By Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet  

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

Ask the Rabbi

Must I name baby Kalonymus?

Dear Rabbi,

I’m having a baby in two months! My mother-in-law wants me to name my new son after her late husband, who passed away last year. I think it is a beautiful tradition to name after a loved one, but he was called Kalonymus. It’s a terrible name (is it even Hebrew?) and I do not want to burden my baby with it. She says if we have a girl I can go with Kailah, which bears a close resemblance , which is fine. But what if it’s a boy?

Stephanie

Dear Stephanie ,

You’re right, it is especially beautiful and meaningful to name a child after a dearly departed loved one. You are also right that it is none of your mother-in-law’s business. But where is your husband in this conversation? Surely he has an opinion on the matter? It was, after all, his father.

Kalonymus is a not a common Jewish name, but there were some greats throughout history who had the moniker. It is of Greek origin meaning “good name,” so may be not so terrible after all. The idea of calling a girl after a man, however, is a bit silly. The names are totally unrelated. Mysticism suggests part of the significance of naming someone after a loved one is that they, in turn, then assume something of the loved one’s soul. That doesn’t work when naming a female after a male and vice versa. The long and short of this is you and your husband have to reach an agreement between yourselves on what is acceptable to you both, regardless of outside opinions.

So if that means your child ends up being known as “Kalonymus“ or “Murgatroid”, then so be it. You’ll love him or her just the same and can always shorten the name thereafter to Kal or Troid (although I’d think carefully about that).

  • Too attractive to work here!

Dear Rabbi,

I recently ate an a smart kosher establishment in north London, where I couldn’t help but notice the waitresses were all very attractive. Listening to them talk, they seemed eastern European rather than Israeli or Jewish.

This seems a real risk for hot-blooded males like myself. Kosher licensing authorities might like to take this into consideration before certifying any establishment as kosher.

Laurence

Dear Laurence,

Is you for real? Can you imagine a process by which the London Beth Din would start screening waitresses before giving a license?

Bearing in mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you could have a situation where the London Beth Din decides: ‘Nope! Too pretty! We can’t give a hechsher!” And the Federation steps in: ‘Nah! She’s got the right nose. No risk involved.

Kosher!’ Of course the Keddasia will rule: ‘No waiters or waitresses with smarphones.’ A license is granted based entirely on the standard of kashrut. The rest is up to your own self-control!

Is it sinful to eat nuts now?

Dear Rabbi,

I want to pick up where you left off on the dipping the apple in the honey question and other related rituals.

I bought a tray of mixed nuts for a friend on Rosh Hashanah. He told me he cannot eat them until after the festivals as apparently one doesn’t eat nuts during the High Holy days, as the Hebrew word for ‘nut’ has the same value as the Hebrew word for ‘sin’. So if I eat nuts, I’m going to be possessed by this desire to sin? Surely this takes religion into the realm of superstitiousness?

Marcus

Dear Marcus And yet you dipped your apple into the honey in the hope of having a sweet new year – as if the Tesco bees are going to work their magic for you! And if you buy Rowse honey with the KLBD logo you’re guaranteed even greater sweetness in your life… right?

What about the head of the fish? Is that going to ensure you get moved out from the mailroom and into the boss’s office? And if it doesn’t work, can you sue the fishmonger? Then there’s the pomegranate which I’m sure you enjoyed: 613 seeds symbolising the number of mitzvot, unless you are one of those cynics who counted and found only 518. The bottom line remains, as previously stated, that Judaism is replete with customs and rituals associated with body language and symbolism.

They reflect certain realities and generate a greater awareness within oneself. When eating the head of the fish, you focus your mind on its representation and then consciously or subconsciously you find yourself aiming a little higher, or aspiring that little bit more, indeed perhaps making that more of a feature during your prayers as well.

When you eat pomegranate, your mind is drawn toward the greater responsibility incumbent upon you as Jew. Similarly, it’s not that avoiding nuts is going to prevent you from sinning, but in not eating them and being conscious as to why you have to avoid them, you are more alert to your greater responsibility in avoiding misdeeds.