OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.


Question.   What is meant by “Selah”, which occurs so often in the Siddur?

Answer.       “Selah” appears more than seventy times in the Psalms, generally placed at the end of a sentence or paragraph. The root is “sal”, probably from “sullam”, “a ladder”; originally the root means “to heap up” or “to raise up”, e.g. heaping sheaves of corn (Jer. 1:26); or heaping up the earth to make a highway (Isaiah 57:14; 62:10).

“Selah” signifies, in the first place, “continually”, or “for ever”, as time is heaped upon time. To give a few examples:

“I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill, ‘Selah’” (continually); “Salvation belongs to the Lord: Your blessing is upon Your people, ‘Selah’” (always); “He is the King of Glory, ‘Selah’” (for ever).

But this is not the only service which this word renders in the Psalms: it denotes also a musical pause at the close of a sentence. The chief musicians opened the Psalm vocally, and then the instrumentalists accompanied the songs with sweet sounds. The singers also had cymbals, loud sounding and high sounding, in their hands and when they arrived at the close of a sentence or paragraph, which terminated with “Selah” (an “elevation” or raising of the tones), the singers suspended their vocal music and used the loud cymbals. Then the leading musician gave the signal that all sounds should cease till he began the second sentence.

The Israelites could not all get inside the Temple on festival occasions, but had to stand in the outer court, and when the “Selah” was reached, even those who were furthest away heard the solemn raising of the tones unaccompanied with words, and in silence awaited the commencement of the next sentence.



Question.   Is gelatine kosher?

Answer.     When dried bones from a kosher species of animal go through chemical processes that render the substance unrecognisable and uneatable, they lose their original character and become a new entity, and the gelatine made from them is allowed by some authorities. However pig hides are deemed non-kosher and pig bones are considered unacceptable in all circumstances.

There are many authorities who forbid any gelatine derived from animal sources on the basis that when drying bones there is no guarantee that the mixture will be free of meat, and gelatine is collagen extract which is like marrow, not bone.

There are brands of gelatine available that are totally vegetarian.



Question.   Why do many people emphasise the “dalet” of the word “echad” in the first line of the Shema?

Answer.     “Echad” (“one”) is the crucial word in the sentence. The emphasis we place on it shows that the oneness of God (His uniqueness, His constancy, His indivisibility) is the main principle of Jewish faith.

The poetic phrase in Adon Olam says “V’hu echad v’ein sheni” – “He is one and there is no second (god)”, a Jewish response to the ancient doctrine of dualism. By extension it also refutes the trinitarian idea of three persons in one.

In addition, we could read into the “echad” an affirmation that only one being can be God and no matter how great a human being is, he cannot stand with God. An egotist tends to put him- or herself on a par with the Almighty – “God, maybe You are God, but I’m God too”. The Shema insists that only HaShem can be God.

That’s why do we extend the “dalet” when we say “echad”, because when writing the word it is so easy to make a mistake and write a “resh” instead of a “dalet”… and “resh” makes the word into “acher”, “someone else”.



Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, and was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesperson for Jews and Judaism on the Australian continent. Now retired and lives in Jerusalem.
Blog: http://www.oztorah.com

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