Ask the Scholar

Meaningful Responses to your Modern Questions From our Community Scholar in Residence, Rabbi Ephraim Epstein

Decision Making & Guilt

Q: HaShem gave us the ability to exercise freedom of will – making our own choices. Why, then, did he also give us guilt? Why, if one is committed to a decision (small or great), having implemented that decision, is there guilt if it turns out wrong? Does Moshe Rebeno's Torah give a viable…

Jewish Housewarming Rituals

Q: My brother and his wife are moving into a new home. Aside from hanging a mezuzah, are there any other rituals for a Jewish "house-warming"?

A: Mazel Tov on the new home! Indeed, affixing a Mezuzah on all the required doors is a necessary and important action before moving into one’s …

Winter Solstice Rituals

Q: Are there any Jewish rituals for the winter solstice?

A: Since the Jewish calendar and festivals are primarily based on the Lunar Calendar, and the solstice is related to the sun, there is no Jewish holiday or ritual associated with the Winter Solstice. However, based on the Babylonian …

Havdalah Spices

Q: What types of spices (Havdalah) should be used for Havdalah?

A: Smelling sweet spices after Shabbat concludes serves to strengthen our souls that feel diminished after Shabbat goes away.

The gold standard is to use crushed cloves for Havdalah because different good smelling items requir…