Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

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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OzTorah: Torah reading – B’har

PROCLAIMING FREEDOM The Torah tells us early in this week’s reading to proclaim liberty, “d’ror”, for everyone who inhabits the land (Lev. 25:10). “D’ror” is a very strange word to use for liberty. The Targum Onkelos renders it as “cherut”, a more usual word for freedom. The sages offer various …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Yom HaAtzma’ut.

    PRACTICAL ZIONISM This week we celebrate Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day. As always, the occasion will bring out its philosophers, analysing the meaning of Israel and assessing how far the Jewish State has fulfilled the Zionist ideal. There is something else they often forget to remember. The Torah …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Emor

Written and Submitted by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple. SPEAKING OUT. The portion gets its name from a command to speak out (“Emor”) to the priests concerning their duties. By extension there is an issue concerning Emor which applies to every Jew. When, how and why should a Jew speak out …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi

Written and Submitted by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple.   Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, and was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesperson for Jews and Judaism on the Australian continent. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. …

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