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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

What I Learned from a Giant

 

WHAT I LEARNED FROM A GIANT a personal tribute to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks OBM

We have lost a true giant of the spirit. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks passed away last Shabbos, aged 72. He was one of the most eloquent and profound thinkers of our times, whose sphere of influence reached far beyond the Jewish world. He had the unique ability to bridge what seem like opposing ideas: faith and reason, morality and modernity, the Torah's message to the Jewish people and its universal message to all peoples. His passionate voice will be missed. 

I was fortunate to meet him on a few occasions. I'd like to… Read More »

Have You Discovered Your Genius?

 

Question of the Week

Ok this will seem silly, but it has bothered me for years. It's about Abraham's tent. At school we were taught that Abraham made four doors, one on each side, to welcome guests from every direction. Nice, but is that really necessary? Is it so hard to walk around a few steps to the front door? I feel there must be something more to this...

Answer:

There are several different types of genius. There is genius of the mind, like Einstein. There is musical genius, as in Mozart, and artistic genius, like Rembrandt. Shakespeare would be a genius of the pen. There are sporting geniuses and business geniuses. Each one… Read More »

Can You Look Yourself in the Mirror?

 

Question of the Week

My late grandmother once told me not to put my baby in front of a mirror before he has grown his teeth. She said it will effect his development????  She didn't know why or where it comes from. Is there any basis for this?

Answer:

Many dismiss this as a bubbe maiseh, an old wives' tale. But if you heard it from your own bubbe, then perhaps you shouldn't be too quick to laugh it off. We take our grandmothers' traditions very seriously. 

One respected authority, Rabbi Moshe Stern, validated the custom of not showing babies their own reflection, saying it was practiced in his home town of Debrecen, Hungary. He quotes a 13th… Read More »

Is Hebrew the Original Language

 

Question of the Week:

I was very disturbed by something one of my professors said in a lecture. Here it is: 

"There was a Hebrew King a long long time ago, who was interested in discovering the basic human language. There are over 6,000 human languages on the planet at present. He wanted to find the original language.  

So he got a newborn, and he locked the newborn away in his castle with no human contact. The newborn developed Hebrew. So therefore Hebrew was the basic human language, of which all other human languages arose. His assumption was Hebrew was biologically defined, and everything else was a variant… Read More »

The Things We Do for Lulav

Question: 

Someone asked me why we wave the Lulav in six directions - right, left, forward, up, down, backward. I didn't really know how to answer. Is there a simple way to explain this?

Answer:

The four species that we bless on Sukkos correspond to the four letters in G-d's Hebrew name. Waving them in all six directions signifies our faith that G-d is everywhere. Specifically, we are saying that on every level, at every stage of life, in all that happens to us, G-d is there.

Right and left represent Chesed and Gevurah, the power of love and the power of discipline. G-d, like a parent, can be loving and can also be strict. Sometimes G-d's light shines on us and we feel close to Him, other times… Read More »

I Am Angry

 

Question of the Week:

I guess you could say I am angry at G-d right now. We have been trying to fall pregnant for several years since our oldest was born. Our prayers were finally answered. Well sort of. I am pregnant, but the doctors say my baby has a rare condition with very little chance to survive to term, and even less chance of surviving after birth for more than a few days. I just don't get it. Why would G-d do that to me?
 

Answer:

I have no answers for you. Your pain is real, and your anger understandable. I can't give you an explanation. All I can offer is friendship and support. And I'll tell you a story.

There was a soul in heaven waiting to come down to this earth. Unlike other souls, who need… Read More »

Can You Lockdown a Soul?

 

Question of the Week:

We are enjoying another Melbourne lockdown in all its confinement. I am trying to remember the concept in our religion about the person who has had a more troubled past doing good vs the person who was always well behaved . It reminds me of my feelings towards this lockdown. If we can happily evolve past this hardship, and overcome this wall of difficulty, I feel it is sort of akin to the more troubled person making themselves better…. If you have the time, please would you point me in the right direction?
 

Answer:

You are thinking of the Talmudic quote: The place where a reformed sinner stands, a saint can ever reach.

It's a bit like a bow and arrow. The further back you… Read More »

I Was Scammed. Now What?

 

Question of the Week:

I feel like an absolute idiot. I wanted to give some charity, as I have been a bad boy recently. And I fell for a scam. This guy was supposedly helping orphans who live on the street and I felt so bad for them. But turns out this fellow is living it up off other people's stupidity. People like me. So it seems even when I try to do a good deed it turns out bad. What does that say about me? 

Answer:

This is the best news you could possibly hear right now.  You see, it is important to make sure that your charity goes to worthy recipients. But if by mistake it didn't, then you are the recipient of Jeremiah's curse. Which is a great blessing.

Let me explain. 

The prophet… Read More »

Are Pirated Videos Kosher?

 

We are stuck at home a lot these days, so we end up watching a lot of videos. My parents don't like us watching random YouTubes, and all our DVD's are scratched, so we mostly rent Jewish videos online. But today my friend sent me a link that has heaps of Jewish videos for free! I was so excited that we don't have to rent anymore. But then my father said it might be stealing to watch these videos. I can't see the problem. The videos are there anyway even if we don't watch them. And all my friends do it all the time. So what's the issue? My father said I should ask you.

Answer:

What do your parents have against YouTube? It's free and easy. Why would they spend their hard earned money on Jewish rentals when… Read More »

Is a Soulmate Forever?

 

Question of the Week:

If a widow remarries, what happens when Moshiach comes and the dead come back to life? Will she reunite with her first husband, or the new guy? What if she was happy with one more than the other?  

Answer:

This fascinating question has been asked by many. But the best answer is found in an unusual source: the diary of an 18th century American priest.

Ezra Stiles, a Congregationalist minister in Rhode Island, became close friends with Rabbi Raphael Chaim Yitzchak Carregal, believed to be the first rabbi to set foot on American soil. A question Stiles asked Rabbi Carregal at one of their meetings was this very issue: if a widow remarries, who will she be married to when… Read More »

The Riddle of the Double Naming

 

Question of the Week:

I'm so embarrassed to write this. We have just realised that we named our second son with exactly the same Hebrew name as our oldest son. They are both Chaim Leib! We feel so silly. They are names of two of our late grandfathers and we simply forgot that we already used those names. Is there anything we can do? The younger one is two, and the oldest is already five so I want to fix it before his bar mitzvah!

Answer:

Don't be embarrassed. You are in good company. The great Talmudic sage Rav Chisda had two sons with the same name. They were both called Mar. To differentiate them, one was known as Young Mar and the other, Old Mar.

Here's a Talmudic riddle: Who do you think was older, Young Mar or Old Mar?… Read More »

Did You Get the Hint?

 

Read More »

 

Oops, I made a mistake

Question: 

I think I'm too sloppy for organised religion. I try to keep Shabbos, but often make a mistake and turn on a light. I do have a kosher home, but the amount of times I've accidentally put the milk spoon into the meat pot is embarrassing. I read the prayers but my Hebrew is so bad even G-d must have trouble understanding me. I'm not perfect and never will be. So why bother striving for perfection if I know I'll never get there?

 

Answer:

 

You are right. You should not strive for perfection. It's not the Jewish way. Improvement? Yes. But perfection? No.

 

I learnt this truth many years ago. I was just eighteen, studying in a Yeshiva in Israel along with several hundred other students from around the… Read More »

What If You Found Out They're Not Your Children?

 

Question of the Week  

 

I have a dark secret. I have an anger problem. And I never knew it until I became a parent. Because the only people I take my anger out on are my own kids. I never had a temper before, but sometimes when my children misbehave and I am at my limit I just explode and lose control. I don't like myself at those moments and know it is wrong. And yet I haven't been able to control it. Any pointers on how to not lose it with my kids?

 

Answer:

 

Your dark secret is the dark secret of every parent. We all have our weak moments, when a combination of lack of sleep, pressures of life and our imperfect hearts conspire to make us lose it. And who are the poor victims of our fury? Those we… Read More »

Zooming My Father's Funeral?

 

Question of the Week: 

 

My father just passed away in London. I couldn’t fly to be there with him in his last days. I won’t be able to be there for his funeral. My family won’t be able to sit shiva together, as they are all over the world and borders closed. To be honest, I am at peace with his passing. He lived a long and good life. But how can I come to terms with not being there for him at the end? 

 

Answer:

 

It must be so hard to miss your father’s final days. And watching a funeral on Zoom can’t be the same. But perhaps there is some comfort you can find in this difficult time. 

 

During this pandemic we have been forced to connect virtually. We have… Read More »

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