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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

Would You Eat Bacon for $10 million?

 

Question of the Week:

 

I was watching a debate between the famous atheist Richard Dawkins and some rabbi about religion and G-d. Dawkins said that religions are just money machines, and its leaders fleece their gullible followers of their cash and come out rich. What do you have to say about that?

 

Answer:

 

So Dawkins is saying that for believers, money trumps morality. I assume he holds that atheists are different. Let's test that hypothesis. What happens when people need to choose between money and principles? Let's try the following theoretical experiment.

 

Imagine you put Richard Dawkins in a sealed room all alone, with no one watching, no recording devices or CCTV's, and you offer him a deal… Read More »

What If We Never Argue?

Question of the Week:

 

I have a problem. My fiancée and I never fight. I have heard that relationships can only grow through tension, that only when we have a disagreement and then work through it can we get closer. But what can I do? We simply agree on everything. Now I'm nervous. Should we be arranging some arguments? Maybe a weekly roster with a list of topics to fight about, and then make up afterwards?


Answer:

 

Pre-arranged fights only work if you are a professional wrestler. Not so in a marriage. To get the desired effect, the argument needs to be real. I am afraid you will have to wait for an authentic argument to be able to truly reconcile.


This is based on some Talmudic logic. The Talmud teaches that… Read More »

Life is Spinning Out of Control?

Question of the Week:

We are having a cultural day at work where people share their religious customs. I have three minutes to talk about Chanukah and wanted to talk about the dreidel (someone else is speaking about the Menorah). Is there a deeper meaning to spinning the dreidel on Chanukah that I could easily present? 

Answer:

Take a dreidel and spin it. Let everyone watch. It's fascinating. You never know which side it will land on. It could fall on the Gimmel, which means you win, or the Shin, which means you lose.

It seems totally random. You just spin and something happens. But really it isn't. Every spin has an exact amount of kinetic energy to cause a measured number of turns. The table surface provides an exact… Read More »

Are Jews a Race or a Religion?

Question of the Week:

Are Jews a race or a religion? Or both? Or neither?

Answer:

We are all of the above. A race. A religion. Both. And neither.

We're a bit complicated. And really quite simple. Let's use some talmudic-style deduction to get to the bottom of it.

Jews are members of a religion called Judaism. We descend from spiritual trailblazers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, founders of a belief system around one G-d and moral living. Our nationhood did not start in a country, but in an idea. Our identity comes from the Torah. So being a Jew is clearly a religious thing.

But if Jewishness is a religious identity, then a Jew who is not religious, doesn't believe in G-d or follow the Torah… Read More »

Does the Broom in the Tree Work?

Question of the Week:

I am planning an outdoor event and really hope it doesn't rain. I have heard a superstition that if you put a broom in a tree at the venue it won't rain. Is there a Jewish trick to prevent rain?

Answer:
 
The Talmudic sage Rabbi Yochanan taught:

There are three keys that G-d holds, and never hands over to anyone else. They are the key to rain, the key to childbirth, and the key to revival of the dead.

No matter how advanced our society becomes, no matter how much progress we make in technology and science, and no matter how many superstitious magic tricks we perform, some things are simply out of human control.

The mystery of creating new life still baffles us. The greatest doctors cannot explain… Read More »

Do We Go to Heaven or Reincarnate Back to Earth?

 Question of the Week:

 
If we believe in reincarnation, why do we say that souls go to heaven for their final rest after they pass away? What's the point in praying for a soul if they might be right next to us down here on earth?

Answer:

I remember at school a friend failed his end of year exams and had to repeat a grade. He stayed back for a year and was no longer in our class, but rather the class below. We all moved on but he was held back.

Some think reincarnation is like repeating a year at school. While some souls graduate to the next world after their life in this world, others are sent right back down to get things right in another life.

That is not quite how it works.

A better metaphor would be a… Read More »

Why Are My Feelings For Her Blocked?

Question of the Week:

 
I need some urgent dating advice. I have become very close with a girl who really seems to have everything I'm looking for in a wife. We get on well, we want the same thing out of life, and all the boxes are ticked. This is the first girl I have met that I can really imagine being married to. The problem is my feelings. They seem to be blocked. I definitely like her very much, but that overwhelming, deep and intense feeling of love just hasn't come. I know what it is because I have had it before. I don't want to give up this relationship, so what can I do to kick-start my heart?

Answer:

Love can only blossom in an open heart. When our heart is closed we cannot feel affection, even when that affection… Read More »

The Danger We Face After Pittsburgh

Question of the Week:

We have all been deeply affected by the shooting in Pittsburgh. I think the fact that it happened in a shul makes it much closer to home. It makes me wonder if it is safe to take my family to shul this Shabbos. I know rationally that this week is no different to any other. But at the same time, I don't want my kids to feel they are in danger. We don't go every week anyway, so maybe this week we should give it a miss?

Answer:

There is a great danger this Shabbos, more than usual. The danger is that Jews become intimidated into hiding away. In the wake of such a tragedy, avoiding shul is far riskier than attending. You risk giving your kids the wrong message.

I will never forget something that happened when… Read More »

Can I Preset My TV for Shabbos?

 

Question of the Week:

I am almost 100% committed to keep Shabbos this week in honor of the world wide Shabbos project. There's just one issue. My favourite TV show screens Fridays 7:30pm. So I was thinking, if it's permissible to set a timer before Shabbos to turn the lights on and off, then why isn't it permissible to set a timer before Shabbos to turn my television on and off? I can't see what the difference is.

Answer:

My favourite show is also on Fridays at 7:30pm. And I never miss it. It's a hilarious reality show, and my kids star in it. We call it "The Shabbos Table."
Read More »

Why Do Mourners Tear their Clothes?

Question of the Week:
 
What is the reason for the custom of mourners ripping their clothing on the death of a loved one?
 
Answer:
 
The experience of loss arouses several emotions. On the one hand, death is a tragedy. A loved one is lost to their family and friends, who are left feeling a profound sense of separation and distance that seems beyond repair. For this reason, we observe a seven day intense mourning period, during which the family sits at home and feels the pain and loss, followed by a year of mourning. This helps them slowly accept the new reality, that their loved on is gone.
 
But often, the mourners feel that it isn't really true, it didn't really happen, they haven't really gone. This is not… Read More »

What If You Swim Against the Tide?

 

Question of the Week:

 

If you really believe the Torah to be the ultimate truth and the word of G-d, how do you explain the fact that the story of Noah's ark and the flood is replicated in myths of almost every culture around the world? Does G-d copy and paste?

 

Answer:

 

Let me follow your logic. If a book claims that an event happened all over the world to the common ancestors of every nation, and then every nation has a version of this event among their folk tales, this proves that the book is a forgery. Huh?

 

Peoples as diverse as Sumerians and… Read More »

Why Don't My Kids Respect Me?

 

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. Why is it that one parent can care for thre children but three children can't seem to care for 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. They didn't have parents. They were created, not born. They had no umbilical cords. They probably didn't even have belly buttons. So any normal human being has an innate desire to look after their children. But looking after our parents (and our belly buttons) is a skill that doesn't always… Read More »

Are You a Good Husband or an Amazing One?

 

Question of the Week:

 

My very devout wife says I shouldn't miss Simchas Torah, as it is the most important festival of the year. I countered that the Torah speaks of no such festival, so how could it be so important? She said I should ask the rabbi. So I am.

 

Answer:

 

There are two types of good husbands. I'm not sure which one you are.

One is the type of husband that does whatever his wife asks. If she says, "Can you pick up some eggplants?" he says "Sure." If she asks for a new watch, he buys it. If she says "This house needs painting" he calls a painter. If she complains that the air-conditioning is on too strong, he turns it off.

He is a good husband. But he is not… Read More »

What Does Pe-Pe-Pe Mean?

Question of the Week:

 

I am hoping you can explain something about my grandmother. Every time she would give me a compliment she would add "pe pe pe." (Nice haircut pe pe pe/I like your dress pe pe pe/Well done on your test pe pe pe)  I was too young to ask her what that meant and no one in my family has the faintest idea what she was doing. Do you?

 

Answer:

 

Yes, I know exactly what she was doing. She was spitting in your face. In a nice way. She meant it with love. Her pe pe pe was saving you from the Evil Eye.

There is a belief that when someone's virtues are highlighted, there is a risk of harm from the forces of evil. Heaping praise or speaking too much good about you could invite the Evil… Read More »

This was the worst Rosh Hashana of my life

Question of the Week:

 

This was my worst Rosh Hashana ever. I come to shul to pray for a good year, and I take it very seriously. I truly believe that if Rosh Hashona goes well, the year will go well too. But someone ruined it for me this year.

 

Everything was going fine, the chazan was singing beautifully, your sermons were right on the mark, but the seat I was given spoiled everything. The person sitting next to me didn't give me a moment of peace. He couldn't sit still. He was fidgeting and moving around all the time. He had to go out every five minutes and each time I had to stand up to let him pass by. His kids kept coming up to him and asking for snacks and making a mess. He had the sniffles and was blowing his nose… Read More »

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