OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.


Question.     I am annoyed with myself for doing the wrong thing. How can I get over my guilt?

Answer.        You can’t. You can live with guilt, but use it constructively. Instead of obsessing, recognise where you went wrong, and use that knowledge to do right.

As a Jewish moralist said, if you sinned with your words, use your mouth to speak nicely to and of other people. If you sinned with your feet, use them to walk towards good causes. If you sinned with your money, become a generous supporter of those who need your help.

There are books on the subject, and while I don’t recommend one as against another I draw your attention to “What’s So Bad About Guilt? Learning to live with it since we can’t live without it”, by Harlan J Wechsler (Simon & Schuster, 1990).

He distinguishes between appropriate and inappropriate guilt. Inappropriate guilt tears us apart by undermining our self-worth. Appropriate guilt recognises the value of the person while admitting the wrongness of the deed, leading to introspection and self-improvement.


Question.     Is it true – as some Christians claim – that Isaiah chapter 53 alludes to Jesus?

Answer.        The chapter refers to a servant who suffers on behalf of others. It is one of a number of “servant” poems (e.g. Isaiah 42:1-4; 43:10; 44:1-2; 45:4; 48:20; 49:3-6; 52:13-15) where the servant is clearly Israel.

The Soncino Isaiah says about chapter 53, “The Babylonians, or their representative, having known the servant, i.e. exiled Israel idealised, in his humiliation and martyrdom, and now seeing his exaltation and new dignity, describe their impressions and feelings”. The Interpreter’s Bible, a Christian work, says, “The servant is certainly Israel”. The New English Bible heads Isaiah 53, “Israel a light to the nations”.

The popular Christian reading of the text often relies on inaccurate translations of the Hebrew and takes passages out of context; in this case chapters 40 to 55 deal with the suffering Jews exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar and their return to Jerusalem. They do not refer to Jesus. Nor, despite Nathan of Gaza, do they refer to Shabbetai Zvi, the 17th century false messiah.


Question.     Certain months appear in the Torah, e.g. Aviv, the month of spring. Others are identified by numbers, e.g. “The 7th month” (=Tishri). What about the current names?

Answer.        Some come in the later books of Scripture; most are postexilic and are from other languages.

* Nisan is linked with the Babylonian first month, Nisanu; some derive it from the Hebrew “n-s-a”, to start. In the Torah it is Aviv, spring.

* Iyyar may be associated with the Hebrew “or”, light. In Tanach it is Ziv, brightness.

* Sivan is possibly linked with Assyrian Samu/Asamu, to mark or appoint, like “sim” in Hebrew.

* Tammuz may be from “Dumuzi”, a semitic deity.

* Av is an Assyrian name not mentioned in the Bible. A fuller version, M’nachem Av, “Av the Comforter”, recalls the belief that the Messiah will be born in this month.

* Ellul is Babylonian (Neh. 6:15).

* Tishri is from “sherai/shera”, to begin.

* Cheshvan or Mar-Cheshvan (I Kings 6:38) may be from the Assyrian Arahsammus, eighth month.

* Kislev is Assyrian (Zech. 1:1, 7:1).

* Tevet (Esther 2:16), linked with the Assyrian/Babylonian Tebetum, may be from a Hebrew root “taba”, to dip or sink (there is much rainfall this month).

* Sh’vat (Zech. 1:7) could be from a root “sh-t”, beating or shrinking.

* Adar (Esther 3:7) is possibly from “Adromelech”, a son of the king (Sennacherib).


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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