With Rabbi Reuben Livingstone

 

Dear Rabbi,

Who, in your mind, is worse – Hamas terrorists or ultra-Orthodox settlers who will do anything to destroy the peace process?

Simon

 

Dear Simon,

Apples and oranges, I’m afraid. Hamas operatives have been shown to be readily prepared to murder innocents. Some settlers, on the other hand, have very different scruples and do not generally rationalise cold- blooded killing.

Whatever your view, these so-called settlers have stopped far short of missile attacks and suicide bombings and cannot be compared with those who use these methods.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

Every year on Rosh Hashanah I can hear the shofar blasts from my local synagogue from the comfort of my own house, just down the road. Does this convenient situation mean I can stay at home in bed and still observe the mitzvah?

Dean

 

Dear Dean,

Although it is preferable for many reasons to be in the same room or space where the shofar is sounded, as long as you can hear it clearly and the person blowing it has you in mind for the mitzvah, then, yes, technically you can hear it from the comfort of your living room![divider]

Dear Rabbi,

Why is it customary to visit the gravestones of your loved ones close to the new year?

Laura

 

Dear Laura,
There are several reasons for this ancient custom during the Days of Awe around Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

First, it focuses our minds and hearts on our mortality and, therefore, motivates us toward positive change. Second, often the example that our departed loved ones set in life is a powerful reminder at this time of introspection of where they wanted us to be, and where we ought to be heading.

Third, we pay honour to the memory of the dead in order to remind ourselves that we are their ambassadors in the world. We believe that when we live correctly this impacts on the souls of our relatives.

Fourth, according to Jewish tradition, even the dead are judged at Rosh Hashanah for the ongoing effect of their lives on earth. As their close family, we need to remind ourselves that we have an integral role to play in how they are re- membered and ensure that their lives are constantly imbued with meaning and merit.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

This year I won’t be able to make the whole service for Yom Kippur, due to childcare commitments. Is there any one part more important than another for which I re- ally should be in shul?

Kim

 

Dear Kim,

The most important parts are those that inspire you the most. Although technically it is desirable to be there for the Amidah prayers, recital of Kaddish and reading of the Torah.

In practice you should seek to be there for the sections that you will benefit most from and for the period that will facilitate your best concentration on the prayers and unique spirit of Yom Kippur. For some this will be Kol Nidrei and Neilah, which carry a very spe- cial emotion and aura. For others it may be less dramatic sections of the service, when they can introspect and focus on the day’s meaning.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I was involved in an accident and hurt my right hand. That week, my husband hurt himself at work and also injured his right hand. Days later, his uncle was cutting something and – you guessed it – hurt his right hand.

A friend suggested we check our mezuzahs, which we did and there was nothing wrong with them. My question is: “Why would a faulty mezuzah be to blame in the first place? And if it’s not to do with our mezuzahs, is there some kind of “message” we are missing – or is it just a coincidence?

Donna

 

Dear Donna,

everything happens for a reason. Jewish sages illustrate this by using the example of one who hurts a finger or hand.

In general, when recurrent coincidences happen it is probably a good idea to ex- amine one’s spiritual path and seek to make positive adjustments. The mezuzah is placed on the right-hand door post and many touch their right hand to it when they enter. So it is specifically linked to the right hand and vice versa. If something is happening, it is not outrageous to check whether it may be to do with the mezuzah.

• Rabbi Reuben Livingstone is the Jewish chaplain to Her Majesty’s Forces.