Ask The Rabbi – 14/08/2013

Ask The Rabbi – 14/08/2013

With Rabbi Reuben Livingstone


Dear Rabbi,

With a thumbs-up being given to gay marriage in the UK, is there a chance that a same-sex marriage could take place under the auspices of an Orthodox rabbi?



Dear Jo,

While the Torah is not against gay people per se, it certainly does prohibit homosexual sex and the wider gay lifestyle.

For this reason, an Orthodox gay marriage will not happen.[divider]


Dear Rabbi,

Why does wine require kosher supervision if all its ingredients are acceptable? Isn’t this just another nice little earner for the kosher industry?



Dear Jon,

Wine occupies a special place in Judaism as it is used extensively for ritual purposes and is in a unique category from a kosher perspective. This is because, historically, it was universally used by ancient pagan religions for the purpose of libation and sacrifice. These days it is still used extensively for Christian services. For this reason, the halacha attaches particular importance not only on its kashrut – but also on its specific provenance and production.

It must remain pristine from any hint of inappropriate contact or connection. In addition, it must be free of non-kosher additives – including blood by-products – which are widely used. For all these reasons, you can see it requires careful supervision.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

It’s always around this time of year, close to Rosh Hashanah, that myself or close friends experience the passing of a loved one. Am I just imagining it, or is this a more intense time of year than usual?



Dear Sarah,

Having been a congregational rabbi for many years, I don’t believe that there is such a predictable pattern. That said, it was often the case that some people appeared to hold on to life until after significant days in the Jewish calendar.

Rosh Hashanah and the ensuing Days of Awe are also a time of introspection and carry a profound sense of our mortality and the passing of time.
This factor may deepen our feelings and awareness when people pass in close proximity to the new year.



Tell us about the honey!

Dear Rabbi,

Is there one type of honey which is more preferable to use at Rosh Hashanah than another? Some are far cheaper, but would these also then be considered spiritually inferior?



Dear Richard,

There is no particular preference other than the requirement that anything we use for a mitzvah should generally be the best quality we can afford. Recently a rabbinic colleague tried to argue that expensive premium types of honey such as manuka, which has healing properties, were to be preferred. In my view, this is incorrect as there are many other options of similar quality without needing to spend excessively.

But as you raise the issue, it is interesting that the honey referred to in the Torah as ‘D’vash’ (as in “a land flowing with milk and honey”) is not the bee variety but a treacle or syrup made from ripe, sweet dates. What this means is this form of honey may be a valid alternative.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I have heard that around Rosh Hashanah, God decides exactly how much you will need – including money – for the year ahead. I have to say this past year has been a real struggle for my family financially and if we continue like this, I’m not sure how we can make ends meet. I would like to think that God will provide, as some of my friends tell me, but I’m beginning to think I can’t rely on faith alone!



Dear Jonny,

We do believe the year’s bounty is broadly determined on Rosh Hashanah. That said, we also believe God is never constrained and nothing is so set in stone as to be beyond His power to review. In terms of your second point, notwithstanding that one’s income is decreed from above, one cannot therefore expect it to fall like mannah from heaven. One has to do one’s own part in the process.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I was interested to read about test-tube beef! How will this impact upon kosher laws? Could it be deemed kosher?7



Dear Stephen,

Without seeking to pre-empt a full rabbinic consideration, if test-tube beef can effectively be produced artificially, it would likely cease to be considered meat in the conventional sense. If this is the case, then logically it would be just as kosher as vegetarian meat substitutes. If this is correct then there also would be no need for shechita etc.


• Rabbi Reuben Livingstone is the Jewish chaplain to Her Majesty’s Forces.

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