Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

OzTorah: Torah reading – Shof’tim

A FEELING FOR THE LAW. The opening verses of the sidra (Deut. 16:18) seem almost unnecessary. They tell us to have judges and officers in all our gates. Of course the gate in ancient times was where everything happened. That’s where people met one another, where commercial transactions took place, …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

SYNAGOGUES WITHOUT SPIRITUALITY. Question.  I have often wondered why my synagogue is so active and busy but not in a spiritual sense. I feel more spiritual in my garden. Is there something wrong with me? Answer.  Possibly. Maybe you miss the sense of sanctity that comes from sitting in shule …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Re’eh.

LOOK AFTER THE LEVITE. In a Torah portion packed with content there comes the sentence, “Do not abandon the Levite” (Deut. 12:19). Look at its context and you understand the verse. Israelite worship had to avoid all forms of idolatry. Authentic Jewish worship had to be structured according to the …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

PROTECTING THE DEAD. Question.  Does Judaism approve of autopsies? Answer.  Generally Judaism opposes anything which would injure, mar or mutilate the human body, after death as well as in life. However, in 1776 Rabbi Yechezkel Landau issued in his Noda Biy’hudah a now famous statement that an autopsy could be …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Ekev

100 A DAY. Cigarette smoking is now quite rare. When I was a boy things were different. Smokers who were trying to wean themselves off the habit used to boast, “I’m down to being a ten-a-day person”. Judaism of course has a strong tradition of declaring smoking to be a …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

ENTERING A CHURCH OR MOSQUE. Question.  May a Jew enter a church or mosque? Answer.  Jewish sentiment is wary of entering a church or mosque. Our historical memory of being compelled to attend Christian sermons cannot be easily effaced. But it’s not just a matter of history but of ideology. Whilst …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Va’et’channan.

SHEMA COMES TWICE. “Sh’ma Yisra’el” – “Hear, O Israel” – comes twice in this week’s reading – Deut. 5:1 and 6:4. The second instance is the famous one. The first passage is Moses announcing the Ten Commandments: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances…” In this Sh’ma, God has …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

DEALING WITH INTERMARRIAGE Question.  Should synagogues welcome people who have married out? Answer. Before addressing your specific question, two prior axioms: We have to encourage marriage as a principle, with the commitment that it brings to each other and to the future; and we have to encourage people to marry within …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

ONLY THE LIVING CAN REMEMBER. On Tishah B’Av, remembering is the rule. Tragedies happened, and we have to remember them. Not just the destruction of the Temple, indeed both Temples, but the long procession of calamities that accompanied all the ages. Every time of year has its historical memories; every …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Mass’ei

EFFORT & EXPENSES. Mass’ei is the travel diary of Israel in the wilderness, introduced with the words, “And Moses wrote down their goings forth on their journeys” (Num. 33:2). The word for “their goings forth” is “motza’eihem”. Since the root is “yatza”, to go out, the word could possibly mean …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

INCOME TAX & “FIDDLING THE BOOKS” Question.  Is there any halachic reason why I can’t “fiddle the books” when it comes to paying my income tax? Answer.  Being a part of society comes at a cost. A halachic rule stated in the name of the sage Sh’muel, “dina d’malchuta dina”, …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Mattot

VOWS & PROMISES. The portion begins with a whole section about making vows. From the halachic point of view, the making of vows is a major issue. The halachic analyses of the Kol Nidre with which Yom Kippur commences could take up a library (as could the literary and historical …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

WHO KEEPS THE CHILDREN? Question.  Are there any Jewish laws about which parent should have custody of the children after a divorce? Answer.  You can of course leave it all to the lawyers and the courts but it is better all round for you to agree on these crucial issues …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Pinchas.

WHY WAS HE PINCHAS? One of the favourite hobbies of Biblical scholars is tracing the etymology of the names in the Bible. The Tanach itself starts the process when it explains the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and so many others. The Midrash continues and fills in many …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

MYSTICAL JUDAISM. Question.  Why does Judaism seem so earthly and practical? Why does it not focus more on mysticism? Answer.  It is true that mainstream Judaism seems to emphasise day-to-day religious practice, but this is not for lack of a sense of spirituality. On the contrary: it is, as Max …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Balak

THE JEWISH ENIGMA. Judaism owes a debt to the heathen prophet Bilam. Not only did he coin the immortal words, “Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov” – “How goodly are your tents, O Israel” (Num. 24:5). He also epitomised the world’s fascination with the Jewish people when he said, “How can I …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

FOLLOWING ORDERS. Question. What is the Jewish approach to the “I was only following orders” excuse used by soldiers (and others) who commit abuses? Answer. In Judaism the first instance of the problem arises in regard to Abraham, to whom God says, “Your descendants will be strangers in a strange land …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Chukkat.

  MOSES & AARON: PARTNERS IN GREATNESS. Parashat Chukkat tells us of the death of Aaron the high priest (Num. 20:22-29). Aaron’s career was twofold – as careful keeper of the ritual procedures of the sanctuary, and as counsellor and peace-maker for his community. According to Rashi, the whole of …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

WOMEN’S VOICES. Question. Why does Jewish law object to women singing in front of men? Answer. The rule derived from the Talmud (Ber. 24a etc.) is “kol b’ishah ervah” – “A woman’s voice arouses (desire)”. I will come back to the “b” in front of “ishah”, but let me first address …

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