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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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Ma Nishtana - Questions or Answers?

 

Question of the Week:


My favourite part of the Seder is when the kids sing the famous Four Questions, Ma Nishtana. But I always wondered why we call it the Four Questions. Look at the text, they are actually four statements:


Why is this night different from all other nights?
On all other nights we eat chometz (leaven) or matzah. On this night we eat only matzah. 
On all other nights we eat any type of vegetables. On this night, we eat maror (bitter herbs).
On all other nights we are not required to dip even once. On this night we dip twice.
On all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining. On this night, we all recline.


So are they questions or answers?


Answer:


Sometimes, the question is the answer.… Read More »

Meditating on your Belly Button

Question of the Week:

 

Can you explain my children to me? I have dedicated my life to looking after their every need. But if I ask one of them to get me a glass of water they moan and groan as if I have asked them to run a marathon for me. Why is it that one parent can raise four kids, but four kids can't look after one parent?

 

Answer:

 

We are all descendants of Adam and Eve, the first human beings. We have inherited from them the basic ingredients of human nature.

 

One thing made Adam and Eve very different to the rest of us. They didn't have parents. They were created as adults by G-d, not born as babies to parents. They had no umbilical cords. They probably didn't even have belly… Read More »

Can Intermarriage be a Good Thing?

 

Question of the Week:

   

I have always felt an affinity to Queen Esther from the Purim story. Just like me, she married a non-Jew. And because of it she saved the Jewish people. Isn't the message that intermarriage can be good for the Jews?

 

Answer:

 

Esther is a tragic hero. Unlike the common misconception, she was not happy to be queen. She was dragged away from her family and people, against her will, and forced to marry a grotesque and uncouth tyrant, the king of Persia, Achashverosh.

 

This was no romantic courtship. Having executed his previous queen for not obeying his wishes, Achashverosh ordered that every woman in the kingdom present herself before him. Esther, a sweet Jewish girl… Read More »

Do You Love Me?

 

Question of the Week:

  

I have come to shul a few times now and quite enjoy it, but I have an issue with some of the prayers. I feel like a liar saying things when I don't know if I believe in them. How can I exclaim, "love G-d with all your heart" when I am not sure He even exists?

 

Answer:

 

You have been married a few years now, and I am sure that you love your wife dearly. But have you ever woken up one morning with a sense that you've lost that loving feeling?

 

Perhaps after a moment of tension between you, or maybe you have been feeling down for other reasons, or for no apparent reason at all, you just feel that your heart is cold and the love you once felt has… Read More »

Is Academic Antisemitism Surprising?

 

Question of the Week:

 

I am shocked by the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the world. When Jew-hatred comes from backward extremists and street mobs, it isn't so surprising. But when university educated, well-read westerners, who know history and have access to the facts, are able to demonize Israel and the Jewish people, something is wrong. Has the world gone mad?

 

Answer:

 

The academics who single out Israel for contempt are guilty of ignoring the facts. But those who are shocked by it are also guilty of ignoring the facts.

 

History has shown that being educated has nothing to do with being moral. Some of the most cultured people have also been the most evil.

 

The Holocaust was committed by… Read More »

Do Mermaids Really Exist?

 

Question of the Week:

Is it true that Jews believe in Mermaids?

Answer:

The Talmud has a passage that discusses the mating habits of various animals and fish. Why that is important to the Talmud, we can discuss another time.

 

One marine species is mentioned that reproduces the same way as humans, and the Talmud refers to this species by its Latin name. The rabbis of the Talmud described this species as "sea people."

 

This mysterious reference to sea people has sparked the imagination of many students of the Talmud. In fact, the great medieval scholar Rashi defined them as being half human, half fish, and translated them into his native French as sirene, meaning mermaids.

 

But perhaps we would… Read More »

The Disabled Parking Dilemma

 

Question of the Week:

 

My grandmother no longer drives, so I use her car. It has a disabled parking permit, which allows me to park without paying anywhere I want. I feel a little guilty about it and thought maybe I should give it up. On the other hand, am I doing anything wrong just leaving it there?

 

Answer:

 

Thinking this one through, I can come up with several arguments in favour of keeping the permit, but only one argument in favour of giving it up.

 

Let's look at the arguments in favour of keeping the permit:

- You already… Read More »

Who Created G-d?

 

Question of the Week:

 

My 6 year old daughter has asked me: If G-d created the world and everything in it, then who created G-d?

 

Would love your answer...

 

Answer:

 

Indeed, G-d created everything in the world. Not just tangible things, like trees and rocks and caterpillars, but abstract things too, ideas and concepts. time and space, G-d created them too.

 

Until G-d created these things, they did not exist. Before creation, there were no caterpillars, but there also was no time. Space did not exist before G-d… Read More »

Why We Say Shkoyach!

 

Question of the Week:

 

My conversion process has been a huge learning curve. One of the many challenges is getting my head around all the terminology. I can finally pronounce Chanukah correctly, and I now know the difference between Kiddush and Kaddish (was embarrassing when I didn't), but there is one word that still confuses me: Shkoyach (spelling?). I hear people shout "shkoyach" after the rabbi's sermon, after someone gets called to the Torah, and sometimes even when I pass the herring at the Shabbos table. What exactly does shkoyach mean and when is the right time to say it?

 

Answer:

 

According to the Oxford Etymological Dictionary of Jewish Jargon[*], Shkoyach is a condensed version of the… Read More »

Is it Worth Worrying?

 

Question of the Week:
   

I am a constant worrier. I worry about everything and I know it. Everyone tells me to chill out but I can't. The problem is, I always feel if I don't worry and something bad happens, I will feel guilty forever more that I wasn't worried enough. Now I'm pregnant and am obsessing about what may go wrong. But if I don't worry, doesn't that mean I don't care? I am in therapy, but do you have any Jewish strategies for me to get out of this cycle?

 

Answer:

 

There is wonderful old Yiddish proverb, which is also said to be an ancient Chinese proverb, and a more recent Indonesian proverb, sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, Socrates or Dr Seuss:

 

"There are two… Read More »

There's a Soul In Your Fire...

 

Question of the Week:
 
I notice that lighting candles is a big part of Judaism. We light candles every Friday for Shabbos, we light candles on every festival, and Chanukah is all about candles. What is the connection between candles and spirituality?
 
Answer:
 
There is something about a flame that makes it more spiritual than physical. 
 
When you use something physical, it is diminished. The more money you spend, the less you have. The more petrol you use, the emptier your tank becomes. The more food you eat the more you need to restock your… Read More »

Theology for a Four Year Old

 

Question of the Week:

 

I have a question which I was hoping you may be able to help my husband and I with. This morning my daughter asked me the following:

"Mommy, how does G-d make the world work?"

I was unable to answer. I was hoping you could provide me with a way to answer the question in words that an almost 4 year old will understand!

 

Answer:

 

What a sweet question. I hope you are proud that your nearly 4 year old ponders such issues.

 

Maybe try asking her this: 

 

How does your body work? As you sit there, you are breathing and blinking and digesting food. How do you do all that?  Your hair grows, your fingernails grow, you get taller all the time. Even in your… Read More »

The Tragedy of Suicide

 

Question of the Week

     

I have a question about suicide and Judaism. I have heard conflicting things about whether there is Kaddish and mourning for a suicide. It seems in previous generations suicide was viewed as sinful and they were not mourned, but nowadays we see it differently. Has Jewish law changed on this?

 

Answer:

 

Taking a life is murder. This includes taking one's own life. We did not choose to be born and it is not our choice when to die. For this reason, suicide is considered a crime against G-d, oneself and those around us.

 

Read More »

Husbands Are Not Mindreaders

 

Question of the Week:

 

I have a problem with organised religion. Light candles, go to shul, eat this, don't eat that etc etc. What sort of G-d demands these things from us? Surely we can find our own path to G-d within ourselves without being told what to do. Why does it make someone better or worse by just following instructions? It all seems crazy to me...

 

Answer:

 

I recently addressed a group of women on the topic of relationships. I told them that they should not be ashamed to tell their husbands exactly what makes them happy. Don't leave the guys guessing. If you do, they will never get it right.

 

A man cannot read a woman's mind. Even if he loves you deeply and is devoted to you with all his… Read More »

Is That an Angel On Your Shoulder?

 

Question of the Week

     

I have been looking into the topic of angels and I have a question. Are there new angels being born every day, or were all angels created once by G-d and that's it?

 

Answer:

 

Angels are not only made by G-d. You make them too. All the time.

 

Every action we do elicits a spiritual reaction. When a person does a good deed, a pocket of positive energy is released into the universe. An angel is born. My deed may have taken only a second, but the world is changed forever for the better, as the angel of my deed… Read More »

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