Q&A with Random Strangers on the Internet, pt. 7!

Yes, yes, my friends, it is that time again!

Every so often I write a post in which I respond to questions and phrases that people have typed into search engines, which led them to this blog. Hilarity often ensues. You can find previous Search Term Q & A’s here.

Let’s jump right in:

“jews are weird”

Guilty as charged. Never claimed to be otherwise.

“self defense mitzvot”

There is indeed a mitzvah to defend oneself. Our Sages teach: “If someone comes to kill you, you should rise up and kill him first.” (Talmud Brachot 58b, 62b, Sanhedrin 72a–based on Exodus 22:1, which teaches that if a thief is discovered and killed while breaking in, “it is as if he has no blood”–meaning the person who killed him has not committed murder.)

Our tradition makes it clear that we are allowed to do what is necessary to defend ourselves, with only three exceptions. If our choice is between death and either idolatry, sexually immoral acts, or murder, we must choose death; however, a person who commits these sins under duress is not punished for them. That’s the concept of an anus–one who has been forced–as in the anusim of Sepharad, who converted to Christianity under duress.

“whats unique about a jew kiss”

Wouldn’t you like to know, Random Internet Stranger. Wouldn’t you like to know.

“jewish sex rules”


Wait, what?

OH. Um. I mean… yes, there are rules. Mostly having to do with “with whom” and “when” rather than “how” or “how much”. Aside from the whole only-within-a-marriage thing, which you’d expect in a traditional society, there’s a whole category of Jewish law called “family purity”, mostly revolving around tum’at niddah, a state of ritual impurity (not impurity in the sense of uncleanliness, just a different spiritual state) which is brought on by menstruation and canceled through immersion in a mikveh (ritual bath). More on that in my post about the mikveh.

“he unusel habbits of jews”

For one thing, we have an unusual habit of knowing how to spell.

(Okay, not all of us. Mostly me.)


Well, that escalated quickly.

“birthday post”

WITH PLEASURE. I’ve posted one every year this blog has existed for Josep’s birthday: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. 😉


I may be a self-defense instructor, but I’m not an Amazon. However, I do have an author page on the Amazon website!

“mashiach can’t be exilarch”

Well, yeah, but that’s a retroactively true statement, because there aren’t Exilarchs anymore and the ones that existed were obviously not the Messiah. But they were descendants of King David, so technically they could have been.

(The Exilarch was a sort of princely position for leaders of the Diaspora Jewish community in Babylonia during the First Exile.)

“did herods temple have a curtain outside”

Errrm… outside what?! It was a huge building! The parochet, which was the curtain hiding the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant, was very much inside. The entrance to the building had a door. I suspect the other openings, in the gates and walls, probably had doors too. But I’m by no means a historian or archaeologist, so don’t take my word for it. The Temple Institute is probably a better resource!

“hebraic background of psalm 23”

Odd choice of phrasing, but okay: Psalm 23, like the rest of the book of psalms, was written in Hebrew in ancient times. Jewish tradition teaches that it was written by King David, but Bible scholars dispute that. In any case, here is a post analyzing the psalm, which happens to be Josep’s favorite.

“unusaul chanukah customs”

Hmm, interesting question! I searched for you and was unable to find anything particularly unusual. We’ve got our fried foods (to signify the oil), our cheese (because of the story of Judith and Holofernes), our dreidls (because… reasons, most of which were made up in retrospect)… and, well, of course lighting the chanukiyah and saying the Hallel prayer.

Many Chanukah customs commonly practiced in Western countries are adapted from the stuff going on around the Jewish communities, namely, Christmas. That’s why Chanukah sugar cookies are a thing, and the tradition of giving children gifts. (No magic Chanukah fairy coming down the chimney, though. And no, we do not beat our chanukiyot with sticks and ask them to “poop” out treats, either. You Catalans can keep that one.)

“karaite jews men wears kippah?”

So this is actually a really good question. As a general rule, Karaite Jews reject rabbinic Judaism, and the custom to wear kipput is rabbinic. In fact, the obligation to wear a kippah is on the lowest tier of the halachic hierarchy, or maybe second-lowest: minhag-that’s–become-halacha, that is, a custom that became so widely adopted it is now considered Jewish law. Kitniyot is another custom in this category.

However, turns out, most Karaites do wear kippot. I imagine this is for a few reasons: one, that the custom to cover one’s head is very old, and was probably widespread even during the time the Karaites split from mainstream rabbinic Judaism; two, that there are descriptions in the Torah of people wearing turbans or other garments on their heads; and three, the reason it’s become rabbinic law is that wearing a kippah has become more than a functional custom (needing to cover one’s head out of modesty)–it is now a symbol of Jewish identity. Jewish men don’t have to cover their heads with little dome-shaped caps to fulfill the obligation to cover their heads–they could wear any kind of hat or even just a plain cloth draped over their heads if they wanted. But the kippah itself has become an expression of belonging to the Jewish people.

“is adolf hitler a descendant of amalek”

In a technical sense? No idea. Probably not. In a spiritual sense, there are those who argue that he was.

“jews are not all equally observant; so do not penalize the bearer of this letter for observing some of these days, but not all”

Well, um, you raise an important point; the majority of Jews today are not fully Torah observant and do not observe all the holidays. However, I do not hold this against them, and I certainly do not penalize anybody for anything. (I have been known to publish snarky op-eds against those who displease me, but that has, as of yet, been mostly limited to such irritating entities as the frum fashion police and the Spanish postal service.)

“what do jews really think about jesus”

The truth? We don’t think about him much at all. But here’s a whole post dedicated to answering that question.

“letter abarbanel to the kings of spain”

I’m not aware of any letters Abravanel wrote to the king and queen of Spain, but he did record some pretty intense conversations he had with them in the process of trying to talk them out of the Edict of Expulsion. You can check out my post about him here.

“jordi god taught”

Having a little trouble parsing this one here. Are you asking if Jordi is God-taught? Or for things Jordi has taught about God? (Maybe you’d like to see his post clarifying his religious beliefs?)

Well, I’ll tell you what you SHOULD be asking about Jordi: why do I call him “Josep” on this blog when he has absolutely no problem commenting using his real name, letting me post photos and videos of him, and even (gasp) appearing with me in public?! That is the real mystery here. And I’ll tell you: I don’t know. And neither does he.

I feel like this story is kind of the quintessence of the communication issues we were having that led to the existence of this blog in the first place. He is a bit shy and doesn’t like to share much about himself online, so when I first raised the idea of writing this blog, he wasn’t exactly enthusiastic, but wasn’t opposed, either. I thought “Letters to Jordi” was perfect: Jordi is a distinctly Catalan name–about as typical a Catalan name as you can find–and easy for English-speakers to pronounce. However, I figured he might prefer to stay anonymous, so I asked him if he’d rather I use a pseudonym. He never gave me a straight answer! So in the absence of his explicit permission, I decided to err on the side of caution, and selected another distinctly Catalan name that was similar to his. “Letters to Josep” was born.

…And by the time he made clear that he had no problem whatsoever with my using his real name, it was far too late to change it!

So we have decided that Josep/Yosef is now his Jewish name, bestowed upon him by his one and only Jewish-mother-friend. Mazel tov! (Let’s just… conveniently forget what else is generally involved in giving a Jewish name to a person of the male persuasion, shall we?)


Any other questions, my friends?! Do feel free to be in touch! Or perhaps your bizarre question has already been answered in one of my previous Search Term Q & As. If so… I’m, uh, not sure I want to know about it!

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