Judaism/Spirituality

OzTorah: Torah reading – Tazria-M’tzora

IF CLOTHES COULD ONLY TALK. This week’s double sidra has a focus on leprosy. Whatever the medical definition of the leprosy of the Bible, it is a kind of disease that shows itself in not just the person’s body but their clothes (Lev. 13:47). Centuries of commentators raised the logical …

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OzTorah: Torah Reading. ‘Parashat Sh’mini’

TWO HALVES OF MARRIAGE. Sh’mini tells us about the kohanim, each of whom had a duty to have a wife.  The partnership between husband and wife enables both parties to complement each other. The Talmud has a section in Yevamot 62b-63a that offers many wise observations about marriage, including the …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

Question.   Does Judaism require a belief in mysticism? Answer.     Rufus Jones has said that mysticism is “religion in its most acute, intense, and living stage”, but while in some religions mysticism developed outside and even in opposition to the structured norm, the Jewish mystics were within the tradition, communed with …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi

Features for the end of Pesach PESACH & THE FIVE RABBIS. Five rabbis stayed up all night in Bnei Brak talking about the Exodus, and the Haggadah features the incident as if it were something unique. Some say that it was a covert national security meeting and though the words …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

THESE ARE THE TEN PLAGUES. The Haggadah lists “Elleh eser makkot”, “These are the Ten Plagues”, but the plagues did not stop at ten. Jewish and world history are full of other terrible experiences – ten times ten and more besides – and unlike the list in the Haggadah they …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Tzav

RESIDENTS & TOURISTS. The sidra tells us that the fire on the altar shall be left to burn continuously and must never be allowed to go out (Lev. 6:6). There is a comparison between the fire and the human being. King David said in the Psalms (27:4) that he yearned …

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OzTorah – Ask the Rabbi. A Pesach prelude.

DRAMATISING YOUR OWN STORY. Because of Pesach, our history can never recede into the past and become merely a page in a history book. The Haggadah says, “In every generation a person must regard him- or herself as if they emerged from Egypt”. We are all there amongst the Israelites …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayikra

A DEBATE BETWEEN GOD & MOSES. The tiny alef at the end of the word “Vayikra” has aroused the mind of countless generations. Normally every letter of the Chumash is written in standard size, neither bigger nor smaller than the others. This alef is an exception, and the Ba’al HaTurim …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

PROVING GOD. Question. How can you prove there is a God? Answer.   I have two quarrels with your question. The first quarrel is with the delineation of what the real issue is. What is the real issue? Whether there is God, not “a” (i.e. any) God. If there is …

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OzTorah:Torah reading-Vayakhel & P’kudei

SORRY RABBI, BUT I’M BORED. Congregant: “Rabbi, I’m sorry to jump on you like this at the Kiddush, but I want you to know why I probably won’t come to shule next week. “I more or less tolerated all those chapters a few weeks ago when the narrative was about …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

KOSHER BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS. Question.   All too often I see stories in the media about religious Jews who cheat others in business. Isn’t this a contradiction in terms? Answer.      Not only is it a contradiction, but it was specifically targeted by Rabbi Yisra’el Salanter (1810-1883) who founded the “Mussar” (“Ethical …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Ki Tissa

      WHO IS A GOOD JEW? This is the accepted translation of the opening words of the sidra: “When you take a count of the Children of Israel according to their number, each one shall pay a ransom for his soul.” The message seems to be that every …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

HAMAN & MORDECHAI – REVERSE IMAGES. Countless generations have found it amusing. Some are completely scandalised. The halachah tells us that on Purim one should imbibe “until one does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai'”. Maimonides does not take this too literally but thinks …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – T’tzavveh

 COUNTING THE COMMANDS. Enshrined in the name of the sidra is the verb “tz-v-h”, to command. Everyone knows the noun “mitzvah” which derives from this verb. (Even those who claim to know no Hebrew actually are aware of a bevy of Hebrew words, beginning with “shalom” and covering a host …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

THE REAL STORY OF PURIM. Question.   Why do we make such a fuss about Purim when the whole story was a minor episode in the life of a Diaspora community, away from the mainstream of Jewish history? Answer.     This is the generally accepted interpretation of Purim, but it is …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – T’rumah

HOW TO BE A DONOR. When the historian Cecil Roth called the post-war period the Philanthropic Age he had in mind the massive needs of Israel and the Jewish world in constructing a new age. Roth was speaking in the 1960s and since then the challenges have not grown any …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

LIVING WITH GUILT. Question.     I am annoyed with myself for doing the wrong thing. How can I get over my guilt? Answer.        You can’t. You can live with guilt, but use it constructively. Instead of obsessing, recognise where you went wrong, and use that knowledge to do right. …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Mishpatim

THESE – AND THESE. The sidra opens with an “and”: “And these are the judgments you shall place before them”. The “and” clearly links this sidra with last week’s, which describes the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, when, hushed into silence, the whole of creation waited for the …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

EXECUTING TERRORISTS. Question.    Should terrorists who commit murder be executed? Answer.      Written and conventional legal systems all agree that murder is wrong. Human life, without distinction as to creed, colour or ethnicity, is sacred and must be preserved. Even the person who carries out a killing has …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Yitro

SOUND OR SILENCE? Read chapter 19 of Sh’mot and see how many words are about noise – thunder, lightning, voice, speech. Read midrashic commentary and see how many words are about silence – hush, quiet, serenity, calm. Which set of words is more true? They both are. The Giving of …

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