Dear Rabbi,

You once wrote that it’s important to rise to challenges. I face daily challenges and try to rise to them. But sometimes trying and failing leaves me feeling worse than before trying. It is emotionally exhausting and sometimes life is too overwhelming.

Phyllis

 

Dear Phyllis

Ask the Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi Schochet

If you’ve ever watch a skilled surfer it’s fascinating to observe how they navigate waves. They don’t ride every one that comes their way – they take some and ignore others. To bypass a wave, they rise gracefully with its swell, allowing it to pass under them.

The challenge is to make the decision quickly. If it is a good wave they need to be up on a board in a flash. The ocean is symbolic of your life, with all its ups and downs. Sometimes a bad wave comes along. If the surfer tries to fight it, there is a strong possibility he will get knocked right off his surfboard and into the water. The art is to float gracefully above the unwelcome wave and allow it to pass without causing too much dis- tress. On the other hand, the surfer must be on his toes when a good wave comes along, grab the opportunity and run with it.

Apply that model and balance in your life and things will start to feel less overwhelming.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I’m a 25-year-old Orthodox woman, in whose circles it would be normal to be married by now. My parents insist I should “be with a couple of kids already” but I’m not ready.

I have a good job and enjoy my life. I have a wide circle of friends, several of whom, like me, are unmarried. I know numerous others my age or older who are still not married. Should I give into my parents? I enjoy my life as is, although admittedly I don’t have the guts to tell my parents I‘m not ready to get married yet.

Danielle

 

Dear Danielle,

The rulebooks by which too many people like to play are essentially dictated by social norms. People have a hard time accepting there are exceptions to those rules. Just because it says in this rulebook that girls from your particular walk of life must be married by 21, and have at least two children by 25, does not mean everyone has to comply by those standards. Too many parents are projecting onto their children what they want to happen in their lives, but what may not necessarily be in their child’s best interest.

Sure, hey want to be able to dance at your wedding and show off their grandkids. But if you’re not ready to dance yet, let alone give up your current lifestyle for that of motherhood, you need to call the shots when you need to.

This same issue arises when parents pressurise their children either for or against someone they are dating, perhaps for their desire to walk into shul with everyone wowing about the great shidduch. But is he or she great for your son in life or daughter or just on paper? The fact he has millions of dollars or her father is the Chief Rabbi’s second cousin three times removed doesn’t mean they are compatible with your child.

And if the couple does not engender real excitement between themselves, it’s wrong to pressurise them. But this doesn’t mean you should look to others as your example.

You don’t know if they’re consciously staying single. You have to take time out and ask yourself what is right for you, where you see yourself in five years and what you are going to do to get there. And then… bite the bullet! Tell your parents what your plan is. If they love you more than they love themselves, they will embrace you accordingly.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

Regarding your response to my question asking whether a shiva had any non-spiritual or religious benefits, I’m not suggesting religious obligation be excluded from the practice of Judaism – in fact, I couldn’t agree with you more.

However, do you not agree, in this day and age, when so many identify less with our faith, that there is no harm in educating people to observe something because God instructs us to, but also because there are proven benefits to doing so?

Kashrut observance allows the body to properly absorb iron from meat without any interference from milk’s iron-blocking properties. The family purity laws offer women a chance to catch and deal with any potential fertility problems earlier. I reiterate, I couldn’t agree with you more, we should do it because we have to, but is there any harm in speaking to people in ways in which they understand and are more likely to respond to?

Benjy

 

Dear Benjy,

So what happens when someone decides they only need two days for the therapeutic effects of a shiva?

Or, to use your analogy, why can I not eat bacon, so long as I don’t mix it with dairy?

Or what about the laws of family purity for one who is past their childbearing years? Sure, there is some value in highlighting “additional benefits” of observing any law, but never as a reason for undertaking it in the first instance.

Anyway, good to know you agree with me (they all do in the end) so I’m putting paid to this conversation and will wait for you to come up with something new.[divider]

 

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