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FAQ: Shabbat & Holidays

FAQ: Shabbat & Holidays

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QUESTION: "What were the Holy Ari's thoughts about eating meat? Did he condemn the eating of meat or just non kosher ones?"

ANSWER: It is known that the holy Ari ate meat only on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

QUESTION: "When it says in the introduction to Etz Chaim to abstain from meat, does this mean chicken meat as well? Or only red meat?"

ANSWER: Note that it says to abstain specifically "on weekdays", because it is important to partake of food from the animal classification on Shabbat.  Therefore, I would say that they probably abstained from all meat during the week, but ate chicken (at least) on Shabbat, festivals, and special occasions.


QUESTION: "What's a different between Sabbath & Sunday?"

ANSWER: The original Sabbath, that of the Jews, is from Friday sunset to Saturday nightfall. The Christians changed it to be Sunday, and then the Muslims to Friday. The Jews are still with the original.


QUESTION: "Do Kabbalists follow the same guidelines as the Orthodox regarding Shabbat?"

ANSWER: Yes. All Kabbalists in the authentic tradition are Orthodox Jews. In addition, they may observe some extra strictness' and customs, based on secrets from Kabbalah.


QUESTION: "I want to know about Shabbat prayer and how I can use the candles.  Do the candles have to be kosher or what kind of candles?"

ANSWER: The candle can be of any material that burns cleanly and well. Nearly all candles today fit that criterion. But the candle must not have been made for the sake of any other religious practice.
If you are Jewish, it has to be lit before sunset on Friday, preferably around 18 minutes before.
The prayers are to be found in any Jewish prayer book, and are distributed in pamphlet form on a weekly basis in Jewish areas by Chabad Chassidim.


QUESTION:" Why do Jews wear white clothing on Yom Kippur?"

ANSWER: According to one custom, we wear white ONLY on Yom Kippur (not Rosh Hashanah, Hoshana Raba or Pesach night). One reason is because the High Priest wore pure white garments only on Yom Kippur. According to the custom of wearing white the other times too, it is to indicate either the purity of the day, our angelic status on it, or both.


QUESTION: "I am a gentile person visiting his Jewish friends on Rosh Hashanah. Is there a specific present I could give them for this occasion? Would you be able to help me to say something nice at the dinner table?"

ANSWER: Fresh fruit is nice, but avoid packaged food and drink because of laws of keeping kosher. As far as a gift, something small for the house or the kitchen is always nice.
There is no need to say more than "Happy holiday". You are there to learn, not to teach. But if you wish to be better informed beforehand, go to chabad.org and aish.org


QUESTION: "My parents are not very observant and I was raised more with Jewish humor, love and basic religious holidays. My mother informed me that I am to deliver a talk before dinner on Erev Rosh Hashanah. I am not sure where to begin or what to say. Can you help me please?"

ANSWER: One possible theme to use with not-so-observant audiences, is the meaning of the words "Rosh Hashanah" - "Head of the year", not "New Year". That is because we understand that "Everything follows the head", comparable to the American idea that the first establishes a pattern. We realize that as Rosh Hashanah goes, so will the year go. Therefore we don't do "Happy New Year" and try to party ourselves into oblivion, but we take the day and its heavenly judgments seriously and dedicate it mainly to prayer and shofar. The meals though are still supposed to be enjoyable, as it says in the Book of Nehemiah.
You get the idea, right?


QUESTION: "Is drinking alcoholic beverages kosher from the viewpoint of Kabbalah?"

ANSWER: Yes, in moderation. It is even necessary, in the form of wine for certain sacred ceremonies. Alcohol in excess is not kosher, except on Purim.

QUESTION: "Why do men and women sit on different sides of the room?"

ANSWER: Usually a room is divided only for special and holy occasions, such as prayer in synagogue, the main instance where you might have run into this. That is so the men and women don't get distracted by each other, and can focus more clearly on the One for whom the prayers are intended.


QUESTION: "I have read so many articles and heard from various Rabbis about when the Mashiach is due. From what I've heard, the last day of Passover is a very big day but I'm looking for a better clarification on these hints as to when he is meant to arrive. Thanks."

ANSWER: Yes, the last day of Pesach is heavily associated with Mashiach, as a reading of the Haftorah reveals.

The reasons the hints seem so mysterious and inconclusive, is this is information we are not supposed to have until the time arrives. Only then, says the Rambam, will all the hints become perfectly clear. Meanwhile our job is to keep the faith and to do our best to help make the world an appropriate place for the Moshiach to reveal himself. May it be soon!


QUESTION 1: "Can you tell me how many times a man should go with his head under water in the mikveh?

QUESTION 2: And should he do something else, like praying?

QUESTION 3: And is it truth that the Mikveh of Safed fulfills wishes?"

ANSWER 1: ONCE is enough for purity, three enough for repentance. Some do more: 4, 7, 9, 10, 13 are all numbers I have heard, although, IMHO, four is quite enough unless there is a special reason.

ANSWER 2: There are special ways to focus the mind. The holy Ari wrote about this and so did the Baal Shem Tov. Some of these meditations are included in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's "Meditation and Kabbalah".  It is enough to concentrate that you are doing it in order to be closer to G‑d.

ANSWER 3: The local tradition is that someone who immerses in the mikveh of the Holy Ari will not leave the world without having returned to G‑d in complete repentance. Anything else you may have heard can serve as an example of how time and distance bring distortion.

Yerachmiel Tilles is the co-founder of Ascent-of-Safed, and was its educational director for 18 years. He is the creator of www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org and currently the director of both sites. He is also a well-known storyteller, a columnist for numerous chassidic publications, and a staff rabbi on AskMoses.com, as well as and the author of "Saturday Night, Full Moon": Intriguing Stories of Kabbalah Sages, Chasidic Masters and other Jewish Heroes.
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