Ask The Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi - 283

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Ask the Rabbi

July 29, 2000 / 26 Tammuz 5760; Issue #283



Mr. and Mrs. Fuentes from Miami FL wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What does the word "Yahoo" mean in Hebrew? It is used commonly as part of a name.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Fuentes,

The Hebrew word Yahoo (or Yahu) is a name of G-d. It is commonly found at the end of people's names. It represents a Divine attribute added to the name. For example, Yeshayahu (Isaiah) means "G-d's redemption," Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) means "Fear of G-d."

I sometimes wonder if the internet company Yahoo! became such a major success simply because G-d likes the name they chose!

The Rest Of Shabbat


Matt from Teaneck, New Jersey wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I live in a Jewish town and go to a Jewish school where we study Torah daily. However, I'm still not sure as to the laws of Shabbat relating to my daily life. My friend said that if you have good intentions and stay home and rest but still use electricity that is still observing the Shabbat but I have trouble accepting this because it would contradict too many other laws that I observe. I do want to keep the Shabbat but I'm not sure how.

Dear Matt,

The Torah tells us not to do "melacha" on Shabbat. Melacha is sometimes defined as "work," but that's not a good definition. What is melacha?

Melacha means "creative act." By refraining from creative acts, we recognize G-d as the Ultimate Creator.

Melacha is any act which represents the uniquely human ability to put our intellect to work and shape the environment. Thus, switching on a light is a melacha. Among other things, it can be considered "building" a circuit.

Specifically, a melacha is anything that fits into one of 39 categories of activities listed in Tractate Shabbat page 73a. This list includes activities such as seeding, uprooting, building, writing and burning.

I recommend the following books to start: Shabbos: Day of Eternity by Aryeh Kaplan.(available at, The Shabbat by Dayan Isadore Grunfield, 39 Avoth Melacha of Shabbath by Rabbi Baruch Chait; illustrated by Yoni Gerstein, and The 39 Melochos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat (all available at, and

Wedding Time


Mrs. G. wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Isn't 20 the recommended age for a young man to wed? It is not necessarily the best age, but I believe that is the age many orthodox Jews consider.

Dear Mrs. G.,

The Mishna says "Ben shemona esrei l'chupa" -- an eighteen year old to the marriage canopy. The Talmud says that if the young man isn't married by 18 "G-d waits for him until he's twenty, and if he's not married by 20, then G-d says 'blast his bones.' " (free translation)

But there's a joke making the rounds these days: "What's the difference between men and 30 year bonds? Bonds mature."

There's truth in jest. In our day, many people -- women as well as men -- seem too immature to wed at 18.

But in the ideal world, an 18 year old would be mature enough to marry. By then, both boy and girl should have learned that life is about giving, which is the secret for a successful marriage. Indeed, in lots of orthodox circles 20 is the age when many marry, and even before, and these "youngsters" create dynamic, successful links in the chain of Judaism.

After several weeks' break, Ohrnet is proud to bring you, by popular demand



Certain health defects make an animal into a "treifa." A treifa is not kosher; it may not be eaten. In what case does an animal's being a treifa cause its offspring to be kosher (or, more exactly, prevent its offspring from automatically being non-kosher.)

Answer next week ...


Final Edition of
"Who Knows . . . ?"


For several weeks, we've asked:
"In the song at the end of the Pesach Seder we describe the significance of the numbers from one to 13 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?"

Here is the "final" installment of readers' answers:

13 are the midot (attributes) of Hashem. Being that Hashem is omniscient, omnipresent, etc., His midot seem to be inclusive of everything beyond what is part of the song. Furthermore, the song begins with Hashem ("One is Hashem") and ends with Hashem (the 13 midot) so the whole song seems to be balanced well. As for the number 20 which you asked about, it says in Pirkei Avot that 20 is the age at which one begins to pursue (a career).

Hinda Kaplan, Brooklyn, NY

A complete set of Talmud is usually published in 20 volumes. Although a person becomes legally liable at 12 or 13 years of age, he is not really held fully accountable by G-d until age 20. If I remember correctly, Yaakov lived with Lavan for 20 years (7 years for Leah, 7 for Rachel, and 6 to earn his livelihood).

Haim [Howard] Roman, Jerusalem

20 planks on both the north and south sides of the Mishkan; 20 pieces of silver that Joseph was sold for by the brothers; 20 is the number at which people began to be counted for military service; 20 is the age at which a person suffers heavenly punishment.

Stephen Friedman

20 amot is maximum height for Chanuka menorah, succah, and mavoi.


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


Re: MACHINES AND MASHIACH: (Ask the Rabbi #280)

In the Parshas Korach issue, you responded to a reader that in messianic times you hope that the internet will be used for good things. I strongly take issue. You are implying that today, in pre-messianic times, the internet is not used for good things. That is patently false. You should be informed that there are many excellent sites on the web today, and if you don't believe me you have obviously never heard of a web site called "Ohrnet." Indignantly,

Peretz Moncharsh

Ohrnet Responds: Thanks for the mean the compliment!

Re: HAVA NAGILAH: (Ask the Rabbi #280)

You wrote: "Hava Nagilah was composed by Klausenberg Chassidim."

This isn't accurate. It was a Radomsker version of Yismichu B'malchuskha, a Shabbat song. It was composed by an unknown Radomsker Chassid between 100 and 150 years ago.

Ron Silver

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.

General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Michael Treblow

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