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Ask the Rabbi - 299

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January 13, 2001 / 18 Tevet 5761; Issue #299

A Day at the Races


Debra Korenstein from Jerusalem wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I have always wondered how from Adam and Eve came all the different races and colors of the world?

Dear Debra Korenstein,

Great Question! The Talmud itself deals with this. In reality, the modern concept of adaptation to the environment is rooted in the Talmud written 1800 years before Darwin was born!

The Sages teach us that in order to help different people survive in their respective climates and conditions, G-d gave them physical characteristic traits adapted specifically for their environment. For example, the Talmud states that G-d gave people who live in swampy regions large feet to help them contend with the soft footing. And to those who live in eastern desert climates G-d gave special eyelids to help them contend with the sand which kicks up.

In the same line of reason, we can clearly postulate that G-d adjusted the melanin in the epidermis of people who live in different longitudes to contend with the varied exposure to the angles of the sun's rays. Or, simply put, G-d did it.

This is clearly the way G-d created the whole world. Many times in Tanach we see that G-d created everything in kindness, with the innate ability to survive and contend with its environment. Not only does G-d give all life its capability to survive, but he created the inanimate world with many different manifestations of nature to protect and enhance life.

For example, King David in Psalms says that G-d gives "snow like wool." What kind of comparison is this? Snow is cold and wool is used to warm and protect? Yet, careful observation gives us the answer: Snow acts like an insulation to protect the ground and its vegetation from the extreme cold of winter. The more to the poles we traverse the more snow there is, further insulating the ground underneath. Many animals even have the innate understanding to burrow themselves in the snow during extreme temperatures.

In his inspired wisdom, King David perceived this concept of ground insulation marvelously. Differences among people, too, can be seen as helpful adaptations from a benevolent Creator.

Who is a Jew?


Evelyn Goldberg Rotz from Coconut Creek, FL wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Can you tell me the origin of the word "Jew"?

Dear Evelyn Goldberg Rotz,

The word Jew is rooted in the name "Judah". Judah was one of Jacob's 12 sons and he was the father of one of the 12 Tribes of Israel.

About 26 centuries ago, ten of the Tribes of Israel disappeared into exile. Only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and the Levites remained. Since Judah was the preeminent tribe, the land was known as "Eretz Yehuda," or Judea, and the remaining Israelites were called "Yehudim," Jews.

One of the earliest appearances of the word "Jew" is in the Book of Esther, in which the hero is referred to as "Mordechai Hayehudi," Mordechai "the Judean" or "the Jew." (Book of Esther 10:3)

Yiddle Riddle


I am eating, and if I were to finish eating at this point, I would be required to say two brachot acharonot (after-blessings). I now take a nibble of another food. Now I only need to say one bracha acharona! What have I eaten?

Riddle submitted by Saul Behr from Johannesburg, South Africa

Answer next week...


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LIGHTS FROM ODESSA has received many inquiries regarding the possibility of adopting a child from the Ohr Somayach Children's Home in Odessa. There is no doubt in our minds that the best interest of the children would be to get them out of the Ukraine and adopted into good homes.

We face serious bureaucratic difficulties in this regard, however. In order to found our orphanage, we had to apply for a government license, not an easy thing to obtain in the Ukraine. Until we founded the Ohr Somayach Children's Home, no private orphanage existed, the only orphanages being State institutions. With great difficulty we obtained the license, and have over the years gained an excellent reputation, but we are under constant surveillance by the authorities. The moment we arrange for a child to be adopted outside the Ukraine, we would immediately be accused of "selling" children; They would rescind our license and close the orphanage. We don't think this is worth the risk.

Once the children turn sixteen, the situation is different, and we bring them as quickly as possible to Israel where we have a special high school especially for them.

So, while we are sorry we can't arrange for adoption, but should anyone be interesting in becoming a child's guardian or wish to support a child, we would be very interested. The total cost of the upkeep of a child is $5000 per year. This or any part of it would be greatly appreciated. For more information, please contact Rabbi Yaakov Bradpiece at or call 972-2-581-0315. In the US, please call 1-800-431-2272. Thank you.

Written by various Rabbis at Ohr Somayach Institutions / Tanenbaum College, Jerusalem, Israel.
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Michael Treblow
© 2001 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.
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