Project Genesis


Question: How do I become more humble?

Answer: The primary way is to constantly remember that everything that you are— talents and deficiencies—come from Hashem. He gave them to you in order for you to use them to deepen your relationship to Him, which is the purpose of life. Any talent or quality that you posses is yours as a gift for you to use in improving yourself. By realizing that we don’t necessarily earn or deserve our gifts in life, we won’t become haughty when we have them. Even when someone criticizes or makes fun of us, a humble man will not attack back, but realize that G-d is causing him this embarrassment for whatever reason. One who doesn’t answer back is truly great and is on a high level.

One shouldn’t be a doormat, though, as this is not good either. Rather be humble and dignified.

Rabbi Meir Goldberg,
Meor Rutgers Jewish Xperience

When the 4 cups on Passover make you very ill

Filed under: Passover

Question: I have stomach problems which prevent me of drinking any grape products, either wine or juice even if diluted. This is especially true when it comes to such quantities as required on Pesach – 4 glasses and on 2 following days. Last year, after drinking required 4 glasses of (diluted) wine, it took me several months to restore the normal stomach functions. Drinking diluted grape juice has the same poor effect on me. I cannot drink any alcohol either, unless in very small quantities and on rare occasions. What could I possibly use, to fulfill the mitzvah of drinking 4 glasses of wine on Passover?

Answer: Thank you for your question. I’m sorry to hear of your difficulties with wine and grape juice. In the event that the grape products cause you to be ill, you may fulfill the obligation by drinking 4 cups of tea or coffee, or any other beverage that you would offer to a guest to drink, even when the guest is not thirsty. This is called “Chamar Medinah”, the “Beverage of the Country”. However, water, milk, or soda would not qualify.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Jewish Civil Rights

Question: Please tell me why Jewish people as a whole seem not to defend their civil rights in America? I have noticed this in my experience with fellow Jews at our town meetings. I won’t go into the details, but I have tried to involve the organizations that claim to protect civil rights, but there is only so much they can do as non-profits.

I understand that Israel is important, but for me the United States is important as well. I feel I am a fighter, a Maccabee, and I will continue but I truly desire to understand why I seem to be alone in this endeavor.

Answer: You have raised a very important question. I applaud your passion for protecting the rights of the Jewish people. Indeed, we are privileged to live in a land, which provides Jews equal protection under the law, and we should certainly strive to safeguard the civil liberties granted us. I cannot comment on the specific issue that you note, as I am not completely familiar with all the details. I will only comment on the hesitancy you notice among some (or many) Jews not to stick up for our rights.

In my opinion, there are two main reasons for this reluctance. The first relates to the very unique nature of our current situation in America. Never, ever, in the history of the Jewish people have we been afforded such equal protection under the law as we are in the USA. Even in the best days of the golden age of Spain, the Jews were regarded at best as second class citizens. Embedded deep in the Jewish psyche is the notion that speaking out results only in more trouble and more problems. Silence became the only true answer to authority. Thus, even in our unique station in history, the Jewish consciousness remains reluctant to speak up.

The second reason, I believe is the fear of “crying wolf.” I believe Jews are concerned that if we speak out against every injustice, after a while, we will be disregarded entirely, even if the cause is truly just and vital. Whether or not such concerns are warranted, I believe such concerns do exist.

Of course, every issue should be examined in its own right to determine the prudence of speaking out. But there is no question that we should not remain silent where the situation demands our voices be heard, for indeed, a right not defended is a right forfeited.

Be well,
Rabbi Yoel Spotts

Teaching the Egyptians About G-d

Question: In Exodus 14:4 it says “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and he will come after them. I will triumph over Pharaoh and his entire army, and Egypt will know that I am God.’” Why would God want to show the Egyptians that he was the only God?

Answer: G-d wanted to show the world, not just the Egyptians, that He was the only true G-d. The Egyptians worshiped many G-d’s, and Pharoah himself thought that he was the G-d of the Nile River. The ten plagues and everything that surrounded that time period was a message to the world about the power of G-d. The Jews were strengthened and the Egyptians were terrified. The Jews were empowered and the world became aware of the power of the One, True G-d. The Jews were slaves, so there needed to be something drastic to change their mentality and make them realize that there was hope. The interaction of G-d in the world at that time helped to accomplish that.

Be Well,
Rabbi Litt

Historical Pharoah of the Exodus

Question: Who was the historical Pharoah at the time of the Exodus? Was it possibly Tutankhamen?

Answer: There are 2 schools of though regarding the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time. Some, based on the reference to the cities of Pithom and Ramses, assume that the Pharaoh was Raamses II (1279-1213 BCE). Others, based on Kings I 6:1, where it says that the Jewish people left Egypt 480 years before the building of the first Temple (961 BCE), date the Exodus earlier, at 1441 BCE, which coincides with the reign of Amenhotap II. I haven’t heard any theories about Tutankhamen being the Pharaoh of record.

Rabbi Yehoshua Lewis

The 10 Names of Moses

Question: Can you please tell me the 10 names of Moses/Moshe? who called him what? what is the meaning and in which book can you find it?

Answer: The names are: Yered, Chever, Yekusiel, Avigdor, Avi Socho, Avi Zonoiach, Tuvia, Shmaya, Ben Nesanel, Hasofer. The answer is in Medrash Raba Vayikra 1:3. See the Medrash for reasons.

Question: Who did Pharoah’s daughter marry?

Answer: Kalev ben Yefuneh, also called Mored. See Chronicles 1 4:18, and the commentaries of Rashi and Radak there.

Why wasn’t a Megillah written for Chanukah?

Filed under: Purim, Chanukah

Question: Why did the Sages not write a Megillah to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah, as was the case with the miracle of Purim?

Answer: A possible answer to your question is that the books of Tanach (Hebrew Bible) were written by prophets, all of whom were able to write with “Ruach HaKodesh” (Lit: “Holy Spirit,” that is, a certain level of prophecy). According to the Talmud, the ability to receive prophecy ended around the time of the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash (Temple in Jerusalem). By the time the miracle of Chanukah occurred (2nd Century BCE), there were no more prophets left, and thus no one around who had the ability to write a book worthy of canonization in the Hebrew Bible.

Torah Source for Chanukah

Question: When did the celebration of Chanukkah begin? Is it in the Torah? If so, what portion of the Torah is the story located?

Answer: The celebration of Chanukah occurred too late chronologically to be included in the canon of the Bible. Therefore, the story of Chanukah cannot be found in any portion of the Torah or in any Book of the Bible as a whole.

The actual miracle of the jar of oil which lasted 8 days occurred in the year 165 B.C.E when the Hasmoneans were able to reclaim the Temple from the Seleucids (Greeks). The celebration of Chanukah began in the next year (164 B.C.E) when the Rabbis proclaimed a Holiday to commemorate the obvious divine intervention.

Interestingly, the actual battle between the Hasmoneans and the Seleucids continued for another 25 years until the year 140 B.C.E when the Hasmoneans declared victory and installed themselves as rulers of Israel.

While there is certainly no direct mention of the Chanukah Holiday in the Torah, Nachmanides notes that it is alluded to at the beginning of the Torah Portion of B’ha’lotcha which is found in the Book of Numbers. G-d commands Aaron the High Priest to light the Menorah of the Temple each and every day and that Aaron and his the descendants, the Priests are put in charge of the Menorah. Nachmanides notes that the fact that the Menorah was put in the charge of the Priests hints to the Chanukah story as the Hasmoneans, the heroes of the Chanukah story and the miracle of the Menorah, were all descendants of Aaron.

Be well,
Rabbi Yoel Spotts

Commercializing Chanukah

Filed under: Chanukah

Is Hanukkah considered a significant and important Jewish holiday or is it recently commercialized to compete with Christmas?

Your question highlights a very important point. To be short, Hannukah is an extremely important Jewish holiday. The messages inherent in the holiday are as important, if not more important, 2200 years ago during the time of the Maccabees, as they are today. The holiday celebrates the uniqueness and significance of the Jewish experience and the wisdom of the Torah (Bible) as the word of God as opposed to all other wisdoms.

How sadly ironic, and unfortunate really, that Hannukah is perceived as a poor man’s Christmas. Feeling that we need to keep up Christmas, we Jews have sought to define Hannukah in terms of Christmas. “One day of presents, we have eight days of presents. Lights? We have lights also.” While there is nothing wrong with giving presents, presents are not an inherent feature of Hannukah. And while we certainly light candles, the significance of the Hannukah lights is lost contrasting them to Christmas lawn displays.

So, Hannukah has become commercialized, but if we can reclaim the true message and significance of Hannukah, it becomes a hugely important holiday. The miracle of the oil points to God’s love and devotion for us; for even in the darkness of night and exile, He provides light for us which can endure and sustain us for as long as necessary. The victory over the Greeks was not merely a military victory, but a triumph of the unique and special nature of Judaism over the “melting pot” Judaism preached by Hellenism; the validation of the singular nature of the Torah as a way of life and not merely a subject studied in school. Therefore, our quest to synthesize Hannukah and Christmas is not only misguided, but undermines the very meaning of Hannukah. I hope this answers your question; if you have any further questions, please feel free to respond.

Be well,
Rabbi Yoel Spotts

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