Rabbi Schochet

Rabbi Schochet

Do Jews have a different soul? Is it ok to bet on the World Cup? And can you update a blog on Shabbat?

Rabbi Schochet answers your dilemmas.

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

  • Critic is such a misguided soul

Dear Rabbi

I read your comments in the Jewish News about Jews possessing different and additional souls to non-Jews. Letter writer Alan Silver recently challenged this notion, suggesting it was bizarre, rooted in medieval Kabbalah and based on wishful thinking.

I wonder whether you subscribe to racial doctrine rather than facts. Imagine how we Jews would react if Christians made a similar claim of superiority? I think you should retract.

Leon

Dear Leon

Anyone who suggests this is racial doctrine displays logical absurdity and theological ignorance. Alan Silver is altogether unfamiliar with the terms and vocabulary of Jewish philosophy.

First, the Tanya passages he cites are discussed in Etz Chaim 49:3 and the Talmud [Baba Bathra 10b] rooted in Proverbs 14:34.

Second, if you attend synagogue on the festivals then you proclaim this distinction when reciting the section “Atah bechartanu” in the Amidah and similarly at the conclusion of every Sabbath and festival when reciting the Havdalah blessing. We do so because the Torah itself states this explicitly in Leviticus 20:24 and 26: “I have separated you from the nations to be Mine.”

Jews are infused with an additional soul precisely because they need this special endowment to enable them to observe the Torah with its 613 commandments and to carry out their mission to be Divine beacon unto the nations, which requires intensified “energy” for this purpose.

Racist? Then to claim that outstanding artists or scientists are endowed with special and extra-ordinary talents would also be an expression of morally objectionable racism. To be a pious and fervent follower of any religion by definition means to believe you are in possession of an absolute truth that has an advantage over all other religions.

Otherwise you have no reason to adhere to it with all your mind and soul. How would we react if Christians made a similar claim of being spiritually superior? Just what do you think the New Testament teaches?

If Christians would not believe that, they would void the very foundation and essence of their faith. In short, Alan Silver claims my column to be a Purim spoof and that is his prerogative.

I am chuffed he still the time to read it each week. But it is he who makes a laughing stock of himself when attempting to make his ignorance seem intelligent when it is little more than an emotional reaction without a modicum of intellect.

  • Is betting on brazil so bad?

Dear Rabbi

My dad says gambling is against Jewish principles, but I want to back Brazil winning the World Cup. Is having a flutter so bad? Can you give me halachic sources? Who will you be supporting?

Yaniv

Dear Yaniv

In the Talmud (Sanhedrin 24b), the rabbis take a dim view about gambling. It is a risky enterprise and can also become very addictive. The rabbis also make the interesting point that the winner is really a loser morally speaking because the one with the inferior hand wasn’t expecting to lose.

Therefore, the loser relinquishes his money reluctantly and he is getting nothing tangible in return. In simple English, it’s a bit like stealing. Maimonides (Laws of Plaintiffs and Defendants 2:2) argues that any form of gambling, whether betting on horses, roulette or cards, only gives the illusion of contributing to the local economy.

In the end, though, it contributes nothing of value that endures. (See also Tur Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 370; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 34:16). Having said that, an occasional flutter is not something I would define as gambling and should be OK.

But shame on you! Rooting for the home team and betting against them. What’s that all about? I agree it would make no sense betting on England, but from your financial standpoint you don’t even want England to win, lest you lose your investment.

Where’s your loyalty? I choose not to bet and throw my support behind England – one can dream!

  • Can I update my blog during Shabbat?

Dear Rabbi

I write a blog I update every day. Can I schedule a new post to go up automatically on Shabbat? I wouldn’t even need to turn on my computer.

Rebecca

Dear Rebecca

There is an interesting discussion about e-commerce websites operating on the Shabbat. In your case, it is a matter of a blog that goes up automatically, so it should really be of no concern.

However, there are two considerations. One, are you catering to a mostly Jewish audience, thus encouraging them to log on during Shabbat?

Two, in Jewish law if a Jewish business is open on Shabbat but run by non-Jews, even if the non-Jews are doing it entirely of their own accord, nonetheless there is a matter of maras ayin (giving the wrong impression). This would only apply if it is public knowledge and there is a perception that the Jew is running the show.

Typically with a website, people don’t know it’s owned by a Jew hence there would not be the same concerns. However, if people acknowledge you to be Jewish and assume you are posting the blog on the Shabbat, then you do have a problem.

A simple solution would be to have a disclaimer put on the top to state that the blog was automatically updated on the Shabbat.