Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

OzTorah – Torah reading: D’varim

FORM OR CONTENT? Starting with the opening verses of D’varim, we become the audience for Moses’ series of farewell speeches. Impressive to read, we wonder whether the orations were equally impressive to listen to. After all, Moses was marred by a speech impediment: he was “k’vad peh, k’vad lashon”, “heavy …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Features for Tishah B’Av.

RESURGENT ANTISEMITISM. Question.   Why is there a resurgence of antisemitism? Answer.      In theory it is connected with Israel. It is customary to say that antisemitism was once religious but has now become secular. Like all generalisations this view does not entirely accord with the facts. “Secular” Jew-hatred and teaching …

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Oz Torah: Torah Reading – Mattot-Mass’ei

A BIG EVENT PASSING US BY. The story of the journeys of the Children of Israel seems prosaic, for example, “They encamped in the wilderness of Sinai” (Num. 33:15). We already know that Sinai was a stopping place. Why remind us? Yet if you slow down you ask the question: …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

MOURNER’S KADDISH. Question.     What is the origin of “Kaddish Yatom”, the Mourner’s Kaddish? Answer.       Despite the popular view, Kaddish did not begin as a mourner’s prayer, and Kaddish Yatom is only one version of Kaddish. The Kaddish is an amalgam of phrases commencing with a passage from …

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OzTorah – Ask the Rabbi: “When will I die”

WHEN WILL I DIE? Question.   When will I die? Answer.     As the prophet Ezekiel would have said, “Lord God, Thou knowest”. Even when the doctors give an indication of how long a patient has, they cannot be certain. When a person seems to be healthy, anything can lie around the …

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OzTorah – Torah reading: Balak

DON’T BE A DONKEY. Some animals just have no luck. Chief amongst them is the donkey. Whilst the Code of Jewish Law says we should start the day like lions, bringing strength and power to the day’s commandments, everyone says, “Don’t be a donkey!” At times we talk about being …

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Ask the Rabbi: BEEZLEBUB

BEEZLEBUB. Question.    I heard a Christian preacher refer to a demon called Beelzebub. Is this name known in Judaism? Answer.       In Christian scripture Beelzebub or Beelzebul is the chief of the demons (Matt. 12:24-27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15-18). The name derives from “Baal Z’vuv”, “lord of the flies”. In …

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OzTorah – Torah reading: Chukkat

POWER IN PARADOX. There is something in this week’s portion which is both strange and typical of Judaism. The law of the red heifer (Num. 19:2) requires a mixture of substances to be sprinkled in order to purify the impure. Strangely the process which purifies also does the opposite – …

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OzTorah – Ask the Rabbi

SHOULD RABBIS KEEP OUT OF POLITICS? Question.    Should rabbis involve themselves in political issues? Answer.       Before there were rabbis, the spiritual leaders were the priests and prophets. The priests were not confined to the sanctuary. They supervised public health, they taught, they gave guidance and information. But they were not …

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OzTorah – Torah reading: Korach

DID THEIR PROPERTY SIN? The punishment of Korach and his henchmen was that the earth opened up and swallowed them (Num. 16:32) – together with all their property and possessions. Readers of the story have long puzzled over the reference to the possessions being swallowed up. “Human beings can sin …

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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, …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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” – …

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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 …

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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” – …

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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 …

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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 …

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