Judaism/Spirituality

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

DEALING WITH INTERMARRIAGE Question.  Should synagogues welcome people who have married out? Answer. Before addressing your specific question, two prior axioms: We have to encourage marriage as a principle, with the commitment that it brings to each other and to the future; and we have to encourage people to marry within …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

ONLY THE LIVING CAN REMEMBER. On Tishah B’Av, remembering is the rule. Tragedies happened, and we have to remember them. Not just the destruction of the Temple, indeed both Temples, but the long procession of calamities that accompanied all the ages. Every time of year has its historical memories; every …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Mass’ei

EFFORT & EXPENSES. Mass’ei is the travel diary of Israel in the wilderness, introduced with the words, “And Moses wrote down their goings forth on their journeys” (Num. 33:2). The word for “their goings forth” is “motza’eihem”. Since the root is “yatza”, to go out, the word could possibly mean …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

INCOME TAX & “FIDDLING THE BOOKS” Question.  Is there any halachic reason why I can’t “fiddle the books” when it comes to paying my income tax? Answer.  Being a part of society comes at a cost. A halachic rule stated in the name of the sage Sh’muel, “dina d’malchuta dina”, …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Mattot

VOWS & PROMISES. The portion begins with a whole section about making vows. From the halachic point of view, the making of vows is a major issue. The halachic analyses of the Kol Nidre with which Yom Kippur commences could take up a library (as could the literary and historical …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

WHO KEEPS THE CHILDREN? Question.  Are there any Jewish laws about which parent should have custody of the children after a divorce? Answer.  You can of course leave it all to the lawyers and the courts but it is better all round for you to agree on these crucial issues …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Pinchas.

WHY WAS HE PINCHAS? One of the favourite hobbies of Biblical scholars is tracing the etymology of the names in the Bible. The Tanach itself starts the process when it explains the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and so many others. The Midrash continues and fills in many …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

MYSTICAL JUDAISM. Question.  Why does Judaism seem so earthly and practical? Why does it not focus more on mysticism? Answer.  It is true that mainstream Judaism seems to emphasise day-to-day religious practice, but this is not for lack of a sense of spirituality. On the contrary: it is, as Max …

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Aussie Women Rabbis’ – Strange Ethics

  I wrote previously about the ‘sacred’ concert at Temple Beth Israel, which featured the Islamic Call to Prayer by Abdul Aziz al Mathkour and Brother Wasem Razvi of the Islamic Research Education Academy (IREA), a group whose mission is to convert the infidel! As if that’s not bad enough, …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Balak

THE JEWISH ENIGMA. Judaism owes a debt to the heathen prophet Bilam. Not only did he coin the immortal words, “Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov” – “How goodly are your tents, O Israel” (Num. 24:5). He also epitomised the world’s fascination with the Jewish people when he said, “How can I …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

FOLLOWING ORDERS. Question. What is the Jewish approach to the “I was only following orders” excuse used by soldiers (and others) who commit abuses? Answer. In Judaism the first instance of the problem arises in regard to Abraham, to whom God says, “Your descendants will be strangers in a strange land …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Chukkat.

  MOSES & AARON: PARTNERS IN GREATNESS. Parashat Chukkat tells us of the death of Aaron the high priest (Num. 20:22-29). Aaron’s career was twofold – as careful keeper of the ritual procedures of the sanctuary, and as counsellor and peace-maker for his community. According to Rashi, the whole of …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

WOMEN’S VOICES. Question. Why does Jewish law object to women singing in front of men? Answer. The rule derived from the Talmud (Ber. 24a etc.) is “kol b’ishah ervah” – “A woman’s voice arouses (desire)”. I will come back to the “b” in front of “ishah”, but let me first address …

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Melbourne Jewish Temple’s Interfaith Deception!

  This week’s Jewish News featured an article – Music Bridges Faith Traditions – about a Sacred Music Concert held at Temple Beth Israel (TBI), “bringing together performers and communities from Melbourne’s Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Indigenous traditions”. The concert was based around composer Ernest Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service), …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Korach

MACHLOKET MAKERS. When Korach mutinied, Moses “fell on his face” (Num.16:4). Says Rashi, “Because of ‘machloket’ (disputes)”. We know that when scholars discuss and debate the Torah they put forward a range of interpretations. Sometimes their arguments become heated and noisy. Unpleasant scenes take place. Ugly things are said. What …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

OTHER WORLDS Question. Does Judaism accept the possibility of other worlds? Answer. We constantly make a distinction between “olam hazeh” – this world – and “olam haba” – the World to Come. But I don’t think this is what you are asking. Your question is more likely to be whether …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Sh’lach L’cha

  DIDN’T JOSHUA REMEMBER? Moses sent twelve spies to check out the land before entering and settling it. Not that God commanded the investigation: He told Moses, “Send spies if that is what you desire”. The story of what happened is well known. Apart from Joshua and Caleb, ten of …

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