Oz Torah: Orthodox Jews feeling they’re right – Ask the Rabbi.


Q. Why do orthodox Jews always think they are right? Doesn’t the Talmud say,

“These, and these, are the words of the living God”?

A. It is not that orthodox Jews think they are right, but that God and His Torah are always right.

When the sages said,

“These, and these, are the words of the living God” (Eruvin 13b, Gittin 6b),

they were speaking of two honestly held points of view within the halachah (Jewish law).

Rabbinic tradition is full of examples of differing halachic views, though in the end the halachic system decided to approve one rather than another.

But a non- or anti-halachic view cannot be accorded the same status as a halachic view.

It is not possible, for example, to claim that keeping kosher and not keeping kosher are equally valid. True, there are some Jews who belong to orthodox synagogues who do not (yet!) keep kosher, but they cannot argue ideologically that non-kashrut is as halachic as kashrut.

The word “ideologically” is in fact the key word. The moment one puts forward an ideological claim for non-halachah one has lost the right to be counted amongst the “these and these” of whom the Talmud speaks.


Q. When the Ark is opened, why do we sing a passage that sounds so warlike –

“Rise up, O Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You”?

A. This is a verse from Num. 10:35. The context is,

“When the Ark moved forward (in the wilderness),

Moses said,

“Rise up, O Lord, etc.”

The implication is that when the Ark moves forward and the Torah leads the people of Israel, there is no reason to fear the threats of any enemy.

Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue.

What is it that Israel’s enemies sought to attack? Not simply the people of Israel but what they stood for, their faith, their principles, their teachings, their way of life.

An attack on our beliefs and tenets was an attack on the Torah, and an attack on the Torah was an attack on God. When we suffered injury at the hands of enemies it was as if the Torah and God Himself felt the pain.

But for so long as Jews believed in themselves, in their principles and their God, nothing could prevent their surviving.

Nations kept coming and going, trying to eradicate us and what we stood for; but as PM Raskin says of Israel in one of his poems,

“Thou an eternal witness remainest, watching their burial, watching their birth”.


Q. How do you explain the puzzling verse (Gen. 4:1),

“I have gotten a man, God”?

A. Eve’s words, “’kaniti’ (linked with ‘Kayin’, Cain) ish et HaShem”, “I have gotten a man with the Lord”, give rise to two questions.

Why does she say,

“I have gotten a man”?

Why does she say,

“With the Lord”?

The first statement may mean that after the sin she committed which lost them the Garden of Eden, she has regained her husband’s love; or that she has given birth to a male child.

The second statement does not mean, “a God who is man” or “a man who is God”. Between “ish” (a man) and “HaShem” (the Lord) the verse has the word “et”, “with”. Hence Eve is saying,

“I have given birth to a child with the help of God”.

Rashi quotes the Talmudic statement that husband and wife are partners with God in creating new life (cf. Niddah 31a).

Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com

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