Ask the Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi Schochet

Dear Rabbi,

My wife is seven months’ pregnant and we are debating the name of the child. Unfortunately, everyone is getting involved and now there is a family argument. If it is a boy, I want to call the baby Ben after my grandpa.

My mother- in-law objects because her husband is called Ben. My father-in-law is staying quiet while my wife, who initially agreed with me, is now siding with her mother. Is it wrong to name after a deceased relative if there is a living relative with the same name?

Justin

 

Dear Justin,

Wow! The poor kid is not yet even born and the family are fighting over him. So Jewish! Sephardic Jews often name after the living – it is considered an omen for long life. Even as Ashkenazi Jews do not, this is not a father-son scenario but more a grandfather – grandson which is far less problematic.

Add to that the fact you are dealing with an English name and I think you have no problem whatsoever. The only time it might be more of an issue is if your father-in-law passionately objected. Out of respect for him, you would have to reconsider. But he’s staying quiet.

Does that mean he agrees with his wife or shares your fears? If you really want to name after your grandpa you might consider giving your son the Jewish name of your grandfather as well. Of course if it is a girl, I recommend you give her the same name as your mother- in-law. Just for fun![divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I was surprised you haven’t weighed into the current Limmud debate. Do you think it was right for the Dayan and other rabbis to sign a letter against the event? Do you consider it divisive?

Leo

 

Dear Leo,

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. When the media choose to publish the letters of dissent provoking a backlash, that engenders divisiveness. In simple terms, a letter was written by Orthodox rabbis and circulated in their own circles  to make their position clear. That’s their entitlement. It’s not like they published the ad in any newspaper.

The fact the media gave that letter more publicity than it deserved is then the start of the problem, bringing it to everyone’s attention. Others then feeling the need to respond to it in such a high-profile way lends it further credence. And when columnists jump all over it, well, what more could the signatories have asked for?

The only one who maintained a dignified silence was the Chief Rabbi. Kudos to him. If others would have followed suit, by this week most would be asking: “what letter?”[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I am not an observant Jew. I keep kosher in my home, but not outside. I don’t wear a yarmulke other than in synagogue.

I do have a mezuzah on my doors, but will play golf with friends on Shabbat. However, a close friend and business colleague has been talking to me about keeping Shabbat and I admit, in my rat- race life, much of it appeals to me.

But does it even make sense to think about it if I am not observant in other parts of my life?

Michael

 

Dear Michael,

If, God forbid, there was a part of you that was afflicted with some ailment, does that then mean you ignore all other parts of you as well?

If you have a broken arm, do you ignore your ingrown toenail? I’m not suggesting that being non-observant is comparable to being ill. I’m highlighting the flaw in the argument that, just because some part of you is not necessarily where it ought to be, therefore all of you should stay there. Taking that to its logical conclusion, as you don’t keep kosher out of the house why bother keeping kosher inside?
Jewish observance is an ongoing process. Sometimes by undertaking something new, it will impact your heart and soul that you might be inclined to take on other things new as well. Maybe that’s what you’re afraid of.

When Begin wanted to stop El Al from flying on Shabbat he said the following: “It is not necessary to be an observant Jew to appreciate the full historic and sacred aura that enshrines this ‘perfect gift’ called Shabbat. Its prohibitions are not arbitrary. They provide insulation against corrosive everydayness, they build fences against invasions by the profane, and they enrich the soul by creating a space for sacred time. In a word, one need not be pious to accept the cherished principle of Shabbat. One merely needs to be a proud Jew.”[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

Why do most rabbis shy away from using social media as a medium with which to communicate with their followers to promote their message?

And why do you feel able to do so despite your colleagues? Are you different?

Susie

 

Dear Susie,

I don’t think most rabbis ignore social media. I know many who use it. It is a perfect tool in a modern world with which to be able to market religion and touch people otherwise inaccessible.

As to your question: “Am I different?” Really? You have to ask?[divider]

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