Ask the rabbi 05/2: Reform marriage, accents, divorce and smiling

Ask the rabbi 05/2: Reform marriage, accents, divorce and smiling

By Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

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Ask the Rabbi

Should i go to reform union?

Dear Rabbi,

My friend is engaged to a man who underwent a reform conversion. As an Orthodox Jew, am I allowed to attend the wedding?


Dear Rachel

Let’s view this from your perspective.

As an Orthodox Jew do you recognise a reform conversion? If not, would you attend a wedding of a friend marrying a non-Jew? And if you would not attend the ceremony, would you be at the function? How close is this friend? Do you tend to have any impact in her life? Will your absence sever that bond?

All this and more must be weighed up in balance when considering the answer to your question. Be your own honest judge and jury, look at the whole picture and decide accordingly.

What’s with accent change?ASK THE RABBI 2

Dear Rabbi,

Why do people’s voices or accents tend to change when they become more religious? Andy

Dear Andy

Rrreally? I don’t sink I’ve ever nuticed such a ting before. What a nonsensical prejudicial statement if ever I heard one. I mean, I’ve heard teens change their whole vocabulary as they become ‘more cool’ – innit! And there is what apparently they call the JFS accent and the Hasmo accent, which I find quite amusing. But insofar as those who become more religious, at best I can think that perhaps they go to Yeshiva or Sem so they pick up a different pronunciation of sorts. But a change of accent? Gevalt! Shtusim mit lokshen!

I’m no longer happy in love

Dear Rabbi

I’ve been married for 30 years but am no longer happy and want out. My husband and I simply grew apart. What is the Jewish view on divorce?


Dear Melissa,

Before we talk about the Jewish view on divorce, let’s consider the Jewish view on marriage.

When two people meet and recognise a real attraction and sense of compatibility toward one another, it is more than just mere ‘chemistry’ as society tends to define it.

It is a meeting of two souls.

Long before you met, God already determined that you were meant for each other.

The term “soul mates” is more than a mere cliché, it’s what you really are – two parts of a whole that merge to become one. All of life thereafter is a process in which you strive to nurture that connection.

The choices you make, the conversations you have, the bond you share is the glue that keeps the relationship vibrant in awareness of the reality that every union is far greater than the sum of its parts. Sometimes irreconcilable differences do occur and Judaism is acutely aware of is. But it’s interesting to consider how the Torah mentions the laws of divorce immediately together with the laws of infidelity.

To my mind, that says that it should take for extreme circumstances to sever the bond. The escalating divorce rates in contemporary society are more down to the disposable mentality of wanting instant results without the effort. People don’t just wake up one day and find they have grown apart. It’s a process that goes on over time, with both sides ignoring the nuances.

When the petals on a flower start growing in opposite directions, it’s usually because someone wasn’t looking after it properly. Does that mean all is lost? Certainly not! You need to re-evaluate, think back to the reasons why you fell in love and determine how you might be able to work your way back to that starting point.

Thirty years is a long-term investment. If you put that kind of time into a business you’d expend every ounce of energy before you allow the business to go to the wall.

Your marriage is more than a business. It’s your life – your essence – your soul.

Do everything you can to salvage it and, please God, you’ll make your way into your twilight years rediscovering one another and recapturing the spark.

How to put a smile on face?

Dear Rabbi,

I’m jealous of smiling people. I always feel so low on the inside. How can I make myself happier?


Dear Leonard,

Fake it! You think everyone smiling out there is truly happy? Comedians supposedly make up some of the most depressed people. The ancient rabbis taught that someone who mocks a blind man or a cripple by pretending to be one will not depart from this world until indeed the same thing happens to them.

We also have a guiding principle that whatever rules of life apply in the negative, apply even more so in the positive. Hence when a group of Chasidim came to their esteemed rebbe, Rabbi Schenur Zalman of Liadi, complaining about a particular man who was sitting in shul with his prayer shawl pulled tightly over his head, swaying to and fro, even as they knew him to be a fake, the rabbi replied: “Leave him,” citing the aforementioned sages and principle.

“Even as he fakes it now, he won’t pass from this world without being more pious and sincere about his prayers.”

So, I repeat: “Fake it till you make it!” Put on the smile even if you don’t feel like it. The rest will take care of itself.

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