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

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

Dear Rabbi

I lost my wife 16 months ago. So many questions still swirl through my mind, especially when I look at our 11-year-old daughter. I wonder why her mother can’t be here to enjoy all that parenthood has to offer. How can God deprive a young girl of her mother?

Gerry

Dear Gerry

I don’t think God was looking to deprive your daughter of her mother. I think, perhaps, He was short an angel or two in heaven and needed your wife to fill the slot. In the meantime, your daughter must know that her mother – your wife – is watching over her from above. Tell her that even though she can’t hear mum, she should talk to her, because mum hears her. Tell her, even though she can’t feel mum, she is reaching out and holding her in an ethereal embrace.
The relationship between you and your wife – or your wife and daughter – is mainly of a spiritual nature. You can’t describe such a relationship in practical physical terms as it runs so much deeper.

As such, even as the physical might be removed from your midst, the spiritual bond remains intact for eternity. A wife and mother continue to function in that capacity, albeit on another plane. Keep talking about her. Keep her alive in your conversations. Impress on your daughter that mum is there during those special moments. She smiles from above and derives nachas in her own special and unique way.

I wish you and your daughter a long life, spared from further pain and sorrow – just many smiles as and when life presents its happier moments, especially knowing that is precisely what your wife will want more than anything else for you both.

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Dear Rabbi

I’ve read your Jewish News column for almost 10 years. How come you think you have the answer to everything?

Jerome

Dear Jerome

Well, obviously you think so too if you’re still reading this column after all that time. Only, what took you so long to ask that question?
For what it’s worth ,it’s not that I think I have the answer to everything, I do have the answer to everything. Deal with it!

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Dear Rabbi

What is the significance of the haircutting ceremony for three-year-old boys? Is it normal to let a boy’s hair grow long during his early years, making him look like a girl? And why is the haircut always done between Pesach and Shavuot?

Jennifer

Dear Jennifer

You’re just jealous because most of those little boys have the sort of hair many women can only dream about.
Do they all look like girls? I’ve got photographic evidence of my three with portraits on my wall at home.
One looked like he just finished a spin cycle in a washing machine. Another was a Mick Jagger look-alike, albeit much cuter, while the third would have made Shirley Temple green with envy. A child’s third birthday signals a major transition in his or her education.

For the first three years of life, a child absorbs the surrounding sights and sounds and the parents’ loving care.
At the age of three, a child’s education takes a leap and he or she is ready to produce and make their own special difference to their immediate surrounds.

For a Jewish boy, this transition is marked with a ceremony. It is an age-old custom to allow a boy’s hair to grow untouched until he’s three years old. On his third Jewish birthday, friends are invited to a haircutting ceremony called an upsherin in Yiddish, or chalakah by Sephardic Jews.

The child’s peyote (biblically mandated side-locks) are left intact – the initiation into his first mitzvah. From this point on, a child is taught to wear a kipah and tzitzit and is slowly trained to recite blessings and the Shema. As haircutting is forbidden most of the days between Pesach and Shavuot, those born during that period do the ceremony on Lag B’Omer (this year on 28 April). As that date marks the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (author of the Zohar), many will assemble in Israel at his gravesite in Miron where a mass haircutting ceremony takes place.  (NB: There’s no female equivalent of the upsherin, because the main point of the haircutting is to leave the side-locks – which a girl does not wear. Girls have their own ritual which begins at the age of three, traditionally when they start lighting a candle before the beginning of Shabbat – just as our matriarch Rebecca did when she was aged three).