Putting A Face On ‘Ask The Rabbi’

  • images“I answer millions of emails weekly. Well, maybe not millions. But you get the idea.”

A lot of these come from the marital-law sites. That’s marital, not martial. (Some of the sites I’m behind are found on: www.RabbiJacobs.com.) These are sites which deal with certain areas governing marital-life according to Jewish law, halacha.

For a few reasons, I think ‘putting a face’ on this process could be of great value.

For one, almost always these emails arrive anonymously. I don’t know who is writing them. (Conversely, most of the writers wouldn’t know me, personally. Though, I hope they do know and use my books, like Family Purity – A Guide To Marital Fulfillment.)

Second, I’m not clear if people are clear on this. My answers are not automated. That’s why very often I ask clarification questions. There is a process.

My personal involvement with these sites began well over a decade ago, with varying degrees of input into their developments. Some less, some more. For some of these sites, I responded to long and complex legal answers, frequently on issues in practical Talmudic law which had never been resolved. This was a scholarly strenuous period spanning years. (It was also a very satisfying time for me. Many of those laws are being prepared for publication in a separate book, at this time.)

What made this so important was that the programmers were using these responses to program the behind-the-scenes workings of the sites. My written responses had to be concise and exact.

From the beginning, I was a huge proponent of these sites. I vigorously encouraged the site owners to overcome all of the many obstacles facing them. (There were many, from finances, to graphic design; from level of difficulty to proper wording.)

Eventually, numerous sites were launched. Each one had its particular flavor. Some represented only one custom, others represented all customs. Some were only in English. Others added French, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian.

Emails started coming in. To date, it’s been over six years, thousands of correspondences. So, here are some points I’d like to mention at this time.

First, again, none of this is automated. I read each email. Therefore, I really do appreciate when people take the time to write clearly. Almost all incoming emails are a paragraph. Some are two. That’s fine. Normally, that suffices for me to get the idea. But, I do prefer that writers take the time to flesh out the question. Pertinent medical or personal background rounds out some pictures. Religious or community affiliation helps me respond more pointedly.

Do not think you’re imposing. Almost invariably, the inquiries are simply trying to know what is right or wrong, permitted or not, according to law. With that in mind, never feel it’s a burden to me. I see this endeavor as a huge merit. I believe in its purpose. I know it helps people. And, even if I send back and forth many emails to clarify things, it’s never a hardship.

Anonymity. I personally prefer anonymous emails. It allows me to deal with each case with complete detachment. By virtue of the same reason, I also prefer anonymous phone calls.

That said, many writers opt to develop a personal line of communication. They apparently feel more secure this way. That is totally fine.

Either way, though, please keep in mind that I don’t always remember the specifics of any writer from one email to the next. Therefore, for example, on all back-and-forth email exchanges on one inquiry, always make sure the string of emails stays intact. That way, even if a week goes by, I see where we were in the discussion and where we’ve arrived.

But, whether it’s an anonymous writer or someone who does sign, if there is anything I need to know which is particular to your circumstance, please remind me. Otherwise, please don’t expect me to remember.

Location. Primarily, I’m writing from Israel. That’s ten hours ahead of, for example, Los Angeles, two ahead of London, but nine behind Australia. The way I avoid this becoming a source of difficultly is very simple. I constantly monitor the rabbijacobs@familypurity.com Inbox. It’s that simple. From the first thing in the morning, throughout the day, and last thing at night.

A wise person once said, “Compliments never make enemies.” To adopt that, I’d say this. Very, very often writers send “Dear Rabbi Jacobs, I want to thank you for your time and help.” Or, “I want to thank this amazing site!” That’s always nice to read.

Why do I spend so much time doing this? It’s the same reason the developers spent so much time producing these sites. (Trust me, all these sites were created through endless hours of labor.) We believe in the purpose of these laws, not only in the fact that they’re incumbent upon us as religious legislation, but they’re beneficial. They help us nurture strong marriages and families. Issues very important to all of us.

Once in a while, keep us updated on how we’re being of assistance. Always feel free to write. Send good news from your family. New baby announcements are always welcome. Stay in touch.

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