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Weekly Email by Rabbi Moss

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

What is Kaddish?

 

Question of the Week

I am confused by all the different types of Kaddish said in our prayer services. There is the Mourner's Kaddish, Rabbi's Kaddish, Complete Kaddish, Half Kaddish, Discounted Kaddish, Closing-Down-Sale Kaddish. What is going on here?! If Kaddish is supposed to be said in memory of someone, why do we say it throughout the service?

Answer:

All the various versions of Kaddish do the same thing. With its mystically powerful words, Kaddish transports a soul upwards, from one level to the next. What distinguishes between the different Kaddishes is exactly who is being elevated.  

The Mourner's Kaddish is recited for the departed, to assist in their soul's journey upward.… Read More »

Are Spiritual Healers Kosher?

 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… Read More »

Aren't I Jewish Enough Already?

 

Question of the Week:

I have to admit, I am angry. I was brought up Jewish, attended a Jewish school, and have only known Judaism as my religion. Now I am told I have to convert, because my mother never formally became Jewish. Isn't it a little unfair that all my life I was more Jewish than my friends, was subjected to anti-Semitism, and then I am told I need to convert?

Answer:

I completely understand your frustration. It can't be easy to hear that you need to convert to your own religion. But please don't take it personally. This is not a reflection on you. The entire Jewish nation went through exactly what you are going through now.

After leaving Egypt, where they suffered as slaves and were tormented for being Jewish, the… Read More »

How To Heal A Broken Heart

 

Question of the Week

This has been my worst Chanukah ever. My relationship has ended and I am alone again. I really trusted this time, and I was let down. I don't think I can go through this any more. How many times can a heart be broken before you just say enough!?

Answer:

I'm so sorry to hear that you are going through this pain. Just don't give up now. It's Chanukah. And the story of Chanukah is a beginner's manual on surviving heartbreak.

I'm sure you are familiar with the tale. The Syrian-Greeks, who had conquered Israel and contaminated the Temple, had just been defeated by the Jewish rebels called the Maccabees. The victorious Jews went about rededicating the Temple, but could not find any pure olive oil with… Read More »

My Head is Spinning

 

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 all, or the Shin, which means you lose all. It may land on Heh, and you win half the pot. And sometimes it ends up on Nun, and nothing happens. 

It all seems totally random. But really it isn't. Every spin has an… Read More »

Is Someone Controlling Your Mind?

 

Question of the Week

I have been studying the Book of Tanya and find it fascinating. But I am stuck on one idea expressed there. Tanya says that we can control our behaviour, which includes our thoughts, speech and action. I don't agree. We can usually control what we do, and also what we say. But can we control what we think? I can't help what pops into my head!
(just resending this question I wrote to you two weeks ago. I didn't hear back so maybe you didn't receive it the first time?)

Answer:

Apologies for not responding sooner to your message. I actually did receive it the first time. But I ignored it. I didn't even open it. And it was deliberate. 

I decide which messages I open, and which I don't. Just because… Read More »

CAN A VIKING BE A HIDDEN JEWISH SOUL?

 

CAN A VIKING BE A HIDDEN JEWISH SOUL?

Question of the Week:

I feel like I am a Jewish soul born in a non-Jewish body. I have always been surrounded by Jewish friends, loved the religion, and after years of study I just fulfilled my dream and converted to Judaism. My family has no Jewish roots whatsoever, I descend from Vikings on both sides, so it is all a bit of a mystery. Any explanation?

Answer:

Many people from all different walks of life have reported feeling an affinity to Jews and Judaism. Some leave it at that. Others take it further. For them, it is more than just a curiosity with Jewish things or a taste for Jewish cooking. It is in their soul.

The first Jewish couple, Abraham and Sarah, were married for… Read More »

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 »

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