Rabbi Reuven Livingstone answers readers’ questions in his weekly column, Ask the Rabbi.
Will we all be stigmatised?
I’m 44 years old and had some of my eggs frozen four years ago. During this time, my search for a Jewish husband was unsuccessful. The clinic holding my eggs advised me to defrost the eggs and fertilise them using Jewish sperm. I am desperate to try to have a child and wish to know if my actions will become a stigma on myself, on my religious parents and on the newborn in my society.
First, everyone should be sympathetic and sensitive to your predicament – in which you are not alone. This is still an area of some ongoing Halachic and ethical debate in Orthodox society, but it is ultimately a very individual decision.
Although this form of single parenthood is becoming more common generally, it is still relatively rare in Jewish religious circles so, speaking honestly, there may well be a degree of social discomfort for you. But the real question is whether you would be able to give that child a normal loving upbringing in the family and social context in which you live. My advice is that if this is Halachically permissible, fears of stigma per se should not be the main basis for your decision.
You need to seek personal support, guidance, and advice from a sympathetic and competent rabbi who can help you navigate the issues – both Jewish and emotional. Good luck!
Why did God choose Jews?
In the Torah there are lots of places where it states the Jews didn’t behave well, especially in the desert. So why did God choose them?
There is a famous saying: ‘How odd of God to choose the Jews… it’s not so odd – the Jews chose God!’ The people of Israel may not always have behaved impeccably in their relationship with the Almighty and in their observance of the Torah, but they distinguished themselves by being the first nation to embrace ‘one God’ and have made great sacrifices for that decision ever since.
Certainly, since the times of the patriarchs through Mount Sinai and beyond, Jews have consistently remained loyal and continue proudly in that path.
Sometimes one has to look at the big picture to truly appreciate the deep nature of the connection between the Jews and the God of Israel notwithstanding the ‘stones’ in that long road.
Swap politeness For morality
What’s your opinion on BBC political correctness when reporting on the Middle East? For instance, it calls terrorists
‘militants’ because ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’ implies a value judgment.
This is a fascinating question. From a Jewish perspective, this phenomenon touches on a type of moral crisis: the inability to discriminate between good and evil, right and wrong, patriots and terrorists.
Through misguided political correctness, one can easily slide toward a dangerous lack of moral discernment.
When the Torah commands us to teach and guide our children in the correct path, it uses the Hebrew word ‘veShinantam’ (literally ‘you shall sharpen them’); which the Sages say means that what we impart should be ‘sharp and clear’ ie not morally ambiguous.
Otherwise, we risk sanitising away the very backbone of Judaism. Elsewhere, the prophet warns us: ‘Woe to those who
describe bad as good and wrong as right…’
The famous American rabbi Eliezer Silver campaigned tirelessly during the Second World War on behalf of the plight of European Jewry – advocating Allied bombing of the train lines to the concentration camps.
Certain domestic groups, embarrassed by his overt berating of the US Government, asked him to tone down his rhetoric.
His terse response was to paraphrase a well-known dictum of the rabbis that when it comes to critical matters of morality, it is vastly more important to be honest than polite.
Does lack of TV disconnect?
Why is Orthodox Judaism anti-TV? Doesn’t avoiding it disconnect you from reality?
Judaism is not against TV per se. Those who oppose television are primarily concerned about exposure to sex, violence, and some of the seedier aspects of popular culture. So, it is about the values that do not sit well with traditional Judaism, rather than the medium as a whole or any aversion to ‘reality’.
There is also the argument that watching television wastes vast amounts of precious time and often disconnects us from those around us – and indeed sometimes from the real world!
Some of the same arguments can also apply to the internet. Yet there is no doubt that many valuable things can be seen on TV and discovered online; it is all about getting the balance right and having sufficient self-discipline – which some people quite validly don’t trust themselves to be able to do!
Rabbi Schochet returns on 3 September. Read his blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi or follow him on Twitter at @RabbiYYS