Are summertime pool parties an intrusion into privacy?

January 18, 2021 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Ask the rabbi.

Rabbi Raymond Apple


Q. Is there any issue with watching TV shows or movies that contain the “F” word?

A. Judaism is far from prudish. The Bible and Talmud are frank about sex – but they are also dignified.

Jews are far from prudes; Jewish married life is an enjoyable experience, and the Hebrew marriage covenant requires a couple to live “according to the way of the world”.

However, Judaism also says that since everybody knows why husband and wife enter the marriage chamber, to speak of it is to sully one’s lips (K’tubot 8b).

Intimacy between husband and wife is part of the creative privilege granted us by the Almighty, and turning sexual love into inappropriate titillation is to reduce the dignity of the human being to the crude level of the farmyard animals.

It is likewise with other “grob” terms. In Judaism, the body is sacred and given by God. There is a b’rachah to say when leaving the toilet. It acknowledges that natural bodily operations are part of a normally functioning human being.

Turning the functions of the body into material for coarse jokes is to cheapen, vulgarise and trivialise a great Divine gift.


Q. At this time of year, some people in my block of apartments have social gatherings around the pool which are annoying with their noise and loud music. What does Jewish teaching say about neighbours and privacy?

A. Jewish ethics has long-established principles regulating the behaviour of people who live in or around a joint courtyard.

One may not, for example, have a door or window directly facing those of a neighbour; when Bilam said, “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling-places, O Israel” (Num. 24:2-4), the rabbis say he was praising the fact that “the openings of their tents were not aligned one opposite the other” (Bava Batra 60a).

If partners divide a courtyard into two individual lots, each may require that the other share in building a dividing wall (B.B. 2a). All the neighbours are duty-bound to respect and contribute towards the privacy and security of each other, and towards the protection of the city as a whole (B.B. 7b).

An unacceptable level of noise is in its own way an intrusion upon a neighbour’s privacy and rights of enjoyment, and in addition to protecting oneself from such intrusion, Jewish law obligates one to avoid personally carrying out such acts.


Q. Why do some people sit and others stand when Kiddush is said?

A. There are different customs and no definitive law.

In the Shulchan Aruch, the compiler, Joseph Karo, says that “Vayechullu” (Gen. 2:1-3) should be recited standing; the Rema (Moses Isserles) says it is better to sit (Orach Chayyim 271:10).

The argument for standing is that “Vayechullu” is our testimony that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. As witnesses stand whilst giving their evidence, so we should stand for at least this part of the Kiddush.

Rabbi Raymond Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem where he answers interesting questions.

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