Dear Rabbi,

My brother-in-law and I have had a serious row. He chastised me for not attending shul on Saturdays (our family are founding members of the shul).

I told him he was a hypocrite to go to shul, especially as he goes to football straight after, dines in non-kosher restaurants and adheres to no other religious traditions or customs. Our wives weighed in, and the whole thing got a little out of hand. Is it hypocritical for him to go to shul when everything else he does runs counter to that choice?

Stuart

Dear Stuart,

Observance levels don’t determine the status of a Jew. Being born to a Jewish mother or converting halachically into the faith does. So it is neither the synagogue attendance nor the other things he does that defines him and, regardless, he is not just remotely but every bit as Jewish as you and me.

As to the question of hypocrisy, is your suggestion that until he does things right he is better off staying out of the synagogue? Would that then include Yom Kippur? If not, why not; because you set your subjective standards? A man once told the Lubavitcher Rebbe he felt like a hypocrite going to synagogue on Yom Kippur when he didn’t go the rest of the year.

The rebbe responded that the natural place for a Jew to be is in shul. “You’re not a hypocrite when you go to shul on Yom Kippur,” said the rebbe. “You’re a hypocrite when you don’t go the rest of the year!” So your brother-in-law may not have been right in chastising you – teapot and kettle come to mind. But his going to synagogue is laudable. Now go kiss and make up and then join him one weekend to synagogue.

You might just become good friends![divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I’m moving to Israel next year where I hope to study at a yeshiva and join the army. My rabbi, who’s inspired me to go to yeshiva, told me that that is where I belong but good Jewish boys do not belong in the army. I was upset by this remark. What do you think?

Shlomo

 

Dear Shlomo,

Go back and ask your rabbi what would the Israeli army consist of if all Jewish boys heeded his word. Would wars fight themselves? Is it OK to let just non-yeshiva-inclined youngsters get on with it? Does it become only their responsibility? Ask him about the countless references in the Torah to Jews from a certain age being recruited into the military, to be on call when so required.

Ask him about the Jewish men who joined King David in his battles against the enemy. Is your rabbi more Jewish than any of them? Did Moses or David get it wrong? Didn’t God instruct the draft? To be sure, there may be negative influences in a secular army as per the IDF, but even your rabbi knows it has units that adequately accommodate more religious soldiers. Go after your dream and don’t let anyone talk you down. Protecting our homeland is a tremendous mitzvah.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I became religious several years ago and married a religious boy. All I ever dreamed about was a fairy-tale marriage. We have now been married 18 months and I like to think we have a good relationship. But he never says he loves me. When I challenge him, he says it is just words and ac- tions speak louder. But I would like to hear it once a day. Am I asking too much? Are such words religiously inappropriate?

Tara

 

Dear Tara,

Certain people have a hard time communicating in general, and this is especially so when it comes to words of endearment. However, it there is a very real need to hear such words. Your husband is right that actions speak louder than words; clearly it is better to be shown love rather than simply being told empty words. But that still does not take away the desire to hear the words along with experiencing the love. The Talmud states that when there is harmony between a couple, Shechina Beineihem – the Divine presence – is manifest.

The numerical value (gematriah) of those two words is the same as Ani Ohev Otach, which is Hebrew for “I love you.” Women tend to be more verbal with their emotions, yet at a chupah it is the man who declares “behold you are betrothen to be”, which is his declaration of love, while the woman stays silent.

This teaches us that for a relationship to work each partner must be willing to do what the other needs even if it does not come naturally to us. Discuss the point with your husband and explain you appreciate his demonstrations of love but need to hear it more as well.

Be patient with him and appreciate when he manages it. Sometimes you can initiate things, which will encourage him to reciprocate.[divider]

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