How could a Jew behave so disgracefully? Why does the bride circle the groom? Should I stop wearing tzitzit?

Rabbit Schochet

Rabbit Schochet

Rabbi Shochet answers your dilemmas

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

  • How could a Jew behave so disgracefully?

Dear Rabbi

I’m appalled Jews would kill an Arab boy in cold blood as they did in Israel. That makes us no better than the people we condemn. It makes me embarrassed to identify as a Jew.

Rustin

Dear Rustin

I couldn’t agree more. Random killing by Jews is shocking in the extreme. We are supposed to be better than that and certainly preach something different. And therein lies the essential difference. The reason the media spotlight zeroed in on this more than the shocking tragedy of the killing of our three boys is precisely because that sort of behaviour is almost expected in certain sections of Palestinian society. But it is never expected from us.

Look at the difference in reaction: Jews everywhere rallied to condemn the heinous crime – compared with the celebrations in Gaza streets and handing out of sweets to children to celebrate the murder of Jewish boys.

But to be sure, this does not make me embarrassed to be a Jew. It makes me furious with the vigilantes who have admitted to the murder for such an atrocious crime that they bring the Jewish people into disrepute.

I am embarrassed they are part of my people – but they are not representative of my people. I will always be proud of who I am and what I represent.

  • Why does the bride circle the groom?

Dear Rabbi

I was intrigued by your wonderful explanation about the ring at the chuppah (I loved the bit about the husband having to remember to treat his wife like gold. The ring from my first marriage was only gold-plated, which explains a lot). Could also explain why the bride walks around the groom seven times? Also, is wine absolutely necessary if neither of us drink? If so, must it be red?

Fiona

Dear Fiona

Some suggest the reason she walks around him is simply to keep her dizzy enough so she doesn’t change her mind. But really and more particularly, the idea of the bride encircling the groom is to symbolise the idea of the woman being a protective, surrounding light of the household that illuminates it with understanding and love from within and protects it from harm from the outside.

By walking around, the bride is also affirming the groom as being the centre of her life, enveloping him in love and commitment. (That’s right – believe it or not, he might have to treat you as gold, but you have to make him the centre of your life as well).

The number seven parallels the seven days of creation, and symbolises that the bride and groom are about to create their own “new world” together. Also, in mysticism we speak about seven heavenly spheres – each time the bride walks around the groom, she draws special blessing from one of these special spheres into their union.

Wine is particularly significant since it is symbolic of life: it begins as grape juice, ferments, during which it is sour, but in the end turns into a beautiful product that brings joy and has a wonderful taste.

That’s the reality of marriage. Sometimes you go through struggles, but as long as you stay the course and are committed to one another, you will come out the other side feeling joy and the blessedness of all your years together. A full cup of wine also symbolises the overflowing of God’s blessing, as per the verse in Psalms, “my cup runneth over.”

I appreciate you both don’t drink, but all we are looking at here is a tiny sip. Since a blessing was recited over the wine, a sip must be had – and if you are truly reluctant, then the rabbi can. But bearing in mind the blessing and significance of the wine is for you, I think you would want to drink and ingest that blessing. Red wine is ideal but white wine is fine.

  • Should I stop wearing tzitzit?

Dear Rabbi

I feel awkward wearing tzitzit when driving to shul on Shabbat. And the whole parking around the corner thing seems so hypocritical.

Steven

Dear Steven

So what’s the alternative? Not to wear your tzitzit, not to go to Synagogue or not to drive? The latter’s the obvious one, but your question implies you’re going to drive to shul anyway and that it makes more sense to leave your tzitzit at home. No, it doesn’t.

Life is fraught with paradox, which is distinctly different to hypocrisy. Your very existence – the soul (which motivates you to wear the tzitzit) and your corporeal self (which perhaps tells you driving is easier than walking) is our daily struggle.

Yet life’s objective is to somehow reconcile the two and enable them to work in tandem. If we’d wait till every part of our observance was in sync, we’d all most likely end up doing a lot less. So we look to nurture our souls as much as possible, even if some of our actions are inconsistent with that soul-feed.

Abandoning your tzitzit just leaves you with the car ride to synagogue. Keeping them on leaves you a little uncomfortable and that’s a good thing. Maybe one day it’ll motivate you to give up the car instead. Just remember – every mitzvah counts.

That’s it from me for the summer. Wishing you all well. I’ll be back in September!