Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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, …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

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 …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Vengeance In Israel.

Question.    On the wall of a house in Israel where an Arab baby and his father were killed and members of the family badly injured, someone scrawled “N’kamah” – “Vengeance!” What is the Jewish perspective on acts of vengeance? Answer.       The Jewish principle is “Li nakam v’shillem” – “‘Vengeance is …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi ‘Conversions in Israel’

Question.    Why is the Israeli rabbinate so strict in what it expects from converts? Answer.       The halachic answer ought, theoretically, to function regardless of political considerations. However, the pure ideal cannot be achieved while there is such controversy about the relationship between State and religion when the religious parties …

Read More »

OzTorah – Torah reading: Va’et’channan.

TIME FOR A SUCCESSOR When God told Moses his days were numbered, the decree was not accepted without protest. The rabbis say that the numerical value of “Va’et’channan” is 515, indicating that Moses uttered this number of pleas to God to allow him to enter the Promised Land. We are …

Read More »

OzTorah – Ask the Rabbi on “Tu B’Av”

    MATCHMAKING ON TU B’AV. Question.    I hear there is a minor festival this Friday called Tu B’Av. What is it all about? Answer.       Tu B’Av (the 15th of the month of Av) has a double significance. Josephus called it the Feast of Wood-Bearing as it was …

Read More »

OzTorah – Torah reading: D’varim

FORM OR CONTENT? Starting with the opening verses of D’varim, we become the audience for Moses’ series of farewell speeches. Impressive to read, we wonder whether the orations were equally impressive to listen to. After all, Moses was marred by a speech impediment: he was “k’vad peh, k’vad lashon”, “heavy …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi – Features for Tishah B’Av.

RESURGENT ANTISEMITISM. Question.   Why is there a resurgence of antisemitism? Answer.      In theory it is connected with Israel. It is customary to say that antisemitism was once religious but has now become secular. Like all generalisations this view does not entirely accord with the facts. “Secular” Jew-hatred and teaching …

Read More »

Oz Torah: Torah Reading – Mattot-Mass’ei

A BIG EVENT PASSING US BY. The story of the journeys of the Children of Israel seems prosaic, for example, “They encamped in the wilderness of Sinai” (Num. 33:15). We already know that Sinai was a stopping place. Why remind us? Yet if you slow down you ask the question: …

Read More »

OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.

MOURNER’S KADDISH. Question.     What is the origin of “Kaddish Yatom”, the Mourner’s Kaddish? Answer.       Despite the popular view, Kaddish did not begin as a mourner’s prayer, and Kaddish Yatom is only one version of Kaddish. The Kaddish is an amalgam of phrases commencing with a passage from …

Read More »

OzTorah – Ask the Rabbi: “When will I die”

WHEN WILL I DIE? Question.   When will I die? Answer.     As the prophet Ezekiel would have said, “Lord God, Thou knowest”. Even when the doctors give an indication of how long a patient has, they cannot be certain. When a person seems to be healthy, anything can lie around the …

Read More »