Tag Archives: Rabbi Apple

OzTorah: Torah reading – Tol’dot

  THE CHILD A PARENT WOULD PREFER. Jacob and Esau each had his parental champion. Rebekah preferred Jacob; Isaac preferred Esau (Gen. 25:28). Jacob was quiet and studious, finding his pleasures in and around the home; Esau was macho and active, enjoying being out and about. The family dynamics were …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

ORTHODOXY TODAY. Question.   What is the state of Jewish Orthodoxy today? Answer.      British Jewry recently produced a report that confirms what many of its leaders have been feeling for years, that young people are more Orthodox than their elders. Once upon a time the growing movements were the Reform …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Chayyei Sarah.

THE POETIC DIMENSION. Romantic memory weaves a garland around the name Machpelah, though the area has more robust connotations in Israel’s current environment. Machpelah, established from early Biblical times, was an important place of pilgrimage for medieval travellers like Benjamin of Tudela, who described the two stages by which a …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

CAMERAS THAT LIE. Question.  Is there anything in Judaism that forbids touching up and distorting camera images in order to deceive the public? Answer.    It is one of the great tragedies of the contemporary world. Though the Ten Commandments forbid the bearing of false witness, here we have false …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayyera

THREE GOOD MEN. The Zohar compares No’ach, Abraham and Moses. It asks which of the three was the greatest. Its answer: the one who was the best when others were in trouble. No’ach was warned by God that disaster was impending. He built an ark to save himself and his …

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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 …

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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, …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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, …

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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 …

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