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October 7, 2000 / 8 Tishrei 5761; Issue #289

First Jews in the US


Leslie Tanner wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I was wondering who the first Jewish immigrant was to come to the United States to live? What year? Did they have family? Also who was the first Jewish person born in the U.S.? Thank you.

Dear Leslie Tanner,

I referred your question to one of today's foremost Jewish historians, Rabbi Berel Wein. He said, that as far as he is aware, this information is not known. What he could tell me though, was that the first Jews to settle in what is now the US were Sephardic Jews who came from the West Indies in the 1650's. The first family to settle in Philadelphia (whether they were the first in the US, Rabbi Wein did not know) was the Seixas family.

Good G-d


Name@Withheld from Brooklyn, NY wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What biblical or philosophical proof is there that everything G-d does is for the good (gamzu l'tovah)?

Dear Name@Withheld,

Biblically, see the first chapter of Genesis, that all that G-d created was "very good." Thus, the entire world is good, even when we don't realize it. And Psalms 144 states: "G-d is good to all..." There are others.

Philosophically, the apparent existence of evil is in order to allow us free choice, to overcome evil and thus attain the ultimate good, which is the good of earning our reward, instead of having it handed to us for free.

Regarding our inability to understand suffering, imagine a little child at the dentist: All he knows is that the dentist is hurting him. Can the child understand that the dentist is actually a good man and is trying to save him from future pain? One day that child will thank the dentist.

This is a very short, condensed answer, and there is much more to be said on this subject.

The Bigger They Are...


Glenn Slocum from McKinleyville, CA wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What are the "Nephilim" mentioned in the Torah?

Dear Glenn Slocum,

The Nephilim are mentioned twice in the Torah (Genesis 6, Numbers 13). "Nephilim" means "the fallen ones." They were people of giant stature. It is not clear how large they were, but were large enough to scare other people. The Targum Yerushalmi, which is a Midrash, explains that they were Angels who descended to the Earth. According to this they were called fallen ones because they fell from their heavenly stature. The Ramban explains otherwise, that they were the other children of Adam. Because Adam, the First Man, was the handiwork of G-d, his children were of greater physical stature than their descendants. Because these people were so close to the Creator, they knew that they had no grandfather, they should have been spiritually elevated. Because they didn't live up to their potential they were considered "fallen ones."

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


Re: LIFE IN THE FAST VEIN (Ask the Rabbi #288):

I disagree strongly with your advice about intravenous on Yom Kippur. If the insertion of a needle will save a life, it will fulfill a great mitzvah which supersedes Yom Kippur, which is to save a life.


Ohrnet Responds:
Our article was about voluntary use of intravenous on a fast day as opposed to simply drinking water. We were not discussing a case where intravenous is required to save a life. In such a case, of course you are correct.


I am seeking permission to reproduce Yossi & Co. for distribution to my students at the Jewish Community of Japan. There are some 25 students who will be getting Yossi & Co. Looking forward to your answer. Best wishes for a Happy New Year.

Ilana Marmon, Jewish Community of Japan, Tokyo

Ohrnet Responds:
Thanks for writing! We love to have our stuff reprinted, and consider it a compliment. We do ask please that you credit us as follows:

Ohr Somayach Interactive /

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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