Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Being a mensch.

BEING A MENSCH. Q.  What does “being a Mensch” really mean? A.  When you learn the halachah, they tell you about the fifth volume of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law). Joseph Karo wrote four volumes, but there is a further, unwritten book which tells you how to live …

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Oz Torah: Ask the rabbi – Is a person who has left Judaism still Jewish?

JEWS WHO HAVE LEFT JUDAISM. Q.  Is a person who has left Judaism still Jewish? A.  The general principle is, “Even though one has sinned, he is a Jew” (Sanhedrin 44a).  The Talmud quotes a saying, “A myrtle, though it stands among reeds, is still a myrtle”.   Thus such a …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Chanukah in the age of electricity –

A SHAMMASH IN THE AGE OF ELECTRICITY. Q.  Why do we need a shammash these days when we have easy access to electricity? A.  The technical answer is that – regardless of using the shammash as a “servant” to kindle the lights – there must always be an extra light …

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Ask the Rabbi on Chanukah: What started the conflict?

DIDN’T THEY KNOW ABOUT CHANUKAH? Q. The Talmud asks “What is Chanukah?” Didn’t the rabbis know? A. The question is indeed asked in the Talmud in tractate Shabbat 21b (cf. Megillat Ta’anit 9). Strangely, no such question is asked about the other festivals (there is a great deal in the …

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Oz Torah: Choosing your own religious observances – Ask the Rabbi.

CHOOSING YOUR OWN RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES. Q. A friend told me that Jews can choose their own mixture of religious observances. Is this correct? A. In theory no, because every Jew should observe all the mitzvot. But in practice we all do tend to have our own emphases. Some people are …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi ‘Signs of the Zodiac’.

SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC Q. I am confused in regard to Judaism and the Zodiac signs. My understanding was that “diviners, necromancers and soothsayers” were forbidden. If this is the case, why and how have the Zodiac signs been incorporated into Judaism? A. The idea of the Zodiac, a notional …

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Oz Torah: Harry Potter – Ask the Rabbi

HARRY POTTER. Q. Is it wrong to read the Harry Potter books given that they are about witchcraft and wizardry? A. Most people would say they are harmless fun and I even hear of Jewish parodies about “Chayyim Po-tter” (“po-tter” could be taken as a Hebrew verb meaning to excuse …

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Oz Torah: Torah reading: No’ach.

RESTFUL NOAH. “No’ach” means “rest”, because he lightened the load of human beings by inventing the plough – the first machine that humanity ever had. In a second way he also eased the lot of his contemporaries by rebuilding civilisation after the great flood. However, the critics say that he …

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Oz Torah: To soul the world – B’reshit.

THE BEGINNINGS OF HUMANITY. The Book of B’reshit leads us through four stages – man (and woman), family, tribe and people. Each stage fascinated our ancient ancestors. The stage we will concern ourselves with here is the first, depicting not just how humanity began but what the rabbinic age of …

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Oz Torah: Sh’mini Atzeret & Simchat Torah.

THE JEWISH LITERACY DAY. Simchat Torah is probably the only religious festival anywhere that celebrates a book. Most religions – Judaism too – make grand occasions out of historical anniversaries. Many celebrate great thinkers, mentors, martyrs and spiritual leaders. Many have times of supreme joy interspersed with times of supreme …

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Oz Torah: Sukkot features – Housey Housey

HOUSEY HOUSEY. There once was a game called Housey Housey. Regardless of the way the game works, Sukkot is a “housey housey” occasion. It’s about the house we emerge from – and the house we enter. During the rest of the year we mostly reside in comfortable homes, secure from …

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Oz Torah: Are we all sinners? – Yom Kippur features 1.

THE TREASURE. Every culture has its story of the person who went searching for treasure and finally found it in his own garden. In Judaism its great expression is Yom Kippur. Jews who go wandering throughout the year come home to Judaism on Yom Kippur and suddenly find that the …

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Oz Torah: Torah reading- Nitzavim

  STAND BY FOR THE COVENANT. The final Shabbat of the Jewish year tells us that we are all standing before God, about to enter a covenant with Him. The Hebrew for covenant is “b’rit”. Members of the covenant are “b’nai b’rit”. It sounds like the name of the brotherhood …

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Oz Torah: The true hero of Rosh Hashanah.

THE TRUE HERO OF ROSH HASHANAH. Heroes and villains abound in the festival stories. Pesach pits Pharaoh and Moses against each other. On Purim it is Haman and Mordechai. On Chanukah it is Antiochus and Judah Maccabee. What about Rosh Hashanah? Since the festival is not based on narratives there …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Foodies & idolatry.

      FOODIES & IDOLATRY. Q.  Is it ethically right for people to be foodies and say they can’t manage without their designer meals and culture coffee? A.  It’s a sign of an empty life if all you can think about is decadent dining and fine wines. I remember …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Divorce

APPRECIATING THE TREES. Q. I was puzzled when I read in Pir’kei Avot that if a person is walking along rehearsing his studies and stops to look at a tree and remarks, “How beautiful that tree is!” deserves to lose his life. What has he or she done wrong? A. …

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Ask the Rabbi: Sanctions for adultery – Ask the Rabbi

SANCTIONS FOR ADULTERY Q. I am aware that adultery is forbidden in Judaism, but what are the sanctions against a person who cheats on their spouse? A. The Biblical law concerning adultery (Ex. 20:13, Deut. 5:17) clearly establishes the principle of marital faithfulness. Husband and wife must be able to …

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Oz Torah: Why blame ourselves – Tishah B’Av features.

WHY BLAME OURSELVES? What strange people the sages were. Two Temples were laid waste, Jewish sovereignty was terminated, millennia of exile and persecution set in, and all that the sages could do was to blame the Jewish people for their own misfortunes. What did they say? “Umip’nei chatan’einu…” Jews fell …

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Oz Torah: Suicide or murder – Ask the Rabbi

LAW OF THE LAND. Q. Since there is a rule in the Talmud, “The law of the land is the law”, how come that rabbis sometimes criticise the government? A. The rule, “Dina D’Malchuta Dina” – “the Law of the Kingdom is the Law” is probably limited to matters such …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Cheating the government.

FASTING ON 17 TAMMUZ. Q. Now that we have a State of Israel do we still need to fast on 17 Tammuz? A. This is one of the four fasts commemorating the destruction of the Temple. 17 Tammuz marks the enemy’s breach in the walls of Jerusalem. Zechariah said (8:18-19) …

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