Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.- Yom Kippur.

“AVINU” BEFORE “MALKENU” Question.   In “Avinu Malkenu”, why does “Avinu” (“Our Father”) precede “Malkenu” (“Our King”)? Answer.      Before answering you in detail let me register an objection to the wish of some people to replace “Our Father” with “Our Parent” and “Our King” with “Our Ruler”. These are classical …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Nitzavim-Vayelech

IT’S NOT IN HEAVEN. The Torah portion says of God’s Word, “It’s not in heaven or across the sea” (Deut. 30:12). Even if it were in heaven or over the sea we would still be duty-bound to strive for it, but it’s not as distant as all that. It is …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

FOR GOD’S SAKE. Question.   In “Zochrenu Lachayyim”, why do we ask God, “Remember us for life… for Your sake”? Answer.   One might have thought the prayer should ask God to answer us for our sake more than for His. What does He have to gain after all from the …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Ki Tavo

THE FAITH OF A WANDERING ARAMEAN. Bringing first fruits to the Sanctuary, an Israelite made a declaration that said, “My father was a wandering Aramean” (Deut. 26:5). Ignaz Maybaum, an Anglo-Jewish philosopher who came from the great pre-War community of Germany, regarded this verse as theology, not just history. If …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

SOUL ENTERING THE BODY. Question.   When does the soul enter the body? Answer.      Maimonides offers a comprehensive analysis of the soul in his “Eight Chapters” (an introduction to his commentary on the Ethics of the Fathers). For him it seems that “soul” means what we would call personality, …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Ki Tetzei

THE NAME OF DIVORCE. A section of this sidra deals with divorce procedures. The Torah calls the divorce document “Sefer K’ritut”, literally “a document of cutting off” (Deut. 24:1). For some reason the document is known as a “gett”. There is a grammatical explanation which I heard from Professor MD …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

DO ENDS JUSTIFY MEANS. Questions.  Do the ends justify the means? Answer.  As a general rule, no. On the verse, “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deut. 16:20), Bachya ben Asher says that the doubling of the word “justice” indicates “Justice, whether to your profit or loss; justice, whether in word …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Shof’tim

A FEELING FOR THE LAW. The opening verses of the sidra (Deut. 16:18) seem almost unnecessary. They tell us to have judges and officers in all our gates. Of course the gate in ancient times was where everything happened. That’s where people met one another, where commercial transactions took place, …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

SYNAGOGUES WITHOUT SPIRITUALITY. Question.  I have often wondered why my synagogue is so active and busy but not in a spiritual sense. I feel more spiritual in my garden. Is there something wrong with me? Answer.  Possibly. Maybe you miss the sense of sanctity that comes from sitting in shule …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Re’eh.

LOOK AFTER THE LEVITE. In a Torah portion packed with content there comes the sentence, “Do not abandon the Levite” (Deut. 12:19). Look at its context and you understand the verse. Israelite worship had to avoid all forms of idolatry. Authentic Jewish worship had to be structured according to the …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

PROTECTING THE DEAD. Question.  Does Judaism approve of autopsies? Answer.  Generally Judaism opposes anything which would injure, mar or mutilate the human body, after death as well as in life. However, in 1776 Rabbi Yechezkel Landau issued in his Noda Biy’hudah a now famous statement that an autopsy could be …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Ekev

100 A DAY. Cigarette smoking is now quite rare. When I was a boy things were different. Smokers who were trying to wean themselves off the habit used to boast, “I’m down to being a ten-a-day person”. Judaism of course has a strong tradition of declaring smoking to be a …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

ENTERING A CHURCH OR MOSQUE. Question.  May a Jew enter a church or mosque? Answer.  Jewish sentiment is wary of entering a church or mosque. Our historical memory of being compelled to attend Christian sermons cannot be easily effaced. But it’s not just a matter of history but of ideology. Whilst …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Va’et’channan.

SHEMA COMES TWICE. “Sh’ma Yisra’el” – “Hear, O Israel” – comes twice in this week’s reading – Deut. 5:1 and 6:4. The second instance is the famous one. The first passage is Moses announcing the Ten Commandments: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances…” In this Sh’ma, God has …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

DEALING WITH INTERMARRIAGE Question.  Should synagogues welcome people who have married out? Answer. Before addressing your specific question, two prior axioms: We have to encourage marriage as a principle, with the commitment that it brings to each other and to the future; and we have to encourage people to marry within …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – D’varim

A BIG DEAL. Moses never had an easy time as the leader. In the very first chapter of D’varim he tells the people that there are so many of them that he can’t handle the burden. How does he describe their vast numbers? “Like the stars of the heaven for …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

ONLY THE LIVING CAN REMEMBER. On Tishah B’Av, remembering is the rule. Tragedies happened, and we have to remember them. Not just the destruction of the Temple, indeed both Temples, but the long procession of calamities that accompanied all the ages. Every time of year has its historical memories; every …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Mass’ei

EFFORT & EXPENSES. Mass’ei is the travel diary of Israel in the wilderness, introduced with the words, “And Moses wrote down their goings forth on their journeys” (Num. 33:2). The word for “their goings forth” is “motza’eihem”. Since the root is “yatza”, to go out, the word could possibly mean …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

INCOME TAX & “FIDDLING THE BOOKS” Question.  Is there any halachic reason why I can’t “fiddle the books” when it comes to paying my income tax? Answer.  Being a part of society comes at a cost. A halachic rule stated in the name of the sage Sh’muel, “dina d’malchuta dina”, …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Mattot

VOWS & PROMISES. The portion begins with a whole section about making vows. From the halachic point of view, the making of vows is a major issue. The halachic analyses of the Kol Nidre with which Yom Kippur commences could take up a library (as could the literary and historical …

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