Ask the Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

Dear Rabbi,

I’ve read your column for three years and am often inspired by your insight and humour. But I simply must to take issue with your stance on male and female partnership services. If that’s where both genders feel the greatest inspiration, why would anyone have an issue with it?

Joanna

 

Dear Joanna,

Lots of things inspire, but that doesn’t mean they’re all kosher.

A scholarly debate took place some 30 years ago between Carol Gilligan and Lawrence Kohlberg regarding the difference of approach between men and women in dealing with moral issues. Each has their own approach, abilities and powers. The problem is that society looks to squelch or suppress these differences in the guise of equality.

The corporate world has conditioned us to see what is most visible so we immediately assume that just because something is more visible it is also more important.

The concept of feminism is forgetting the real differences and real goals and simply assuming that what men are doing is more important because it is more overt. So women want it too – without taking into account the distinctions.

Ironically, ask any observant Jew what the fundamentals of observance are and they’ll tell you it’s Shabbat, keeping kosher and family purity. These are not public displays but key components of religious expression in the Jewish home.

The concept of feminism in terms of acknowledging differences is something Judaism has done for thousands of years. But Judaism takes it a step further. It’s not just in the realm of working – it is in the realm of being.

Humans have a mission in life and each of us has something unique to give. Just as no two faces are the same, no two contributions are either.
Men and women are distinct categories. They give different things to the world. Partnership services blur the lines, misses the whole point and, dare I suggest, are a way for some Jews to become more reform while still pacifying their Orthodox conscience.

I don’t buy it.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

My grandfather suffers from advanced dementia. He has no quality of life and is clearly just living in a body as a shell. It is so painful for the family to see him in this state. What’s the Jewish take on assisted suicide?

Katie

 

Dear Katie,

Consider this. If a young man or woman who is fully functional, but deeply depressed to a point that they’ve lost their will to live, asked you to terminate their life, would you? The obvious answer is no, because notwithstanding them telling you what they want, you’d not be prepared to accept what they have to say.

Yet when it comes to your grandfather, you want to end his life because you believe that’s what he would want, even though he’s not said so.

There’s a flaw in such logic. Seeing a loved one slowly dwindle away has to be one of the most painful experiences. There comes a point when you almost consider it cruel for them to be hanging on with no quality of life, no ability to function for themselves and no cognitive ability. Yet, despite this, they are still alive. That means in the Divine scheme of things their cherished souls still have a purpose, even if we don’t get it.
Lest you think I’m detached from the reality of your situation, I’m typing these words as I sit here with that same reality in my presence.

Literally. Life is God blowing a soul into a loved one. The cessation of life is when God chooses to take that soul back to His side. Only He makes that choice.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

There’s been a lot of coverage the press lately about Orthodox Jews committing criminal acts. How dare they then call themselves Orthodox!

Rebecca

 

Dear Rebecca,

Rabbi Chaim of Sanz (Poland, 19th century) once sought an honest man in the marketplace. He encountered Yossel and asked: “What would you do with a wallet you found in the street?” Yossel replies: “I would return it to its rightful owner.” The rabbi said: “Yossel, you are a fool!”

He then spoke to another man: “Feivel. If you found a wallet on the street, what would you do?” “Rabbi, you know me. I’m a desperate man. I’d keep the money.” The rabbi replied: “Feivel, you should repent!” Then he went to a third man: “Laibel, if you found a wallet on the street, what would you do?”

Laibel looked to the ground, shifting uneasily: “I really don’t know what I would do. I don’t know if I would cave into temptation or my conscience would get the better of me.” “Laibel,” the rabbi replied, “You are an honest man!”

Such is human nature. When temptation strikes, especially on a regular basis, there are no guarantees. Even when a priest entered the treasury in Temple times,he had to be accompanied by two colleagues.

Jewish law stipulates that an old man cannot sit as a judge in a Jewish court, as he no longer has real financial concerns so cannot sympathise with the temptations of a petty criminal. The point being, that inasmuch as the penalty has to be paid, none of us should judge. Taking everything into account, who is to say we would not have done the same thing in the same circumstances.[divider]

Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi.