Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi ‘Eating Pork’

Question.  Why is eating pork so repugnant to Jews? Answer.     Though the pig is not the only animal which the Torah forbids us to eat, it has come to be the ultimate symbol of what Jews don’t do. Historically, a Jew who threw off Jewish restraints would show his defiance …

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Oz Torah: Torah reading – Vayyechi

JACOB LIVED. The patriarch had two names – Jacob and Israel. After his all-night wrestle with the unnamed assailant, the name Jacob was replaced by Israel. Yet with this week’s portion we find “Jacob” back again: “Vay’chi Ya’akov”, “And Jacob lived”. Why does the text come back to the old …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi on “incense in the synagogue”

INCENSE IN THE SYNAGOGUE. Question.   In some religions they go in for “bells and smells”. Why does Judaism not burn incense in the synagogue, especially since it used to be the case in the Temple? Answer.     Probably the only context in which there was anything similar to incense in …

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OzTorah – Torah reading: Vayyiggash

HE SAID THE SHEMA. Rashi tells us, following the rabbinic sages, that when Joseph and his elderly father Jacob finally met again, the pious old man said the Shema (Gen. 46:29). Perhaps it was because his first thought was to thank God that the long-cherished dream of reunion with his …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi..”Salvation”

SALVATION. Question. How do the Jewish and Christian views of salvation differ? Answer.The opening words of Psalm 27 are “HaShem Ori V’Yish’i” – “The Lord is my Light and Salvation”. Salvation (“yeshu’ah”) is a major concept in Judaism, but in a quite different sense to Christianity, which holds that a …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Chanukah features.

HELLENISM & THE STRUGGLE FOR JEWISH IDENTITY The appeal of Chanukah is amazing. Other occasions have their ups and downs, sometimes honoured in the breach more than the observance. But Chanukah continues to win and hold the loyalty of vast numbers of Jews, and to be brought into the public …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi “Who wrote Ma’oz Tzur?

Question. Who wrote Ma’oz Tzur? Answer.  The initial letters of the first five stanzas yield the acrostic Mordechai, indicating an author named Mordechai who lived in Germany in the early 13th century. Which Mordechai it was has not been established. There is a theory that he was Mordechai the son …

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OzTorah. Torah reading: Vayyishlach

WHY SHOULD ESAU CARE? Rashi turned a Biblical verse into a rhyme when he quoted Gen. 32:5, “Im Lavan gar’ti” (Jacob’s statement, “I dwelt with Laban”) into “Im Lavan gar’ti v’taryag mitzvot shamar’ti” (“I dwelt with Laban and observed the 613 commandments”). Who was Jacob talking to? His brother Esau. …

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Ask the Rabbi on “Maccabi or Maccabee?”

MAIMONIDES – PHILOSOPHER OR THEOLOGIAN? Q. How can some texts describe Maimonides as a philosopher? Wasn’t he a theologian? Aren’t the two roles contradictory? A.  As a theologian Maimonides uses rigorous philosophical methodology to reason about the faith and tradition which he upholds. It should be said, however, that modern …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyetzei.

A DOUBLE CAMP. At the end of the sidra, Jacob declares that a certain place is to be called “Machanayim” – literally, a double camp (Gen. 32:2). This place was the border post between Israel and the neighbouring land. As Rashi explains, basing himself on earlier rabbinic sources, it was …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – How much sleep?

Question.    How much should I sleep? Answer.       The answer is personal. Some people need seven to ten hours a day, others can get by on three. Some can only fall asleep if they listen to music, others can only fall asleep during sermons! The real consideration is not how …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Tol’dot.

LABAN THE ARAMEAN. At the beginning of Parashat Ki Tavo (Deut. 26) there is a declaration to be made when an Israelite brings his first fruits to the kohen. The Israelite begins by encapsulating the history of the people until then. He explains why they went to Egypt and how …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Naming Rights.

Question.   Is there any issue with a school bearing the name of its donor? Answer.     The story behind your question is explained in an accompanying letter: “Our community has a Jewish elementary school and we have long needed a high school. Our dilemma is that any kind of school, …

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OzTorah: Torah Reading – Chayyei Sarah

SARAH & THE WOMEN It’s all very well to accuse Judaism of being patriarchal, but the fact is that tradition has a matriarchal theme that comes to the fore when parents bless their daughters on Erev Shabbat, saying, “May God make you like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah”. Sarah heads …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Hypnosis

Question.   What is the Jewish opinion on hypnosis? Answer.      There are two issues – may a Jew practise or submit to hypnosis, and is an act performed under hypnosis deemed a conscious act by Jewish law? On the first issue, the answer depends on whether hypnosis is merely a …

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OzTorah: Torah reading: Vayyera.

                                     TWO LECH-L’CHAS. Last week’s sidra and this week’s both feature God calling to Abraham in the words, “Lech-l’cha!” The literal meaning is “Go for yourself”. In classical English, the message is “Betake yourself”. Rashi points out at the beginning of last week’s reading that the “l’cha” tells Abraham that …

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OzTorah: – Ask the Rabbi on “Kosher wine”

Question.     What can be non-kosher in ordinary wine? Answer.        Two considerations are relevant. The first is that wine was part of worship rites from ancient days. Judaism feared that ordinary wine could have been used or at least made for libations at heathen worship (“yayin nesech”). Hence, wine for Jewish …

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OzTorah: Insights on parashat Lech-L’cha

WHAT DIFFERENCE CAN ISRAEL MAKE? The sidra begins with the magnificent call, “Lech l’cha”, “Leave everything behind and go to the place I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). On one reading, “Ar’eka” – “I will show you” refers to the land of Israel. The patriarch had to heed the call …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Paul & Judaism

PAUL & JUDAISM Question.   Is it true that Christianity was founded by Paul after his break from Judaism? Answer.     The general view is that Paul was a Jew who turned against his people, rejected Judaism and claimed that God had rejected the Jews. Paul Johnson argues in his History of …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Eve’s Punishment.

Eve’s Punishment. Question. Why was Eve punished so harshly? Answer.    Much of life is unfair. Some might even say this begins to be true right at the beginning of the Bible. True, God did command Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree, and He spelt out …

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