Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stop Acting Like a 40 Year Old!

Question of the Week:

Can you explain why Genesis describes the lifespan of the early generations as being incredibly long? Adam is said to have died at age 930, Noah was almost 500 when he started building the ark (not bad!) and Methuselah lived a world record 969 years! So what happened? Why don't we live that long anymore?


The longevity of our patriarchs raises several questions. What does it feel like to hit 900? When did they have their mid-life crisis? Were centenarians getting up to teenage mischief? Did parents tell their children, "Stop acting like a forty year old!"?

Whatever the case, we find that the first few generations lived extremely long, and then after Noah's flood the average lifespan reduced dramatically, with people living about as long as we do today.

The main difference between the earlier generations and the later is that in the first generations of humanity, they were all new souls. The souls of Adam and Eve, their children and grandchildren were coming into this world for the first time. Not so the following generations, who possessed souls that had been here before and were sent back in another incarnation.

Each soul comes down into this world to fulfill a set of missions, and it is given a lifespan that is long enough to complete these missions. But if for whatever reason a soul does not complete all the work it needs to in one lifetime, it is given more chances. A reincarnated soul is a spark of an earlier soul that comes back to earth in a new body to complete unfinished business from its previous life.

The earlier generations had big souls and long life spans, because they were fresh and new and had a lot of work to do. But things didn't always work out as planned, and so their souls had to come back and tidy things up. These big souls were spread out among thousands and millions of reincarnations, smaller souls with less work to do, and thus shorter life times to do it.

None of us know how much time we have, but we do know that we don't have centuries. We don't have the luxury to start building our ark when we are 500. Better start now.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Are You Waving Branches Around?

Question of the Week:

Someone asked me why we wave the Lulav in six directions - right, left, forward, up, down, backward. I didn't really know how to answer. Is there a simple way to explain this?


The four species that we bless on Sukkos correspond to the four letters in G-d's Hebrew name. Waving them in all six directions signifies our faith that G-d is everywhere. Specifically, we are saying that on every level, at every stage of life, in all that happens to us, G-d is there.

Right and left represent Chesed and Gevurah, the power of love and the power of discipline. G-d, like a parent, can be loving and can also be strict. Sometimes G-d's light shines on us, other times we feel left in the dark and have to find our way through on our own. Whether things are good in life or things are tough, it is all coming from G-d. He knows exactly what we need, and that's what we get.

Up and down symbolize the highs and lows of life. When we feel we are on top of the world, we need to remember that G-d put us up there. When we feel down in the dumps, we need to have faith that G-d is with us there. There is no success without help, and there is no failure without hope.

Forward and backward stand for the future and the past. We don't know what tomorrow holds, but we have faith that G-d will guide us through whatever lies ahead. And as for the past, all that has happened to us is a part of the plan. All our past experiences, even those that we would rather forget, made us who we are today. We are where we are now because that is exactly where G-d wants us to be. Our entire past was a lead up to this moment. G-d brought you here for a reason.

So the four species are waved around, to recognise that G-d is everywhere, in the good and the bad, in the ups and the downs, in the uncertain future and the turbulent past. And in the middle of all that is you. You are doing the waving. Because ultimately, G-d will be there for you in all you do, if you only let Him in.

Good Yomtov,

Rabbi Moss

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pregnant and Fasting?

Question of the Week:

I am five months pregnant and was told that I definitely don't have to fast on Yom Kippur. But then someone told me that I definitely do. So what is it? Do I fast or not?


As a mother to be, you want the best for your baby. You want to do anything possible to give your child everything he or she needs for the future. So if you can, you should at least try to fast.

This is what Jewish mothers have been doing for thousands of years. They withhold food from their unborn babies for one day, and then spend the rest of their life over-feeding them to make up for it.

Of course, if you have a specific medical condition or there are any complications with your pregnancy, you may be forbidden to fast, and a doctor and a rabbi should be consulted. But in normal circumstances, pregnancy is not a medical condition, it is a natural state, and fasting once will have no negative effect on you or the baby whatsoever. In fact, the opposite may be true.

The Talmud tells of a pregnant woman who smelt food on Yom Kippur and craved to eat it. They reminded her that it was a fast day, and she refrained. The child she bore grew to become the saintly leader Rabbi Yochanan. His greatness was partly credited to his mother's fasting even when it was not easy.

You have to be practical. Drink a lot of fluids beforehand, and rest on the day itself. If staying home in bed will make it easier, then that's what you should do. Fasting is more important than going to shul. And watch yourself as you fast. If you feel faint or lightheaded or anything unusual, you may need to break the fast. Don't be overly strict. But don't dismiss the fast entirely. Plan to complete the fast, and see how you go.

May you have an easy fast, an easy birth, and a child who will appreciate that it's worth being uncomfortable for things we believe in.

Good Shabbos and Good Yomtov,

Rabbi Moss

Note: The specific laws pertaining to fasting for a woman close to her due date, in labor or immediately after childbirth vary. A competent rabbi should be consulted in all cases.