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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

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 »

You Are Good. You Are Very Good.

Question of the Week:

 

We have this silly debate every year. Do we eat apples dipped in honey only on the first night of Rosh Hashana, or also on the second? I think it is just the first but I can't remember why...

 

Answer:

 

You can eat apples and honey any time you like. But the custom is to eat them on the first night of Rosh Hashana only. Perhaps we can suggest a deep reason why.

Rosh Hashana is the day Adam and Eve, the first humans, were created. So what was G-d doing the night before? He was about to introduce into the world a dramatic and unprecedented phenomenon - free beings who will be able to determine their own destiny and impact the direction of the world. The long and turbulent relationship between… Read More »

Why Do We Wash Hands After a Funeral?

 

Question:

 

What is the reason for washing hands after leaving a cemetery? And is it correct that you are not supposed to dry the hands on a towel, but just let them dry on their own? If so, why?

 

Answer:

 

Death is one of those topics we usually prefer to avoid. It is not pleasant to be reminded of our mortality and of those whom we have lost. And yet, it is a part of life that we cannot avoid. A healthy attitude towards death can in fact be life-enhancing. The washing and non-drying of the hands helps to illustrate this.

There are several reasons given for washing and not drying the hands after a funeral or visiting a cemetery.

1. A corpse is ritually impure, and anyone who's been close to a dead body… Read More »

Can a Departed Soul Live Again?

 

When I first saw the rolling hills and green pastures of Jamberoo, I felt an instant connection. My wife and I were looking for a venue for a weekend retreat, and we knew Jamberoo was it the minute we arrived. This Shabbos for the third year running we are holding our Shabbaton retreat in Jamberoo.

I decided to do a little bit of research on the history of the area. Something caught my eye in the Wikipedia entry on Jamberoo. It has a list of famous Jamberoo personalities. On the

Solomon Herbet Hyam

list was… Read More »

What is so special about handwashing?

Question of the Week:                                                 

 



I have always wondered why is it that we do the special hand washing before eating bread? And why we are not allowed to speak from when we wash our hands until we eat bread? It can't just be about hygiene so what's it really about? 

Answer:

When somebody offers a far-fetched explanation for their behaviour… Read More »

Can We be Happy Now?

Question of the Week: 

I am struggling with a contradiction in Jewish belief. On the one hand we are meant to serve G-d with joy, and be happy with our lives. On the other hand, we are supposed to await the coming of Moshiach, when there will be an end to all the darkness in the world. How can we do both? How can we be happy as long as there is pain and suffering in the world? And if we are happy, isn't that being insensitive? 

Answer:
 
This is a profound conundrum. To paraphrase the beginning of the holy book of Tanya, if you take a good look at the suffering that goes on around you, you could get depressed. If you ignore it, you become callous. Either way, how can we be joyous?

An answer to this lies in a shift… Read More »

How many children should I have?

Question of the week:

I want to fulfil G-d's commandment to go forth and multiply. In fact, I want to have as many children as possible. However, my wife and I are struggling just to support ourselves without children. If we have lots of children in our current financial state we will be on welfare. I do believe G-d will provide so I can have lots of children, but this doesn't seem to be happening and I am getting impatient. Should we simply have a big family and hope for divine assistance so we can afford to live in a Jewish neighbourhood and keep up with the standard of living? Or should we wait until we might be more financially ahead?

Answer:
 
I feel for you in your quandary. There is no greater gift than children, but we do… Read More »

What's the Jewish position on spiritual healing?

Question of the Week:

What's the Jewish position on spiritual healing? I have come across an eastern treatment that looks amazing. It requires me to connect to particular angelic forces and recite incantations in order to activate the healing. As a Jew is there any issue in utilising these healing practices?

Answer:

Spirituality and healing are deeply intertwined. Modern medicine recognises the power of the mind to help heal the body, and the impact of a patient's spiritual state on the healing process. Any attempt to improve our physical health should be coupled with an upgrade in our spiritual health. On many levels, the body and soul are in parallel.

A medical treatment will only be effective if it is compatible with the… Read More »

Can We Have the Temple Mount Please?

 

Question of the Week:
 
I know that we pray for Moshiach to come and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. But isn't there a slight technical problem with that? Currently there is a building which stands on the Temple Mount that belongs to another religion. I somehow can't imagine that they would be willing to give up the real estate and knock down their house of worship to make way for ours... So what's the plan with this?

Answer:

The rebuilding of the Temple is not just about renovating and landscaping. It's a complete renovation of the world's spiritual landscape.

The Messianic era, which we have been waiting for ever since the Temple was destroyed 2000 years ago, will usher in an unprecedented reign of peace. All… Read More »

Where is My Father's Soul Now?

Question of the Week:
 
There is something that has been eating at me since my father's funeral. Immediately after the burial, everyone came to wish me and my family condolences, then after a few minutes, we all left the cemetery. For me this was the hardest moment of the whole day. I felt as if we were leaving my father behind all by himself. Was his soul lonely? Is it as hard for the dead to part from the living as it is for the living to part from the dead? Or has he moved on? What does Judaism say about the soul right after burial?
 
Answer:
 
There is a striking parallel between a soul's journey to its place of rest in heaven, and the grieving process experienced by the mourners down here on earth. Both the… Read More »

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 »

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