Ask the Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, Mill Hill United Synagogue

Dear Rabbi

I dated a young man years ago. As he was my first boyfriend I wanted to see who else was out there. Since then I’ve dated many other guys, here and in the USA. I recently heard my first boyfriend has got married, but according to a mutual friend he’s unhappy.

Would it be right for me to make a move and let him know I’m still interested? Was he my bashert (intended one)?
Sophie

Dear Sophie

There was a pious rabbi called Reb Mendel Futerfas who served 10 years in Siberia for the crime of teaching Jews about their faith in the former Soviet Union.

It was against the law to play cards in the prison, but he observed how a group of friends would play every day.
Whenever a guard entered the room the cards would mysteriously disappear. No matter how hard the guard searched, he could never find them.
On one occasion the guard barged in unexpectedly yet still, before his very eyes, the cards vanished.

Eventually, the guard relented and offered the prisoners a deal – he would let them play cards as long as they revealed where they were hiding them.

The prisoners explained that whenever he entered the room, the professional pickpocket among them would slip the cards into the guard’s own pocket. When the guard got ready to leave, the pickpocket would retrieve them.

Reb Mendel, who had observed this, then reflected: “Sometimes we go looking everywhere else for a solution when it’s really right there in our own pocket.”

When you meet someone who seems perfect for you, it is a disastrous mistake to go exploring options in the assumption that there are more fish in the sea so, maybe, you can catch a bigger one.

If you felt a real connection with the first guy you went out with, you should count your lucky stars that your bashert came your way faster than it might do for others.

You do not throw the fish back in the sea, thinking: “I’ll catch something bigger!”

That was the big catch!

And you certainly do not act on hearsay and move in on the guy’s marriage. Even if he is unhappy, that’s none of your business. he’s going to have to work it out with his wife.

If, God forbid, things do not work out between them then, by all means, jump in. But I don’t recommend you wait around in the hope of this happening.

Whatever is ultimately meant to be, will be! Good luck![divider]

Dear Rabbi

What are the rules of adoption in Jewish law?

Leah

Dear Leah

There are no formal adoption rules. The process per se is strictly a civil one, whereby it is essentially a transfer of title from one parent to another.

In Jewish law, parents do not own their children. However, Judaism does have certain laws that are relevant in circumstances where a child is raised by someone other than the birth parents.

In most ways, the adoptive parents are to the child as any birth parent would be. The Talmud says: “One who raises someone else’s child is regarded as if they had brought him into the world physically.” 

Halachically, for those who cannot have children of their own, raising adoptive children satisfies the obligation to be fruitful and multiply. The obligations of the child and their adoptive parents are the same as with birth parents. The child’s halachic status, however, is determined by the birth parents. So whether the child is a Cohen or a Levi would be dependent on the biological father. And the child’s Jewish status would be dependent on its biological mother. 

According to Jewish law, children born of non-Jewish parents are not Jewish unless they convert, regardless of how they are raised. The status as a Jew is more a matter of citizenship than  belief. This procedure tends to be easier when the child is an infant, as there is no need for prior education. The conversion must be approved by a Beth Din. A circumcision for a boy is required, the child must be immersed in a mikvah and the parents must commit to educating the child as a Jew. [divider]

Dear Rabbi

I fasted for many years on the 9 Av. I’ve had a rough time this year – emotionally and financially – so am not in the right frame of mind to fast this year. I’m inclined to only fast on Yom Kippur.

Benji

Dear Benji

Yet you write to tell me this. Why? Because you don’t really feel right about it and would like me to talk you down or trigger your conscience a little bit more to convince you to do the right thing?

You’re like the sulky kid who says: “I don’t want to go to school today,” knowing that mum will make you go. You just want to try your luck. So grow up. I’m sorry you’ve had a rough year, but I don’t follow why that means you should break with tradition. Think about why you keep the rituals you do. Then ask yourself if it makes sense to abandon them. If you’re smart, I know what your conclusion will be.

Fast well!

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