Ask the RabbiBy Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet 

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

Praying to the god of food

Dear Rabbi,

Some time ago my shul introduced a Shabbat breakfast kiddush. Whereas previously there were about 70 people in shul first thing in the morning, the breakfast kiddush now attracts 300, most of whom avoid the actual service. The shul also introduced a special Friday night service followed by a hot kiddush, which is now packed to the rafters. Do you think food has now become more important than God in our religion?

Beatrice

Dear Beatrice,

No, I don’t think food has become more important than God in the Jewish faith – I think it always was more important. To be sure, this does not mean that God is not important in people’s eyes. It means simply that they are apathetic about shul attendance and, let’s face it, it can be seriously boring more often than not. Yes, you might be more inclined to attend regularly, but many others may not be at that level and with the dirge of the chazan and the drone of the rabbi. As I’ve often said, if I wasn’t the rabbi I’m not sure how often I would attend – or how on time I would be – either!

We are told how our patriarch Abraham would regularly feed numerous guests in his home. When finished, they would invariably thank him and he would insist: “Don’t thank me, thank God,” thus encouraging them to embrace monotheism. The starting point, of course, was that he invited them in, fed them, then got busy with the religious stuff. So, if it is food that gets them in the door, then so be it. Once there, they get involved in other parts of the ritual. And, frankly, that is the objective. Now Beatrice, I carefully considered your question and the only shul I am aware of that does both this breakfast kiddush and this Friday night kiddush is my shul at Mill Hill.

I also then went through the membership and saw no one with the name “Beatrice”. Which leads me to conclude that you may be one of the fuddy-duddies who doesn’t like change and has chosen to remain anonymous. People are afraid of change – we all are. I get that. But sometimes you just have to embrace it if it is for the sake of the greater good and doesn’t compromise basics and fundamentals. Change is an inevitable fact of life. If you are going to only look to the past or be stuck in the present, you are certain to miss the future. So by all means plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.

Should son attend shul?

Dear Rabbi,

My Christian son attends a school with many Jewish boys and has been invited to several barmitzvahs.

So far, I have insisted that if he wants to go to the evening party he must attend the synagogue in the morning. It strikes me as rather poor form not to. He, however, is increasingly insistent that this is not necessary, that loads of the boys (Jewish and non-Jewish alike) don’t bother going to the service.

Obviously, I recognise that two hours in a synagogue holds little appeal for him. So who is right?

Ross

Dear Ross,

I appreciate your principles. It is good discipline to tell a child to respect all aspects of a barmitzvah, including supporting his friends in shul.

However, I imagine it would also be boring for him as a non-Jew to just sit there watching everyone else do the ‘Jewish thing’ – so some consideration needs to be given to that. How about a compromise of going to shul for every other simcha and letting him pick which ones he would prefer attending? Different finish line.

The roots of pure jealousy

Dear Rabbi,

Is jealousy simply wanting what another person has? Or is it not wanting it yourself but also not wanting the other person to have it either?

Meir

Dear Meir,

What do you consider more spiteful?

When someone has something that you too desire, that is jealousy and a negative trait in its own right.

It means you are not satisfied with your own lot in life and you have to get to the bottom of your discontentment.

But when you don’t want something anyway and you simply resent the fact someone else has it, that is plain mean-spiritedness. In Yiddish, the expression is fariginen nisht. It may not be jealousy – it’s worse. Your issue is less to do with the object of desire per se and more to do with your feelings towards the other person.

You need to figure out what it is about the person that engenders such feelings; what they may have done to you to make you feel that way. Most importantly, just relax and concentrate on your own life and the blessings therein and appreciate how your life should not be governed by the goings on in other people’s lives.