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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

Who Invented Chess?

 

Question of the Week:

 

I once heard that the game of chess was invented by King Solomon. Does it say that somewhere?

 

Answer:

 

There is a legend that King Solomon came up with the game of chess to keep the minds of his military commanders sharp. And nobody could beat him at his own game.

 

He often played against Benayahu, his chief of staff. And the king always won. Always, that is, except once. 

 

Benayahu was once playing against the king, and things looked like he was about to be checkmated. Frustrated at always losing, Benayahu took advantage when King Solomon left the game for a moment to investigate a commotion happening out the window. Benayahu surreptitiously removed… Read More »

Deja Vu All Over Again?

 

Question of the Week:

 

I often get deja vu, the sensation that I have already lived this moment before. It has happened when I am travelling to new destinations with people I have never met, and I feel that I have been here in this place, with the same people, hearing this very conversation before. Is there a Jewish explanation for this?

 

Answer:

 

Some say that deja vu is a sign of reincarnation. You feel you were here before because you were, in a previous life. Others explain that you had a predictive dream of the scene before it happened, and now you are seeing your dream materialise.

 

Maybe. There is a more mundane explanation. In my personal experience, I only get deja vu when my brain is a… Read More »

Why Do We Cover Mirrors?

 

Question of the Week:

 

Can you shed some light on the custom to cover the mirrors in a house of mourning? I was told that after the funeral of an immediate relative we cover all mirrors in the home for the seven days of mourning. One explanation offered is that we are not supposed to adorn ourselves while mourning. But I am looking for any deeper explanation you may have...

 

Answer:

 

There is a more spooky reason for covering mirrors in a house of mourning. This may sound a bit way out, but on reflection it actually makes a lot of sense.

 

The Kabbalists write that all types of evil spirits and demons come to visit a family in mourning. When a soul leaves this world, they leave a void, an… Read More »

Do Your Candles Help the World?

 

Question of the Week:

 

I had this debate with my sister. We are both trying to raise proud Jewish families, so I was surprised to hear that in her home, they do not light Chanukah candles. She says rituals aren't necessary for Jewish identity. Her words: "It's very cute and quaint to light candles with the kids, but how does that help the world?" I feel she is wrong but couldn't explain why. It does seem a bit silly to say that lighting candles is such a big deal. So, how can I convey that rituals are important?

 

Answer:

 

Imagine you had never seen fire before in your life, and I showed you a flame on a candle. Then I asked you, do you think you can make a fire like this?

 

You would not… Read More »

Is G-d Out of the Miracle Business?

 

Question of the Week: 

  

You know why I don't pray? I don't see the point. G-d seems to be out of the miracle business for the last 2000 years. Like Chanukah is the Festival of Miracles, when G-d saved us from the ancient Greeks. But what have we seen since? Where are the miracles today? Why pray to a G-d who closed up shop 2000 years ago....

 

Answer:

You really need to spin a dreidel. 

 

The dreidel is a spinning top used for a game we traditionally play on Chanukah. There are intricate rules for this game, but for your purposes we can keep it very simple.

 

Look at a spinning dreidel. Can you see any letters… Read More »

Why Don't We Exchange Rings?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

I am getting married in two months from now, and last night we had a meeting with the rabbi who will be conducting the ceremony. Something came up which I am quite uncomfortable with: the issue of only the groom giving the bride a ring, and not vice versa. This essentially represents to me that I am being purchased. The idea that there is a problem with the bride also giving the groom a ring seems absurd to me. Surely I have as much say in the agreement to be married as my husband-to-be?

 

I know I am allowed to give the ring after the ceremony. However, I want to exchange rings during the ceremony. Gender equality is a very important issue to me. I am a highly educated woman, and I also… Read More »

How to Fix Your Daughter-in-Law

 

Question of the Week:

 

So my son just got engaged to a wonderful girl. We love and adore her, she is so good to him. But one issue, she has zero interest in Judaism. She thinks it's 'mostly rubbish,' but I know this is out of ignorance. I go to classes at shul and ask her if she wants to join, but she never does. She eats ham and cheese sandwiches! How can I show her, involve her, embrace her in without being the revolting jam-down-your throat type. I want to explain to her how easy keeping kosher is, how wonderful it is to keep a Jewish home, how it adds to your life and does not detract etc etc... What do you think I can say to turn her around??

 

Answer:

 

The best thing you can say to her is… Read More »

Should You Attack a Mugger?

 

Question of the Week:

 

I don't need the 613 laws of the Torah to be a good person. I live by one simple rule: Do whatever you want, as long as you're not hurting anyone. Who needs hundreds of complicated laws when you can break it down into one?

 

Answer:

 

Your rule sounds so nice. I wish things were so simple. But let's test it and see how your rule applies to real life situations.

 

You're walking down the street. You see a violent criminal mugging an old lady for her wallet. You could save her by tackling him from behind.

 

What do you do? Subdue the thug and save the lady? That would be hurting someone, which contravenes your rule.

 

Unless you make an exception to your rule: Do… Read More »

Why Don't We Mention the Matriarchs?

 

Question of the Week:

 

I am uncomfortable with the fact that in our prayers we refer to "the G-d of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," while making no mention of our mothers, Sarah, Rebeccah Rachel and Leah. Why do we claim descent from our patriarchs and leave out the matriarchs? Do women not count? Are they supposed to just be quietly left in the background?

 

Answer:

 

Anyone who thinks mothers are supposed to be quiet has never been around a Jewish family. 

 

And if you read Genesis you see the pivotal role each of the matriarchs played in shaping the Jewish nation.

 

But there is something unique about our forefathers, something the mothers did not have.

 

They… Read More »

Where did the Star of David Come From?

 

Question of the Week:

 

What does the Star of David symbolise? Is there meaning behind it? And why is it considered the Jewish symbol? And where did it come from?

 

Answer:

 

There is in an ancient kabbalistic text called Raziel Hamalach. It is named after an angel who taught mystical secrets to the first man,

A page from Raziel Hamalach

Adam. The earliest appearance of what we call the Star of David is found in that book. While its teachings are way beyond our understanding… Read More »

Am I Going to Hell?

 

Question of the Week:

 

Do Jews believe in Hell? I am not planning any trips or anything, but was wondering because I have heard mixed reports about this..... 

 

Answer: 

 

We do believe in a type of hell. But not the one found in cartoons and joke books. Hell is not a punishment. It is in fact a great kindness that we are sent to hell. 

 

The prophets and mystics of Judaism described a spiritual place called Gehennom. This is usually translated as Hell, but a better translation would be the Supernal Washing Machine. Because that's exactly how it works. 

 

Our soul is cleansed in Gehennom in the same way as our clothes are cleansed in a washing machine. We don't put our socks… Read More »

I Stole $500. What Now?

Question of the Week:

 

I am a little embarrassed to write this, but my conscience won't allow me to keep it in any more. When I was 16 years old (almost 30 years ago) I would babysit for a neighbour. They always underpaid me. If I worked for three and half hours, they paid me for three. If I worked for 2 hours and 59 minutes, they paid me for 2. I really resented it. One time I found $500 cash in a kitchen draw. I took it, justifying in my mind that they owed me at least that much. They never suspected anything. I'm pretty sure they never even knew the money was there in the first place. I look back with shame and know I did wrong. I stole. But this was so long ago. According to the Torah, how do I fix this? Do I have to pay back?… Read More »

When Was Adam's Mid-Life Crisis?

 

Question of the Week:

 

Can you explain why Genesis describes the lifespan of the early generations as being incredibly long? Adam is said to have died at age 930, Noah was almost 500 when he started building the ark (not bad!) and Methuselah lived a world record 969 years! So what happened? Why don't we live that long anymore?

 

Answer:

 

The longevity of our patriarchs raises several questions. What does it feel like to hit 900? When did they have their mid-life crisis? Were centenarians getting up to teenage mischief? Did parents tell their children, "Stop acting like a forty year old!"?

 

Whatever the case, we find that the first few generations lived extremely long, and then after Noah's… Read More »

What Your Wife DIDN'T Say

 

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 an… Read More »

Post Yom Kippur Blues?

 

Question of the Week:

 

I think I have the post Yom Kippur blues. Every year I get all inspired by the fast, and am sure that I will be more committed to Judaism in the year ahead. But somehow it dissipates pretty quick (like around the third mouthful after breaking the fast). I don't want to lose it again this year. Any suggestions?

 

Answer:

 

I know just what you need. You need to be swaddled.

 

A newborn baby, moments after birth, is taken by a midwife and wrapped up in a swaddling cloth. This serves to keep the newborn protected and warm. Having just emerged from the security and nurture of the womb, the baby is particularly vulnerable and sensitive. A good swaddling cloth gives him a sense of… Read More »

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