Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

Oz Torah: A Shavu’ot prelude.

A GREEK NAME FOR SHAVU’OT. In old Anglo-Jewry they didn’t use Hebrew names for festivals when they could use English. They knew of Passover more than Pesach, Tabernacles rather than Sukkot, New Year instead of Rosh HaShanah. They would have used an English name for Chanukah too if they could; …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Torah reading – B’har.

A PEAK OF INSIGHT. When the Israelites said “Na’aseh v’nishma”, “We will do and we shall hear”, they are seen by the sages (Shab. 88a/b) as on a peak of spiritual understanding. Metaphorically they ascended a mountain, echoing the title of this week’s reading, B’har (“On Mount Sinai”). Through “Na’aseh …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Vengeance in Psalms – Ask the Rabbi

VENGEANCE IN PSALMS. Question. The end of Psalm 137 (“Al Naharot Bavel”) says, “Blest is he who takes and shatters your infants against the rock”. How can the Psalm say something so offensive and vengeful? Answer.    Psalm 137 is a sad reflection of how bitter it was for the remnants …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Torah reading: K’doshim

HOLY AT HOME & ABROAD. Some faiths, but not Judaism, believe that the way to be holy is to lock yourself away from the world and avoid temptation. The Jewish approach as set out in today’s sidra is holiness as a part of, not apart from, normal everyday life. Holiness …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Hatikvah – Yom HaAtzma’ut feature.

HATIKVAH Question. What is the origin of Hatikvah? Is it really by a drunken poet? Answer.    Don’t denigrate any poem on the basis that the author may have had bouts of alcoholism. Misery often seems to dog the poetical soul. If you view film clips of people coming out into …

Read More »

Oz Torah: – Insights on parashat Acharei-Mot

Torah reading: Acharei Mot KADDESH. There is a link which most people don’t notice between the seder and the first sidra after Pesach. Both are centered on holiness. The sidra of Acharei Mot describes the desecration of the sanctuary caused by the acts of the two sons of Aaron. God …

Read More »

Oz Torah – Yom HaSho’ah features

WHY DIDN’T GOD SEND A MIRACLE TO SAVE US? Question. Why didn’t God send a miracle to save the martyrs of the Holocaust? Answer.   There are many who accuse God for failing to step in, and many who say that there are times when we have to believe whilst not …

Read More »

Oz Torah: I came out of Egypt – features for 7/8th day Pesach

I CAME OUT OF EGYPT. I really did come out of Egypt. Looking for a route from Australia to Israel, my wife and I decided one year to go via Cairo. We took Qantas from Sydney to Cairo and then El Al to Israel. We had one day in Cairo, …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Three types of slavery – Pesach articles

THREE TYPES OF SLAVERY. The Haggadah makes it all sound so clear: “Avadim Hayinu l’Faro b’Mitzrayim”, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt”. Actually “avadim”, slaves, has a number of possible meanings, and before we celebrate Pesach we need to investigate how it applies to our ancestors in Egypt. Rabbi …

Read More »

Oz Torah: The tug of war – a Pesach prelude

GRABBING OR CONTROLLING? The Midrash compares birth with death. It says that when we are born our hands are clenched: we start life wanting to grasp things. When we die our fingers open: we can no longer grab or grasp anything; our seizing days are over. The message is that …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on consumer protection

CONSUMER PROTECTION. Q. What does Judaism say about consumer protection? A. The general principle of Jewish ethics is both positive – “Love your fellow as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) – and negative – “Do not wrong one another” (Lev. 25:13-17). One of the major areas to which these principles apply is …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Insights on parashat Sh’mini.

MASHI’ACH’S S’FIRAT HA’OMER. One of the Lubavitcher Rebbes gave a broad interpretation to the law of counting the Omer, which comes in this week’s reading. Just as one must daily count the Omer and yearn for the coming of Shavu’ot, he said, so should a Jew count and work towards …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi. Rabbinic will, Halachic Way.

Rabbonic will. Question. People often quote Blu Greenberg’s assertion, “Where there’s a rabbinic will, there’s a halachic way.” Do you think she’s right? Answer . I understand what she’s getting at: “If the rabbis really wanted to, they could find halachic loopholes.” But putting it like this makes a mockery …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Torah reading: Tzav

WHO TOOK OUT THE GARBAGE? Aaron the kohen gadol had the duty of taking out the garbage, clad in his priestly finery. The Jerusalem Talmud explains, “This is to teach you that rank does not count in the palace of the king.” The philosopher-ethicist Bachya ibn Pakuda comments, “The Creator …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi (Purim)

IN PRAISE OF ESTHER The more we delve into the events of the Megillah, the more questions we have. Nothing and no-one in the story is as simple and straightforward as they seem. In particular, no-one is as interesting as Esther – a humble girl without much yichus who becomes …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Torah reading: Vayikra

SHOWING OFF. One of the best known ideas in the Torah arises from the first word of this portion. God calls to Moses – “Vayikra el Moshe” – and the final letter of the Hebrew word is written small. Moses was too modest to think that God had specially chosen …

Read More »

Oz Torah. Ask the Rabbi BIBLE CRITICS

BIBLE CRITICS Question. What is your approach to Bible critics? Answer.   Biblical scholarship is often in the hands of non-believers who tend to see the Bible as a piece of ancient literature divorced from any thought of Revelation. They suggest that one can study it through literary and linguistic technicalities …

Read More »

Oz Torah: – Ask the Rabbi on women & divorce

SHABBAT ELECTRICITY Question. Why isn’t electricity allowed on Shabbat? Answer. You may benefit from electric appliances but not personally operate them. The problem is whether one may light a fire on Shabbat, which the Torah bans (Ex. 35:3). The arrival of electricity led to rabbinic discussion as to what is …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Torah reading – Vayakhel

A SHULE MEETING The Torah reading commences with Moses gathering the congregation to make an announcement. According to Rashi, the gathering took place on the day after Yom Kippur. What was so important that everyone had to be there? The observance of Shabbat. Now transfer the whole scenario to the …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on prostitution

PROSTITUTION Question. What is the Jewish view of prostitution? Answer. Based on the verses in the Bible, “There shall be no harlot of the daughters of Israel” (Deut. 23:18) and “Profane not your daughter to make her a harlot” (Lev. 19:29), Jewish teaching strongly disapproved of prostitution. It condemned as …

Read More »