Ask the Rabbi: 28/11/2014

Ask the Rabbi: 28/11/2014

By Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet  Ask the Rabbi

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Knowledge on adoption?

Dear Rabbi,

After 54 years believing my dad was my birth father, I recently discovered that my real father was in fact a non-Jew and I was adopted aged two. I’ve also discovered the Office of the Chief Rabbi knew of my birth status and they have told me that my mum requested I should not be told the truth when I attended their offices to get married years ago. Of course I am stunned, but also I thought that in Jewish law, a person has to be told if they had been adopted. Is that correct?


Dear Malcolm,

It depends on the adoption that took place. If Jewish parents adopted you from a non-Jewish mother and they wanted to make you halachically Jewish, that would necessitate that you undergo a conversion as a child (i.e. circumcision and immersion in a mikvah). Because a third element in conversion is the acceptance of mitzvot, then at some point prior to your barmitzvah you would have to be informed of the fact that you were adopted in order to ascertain your willingness to continue living a Jewish life – in other words, are you now willing to accept adherence to the mitzvot? Some maintain that even in such an instance you need not necessarily be informed. By virtue of you carrying on happily in your lifestyle, you demonstrate your willingness to continue living by those standards and that is sufficient.

The other concern that arises is that, in theory, you could end up marrying a girl who is essentially your half-sister from your father. That then would render any children as mamzerim. It’s been known to happen, but with a non-Jewish father this is not a halachic concern. In your case, as your biological mother was Jewish, no conversion is required. In addition, as your biological father was not Jewish, we need not worry whom you might have married. As such, there is no outstanding halachic reason for you to have been informed and it is therefore certainly your mother’s prerogative to keep facts from you if she so chooses. I would have thought, however, that it would have been flagged up by the name that would have gone into the ketubah at the time of marriage. In any event, don’t hold it against anyone. Parents have their reasons for keeping information, especially where they feel it might impact on you in some way. You might harbour a desire to find your biological father. If that is important to you, by all means do so. You might also begrudge your mother somewhat, but move past it and remember she always had your best interests at heart.

No job for a nice jewish boy

Dear Rabbi,

With nice Jewish boy Ed Miliband leading the Labour Party and potentially set to become prime minister, my question is a simple one: should Jews go into politics?


Dear Gregory,

Jewish? Yes. Nice? Not so much. It occurs to me that the word ‘politics’ describes the process so well: Poli in Latin means ‘many’ and tics refers to ‘bloodsucking creatures’. Not a job for a nice Yiddishe boy.

Worried over email inaction

Dear Rabbi,

I receive emails containing spiritual messages, telling me to forward it on to 10 other people to avoid having bad luck. They quote a Kabbalah rabbi and claim he promises great financial reward for passing his messages on – but financial misfortune if I do not. Is this something I should be worried about? Is this like the “evil eye”?


Dear Trevor,

I read a tombstone once, with the inscription: “Died because he didn’t pass the email on to 10 other people.” Actually, it was a cartoon quip and I assure you no one has ever died because of something like that. I received an email similar to yours once and noticed that it was going around everywhere. I then looked into it and saw it has been in circulation on and off for at least five years. That means that by now we should have a load of millionaires – or a whole bunch of destitute or dead people. It’s funny, is it not, that people pay particular attention to this sort of thing when it talks about your finances – we’re always hedging our bets and protecting our wallets.

If they told you lightening would strike, you probably would not think twice about it. I wonder what that says about people. There are four standard requests: pass this on or you’ll have bad luck. Ditto if you delete it. Or pass it on if you have real friends about whom you care and want to share with. Bottom line: It is sheer superstition. I suggest you send something back to the sender with the following addendum: “Pass this on to someone else, if you’d like. There is no luck attached. If you delete this, it’s okay. Friendship is not dependent on email!”


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