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 the fold, because it is better for the marriage, better for the children and better for Judaism.
However, in a free society there is no way of stopping some people from marrying non-Jewish partners, and no-one should feel frozen out of the community as a result. Every Jew, whether married in or out, is part of Judaism.
Positive involvement in Jewish life should be welcomed. This does not mean synagogues or rabbis officiating at interfaith marriages. Nor does it mean allocating synagogue or communal honours to people who have married out. But the community should rejoice that a Jew wants to remain Jewish, treat the non-Jewish spouse with respect, and welcome the family at Jewish events and celebrations.
Experience suggests that in time a number of non-Jewish spouses find Judaism sufficiently meaningful as to want to become Jewish themselves, and the children of non-Jewish mothers convert to and uphold the Jewish way of life.
OPEN MY LIPS
Question. Why do we say, “Lord open my lips” before saying the Amidah?
Answer. The complete phrase, from Psalm 51:17, is
“Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise”. The Psalmist has sinned. He fears he will be unable to face or pray to God. If however the Almighty enables his lips to speak it will be an indication of forgiveness.
When the liturgy chose these words with which to approach the Amidah, it broadened the meaning to imply,
“God, enter my mouth: help me to frame my prayers and to utter them sincerely”.
The person who prays dreads being tongue-tied and distracted. Without God’s help it may be too hard to pray. The result is a paradox – in our prayers God both speaks and is spoken to.
Question. Who was Abraham’s mother?
Answer. According to Rav (3rd century Babylonia), she was Amatlai bat Karnevo (Bava Batra 91a). According to Rashi, her name implies that Abraham was influenced by his mother; “kar” is a lamb, a clean species of animal, and Abraham was a pious, upright person. The Talmud also gives the names of the mothers of Haman, David and Samson.
Why, the text asks, were the names of these particular women not stated in the Bible itself?
“In order to reply to the minim, the sectarians”. Which sectarians, and why did they need a reply?
The problem appears to be that some groups questioned the authority of the oral tradition, and the Talmud is suggesting that only through oral traditions such as the names of Abraham’s and other people’s mothers is important information preserved.
Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, and was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesperson for Jews and Judaism on the Australian continent. Now retired and lives in Jerusalem.