Jewish, Jewish, Everywhere, & not a drop to drink
Friday, November 28, 2003
Some Questions about Judaism for SIMSHALOM.

[practical] Question 1: I'd like to use tallit but don't know how. Could you direct me to a source that explains HOW to use them, WHY and the prayers? Not knowing the prayers, do you think it is appropriate to pray freely to Hasem?

[provocative] Question 2: How do you explain that we accept not to observe 347 out of 613 mitzvot due to our failure to rebuild the Temple and the theocratic kingdom in Israel? As a consequence: just how "orthodox" an Orthodox (or any, for that matter) Jew can ever be?


Your "Practical Question 1" is actually a few questions:

i) Use of Talit. Two kinds:

There are two kinds of Talit.
There is the "Talit Kattan" (Small tallit) that is worn under your shirt, in between your shirt and the underwear T-shirt usually. It is easy. You go to a Judaica store and buy a "kosher made" tzitzit, or go online to a Judaica store that will ship it to you http://www.eichlers.com/ , or if you know a good rabbi he will help you buy it somewhere.
You put it on in the morning when you get dressed and say a simple blessing if you are able: "Blessed are You Hashem (God) our Lord, who has sanctified us with His commandments and instructed us in the commandment of Tzitzit".
The "strings" do NOT have to be worn hanging out (you are not so "haredi"...yet :-) ), so nobody has to know you are wearing them.And you wear it all day. When you get undressed at night, you take them off. Keep them clean and you can wear them again. Buy an extra pair, and do NOT wash in a washing machine as it will ruin the strings.

ii)Large Tallit

Then there is the "Tallit Gadol" (Large Tallit) that is put on during morning prayers and on Saturday morning prayers in synagogue. You unfold it, and put it across your back like putting on a "sheet". It's really not complicated.

iii)Why Tzitzit?

It's because there is a commandment in the Torah that says if you wear a garment that has FOUR CORNERS or edges, like a robe or "poncho"-style clothing as you see many people in the Middle East wear, then only an a "four-cornered-garment" do you put on the Tzitzit and wear the garment with them.
The Tzitzit are supposed to be a "REMINDER" for the Jew of God's commandments, as well as a "protection" against evil desires and "lusts". See book of NUMBERS (Bamidbar), Chapter 15, verses 37 - 41:
"God spoke to Moses telling him to speak to the Israelites and have them make TZITZIT ('tassels' or 'strings') on the corners of their garments for all generations......when you see them you shall remember all of God's commandments so as to keep them. You will then not stray after your heart and eyes, which have led you to immorality. You will thus remember and keep all My commandments, and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am God your Lord."

And see Deuteronomy (DEVARIM) Chapter 22, verse 12: "Make yourself bound tassels -'gedilim'- ( 'tzitzit' are also called 'gedilim') on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself".

So the mitzvah of Tzitzit is very important, as it is directly commanded by God in the Torah and the reward for doing it is very great. It is a very easy mitzvah to observe.


It is a great rule in Judaism that God ALWAYS wants our prayers. Even if a person is in the worst situation, and it seems "hopeless", prayer will definitely help. The great rabbis say that even a thief when he goes out to steal , prays for "success", so surely an honest person should be confident about praying to God.

Another principle is that God accepts prayers in ANY LANGUAGE and even listens to the SILENT PRAYER of our hearts and minds.The Torah was transmitted by God in SEVENTY LANGUAGES say the sages, so that God "understands" and can be "understood" in any language.
So all prayer is welcomed by God.

If you know Hebrew, then obviously it is better to pray in Hebrew because it is the "Lashon HaKodesh", "Holy Language (Tongue)" of God and it is on a higher spiritual level of holiness. But nevertheless all prayer is acceptable in ANY language. There is a famous story that once a young boy came to a synagogue and wanted to express himself so he WHISTLED, because he could not find, or did not know, the right words. They wanted to throw him out of the synagogue, but the Holy Baal Shem Tov, the Master of Hasidism was there, and he told them to leave the boy alone because his whistle was so pure that it went all the way and was well-received by God as a holy prayer.

Sometimes even a "groan" or and a heart-felt expression of "OY!" is better than just "words" with no feelings behind them...so go ahead and pray in any language you are comfortable in and in any way that you can ( just don't pray in the bathroom , because that is considered an unclean place not fit for such a high thing like prayers.)

"Provocative Question 2"

a) The great rabbis at the time the Temple was destroyed 2,000 years ago, and even after that, discussed this subject of how we can properly observe the Torah without a Temple and the sacrifices and without the whole system of government that was destroyed by the Romans.

The rabbis of the Talmud concluded a long time ago that because we did actually physically survive, due to God's mercies, and survived with freedom in many cases to be Jews and because are still Jews, we therefore must observe AS MUCH OF THE TORAH AS POSSIBLE, only limited to circumstance beyond our present control. It is as if we are "prisoners" of circumstances beyond our control, but if the circumstance would change, and we could do something about it as a united Torah nation, then of course we would instantly return to fulfill the Torah to the maximum in our Holy Land with all our power. But that has not been possible for 2,000 years due to the fact that we live under the world domination of the "Roman Exile" that has still not ended,( meaning the non-Jewish world powers still have a "veto" over the Jewish people, even though now when we have the State of Israel, the Jews still do NOT have complete autonomy internationally).

Thus, what we cannot observe due to not having a Temple and being in Exile ("Galut") is beyond our power for the time being. When the Temple will be rebuilt with the coming of the Jewish Mashiach (obviously he is NOT Jesus who is considered a false leader by Judaism), then we will return to fulfill all the commandments again.

In fact there is a discussion among the great rabbis if it is correct to observe the practical mitzvot (commandments) for Jews living outside of Israel. Except for the Mitzvah to believe in Hashem(GOD) almost all commandments are "practical" like the commandments that are connected to living in the Land of Israel, so if some commandments cannot be observed, like tithes, sacrifices, having a king, a Sanhedrin with judges, how can we keep some as we ignore others?

The answer that is given is that, it is the rabbis who command us to keep as many of the commandments until such time as when we, the Jewish People can return to our land, remove the power of the "Roman Exile" once and for all, and the temple we be re-established, and it will be the Jewish King, the Mashiach who will have world power as the symbol of Hashem's (God's) power returning to rule the world through a Torah observing Jewish People.

Another philosophical view, is that by actually STUDYING and LEARNING about ANY mitzvah in the Torah and Talmud it is considered AS IF we actually observed that mitzvah , because there is a principle in Judaism that God considers the INTENTION to do something as if we actually did it. ("Machshava Tovah Mitztarfa LeMaaseh"). So by studying inside the Torah all the laws about the Temple and all the laws about living in Israel according to the directions of the Torah, we are rewarded as if we actually did do them in practice, and they are considered to be still "active" and "alive".

b) How "Orthodox"?:

There is no limit to how God-fearing, or how righteous, or how spiritual a person can be.That is logical. It's like asking how "good" can a person be to be "very good"? There is NO limit to how "good" or "Orthodox" you can be....the sky is the limit....

The idea of being "Orthodox" on the one hand has NO limit, as you can be as Orthodox as far as you can go with it, being infinite to the "nth" degree.

On the other hand being "Orthodox" is also VERY SIMPLE.

All it means to be "Orthodox" is to believe with all your heart, mind, and soul, that for 100% it was none other than God Himself Who actually HIMSELF appeared and gave the ENTIRE Torah at Mount Sinai to Moses and the entire Nation of Israel over 3,300 years ago, and that it has never been changed or altered in a way whatsoever.

This is very clearly described and stated in the Torah in SHEMOT (Exodus) Chapters 19 and 20.:

"God said to Moses, I will come to you in thick cloud, so that all the people will hear when I speak to you...on the third day God will descend on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people...Mount Sinai was all in smoke because of God's Presence that had come down on it. God was in the fire...Moses spoke and God replied with a Voice...God came down to Mount Sinai, to the peak of the mountain...God spoke all these words saying: (The Ten Commandments): I am your God, who brought you out of Egypt, from the place of slavery. Do not have any other gods before Me...Do not take the name of God your Lord in vain...Remember the Sabbath (seventh day) to keep it holy...All the people saw the sounds, the flames, the blast of the ram's horn,and the mountain smoking...God said to Moses: This is what you must tell the Israelites: You have seen that I spoke to you from heaven...do not make silver or gold gods for yourselves...Wherever I allow My name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you..."

This concept is called "TORAH MIN HASHAMAYIM" = "TORAH FROM HEAVEN" , and it is the sine qua non and only DEFINITION of "Orthodoxy", meaning those who believe that the ENTIRE TORAH, both the WRITTEN and ORAL (such as the TALMUD) are DIVINE and comes DIRECTLY from God and cannot be "changed" or "simplified" by ANYONE later on, not even the greatest rabbi has the authority to go against this idea. And that is why Reform and other non-Orthodox groups do not "believe" this.

In fact many Reform rabbis and people do not even believe in "God", they make an ethnic "culture" out of Judaism.

By the way, it was the Reformers in Germany about 200 years ago who "invented" the label "Orthodox" because they wanted to smear the name of Jews who wanted to keep on believing in the Torah and God as they always had for 3,000 years, and so the Reformers wanted to make the loyal Torah Jews look like archaic musty "old-fashioned" Orthodox "Christians". Even though the word "orthodox" means the "TRUE BELIEF" in Greek. It's a funny irony, but anyhow, it has been the Reformers have been the ones who have always brought the Jews a few steps closer to European Christianity. Starting in Germany and now in America especially.
You know the joke, "What do you call a third generation Reform Jew? Answer: A Christian". :-{

Anyhow, so your questions are obviously excellent. Keep on thinking of more.
Here is a very practical web site about Jewish religious questions:

Be well and Shabbat Shalom!!!

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