Tag Archives: Ask the Rabbi

Oz Torah: Excommunication – Ask the Rabbi

COMPULSORY EDUCATION. Q. When did compulsory education commence among Jews? A. There is a difference between knowledge and education. According to the Torah, everyone must have knowledge, but the Shema ordains that this is to be imparted by the father. If, however, a child had a father who was unable …

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Oz Torah: Hip Hip Hooray – Ask the Rabbi.

HIP HIP HOORAY. Q. I have heard that Jews shouldn’t say “Hip Hip Hooray”. Is this true and, if so, why? A. I must have often joined in when people greeted one another with the shout, “Hip hip hooray” but I don’t intend to ever do it again. For one …

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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: 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: 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: 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: Living in a cage – Ask the Rabbi

LIVING IN A CAGE. Q.  Keeping the commandments seems to put you in a cage which gives you no freedom.  You have to obey or else.  How can Judaism demand this? A.  Emmanuel Levinas used this analogy when he said that to take refuge in moral or ritual codes is …

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Oz Torah: Bible chapters – Ask the Rabbi

BIBLE CHAPTERS. Q. Did the Bible always have chapters and verses? A. Not in Judaism. The chapters and verses came from Christian sources and, as we shall see, do not always subdivide the Hebrew text logically. During the Middle Ages, when Jews were compelled to take part in disputations with …

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Oz Torah; Mixed marriages & shule boards – Ask the Rabbi

BEN EZRA IN THE POETRY OF BROWNING. Q. Who was the Rabbi Ben Ezra about whom the English poet Browning wrote? A. Born in Toledo, Spain, in 1092, he visited England in 1158 and called it “an island in the corner of the world” (“Angleterre”). He likened the London fogs …

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Oz Torah: The Mikvah – Ask the Rabbi

FEMININITY & THE MIKVAH. Q. Why do brides have to go to the mikvah? A. A mikvah is a small pool constructed according to ancient rules. It contains 40 se’ahs (a se’ah is about 3 gallons) of natural water – from rain, a natural spring, etc. – though it may …

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Oz Torah: Rosh HaShanah features.

GOD WITHOUT RELIGION. No Jewish hymn is as popular as Adon Olam. Not only in the synagogue but on the concert platform and wherever people sing. The rhyme and rhythm are a godsend to pop-composers. Never mind that it is highly religious poetry and many people (performers and audiences alike) …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Put-down of women.

PUT-DOWN OF WOMEN. Q. Why does Judaism put down its women? A. I don’t agree that it does. There are uncomfortable things said about women, but there are also wonderful poems in their praise in both the Bible and rabbinic literature. Social mores denied a broad education to many women …

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Oz Torah: Ambition – Ask the Rabbi

AMBITION. Q. Does Judaism have a problem with people being ambitious? A. Alan Marshall, an Australian author who overcame polio, wrote a book, “I Can Jump Puddles!”   An American educator interviewed at the age of 70 said he was still climbing mountains, at least metaphorically. In the Book of …

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Oz Torah: Ghostbusters – Ask the Rabbi

GHOSTS. Q. Does Judaism believe in ghosts? A. Despite suggestions to the contrary, the answer is No. This applies regardless of whether the living try to summon up the ghost or whether the ghost appears on its own initiative. The Jewish belief as summed up by Maimonides (Guide 3:46) is …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi -The meaning of life.

THE MEANING OF LIFE. Q. What is the meaning of life? A. I cannot give you a one-liner that will say it all in a few words. What I can do is to quote Richard Rubenstein, who argues that after the Holocaust we have to say life is absurd, an …

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Oz Torah:Ask the Rabbi – THE HOLE IN THE WALL FAST.

THE HOLE IN THE WALL FAST. The wall of Jerusalem was breached on 17 Tammuz, enabling the enemy to enter Jerusalem and destroy the sanctuary. The fast we observe that day is, according to the prophet Zechariah, one of four that commemorate the destruction of the city and the Temple. …

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Oz Torah: Reading the Torah in translation – Ask the Rabbi

READING THE TORAH IN TRANSLATION. Q. I hear that our ancestors translated the Torah reading as they went. Why don’t we do the same? A. The ancient practice was to call up one person to read the Torah and another “l’targem”, “to translate” (into Aramaic) (Mishnah Meg. 4:6).  Even a …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Fundamentalists.

Question.   What can we do about Jewish fundamentalists? Answer.      The Mishnah B’rachot tells us that one may not enter the Temple mount with a “funda”, a money belt. From this word of Latin derivation comes the notion of a fund. A related word gives us the word …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – suicide

SUICIDE. Life is the supreme value, a gift from God to be cherished, appreciated and tended. Man is made in the image of God (not in a physical but an intellectual, spiritual and moral sense), so whoever destroys a life also diminishes God. We are warned to take care of …

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