In this week’s Ask the Rabbi, Rabbi Reuven Livingstone answers your questions! If you want to send a question in, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Honesty is the best policy
Do you have to tell your spouse that you have had an affair — even if it’s going to hurt them and the relationship?
This is bound to be a very agonising dilemma. There are certainly instances where Jewish law does dictate that we may tell a white lie in order to preserve the peace or avoid hurting people. Unfortunately, this is not such an instance. The halacha views adultery very seriously and imposes certain penalties and difficult duties on those participating in it. This means that the wronged party has a right to know and to decide if it is right (or even permissible depending on the circumstances) for them to continue the relationship. Much as this may seem rather harsh, this is deemed to be too big an issue to be hidden away. In the long term, honesty is always the best policy and offers the best prospect of re-building the relationship, where possible, onto a firmer, more durable, and loving footing. Each case, however, will carry different issues morally and halachically. Therefore, prior to airing this information it is imperative that a competent rabbinical adviser is carefully consulted.
Does Judaism have any insights on parallel universes?
While some scientists may regard parallel universes as possible, mainstream Judaism has not really embraced or focused on the idea. Traditionally, we have believed that there is only one unique Earth and that each of our lives on this planet is a ‘one-off’. On this basis, the universe may be infinite, with many other planets, but nothing that was created in exact parallel to us. The Talmud certainly says that each person is created individually — and it is out of the question that someone elsewhere could have an identical life. To be fair though, outside mainstream Jewish thought there are some mystical writings that do mention such ideas. Sefer HaBrit refers to a parallel planet called Meroz which may have people identical to us living on it. There is also a theory, based on the Zohar, that God created other spiritual worlds and that these indeed exist in parallel with our own. These multiple spiritual universes are even given names: among them are Tohu, Tikkun, Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. Perhaps the weirdest aspect of the ‘multiverse’ theory is that it suggests that there may be multiple copies of ourselves — completely oblivious of each other! Yet there are even examples in Jewish sources of this precise phenomenon. The Zohar suggests that the three people who came to visit Abraham in Mamre [Genesis 18:2] were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So, here we have Abraham visiting ‘himself’ in a coexisting parallel universe! Some, of course, argue that such parallel spiritual worlds exist only metaphysically in our minds. In the end, perhaps we are better off concentrating on our lives in this world and only dreaming of other worlds when we watch Star Wars or Star Trek!
Divinity trumps the Big Bang
Does it make a difference whether or not the world was created by the Big Bang or by God?
Dear Stuart It certainly does if you believe in the Torah narrative of creation! While we do not necessarily have to take everything in the Bible literally — indeed we have a long tradition of interpretation — the basic parameter of Genesis is that God created the world. The Big Bang theory may be partially reconcilable with the Torah but it cannot replace entirely our belief in Divine Creation.
Torah view of defence cuts
What would the Torah say about cutting defence spending at such a dangerous time?
Firstly, it should be noted that from a Jewish perspective, self-defence and preservation is an inherent obligation and requires not only that one defend oneself when under attack— but also that one be adequately prepared to do so. If this applies in an individual context how much more so when it comes to a nation-state whose primary duty is to protect its citizens? In terms of the modern day state of Israel, much of its military planning is around the simple doctrine of having an adequate force at its disposal to defend and deter any potential attack or aggression. While the UK, in an age of austerity, may prioritise its military spending more around playing a limited role in the global community, it must not forget the simple doctrine of possessing adequate resources to protect the nation.