Printed from Nefesh.org.au

Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

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?



Answer: 

 

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?

 

Answer: 

 

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?

 

Answer: 

 

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?)

(See?)

Answer:

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?

 

Answer:

 

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

 

Read More »

The Pain of Love

 

Question of the Week:

 

A friend's mother passed away tragically the day before her wedding. As I understand it, Jewish law says the wedding should go ahead. But does this make sense? How can anyone celebrate a wedding after experiencing such pain? 

 

Answer:

 

Every person goes through pain, and every person has times of joy. Sometimes we are challenged to experience both at the same time. And the human heart has an amazing capacity to hold conflicting emotions all at once. 

 

There is a kabbalistic teaching that the heart has two sides… Read More »

What Annoys You Most?

 

Question of the Week:

 

I am so annoyed with the world. Everyone treats me badly, everyone is so self-absorbed, nobody really cares. I try to be nice but never get anything in return. I am not sure it is worth it. Why should I be good to others when they can't reciprocate? 

 

Answer:

 

You can change this pattern. But you have to change yourself.

 

There is a penetrating teaching by the master of souls, the Baal Shem Tov. He says that when you look at another person, you are really looking in the mirror. The things that annoy you most in others are the things that annoy you most about yourself. The reason you notice them in your fellow is because they are inside you, they are familiar, and they… Read More »

Why Does the Torah Speak Loshon Hora?

 

Question of the Week:

 

If it is forbidden to speak Loshon Hora (gossip) then why is it ok that the Torah tells us bad things about people, like the sins of the Israelites in the desert, Korach challenging Moses, Aaron helping make a Golden Calf? Even the story about Miriam speaking loshon hora about Moses,  isn't that Loshon Hora?

 

Answer:

 

Evil talk is a serious sin. Even when it is true, speaking badly about people is wrong and damages all involved - the speaker, the listener and the subject.



But when the Torah relays negative information about someone, it is for the benefit all, even the subject spoken about. 



The greatest correction of a sin is… Read More »

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 »

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.