Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

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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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

WHO KEEPS THE CHILDREN? Question.  Are there any Jewish laws about which parent should have custody of the children after a divorce? Answer.  You can of course leave it all to the lawyers and the courts but it is better all round for you to agree on these crucial issues …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Pinchas.

WHY WAS HE PINCHAS? One of the favourite hobbies of Biblical scholars is tracing the etymology of the names in the Bible. The Tanach itself starts the process when it explains the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and so many others. The Midrash continues and fills in many …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

MYSTICAL JUDAISM. Question.  Why does Judaism seem so earthly and practical? Why does it not focus more on mysticism? Answer.  It is true that mainstream Judaism seems to emphasise day-to-day religious practice, but this is not for lack of a sense of spirituality. On the contrary: it is, as Max …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Balak

THE JEWISH ENIGMA. Judaism owes a debt to the heathen prophet Bilam. Not only did he coin the immortal words, “Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov” – “How goodly are your tents, O Israel” (Num. 24:5). He also epitomised the world’s fascination with the Jewish people when he said, “How can I …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

FOLLOWING ORDERS. Question. What is the Jewish approach to the “I was only following orders” excuse used by soldiers (and others) who commit abuses? Answer. In Judaism the first instance of the problem arises in regard to Abraham, to whom God says, “Your descendants will be strangers in a strange land …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Chukkat.

  MOSES & AARON: PARTNERS IN GREATNESS. Parashat Chukkat tells us of the death of Aaron the high priest (Num. 20:22-29). Aaron’s career was twofold – as careful keeper of the ritual procedures of the sanctuary, and as counsellor and peace-maker for his community. According to Rashi, the whole of …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

WOMEN’S VOICES. Question. Why does Jewish law object to women singing in front of men? Answer. The rule derived from the Talmud (Ber. 24a etc.) is “kol b’ishah ervah” – “A woman’s voice arouses (desire)”. I will come back to the “b” in front of “ishah”, but let me first address …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Korach

MACHLOKET MAKERS. When Korach mutinied, Moses “fell on his face” (Num.16:4). Says Rashi, “Because of ‘machloket’ (disputes)”. We know that when scholars discuss and debate the Torah they put forward a range of interpretations. Sometimes their arguments become heated and noisy. Unpleasant scenes take place. Ugly things are said. What …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

OTHER WORLDS Question. Does Judaism accept the possibility of other worlds? Answer. We constantly make a distinction between “olam hazeh” – this world – and “olam haba” – the World to Come. But I don’t think this is what you are asking. Your question is more likely to be whether …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi.

THE AGE OF THE WORLD. Question.  How can we square Jewish tradition, which says the world is 5774 years old, with the scientific view that posits a vastly longer period? Answer.  There is definitely a problem, which was already recognized in Tanach itself, especially in the Psalms. It was widely …

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

  THEIR OWN FLAME Various places in rabbinic literature discuss the name of this week’s reading. The rabbis wondered why the “When you kindle (the lights)”. The explanation they arrived at was that Aaron had to start off the lighting and then allow the flame to rise up by itself. …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Shavuot

THE CINDERELLA OF THE FESTIVALS. It’s a shame for Shavu’ot. Rosh HaShanah has its shofar, Pesach its matzah, Purim its Megillah – but Shavu’ot has no special mitzvah to make it colourful and popular, and Jewish opinion seems to have decided that it is a non-event. Further, every yom tov …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Naso.

LONG HAIR. The Nazir has an important role in this week’s sidra. A person who opted to be a Nazir had to follow an ascetic lifestyle – no drinking wine, no contact with the dead, no cutting of his hair: “He shall let the hair of his head grow long” …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

    THE DYING PATIENT. Question.  As a doctor I face human crises at both ends of life. One of the hardest challenges is treating the dying patient. Does Judaism have any advice for me? Answer. Unlike some Christians, we do not regard death as greater than life nor feel that …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – B’midbar

10 COBBLERS MAKE A MINYAN The sidra deals with the census of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. From the human point of view the census has an obvious importance. We need to know how many people make up our population and whether our numbers are growing or declining. …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

VEGETARIAN & KOSHER Question.  Is all vegetarian food kosher? Answer.  Unfortunately, supposed vegetarian food is sometimes not even vegetarian. Restaurants, pizza shops and fast food outlets which focus on meat (obviously t’refah) often purport to offer vegetarian options but there is no guarantee that the ingredients really are vegetarian and …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – B’chukkotai

YOUR OWN BREAD What a wonderful promise: “You shall eat your bread to satiety and you shall dwell in safety on your land” (Lev. 26:5). Note that the verse does not say, “You shall eat bread – ‘lechem’” but “you shall eat *your* bread – ‘lachm’chem’”. What is it that …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

ANCIENT ARKS Question.  Ancient synagogues have been discovered and excavated in Israel. Why do there not seem to be the remains of any ancient Arks? Answer.  Like the Ark of the Ten Commandments that was carried through the wilderness, ancient Arks were portable. The usual term for the Ark was “tevah”, …

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