Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyeshev.

TEMPTATION, PENN STATION. The plea that we should not be tempted into sin is not only found in the Jewish prayer book, but in other faiths too. Children of a certain different religion who were supposed to say, “Lead us not into temptation” are on record in New York as …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Chanukah Features

SEEING & BELIEVING. The Chanukah blessings are followed by “HaNerot Halalu”, a meditation about the lights we kindle. It is both a moment of spirituality and a halachic summary reminding us that the Chanukah lights are to be looked at and not to be used. There is quite a different …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyishlach

BOXING & WRESTLING. A television station once brought me from Sydney to Melbourne to take part in a programme about boxing. I told them of course that though there were famous Jewish boxers, the morality of boxing was highly suspect. They didn’t ask me about wrestling, but I would have …

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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: Torah reading – Vayyetzei

COMINGS & GOINGS. The portion begins with the phrase, “And Jacob went out from Beer Sheva and went to Haran” (Gen. 28:11). According to Rashi, it would not have been enough to tell us where he went to, Haran, without also informing us where he came from, Beer Sheva. So …

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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: Torah reading – Tol’dot

  THE CHILD A PARENT WOULD PREFER. Jacob and Esau each had his parental champion. Rebekah preferred Jacob; Isaac preferred Esau (Gen. 25:28). Jacob was quiet and studious, finding his pleasures in and around the home; Esau was macho and active, enjoying being out and about. The family dynamics were …

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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: Torah reading – Chayyei Sarah.

THE POETIC DIMENSION. Romantic memory weaves a garland around the name Machpelah, though the area has more robust connotations in Israel’s current environment. Machpelah, established from early Biblical times, was an important place of pilgrimage for medieval travellers like Benjamin of Tudela, who described the two stages by which a …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

CAMERAS THAT LIE. Question.  Is there anything in Judaism that forbids touching up and distorting camera images in order to deceive the public? Answer.    It is one of the great tragedies of the contemporary world. Though the Ten Commandments forbid the bearing of false witness, here we have false …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyera

THREE GOOD MEN. The Zohar compares No’ach, Abraham and Moses. It asks which of the three was the greatest. Its answer: the one who was the best when others were in trouble. No’ach was warned by God that disaster was impending. He built an ark to save himself and his …

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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: Torah reading – Lech L’cha

TWO LECH L’CHAS. There are actually two Biblical commands that say “Lech L’cha”, one here (Gen. 12:1) and one next week (Gen. 22:2) when the Akedah is prefaced by God telling Abraham to take his son and “lech l’cha” (“Go for yourself!”) to the land of Moriah. This Hebrew phrase, …

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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: Torah reading – No’ach

EVILS & INCLINATIONS. The first lessons that Man learned were how far he could go, both physically and metaphorically. Physically he felt safe as long as the Garden of Eden lasted – but then came the expulsion which propelled him into an often unfriendly world. Thereafter his physical adventures and …

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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: Torah reading – B’reshit

ADAM: TWO MODELS. Parashat B’reshit rolls round the Sefer Torah to the story of Adam. A famous analysis by Rav Soloveitchik says there were two Adams. We might call them practical Adam and poetical Adam. In a more basic sense there are two other Adams – Adam as Mankind, and …

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OzTorah: Simchat Torah.

WHO IS REJOICING? The name Simchat Torah is ambiguous. The conventional translation helps very little. To say “The Rejoicing of the Torah” tells us two things, but not what we really need to know. It tells us that this is a day of rejoicing; it tells us that the rejoicing …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

  EVOLUTION. Question.  Does Judaism believe in Evolution? Answer.     Whole books have been written about the various aspects and permutations of the subject. I am going to limit myself to one aspect as suggested by a Midrash (B’reshit Rabbah1:9). The Midrash notices that the beginning of Genesis uses two different …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Succot.

MORE TREES IN THE FOREST. Our forefathers didn’t know about high-rise buildings or information technology. Theirs was an agricultural civilisation centred around the sun and the seasons, the plants and the trees, the animals and the leaves. They didn’t have our achievements, but nor did they have our anxieties. But …

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