Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

OzTorah. – Ask the Rabbi.

SHAVU’OT – A CALENDRICAL GHOST? Everybody knows Shavu’ot is an important festival, but it doesn’t have a tractate to describe it. The others do – Pesachim, Rosh HaShanah, Yoma, Sukkah, even Megillah. There is no tractate of Chanukah, but that’s a different problem. There is no date specified for Shavu’ot …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – B’har-B’chukkotai.

(In Israel, the reading this week is B’chukkotai only.) WE DON’T MAKE A BLESSING. B’har is where we meet the fundamental principle of charity: “If your brother has become poor, and his strength has dwindled beside you, then you shall uphold him” (Lev. 25:35). Note the words, “your brother” – …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

HOW WAS THE TORAH WRITTEN? Question.    Did Moses write the whole Torah at one sitting? Answer.       The sages of the Talmud (Yoma 37b, Gittin 60a) say that the Torah was given “m’gillah m’gillah” (“scroll by scroll”), i.e. section by section. According to this theory, the Torah was not …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Emor.

COUNTING EVERY BLESSING. A central feature of this week’s reading is the command to bring an “omer”, a measure of barley, to the sanctuary, beginning on the second day of Pesach. From that moment we have to count 49 days until the festival of Shavu’ot. Maimonides tells us that the …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN INDONESIA. Indonesia should be ashamed of itself for executing two Australians as well as a few others.  It is not that the people who were executed were lily white.  Indonesia has processes of law which led to their sentencing.  No-one denies the Indonesian right to have strict …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Acharei Mot – K’doshim.

SABBATHS & SANCTUARIES. K’doshim says, “Keep my Sabbaths and respect My sanctuary” (Lev. 19:30). Targum Onkelos adds two words for the sake of greater clarity: “Keep My Sabbath Days” (which shows, says Sforno, that the phrase includes festivals) and “respect My sacred House” (which Rashi and others say includes all …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

EQUAL RIGHTS. Question.   In the eyes of God, do we all have equal rights? Answer.      Some countries have a Bill of Rights that spells out people’s entitlements. But many of us claim all sorts of extras – not just free medicine, free education and free handouts, but …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Tazria-M’tzora

IF CLOTHES COULD ONLY TALK. This week’s double sidra has a focus on leprosy. Whatever the medical definition of the leprosy of the Bible, it is a kind of disease that shows itself in not just the person’s body but their clothes (Lev. 13:47). Centuries of commentators raised the logical …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT. Question.   The Torah, with the story of Isaac and Ishmael, shows the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Do you think it will ever really end? Answer.       Isaac is the ancestor of the Jews and Ishmael of the Arabs. Islamic tradition exalts Abraham as an …

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OzTorah: Torah Reading. ‘Parashat Sh’mini’

TWO HALVES OF MARRIAGE. Sh’mini tells us about the kohanim, each of whom had a duty to have a wife.  The partnership between husband and wife enables both parties to complement each other. The Talmud has a section in Yevamot 62b-63a that offers many wise observations about marriage, including the …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

Question.   Does Judaism require a belief in mysticism? Answer.     Rufus Jones has said that mysticism is “religion in its most acute, intense, and living stage”, but while in some religions mysticism developed outside and even in opposition to the structured norm, the Jewish mystics were within the tradition, communed with …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi

Features for the end of Pesach PESACH & THE FIVE RABBIS. Five rabbis stayed up all night in Bnei Brak talking about the Exodus, and the Haggadah features the incident as if it were something unique. Some say that it was a covert national security meeting and though the words …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

THESE ARE THE TEN PLAGUES. The Haggadah lists “Elleh eser makkot”, “These are the Ten Plagues”, but the plagues did not stop at ten. Jewish and world history are full of other terrible experiences – ten times ten and more besides – and unlike the list in the Haggadah they …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Tzav

RESIDENTS & TOURISTS. The sidra tells us that the fire on the altar shall be left to burn continuously and must never be allowed to go out (Lev. 6:6). There is a comparison between the fire and the human being. King David said in the Psalms (27:4) that he yearned …

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OzTorah – Ask the Rabbi. A Pesach prelude.

DRAMATISING YOUR OWN STORY. Because of Pesach, our history can never recede into the past and become merely a page in a history book. The Haggadah says, “In every generation a person must regard him- or herself as if they emerged from Egypt”. We are all there amongst the Israelites …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Vayikra

A DEBATE BETWEEN GOD & MOSES. The tiny alef at the end of the word “Vayikra” has aroused the mind of countless generations. Normally every letter of the Chumash is written in standard size, neither bigger nor smaller than the others. This alef is an exception, and the Ba’al HaTurim …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

PROVING GOD. Question. How can you prove there is a God? Answer.   I have two quarrels with your question. The first quarrel is with the delineation of what the real issue is. What is the real issue? Whether there is God, not “a” (i.e. any) God. If there is …

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OzTorah:Torah reading-Vayakhel & P’kudei

SORRY RABBI, BUT I’M BORED. Congregant: “Rabbi, I’m sorry to jump on you like this at the Kiddush, but I want you to know why I probably won’t come to shule next week. “I more or less tolerated all those chapters a few weeks ago when the narrative was about …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

KOSHER BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS. Question.   All too often I see stories in the media about religious Jews who cheat others in business. Isn’t this a contradiction in terms? Answer.      Not only is it a contradiction, but it was specifically targeted by Rabbi Yisra’el Salanter (1810-1883) who founded the “Mussar” (“Ethical …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Ki Tissa

      WHO IS A GOOD JEW? This is the accepted translation of the opening words of the sidra: “When you take a count of the Children of Israel according to their number, each one shall pay a ransom for his soul.” The message seems to be that every …

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