Is it to OK to believe in God and worship your own way?…ask the rabbi

November 13, 2017 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Rabbi Raymond Apple answers this question and others.

Rabbi Raymond Apple


Q. I don’t go to shule or take part in organised religion, but I believe in God and worship Him in my own way. Do you approve of me?

A. The question is not whether I approve of you but whether you approve of yourself.

The Torah warns us against doing what is right in our own eyes (Deut. 12:8). This says two things, one negative and one positive.

Negatively, when you want to do your own thing it may be too difficult and you need the support that comes from being part of a community.

Positively, if you succeed in creating a link with God you may be able to help others find Him. Being part of the religious community will help to make this possible.

You have to decide whether you aren’t running a spiritual risk by opting out of organised religion.

As far as I am concerned, I recognise your need to be true to yourself.


Q. What are the origins of the Jewish community council?

A. No-one can be certain where it began, but the theoretical underpinnings are already there in the Torah.

Moses and Aaron, whom the commentators call the “parnasim” (leaders) of the generation, were supported by a council of elders who represented the members of all the Israelite tribes.

The 31st chapter of Proverbs speaks of the elders “sitting in the gate”, which sounds like a leadership council that was in regular or constant session to dispense justice and handle queries from the public.

In Talmudic times there was a sophisticated social structure. A community was worthy of the name only if it had a series of institutions ranging from parks to medical facilities and courts of justice (Sanh. 17b).

Householders were regarded as citizens after 12 months’ residence. The citizens elected a seven-man council (“shivah tuvei ha’ir”, literally “the seven good men of the town”), who regulated every aspect of the life of the community, even weights and measures and meat prices, though everything had to confirm to the laws of the Torah, and the “g’dolei ha-dor”, “the great sages of the generation”, had power to veto any measures which contravened religious requirements.

Executive responsibility rested with three “parnasim” whose appointment had to be seen to be fair and above board: hence two brothers could not sit on the executive at the same time (Yerushalmi Pe’ah 8:7). If Jews and non-Jews both lived in a town, each group had their own communal government (Yerushalmi Gittin 8:9).

Post-Talmudic communities developed various other structures which generally reflected the degree of autonomy which the host society allowed to the Jewish community.


Q. Should non-Jews have to keep the Sabbath?

A. I have not quoted your question verbatim but have summed up its gist.

Since you assume that the Sabbath applies in the first instance to Jews, I will leave out the reasons why Jews should observe the day carefully and strictly.

Concerning non-Jews, there is no need for them to light candles on Friday night or to say Hebrew prayers, but they would definitely benefit from a weekly withdrawal from the pace, pressure and demands of the weekdays, using the time instead for personal and family renewal and cultural activity.

For Jews this all happens on Saturday. Non-Jews can choose Sunday or any other day that suits them.


One Response to “Is it to OK to believe in God and worship your own way?…ask the rabbi”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    Religion is not popular in my beach suburb in Melbourne Ports electorate.

    There are no synagogues, mosques or temples and only one christian church left, attended by old people mostly, were there was once 5 churches in the 1980’s.

    In the last ABS census 30% of Australians declared that they had no religion but there are probably others who say they follow the faith they were raised in but never go to a religious service.

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