Why don’t Jews have saints?…ask the rabbi

February 13, 2017 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Q. Why don’t Jews have saints like the Catholics?


Rabbi Raymond Apple

A. Jews do not have saints in the Catholic sense of being a person who has performed a miracle.

What Judaism reveres are giants of the spirit whose lives have been devoted to living for God and His Torah.

No-one needs to make official application to have such people canonised. It is the people as a whole, and history, which grants them their status.

There are also people who have sacrificed their lives for God and Judaism. We do not allocate the term “saint” to such individuals though we call them “k’doshim” and speak of their “Kiddush HaShem”.


Q. In an open society there is bound to be some intermarriage. What can we do about it?

A. Intermarriage statistics in some countries give rise to alarm that the Jewish people will die out.

Judaism is not going to lie down and die, but we need to encourage people to feel certain that their destiny is within Judaism and the Jewish people.

It means more Jewish education, more Jewish experience, more enjoyment of living Jewishly, and more conscious choice of the Jewish option.

It’s never going to be easy. People can and do meet non-Jews and find things in common, and friendship leads to love and marriage. Sometimes the Jewish person feels alone and can’t find a Jewish partner.

It is unfair to the children of the marriage to say they can choose for themselves when they grow up whether they want Judaism or not; by then the circumstances of the environment will have taken over.

It is irrational for parents to scream at their child about not marrying out if the children have not had a home example of Jewish joy, relevance and reasonability.

Parents have to start when their children are babies to live by what I have called the Jewish Option.

The community doesn’t solve these problems by ignoring it or ostracising people or by opposing conversion.


Q. Do Jewish books get a blessing before they are printed?

A. Many books open with the commendation or blessing of a great scholar or scholars.

In the case of rabbinic books this kind of commendation is called a “Haskamah”, an approval or approbation.

In 16th century Italy the rabbis meeting at Ferrera decided that Hebrew books had to be approved by three rabbis and a layman prior to publication, with the aim of preventing offensive material being published and causing dissension in the community.

Modern-day rabbinic writings often carry the Haskamah of one or more leading authorities as testimony to the religiosity and expertise of the author.

Not all Jewish books bear a Haskamah but the same purpose is often served by a book launching in which a leading personality commends the book to the public.


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.


5 Responses to “Why don’t Jews have saints?…ask the rabbi”
  1. Liat Kirby-Nagar says:

    Lynne Newington,
    You are very knowledgeable and your perspective is always worth reading. It’s good to have your posts.

  2. Adrian Jackson says:

    The Christians used to have a hierarchy on angles too.

  3. Liat Kirby-Nagar says:

    Rabbi Apple,
    It is not necessarily so that children of an inter-marriage couple cannot or do not choose for themselves to be Jewish and live a Jewish life. I am a living example of that. My mother, now deceased, was Jewish and I grew up in a secular household. Indeed, some children who are brought up Jewish from time of birth (what you call the Jewish Option) choose later to depart from it, at least in the kind of way they practise it, or, if in an ultra-Orthodox community become stifled by it. They can also take it for granted and become non-thinking in relation to it. There are many complexities to situations, and Jewish education coupled with parents who live a Jewish life as concrete example, do not ensure that children will follow suit.

    There can be great beauty in difference, as I believe Jewish thought teaches us to appreciate. Having a Jewish soul can be the thing that in the end proves resilient.

  4. Adrian Jackson says:

    Roman Catholic “Saints” not only have to be good people, do good deeds or are martyrs for their religion they also have to preform 2 miracles.
    We all know that the miracles myth dont happen and that events happen due to good luck, good medicine or good science etc.

    • Lynne Newington says:

      Adrian perhaps it’s just as well you don’t have saints to be accountable to considering what’s done in the name of their Mother of all saints Mary.
      Not once during any of her alledged apparitions has she spoken about her children whose souls were destoyed at the hands of her clergy………
      Not to mention the Franciscan related apparations at Medjugorje over just over the hill to Surmanci……..

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