Ask the Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

 

Dear Rabbi,

Our daughter is taking illegal drugs after falling in with a bad crowd – a rich brat pack. My husband blames me for spoiling her. I’m not sure where to turn.

Hannah

 

Dear Hannah,

Aren’t we all guilty of spoiling our kids too much today? I’m still young but when I was a kid we always took the bus to school and back – my parents didn’t chauffeur us.

I didn’t have a telephone in my bedroom and was encouraged to play outdoors with friends rather than remain cooped up in my room playing with virtual friends for hours on end. And supper time saw the family sit around the dinner table together rather than grabbing what they could from the nearest fast-food restaurant.

Still, this is not a time for recriminations. You were both a team in bringing your daughter into this world – equal partners in raising her – so as much as it is easy to shrug your shoulders and point the finger of blame, you have to remain committed as a team to tackle this problem. If you don’t, your daughter will sense that tension and that will only exacerbate the problem.

Most importantly, be consistent and speak with conviction. That is to say, when you tell your child something, say it like you mean it. And when you threaten her with whatever sanctions, be sure you see it through. Kids, whatever their age, are master manipulators when it comes to exposing their parents’ weakness. [divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I’d like to pick up on your reply last week about the role of Orthodox Jewish women.

I still fail to comprehend why Orthodox women can’t be equal like Reform women?

Candice

 

Dear Candice,

I must first point out that the division of Judaism into Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and so on is purely artificial, as all Jews have one and the same Torah, given by one God, although there are more observant Jews and less observant Jews. To simply tag on a label does not, of course, alter the reality.

As for the attitude of Judaism to women, it has also been frequently pointed out that those who think the Torah places women in an inferior role labour under a misconception. This has no basis in truth.

Men and women are like the head and the heart in the physical body: both are equally vital, although each has entirely different functions. Only the normal functioning of both together ensures a healthy body. The same is true of the role of men and women in Jewish life, and, indeed, in any healthy society.

It follows that the heart need not feel inferior to the brain, although in certain aspects it depends on the brain, just as the brain need not feel inferior to the heart because in certain respects it depends on the latter. Similarly, in Jewish life there are duties and functions which God has allotted to women and others He has allotted to men.

Ancient Kabbalistic sources observe how man is of a more aggressive nature, so requires certain strictures and rituals in his life to tame his animalistic traits.

Women, on the other hand, are more innately spiritual and have a calmer effect on their realm. It is this difference in character and spiritual makeup, known to no-one more so than the Creator, which essentially defines the ways in which they can best refine and develop themselves and the by which they can best impact their world.

So a woman’s completeness does not lie in her being just like a man.

The Torah recognises that there are indeed differences between men and women. These differences are positive and society and God requires the unique gifts of men and women or we will become imbalanced.

I must add that the one thing that baffles me is that feminism asserts female independence, which I am in favour of. Yet the thrust of the movement is centred on the woman becoming similar to men. And this is what is termed “independence” and “feminist’ pride”!

But I’ll leave that one hanging.[divider]

 

Dear Rabbi,

I moved to London two years ago. Ever since, I’ve been an avid reader of your column. You’re no doubt aware that it is very popular with many in the community.

So I have to ask: what is your secret? I used to edit a small Jewish paper in the USA and to be honest most Ask the Rabbi columns are very similar and rather boring.

Shirley

 

Dear Shirley,

Ah, another fan! That’s three so far. Flattery will get you everywhere.

I suppose some rabbis choose to play it safe, in their writing, speeches and whatever else besides. I like to sail close to the wind and dare to often say what everyone else is thinking.

Sure, that lands me in hot water sometimes. But, frankly, there’s a better chance of keeping people engaged that way than simply taking the safe route.

Life is like an amusement park ride. You can either play it safe and ride the predictable merry-go-round.

Or, like me, ride the rollercoaster with all its thrills, spills, twists, turns and rushes![divider]

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