Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

WOMEN AT THE CEMETERY. Question.   Is it true that women should not go to a funeral? Answer.     This is a widespread view but it is more an emotional than halachic issue. Some people have the feeling that women are too emotional to face the harsh reality of a cemetery, …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah reading – S’hlach L’cha

HOW COULD THEY GET IT SO WRONG? How could people who were as clever as the spies get it so wrong as to suggest that God would be unable to bring the nation safely into the Promised Land (Num. 14:27)? Perhaps they were scared at the big adjustment they would …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

Question.   How can a rabbi be called “Apple”? Answer.      “Apple” happens to be a distinguished, historic Jewish surname. In ancient times there were four leading Jewish families descended from the tribe of Judah – Min HaTappuchim or De Pommis (“Apple”), Adumim or De Rossi (“The Red Ones”), HaZ’kenim (“The …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah reading – B’ha’alot’cha

PROPHECY IN A VISION. Num. 12:6 introduces us to the concept of prophecy. God says: “If a prophet of the Lord arises among you, I make Myself known to him in a vision”. Whilst priesthood comes from lineage, prophecy is personal. For Judah HaLevi, it is a Divine grace: for …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi

USING A CAR SPACE. Question.   A store has a free carpark for its customers but others have got wind of it and park there, which makes it difficult for the people for whom it was intended. Is there a Jewish ethical rule about this? Answer.     The parking facility is …

Read More »

OzTorah. Torah reading: B’har-B’chukkotai

(In Israel, the reading this week is B’chukkotai only.) WE DON’T MAKE A BLESSING. B’har is where we meet the fundamental principle of charity: “If your brother has become poor, and his strength has dwindled beside you, then you shall uphold him” (Lev. 25:35). Note the words, “your brother” – …

Read More »

OzTorah. – Ask the Rabbi.

SHAVU’OT – A CALENDRICAL GHOST? Everybody knows Shavu’ot is an important festival, but it doesn’t have a tractate to describe it. The others do – Pesachim, Rosh HaShanah, Yoma, Sukkah, even Megillah. There is no tractate of Chanukah, but that’s a different problem. There is no date specified for Shavu’ot …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah reading – B’har-B’chukkotai.

(In Israel, the reading this week is B’chukkotai only.) WE DON’T MAKE A BLESSING. B’har is where we meet the fundamental principle of charity: “If your brother has become poor, and his strength has dwindled beside you, then you shall uphold him” (Lev. 25:35). Note the words, “your brother” – …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

HOW WAS THE TORAH WRITTEN? Question.    Did Moses write the whole Torah at one sitting? Answer.       The sages of the Talmud (Yoma 37b, Gittin 60a) say that the Torah was given “m’gillah m’gillah” (“scroll by scroll”), i.e. section by section. According to this theory, the Torah was not …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah reading – Emor.

COUNTING EVERY BLESSING. A central feature of this week’s reading is the command to bring an “omer”, a measure of barley, to the sanctuary, beginning on the second day of Pesach. From that moment we have to count 49 days until the festival of Shavu’ot. Maimonides tells us that the …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN INDONESIA. Indonesia should be ashamed of itself for executing two Australians as well as a few others.  It is not that the people who were executed were lily white.  Indonesia has processes of law which led to their sentencing.  No-one denies the Indonesian right to have strict …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah reading – Acharei Mot – K’doshim.

SABBATHS & SANCTUARIES. K’doshim says, “Keep my Sabbaths and respect My sanctuary” (Lev. 19:30). Targum Onkelos adds two words for the sake of greater clarity: “Keep My Sabbath Days” (which shows, says Sforno, that the phrase includes festivals) and “respect My sacred House” (which Rashi and others say includes all …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

EQUAL RIGHTS. Question.   In the eyes of God, do we all have equal rights? Answer.      Some countries have a Bill of Rights that spells out people’s entitlements. But many of us claim all sorts of extras – not just free medicine, free education and free handouts, but …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah reading – Tazria-M’tzora

IF CLOTHES COULD ONLY TALK. This week’s double sidra has a focus on leprosy. Whatever the medical definition of the leprosy of the Bible, it is a kind of disease that shows itself in not just the person’s body but their clothes (Lev. 13:47). Centuries of commentators raised the logical …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT. Question.   The Torah, with the story of Isaac and Ishmael, shows the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Do you think it will ever really end? Answer.       Isaac is the ancestor of the Jews and Ishmael of the Arabs. Islamic tradition exalts Abraham as an …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah Reading. ‘Parashat Sh’mini’

TWO HALVES OF MARRIAGE. Sh’mini tells us about the kohanim, each of whom had a duty to have a wife.  The partnership between husband and wife enables both parties to complement each other. The Talmud has a section in Yevamot 62b-63a that offers many wise observations about marriage, including the …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

Question.   Does Judaism require a belief in mysticism? Answer.     Rufus Jones has said that mysticism is “religion in its most acute, intense, and living stage”, but while in some religions mysticism developed outside and even in opposition to the structured norm, the Jewish mystics were within the tradition, communed with …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi

Features for the end of Pesach PESACH & THE FIVE RABBIS. Five rabbis stayed up all night in Bnei Brak talking about the Exodus, and the Haggadah features the incident as if it were something unique. Some say that it was a covert national security meeting and though the words …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

THESE ARE THE TEN PLAGUES. The Haggadah lists “Elleh eser makkot”, “These are the Ten Plagues”, but the plagues did not stop at ten. Jewish and world history are full of other terrible experiences – ten times ten and more besides – and unlike the list in the Haggadah they …

Read More »

OzTorah: Torah reading – Tzav

RESIDENTS & TOURISTS. The sidra tells us that the fire on the altar shall be left to burn continuously and must never be allowed to go out (Lev. 6:6). There is a comparison between the fire and the human being. King David said in the Psalms (27:4) that he yearned …

Read More »