Ask the RabbiBy Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet  

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

My wife doesn’t keep shabbat

Dear Rabbi,

Since Yom Kippur I’ve been inspired to keep Shabbat. This weekend’s Shabbat UK also focuses my mind in this direction. My wife, however, is not interested and this has caused tension. How do I handle this crisis and convince my wife to keep Shabbat with me?

Howard

Dear Howard,

Crisis? What crisis? Leave your wife alone! Just because you decided to undertake something more meaningful in your life doesn’t necessarily mean it’s her problem. I commend your undertaking, but it sounds like you’ll be doing this unilaterally. While keeping Shabbat is fundamental to Jewish life and tradition, so is marriage. That your wife is not at your level doesn’t mean you then fight over it and try to figure out how you could force her along.

Your starting point is appreciating that marriage is a temple. Within this framework, you can figure out how you can maintain a mutual respect even as one of you has moved a little further on than the other. She will respect you more and be more inclined to consider your new lifestyle if she felt you were more a team about it rather than combatants. To be sure, it is incumbent upon her to try to share some of your new routine, so I suggest she ought to join you for a Friday night meal regardless of what she may do before or after. And she should avoid doing anything overtly offensive to you, such as switching on the TV in the sitting room when you’re in there.

Bottom line: You’ve moved on and, in one sense, are not the man she married. That is your entitlement to some extent but you have to understand and respect that that does not necessarily become her problem. She in turn must appreciate equally where you are coming from.

If you get that balance right, I think you’ll both be able to discover a new-found spiritual equilibrium in your relationship.

Liturgy needs to be changed

Dear Rabbi,

In light of the continuing bloody violence carried out in the name of religion in the Middle East on individuals and groups, isn’t it about time we as a community distanced ourselves from such acts by changing our liturgy and prayers on the Yomin Noryim by removing after al chet, “For the sins for which we deserve the four kinds of death inflicted by the court of law: stoning, burning, beheading and strangling”?

Godfrey

Dear Godfrey,

So you’ve been saying that passage for years and now you want to leave it out because of… ISIS?

If you had an issue with it beforehand, you should have asked the question regardless of those monsters. If you didn’t have a problem before, you don’t need to be hyper-sensitive now on account of political correctness. The problem with some people is they seek to modify their beliefs or values on account of public opinion, rather than maintaining their conviction. Religion necessitates commitment and consistency. Your approach demonstrates neither. For clarification, it is true that the Torah mandates certain death penalties for particular crimes.

But, first, that is a judicial process, akin to the electric chair and not anywhere quite the same as extreme grotesque random beheadings.

Second, the rabbis declared that a Jewish court that was responsible for executing someone even once in seven years (some say once in 70 years) is a callous court. This again underscores the enormity of consideration given to every crime committed and not some cruel barbaric murder machine.

Third, we might do things wrong that would warrant extreme punishment, even if it is just between us and God, and even though no such action would be carried out, nevertheless we are asking for atonement for such extreme sins as well.

Keep praying and beating you chest. And stop worrying about what others think.

Is a wet sukkot a bad omen?

Dear Rabbi,

A friend told me it is a bad sign if it rains during Sukkot. What does that mean and is it true?

Carol

Dear Carol,

Tell your friend to refill their half-empty glass to half full! The Mishna says that when it rains on Sukkot such that one cannot fulfil the mitzvah, it is comparable to a servant pouring a cup of wine for his master and the master throwing it back in his face.

In our context, we spend time building and decorating our sukkot and then God makes it rain, rebuffing our gesture, as it were. Not a good sign. Now think of the flipside. It rains for days and even in the dying hours going into the festival.

Then, when it is nightfall and time to recite the kiddush in the sukkah, the rain stops for several hours, making it pleasant to sit in the sukkah. That to me is a good and positive sign – and it is exactly what happened. May that blessing spill out into the entire year!

PS: Speaking from experience, if you timed your sukkah hopping and different kiddush/ l’chaim stops, you’ll have missed every bit of the rainfall and managed all the yom tov meals in a dry sukkah.

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