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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

Are Your Parents on Another Planet?

Question of the Week

I feel uncomfortable with the idea that G-d is always watching me. It seems stifling to think that I am under constant surveillance. I had enough helicopter parenting when I was a kid. Do I really need someone breathing down my neck all day as an adult?

Answer

I agree, the last thing we need is for G-d to be a helicopter parent. But I don't think that is what He is. 

There are three models of parenting: the helicopter, the space ship and the sailing boat.

A helicopter parent hovers around their child, correcting every mistake, shielding every threat, catching every fall. They don't allow their child to speak for themselves, take risks or get hurt. Though it all comes from love, they are… Read More »

Jerusalem is Not Alone

 

Question of the Week

One question I had is about the traditional words of consolation said to mourners:
"May G-d comfort you together with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."
What exactly is the consolation in those words? How does comparing the loss of a loved one to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans two thousand years ago make me feel any better?
 
Answer
 
 
There are several parallels between the fall of Jerusalem and the passing of a soul. By contemplating these similarities, the mourners can find a profound message of hope in the midst of sorrow.
 
Although the destruction of Jerusalem primarily affected those who actually lived there, nevertheless it was a… Read More »

Which Political Party is Correct?

 

Question of the Week

I am a staunch libertarian, and my wife is a big time socialist. We are happily married because we don't talk politics. But I do wonder, what is the Torah's viewpoint on political issues? Which political ideology would Judaism espouse?

Answer

It's refreshing to hear that you and your wife can disagree on politics and stay together. If only more people could put their differences aside and celebrate what unites them, the world would be in a much better place. You are a model for that better place.

There is a story of a group of Jews in the 1920's who were debating this very topic: which political philosophy aligns with the Torah? Each was able to quote the Torah as support for their preferred ideology.

One… Read More »

A Kabbalistic Kiddush

 

Question of the Week

I make Kiddush over wine every Friday night, but I would like to know a deeper meaning behind it. Is there some mystical ideas you can share that I can meditate on when I say the Kiddush?

Answer

It all goes back to the very first Friday of history. Adam and Eve were created on Friday afternoon, the time when all last minute things get done, like making humanity.

On that first day, they were told not to eat from the fruit of one tree, the Tree of Knowledge. The mystics teach that this fruit was a grape vine, a fruit that contains the potential for great good and great evil. Over a glass of wine friendships are made and lost, lives are enhanced and destroyed, hopes are created and dashed. It is the Tree… Read More »

Cancel Culture in Shul?

 

Question of the Week

My friends have been asking me to join them for a synagogue service for months.  I don't believe in G-d. I never pray. What could I possibly gain from attending synagogue?

Answer

You are implying that people go to synagogue to pray. Where did you get that idea from?

True, you will often see people praying in synagogue. But people also pray at home, in the street, at an airport or in a foxhole.

You don't need a synagogue to pray. And you don't need to pray to go to synagogue. This is clear from the very name "synagogue."

Synagogue comes from the Greek sunagoge which means "bring together." And if that's all Greek to you, the original Hebrew… Read More »

Are We Reunited In Heaven?

 

Question of the Week

Upon leaving this earth and hopefully ascending to heaven, are we reunited with our parents and family members who have predeceased us? I really want to be close with my loved ones again. But once we leave our body, how do we recognise who is who? Souls don't have faces, do they?

Answer

One of the most boring things to listen to is someone else's dream they had last night. That's probably because dreams are very personal. Only you can relate to your own dream. To anyone else, it's all nonsense.

I am sure you have had the experience in a dream where you are talking to someone, and you know who they are, even though they don't look like themselves. For… Read More »

Judaism Doesn't Turn You On?

 

Question of the Week

Judaism doesn't do it for me. I've been there done that. I was star pupil of my bar mitzvah class, spent my teenage years at a Zionist youth group, did the Israel thing after high school, even took Judaic Studies in college. And after all that, nothing has turned me on. What do you say to people like me who simply are not inspired by Judaism?

Answer

You remind me of the story of the poor man's cheese blintzes.

A poor man was once walking the streets, feeling hungry, when he was struck by a delicious aroma. From the kitchen window of a huge mansion wafted the smells of a rich man's breakfast. Looking through the window, he watched carefully as the cook mixed the ingredients and… Read More »

How to Explain Death to Kids

 

Question of the Week

My seven year old is asking a lot of questions ever since her grandfather died. What happens when you die? Where do you go? Is it scary? Can you explain death to a seven year old?

Answer

Remember when your little brother was born? After being in your mother's tummy for such a long time, he finally came out to be with you and the family. How exciting. You'd been waiting for so long to meet him and play with him, and then he finally arrived.

Your baby brother was very comfortable inside mummy's tummy, where it's warm and he had everything he needed. But he couldn't stay there forever.  When it was time, he came out to be with you.

In a strange way, death is… Read More »

I Did My Best. Did I Mess Up?

 Question of the Week

I am not Jewish, but have many Jewish work colleagues. I attended my first Jewish funeral for an old boss this week. I tried to be respectful and follow protocol, but I think I may have messed up. As I was leaving, someone said to me, "I've sim cards."  I was a little taken aback.  Why would people be selling phone plans at a funeral?  Then another person said the same thing to me, which I thought was strange. I thanked them and explained that I am locked into a 24 month contract. When a third person also told me "I've sim cards" I started to think maybe I was misunderstanding something. Is it customary to buy a new sim… Read More »

A Weird Fear of Death?

 

Question of the Week

I have a fear of dying. But it expresses itself in a weird way. I have read stories of people doing one mitzvah and then dropping dead, because that one good deed was their life mission. So now every time I do something good, I think maybe this is my last. This freaks me out and it isn't good. Should I try not to fulfill my mission so I can live, or do good deeds and die?

Answer

There are two types of workers: employees and contractors. A contractor is there to do their job, and that's it. As long as I have completed the tasks given me, as long as the items on my to-do list are all ticked off, I have done my bit and I can go home.

But an employee has to work until the day is over. It is not enough… Read More »

We love you. We’ll meet again soon.

 

OUR RESPONSE TO THE MERON TRAGEDY

The Jewish nation is hurting. The unfathomable loss of 45 innocent souls in the Meron tragedy has touched us all.

Now is not the time for finger-pointing and blame. Now is not the time for explanations and justifications. Now is the time to comfort the grieving families.

But what can we say to comfort them?

Nothing. And that is fine.

The mitzvah to comfort mourners is performed by paying a visit and listening. Jewish law dictates that when visiting a mourner, the visitor should not open the conversation. We leave it to the mourner to set the tone. The visitor should just listen, acknowledge, respond where appropriate and take to heart what the mourner says.

So let’s do that now.… Read More »

Have I Lost My Mind?

 

Question of the Week:

I grew up hearing that to learn Kabbalah you have to be married, over forty, and an accomplished scholar. Otherwise you will go mad. Yet these days it seems everyone and anyone studies Kabbalah. So is what I heard not true or have the rules changed? Or have we all gone mad?

Answer:

The origin of the belief that Kabbalah study is dangerous seems to be a Talmudic tale.

There were four rabbis who shared an out-of-body mystical experience, where their souls wandered off into the higher realms. They were Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Elisha ben Avuya and Rabbi Akiva.

Each of these scholars was impacted differently by the experience. For three of them, it was not a happy ending.

Ben Azzai died.… Read More »

I'm Completely Shaken By This

Question of the Week

Why will my rabbi not shake a woman's hand? I find it highly offensive. I would think in this day and age women could be treated equally to men, not as inferior untouchables. Why can't a religious man have the basic courtesy to shake hands with me?

Answer

Does anyone shake hands anymore? I thought the hand shaking tradition died a quiet death during the pandemic. People stopped shaking hands, a nd curiously, no one took it personally. 

When someone refuses to shake hands for health reasons, it is like saying, "Lovely to see you. If you don't mind I won't touch you because you may be infected, or unhygienic, or both. I'd rather not get sick from you."

This is completely acceptable. No one takes… Read More »

Why Are You Always Late?

 

Question of the Week:

I have a friend who is never on time for any social arrangement, and is often outrageously late. He is otherwise a great guy. His tardiness drives me crazy and is affecting our friendship. Does our sensible religion have something to say on why it is wrong to be late? I suspect that if Judaism promotes punctuality, he might lift his game...

Answer:

The Kabbalah teaches that people come under two personality types: chessed or gevurah.

A chessed type is someone who is giving and outward, generous and expressive. They are easy-going, spontaneous and free-spirited. But sometimes a bit all over the place. 

A gevurah type is more inward and disciplined… Read More »

He Just Won't Commit...

 

Question of the Week

You may find it strange that I am writing to you, rabbi. You know I am not very involved in Jewish life. I am very spiritual, but not religious. I am turning to you because you know my boyfriend very well. We've been so long together and he still won't commit. He says our relationship is fine as it is, and we don't need to be married. Maybe you can give him a little nudge and explain that a relationship needs commitment to be real?

Answer

I would be glad to try and bring him around. You are a great couple and he would be a fool to lose you. But I must say, you can't blame him for not committing. You are doing the exact same thing as he is.

When he says, "I love you, but I don't want to marry… Read More »

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