QUESTION: "Part of one of your articles troubles me. It dealt with animals. Now, animals seem to be able to get on with their own lives, whether man is involved or not. The idea that they are here simply to serve our purpose is egocentric and belittles the complexity and wonder of the natural world. Do you have a response?"

ANSWER: Thank you for writing. Please keep in mind that when an article is written, it’s not possible to develop every single idea to its fullest. Anyway, there is not even a hint that animals are not important, G‑d forbid! The proof is that Jacobs's sons, extremely righteous people, were compared to them. Furthermore, the entire context of that article is that each of us serves a similar purpose to the other significant people in our lives, like parents for children, or one generation for the next.

You are correct, though, about the fact that Torah recognizes that there are infinite dramas happening in the world. Every Jew, every person, every animal - even every blade of grass and stone have their own complex (your word but I liked it) relationship with its plane, its own adventures and goals, its own soul. Nevertheless, Torah says that it is all tied up together, literally intertwined together, for one greater purpose: to bring more light, more sanctity, and eventually through this, , Mashiach to the world. In that context, yes, people have a 'more important' mission.

I will say one more thing. There is an analogy of the wise men sitting in the carriage driven by the coachman, being led by four horses. The horses’ desire is to arrive at their goal to eat their hay. This in no way contradicts the carriage drivers’ desire to complete his task and be paid. Neither detracts at all from the wise men and their urgent mission to change the world for the better.

QUESTION: "What does Kabbala say about the existence of extra-terrestrials, or other physical worlds with intelligent life? Are there interesting books about this subject?"

ANSWER: Kabbala accepts the theoretical possibility but takes no position on it.

QUESTION: "I love being Jewish. Can you please tell me why I like it so much? What's so great about it?"

ANSWER: It provides the perfect means to express your Jewish soul and your innate connection with the Creator. Love the question!

QUESTION 1: "What do you Kabbalists think of celebrity conversions (i.e. Madonna)? Do you think they are turning it into a cult?
QUESTION 2: Why does it cost so much for things just to be a Kabbalists? (i.e. water, books, tapes, courses...)
QUESTION 3: Who started the red string and why use red string?"

ANSWER 1: They are treating it like a cult, but the true Kabbala is immune to them.
ANSWER 2: The true Kabbala does not cost money.
ANSWER 3: It is an old tradition in Israel, but what has reached the general public these days has very little to do with that tradition.

QUESTION: "I have a question about the quote from your site: "the omer is an offering that consisted of barley, essentially animal food." Why is barley considered animal food? As per common knowledge, barley is a kind of cereal. Thanks for your help."

ANSWER: Barley was (is?) fed to animals and wheat was (is?) not. That people may also eat barley (as in certain cholent recipes) even though they primarily eat wheat (breads, noodles, pastries) is not a contradiction.

QUESTION: "I've just printed out the History of Kabbalists which, as I look it over, prompts me to wonder where there were any women who were Kabbalists. There were women who were prophetesses, such as Miriam and Deborah, their names are not included; neither are, for instance, Hannah, or Queen Esther. Could you please comment? Thank you."

ANSWER: The women you cite were all very important in the development of Judaism; however, they were not involved in the development of Kabbala. Nor have I heard of any who were. This should not be surprising; it was a pretty closed society even towards men, and it wasn't the egalitarian 21st century. For a few exceptions, the following article may interest you: Mystical Safed Women

QUESTION 1: "I read the following on the website:

"... he who was born in Eretz Yisrael and remained there all his life, his soul descended to his body in purity and was never contaminated by the air of foreign countries...Yet he who ascends to Eretz Yisrael in an advanced age cannot attain that level." [Advantages of Being in Israel] My question is, what is the status of one who came to Eretz Yisrael at the age of forty-two, converted strictly according to Jewish law two years later, and has never left the Land?"

ANSWER 1: Purer than someone who came and converted at 62 and stayed, but not as pure as someone who came and converted at 22 and stayed. The divine soul that entered with conversion has all the merits of a soul that was always in the holy land, while the basic animating soul does not.

QUESTION 2: "Also, if I may ask another question:How is his status affected if he should leave only one time?"

ANSWER 2: You don't have to feel guilty about leaving once (or twice or three times over the decades), although it is strongly preferable that it be for less than 30 days (per visit); nevertheless, it is not proper to say that "only" one time is the same as "was never contaminated by the air of foreign countries."

QUESTION: "Why do some months have 30 days and some 29 days? What if you are born on the 30th day and your true birthday doesn't come around every year."

ANSWER: The Jewish months are based on moon cycles, and the average cycle is very close to 29 1/2 days. Obviously a month can't have half days, so we alternate between 29 and 30. There are only two months that are not constantly 29 or 30 but vary from year to year. If you have such a birthday, tell me your date and I'll tell you what to do.

QUESTION: "I have met people who have described a "white light" that seemed to envelop them. What is the "white light" that they are referring to? One person, a non- observant individual, described the experience in the context of his thoughts on how he loved God. He said, he saw himself falling through the air and then he encountered the "light" and an extreme sense of euphoria and peace. Some say he was suffering from sunstroke. What do you say?"

ANSWER: No comment. I can't picture any of the people involved. Judaism's basic position is that it is not so important what people see and feel; what counts is what they do. If the sights and feelings inspire them to improved behavior, great; otherwise…

QUESTION: "What are the "Urim" and "Tumim" (Exodus 28:30)? What are their purposes? Also, can we use this method to determine God's will in our lives now-a-days?"

ANSWER: It was the breastplate of the high priest. It had on it twelve different precious stones, each with the name of a different tribe inscribed underneath it. There was only one in the world and only the high priest was permitted and had the capability to use it. When the Third Temple is built, we will again merit having a high priest holy enough to use it.

QUESTION: "I loved your article on the Mystical Significance of Hair, and found it very interesting and helpful, so thank you for putting that up!

My question is now: why is Chabad-Lubavitch seemingly the only major group of Chassidim that trims their peyos so short? I was always under the impression that they are the most careful in following the teachings of the Ari, but apparently it was the Ari who wrote about this, so why the discrepancy? And what accounts for the variety in the "style" of peyos that different groups follow? (The reason I ask is because I urgently need a haircut, and I don't know who to turn to or how exactly to cut them, by what standards, etc.)"

ANSWER: The long peyot that you see on most Chasidim is not according to the Ari. He famously said that peyot need to be down to the jawbone, and more than that is "extra." The idea of never cutting peyot is based on a teaching in the Zohar. Even in Russia, Chabad never had long peyot like the Polisher and Hungarian Chasidim did, which is at least partially due to different cultural traditions. The older Chasidim from Russia that I encountered all had Ari length peyot, although nearly always tucked behind their ears. In terms of your own haircut, you have to make sure that you fulfill the commandment to "not shave the corners of the head." This is not so much of a technical problem, except for people who get very short haircuts.

More than this is hard to advise you without knowing the extent of your commitment to Jewish observance and what community (if any) you feel attached to, or want to, be part of.

QUESTION: "Having heard that Kabbala uses astrology and that Chassidic rabbis used to connect with departed souls I would like to know if both practices aren't forbidden by Jewish law."

ANSWER: I can assure you that no genuine Kabbalist or Chassidic Rebbe does anything forbidden by Jewish law. If they use astrology, it is not to decide or consult on future decisions, which is what the Torah forbids. If there is contact with departed souls, it is not in order to acquire information, which is what the Torah forbids, and is usually initiated by the soul itself, for purpose of rectification.

QUESTION: "I have a question concerning resentment - there is somebody in my life who causes me great distress and anger. A friend told me that this person is no different from a crazy person screaming at me on the bus. This person takes no responsibility for the pain that they inflict and when really confronted, begins screaming, crying, and cursing, how they are old and so miserable and so misunderstood. Needless to say, I have a deep loathing for this person. I try to forgive them on one hand and tell myself the person is really sick to be behaving this way (and they also tell people they are a religious person with a title no less!) and that they must be very miserable to do these things.

Ok, so my question is: 1) Why does G‑d let this person do these things to me — is it a punishment of some kind? 2) What am I allowed to pray for? I know I can't ask G‑d to punish them but they really bring me much aggravation and torment. Somebody told me the best thing to pray for is for them to do total teshuva. Honestly, I'm waiting for Rosh Hashanah for them to get "zapped". Do you think this is the way things work? What can I pray for? I really secretly wish this person great harm. And I have tried talking to them. They want to take absolutely no responsibility."

ANSWER: You carefully avoided a clear statement about what is the connection between you and this person, which it makes the question so much more difficult to answer. Thus, for example. it is difficult to understand why you can't just avoid this person, unless of course it is a close relative that you feel some responsibility for.

In any case, it is generally understood and accepted that the older a person is, the harder it is for them to change ingrained behavior, and therefore we cut them more slack, especially if they themselves are in a position of personal suffering. While it is true that there are many well-known righteous Jews throughout history who accepted such abuse with love and gratitude, that is beyond most of us so I won't explore the thinking beyond that attitude.

I agree with your friend that you should pray for the person's situation to improve so that they will stop acting so bitterly towards you. I appreciate your honesty, but in general it is forbidden for us to pray for something bad to happen to another Jew, and even if it weren't, on Rosh Hashanah h I, personally, would be terrified to do so. On the Day of Judgment to request a harming judgment!?? Sounds suicidal. Much better to focus on G‑d's attributes of mercy and his essential nature to be beneficial, and not to open any doors that we will quickly wish had stayed closed.

QUESTION: "I was just wondering what the meaning of Ramak was. Does it have any specific meaning at all? What does it mean?"

ANSWER: RAMAK is an acrostic for Rabbi Moshe Kordovero, the predecessor to Rabbi Yitzchak Luria as the leader of the Safed kabbalists.

QUESTION: "I was born at 11:45 PM on October 14, 1976. I was wondering which one of the 72 names corresponds to my birth date."

ANSWER: WE are not involved in that. We have a different system of matching people to their verse(s) in the Torah. But it is work, so we have to charge a bit of money. For details, click on "personal Torah codes" in the footer of any page on our site.

QUESTION: "I’d like to know if there is a requirement for the temple priests’ lineage with DNA testing and their geologies. Any information would be appreciated as to how, and the requirements for, the priests at the temple mount when the council and the traditions will be reinstated."

ANSWER: "Priest" in Judaism means to be a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses.
Many claim this descent but only a minority of the genealogical records prove it. Elijah the prophet, King Messiah, and the Sanhedrin council will all be involved in determining who is truly of priestly lineage and who not. DNA testing will not be employed; it is too inaccurate because of inter-tribal marriages and even, unfortunately, intermarriage.

QUESTION: "About Nadav and Abihu you write, "Their deaths atone for the Jewish People throughout the entire exile." How could these deaths atone for the people if they were not clean? Usually in atonement an unblemished animal is brought for sacrifice — that which is without sin atones for the sins of the people. However, since we know that Nadab and Abihu were found wanting, how could they provide atonement for the people? At the very most, the sacrifice of their lives could only make up for their own transgressions, right?"

ANSWER: Not really. It is not explained in the article how their deaths atoned for others since that is not the subject of the article. I can only guess that perhaps their extra enthusiasm for union with the divine compensated for a lack of proper enthusiasm by others. And that their "merits" were much greater than their "demerits."

By the way, who says they were not clean and pure? That they were lacking completeness is something quite different.

Good question though.