OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

Written and Submitted by Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple.



Question.  Are you in favour of Kabbalah?

Answer.  Kabbalah (literally “tradition”) is the metaphysical aspect of Judaism. Those who prefer a rationalist approach find it difficult. The kabbalists themselves make a distinction between “sit’rei kabbalah”, “the secrets of kabbalah“, and “ta’amei kabbalah”, “the principles of kabbalah“.

The secrets are for those who are immersed in kabbalistic literature and are spiritually and emotionally mature enough to transcend time and space and to enter the mystical realms.

The principles are accessible to all who are capable of spiritual development. These principles provide an underpinning for the rules and regulations which some people mistakenly believe are all that there is in Judaism. For such people it is a revelation to find and focus on light, love, energy, goodness and spirituality and to become able to rise above the banal and mundane – even to rise above oneself.

The principles of kabbalah create awareness of the inner meaning of the commandments and the balance between heart, mind and soul.

Today, when so many are searching for spirituality, there is a new interest in kabbalah and a thriving market for user-friendly introductions to kabbalistic classics. We all have to decide whether this is for us.

For myself, the principles of kabbalah are helpful in finding the meaning of life and the purpose of Judaism. I am not adept at the secrets of kabbalah, but I know that others are.


Question. This is probably not a question for a rabbi, but you might be able to help me out: Why do people clink each other’s glass when they drink a toast?

Answer.   Actually I do have an answer, and it definitely is a question for a rabbi because the answer comes from the Torah.

Deuteronomy 32:33 says,

 “Chammat tanninim yeynam” – “serpents’ venom is their wine”.

Putting poison in someone’s drink in order to kill them must have happened often. A host could prove that the wine was not poisoned by pouring some of the guest’s wine into his own glass and drinking it first to show there were no ill effects.

If you trusted your host you would drink from your own cup straightaway and both would clink their glasses against each other.


The story of Judaism begins at night:

 “And it was evening, and it was morning: one day”.

The events of Judaism generally happen at night: Seder night, Kol Nidrei night and others which so many Jews brush aside.

Every week has its Jewish night – Friday night. The time to re-connect with ourselves, our dear ones, our identity, our God.

Every festival is ushered in at night – not only Pesach and Yom Kippur, but Shavu’ot and Hoshana Rabbah with their night-time study, Sukkot which begins its magic in the sukkah on the first evening, Simchat Torah with its proud Torah parade, Purim with the dramatic megillah, Tishah B’Av with the solemn Echah… and certainly Chanukah with the exciting kindling of the lights each evening.

There is an aura about evenings.

The air is clearer, the pace has slowed down, it is a time for looking back on the day – and for looking ahead to tomorrow.

Metaphorically the evening is also the time of hope.

We speak of the darkness before the dawn.

We know that even when night seems to have gone on too long, there will be a new day.

We sometimes say with the Psalmist,

“How long, O Lord? How long?”

We want to know: why is the dawn taking so long?

This was our ancestors’ question in the days of Judah Maccabee.

An enemy imposed a long night on Judea; but in the end the new era did dawn.

Thanks to that generation, human conscience was re-born.

If we can live through the night, there will always finally be a new day.

Without the evenings there is no hope, no faith, no destiny.

Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple Blogs at http://www.oztorah.com

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