Ask The Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi - 269

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Ask the Rabbi

26 February 2000; Issue #269

En-Graved Invitation


Sheldon Mermelstein from Teaneck, NJ wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Would you discuss the custom of visiting deceased relatives in the cemetery before getting married? Thanks very much.

Dear Sheldon Mermelstein,

There is a widespread custom that one visits deceased parents and grandparents before marriage. The reason is first that they should intercede in Heaven for the success of the marriage, and also to "invite" them to the wedding. It is traditionally known that their spirit comes to the wedding and partakes of their descendant's joy.

Doctor Do Little


Tim wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

In Exodus 15:26 it says "I am the Lord that heals you." How does this relate to us today? Is this a promise for us to take a hold of? I have some friends who are claiming this promise, and are refusing any kind of medical treatment. Is using a doctor not trusting G-d? Are we trusting man instead?

Dear Tim,

I have a story for you: A man swept away by a flood sees two guys approach in a rowboat. "Hop in!" they shout. "No, thanks," he says, "G-d will save me." Next, a tugboat passes by. "Climb aboard," calls the captain. Again he refuses. "G-d will save me," he says. Then the Coast Guard sends a helicopter but he refuses to board, giving the same reason. Finally, he drowns.

Up in Heaven, an angel asks why he refused help. "I wanted to rely on G-d alone," he replies. "Idiot!" says the angel. "Who do you think sent you the rowboat, the tugboat and the helicopter?"

G-d acts through the guise of doctors and medicine, just as He acts through the guise of employers to provide us with a living. Would your friends refuse to take money from their bosses, saying they'll get it directly from G-d? I think not. Do they eat food, or do they wait for G-d to miraculously inject their bloodstream with nourishing vitamins, minerals, fats and carbohydrates?

The Torah (Bible) gives explicit permission to engage in healing: If one person strikes another person, the verse says that the attacker "shall pay for his unemployment and for his medical expenses." (Exodus 21:19)

Our task is to exert the effort and then to recognize that ultimately it is G-d who heals. While seeking proper medical attention, a sick person simultaneously engages in prayer, good deeds, and introspection. We don't accept prayer as "a last resort" --it's a "first resort," along with medicine and the doctor.

"G-d on my Palm-Pilot"


Email@Withheld wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Can I have a siddur (prayer book) that's loaded into my Palm Pilot and be able to take it into the bathroom without any problems?

Dear Email@Withheld,

You can take the Palm Pilot into the bathroom, but I would suggest that it would be inappropriate to actually have the text displayed on the screen at the time.

Yiddle Riddle


Last week, Neil Parks, Beachwood, Ohio wrote:

I recently learned an interesting halacha from Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum of Cleveland's Jewish Learning Connection. He suggested it might make a good "Yiddle Riddle." When, regarding the laws of prayer, is it better to forget something than to remember it? Specifically, if you omit an addition to the amida for a specific occasion -- an addition which is indeed appropriate for that occasion, you have fulfilled your obligation. But if you insert that same addition (which, as mentioned, is indeed appropriate for that occasion), you have invalidated your shemona esrei (silent amida prayer).


The ma'ariv amida on Saturday night includes an extra paragraph for havdala (the "atah chonantanu" paragraph), but if you omit it, the amida is still valid and need not be repeated.

If you oversleep on Shabbat afternoon and miss the time for mincha (afternoon service), then you say an extra amida at ma'ariv. But the first amida must be the one for ma'ariv, and the second must be the one to make up for mincha. If you don't say havdala in either the first amida or the second amidah, both are valid. However, if you omit havdala in the first amida, and remember to say it in the second one, then the second amida becomes the one for ma'ariv, and the first amida becomes invalid retroactively. You now have to say a third one for mincha.


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


Re: Canopies Made From Can O' Peas (Ask the Rabbi #267):

My wife and I made our chuppah (wedding canopy). It was very simple and elegant. We went to the hardware stores and bought four poles and four hooks. We screwed the hooks into the tops of the poles and then attached a large tallit using the existing holes in the corner. If you do this, make sure that the poles are long enough that they can touch the ground while people stand under them (seven feet or more). We thought this much better than renting one.

Larry Weinberg in Maryville, MO

I read with interest the recent issue about couples decorating their own chuppah. The questions took me back to my wedding. My wife and I asked our friends to decorate a one foot square piece of 100% cotton cloth with any memories, thoughts, words, pictures, whatever they thought. My bride-to-be took the squares to a seamstress who put them all together onto an old family heirloom square about eight foot by eight foot. A grommet for each pole was placed on each corner and some additional material placed around to drape down.

We lost my mother last year, but her chuppah square remains as a lasting memory of her. We have hung our chuppah on our wall so we can see it every day. Someday, perhaps, our children will get married under the family chuppah.

Marc P. Cardinalli in Las Vegas, Nevada

Ask the Rabbi wrote that "The only real "requirement" is that the chuppah be big enough for the bride and groom to stand under and that there be room for the bride to circle the groom." I really don't mean to shock you, but I must confess that I am of "pure" German-Jewish descent (a real "yekke" -- and proud of it) and it is not our custom for the bride to circle the groom. I want you to know that this is how I was married, the officiating rabbi having been Rav Yosef Breuer, zatzal, in the presence of Rav Shulman, zatzal (of Slobodka). The ketubah was read by Rav Shimon Schwab, zatzal. I hope that you do not feel that the marriage was not valid! In many respects these customs are still followed, especially here in Washington Heights, New York.

Raphael N. Levi in Washington Heights, NY

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