Tag Archives: Ask the Rabbi

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

HAMAN & MORDECHAI – REVERSE IMAGES. Countless generations have found it amusing. Some are completely scandalised. The halachah tells us that on Purim one should imbibe “until one does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai'”. Maimonides does not take this too literally but thinks …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

THE REAL STORY OF PURIM. Question.   Why do we make such a fuss about Purim when the whole story was a minor episode in the life of a Diaspora community, away from the mainstream of Jewish history? Answer.     This is the generally accepted interpretation of Purim, but it is …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

LIVING WITH GUILT. 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. …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

EXECUTING TERRORISTS. Question.    Should terrorists who commit murder be executed? Answer.      Written and conventional legal systems all agree that murder is wrong. Human life, without distinction as to creed, colour or ethnicity, is sacred and must be preserved. Even the person who carries out a killing has …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

MAZEL TOV TO THE TREES. Mazel tov to the trees. This week, on 15 Sh’vat, they will have their new year. Not that they are probably aware of it, though there is a Jewish belief that nature does have a form of self-awareness and even the trees and plants praise …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

PLAGIARISM. Question.     I read an article which sounded familiar. I checked and found that the author had lifted and passed off as his own work whole sections from something I had written. This is against Jewish law, isn’t it? Answer.        Plagiarism, the theft of another …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

FREE WILL. Question.  Does Judaism believe that human beings really have free will? Answer.    The question has two aspects: 1. Do we choose what to do or are we controlled by God? 2. If we have free choice, does God know in advance what we will choose? Every Jewish …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

STATUS OF THE FATHER. Question.   Everyone knows that the child of a Jewish mother is regarded as Jewish, regardless of who the father is.  If both parents are Jewish, does the father determine any aspect of the child’s Jewish identity? Answer.     The father determines whether one is a Kohen (one …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

iPHONES & IDOLATRY. Question.   When I was younger I took great care of my car. One day my grandfather saw me kneeling next to my car waxing it and told me that what I was doing was akin to idol worship. Today’s youth think nothing of spending the night …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

HOW MUCH ARE YOU WORTH? In ancient Israel one could donate to the sanctuary the sum of money which represented the valuation a person placed upon himself or one of the family. It was a technical procedure. The amount of the valuation ranged from 5 to 50 shekels depending on …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

JEWS AS THE DEVIL. Question.  Why do medieval texts think the Jew is a devil? Answer.    Joshua Trachtenberg analyses the story in his book, “The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism”, 1943. He makes it clear that whoever did …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Chanukah Features.

NOT BECAUSE OF THE CHRISTIANS. Many people think that Chanukah has a “mazal” because of the Christians. If it didn’t fall in December around Christmas time, they argue, Chanukah would never have attained such popularity. According to this view, Jews – especially in America – needed their own celebration to …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

SHAKING HANDS WITH WOMEN. Question.  Is my rabbi right in not shaking hands with women? Answer.     Physical contact with women is a halachic problem, even with one’s own wife when she is “niddah”. Many authorities rule against shaking hands with women if there could be any sexual or erotic interest …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

MAN: THE SUMMIT OF CREATION? Question.  Is man the summit of creation? Answer.     The sages think so. They put into the mouth of the human being the words, “bish’vili nivra ha-olam” – “For my sake was the world created” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). It is not merely that the whole …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

ORTHODOXY TODAY. Question.   What is the state of Jewish Orthodoxy today? Answer.      British Jewry recently produced a report that confirms what many of its leaders have been feeling for years, that young people are more Orthodox than their elders. Once upon a time the growing movements were the Reform …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

ANIMALS AS PETS. Question.   Does Jewish law approve of having cats and dogs as pets? Answer.  Animals feature regularly in Biblical literature – the story of the animals on Noah’s Ark is an example – but they were regarded as mostly meant for utilitarian purposes, e.g. horses to ride on …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

SELAH. 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 …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

RETIREMENT. Question.     Is it a sin to give up work since the Torah says, “Six days shall you work”? Answer.       What is the status of the words, “Six days shall you work”? Is this a positive mitzvah in the sense that if you don’t work …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.- Yom Kippur.

“AVINU” BEFORE “MALKENU” Question.   In “Avinu Malkenu”, why does “Avinu” (“Our Father”) precede “Malkenu” (“Our King”)? Answer.      Before answering you in detail let me register an objection to the wish of some people to replace “Our Father” with “Our Parent” and “Our King” with “Our Ruler”. These are classical …

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