Judaism/Spirituality

Oz Torah: Shavu’ot features.

THE MITZVAH OF SHAVU’OT. The rabbi of my childhood synagogue called Shavu’ot the Cinderella festival, because in many circles it is rather unloved. The other festivals have colourful symbols to make them popular – the Seder on Pesach, the shofar on Rosh HaShanah, the lulav and sukkah on Sukkot, the …

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Oz Torah: Lag Ba’Omer features

UNRAVELLING THE LAG BA’OMER MYSTERY. 18 Iyyar this week is the minor festival of Lag Ba’Omer when the somber mood of the S’firat HaOmer is lifted to allow marriages and celebrations. Outside the Jewish people it was an important medieval period just after Easter when Christians embarked on Crusades to …

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Oz Torah:Torah reading – Acharei Mot-K’doshim.

THE PUNISHMENT OF AARON’S SONS. This week’s reading begins (Lev. 16:1) with the punishment of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu. The rabbis explain that one of the reasons for their punishment by summary death was that they came up to the altar in a state of drunkenness after drinking too …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi “What is a Jew?’

WHAT IS A JEW? Q. I know you must have been asked a thousand times, but what is a Jew? A. The problem is that there is no one word which completely answers the question. Countless attempts have been made, of course. Religion is a crucial element, but so is …

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Oz Torah: – Insights for the last days of Pesach .

THEY CAME ARMED. What did the Hebrews take on their trudge through the wilderness?  Wives, children, clothing, matzah to eat, water to drink? All these, but the Torah says something more: they went “chamushim” (Ex. 13:18), which Onkelos and others understand as “armed”, ready for the journey ahead and for …

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Oz Torah: Who is the most important son of the Haggadah?

WHO IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SON? The most important son at the Seder is not the wise one. He’s not the one for whom the Haggadah (Ex. 13:8, “v’higgad’ta levin’cha”, “you shall narrate to your son”) explains the laws of the festival. Being so studious, he is sure to want …

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Oz Torah: Torah reading – Vayikra

MILK & HONEY. The ancient Cheder began its Bible curriculum with the Book of Vayikra, but even before this, a child’s first Hebrew lessons commenced with the aleph-bet written on a slate in honey. The children licked off the honey and got a sweet taste of Torah learning. Not very …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Were we really slaves in Egypt?

WERE WE REALLY SLAVES? We all acclaim the redemption from Egypt, but did the slavery really happen? No, I haven’t become a revisionist.  My question is, were we really slaves? People all think so.  Did the Egyptians degrade us?  Certainly.  Did the taskmasters give us a hard time?  Of course. …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi.- THE KORAN & THE JEWS.

Jews Down Under has chosen to remove this piece because we did not agree with the following comment and weren’t willing to compromise our ideals. “Nonetheless, there is much common ground between Judaism and Islam – even more than with Christianity. Dialogue and co-operation between the two faiths (indeed trialogue …

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Oz Torah:Torah reading – Ki Tissa

GOD IS IN MY HEAD. The sidra opens with the words, “When you count the heads of the Children of Israel” (Ex. 30:12). Metaphorically the verse could be read as saying, “When you get inside the head of a Jew”. What does one find inside a Jewish person’s head? The …

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Oz Torah: Believing others – Ask the Rabbi

BELIEVING OTHERS. Q. Should you believe what people tell you? A. Yehoshua ben P’rachyah’s principle in Pir’kei Avot is, “Hevei dan et kol ha’adam l’chaf z’chut” – “Judge everyone in the scale of merit” (Avot 1:6). In other words, give other people the benefit of the doubt, and put the …

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Oz Torah: Vashti: A fraud married to a fiction – Purim feature

VASHTI – A FRAUD MARRIED TO A FICTION. Megilat Esther, the Book of Esther, is both a narrative of historical events and a study of human dynamics. Both aspects are far from simple. Both are debated by the scholars. What really happened in the Persia of Achashverosh and Esther, and …

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Oz Torah: How were Mordechai & Esther related? – Ask the Rabbi.

HOW WERE MORDECHAI & ESTHER RELATED? Q. My child came home from school and said her teacher told her that Esther was Mordechai’s cousin, but I always thought that she was his niece. Which is correct? A. In spite of popular arguments to the contrary, Mordechai and Esther were not …

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Oz Torah: Tu BiSh’vat features – Ask the Rabbi

ME & THE TREE. Tu BiSh’vat, the New Year for Trees, is a relatively late arrival on the Jewish scene.  The festival derived from the rabbis, not from the Bible. It was observed in Sh’vat because this was the changeover time for tithing fruit trees, but it could have been …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Sheva B’rachot

SHEVA B’RACHOT. Q. What is the significance of the Sheva B’rachot, the seven wedding blessings? A. These seven blessings are recited under the chuppah, at the wedding feast and during the following seven days when the celebrations continue in the presence of family and friends. The term sheva b’rachot is …

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Oz Torah: Orthodox Jews feeling they’re right – Ask the Rabbi.

ORTHODOX JEWS FEELING THEY’RE RIGHT. Q. Why do orthodox Jews always think they are right? Doesn’t the Talmud say, “These, and these, are the words of the living God”? A. It is not that orthodox Jews think they are right, but that God and His Torah are always right. When …

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Oz Torah: Women’s brains – Ask the Rabbi

WOMEN’S BRAINS. Q. How can the Talmud say that women have no brains? A. It doesn’t. The statement you must be thinking of is “nashim da’atan kalah alehen” (Shab. 33b, Kidd.80b). I know that some people who read the words superficially think they mean that women are light-minded, but the …

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Oz Torah: The Sanhedrin & unanimous conviction – Ask the Rabbi.

THE SANHEDRIN & UNANIMOUS CONVICTION. Q. Is it true that if a Sanhedrin unanimously votes to convict a defendant, the unanimous verdict cannot stand? A. 23 judges sat on the Sanhedrin trying capital cases. If there were a majority of one in favour of acquittal, the accused was acquitted; for …

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Oz Torah: Ask the rabbi. SHABBAT ZEMIROT

SHABBAT ZEMIROT. Q. Why do many people sing “z’mirot” (special table songs) during the Shabbat meals? A. It is an old custom to sing z’mirot at the Shabbat table. The z’mirot that are most widely known are full of liveliness and spirit, yet maybe, many centuries ago, they were livelier …

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Oz Torah: Chanukah features.

WHY BLAME THE GREEKS? During World War II when Rabbi Jacob Danglow was visiting Jewish internees in a camp in Australia, he conducted a Chanukah service and innocently mentioned Jewish problems with the Greeks. Unfortunately there were Greeks as well as Jews at that camp and a riot almost ensued. …

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