Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

OzTorah: Torah reading – Tol’dot.

LABAN THE ARAMEAN. At the beginning of Parashat Ki Tavo (Deut. 26) there is a declaration to be made when an Israelite brings his first fruits to the kohen. The Israelite begins by encapsulating the history of the people until then. He explains why they went to Egypt and how …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Naming Rights.

Question.   Is there any issue with a school bearing the name of its donor? Answer.     The story behind your question is explained in an accompanying letter: “Our community has a Jewish elementary school and we have long needed a high school. Our dilemma is that any kind of school, …

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OzTorah: Torah Reading – Chayyei Sarah

SARAH & THE WOMEN It’s all very well to accuse Judaism of being patriarchal, but the fact is that tradition has a matriarchal theme that comes to the fore when parents bless their daughters on Erev Shabbat, saying, “May God make you like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah”. Sarah heads …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Hypnosis

Question.   What is the Jewish opinion on hypnosis? Answer.      There are two issues – may a Jew practise or submit to hypnosis, and is an act performed under hypnosis deemed a conscious act by Jewish law? On the first issue, the answer depends on whether hypnosis is merely a …

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OzTorah: Torah reading: Vayyera.

                                     TWO LECH-L’CHAS. Last week’s sidra and this week’s both feature God calling to Abraham in the words, “Lech-l’cha!” The literal meaning is “Go for yourself”. In classical English, the message is “Betake yourself”. Rashi points out at the beginning of last week’s reading that the “l’cha” tells Abraham that …

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OzTorah: – Ask the Rabbi on “Kosher wine”

Question.     What can be non-kosher in ordinary wine? Answer.        Two considerations are relevant. The first is that wine was part of worship rites from ancient days. Judaism feared that ordinary wine could have been used or at least made for libations at heathen worship (“yayin nesech”). Hence, wine for Jewish …

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OzTorah: Insights on parashat Lech-L’cha

WHAT DIFFERENCE CAN ISRAEL MAKE? The sidra begins with the magnificent call, “Lech l’cha”, “Leave everything behind and go to the place I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). On one reading, “Ar’eka” – “I will show you” refers to the land of Israel. The patriarch had to heed the call …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Paul & Judaism

PAUL & JUDAISM Question.   Is it true that Christianity was founded by Paul after his break from Judaism? Answer.     The general view is that Paul was a Jew who turned against his people, rejected Judaism and claimed that God had rejected the Jews. Paul Johnson argues in his History of …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Eve’s Punishment.

Eve’s Punishment. Question. Why was Eve punished so harshly? Answer.    Much of life is unfair. Some might even say this begins to be true right at the beginning of the Bible. True, God did command Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree, and He spelt out …

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OzTorah: Sh’mini Atzeret & Simchat Torah.

ISRAEL & RAIN. Sh’mini Atzeret is the day when we pray for rain. The chazan wears the white garments that characterize the Yom Kippur supplications. The poems written by El’azar Kalir acknowledge that life depends on whether we get enough rain. The rain prayers go back to the time of …

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OzTorah: Sukkot articles.

THE GA’ON’S ETROG. The Vilna Ga’on said that he would forego his place in the World to Come for an etrog. Other historical figures have made sweeping statements. Recall, for example, the ruler who said, “My kingdom for a horse!” But giving away the afterlife for a citron? The Ga’on …

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OzTorah: Yom Kippur Features

THE WORDS OF OUR MOUTH & THE MEDITATION OF OUR HEARTS. Nothing rivals the awe and splendour of Kol Nidrei night. Nothing rivals the Kol Nidrei melody. But nothing explains the apparent banality of the Kol Nidrei words. The explanation needs us to acknowledge how often the prayer book appeals …

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Ask the Rabbi. Torah reading: Vayelech

GETTING OLD. With this sidra, Moses’s life is entering its final chapter, and he says, “Lo uchal od latzet v’lavo” – “I am no longer able to go out and come in” (Deut. 31:2). This is one of the two main Biblical descriptions of the aging process. The other is …

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OzTorah: Four thoughts for the High Holydays.

FOUR THOUGHTS FOR THE HIGH HOLYDAYS. 1. EVERY JEW A MYSTIC Judaism regards Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur as occasions when holiness and communion come together and form the keynote of the experience – in four senses: communion with God, with fellow man, with Judaism and with oneself. The poems …

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OzTorah: Torah reading – Ki Tavo

WHEN DO YOU ARRIVE? Many years ago I accepted a position in Australia and resigned from my then congregation at Hampstead in north-west London. Someone expressed surprise that I was going, and said, “Hampstead is a place of arrival, not departure!” He meant that when a rabbi got a job …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – The other side to Rosh Hashanah.

THE OTHER SIDE TO ROSH HASHANAH. In olden days education was said to be the 3 Rs – reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic. Rosh HaShanah, in contrast, is the 3 Ss – solemn, serious and sacred. The very air of the day is rarefied. It’s obvious it is not a day …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Greeting a Mourner

Question.   I read that one should not greet a mourner with a “Shalom”. How about the English custom of shaking hands with mourners and wishing them long life? Answer.     “I wish you long life” is a typical Anglo-Jewish idiom. Others include “I wish you well over the fast” and “I …

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OzTorah. Torah reading: Shoftim

WASHING OUR HANDS. “I’m fed up. I abdicate. I wash my hands of the matter. I’ve had enough. Don’t talk to me about it again.” A common reaction to a long-standing problem: “You sort it out: leave me alone”. The key phrase is “I wash my hands”.  Psalm 26:6 says, …

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OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Blasphemy in Judaism.

BLASPHEMY IN JUDAISM Question.   A Christian woman in Pakistan is being tried for blasphemy. She is accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam and if found guilty she could be put to death. What does Judaism say about blasphemy? Answer.   As early as the Seven Laws of the Sons …

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OzTorah. Torah reading: Re’eh

WALKING AFTER GOD At the beginning of Parashat No’ach we are told that No’ach walked with God (Gen. 6:9). Rashi and others point out that where No’ach walked with God, Abraham walked before Him (Gen. 24:40). The sages compare these two early leaders to children who at first need to …

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