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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

What's So Kabbalistic About Bonfires?


Question of the Week:


What's the idea of having big bonfires on Lag Baomer? I know it is the day of the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the "father of Kabbalah." But even Moses doesn't get bonfires on the day of his passing...




Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai spent the last moments of his life doing what he always did: teaching. The mystical ideas that he shared with his devoted students that day were the deepest and most revolutionary teachings he had ever revealed.


But as he conveyed this parting message, there was tension in heaven. Rabbi Shimon's death was ordained to be that day before sundown. As the afternoon stretched on and evening approached, he had not yet… Read More »

How to Not Save a Sinking Ship

Question of the Week:

A recent study on Jewish continuity divided the community into three categories. The inner core are those who are fully Orthodox and observant of Torah. They are not at risk. The outer layer are the Jews who are not engaged at all in Judaism, on the edge and most at risk of assimilation. Then there is a large middle layer, comprising those who are somewhat traditional, have a Jewish identity but are not religious. The study went on to say that communal funds and effort should be focused solely on the middle group. The religious core are fine, they are mostly marrying within the community and having Jewish children. The outer layer are too far gone and too hard to bring back. It is the middle who are at risk of… Read More »

Why Can't I Find the Man of My Dreams?


Question of the Week:


I am forty now and still single. I have met dozens of guys, but none are right for me. I know what you are going to say: I am too fussy. But I can't just settle on something half good. Where is the man of my dreams?




It doesn't make sense. You are a wonderful person with so much to offer. Why are you still alone?


There could be many reasons why someone may find it hard to find a partner. But I think in your case, the answer is simple. You are not available. You're already married. 


You are involved in a longstanding intimate relationship with an imaginary man, Mr Right. You have conjured an exact picture of the perfect husband, and… Read More »

It's Not Just Cricket

Question of the Week:


The one Jewish ideal that I can't get my head around is Moshiach - the belief in the coming of a messianic era. What good is achieved by awaiting some future time when there will be peace on earth? Shouldn't we focus on the present, rather than dreaming about the future? Why is the belief in the coming of the messiah so central to Judaism?




Some of the deepest truths I learnt from my cricket coach. He was a sharp guy, with a keen eye for detail. He would observe my batting style and point out what I needed to work on. But I gained more than just cricket advice.


One consistent flaw in my batting was my follow through. The coach noticed that as soon as my bat hits… Read More »

Seder - When Chaos is Called Order




The word "Seder" actually means "order." This is a little ironic. The average Seder in any Jewish home is one of the most chaotic events you could ever imagine. And that's called order. 

We start the Seder by listing the fifteen steps that we will follow. The first two words are "Kadesh Urchatz" which mean "Sanctify and wash." These refer to the first two steps of the Seder, making Kiddush and then washing hands. 


But the order is significant. After all, it is called the Seder. But here it seems to be in reverse order. Surely we need to wash first before sanctifying ourselves. You… Read More »

Should We Relish the Approval of Others?

Question of the Week:


I am confused about the maror, the bitter herbs eaten at the Seder. I always thought you are supposed to use horseradish. But then I heard that we should use cos (or romaine) lettuce leaves, with a spoonful of fresh horseradish. I eat lettuce with my salad all year round, and it is not bitter. If anything it is quite sweet tasting. So why eat lettuce to commemorate the bitterness of Egyptian slavery?




Your sweet lettuce is a sneaky little vegetable. Its nature very closely parallels the Egyptian slavery experience.


Indeed, lettuce has a gentle and pleasant taste. That is because we pick… Read More »

Skeptics at the Seder?


Question of the Week:

Who Really Wrote the Haggadah?

With Pesach coming up, here's something I always wanted to know. Why do we place a chicken neck on the Seder Plate, and then leave it there and not eat it. I always look at the empty Seder plate with this lonely chicken neck left behind, and wonder, why is it there? 




One of the most amazing characters in the story of the Exodus is Pharaoh. He witnessed with his own eyes the downfall of his country, he experienced first hand the miracles of the Ten Plagues one after the other, he saw how every prediction Moses made came true, and yet… Read More »

Do Personal Trainers Make Your Life Miserable?

Question of the Week:


I understand (somewhat at least) why Hashem sends people difficulties in life. Life is not meant to be easy. What I'm having a problem with is why He will make it difficult for us when performing a mitzva. 


For example, the car breaks down just when you're doing someone a favour, or the oven stops working on Friday when you need to cook for Shabbos, or your boss schedules an important meeting that you must attend, but you can't because of all days it just happens to be on Yomtov. 


I've heard answers like Hashem wants you to pray harder, or the harder the mitzva the greater the reward, but… Read More »

Can You Talk Business on a Date?


Question of the Week:


As you know, my wife is a little behind me when it comes to religious observance. One thing she challenged me on and I didn't have an answer. Last week I forgot to leave the light on in the bathroom before Shabbos. She wanted to turn it on, but I said to leave it.  So she asked, What is the big deal if I switch on a light on Shabbos? It isn't such hard work to flick a switch. Will the day of rest be totally disturbed by by me turning a light on? I wasn't sure what to say....


Here's something I think your wife will relate to. 

You are out for a romantic dinner, just the two of you. You make a… Read More »

What is the Real Cause of Antisemitism?


Question of the Week:


It seems like antisemitism is everywhere these days, and almost becoming acceptable again. Why do so many people hate Jews? Why is antisemitism still flourishing today, even in modern society? And what can we do about it?



The deepest analysis of antisemitism can be found in a deceptively simple Talmudic passage. It is discussing the story of Purim. And its wisdom rings true until today. 


Haman was an antisemitic minister in ancient Persia who wanted to see the Jews annihilated. He approached King Achashverosh and offered to pay him a hefty sum in return for permission to fulfil his vile wish to kill the Jews. The King responded, "Keep… Read More »

Should We Live Together Before Marriage?

Question of the Week:


I am debating with a friend about the pros and cons of living together before marriage. I think it's crazy to marry someone you haven't lived with. How can you know what life will be like? It makes no sense! What if they need the window open at night and you need it closed? On the other hand, people who live together for prolonged periods of time don't seem to be doing any better at marriage than those who don't. So who's right?




The argument goes, by living together you can know how someone behaves in various situations. Once you have spent a year or so under one roof, you have tested the relationship to see if it can withstand the… Read More »

How Do We Know that Souls Exist?


Question of the Week:


Can you tell me in simple terms what a soul is? What does it actually mean to have a soul? And can you provide evidence that we have a soul?




I think there is evidence of the soul. It is in human individuality.


Look at identical twins. There's something amazing about them. Not only do they look alike, they both have exactly the same genetic makeup, they share the same birthday, grew up in the same family with the same parents, and had almost the same experiences. 


And yet, they are not the same. They are each individuals, with different personalities… Read More »

My Wife Says I'm a Hypocrite


Question of the Week:


Is it acceptable to be non-kosher as a parent and require your children to be kosher? I was brought up kosher, and remained so until my late 20's. I loved growing that way, as it provided me a clear Jewish identity, it made me aware of my Jewish responsibilities, and I feel it gave me the confidence to tell non-Jewish people around me that I was Jewish (as I could not eat various things at work events), and also strength of character to say 'no' to things that may be tempting, a character trait I continue to carry forward into my adult life.  


In my 20's, I felt old enough to make a decision as… Read More »

Are You Dancing with the Devil?


Question of the Week:


What is the difference between healthy self-analysis and unhealthy self-criticism? I am quite harsh on myself but I think that's a good thing, but then I think it's a bad thing. Then I'm not sure. (sorry I'm not making any sense am I?)



It is good to criticise yourself. It is not good to beat up on yourself. The former is necessary for your moral growth, and comes from your soul's desire to reach higher. The latter is no more than a tactic of the devil inside you, trying to sabotage your life by bringing you down. 


The two may seem similar, but in fact they are… Read More »

Keeping Kosher in a Non-Kosher Home?


Question of the Week:


My very religious brother is coming to visit from Israel for a couple of weeks. As you know, my family is proudly Jewish but we do not keep kosher. I invited him to stay with us, but then suddenly thought that it might be a disaster. Can someone keep kosher in a non-kosher home? Are we going to have to turn our life upside down to accommodate him? Or is it better he stays at a kosher friend and we keep the peace?




This question has little to do with religiosity, and all to do with personality.


Read More »

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