Judaism

Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi (Purim)

IN PRAISE OF ESTHER The more we delve into the events of the Megillah, the more questions we have. Nothing and no-one in the story is as simple and straightforward as they seem. In particular, no-one is as interesting as Esther – a humble girl without much yichus who becomes …

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Oz Torah: Torah reading: Vayikra

SHOWING OFF. One of the best known ideas in the Torah arises from the first word of this portion. God calls to Moses – “Vayikra el Moshe” – and the final letter of the Hebrew word is written small. Moses was too modest to think that God had specially chosen …

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Oz Torah. Ask the Rabbi BIBLE CRITICS

BIBLE CRITICS Question. What is your approach to Bible critics? Answer.   Biblical scholarship is often in the hands of non-believers who tend to see the Bible as a piece of ancient literature divorced from any thought of Revelation. They suggest that one can study it through literary and linguistic technicalities …

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Oz Torah: – Ask the Rabbi on women & divorce

SHABBAT ELECTRICITY Question. Why isn’t electricity allowed on Shabbat? Answer. You may benefit from electric appliances but not personally operate them. The problem is whether one may light a fire on Shabbat, which the Torah bans (Ex. 35:3). The arrival of electricity led to rabbinic discussion as to what is …

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Oz Torah: Torah reading – Vayakhel

A SHULE MEETING The Torah reading commences with Moses gathering the congregation to make an announcement. According to Rashi, the gathering took place on the day after Yom Kippur. What was so important that everyone had to be there? The observance of Shabbat. Now transfer the whole scenario to the …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on prostitution

PROSTITUTION Question. What is the Jewish view of prostitution? Answer. Based on the verses in the Bible, “There shall be no harlot of the daughters of Israel” (Deut. 23:18) and “Profane not your daughter to make her a harlot” (Lev. 19:29), Jewish teaching strongly disapproved of prostitution. It condemned as …

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Oz Torah: Torah Reading – parashat Ki Tissa

A LEADER’S RANSOM Counting heads is the subject of the opening section of this week’s portion. The Hebrew literally means “When you take the head of the Children of Israel” – an instruction about taking a census. Look at the word “rosh” (as head) in a different sense and it …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on Two Adars

TWO ADARS. Q. Why do we have two months called Adar? A. An ordinary year has only one Adar. In a leap year there are two – Adar Rishon (Adar I) and Adar Sheni (Adar II). Leap years, seven times in every 19 years, ensure that the Jewish lunar calendar …

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Oz Torah. Torah reading: T’tzavveh

BELLS ON THE ROBE There were many little bells on the hem of the kohen gadol’s robe. The Talmud says (Z’vachim 88b) that there were 72 bells, 36 on each side; another view says 36, 18 on each side. The rabbis thought the bells were there so that everyone would …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Do the Lawyers care?

Question. Is there a Jewish perspective on criticising lawyers? Answer. What clients often say about legal practitioners is that they don’t seem to care. No longer do people have long-standing professional relationships with a benign, trusted doctor, lawyer, accountant or minister, often known and trusted by them and their family …

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Oz Torah: Insights on parashat T’rumah

BUILDING AN EDIFICE It is in this sidra that the creation of the sanctuary is instituted. “They shall make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them”, is the crucial verse (Ex. 25:8). The commentators all seize on the word “b’tocham”, “among them”. It is not so much the …

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Oz Torah: Ask the rabbi. Criticising the government

Question.  What right do we have to criticize a democratically elected government? Surely Judaism believes in loyalty to duly appointed leaders. Answer.     Judaism does not support the early Christian doctrine, “Render unto God the things that are God’s and to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matt. 22:21). …

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Oz Torah. Torah reading: Mishpatim

SHIELDING THE STRANGER Ex. 22:20 is one of over thirty passages in the Torah which command us to look after the stranger because we were strangers in the land of Egypt (this happens to be one of the places where the Torah spells out the reason behind its laws). The …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on “Who were the women?”

WHO WERE THE WOMEN? Question. Who was it that successfully agitated for women to be allowed to undertake extra mitzvot (good deeds)? Answer. The issue revolves around which category of commandments we are dealing with. There are actions which are commanded and actions which are prohibited. The second category is …

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Oz Torah:Ask the Rabbi -Personal choice & the Commandments

Question. Why should I obey the Jewish commandments if I don’t want to? Shouldn’t personal choice play a part in my religious observance? Answer.    “If I don’t want to” is highly subjective. Try a different context. Can I say, “Why should I obey the traffic laws if I don’t …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi “Do animals know about God?

Question. Do animals know there is a God? Answer.   According to the Midrash, God rebuked David for boasting that no-one could sing praises as well as he could. “Every creature,” God told him, “has its own way of praising its Maker.” The birds chirp. The horses neigh. The cows low. …

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Oz Torah. Torah reading: Bo

JUMPING THE GUN There is a rabbinic tradition that the tribe of Ephraim were in such a hurry to be free from slavery that they left Egypt thirty years before the appointed time (they had misunderstood a passage in Gen. 15:13 and miscalculated the date of the deliverance). They did …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on “Criticising people harshly”

CRITICISING PEOPLE HARSHLY Question. Is it right to criticise people harshly? Answer.   There is a right way to criticise, and a wrong way. The curse of the Tochechah in the Torah are read in a soft, almost inaudible voice. The Reader does not enjoy pronouncing harsh words or rebuke. He …

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Oz Torah: Torah reading – Va’era

WHO WAS MOSES? There is a classical essay by Ahad HaAm which asks the question, “Who essentially was Moses?” Ahad HaAm examines a number of theories, e.g. Moses was a general, Moses was a legislator, Moses was a prophet. Another approach comes in the Torah itself. In Ex. 2:19 he …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on L’chayyim

Question. Why do we say “L’Chayyim” when we have a drink? Answer.    Wine “gladdens the human heart” (Psalm 104:15). In moderation it is an aid to health; the sages used to say when they took a drink, “Wine and health to the rabbis and their students!” (Shabbat 67b). But wine …

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