Judaism

OzTorah: Torah reading – Bo

WHEN WE GET THERE.  As the plagues unfold things get more and more desperate for Pharaoh and the Egyptians until Pharaoh is almost ready to cave in (Ex. 10). He actually talks about letting the Israelites go to worship God in the wilderness but he asks who will be going …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

FREE WILL. Question.  Does Judaism believe that human beings really have free will? Answer.    The question has two aspects: 1. Do we choose what to do or are we controlled by God? 2. If we have free choice, does God know in advance what we will choose? Every Jewish …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Va’era.

I APPEARED. Opening the sidra, God tells Moses, “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as Almighty God, but by My Name ‘HaShem’ I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2). The first thing we learn from these words is that God does not appear to anyone in …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

STATUS OF THE FATHER. Question.   Everyone knows that the child of a Jewish mother is regarded as Jewish, regardless of who the father is.  If both parents are Jewish, does the father determine any aspect of the child’s Jewish identity? Answer.     The father determines whether one is a Kohen (one …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Sh’mot

TASKMASTERS. The labour of the Israelite slaves in Egypt was superintended by “sarei missim”, which the translators usually render “taskmasters” (Ex. 1:11). “Mas”, the singular of “missim”, is something imposed upon you by force. In modern Hebrew it conveys the idea of imposed taxation. Hence a better translation of “sarei …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

iPHONES & IDOLATRY. Question.   When I was younger I took great care of my car. One day my grandfather saw me kneeling next to my car waxing it and told me that what I was doing was akin to idol worship. Today’s youth think nothing of spending the night …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyechi.

MOLDING YOUR OWN DESTINY. On his death bed Jacob wants to reveal the future to his children – “Gather and let me tell you what will befall you at the end of days” – but God prevents this from happening (Rashi on Gen. 49:1). We can understand that knowing the …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

HOW MUCH ARE YOU WORTH? In ancient Israel one could donate to the sanctuary the sum of money which represented the valuation a person placed upon himself or one of the family. It was a technical procedure. The amount of the valuation ranged from 5 to 50 shekels depending on …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyiggash

Apologies to Rabbi Apple and readers. This should have been posted a few days ago but wit all the holidays it got completely overlooked. LOUD & QUIET VOICE. After a lot of drama. Joseph and his brothers are finally reconciled. Years of estrangement fall away. All of Egypt soon hears …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

JEWS AS THE DEVIL. Question.  Why do medieval texts think the Jew is a devil? Answer.    Joshua Trachtenberg analyses the story in his book, “The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism”, 1943. He makes it clear that whoever did …

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Think Again. # we’ll walk with Tori Johnson & Katrina Dawson.

Once again I am posting a beautiful item written by my rabbi in this week’s newsletter from my shul/synagogue, Coogee. NSW. I have to say I was in tears at the end of reading this. I went to visit the makeshift shrine at Martin Place today. The overall sombre tone …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Mikketz.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH JOSEPH? Things did not prove easy for Joseph. The lad who embodied so much potential, who dreamt such visions of the future, was degraded and sold as a slave by his own brothers. Whether they were justified in taking offence at what he dreamt and said …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Chanukah Features.

NOT BECAUSE OF THE CHRISTIANS. Many people think that Chanukah has a “mazal” because of the Christians. If it didn’t fall in December around Christmas time, they argue, Chanukah would never have attained such popularity. According to this view, Jews – especially in America – needed their own celebration to …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyeshev.

TEMPTATION, PENN STATION. The plea that we should not be tempted into sin is not only found in the Jewish prayer book, but in other faiths too. Children of a certain different religion who were supposed to say, “Lead us not into temptation” are on record in New York as …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Chanukah Features

SEEING & BELIEVING. The Chanukah blessings are followed by “HaNerot Halalu”, a meditation about the lights we kindle. It is both a moment of spirituality and a halachic summary reminding us that the Chanukah lights are to be looked at and not to be used. There is quite a different …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyishlach

BOXING & WRESTLING. A television station once brought me from Sydney to Melbourne to take part in a programme about boxing. I told them of course that though there were famous Jewish boxers, the morality of boxing was highly suspect. They didn’t ask me about wrestling, but I would have …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

SHAKING HANDS WITH WOMEN. Question.  Is my rabbi right in not shaking hands with women? Answer.     Physical contact with women is a halachic problem, even with one’s own wife when she is “niddah”. Many authorities rule against shaking hands with women if there could be any sexual or erotic interest …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyetzei

COMINGS & GOINGS. The portion begins with the phrase, “And Jacob went out from Beer Sheva and went to Haran” (Gen. 28:11). According to Rashi, it would not have been enough to tell us where he went to, Haran, without also informing us where he came from, Beer Sheva. So …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

MAN: THE SUMMIT OF CREATION? Question.  Is man the summit of creation? Answer.     The sages think so. They put into the mouth of the human being the words, “bish’vili nivra ha-olam” – “For my sake was the world created” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). It is not merely that the whole …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Tol’dot

  THE CHILD A PARENT WOULD PREFER. Jacob and Esau each had his parental champion. Rebekah preferred Jacob; Isaac preferred Esau (Gen. 25:28). Jacob was quiet and studious, finding his pleasures in and around the home; Esau was macho and active, enjoying being out and about. The family dynamics were …

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