Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

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 …

Read More »

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, …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Article for Yom Kippur

SO, DO WE ALL BELIEVE? A very special feature of Yom Kippur is the way we say the Shema. To be strictly correct, it’s not the Shema but the second line, “Baruch Shem”, which is recited in an unusual way on this day – not softly, as is done during …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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, …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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, …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »