DOES GOD CARE HOW WE WORSHIP HIM?
Q. Whether in a synagogue, church or mosque, does God really care how people worship Him?
A. Our prayer does more for the one who prays than for God.
He is not improved by our praise. He is perfect already. Humans are susceptible to flattery but God isn’t.
When we call Him “great”, we don’t make Him any greater. When we call Him “awesome”, our words don’t enhance His awesomeness. The prophet Malachi says, “I the Lord do not change” (3:6).
Does it do anything for God if we choose to pray to Him in Hebrew or for that matter in any other language? God’s nature and essence remain the same whatever language we use, whatever house of worship we choose.
So why bother to pray?
Someone once said, “He who rises from prayer a better man, his prayer is answered”. This works in several ways:
1. By focusing our thoughts on goodness and mercy we make a subtle change in ourselves.
2. By using Jewish prayer-terminology, we identify with Jewish history and tradition.
3. By submitting to God’s authority we become humbler and less egotistical.
4. By allying ourselves with God we broaden the scope of Being.
5. By calling on God we are spreading His Kingdom.
Does it make a difference that Jews pray in a synagogue, Christians in a church and Muslims in a mosque?
It does because our cultural and theological background affects our priorities, values and terminology.
STANDING AT WEDDINGS
Q. Why do the bride and groom and their attendants stand during the wedding ceremony?
A. On their wedding day, the couple is likened to royal personages (Pir’kei D’R. Eli’ezer, chapter 16) and it is like their coronation (although I seem to remember that at a British coronation the monarch is seated).
Two other theories are also put forward.
One is that the couple are in the presence of God and must stand, out of respect for Him who ordained the whole institution of marriage and without whose blessing no marriage can succeed.
If this theory is true, then everyone present should stand, though it is more usual for some at least of the guests to be seated.
The second theory is that the couple stands to symbolise respect for one another.
This suggests that with all the love, romance and emotion of marriage a husband and wife must honour each other’s dignity, views and wishes at all times. Neither partner has any right to say, or even to think, “I am the boss in our marriage and what I say goes”.
USING A CAR SPACE
Q. A store has a free carpark for its customers but others have got wind of it and park there, which makes it difficult for the people for whom it was intended. Is there a Jewish ethical rule about this?
A. The parking facility is an investment by the storekeeper who expects returns in the form of extra business. Outsiders who park there are guilty of stealing, either from the storekeeper or the store customers or both.
Research would be needed, however, in order to quantify the dollars-and-cents value of what has been appropriated by others. At the very least the outsider has saved him/herself the cost of an on-street meter, if such could be found in that district.
Rabbi YP Bodner writes in “Halachos of Other People’s Money” (published by Feldheim), “If a private parking lot has a sign restricting parking to customers, residents, employees, etc., it is prohibited for others to park there. If it is self-evident that the owner needs the lot for his customers it is prohibited to park there, even without a sign”.
He has a footnote, “I heard from Rav Elyashiv that as long as the owners care about their parking lot, (a person who parks there without permission) breaks the law against stealing”.
From the moral point of view, it seems that there has also been a transgression of the law of “hassagat g’vul”, trespassing on another’s territory (Deut. 19:14). The sages call such a transgressor a “rasha”.
Rabbinic literature goes into detail about not intruding on other people’s rights, especially when their professional or business territory.
There is a term, “ma’arufia” (possibly from Arabic, possibly from French) which was largely concerned with rights of trading with gentiles but was generally extended to cover the right to practise a craft or trade.
Rabbi Raymond Apple was for many years Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesman on Jewish religious issues. After serving congregations in London, Rabbi Apple was chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, for 32 years. He also held many public roles, particularly in the fields of chaplaincy, interfaith dialogue and Freemasonry, and is the recipient of several national and civic honours. Now retired, he lives in Jerusalem and blogs at http://www.oztorah.com