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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

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 »

Fast Food on Yom Kippur?

 

Question of the Week:  

 

As you know, I love food, so Yom Kippur is not my favourite day of the year. Is the idea that we are punishing ourselves for our sins? Maybe we can do that some other way, like banging our head on a wall. I'd happily do that if I could eat...

 

Answer:

 

A man called his elderly Jewish mother, who was living in a faraway retirement home. "Mum, how are you feeling?" 

 

"Not too good," said the mother. "I've been very weak." 

 

The son said, "Why are you so weak?" She said, "It's not so surprising. I haven't eaten in 28 days, I shouldn't be weak?" 

 

"That's terrible," says her son.… Read More »

Are You In This Relationship or Not?

 

Question of the Week:  

 

Here is something I always wondered: Why is Rosh Hashana before Yom Kippur? If Rosh Hashana is the day of judgement, and Yom Kippur is the day of forgiveness, then it would make more sense to do it the other way around: First give us a chance to fix our mistakes, then judge us for the year to come. No?

 

Answer:

 

I was once asked to counsel a couple having marriage issues. They sat in front of me, and within five seconds each one let loose with a barrage of accusations against the other. 

 

"He never listens to a thing I say." 

"Well if she wouldn't scream at me maybe I would." 

"Well if you would listen the first time maybe I… Read More »

Are Humans Equal to Animals?

 

Question of the Week:  

 

I have been looking into the Seven Noahide Laws. I understand these are the biblical commands to all humanity - the children of Noah - and they provide the basis for ethical living. But looking at the list, there seems to be an odd one out:

 

1.    Do not worship idols - agreed, we have to believe in G-d

2.    Do not curse G-d - have respect for Him, I can dig that

3.    Do not murder - obvious

4.    Do not steal - ok

5.    Do not commit adultery - fine

6.    Set up courts of justice - needed to ensure the other laws are kept, but:

Read More »

Why Is Life so Hectic Now?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

Why is life so frantic at the moment? It seems like things are unusually hectic, not just for me but everyone I talk to. Shifts in personal life, career moves, some good and some bad, big stuff and massive changes, all in the last week or so. Is something going on spiritually that I should know about?

 

Answer:  

 

Oh yes. We are in the final month of the Jewish year, the month of Ellul. A lot has to happen in these last weeks of the year. 

 

The Jewish view is that time has a personality. Each year has a character of its own. It's like a guest who stays with you for twelve months, follows you around everywhere you go, and then leaves so another guest can… Read More »

Is G-d Picking on Me?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

Does G-d pick on some people? I think he is picking on me because I have suffered one loss after another for much of my life. It seems that as soon as I have survived one tragedy, another one comes crashing down on me. I always bounce back but I am starting to take it personally...  

 

Answer:  

 

There was once a tow-truck driver who lived near a muddy old country road. Every day he would jump into his truck and drive a mile or so to a particularly sludgy bend in the road, and every day his truck would get stuck in the mud. But it was a trusty old truck, and its chunky tires and growling engine would always be able to beat the mud and climb up onto solid… Read More »

Traditional Bris or Surgical Circumcision?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

Our baby boy was born yesterday and we are deliberating whether to do a traditional Bris with a mohel, or have it done by a surgeon in hospital. Now the question I have is, would you accept me and my son into your shule if he is not snipped by a mohel?

 

Answer:

 

Mazel tov on becoming a father! I hope your wife is doing well and wish you both only happiness and much nachas!

 

Let me say outright, you and your son will always be welcome, no matter what you choose. I don't put any barriers up for someone to be a part of our community. 

As a parent, you need to make many decisions that will impact your child's future. This is one of them. Here are the things you need… Read More »

Is Volunteering Considered Charity?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

I know we are meant to give one tenth of our income (after tax) to charity. What if I volunteer my time for a charity? Can I deduct that from my ten percent?

 

Answer:

 

There are two distinct types of kind acts - Tzedakah and Chessed. The first really means justice, doing that which is only just and fair. The second means kindness, doing more than is fair, acting out of the goodness of your heart.

 

One tenth of your income is not really yours. It was entrusted to you temporarily, so you can have the privilege of helping the needy. So it is only fair that you pass it on to its rightful owner. This is tzedakah.

 

But beyond the obligation to give tzedakah, we must do… Read More »

I Hate My Birthday

 

Question of the Week:

 

I know it's a good thing to celebrate your birthday according to the Hebrew calendar. But I don't. I was born on Tisha B'av. It's a bit hard to have a party on the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. And to be honest I have always felt strange about it. It's like, Tisha B'av is the day the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, the Austro-Hungarians declared war on Serbia, and my mother gave birth to me.... What does it say about me that I was born on a day of national mourning?

 

Answer:

 

That's just about the best … Read More »

What Are Angels?

 

Question of the Week:

 

Why does G-d need angels? Can't He do things himself? And can we pray to them?

 

Answer:

 

I'll answer you with a metaphor. The metaphor is a metaphor about a metaphor. 

 

A preschool teacher wants to teach her little students the shape of planet earth. So she tells them, "The earth is spherical." They don't know what she is talking about. So she says, "The earth is round." They return blank stares. So she takes out a bouncy ball from the toy box and says, "The earth is a big ball." Now they get it. 

 

You can't communicate an abstract concept to young students using abstract terms. You need to express the idea in terms that the… Read More »

Are You Waiting to be Asked?

 

Question of the Week:

 

My grandfather used to always give beggars on the street a coin, and he would say it is better to give before you are asked. I am now realizing that many of his sayings were actually based on Jewish wisdom, and am researching the sources. Is there something about giving without being asked?

 

Answer:

 

Your grandfather was a mystic, even if he didn't know it.

 

Giving tzedakah is always a good thing to do. But there is an extra power to charity when you give it without being asked. When the giver initiates a donation, it arouses divine kindness from above even more than when you respond to a request to give. 

 

This is illustrated by the fact that G-d's name, the name… Read More »

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