original draft of the Great Seal showed "rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Cloud, expressive of the divine Presence and Command, beaming on Moses."

But don't worry. Hyam Salomon wasn't forgotten. In 1893, a bill was presented before the 52nd Congress ordering a gold medal struck off in recognition of Salomon's contributions to the United States.

Yiddle Riddle


Dani Wassner from Jerusalem wrote:

Can you name TWO different occasions when Rosh Chodesh will fall during the coming week, yet no Shabbat Mevorachim prayers are said on the preceding Shabbat?

Answer next week…

The Public Domain
Comments, quibbles, and reactions concerning previous "Ask-the-Rabbi" features.


To The Torah, Iran:

We have a weekly publication of the Parsha and Divrei Torah (words of Torah). This publication is published in Persian text and has been known around the Iranian groups for many years. We would like to take some of your Torah insights and publish them in Persian for our weekly publication.

(Youseff, Staff of Shaare Tikvah Synagogue)

Hidden Ones (Ask the Rabbi #263, Public Domain):

Regarding your recent discussion of the Spanish Inquisition: Some years ago I attended a class where we heard the experiences of a young woman who had recently come from Spain. I will spare you the long explanation of how her family had remained in their hidden state for 500 years, in complete ignorance of how many of the people, from other areas of the country, had come out of their cellars and were living openly. She described her fears when she and her mother visited Israel, for the first time, and held themselves back, even at the Western Wall, for fear of being discovered.

She told us that the word "marrano" is a derogatory name given to them by those who hated them. She was too embarrassed to tell us what it was but indicated that it meant the lowest possible thing you could imagine, while pointing down at the ground, or the dirt. She made a strong request that we refrain from using it and call them, instead, "Hidden Ones."

Thank you for the Torah information for which I eagerly wait each week, and the thoughtful way you have connected us to people from everywhere in the world.

The Spain Stays Mainly in Europe (Ask the Rabbi #263):

You recently wrote: "In Europe the Jews spoke Yiddish, based on German, and in Spain they developed Ladino, based on Spanish." Last time I checked Spain was still in Europe!


We'll be Frank:

I am writing to thank you for subscribing me to you weekly "Ask the Rabbi" column. I appreciate your light hearted yet sincere and frank openness in your candid response to questions.

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