In this weeks ‘ask the rabbi’, Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet deals with destiny and fleeing anti-Semitism. 

Rabbi Schochet

Rabbi Schochet

If you want to contribute a question to ‘ask the rabbi’, you can email asktherabbi@thejngroup.com.

  •  Has destiny a role in my life?

Dear Rabbi,

My boyfriend has become a very important part of my life. After meeting eight years ago, we lost touch before bumping into each other again three years ago. We finally became a couple about a year ago and have grown extremely close. We are religiously very different.

My family background is traditional middle-of-the-road. However, I have become ever-more dedicated to Judaism, keeping Shabbat and eating only at kosher restaurants. I’ve always wanted to grow religiously, but have started to question the reasons behind my new-found observance ­– and even wonder if I’ll continue being religious in the future. My boyfriend is much more observant and recognises we aren’t on the same level. But he too wasn’t always devout, so knows the challenge of changing.

He supports me, but sometimes tells me I shouldn’t change my entire life for him. I know I should not change for someone else because it could store up problems in the marriage. At the same time, I feel compelled to change due to my feelings for my partner.

I feel overwhelmed and question my ability to reach his level and beyond. Despite the long back story, my question is a simple one: did destiny bring us back together after so many years? And if so, is this a sign that we belong together?

Jasmin

Dear Jasmin,

Let me address the destiny question first, as it is an excellent, albeit a very complex, one. Sometimes we have to open our eyes and acknowledge the reality of what is before us and when something keeps coming back to us we would be foolish to ignore the tell-tale signs.

But then there is the bigger question of how you make it work. In other words, this could well be a sign that he is your intended and on some level you certainly feel that way. But even so, there is the obvious bigger question as to your “religious incompatibility”. I believe that people need to be themselves and when looking to change the desire to do so must come from within. Changing for the sake of another is counter-productive and can have all sorts of longer-term repercussions, as you note.

To that end, if you are keen to embrace more Judaism in your own right – and so you should be – then that is what you have to work with before you commit to any long-term relationship. Do it for yourself and determine that you are comfortable with it. Speeding things up for the sake of someone else, however much you feel for that person, is like rushing into the relationship, which is never good under any circumstances for anyone. So your starting point is saying “maybe this is destiny”, and then taking a better look at yourself and determining what you are prepared to do to make it work. If that entails upping your own standards of Jewish observance, then the next question you have to ask yourself is, ‘Do “I” want to do this, or am I doing it just for him?”

If you do decide that you want to do it, then you have also to consider ‘at what pace can I do this?’ So, acknowledge the destiny but pace yourself. If he sees it the same way, then he will patiently guide you along and wait for you eventually to ‘arrive’, as it were. If he doesn’t, then my guiding principle is if you capture a dove, set it free. If it comes back, it is yours.

If it doesn’t, it never was. Do what you have to do and what is right for you. If it works out, then you’ll know it was destiny. If it doesn’t – then you’ll know otherwise. Wishing you a good new year filled with happiness. May you see your dreams fulfilled!

  • Should we flee anti-semitism?

Dear Rabbi,

How concerned are you about rising anti-Semitism in this country? Should we flee like record numbers of French Jews are now doing, or stay put? And if we remain in the UK, how do we combat it?

Amir

Dear Amir,

Running is for cowards. But before I get pelted with French fries, let me explain.

If a Jew leaves a country due to persecution he scores an own goal and weakens the position of those left behind. Combating anti-Semitism requires the following three-pronged approach:  

(1) For yourself and your family to become more Jewish than ever before. This strengthens identity.

(2) Let captains of industry and those in government wield influence and do what they can to ensure a robust response on a national level.

(3) A little bit of kickboxing wouldn’t go amiss! I’m not convinced every recent anti-Semitic incident was because of Jew-hate. There are opportunists out there who look for excuses to vent their anger. That doesn’t justify it and doesn’t underestimate this growing trend. But it does put the brakes on a little bit from “alarming statistics,” to “cause for concern.”

Now watch me get pelted with British fish and chips instead.