Ask the Rabbi’s regular columnist Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, will return on January 8. 

If you want to contribute to Ask the Rabbi, you can email to this address: asktherabbi@thejngroup.com

This week Rabbi Reuben Livingstone kindly stands in to answer your questions.20 livingstone

A jewish social life for my son

Dear Rabbi,

My 14-year-old son attends a non-Jewish school.

I’m keen for him to join a Jewish youth movement to have a Jewish social life.

The problem is he absolutely refuses to show any interest in doing so.

Each time my husband and I approach the subject he shuts down.

Can you advise us how to encourage him to give it a try or should we stop making such a big deal of it?

Jasmine

Dear Jasmine,

It may be that you are trying a little too hard in pushing one idea. It’s in the nature of many teenagers to push back when pressured.

Maybe a better tack would be to look at enhancing his Jewish experience before his Jewish social circle.

One way of doing this is to do things as a family or mother and son, which might motivate him and spark greater Jewish interest. This can range from making a special effort to create a Shabbat or festival atmosphere at home – perhaps by inviting family and friends to join in – to inviting him to shul or a Jewish event or activity of interest. In addition, you can try to tap into whatever he already enjoys.

So, for instance, if he is into sports, then there are Jewish teams and competitions which would also give him a powerful social dimension. If he likes history, then there are museums and exhibitions – and talks where he can meet others.

Another idea might be to take a trip to Israel, if you haven’t already done so, to whet his appetite in terms of what is happening there. The point is there are many ways to come at this problem

. If the direct approach is not working then certainly try another road which can lead, almost invisibly, to more Jewish interest and interaction.

My marriage is falling apart

Dear Rabbi

My 20th wedding anniversary is coming up. Although I’ve had a reasonably happy marriage, I’m suddenly getting cold feet at the prospect of such a milestone.

I love my husband but feel like the past 10 years have left me totally unfulfilled and. We tend to have different interests that have forced us apart.

He has no interest in counselling, yet I’m scared that unless he agrees to it I may walk away from our marriage altogether.

We have two grown-up children who have recently moved on to university, so as well as facing empty-nest syndrome I’m extremely concerned I’m drifting apart from my husband generally and am unsure how to cope with the situation.

Can you please advise.

Diane

Dear Diane,

Many long-married people experience similar ups and downs. I hardly need tell you that a relationship needs to be nurtured and recreated constantly over time.

This is a case where you need somehow to be able to share some of your feelings and concerns with your husband. One idea might be to ring-fence time when you can work on the relationship. But there are two different approaches that one must try.

First, you need to go on ‘dates’ with your hubby which should be designed to allow you simply to enjoy time together without feeling you have to discuss heavy issues. Find something you both appreciate – or a restaurant that appeals – and begin to enjoy being together without any agenda or measuring the experience.

Second, you need another sort of time with him; a specific arrangement to sit and discuss things about the relationship that are both making you happy and troubling you.

Communication is essential to keeping any relationship alive. But of course it is vital to have different types of communication to address different needs that don’t simply merge into one.

My non-kosher fall from grace

Dear Rabbi,

I’m a fairly religious 45-year-old but have recently caved in to my desire to eat non-kosher meat and am feeling racked with guilt. I had a craving for a non-kosher steak and have to admit I absolutely relished it.

However, I now wonder what came over me as it is not something I would do again. I have gone against everything I believe in when it comes to my religious observance. Can I make amends or should I just shut up and forget it?

Russell

Dear Russell,

It is important to close this off and go forward. If you sincerely regret yielding to this temptation and accept not to do it again, you have done your Teshuva penance and need to stop beating yourself up. The sages tell us one does not come to robust observance other than by stumbling and erring first.

This type of experience can be used to fortify your resolve to keep kosher.

On a separate but related note, there are plenty of kosher options which are as good as non-kosher ones. All one often has to do is exercise a little bit of patience and seek out the nearest kosher alternative.

Again, the rabbis of the Talmud, in their wisdom, say that for everything treif there is a similar [if not identical] kosher version available – else there would not be free choice in observance!