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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

Thousands of people enjoy the wisdom and inspiration of Rabbi Moss' weekly emails.

Can't We Just Have One Restaurant?

 

Question of the Week:


Why are there so many different synagogues in our community? I know of six within a one kilometre radius of my house! Wouldn't it be more economical if we pool our resources into one big shul rather than so many smaller ones?

Answer:

I was just thinking a similar question: Why are there so many restaurants in our neighbourhood? Shouldn't there just be one place to go eat? I have counted a dozen on one street!

Would we be better off with just one big restaurant? I don't think foodies would agree. Some love Thai, others prefer Italian. The formal dining experience in one place suits some, while others seek a casual night out. Family friendly fast food joints will not attract the fine diners… Read More »

What If You Were Born Zoroastrian?

 

Question of the Week:


You are obviously very passionate about the Jewish religion. But that is because you were born into it. Had you been born a Hindu, a Muslim, a Catholic or a Zoroastrian, you would be equally as passionate. So how can you take your beliefs seriously, or see them as truth, when really they are no more than an accident of birth?

Answer:

There are some big assumptions behind your question.

You are assuming that I was born. That is a fair assumption. But you also assume that I am Jewish by accident. That is false. There is no such thing. The very premise makes no sense.

The postulation "what if I would be born someone else" is as absurd as asking what if a tomato was actually a carrot, or… Read More »

The Rebbe, the Soldier and the Sikh

 

The Rebbe, the Soldier and the Sikh

in honour of Gimmel Tammuz, 24th anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe

"The beard has to go!"

So an Israeli soldier was told by his commanding officer during the Yom Kippur War. There was a serious fear that the Egyptians were poised to mount a chemical attack against Israel. Long facial hair would obstruct the gas mask that the soldiers would need to wear.

A religious Jew, he knew that in a case of mortal danger one would be allowed to shave off the beard. The commandment to grow a beard is overridden by the commandment to preserve life. But the question was, is this indeed a situation of mortal danger? And if so, is shaving absolutely necessary?

The soldier was given… Read More »

Socrates' Dilemma and Absolute Morality

 

Question of the Week:

I am fascinated by the Euthyphro dilemma asked by Socrates:

"Does G-d want us to do good deeds because they are morally good, or are good deeds morally good because G-d wants us to do them?"

If good is good without G-d, we don't need Him as a source of morality. But if good is only good because G-d says so, then good is not true good, it is merely an arbitrary construct. So either G-d is unnecessary or goodness has no real meaning.

How would Judaism answer this?

 

Answer:

 

Good question. If you know what I mean.

 

Judaism takes a clear position on this dilemma. There is a striking statement in the Midrash that answers it unequivocally:

 

In the beginning of… Read More »

Trust Your First Impressions?

Question of the Week:

I met a lovely girl on a blind date last week. We went to the art gallery and had a wonderful conversation. She has everything I am looking for. But she is not for me. There is nothing wrong with her, but I am a very good judge of character and my intuition can quickly assess people. I know when it is right and this time it just isn't. I would meet her a second time just to be polite, but wouldn't that be leading her on?
 
Answer:
 
There is a popular theory that we can know all we need to know about a person in the first few seconds of meeting them. It is a great theory. There is only one problem with it. It is rubbish.
 
A person is more than meets the eye. We are multi-layered. We have… Read More »

Why Can't a Convert Marry a Cohen?

Question of the Week:

I am a convert to Judaism and I'm very proud of it. I have always felt totally welcomed by the community and in no way an outsider. But I am deeply bothered by the law that says a convert is not allowed to marry a cohen. If I am a fully fledged Jew like any other, why am I not good enough to marry into the priestly tribe?

Answer:

 

A convert can marry a king. A convert can marry a prophet. A convert can even marry a rabbi, the highest echelon of Jewish society (if you ask me). So it makes no sense to say that a convert can't marry a cohen because they are second class citizens. There must be some other reason. 

 

When the Torah forbids a marriage, it is never because one party is not good… Read More »

Why Do You Wear a Hat?

 

Question of the Week:

I understand the reason behind wearing a Kippah is to acknowledge the presence of G-d above you. My question is, why do chassidim also wear a hat on top of that? Isn't the Kippah enough?

Answer:

There's above, and then there's above. Indeed G-d is above us. But He's not just above us, He is above being above us. However wondrous we think G-d is, He is way beyond that. However much we think we have understood G-d, there is an infinity we haven't even come close too.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. As beyond as G-d may be, He wants us to attempt to grasp Him as far as is humanly possible. This is why He gave us the Torah, His infinite wisdom expressed in terms that we finite beings can relate… Read More »

Mark Zuckerberg Faces the Book of Books?

 

Question of the Week:

Everything has always come easy to me. But recently something's changed. I've been exploring my spiritual side, and while I feel a strong pull to it, I also feel a certain heaviness comes with it. I thought praying and studying Torah would bring me peace. But in many ways it has made my life more complicated and hard. So my question is: if it's all so hard, maybe that means it's not for me?

Answer:

There is a story told by the great chassidic teachers, and it goes like this.

There was once a simple villager who won the lottery. In the olden days, this meant literally winning a pot of gold. So with excitement and anticipation, he set out on foot for the three day journey to the big city to collect… Read More »

Can You Stop Flip-Flopping?

 

Question of the Week:

We all know that the Jewish future is under threat, with many of our youth leaving the fold. In all streams other than the fervently orthodox, the outlook is grim. We can't all be religious. So other than Torah observance, what can we teach the next generation to inspire them to stay Jewish?

 

Answer:

 

Sometimes a question itself contains the answer. Like when a fish asks, "Other than in the water, where else can I survive?" You have the answer, you just would prefer a different answer. But there is none.

 

A fish out of water does not die immediately. In fact, a fish out of water seems quite lively. It flips and flops and dances around, seemingly more active than it was… Read More »

Magical Cure for Anxiety?

 

Question of the Week:

I am looking for a kabbalist who can help get rid of an evil eye. I constantly feel weighed down by heaviness, stress and anxiety. I am in therapy, but feel that there must be some type of spiritual curse on me. Do you or anyone you know how to undo evil spells? 

 

Answer:

 

You need a mystical formula to rise above the negativity and cast off the shadows. I know a kabbalist who can help. His name is Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. He lived almost two thousand years ago, but his light still shines today.

In his esoteric masterpiece, the Zohar, he has an insight that if you internalize it, it may bring you the strength you need. He writes:

During the Friday night prayers, as Shabbos enters… Read More »

Was My Divorce a Big Mistake?

 

Question of the Week:

After my recent divorce I have done a lot of thinking. Does the failure of my marriage mean that I didn't marry my soulmate? Or does it mean I did marry the right person, and now I have lost my soulmate...? In other words, was it destined to be, or not?

 

Answer:

 

People have free choice. We can marry Mr Wrong, or divorce Mr Right. We have to take responsibility for choosing a partner, even if things didn't work out.

 

And yet, when a marriage ends in divorce, it's not to say that it was not meant to be in the first place. Alongside the belief… Read More »

A Cure for Your Screen Addiction

Question of the Week:

I am 16 years old and I am an atheist. I attend a Jewish High School, and we have compulsory prayers every morning for about twenty minutes. I have argued that there is no point in me taking part due to my lack of faith, so I should be allowed to read a book. My teacher said I should ask you this question - is there any benefit for me to say the prayers? If you can somehow convince me that I am not wasting my time, I will consider it...

Answer:

I challenge you to try this.

When it's time for prayers, sit with your prayer book open and start reading. For the next twenty minutes, try not to take your eyes off the book. See if you are able to maintain focus and concentration for the entire duration of the… Read More »

How Will I Get Out of This One?

Question of the Week: 

 
My spiritual life has come to a standstill. Every time I try to take a step up, I get a hit. I have committed to keeping Shabbos, and now I am having trouble at work. I have started keeping kosher but my family is resisting big time. It seems my path is always blocked. Will this ever end?

Answer:

You need a Red Sea moment. You are like the Israelites being chased by the Egyptians from behind, blocked by the sea in front. Their past is haunting them, and their future is eluding them. You know what happened next? Well it can happen to you too.

In what seems to be a strange addition to the story of the splitting of the sea, the Talmud states that not only did the water of the Red Sea split, but… Read More »

Why Is Seder Night Always a Full Moon?

Question of the Week: 

 
I am very connected to the zodiac and was wondering if there is a link between the stars and the timing of Pesach. I have also noticed that the Seder always coincides with the full moon. What is the significance of all this?
 
Answer:
 
There is deep astrological significance to the date of Pesach. We celebrate the festival of freedom on the night of the 15th of Nissan in the Hebrew calendar, the night the Israelites were freed from Egypt. This is the full moon of the month of Aries, the ram.
 
The Egyptians worshipped the ram as a god. Aries is the leader of the star signs, the first and most powerful, and the Egyptians saw themselves as the leaders of the world, receiving their… Read More »

A Seder Conspiracy Theory

 Question of the Week:

Whoever wrote the Haggadah seems to have made a major mistake. The name of Moses does not appear in the entire Haggadah! How could the main man of the Exodus who confronted Pharaoh, brought down the plagues, and led his people out of slavery be completely left out of the story? It would be like doing Macbeth without Macbeth, or Star Wars without Luke Skywalker. I have a conspiracy theory: This was no mistake. The Haggadah was written by an anti-Moses faction who tried to write him out of history. That way they would take over the priesthood and control the Temple. Like it?

Answer:

That's a fantastic conspiracy theory. Really fantastic.

But the question is a good one. Moses' absence from the Haggadah… Read More »

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