Is there any pride in a ‘Jewish’ tattoo? Are violent video games acceptable? Can I donate a kidney against my mother’s wishes?

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

  •  Ignore this tattoo craze

Dear Rabbi

I see an increasing number of people with Jewish-themed tattoos. They are forms of pride and expression but, I am led to believe, frowned upon in Judaism. What’s your stance?

Ilana

Dear Ilana

What exactly is a “Jewish themed” tattoo? Is it having “Love My Rabbi” emblazoned on your back?

You want to show off Jewish pride? Wear your Judaism on your sleeve, don’t hesitate to flaunt your Jewish identity in public and embrace more of a Jewish way of living. That to me is Jewish pride.

Anything else is just superficial semantics. Besides, tattooing is prohibited in Jewish law. Your body is your temple, entrusted with you by God to preserve your sacred soul. It’s not for you to deface or mark up in any way.

  • Guilt and the video game

Dear Rabbi

I find myself playing video games with morally debatable actions required to complete them. Although these games do not influence my behaviour, I still feel guilty when playing them. Should I feel this way?

Max

Dear Max

Why do you feel guilty? Video games have always involved some form of battle and destruction.

Even the good old Pacman involved eating ghosts or getting eaten by them. Then there was the old helicopter game – if you didn’t navigate correctly you would crash. Then, as time went on, we got all the different military games which involved kill or be killed.

The only difference between then and now is that technology has advanced exponentially and today virtual reality has taken on a whole new dimension.

I don’t believe for a second playing a 3D game with an 18+ rating on a large screen doesn’t somehow impact on you. If what we read or watch invariably stimulates emotions and impacts our psyche in some form, then getting involved in the movie so-to-speak has that much more of an effect – and that’s why you feel guilty.

I’m not suggesting you are going to go out and shoot someone. But if you are selective about what you read and what you watch, you should be equally selective about what you play.

  • The reason for sheitels

Dear Rabbi

Being a regular reader of your most informative and interesting weekly column, I feel that you may really clarify the following.   In my younger days both my granny and my mother always wore headscarves whenever they went outside. Later I became aware that Orthodox married women covered their hair with manufactured sheitels. Surely, the whole reason for that is that only the husband should be able to see the beauty of his wife’s natural hair. This would prevent other men ogling.

But now Orthodox wives are wearing the most glamorous and attractive sheitels, costing hundreds of pounds. They also use quite obvious makeup and lipstick, which makes them so attractive that they get even more attention from other men.

Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

Flora

Dear Flora

Why do Jewish women wear such glamorous wigs today? Because they’re expensive! Hundreds of pounds? Try thousands!

There is a variation of the Chad Gadya (one goat) song, which we sing at Passover Seder night. “One sheitel, one sheitel that husband bought for an arm and a leg. And came the European manufacturer, who sold it to the sheitel macher, that husband mortgaged his house to buy; One sheitel, one sheitel.” I’ll let you fill in the rest.

The real reason and the purpose of a sheitel is not for the sake of other men as you suggest and frankly it is not important for another man to know whether a woman is wearing one or not. It is really for the woman herself akin to a man wearing a yarmulke.

Does it somehow lessen the mitzvah if the sheitel happens to look glamorous – sometimes even better than one’s own hair? That question presupposes that a wig is supposed to make a woman look less attractive. That thinking is flawed, however. The verse from which we derive the whole principle of hair-covering says exactly that: the hair should be covered. It could be a shawl, an expensive wig or a flower pot – that’s the woman’s prerogative, as long as her hair is covered that meets the Biblical mandate.

  • Can I donate my kidney?

Dear Rabbi

I am a teenager with a friend in need of a kidney transplant. I want to donate my kidney but my mother forbids me. Do I need to listen to her?

Jessica

Dear Jessica

There is a conflict of interest here: your obligation towards someone else’s life and your responsibility to listen to your parents.

The question begs clarity in regard to your halachic obligation towards your friend beyond the scope of this reply. But even if one was to argue that you have no binding obligation to donate your kidney while you do have a binding obligation to honour your parents (one of the Big Ten), many authorities maintain that you are not necessarily obligated to do so if what your parents are asking of you is not something that will necessarily affect or benefit them. (See Code of Jewish Law Yoreh De’ah 240:25).

Therefore, from a strictly halachic perspective, the choice ultimately does remain yours.