November 14, 2022 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Ask the rabbi.
FROM RIGHT TO LEFT
Q. Why does Hebrew flow from right to left and English from left to right?
A. According to one view, a scribe would hold his papyrus in his left hand and use his right hand, which for most people is the strongest hand, to write each line. Since the Semitic languages predated Greek, Latin, and European languages, this meant that the original style of writing was right-to-left.
However, we still face the problem of why the left-to-right method developed. The answer may be that there was no fixed custom and people wrote in both directions, starting, for example, from right to left and continuing with the next line from left to right, until eventually, two styles settled, with some languages going one way. and others going the other.
WAS PAUL JEWISH?
Q. To what extent was the Christian saint Paul Jewish?
A. Before answering this question, we must say something about Jesus. It is wrong to believe that Jesus was a Christian and intended to found a new religion. Jesus was a Jew, and it was as a Jew that he lived and died.
Jesus’ religion was Judaism although he felt that the God of Judaism had revealed to him a secret regarding how to understand Jewishness. Jesus had his secret and his interpretation of Judaism and believed he was working in and for Judaism. The religion of Jesus was not Christianity although Christianity grew into the religion of Jesus.
Our question is to what extent Paul, whose original name was Saul, was responsible for building religion about Jesus.
Did Paul, like Jesus, consider himself a Jew in Judaism? The answer is yes and no. Paul was inconsistent. He claimed to be a Jew “of the stock of Israel”, “of the seed of Abraham”, had been circumcised, observed Jewish practices, was a Pharisee and had persecuted the movement of Jesus. But he came to believe that the Jews and Judaism were wrong and that the law of Moses was a source of bondage.
Paul seems to vary his message depending on the audience. The definitive image it presents is hostile to rabbinic Judaism. He encourages Gentiles to follow Jesus and is ambivalent about whether they should come to the religion of Jesus through Judaism or without it.
He went from persecuting Christians to becoming their champion. He appears more Christian than Jesus was.
Rabbi Raymond Apple served 32 years as Chief Minister of the Great Synagogue of Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem where he answers interesting questions.