Judaism/Spirituality

Ask the Rabbi: BEEZLEBUB

BEEZLEBUB. Question.    I heard a Christian preacher refer to a demon called Beelzebub. Is this name known in Judaism? Answer.       In Christian scripture Beelzebub or Beelzebul is the chief of the demons (Matt. 12:24-27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15-18). The name derives from “Baal Z’vuv”, “lord of the flies”. In …

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OzTorah – Torah reading: Chukkat

POWER IN PARADOX. There is something in this week’s portion which is both strange and typical of Judaism. The law of the red heifer (Num. 19:2) requires a mixture of substances to be sprinkled in order to purify the impure. Strangely the process which purifies also does the opposite – …

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OzTorah – Torah reading: Korach

DID THEIR PROPERTY SIN? The punishment of Korach and his henchmen was that the earth opened up and swallowed them (Num. 16:32) – together with all their property and possessions. Readers of the story have long puzzled over the reference to the possessions being swallowed up. “Human beings can sin …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

WOMEN AT THE CEMETERY. Question.   Is it true that women should not go to a funeral? Answer.     This is a widespread view but it is more an emotional than halachic issue. Some people have the feeling that women are too emotional to face the harsh reality of a cemetery, …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – S’hlach L’cha

HOW COULD THEY GET IT SO WRONG? How could people who were as clever as the spies get it so wrong as to suggest that God would be unable to bring the nation safely into the Promised Land (Num. 14:27)? Perhaps they were scared at the big adjustment they would …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

Question.   How can a rabbi be called “Apple”? Answer.      “Apple” happens to be a distinguished, historic Jewish surname. In ancient times there were four leading Jewish families descended from the tribe of Judah – Min HaTappuchim or De Pommis (“Apple”), Adumim or De Rossi (“The Red Ones”), HaZ’kenim (“The …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – B’ha’alot’cha

PROPHECY IN A VISION. Num. 12:6 introduces us to the concept of prophecy. God says: “If a prophet of the Lord arises among you, I make Myself known to him in a vision”. Whilst priesthood comes from lineage, prophecy is personal. For Judah HaLevi, it is a Divine grace: for …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi

USING A CAR SPACE. Question.   A store has a free carpark for its customers but others have got wind of it and park there, which makes it difficult for the people for whom it was intended. Is there a Jewish ethical rule about this? Answer.     The parking facility is …

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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” – …

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OzTorah. – Ask the Rabbi.

SHAVU’OT – A CALENDRICAL GHOST? Everybody knows Shavu’ot is an important festival, but it doesn’t have a tractate to describe it. The others do – Pesachim, Rosh HaShanah, Yoma, Sukkah, even Megillah. There is no tractate of Chanukah, but that’s a different problem. There is no date specified for Shavu’ot …

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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” – …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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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