Ask the Rabbi

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

Dear Rabbi

I’m in the process of writing out invitations for my son’s barmitzvah and have come across a problem. One side of the family has had a bit of a broigus with the other side for a good 20 years.

My parents and I have not been directly involved in the rows – we’ve always been stuck in the middle. Obviously we would love to invite everyone, but I’m worried long-term differences will surface again and spoil our simcha.

Should we invite just some of them or none at all?

Laura

Dear Laura

You’re making a simcha. They have a broiges. It’s not your problem! You invite everyone to your son’s big day. Whether they want to turn up is their business. I suspect both sides will contact you to ask if the other is coming.

Use this opportunity as a chance to make peace between them. Tell them that 20 years is a long time to harbour grudges and the best barmitzvah gift they could give your son is a life lesson in putting such issues behind them and shaking hands for the future.

Of course, you could always invite me too and I could mediate while everyone else is on the dancefloor. Good luck and let me know what happens.[divider]

Dear Rabbi

I’m compiling a study on the British Royal family and the Jewish community. Why do you think the Queen has never visited Israel during her 60 years on the throne? I’ve heard it suggested that the Foreign Office is to blame. Surely if she visited the country it would help change the British public’s perspective?

Leonard

Dear Leonard

This question tends to linger in people’s minds but one has to consider whether it’s a personal agenda or more because of advice received from government.

I believe the Foreign Office has a lot to do with it. Friends of Israel within the FO are far and few between. They might offer the odd platitude, but there’s no love lost. That said, since the Arab Spring the Foreign Office is slowly waking up to the reality that Israel really is the only democracy in the Middle East on which they can rely. But this will likely change again as Israel is always perceived as the whipping boy for this unsettled region.

There’s civil war in Syria, unrest in Egypt, chaos in Gaza – but let’s blame Israel.

The relationship between the Royal family and the Jewish community is a good one. The fact that there is any number of captains of industry, many of them duly rewarded with royal titles, reflects this. I know there have been strong questions asked of Prince Philip and the stock he comes from, but I also know that the Queen Mother was particularly helpful to Jews during the war and have no qualms about the Queen’s loyalty to our community – indeed to all faith communities.

Of course, an official Royal visit to Israel would do wonders for the average perceptions of Joe Public, who will otherwise naively continue to believe the gibberish peddled by much of the pathetic anti-Israel press in the UK.

Needless to say no such trip would be without political twists and turns. There’ll be outcry about why it didn’t include a trip to Gaza or the West Bank (aka Judea and Samaria) and somebody somewhere will surely say there must be a Jew working in Buckingham Palace (maybe the carpenter repairing the Queen’s throne took a minute to bend the Queen’s ear). But that’s always been a part of our reality – damned if you do and damned if you don’t. [divider]

 

Dear Rabbi,

You’ll probably just say, “Ask a stupid question and you’ll get a stupid answer”, but here goes anyway. Why do we need rabbis when Google is so readily available to provide all the answers?

David

Dear David

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, you can also go to Google to comfort you in times of distress, to share happy times, officiate at celebratory occasions, inspire you with a sermon, lift your soul when you’re blue, mediate your broigeses, resolve your relationship crises, talk to the kid that won’t listen to you, be there for the grandma who doesn’t know how to use Google, speak at your dinner, pop into the local school, turn up at to the hospital at midnight, attend to the teenager on drugs, give classes and provide a concise and clear immediate answer to whatever your question might be.

I bet you’re one of those who wonders, “What does the rabbi do all day?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We have them in every community.[divider]

Dear Rabbi

Decorum in my shul is getting worse and worse. People come to gossip about family and friends rather than pray or, as you would appreciate, listen to the rabbi. Is it better to keep struggling against this tide of heathens or should I simply stay at home and recite the Shabbat morning service on my own?

Aaron

Dear Aaron

Don’t be such a cantankerous, sanctimonious individual! Most people come to synagogue to be inspired. If noise levels go up during prayer, the chazan needs to ask himself whether he’s uninspiring – then either do something about it or go back to his seat. If people nod off during the sermon the rabbi has to figure out how to up his game or consider a career change. Either way, in this day and age, whatever attracts people to come to synagogue – even if it’s for social reasons – then so be it. It means they identify and want to be a part of the community. That can only be a good thing.