Tag Archives: oz Torah

Oz Torah: Insights on Sh’mini Atzeret & Simchat Torah.

THE RABBI’S RETREAT. The Rabbi of Sassov, Rav Moshe Leib, used to ask why Sukkot, Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are so different from Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. He said he had found an answer when he saw that the Torah said that Sh’mini Atzeret was “a time of …

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Oz Torah: Insights on Succot.

THE TRUE JOY OF SUCCOT. Succot is called in Hebrew “z’man simchatenu”, “Our Time of Joy”. The Torah is the source of this description. Twice it uses the verb “samach”, to rejoice, in relation to Succot. It says “vesamachta b’chaggecha”, “You shall rejoice in your festival” (Deut. 16:14), and “vehayita …

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Oz Torah: – Insights on Yom Kippur .

WHERE’S THE MAGIC? The great failure of Yom Kippur is that it often doesn’t engage people with religion. Yes, the personnel of the synagogue do their best to convey the message that moves their lives. The words, the tunes, the ambiance all try to exert a magic. The seats are …

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Oz Torah: Insights on Rosh HaShanah.

BIG MAN, LITTLE GOD? The Book of Genesis has no doubt that man was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Not in the sense of a photograph, since by definition God has no shape or form. What He does have is will, wisdom, intellect, ethics, spirituality, speech and …

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Oz Torah: Poetry in the prayers – Ask the Rabbi.

POETRY IN THE PRAYERS. Q. There are so many difficult poems in the High Holyday prayers. Must we say them all? A. The liturgical poems are “piyyutim”, from the same Greek origin as the English “poet”. Not every community adopted the same piyyutim. Some rabbis strongly opposed piyyutic interpolations as …

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Oz Torah: Torah reading – Ki Tavo

TURNING DOWN THE INVITATION. A large part of the sidra is the “Tochechah”, the curses that come upon those who disobey God’s will. In many synagogues nobody wants to be called up for this portion, though they scramble for other sections of the Torah reading. Those who decline to be …

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Oz Torah: Alenu’s missing sentence – Ask the Rabbi

MEALS & MEMORIES. Q. On a spiritual day like Rosh HaShanah why do people focus on food? A. Some foods are symbolic such as apple and honey, which represent the hope of a sweet year. Many people have a whole array of “simanim”, symbolic foods. Apart from this, Nehemiah said, …

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Oz Torah: Killing idolaters – Ask the Rabbi.

KILLING IDOLATERS Q. Is it true that the Talmud says something about killing idolaters? A. In a number of versions there is a statement that reads in Hebrew “tov sheba’akum harog”, usually translated “Kill the best of the idolaters”. Instead of “idolaters” other versions say “mitzrim” (Egyptians), “k’na’anim” (Canaanites), and …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Blessing on the MOON.

Q. Can you explain “Kiddush L’vanah” (saying a prayer when we see the new moon)? A. The Sanhedrin used to proclaim the commencement of a new month after hearing evidence from witnesses who had seen the new moon. These days we work out the date of Rosh Chodesh by means …

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Oz Torah: Bread & war – Ask the Rabbi.

BREAD & WAR. Q. How can the Hebrew for bread (“lechem”) be connected to the word for war (“milchamah”)? A. Wars are often fought over economic issues. Not just conventional wars, but political tussles and elections. It is also said that securing one’s bread, the staff of life, is the …

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Oz Torah: Our national yahrzeit – Tishah B’Av.

Tishah B’Av features:  OUR NATIONAL YAHRZEIT. Fasting and praying on Tishah B’Av sounds like a good idea but only a minority take any note of the occasion. Most people are busy with their lives and aren’t interested in a historical commemoration. Surprising, since almost everyone observes their family Yahrzeits, and …

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Oz Torah: What is a Din Torah? – Ask the Rabbi

WHAT IS A DIN TORAH? Religious questions come before Batei Din (religious courts) every week of the year. One of their lesser known areas of activity is that of “Dinei Torah” – helping to solve disputes by means of arbitration and adjustment. As well as calling upon Jewish law and …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Orthodoxy and Reform.

ORTHODOXY & REFORM. Q. Why doesn’t orthodoxy accept that the Reform movement is a valid option in Judaism? A. It never happened that every Jew thought like every other Jew. “Two Jews – three opinions” is an expression of reality that goes even further than Elijah, who said, “How long …

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Oz Torah: Does the patient know best? – Ask the Rabbi

FAST & SLOW. This coming week is the Fast of 17 Tammuz, marking the breach in the walls that led to the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem. It opens the Three Weeks of mourning during which we avoid weddings and other celebrations. Why lament for the destruction of the …

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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: “We want Mashi’ach now” – Ask the Rabbi.

WE WANT MASHI’ACH NOW. Q. Do you agree with the Chabadniks who say, “We want Mashi’ach now”? A. Most Jews pay lip service to the idea of the Messiah but are not really that interested one way or the other. A Christian saint is said to have prayed, “God, make …

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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: 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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