Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

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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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Blaming Religion.

BLAMING RELIGION. Q. Are people right to blame religion for the world’s problems? A. Religion is not blameless. Its proponents need to identify the constructive elements in religious tradition and make them the agenda. Not that governments will like it if religion says it has some solutions to offer: the …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – POVERTY

POVERTY. Q. Is there a Jewish view about poverty? A. Isn’t it Tevye who says in “Fiddler on the Roof” that poverty is no disgrace, but it’s no great honour either? This probably sums up the Jewish view of poverty. On the one hand, the Bible says that the poor …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Is God real, or an idea?

IS GOD REAL OR AN IDEA? Q. Is God real or just an idea? A. Your actual question is longer than this. You say you are writing a book about how different religions envisage God. You say that some religions personalise or personify God whilst others regard Him as an …

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Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Pouring out the water.

POURING OUT THE WATER. Q. Why is it customary to pour out the water from vessels in a house where a person has died? A. There are several theories. A prosaic explanation is that this is an indirect way of making it known that a person has passed away. This …

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Oz Torah: Torah reading- Naso

TWO EXTREMES There couldn’t be a greater contrast than that of the two extremes that are depicted in this week’s parashah. There is the “sotah”, the woman who allows herself the extreme of licence, and the “nazir”, the person who is so strict that no transgression could ever arise on …

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Oz Torah:The all-night tikkun – Shavu’ot

THE ALL-NIGHT TIKKUN. Staying up all night to study on Shavu’ot is back in fashion. Other religious all-nighters are also on the way back, such as long Sedarim on Pesach, when some people keep going until almost dawn, like the five rabbis in B’nei B’rak in Rabbi Akiva’s day. We …

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