Judaism

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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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

MAZEL TOV TO THE TREES. Mazel tov to the trees. This week, on 15 Sh’vat, they will have their new year. Not that they are probably aware of it, though there is a Jewish belief that nature does have a form of self-awareness and even the trees and plants praise …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – B’shallach

EGYPTIAN SHAME. The Torah readings in recent weeks dealt with the ten plagues. We find them listed in short form in the Haggadah. They are part of Jewish history. But they don’t seem to figure in the Egyptian records. Strange, since they must have devastated the country and brought immense …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

PLAGIARISM. Question.     I read an article which sounded familiar. I checked and found that the author had lifted and passed off as his own work whole sections from something I had written. This is against Jewish law, isn’t it? Answer.        Plagiarism, the theft of another …

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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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