With rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

Ask the Rabbi

Why put stones on a grave?

Dear Rabbi,

People visit graves before the High Holy Days and place stones. I thought this was superstition to ward off evil spirits – not a Jewish custom. Why not leave flowers instead? They’re prettier.

Kelly ASK THE RABBI 2

Dear Kelly,

An important principle in Judaism is honouring the deceased, for we believe that in their passing, just as in their life, they remain very much a part of us. To that end, when placing a stone, you mark your visit as it were. Many stones indicates many visitations, which is quietly respectful. The particular significance of a stone is that inasmuch as a tombstone, with its inscription, pays tribute to the deceased, adding a stone is like adding your own contribution to the tombstone. There is a further mystical suggestion that placing a stone summons some element of the departed to come down and rest upon the tombstone for the duration of a person visiting and praying there. This then would explain why there are no flowers. We are looking to do something meaningful with the stone, while flowers seem to essentially beautify the gravesite. To be frank, we are not looking to beautify death. In addition, the stone, as opposed to pretty flowers, reflects the reality that for all man’s material accumulation in this world, you can’t take it with you. Only your good deeds and your good name remain eternal.

Iran remains our enemy

Dear Rabbi,

Jews around the world, especially in the United States, seem passionately opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran. However, several hundred rabbis have come out in support of the deal. I believe they are practising the Jewish trait of giving your neighbour the benefit of the doubt and judging people favourably. How can we ever hope for peace with our enemies if we don’t give them a chance?

Leonard

Dear Leonard,

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain went to Munich to negotiate with Adolf Hitler. He left believing Hitler’s promise of peace in exchange for Germany being allowed to annex large parts of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain returned to England and announced he had brought “peace in our time.”

Winston Churchill denounced him as a naive appeaser who believed he could buy Hitler’s good will by giving in to his immoral demands: “You were given a choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.”

Today, people mock Chamberlain. You maintain that we should give Iran the benefit of the doubt and that the only way to achieve peace is by giving the enemy a chance. I think you ought to make distinctions between enemies and enemies.

The entire state apparatus of the Islamic Republic, from the Revolutionary Guards to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, genuinely believe that God craves “Death to America,” as they have been chanting for decades.

The Iranian regime is composed of religious fanatics with similar ideologies to ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and all the other mass-murdering Islamist movements, for whom human life means absolutely nothing. Just think what happens when we award Iran $150billion in currently frozen assets, plus the right to keep its nuclear program.

Would we do this for ISIS? Iran is far more dangerous than ISIS. Iran openly calls for genocide, for wiping out six million Jews living in Israel from the map. Khamenei said a few weeks ago that the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable. No other country in the world is committed to annihilating another country, besides Iran.

Iran is the world’s greatest funder of terror. Iran funds and directs Lebanese terror organisation Hezbollah, the most powerful military group in the country. Iran is the major funder of Hamas, which plans, on a daily basis, the destruction of Israel. Would we give $150bn to Hamas?

If there’s one thing we have learned over the past 4,000 years, it is this: when a regime or a leader pledges to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth, we should take them seriously. We have been there before. So, Leonard, you want to trust Iran? That’s OK, but be sure to also trust Iran when it declares “the Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain;” or that “the cancerous tumour called Israel must be uprooted from the region”.

As for the fact that some so-called rabbis signed in favour of the agreement, I need not remind you how many Jewish appeasers there were back in the 1930s as well. It’s those same people who feed the crocodile hoping it will eat them last.

Besides, if those “rabbis” are not wholly committed to the tenets of their faith, why would we expect them to be committed to Israel? Selling their souls for the sake of religious or political expediency is par for the course. Obama might want to leave office with a bang. But it’s a disastrous deal that risks an altogether different kind of bang.