Ask the rabbi

July 18, 2016 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Q. I have always been puzzled by the verse that we say at the end of Bensching, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen a righteous person forsaken or his descendants begging for bread”. How can this be squared with the facts?THE RIGHTEOUS GOING HUNGRY

Rabbi Raymond Apple

Rabbi Raymond Apple

A. You are right of course. Righteous people are not exempt from being or feeling forsaken, nor are their descendants immune from hunger.

The verse – from Psalm 37:25 – cannot be correct unless we read more into it than appears on the surface.

Here are some possible explanations:

• If you are righteous you do not feel the privations. You rise above them.

• Suffering does not last for ever. Eventually the righteous person is vindicated.

• God does not abandon the righteous. He sends them help.

• If the righteous are hungry they trust in God and do not lower themselves to beg.

• The verse is David’s personal observation. Other people see things differently.


Q. How come there are two Books of Kings in the Bible, not one?

A. There are also two Books of Samuel and two Books of Chronicles.

One view is that these divisions did not derive from Jewish but Christian sources, largely Archbishop Stephen Langton in the early 13th century.

If you add up the Books in the English Bible you find more than the Jewish enumeration of 24, because Christians did not follow the Jewish traditions of where and when sections of the Bible began and ended.

When Jews adopted the Christian enumeration it was not because they believed in it but for ease of reference in disputations with Christians. The latter would cite a chapter and verse and Jewish respondents needed to identify the text quickly.

However, there are earlier Jewish traditions such as the Septuagint that separate Samuel I and II and Kings I and II.

In regard to the Torah, the Christian influence was responsible for dividing the texts into chapters even when Jewish usage saw no need for particular divisions. An example is the verses that Christianity chose for the commencement of Gen. 2. These verses, narrating the end of the seven days of creation and the institution of the Sabbath, more logically belong to the end of Gen. 1.


The wall of Jerusalem was breached on 17 Tammuz, enabling the enemy to enter Jerusalem and destroy the sanctuary.

The fast we observe that day is, according to the prophet Zechariah, one of four that commemorate the destruction of the city and the Temple.

In messianic times all four will change their character and “be to the House of Judah joy and gladness and cheerful seasons; therefore peace and truth shall you love” (Zech. 8:19).

It is one thing, and a most welcome one, to have faith that darkness will turn into light and sorrow into joy. But what is the connection with loving peace and truth?

It points to one of the two approaches to the destruction of the Temple – the external and the internal. The external interpretation blames the enemy; the internal interpretation blames us ourselves.

Without excusing the enemy’s cruelty and savagery, the internal interpretation says that in a community in which truth and peace are not honoured there will be such social disintegration that the enemy will find it easier to enter and do its damage.

Conversely, if we raise the quality of our society we will achieve such inner strength that we can overcome any odds and find that no dream, even the rebuilding of the sanctuary, will be impossible.

Rabbi Raymond 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.


One Response to “Ask the rabbi”
  1. henry herzog says:

    Birkat Hamazon only 3 and one is not keaping shabbat ?

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