Ask the Rabbi – 20/03/14

Ask the Rabbi – 20/03/14

With Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet. 

Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at or follow him on Twitter @RabbiYYS. [divider]

Dear Rabbi

The scariest time of year has arrived! I always go into panic mode as soon as Purim is over. With only four weeks until Pesach, there is so much work to do. Any tips on how to stay calm?

Dear Adina

My mother starts her Pesach cleaning some time right after Chanukah. God help us, as kids, if we took food out of the kitchen after that deadline. She also cleans rooms that haven’t been entered since we left home as children more than 20 years ago. And she’s not alone. Many women get the cleaning bug which, while admirable, is not necessarily what Pesach cleaning is all about. So even if you might have been planning to search your kids’ socks for crumbs, don’t! And that room in which Aunt Hilda slept last summer has been hoovered at least three times since she left. So leave it out. Oh, and unless something weird goes on in your house, you don’t have to start scrubbing the area behind the toilet, which you never otherwise bother to clean all year round. If you can get all this straight, you’ll be a lot more relaxed about the process. Failing that, a stay at some nice hotel abroad might be the answer.

Dear Rabbi

Do you accept the allegation by Martin Stern in his recent letter that you undermine the Orthodox rabbinate with the tone of some of the responses in your column?


Dear Hazel

Martin was referring to my response to Lucy, who wanted to marry a Jewish man without conversion. I suggested she’d be allowed to, subject to her flying in front of the three members of the London Beth Din.

Martin is entitled to his opinion and I’m entitled to my opinion as well in suggesting he does more damage to Orthodoxy with some of his asinine ranting – but welcome to the world of democracy.

And Martin, if you’re reading this, you are also entitled not to read this page if you don’t like my style. But you know you can’t help yourself! mystery of the malaysia flight

Dear Rabbi

Why would a God allow an airliner with 239 people on board to simply vanish? It seems so cruel and unfair. Each time I see pictures of the distraught families, my heart breaks.


Dear Melinda

And if they determine that it was deliberate, are you still going to blame God or the perpetrators? What if it were some disastrous mechanical failure? Is that God’s fault or the airline industry?

No one seems to know what happened, and all our hearts break for the poor families.The uncertainty only compounds the pain and frustration.

I wonder whether your question is prompted by a genuine desire to ascertain truth or, as it unfortunately happens all too often, it might be a case where you hope it will remain unanswered and thus lend support to certain preconceptions of yours. Since you asked, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. In the words of Elie Weisel, who endured the hell of Auschwitz: “You can either love God or you can hate God. But you cannot ignore God.”

By definition, if you use the concept of human suffering to deny the existence of God, that is a logical absurdity. In fact it’s extreme arrogance and conceitedness. It’s like saying: “If I can’t grasp Einstein’s theory of relativity, then it is flawed.”

It doesn’t follow logically that my inability to comprehend means it’s all wrong. I can be upset and frustrated, but cannot deny the reality. That would be an emotional response, not a rational one. Hence, you can love God – you accept irrespective. Or you can hate God – you can be angry with Him, frustrated as to ‘why me?’

But, logically, rationally, intellectually, whatever brought you to the acceptance of His reality in the first instance – whatever prompted you and motivated you until this point to embrace His reality, cannot be rejected outright in the face of whatever tragedy. If this world is a jigsaw puzzle and we are only an infinitesimally small part of that puzzle, we cannot necessarily understand the smaller things that go on in our daily existence, let alone the bigger picture.

That isn’t to say we cannot cry out. Moses did so when he asked God: “Why do You allow evil to befall this nation?” This wasn’t a failing on Moses’ part. Quite the contrary. It was an act of faith of the highest order.

It is only when you truly believe that you have the conviction to cry out. When you don’t believe, you can also be upset by the negatives of our world – but toward what do you target your distress? This happened to you? Tough luck! Darwin was right! Survival of the fittest!

A key component of faith is the balance between the acceptance that we cannot know enough to comprehend the answer and the conviction to believe and care enough to ask the questions.[divider]

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