Tag Archives: Ask the Rabbi

Oz Torah: Divinity & the dinosaurs – Ask the Rabbi.

DIVINITY & THE DINOSAURS. Q. How can Judaism say the universe is 5778 years old when science proves that dinosaurs lived long before this? A. There is a widespread view that science and religion are eternal enemies. However, the scientists themselves don’t think so. One scientist after another has pointed …

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Oz Torah: Who needs Mashi’ach? – Ask the Rabbi.

WHO NEEDS MASHI’ACH? Q. Who needs the Mashi’ach? Can’t we just get on with life on earth? A. The basic idea behind the messianic belief is that history has to be going somewhere. For Judaism, that “somewhere” is the age of perfection ushered in and presided over by a messianic …

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Oz Torah: Copyright – Ask the Rabbi.

JEWS & GENTILES. Q. What do Jewish teachings say about the way in which Jews should interact with non-Jews? A. The Talmudic attitude to gentiles was ambivalent. It is obvious from the Mishnah tractate Avodah Zarah that there was considerable contact with non-Jews, but at the same time Jews were …

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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Ask the Rabbi “What is a Jew?’

WHAT IS A JEW? Q. I know you must have been asked a thousand times, but what is a Jew? A. The problem is that there is no one word which completely answers the question. Countless attempts have been made, of course. Religion is a crucial element, but so is …

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Oz Torah: Believing others – Ask the Rabbi

BELIEVING OTHERS. Q. Should you believe what people tell you? A. Yehoshua ben P’rachyah’s principle in Pir’kei Avot is, “Hevei dan et kol ha’adam l’chaf z’chut” – “Judge everyone in the scale of merit” (Avot 1:6). In other words, give other people the benefit of the doubt, and put the …

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Oz Torah: Tu BiSh’vat features – Ask the Rabbi

ME & THE TREE. Tu BiSh’vat, the New Year for Trees, is a relatively late arrival on the Jewish scene.  The festival derived from the rabbis, not from the Bible. It was observed in Sh’vat because this was the changeover time for tithing fruit trees, but it could have been …

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Oz Torah: Women’s brains – Ask the Rabbi

WOMEN’S BRAINS. Q. How can the Talmud say that women have no brains? A. It doesn’t. The statement you must be thinking of is “nashim da’atan kalah alehen” (Shab. 33b, Kidd.80b). I know that some people who read the words superficially think they mean that women are light-minded, but the …

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Oz Torah: The Sanhedrin & unanimous conviction – Ask the Rabbi.

THE SANHEDRIN & UNANIMOUS CONVICTION. Q. Is it true that if a Sanhedrin unanimously votes to convict a defendant, the unanimous verdict cannot stand? A. 23 judges sat on the Sanhedrin trying capital cases. If there were a majority of one in favour of acquittal, the accused was acquitted; for …

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Oz Torah: Living in a cage – Ask the Rabbi

LIVING IN A CAGE. Q.  Keeping the commandments seems to put you in a cage which gives you no freedom.  You have to obey or else.  How can Judaism demand this? A.  Emmanuel Levinas used this analogy when he said that to take refuge in moral or ritual codes is …

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Oz Torah: Bible chapters – Ask the Rabbi

BIBLE CHAPTERS. Q. Did the Bible always have chapters and verses? A. Not in Judaism. The chapters and verses came from Christian sources and, as we shall see, do not always subdivide the Hebrew text logically. During the Middle Ages, when Jews were compelled to take part in disputations with …

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Oz Torah; Mixed marriages & shule boards – Ask the Rabbi

BEN EZRA IN THE POETRY OF BROWNING. Q. Who was the Rabbi Ben Ezra about whom the English poet Browning wrote? A. Born in Toledo, Spain, in 1092, he visited England in 1158 and called it “an island in the corner of the world” (“Angleterre”). He likened the London fogs …

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