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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

Why Is Life so Hectic Now?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

Why is life so frantic at the moment? It seems like things are unusually hectic, not just for me but everyone I talk to. Shifts in personal life, career moves, some good and some bad, big stuff and massive changes, all in the last week or so. Is something going on spiritually that I should know about?

 

Answer:  

 

Oh yes. We are in the final month of the Jewish year, the month of Ellul. A lot has to happen in these last weeks of the year. 

 

The Jewish view is that time has a personality. Each year has a character of its own. It's like a guest who stays with you for twelve months, follows you around everywhere you go, and then leaves so another guest can… Read More »

Is G-d Picking on Me?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

Does G-d pick on some people? I think he is picking on me because I have suffered one loss after another for much of my life. It seems that as soon as I have survived one tragedy, another one comes crashing down on me. I always bounce back but I am starting to take it personally...  

 

Answer:  

 

There was once a tow-truck driver who lived near a muddy old country road. Every day he would jump into his truck and drive a mile or so to a particularly sludgy bend in the road, and every day his truck would get stuck in the mud. But it was a trusty old truck, and its chunky tires and growling engine would always be able to beat the mud and climb up onto solid… Read More »

Traditional Bris or Surgical Circumcision?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

Our baby boy was born yesterday and we are deliberating whether to do a traditional Bris with a mohel, or have it done by a surgeon in hospital. Now the question I have is, would you accept me and my son into your shule if he is not snipped by a mohel?

 

Answer:

 

Mazel tov on becoming a father! I hope your wife is doing well and wish you both only happiness and much nachas!

 

Let me say outright, you and your son will always be welcome, no matter what you choose. I don't put any barriers up for someone to be a part of our community. 

As a parent, you need to make many decisions that will impact your child's future. This is one of them. Here are the things you need… Read More »

Is Volunteering Considered Charity?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

I know we are meant to give one tenth of our income (after tax) to charity. What if I volunteer my time for a charity? Can I deduct that from my ten percent?

 

Answer:

 

There are two distinct types of kind acts - Tzedakah and Chessed. The first really means justice, doing that which is only just and fair. The second means kindness, doing more than is fair, acting out of the goodness of your heart.

 

One tenth of your income is not really yours. It was entrusted to you temporarily, so you can have the privilege of helping the needy. So it is only fair that you pass it on to its rightful owner. This is tzedakah.

 

But beyond the obligation to give tzedakah, we must do… Read More »

I Hate My Birthday

 

Question of the Week:

 

I know it's a good thing to celebrate your birthday according to the Hebrew calendar. But I don't. I was born on Tisha B'av. It's a bit hard to have a party on the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. And to be honest I have always felt strange about it. It's like, Tisha B'av is the day the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, the Austro-Hungarians declared war on Serbia, and my mother gave birth to me.... What does it say about me that I was born on a day of national mourning?

 

Answer:

 

That's just about the best … Read More »

What Are Angels?

 

Question of the Week:

 

Why does G-d need angels? Can't He do things himself? And can we pray to them?

 

Answer:

 

I'll answer you with a metaphor. The metaphor is a metaphor about a metaphor. 

 

A preschool teacher wants to teach her little students the shape of planet earth. So she tells them, "The earth is spherical." They don't know what she is talking about. So she says, "The earth is round." They return blank stares. So she takes out a bouncy ball from the toy box and says, "The earth is a big ball." Now they get it. 

 

You can't communicate an abstract concept to young students using abstract terms. You need to express the idea in terms that the… Read More »

Are You Waiting to be Asked?

 

Question of the Week:

 

My grandfather used to always give beggars on the street a coin, and he would say it is better to give before you are asked. I am now realizing that many of his sayings were actually based on Jewish wisdom, and am researching the sources. Is there something about giving without being asked?

 

Answer:

 

Your grandfather was a mystic, even if he didn't know it.

 

Giving tzedakah is always a good thing to do. But there is an extra power to charity when you give it without being asked. When the giver initiates a donation, it arouses divine kindness from above even more than when you respond to a request to give. 

 

This is illustrated by the fact that G-d's name, the name… Read More »

What's Really Bugging this Husband?

 

Question of the Week:

 

OK you need to adjudicate this one between me and my wife before it gets out of hand. We keep a kosher home, and though that is not my thing, I am fine with that. She checks the lettuce for bugs, and I think that's crazy. I am not anti-religion but I am anti-fanaticism and to me this is going too far. There are bugs in everything, we can't help eating them. Can you explain to her that she is going overboard?

 

Answer:

 

Bugs are not kosher. Eating a bug is the same as eating bacon, and to keep kosher properly you have to examine any fruits and vegetables that are prone to infestation, and remove any bugs before eating them.

 

But there are some bugs that are so small, they can't… Read More »

Has Your Wife Got an Ego Problem?

 

Question of the Week:

 

My family very much enjoyed being at your Shabbos table, thanks again for the invite. I meant to ask you a question that has bothered me for years. It's about prayer. Looking through all the praises of G-d's greatness in the prayer book, it seems to be a big ego trip for G-d. Is G-d so insecure that he needs his creations to pray to him 3 times a day, telling him how great he is? 

 

Answer:

 

We loved having your wonderful family over. You should be very proud of them all. 

 

But one thing disturbed me. Your children behaved really well, but I am a little concerned about your wife.

 

Every time your wife gave your son anything, like a piece of chicken, a drink, or… Read More »

Do You Want to See a Miracle? Here's one...

 

Question of the Week:

 


I wish I could have met the Rebbe. I have heard so many miracle stories about him, I sometimes wonder, if I would have seen a miracle in front of my eyes would I still be such a skeptic? Or maybe the Rebbe would have made me believe....

 

Answer:

 

The Rebbe once addressed a similar question from a similar skeptic. When I read it my eyes popped out of my head. If you look at it with an open mind, it could change your perspective.



In a post-script to a letter from 1956, the Rebbe wrote the following:

 

In response to what you write regarding the Jew from Bulgaria, who says he is… Read More »

Are You Waiting for Your Next Life?

 

Question of the Week:

 

What is the difference between a rabbi and a Rebbe? I have been reading up on the Rebbe and he was obviously a great man. But what makes someone a Rebbe and not a regular rabbi?

 

Answer:

 

There are many differences, too many to list here, but one is this: A rabbi answers questions, a Rebbe answers people. A rabbi hears what you say with your mouth, a Rebbe hears what you are saying with your soul.

 

I'll explain what I mean.

 

A teenage boy once asked the Rebbe, "Do we believe in reincarnation?"

 

The Rebbe's answer was short and cryptic:

 

 "Yes we do believe in reincarnation. But don't wait until then."

 

This… Read More »

Should I Feel Guilty?

 

Question:

You know me, I always feel guilty about something. Since my mother died, I feel guilty every time I have fun or even go to the hairdresser, as if I have no right to enjoy my life now that her life has ended. I know this isn't healthy but I can't seem to let myself live. Are there any Jewish teachings on this that might help me?

 

Answer:

 

The only thing you should feel guilty about is feeling guilty. Not only is it holding you back, it's holding your mother's soul back too.

 

The connection we have with a loved one reaches beyond this lifetime. It is a soul connection, a bond deeper than the physical and temporary confines of the body. Just as souls never die, so too our relationship with a soul… Read More »

The Corner of the Table: Will I Stay Single Forever?

 

Question of the Week:

 

In my family, it is strictly forbidden for any unmarried person to sit at the corner of the table. We were told from a young age that if you do sit at a corner, you will never get married. To this day I can't bring myself to sit at a corner, or let anyone else do so. Is this a Jewish belief?

 

Answer:

 

This belief is widely held, and has been handed down for generations in a range of cultures. If your grandmother is Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Rumanian or Ukrainian then there is a good chance she grew up with this superstition. The fact that many Jewish families originate from those countries may explain why so many share this belief. But it doesn't come from a Jewish source.

 

Read More »

Who Wrote the End of the Torah?

 

Question of the Week:

 

If Moses received the entire Torah at Mt Sinai, how did it contain things that hadn't even happened yet, right up to Moses' death forty years later?!

 

Answer:

 

That's a great question! Moses didn't receive all five books of the Torah all at once. It was a process of unravelling. 

 

At Mt Sinai, G-d gave Moses the Ten Commandments along with all the Torah passages from creation up until that point. That included the book of Genesis, and part of the book of Exodus until the description of the revelation at Mt Sinai. Then in the following months G-d dictated to Moses the rest of Exodus, Leviticus and part of Numbers. The rest of Numbers and Deuteronomy were given to Moses in… Read More »

Does My Kippah Make Me a Target?

Question of the Week:

 

My work takes me to all kinds of places, and often I find myself in neighbourhoods that are pretty hostile to Jews. My friends are telling me that I should remove my kippah as I am endangering myself by being openly Jewish. I wear my kippah with pride, but am I making myself into a target? 

 

Answer:

 

There are two ways to wear a kippah. You can wear it on your head, or you can wear it in your head. 

 

Wearing a kippah on your head means it is an article of clothing, an accessory, an external addition to your self. 

 

Wearing it in your head means it is part of you, it is a fixture, a piece of your very self. It is not just what you wear, it is who you are. 

Read More »

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