Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

Oz Torah: Torah reading – Vayikra

MILK & HONEY. The ancient Cheder began its Bible curriculum with the Book of Vayikra, but even before this, a child’s first Hebrew lessons commenced with the aleph-bet written on a slate in honey. The children licked off the honey and got a sweet taste of Torah learning. Not very …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Were we really slaves in Egypt?

WERE WE REALLY SLAVES? We all acclaim the redemption from Egypt, but did the slavery really happen? No, I haven’t become a revisionist.  My question is, were we really slaves? People all think so.  Did the Egyptians degrade us?  Certainly.  Did the taskmasters give us a hard time?  Of course. …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi.- THE KORAN & THE JEWS.

Jews Down Under has chosen to remove this piece because we did not agree with the following comment and weren’t willing to compromise our ideals. “Nonetheless, there is much common ground between Judaism and Islam – even more than with Christianity. Dialogue and co-operation between the two faiths (indeed trialogue …

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Oz Torah:Torah reading – Ki Tissa

GOD IS IN MY HEAD. The sidra opens with the words, “When you count the heads of the Children of Israel” (Ex. 30:12). Metaphorically the verse could be read as saying, “When you get inside the head of a Jew”. What does one find inside a Jewish person’s head? The …

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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: Vashti: A fraud married to a fiction – Purim feature

VASHTI – A FRAUD MARRIED TO A FICTION. Megilat Esther, the Book of Esther, is both a narrative of historical events and a study of human dynamics. Both aspects are far from simple. Both are debated by the scholars. What really happened in the Persia of Achashverosh and Esther, and …

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Oz Torah: How were Mordechai & Esther related? – Ask the Rabbi.

HOW WERE MORDECHAI & ESTHER RELATED? Q. My child came home from school and said her teacher told her that Esther was Mordechai’s cousin, but I always thought that she was his niece. Which is correct? A. In spite of popular arguments to the contrary, Mordechai and Esther were not …

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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: Ask the Rabbi – Sheva B’rachot

SHEVA B’RACHOT. Q. What is the significance of the Sheva B’rachot, the seven wedding blessings? A. These seven blessings are recited under the chuppah, at the wedding feast and during the following seven days when the celebrations continue in the presence of family and friends. The term sheva b’rachot is …

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Oz Torah: Orthodox Jews feeling they’re right – Ask the Rabbi.

ORTHODOX JEWS FEELING THEY’RE RIGHT. Q. Why do orthodox Jews always think they are right? Doesn’t the Talmud say, “These, and these, are the words of the living God”? A. It is not that orthodox Jews think they are right, but that God and His Torah are always right. When …

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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: Ask the rabbi. SHABBAT ZEMIROT

SHABBAT ZEMIROT. Q. Why do many people sing “z’mirot” (special table songs) during the Shabbat meals? A. It is an old custom to sing z’mirot at the Shabbat table. The z’mirot that are most widely known are full of liveliness and spirit, yet maybe, many centuries ago, they were livelier …

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Oz Torah: Chanukah features.

WHY BLAME THE GREEKS? During World War II when Rabbi Jacob Danglow was visiting Jewish internees in a camp in Australia, he conducted a Chanukah service and innocently mentioned Jewish problems with the Greeks. Unfortunately there were Greeks as well as Jews at that camp and a riot almost ensued. …

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Oz Torah: Is Chanukah really worth celebrating? – Ask the Rabbi

IS CHANUKAH REALLY WORTH CELEBRATING? Q. The Maccabean victory which gave rise to Chanukah did not endure: the freedom it achieved lasted less than a century. So why should later generations regard the event as worth celebrating? A. The sages recognised the problem when they asked the question, “Mai Chanukah?” …

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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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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Too many prayers.

TOO MANY PRAYERS, TOO MUCH KADDISH? Q. Why are the prayers so repetitive and irrelevant and why does Kaddish come so often? A. You are jumping to too many conclusions. Just because something is reiterated that doesn’t make it wrong. What gets repeated in the prayers are major themes such …

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Oz Torah: The Mikvah – Ask the Rabbi

FEMININITY & THE MIKVAH. Q. Why do brides have to go to the mikvah? A. A mikvah is a small pool constructed according to ancient rules. It contains 40 se’ahs (a se’ah is about 3 gallons) of natural water – from rain, a natural spring, etc. – though it may …

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