Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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Oz Torah: Torah Reading – parashat Ki Tissa

A LEADER’S RANSOM Counting heads is the subject of the opening section of this week’s portion. The Hebrew literally means “When you take the head of the Children of Israel” – an instruction about taking a census. Look at the word “rosh” (as head) in a different sense and it …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on Two Adars

TWO ADARS. Q. Why do we have two months called Adar? A. An ordinary year has only one Adar. In a leap year there are two – Adar Rishon (Adar I) and Adar Sheni (Adar II). Leap years, seven times in every 19 years, ensure that the Jewish lunar calendar …

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Oz Torah. Torah reading: T’tzavveh

BELLS ON THE ROBE There were many little bells on the hem of the kohen gadol’s robe. The Talmud says (Z’vachim 88b) that there were 72 bells, 36 on each side; another view says 36, 18 on each side. The rabbis thought the bells were there so that everyone would …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Do the Lawyers care?

Question. Is there a Jewish perspective on criticising lawyers? Answer. What clients often say about legal practitioners is that they don’t seem to care. No longer do people have long-standing professional relationships with a benign, trusted doctor, lawyer, accountant or minister, often known and trusted by them and their family …

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Oz Torah: Insights on parashat T’rumah

BUILDING AN EDIFICE It is in this sidra that the creation of the sanctuary is instituted. “They shall make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them”, is the crucial verse (Ex. 25:8). The commentators all seize on the word “b’tocham”, “among them”. It is not so much the …

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Oz Torah: Ask the rabbi. Criticising the government

Question.  What right do we have to criticize a democratically elected government? Surely Judaism believes in loyalty to duly appointed leaders. Answer.     Judaism does not support the early Christian doctrine, “Render unto God the things that are God’s and to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matt. 22:21). …

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Oz Torah. Torah reading: Mishpatim

SHIELDING THE STRANGER Ex. 22:20 is one of over thirty passages in the Torah which command us to look after the stranger because we were strangers in the land of Egypt (this happens to be one of the places where the Torah spells out the reason behind its laws). The …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on “Who were the women?”

WHO WERE THE WOMEN? Question. Who was it that successfully agitated for women to be allowed to undertake extra mitzvot (good deeds)? Answer. The issue revolves around which category of commandments we are dealing with. There are actions which are commanded and actions which are prohibited. The second category is …

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Oz Torah:Ask the Rabbi -Personal choice & the Commandments

Question. Why should I obey the Jewish commandments if I don’t want to? Shouldn’t personal choice play a part in my religious observance? Answer.    “If I don’t want to” is highly subjective. Try a different context. Can I say, “Why should I obey the traffic laws if I don’t …

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