Ask The Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi - 275

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Ask the Rabbi

27 May 2000; Issue #275

Nasdaq and the Zodiac


Saul Behr in Johannesburg, SA wrote

Dear Rabbi,

Somebody recently came up to me, and gave me unsolicited information about astrology. From a reliable source, with a good history of accuracy, he gave me some tips on the stock market. Am I allowed to act on that information?

Dear Saul,

There's no problem with acting on this unsolicited advice. However, one should not actively seek out such advice. Rather, a Jew should go about life trusting that G-d will "be there" for him, and not feel the need to know the future.

Note that ultimately, astrology has no bearing on the life of a Jew because "ain mazel b'yisrael -- the people of Israel transcend astrological influences."

  • Yoreh Deah 179:1

The Wall at the Wall


Bruce Hammer from Manti, Utah wrote:

Dear Rabbi, I noticed the divider at the Western Wall camera ( What is the purpose of this division? Why is the wall divided into two sections? Thanks.

Dear Bruce Hammer,

It's there as a division between the men and the women during prayer. It's basically to help us focus on prayer, and not on other things.

The law requiring a separation, a "mechitzah," is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Succah 51b, 52a. There are a number of reasons given for this:

  • So as not to cause those who are unmarried to feel left out.

  • We come to synagogue to relate to G-d as Jews, not as spouses, husbands, wives, fathers or mothers. With a mechitzah, spouses do not sit together. That way, we are more of a congregation than groups of individuals.

  • To prevent there being an atmosphere of socializing, and conversation during prayer.

  • The atmosphere during prayer should be serious. One way to help achieve the proper atmosphere is by creating a division between men and women.

  • To promote modesty, and to prevent the distraction from prayer to both men and women from the presence of members of the opposite gender, to whom there is a natural attraction.

Mother Superior


Richard Pedowitz from Seattle, WA wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I was approached by a woman with the following story:

"At age 52 I learned that my maternal grandmother was an orphan and was Jewish. As a baby she was placed in a Catholic household and reared as a Catholic. She reared my mother as a Catholic and my mother reared me as a Catholic.

The story generated the following questions: "What is my status according to Jewish law? What is the status of my children according to Jewish law?" She is genuinely curious. I look forward to your response. Thank you very much.

Dear Richard Pedowitz,

She is Jewish. If the facts are true as she has stated them, then she is 100 percent Jewish, and so are her children. This is so because a person's Jewishness is determined by the mother.

  • Tractate Kiddushin 66b & 68b
  • Code of Jewish Law, Even Haezer 8:5

Tattoo and Jewish Burial

Claudette Maxim wrote:

Dear Rabbi, I came across an article that stated that a Jewish person may not be buried in consecrated grounds if he or she has a decorative tattoo. Is this true?

Dear Claudette Maxim,

No, it's not true. This seems to be a widespread misconception, and many people have asked us this question.

The Torah explicitly forbids a Jew from getting a tattoo: The verse says "Don't put hypodermic writing in your flesh, I am G-d." (Leviticus 19:28)

So, we see that getting a "decorative" tattoo is considered a sin for a Jew. But it doesn't disqualify him from being buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Rabbi Chanoch Teller relates the story of a young man from a non-religious upbringing who returned to traditional observance of Judaism. Remaining from his former lifestyle was a tattoo which he carefully kept hidden under his shirtsleeves.

Before Yom Kippur, this young man went to the mikveh, the ritual bath, as is the custom. Try as he might, he couldn't hide his tattoo from the others at the mikveh. His embarrassment was noticeable. Then, an elderly Jew approached him: "Don't be embarrassed," said the old man as he held up his arm to show the numbers tattooed there by Nazis. "I also have a tattoo."

  • Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 180:1

Who Knows 16?

In the song at the end of the Pesach Seder we describe the significance of the numbers from one to thirteen as they relate to Jewish life and thought. "Three are the fathers, Four are the Mothers�12 are the Tribes of Israel�" What about the next 13 numbers? And after those? What significance do they have in Jewish tradition?

This week, we challenge to answer: "Who knows 16?"
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A Banana for Your Monkey:

"Apparently orangutans share 99% of our genes -- therefore they should have 99% of human rights." This was reported on the BBC in October.

A scientist dismissed the idea because "bananas share 50% of our genes, so should we also give them 50% of human rights?"

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Written by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer, Rabbi Reuven Subar, Rabbi Mordecai Becher, Rabbi Baruch Rappaport, Rabbi Moshe Yossef and other Rabbis at Ohr Somayach Institutions / Tanenbaum College, Jerusalem, Israel.

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Production Design: Michael Treblow

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