Why are wedding rings plain? My 8-year-old son has rejected God? When exactly did God create light?

Rabbi Schochet

Rabbi Schochet

Rabbi Schochet answers your dilemmas

Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi or follow him on Twitter at @RabbiYYS

 

  • Why are wedding rings plain?

Dear Rabbi

I was wondering whether you can explain to me the significance of a simple gold band for a wedding ring instead of something a little more ornate. I am getting married in two months and I would prefer to do something a little fancier. Also, why does it have to fit the index finger? Surely rings are to be worn on the fourth finger. Isn’t that why they call it the “ring finger”?

Eli

Dear Eli

I suppose there are a couple of points to consider here. The idea of the ring being gold is to remind you to treat your wife like gold. The fact that it should have no markings on it is to symbolise how your marriage should be blemish free, no marks or upsets between you.

The fact that it is a ring, which is circular – no beginning and no end represents the cycle of your marriage and love which should have no end. It is suggested there is a vein which runs from the index finger straight to the heart, thus representing passion.

But even though the ring is put on that finger, it need not fit on that finger (and don’t force it). It should be made to measure to fit her ring finger. Though you will initially put it on her index finger for the reason stated, thereafter she will remove it and place it on her fourth finger.

Take a look at your hand. The fourth finger is the least used and unlike the other fingers cannot even stand on its own (I bet every reader is going to try it now). This represents gentleness which is paramount in a relationship where a husband and wife being gentle with each other’s emotions is vital to the stability of the union.

It also symbolises the idea that from the point of marriage, you no longer stand on your own, but are a team together.

I hope reading this will give a whole new meaning to your ring experience.

 

  • My 8-year-old son has rejected God?

Dear Rabbi

My 8-year-old son has taken to not believing in God. I think he’s a little young to start calling himself an atheist, but I’m finding it hard to talk him out of it. We’re not a very religious family, but not believing in God altogether is another thing. What can I tell him?

Danny

Dear Danny

I am reminded of the Jewish family that emigrated from Russia and looked to integrate into mainstream, American society. They didn’t put up mezuzot, they stopped going to synagogue and they sent their son to this posh non-Jewish school.

One day their litte Scott (formerly Shmuel) came home from school and told his parents: “Today I learnt that there is a Father, a Son and a Holy Ghost. The parents went into panic, then the father sat him down and said, “now listen here son. There is only one God…and we don’t believe in him!”

Studies show that almost all children by the age of six start developing their own idea of God. It is important to cultivate that childhood innocence rather than allowing your own preconceptions to determine the range of their curiosity.

I don’t know the extent that God was ever brought up in your home – or was visible through your own religious practice. But that is where the problem will often start. For one thing, tell the stories of the Bible, and the midrashic or teaching legends. Listening to their history and God’s role therein always impacts on the psyche and imagination of a child.

You should also look to bring God into your everyday experience. Show your son how the world is filled with evidence of God’s existence from the nature that we take for granted and all the little miracles that go on around us.

Pause to absorb the mysteries that surround you. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, find ways to ease into it.

Most importantly, don’t get defensive at challenges. Your kid sounds like a clever one and he will challenge your religious ideas. If you get angry or defensive, you are really just showing your own insecurities and unease with your own religious ideas.

Let your son feel that you welcome the challenges and that it is OK, even important to ask questions.

Of course it is also paramount to learn good answers. There are no definitive answers to difficult questions, but there are good ones. Don’t fall into the trap of giving superficial answers that may satisfy an eight year old, but will be obviously unacceptable when the child is older.

When your son asks, as every child does, “how come I cannot see God?” tell him for the same reason that you cannot see love. But you can still feel it.

The same is true with God. Soft and regular conversation – though also, already from a much earlier age, is the way we keep God alive in the minds and hearts of the next generation.

 

  • When exactly did God create light?

Dear Rabbi

Here is one to stump you. How could there have been light on the first day of creation when God didn’t create the sun until the fourth day of creation?

Samantha

Dear Samantha

There are many answers to this question, but let me refer you to the most obvious one offered by the classic commentator Rashi: “On the first day, they [the luminaries] were created; on the fourth day, He commanded them to hang (in their set place or rotation) in the heaven (source: Babylonian Talmud Hagigah 12a).

So too, all of the ingredients of heaven and earth were created (ex nihilo) on the first day, and each was set into form, or given its role, on the day it is mentioned (source: Medrash Tanhuma 1-2; Bereshith Rabba 1:14).”

Try again Sam!