Judaism/Spirituality

Oz Torah: Torah reading – Vayyechi

JACOB LIVED. The patriarch had two names – Jacob and Israel. After his all-night wrestle with the unnamed assailant, the name Jacob was replaced by Israel. Yet with this week’s portion we find “Jacob” back again: “Vay’chi Ya’akov”, “And Jacob lived”. Why does the text come back to the old …

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OzTorah – Torah reading: Vayyiggash

HE SAID THE SHEMA. Rashi tells us, following the rabbinic sages, that when Joseph and his elderly father Jacob finally met again, the pious old man said the Shema (Gen. 46:29). Perhaps it was because his first thought was to thank God that the long-cherished dream of reunion with his …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi..”Salvation”

SALVATION. Question. How do the Jewish and Christian views of salvation differ? Answer.The opening words of Psalm 27 are “HaShem Ori V’Yish’i” – “The Lord is my Light and Salvation”. Salvation (“yeshu’ah”) is a major concept in Judaism, but in a quite different sense to Christianity, which holds that a …

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OzTorah. Torah reading: Vayyishlach

WHY SHOULD ESAU CARE? Rashi turned a Biblical verse into a rhyme when he quoted Gen. 32:5, “Im Lavan gar’ti” (Jacob’s statement, “I dwelt with Laban”) into “Im Lavan gar’ti v’taryag mitzvot shamar’ti” (“I dwelt with Laban and observed the 613 commandments”). Who was Jacob talking to? His brother Esau. …

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Ask the Rabbi on “Maccabi or Maccabee?”

MAIMONIDES – PHILOSOPHER OR THEOLOGIAN? Q. How can some texts describe Maimonides as a philosopher? Wasn’t he a theologian? Aren’t the two roles contradictory? A.  As a theologian Maimonides uses rigorous philosophical methodology to reason about the faith and tradition which he upholds. It should be said, however, that modern …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyetzei.

A DOUBLE CAMP. At the end of the sidra, Jacob declares that a certain place is to be called “Machanayim” – literally, a double camp (Gen. 32:2). This place was the border post between Israel and the neighbouring land. As Rashi explains, basing himself on earlier rabbinic sources, it was …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Hypnosis

Question.   What is the Jewish opinion on hypnosis? Answer.      There are two issues – may a Jew practise or submit to hypnosis, and is an act performed under hypnosis deemed a conscious act by Jewish law? On the first issue, the answer depends on whether hypnosis is merely a …

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OzTorah: Torah reading: Vayyera.

                                     TWO LECH-L’CHAS. Last week’s sidra and this week’s both feature God calling to Abraham in the words, “Lech-l’cha!” The literal meaning is “Go for yourself”. In classical English, the message is “Betake yourself”. Rashi points out at the beginning of last week’s reading that the “l’cha” tells Abraham that …

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OzTorah: – Ask the Rabbi on “Kosher wine”

Question.     What can be non-kosher in ordinary wine? Answer.        Two considerations are relevant. The first is that wine was part of worship rites from ancient days. Judaism feared that ordinary wine could have been used or at least made for libations at heathen worship (“yayin nesech”). Hence, wine for Jewish …

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Judaism and the Golden Rule

Intrinsic to Judaism is the belief that everyone is made in G-d’s image and therefore we must treat all with humanity. This has been reinforced throughout the ages, as this Talmudic tale attests: Once there was a gentile who came before Shammai, and said to him: “Convert me on the …

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