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Our employee was overpaid as a result of an error in payroll submissions. The amount of overpayment was not insignificant and the overpayment continued for several months (the employee apparently did not notice) before the mistake was found. When the Congregational board president approached the employee about the error the employee balked at repaying, claimed it would be a hardship to return the money and did not feel he was obligated to do so. Ultimately, after demands and threats, the employee did agree to repay the overpayment, but only after negotiating a long repayment plan that spans more than a year (and without any interest). Do Jewish law or Jewish values require that this money be returned? If so, was the employee in violation of either Halachah or Jewish values by refusing to repay the money? Should it have been returned without delay (as soon as the error was pointed out) and without stipulation? Was the Congregation in any way in error in requesting repayment? What is the proper behavior according to Jewish values and ethics?
I'm a single male Jew, 35 years old, well established in my career. I am now at the point where I am considering dating for marriage. I know intermarrying is wrong. However, I am terrified of dating a Jewish girl for fear her family would inevitably discover my entire family is dead, and that I would be by definition be a poor choice for suitor into any good family. All grandparents are dead. My father died of old age, my mother and sister committed suicide (presumably due to abuse by father). I've had my share of abuse by father as well, which has affected me. I've been nonobservant and have not gone to synagogue for the entire past decade just to avoid being reminded of the hurt. I've engaged in a lot of therapy, which has helped me to hear, an that is why I am even considering dating at all. Do I just throw up my hands, tell myself I am not fit to marry, and just live for work? Or would the other side be at all understanding of my background and situation? What should I do and how can I balance the mitzvot to marry and have a family, against my situation which makes me question if I can be a decent spouse and parent and fulfill the obligations to a family?
I am an employee at a Jewish institution who was abruptly elevated to fill the role of my superior a few years ago when my superior unexpectedly retired. I was under contract with multiple years still to go on that contract. As the employing organization was in turmoil over the sudden retirement, there was a great deal of confusion, distress, a precipitous loss of supporters, and there was a financial crisis due both to the economic downturn and the loss of support. On taking the role of my superior, I turned my attention to reassuring the staff, retaining and recovering supporters, and providing continuity of leadership, in order to stabilize and to rebuild the organization. All those efforts have proven successful. Now that the employer has seen support re-established, and has largely restored and even begun to improve its overall financial position, I have asked them to renegotiate my contract to reflect my current position and role, the role I have actually fulfilled during the past several years, rather than continuing to hold me in the lessor role that I previously filled. The organizational leadership did not choose to bring up the issue, or consider making this change on their own. I have now raised it. Assuming that the renegotiation proceeds as expected, I will be confirmed in the superior role, and will be awarded a compensation commensurate with that role. My question is whether it is appropriate for me to ask the organization to compensate me for the difference in the amount I was paid in the junior role while serving in the role of the superior? In other words, am I owed 'back pay' for stepping up and fulfilling the more challenging role? I believe that there is an argument to be made that the organization may have transgressed several Jewish values and principles in this matter, including Kavod HaBriyot, Yosher, and perhaps even Geneiva. I am asking specifically in regard to Jewish values, not secular law issues here. What is your take on this?
Is watching pornography hypocritical? Most people watch porn, but when I imagine that my daughter would come to me one day with something like “Dad, I decided to play in porn“ (well, it would probably by a neighbor and not my daughter...), I don't think I could take that (I think that most people couldn't take that) and those “actresses“ are someones' daughters, too. Problem is that when I start to consider pornography to be hypocritical, I start to be judgmental, and since (I think) most people watch porn, it is quite a problem. (Moreover, I think that being judgmental is definitely worse than watching porn). I should probably add that I am a secular Jew, but for most secular people pornography is not a problem, so I ask here.What do Jewish values tell us about this? Thank you for any answers.
I have been self employed for over 6 years and have been trying to find full-time work that would provide me a consistent cash flow. I am a Conservative Jew born to Orthodox parents. I mention all of this background because I have a company who is about to make me a job offer; however, they are in the business of manufacturing crab cakes. Would it be wrong for me to work for a company that produces non-kosher products even though I try to maintain a kosher life style for myself? I truly could use the job assuming an offer is made to me, but I am worried that this would be viewed as unethical or immoral. Can someone let me know what Judaic Law says about such actions? [Administrator's note: some related questions on JVO can be found at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=944 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=847 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=444 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=850]
I am an Orthodox Jew and all in my family are Orthodox too. Recently the man I am dating told me that whilst his father is Jewish, his maternal grandmother converted to Judaism through the Liberal Movement, which technically means he is not Jewish according to Orthodox halachah. He attended a Jewish elementary school, works for a Reform Synagogue and considers himself to be Jewish. Indeed, he has a stronger Jewish identity than many people I know who are halachically Jewish! I know that if we were to get married our children would technically be Jewish, through me, but I still have concerns such as: Would we be able to have an Orthodox Jewish wedding? Would my Synagogue call him up/give him a aliyah (honor of being called to the Torah) were he to visit one Shabbat? Would he be counted in a Minyan (quorum for prayer), etc? Are there any other practical implications I haven't thought of that I need to consider? This is a very difficult subject for him as he is quite sensitive about not being recognised as Jewish by other Jews.
I have a question about names. I am converting to Judaism, and my mikvah date is in just a few weeks. I have been exploring Judaism and learning for about 3 years. I have already picked a Hebrew name, which my rabbi at the time began to call me by. I found that I liked being called my Hebrew name, and began to use that name rather than my birth name/English name. I don't ask my parents or siblings to refer to me by my Hebrew name, though they know I use it. I want to legally change my first name to my Hebrew name. However, a friend suggested that maybe this would be disrespectful to my father, who named me for his deceased mother. My friend made the case that even though my English name is not a Jewish one, since my parents followed the Jewish tradition of naming for a deceased relative, I should not legally change my name. Is it disrespectful to my father to change my name? What is the Jewish perspective on name changes?
I am a religiously-unaffiliated philosophy professor seriously considering conversion to Judaism, and am currently learning as much as I can in order to make a decision. My reasons for wanting to convert are entirely my own - I find myself drawn to the religion's beliefs and practices and feel it may be where I belong. In my research I have found numerous books on the subject of conversion, however they normally focus on the process of conversion itself - the 'how'. Whilst this is certainly important, I feel I first need to tackle the question of 'should' on a deep and careful level. I would like to make a sincere spiritual and moral commitment, and I know that converting to Judaism is not a small or trivial commitment to make. Are you able to recommend any reading material that explores the question of 'should I convert?' in a deep and contemplative way? Something that explores not just the practicalities of the decision, but its deeper meaning in terms of one's moral commitments and relationship with God? I am particularly interested in the pros and cons in this respect, as I have sometimes encountered dire warnings that "It is better to be a righteous Gentile than to make a commitment that you cannot keep". I feel I will need to study and contemplate the pros and cons of conversions very deeply in order to choose wisely. Thank you for your time (and feel free to edit this overly-long question for clarity).
My question is about the Jewish ethics of using a false identity to post comments on the web. In particular, if I want to comment on something posted (perhaps in a blog, or write a review of some book or product), am I acting ethically if I create a 'fake' name and use an email address that can't be identified as me? Is the answer different if I am writing critical things about a product or work, even if I am telling my actual opinion and/or experience with it? Does this change if I am writing comments telling people about my own work and encouraging them to go see it on another site, or praising things that I sell? What are the boundaries? I know there are some because I recall an incident in which an academic created false identities and praised his own work, while denigrating others' works, and that was thought to be unethical, if not illegal. What do Jewish values and ethics teach in this area? Is it ever okay to use an alias or false identity, and if so, what are the limits or boundaries?
I have a question regarding a charitable endeavor my shul is involved in. For many years, we have hosted homeless guests (from a nearby shelter) for a week in our building. About three years ago, we started taking them in during the week of Christmas. Our homeless guests are non-Jews. Someone from our shul contacts the local media (newspapers, TV) so that they would come out to film what we, a Jewish congregation, are doing for these non-Jewish homeless folks on Christmas. I find it very disturbing when the camera crew not only comes into the building, but also wants to go into the social hall/dining room, where our homeless guests usually congregate, to film in this area. I was there last week when the news crew came and, at that particular time, our guests were having breakfast in the dining room. One of our volunteers came to brief the guests about this, stating that, in filming guests at the table, only their hands and feet would be shown. Immediately after she left, all of our guests got up and left the room. I felt awful about this and I too left, in disgust. Every evening, we take the guests from the shelter, where they stay with us for dinner and sleep in our building overnight. In the morning, we then take them back to the shelter. But because this was Christmas day, the guests were to stay with us the entire day. This was their only day to have a leisurely breakfast, a time when they did not have to hurry to get ready to be taken back to the shelter. I felt that we spoiled their chance to have a (rare) peaceful morning by bringing in this TV crew. In a way, I also feel that we are "using" the homeless to gain attention, honor, and (perhaps) donations from the public for our shul. My own feelings are that we brought embarrassment upon our guests, and I believe it is wrong to shame or exploit the poor, especially for our own aggrandizement. It is my opinion that we should go back to hosting the homeless on a week other than that involving the Christmas holiday. This would solve the problem about causing offense or embarassment to some of our guests, as well as put an end to media coverage of how we, a Jewish organization, shelter the homeless at Christmas. I was wondering what your take on this situation might be.
I am a non-denominationally affiliated Jew. I am not frum, but I am constantly working on observing more mitzvot and find myself enjoying different things about Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox communities. I want to know what the stance would be on me wearing a tallit katan. Up until this point I have not because I feel like it would be misrepresenting myself (I already wear a kippah and that alone often leads people to think i'm Hareidi even). It is not that I am offended by being seen as Orthodox, quite the opposite - I don't think I deserve to be viewed as that observant when I am not. I do not want to do something akin to chillul Hashem (or rather.... hillul frum communities? if that makes sense?) if I were ever to do something not-frum while donning them. However on the other hand I hold a firm belief that the mitzvot are not dependent on each other, and that every little step is progress. I also think that if a mitzvah or custom is going to make me better and has a meaningful significance to me, then it is appropriate to observe it. What are your thoughts, either on the points I mentioned, or new points all together in regards to a more "liberal" Jew wearing a tallit katan? Thank you for your time and knowledge.
I am interested in converting to Judaism. While I currently have no friends or family who are Jewish, I have been doing quite a bit of personal study, while praying to G-d for discernment on the matter, and feel deeply that this is the right choice for myself and my family. My husband is very supportive and has agreed for our family to live a Jewish lifestyle, he would like to learn more before making the decision to convert himself. I have two questions. First, is it possible for myself and our son (he is 4) to convert, with my husband's blessing, if my husband does not choose to as well? Second, there are only 2 synagogues in my area, both of which are at least a 40 minute drive from our home. One is conservative, the other reform. The nearest orthodox synagogue is about 2 hours away. Is it possible to receive our instructing of Judaism in a conservative synagogue, but the actual conversion (mikvah and so forth) in the orthodox one due to proximity reasons? I hope that makes sense.
What are the obligations of the community to the individual? What is the responsibility of a synagogue to a Jewish member,specifically in terms of helping that congregant deal with extraordinary stresses of his/her life? What responsibility does the community organization have to that member, and particularly in regard to informing them of consequences of their behavior in advance? I know of a case in which an active member of the Jewish community (one who has contributed much time to the synagogue and has been extremely supportive to individuals in need) was ordered not to continue to have contact with the clergy for personal matters as a condition of continued membership. When the member violated this restriction (by leaving a telephone message for a clergy person when in distress), the congregant was told she/he could not at any time enter the doors of the synagogue at the threat of calling the police. The congregant did not receive advanced notice of this, but was told by a custodian upon coming to services that she/he could not enter. What Jewish values address this situation?
In my girlfriend's parents' Orthodox community, it's fairly common for people to refuse to eat at other families' houses. Sometimes it's for kashrut [keeping kosher, observing the dietary laws] concerns (disagreements over acceptable heckshers) [hecksher=notation indicating supervision for Kashrut by a known group or organization], but the majority of the time it's for seemingly unrelated issues (e.g., the wife not covering her hair or wearing pants) that somehow also reflects on that family's kashrut observance for these people. I find that kind of divisiveness disturbing -- wasn't it "because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza Jerusalem was destroyed"? [Administrators note: this refers to a story about sinat chinam - baseless hatred and shaming another.] Which is the more important Jewish value -- unity among Jews [klal yisra'el] or strictly maintaining your religious standards? Can they be reconciled?
Is a husband obligated to provide for his wife? My husband and I have been married for one year. We are both in our sixties. I agreed to sign a prenup because my husband (who is financially quite comfortable) wanted to protect his estate for his son. I have worked all my life and have always taken care of myself. I earn about half of what my husband does and never inherited any family money. The bottom line is that the prenup became very contentious and I saw the final version at the signing - 48 hours before our wedding. Our guests had already begun arriving. I walked out of the signing and spoke with my attorney who advised that this document was the "best he could do given that my husband started on the process two weeks before our wedding." Against my better judgement, I signed it. Within the first three months of our marriage I wanted it changed. We went to a therapist and he agreed to make changes. There have been continuous fights and multiple promises from him (lies) to make changes.To date, nothing has been done. My fear is that if something happens to him I will not be able to afford to live in the apartment that we presently share. My husband owns the apartment, our prenup stipulated that I pay him rent. EVERYTHING he has goes to his son. I secretly discovered his will- which he refuses to discuss with me. In order to be in compliance with state law he is obligated to leave me something. He is leaving me 2% of his estate and a minimum monthly allowance (administered by his son whom I don't care for) toward the apartment upkeep. Prior to our marriage I was an independent self-supporting woman had an apartment which I could easily afford, lived quite comfortably, and was not dependent on anyone. I gave away most of my furniture, have lost my apartment, and if something happens to my husband will be dependent on the generosity of his son. Even more shocking is that in his will it states, " If I am unable to keep up with the monthly maintenance for the apartment, the estate has the right to evict me in 90 days." My husband and I dated for 5 years prior to our marriage.I lived with him for two of those years although I always kept my own apartment. I saw him as generous of both his time and money to charity, overly generous towards his son, and as a well-liked and respected member of the community both professionally and socially. Until the prenup, I never experienced this side of him or had any indication that he would behave like this. Is this a moral and ethical way to treat one's wife ? What can I do?
I was adopted at birth, and had little religious teaching as a child. As a young adult I explored Christianity, but I was never able to fully embrace the concepts and beliefs that they expressed. At 40 years of age I established contact with my birth mother, who informed me that I am Jewish (she is not a practicing Jew, but is Jewish by heritage). After finding out where I come from I have spent the last few months looking into what Judaism is and what it means to be a Jew. I must admit it has awakened something inside of me, and I now think I know why I was never able to engage with Christianity. My question is how do I prove the bloodline, I have gotten mixed answers ranging from “a letter from my birth mother stating that that she gave birth to me and that she is Jewish” to “It cannot be proven and conversion is the only way,” or consult “genealogy records.” I would convert if that is the only way, but I would prefer to prove that I am Jewish by birth as I have daughters who will carry on the bloodline. What can you tell me?
I am a Jewish woman, as my mother is Jewish. My father is not Jewish. I was raised as a Conservative Jew. I am in a relationship with a modern orthodox man who is a Cohen (a descendant of Aaron, one of the High Priests). We want to marry, but we have been told there are restrictions on him marrying me, because in addition to other restrictions on Cohanim (High Priests), one of the restricted classes of women for Cohanim are those whose fathers are not Jewish. Can you please clarify this for me? Is this true? I have done a lot of reading and I keep seeing the restrictions for widow, divorcee, convert, but not for a Jewish woman whose father was not Jewish. Since my mother is Jewish and Judaism is a matrilineal religion - and I have read in some places Judaism doesn't even recognize the religion of the father - I am Jewish. If it is true that one of the marriage restrictions of the Cohanim is to a woman whose father is not Jewish, can you please advise on what we can do in our situation to marry?
I had a child with a Jewish man 33 years ago. At the time he wanted me to get an abortion, but I did not, and I did not tell him. He just found out of our son's existence a year ago. What if any are his obgligations to this child? He left when he found out I was expecting. We are now in contact with each other, and he came to meet his son this last month. Is this child entitled to have his father's last name? The child has always known who his father was. I raised this child by myself as I don't believe in abortion. His father and I do talk often now. For a lot of years I had no way to contact his father. didn't know where he was, but recently I found him and told him he has a son. I am not Jewish and don't know the laws in that faith, or if he has any obligations to his son. Any answers would help me. Thanks.
My oldest daughter, now 15, has for most of her life lived and acted like a tomboy, rejecting most everything traditionally associated with femininity: dresses, long hair, girls' sports, etc. None of this was really an issue . . . we simply accepted her for who she was. About two years ago she began to develop some mental health issues and after seeing a number of specialists, it's been determined that my eldest is actually transgender, a boy born into a girl's body. Knowing this and what happens next is, of course, complicated. Part of the initial course of acceptance - and we accept this without condition - is that we all make the shift of referring to her now as "he" or "him". He has legally changed his name to a boy's name and his new birth certificate indicates he is male. He will be able to get a driver's license and passport that shows his gender as male as well. Meanwhile, nothing is being done surgically and he is not even taking testosterone. I've had a few discussions with my rabbi about things like a name change, having a bar mitzvah, etc. but it is early in the process. That said, it's dawned on me over the past few weeks that I no longer have a daughter. She is gone. The person, the life I thought would be there is no longer. It's not a death, per se, but it is a growing emotional loss. My question is "How do I mourn or grieve this loss?" It obviously doesn't rise to the level of sitting shiva but I've recently felt tempted to stand for the Mourner's Kaddish. Is that too much or inappropriate?
A few months ago, I accidentally discovered that my wife of almost 3 years (the complete love of my life) was having an affair with another man. The circumstances were just horrific. I was just stunned and devastated to learn all this. I had no idea of my wife's frustrations, and no idea she was someone that was even capable of doing such a thing. We have been to regular counseling for months now, and even now my wife is still at a loss to completely explain what happened and how it evolved. Here is my question... Now, 3-4 months removed from the affair, I am still occasionally dealing with hurt and pain that I may never fully get over 100%. Nonetheless, I have forgiven my wife and chosen to stay with her. In spite of what occurred, I do love her tremendously. I do believe she is my beshert/soulmate. I am happiest when I'm with her, and I still see my future with her, and I believe that she feels the same way about me. Tears beyond tears have been cried by both of us, and my wife has expressed an enormous amount of regret, remorse, and an appropriate amount of self-loathing, all of which I judge to be genuine. At times, she has even suggested attending Shabbat services at our local synagogue to atone and ask G-d for forgiveness. For sure, I am not fully over what happened, and I may never be fully over it altogether. Likewise, she may never be able to get over the fact that she committed adultery and betrayed and acted against someone she loves. It is a terrible tragedy in both our lives that can never be undone. But I'm pleased to say that my wife and I are currently in a very good place. We are extremely happy with one another and extremely in love. And ironically, the communication which has resulted since the affair (which should have come prior to the affair) has taken our relationship to an even far better place in so many ways than where I perceived it to be prior to the affair. In short then, I have forgiven my wife. I hope that she can eventually forgive herself. Will G-d do the same? What does Judaism say about this situation?
I would like to hear your take on the article in The New York Times (October 2, 2012, "Tattoos to Remember," by Katherine Schulten). Livia Rebak was branded with the number 4559. Now her grandson, Daniel Philosof, has the same tattoo. At right, three men who stood in the same line in Auschwitz have nearly consecutive numbers. .WHY did Eli Sagir get a tattoo with the number 157622 inked on her forearm? WHY might this tattooing practice be unsettling or offensive to some? WHY did people in the camps “treat with respect the numbers from 30,000 to 80,000,” according to Primo Levi? About HOW many Holocaust survivors are still alive? etc. Judaism, as the article mentions generally frowns on tattoos (and body piercing) as it alters G-d's image. I will be using this lesson, for 8th and 9th graders. Others, in my school will be using it for 7th graders. Thanks.
My mother is 90 years old, in frail health but of sound mind. Last year, one of her 3 grandchildren and the youngest of my 2 sons died in an accident at age 29. My son and my mom were close. As an adult, my son moved to another state but made a point of visiting every few years. He has remained in contact with regular phone calls and other correspondence. My sister has demanded that my mother not be informed of my son's death. She argues that my mother will die in a few years anyway and so should be spared the sad news, and that the grieving process could hasten my mom's death. "Let mom die in peace." I've complied with my sister's demands. Whenever my mom asks me about my son, my rehearsed response is "Your grandson loves you dearly." But as time passes without contact from my son, I'm concerned that my mom has concluded that my son has lost interest in his grandmother. For my mom's sake, I'm uncomfortable with keeping her in the dark. But I'm also conflicted. I miss my son so very much. To include my mom in my own grieving would benefit me. After all, she is my mom. Any ideas?
I recently lost my 23 year old son to an unintended drug overdose. My family is all beyond consolation. He did not "appear" to have a drug problem. He was living with his family post-college, in which he did well. He never pushed himself or really had goals, but he was so bright he always excelled. He held down a full time job after graduation, but he was caught 6 months ago stealing medication and other things in the home. He constantly lied to everyone. He started taking substances in his room and appearing "totally wasted". I started to get into conflicts with him over this not being acceptable. I consulted experts about what I should do. For his stealing I wanted him to show remorse and take responsibility for his actions by helping people less fortunate than himself - I wanted him to do do volunteer work at a hospice for people dying of AIDS, to maybe lessen his selfish self-destructive behavior, and because I thought he might learn what the fruits of drug abuse are. My wife said I was too severe on her baby,and a hospice was depressing. I wanted him to get in touch with Jewish culture and values. My wife laughed at me. I arranged for him to see a psychiatrist, but she did not learn enough about him in 6 months to help him. I am furious at my wife for undermining my efforts to help him. No one will know if my efforts would have have helped. But maybe they would. My wife refuses to say she might bear any responsibility for what happened because she sabotaged my efforts to help him.We have been married 35 years and have one living child, a 21 year girl who is much that our son was not. More pious than me. A scholar who hopes to go soon to medical school. She studied Hebrew and Yiddish and speaks to family in Yiddish. I know that I am just so angry, etc. Am I being unfair to my wife? Does it make any difference if she takes responsibility for prior actions? Unfortunately, it was never her nature to own up to the things she did. What should I do now?

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