Judaism/Spirituality

OzTorah: Torah reading – B’har-B’chukkotai.

(In Israel, the reading this week is B’chukkotai only.) WE DON’T MAKE A BLESSING. B’har is where we meet the fundamental principle of charity: “If your brother has become poor, and his strength has dwindled beside you, then you shall uphold him” (Lev. 25:35). Note the words, “your brother” – …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

HOW WAS THE TORAH WRITTEN? Question.    Did Moses write the whole Torah at one sitting? Answer.       The sages of the Talmud (Yoma 37b, Gittin 60a) say that the Torah was given “m’gillah m’gillah” (“scroll by scroll”), i.e. section by section. According to this theory, the Torah was not …

Read More »

Think again! – A Bonfire in Bondi

So this week the bonfire celebration of Lag B’omer lit up the night sky at No. 1 Penkivil Street Bondi on the small vacant lot near the Tzemach Tzedek shule. I don’t know how Benny Amzalak (President of Tzemack Tzedek shule) pulled this one off in a residential area, especially …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah reading – Emor.

COUNTING EVERY BLESSING. A central feature of this week’s reading is the command to bring an “omer”, a measure of barley, to the sanctuary, beginning on the second day of Pesach. From that moment we have to count 49 days until the festival of Shavu’ot. Maimonides tells us that the …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN INDONESIA. Indonesia should be ashamed of itself for executing two Australians as well as a few others.  It is not that the people who were executed were lily white.  Indonesia has processes of law which led to their sentencing.  No-one denies the Indonesian right to have strict …

Read More »

Think Again – Exodus 21:23 – “A life for a life”

Think again! State sanctioned death penalty is cruel.  It displays a distinctly vengeful, barbaric, indifferent and callous society.  A Jew struggles with the culture of the death penalty in the simple knowledge of the sanctity of the soul and indeed the sacredness of the body.  Our bodies are not ours …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah reading – Acharei Mot – K’doshim.

SABBATHS & SANCTUARIES. K’doshim says, “Keep my Sabbaths and respect My sanctuary” (Lev. 19:30). Targum Onkelos adds two words for the sake of greater clarity: “Keep My Sabbath Days” (which shows, says Sforno, that the phrase includes festivals) and “respect My sacred House” (which Rashi and others say includes all …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

EQUAL RIGHTS. Question.   In the eyes of God, do we all have equal rights? Answer.      Some countries have a Bill of Rights that spells out people’s entitlements. But many of us claim all sorts of extras – not just free medicine, free education and free handouts, but …

Read More »

From Promised Land to Promised Home.

Summary: God is the original Zionist. Judaism is a unique religion in many respects: Every other religion is based primarily on faith. Judaism is based primarily on lineage. Every other religion is based on belief. Judaism is based on action. Every other religion is not geographically-bound. Judaism is tied to the …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »