With Rabbi Yitzchak Shochet. 

Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi or follow him on Twitter @RabbiYYS.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I pray in a particular synagogue every day. Sometimes I lead the service and after I finish, there’s someone who always feels the need to comment on something I read incorrectly or didn’t do right. I like coming to daily services and enjoy doing my bit helping with the service. But this individual is putting me off attending altogether.

What can I  can say or do or should I stop coming to avoid aggravation?

Gary

 

Dear Gary,

Every synagogue has its own smarter or holier-than-thou resident Jew whose sole purpose is to find fault in what goes on around them. You’d think they were so holy they would spend time  concentrating on their own prayers; instead they are concentrating on everyone else’s.

These guys are usually bored with an incredibly low self-esteem. They feel better about themselves when they are able to find supposed fault in others. My best advice is to walk over to him on the one day he might not say anything and wish him mazeltov. When he asks: “What for?”, tell him: “It’s a special day today. You didn’t find anything to criticise.” That will leave him speechless. Alternatively, you could just ignore it. But that’s not quite as much fun.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

My wife and I have been married nearly 10 years. She is not the best of cooks and I admit I will criticise the food sometimes, pointing out when it is not hot enough, or overcooked, or a plate isn’t so clean. The other week she  told me she had enough and that I could cook my own meals, but from now on she is buying take away, so if I have complaints I can take it up with the deli instead of her. I realised I caused offence and I keep trying to make it up to her but she doesn’t want to know. Is there some way I could make amends? On the other hand, I’m concerned that if I don’t criticise, she will repeat the same mistakes.

Marcus

 

Dear Marcus,

Do you have any idea why you got married in the first instance? 

It’s to take you out of your self-centred shell and teach you how to share your life with another. Marriage is supposed to make you more of a mensch than just maintaining your selfish lifestyle while living with someone else. 

My mother always told us the story how she made her first cholent (a Shabbat delicacy) after she got married. She called her father-in-law (my grandfather) for his recipe and, having a bit of a “prankster” side to him, he told her to put in a heaped tablespoon of pepper.

After Shabbat, he called and asked laughingly how the cholent was. My mother said she believed it was OK, maybe a bit too sharp because my father kept drinking lots of water, but he otherwise seemed to enjoy it.

When the truth came out and very one saw the funny side, my father admitted he didn’t know how he made it through it – it was inedible. But he ate every last spoonful – never a critical word said. 

When a husband looks to his wife and says “water” rather than “can you please pass the water?”, he is lacking a basic respect for her. 

When the same manners we would demonstrate to a stranger – the simple please and thank you – are not being demonstrated at home, something is lacking fundamentally at the core – again, usually a sign of profound self-centredness. And when your wife spends her time cooking for you, the least you could do is find a more loving way to point something out if you feel it needs correction.

When you spend the better part of 10 years criticising your wife’s cooking, you think you can make instant amends? When she said she’d had enough, you think she was referring to just the last episode or years of criticism – and she finally snapped. Your question implies you are only looking to make things right so she’ll start cooking for you again and not because you are  ruly sorry and are genuinely

looking to mend your ways – it’s all about nurturing yourself. I don’t know about your wife’s recipes, but the way you are behaving is a definite recipe for disaster. 

Time to grow up, Marcus. [divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I have a very disabled son who will soon be 12. I’m starting to think of various bar mitzvah options for him. Can you suggest any and a good teacher who can deal with this?

Claudia

 

Dear Claudia,

It is beautiful when a parent looks beyond the immediate challenges to mark their child’s special coming of age. There are any number of options available but that would very much depend on your son’s disability. There is one particular teacher I have always recommended and I’ll send you that information privately. Your letter query raises an important point. As mentioned here before, special needs children reflect special souls.

Their disabilities are real on the outside, but their souls are looking to express themselves in some way – especially when reaching special spiritual milestones. So I would encourage others reading this, if you think it is too difficult or impossible – it is not. It can be done, and there will rarely be a more moving moment in your and your child’s life if you reach out and make it happen.[divider]