Rabbi Schochet

Rabbi Schochet

Conversion, relationships with late parents and homosexuality in the Torah: this week’s Ask the Rabbi.

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

Conversion after wedding

Dear Rabbi

I’ve been dating a lovely man for several years. When he proposed, I was over the moon.

My parents were not so happy, as he’s not Jewish, so they insisted he underwent a conversion. As we are US members, I looked into this option, but found it to be long and tedious so opted for the Reform route. My parents are now more accepting, but would like me to consider US conversion once married.

Would this be possible?

Gemma

Dear Gemma

Anything is possible, but it depends ultimately on the seriousness of your commitment. Considering you were prepared to marry him as a non-Jew, and you have now opted for the Reform route because the United is too daunting, suggests to me you are only looking to placate your parents, but are hardly serious about it yourself.

Your poor fiancé; He had no plans of converting altogether and now has to go through that whole ordeal just to keep his in-laws happy. I think the better option is that you either (a) walk away or (b) if you are serious, go the proper conversion route, however long it takes.

We talk about “soulmates”, which is not a cliché – it is what two partners in a relationship really are. Love is something deeper than being defined simply as attraction. It is spiritual. The problem is that the Jewish soul and the non-Jewish soul are distinctly different. This is not discriminatory against non-Jews, rather a simple fact as determined by the different spiritual obligations incumbent upon a Jew.

To that end, a Jew and a non-Jew can never be soul-mates. You can play happy families and profess your love for each other, but you can never feel that deeper level of connectedness otherwise shared between two mutually compatible souls.

Insofar as conversion is concerned – there are not different levels of Judaism and thus different levels of conversion. There may be different levels of observance but there is only one Judaism as defined by God and the Torah, which is the exclusive mandate that determines what constitutes a Jew, namely one born of a Jewish mother or one who converts.

That same Torah defines the conversion process, which necessitates above all else, accepting the stipulations of the Torah. Anything else is a modern-day, man-made innovation.

As such, you can pursue whatever avenues, but that won’t get the aforementioned Jewish soul. Only He, who bestows that soul, defines the method by which it is acquired.

Anything less and you’re back to the deeper incompatibility. Think about it. Your future happiness depends on it!

Making amends with late Dad

Dear Rabbi

My father died last month. We had a strained relationship and often exchanged harsh words. He became ill only a few weeks before he died and while I visited him and things were cordial, there was no real reconciliation as he deteriorated rapidly.

I’m racked with guilt, but don’t know how to make amends.

Leo

Dear Leo

First, sorry for your loss. In the words of the Psalmist: “And in their passing they do not become separated.” Your father is asleep, not gone.

Judaism is clear on the responsibility to respect parents after their passing, implying an ongoing connection. Furthermore, if one was to offend someone and did not have the opportunity to ask forgiveness before that person passed away, then again, Jewish law speaks of the option of going to his gravesite to ask forgiveness.

I remember someone who once ridiculed this suggestion. But he came unstuck when I saw him visiting his father’s grave just before Rosh Hashanah one year.

Going to visit your dad when you think he is little more than a decomposing body in the ground makes little sense. Talking to him is even more absurd – unless you feel in your heart and soul the bond that is eternal. The point is, you can still talk to your father, especially when visiting his gravesite where there is a stronger connection.

I would urge you to go there and spend some time. I assure you he hears you and, even as you cannot hear him, know that as a father, he always loved you, always will and will whisper his forgiveness into your soul.

Wishing you long life and peace of mind.

Torah is unfair to gay people

Dear Rabbi

The Torah portions these past few weeks mention the prohibition against homosexuality. I’ve never paid attention to it before but, having been in synagogue and read it, am appalled our religion could be so discriminatory. I think it is time we dispense with such an anachronistic book.

Gregory

Dear Gregory

A guy wrote to me some years ago making the same claim about another prohibition mentioned in the same chapter – that of adultery. The way he figured, why shouldn’t he carry on his affair and what right does the Torah have to dictate what two consenting adults choose to get up to of their own accord?

If you want to go with what floats your boat, dispense with it all and have a blast. Otherwise, consider that life isn’t what God can do for me, but rather what I should be doing for God.

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