Ask The Rabbi – 21/08/2013

Ask The Rabbi – 21/08/2013

With Rabbi Reuben Livingstone


Dear Rabbi,

I understand the idea of fasting at Yom Kippur and focusing on prayer and forgiveness, but I never have a good fast. I think I’m just one of those people who can’t get through the day without a drink of water at the very least.

I don’t have a medical issue, but think it’s a shame that rather than being in shul, I end up lying in bed with a terrible headache.
What is the secret to a good fast? And can I maybe get some dispensation for this year?



Dear Leila,

Gradually reducing one’s food intake as the fast approaches can help acclimate the body.

It is also important to reduce one’s caffeine intake to avoid any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Only in cases of illness and other weakened states does one really have any dispensation to take small amounts of liquid.

Although staying in bed for some of the day feels like a downer, it is, in fact, a good strategy for being able to get through the fast – which is just as important as the services.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

This country’s rainy and cold weather is just not suitable for Succot. Do we really have to sit in our succahs in such a miserable climate just to fulfil a mitzvah?



Dear Stuart,

One treats the succah as if it is one’s home for the duration of the festival.

For this reason, if it becomes so wet as to be uncomfortable – something one would never tolerate inside the house – then one is exempt and may leave.

You are right that the UK is not the best climate for Succot, but our role is to do the best we can and leave the rest to a higher authority! Let’s hope this year is dryer![divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I’ve been following the recent case of Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary, a Hungarian Nazi war criminal who died in hospital while waiting to stand trial. The 98-year-old faced charges of torture and the deportation of thousands of Jews to concentration camps while working as a police commander in a Hungarian ghetto.

In 1948, he was sentenced to life in absentia after he was found guilty of whipping Jews while overseeing a detention camp in the Slovak city of Kosice – then a part of Hungary.

He was able to flee to Canada and lived most of his life there anonymously, until he was stripped of his citizenship in the 1990s. He returned to Hungary where he was hidden until his arrest last year.

What I can’t understand is how God would allow such a man of evil to live well into his 90s?

Then, as justice appeared to be taking place, he was taken away.

And what of all the other war criminals who were able to go on and live their lives, while six million Jews did not?

I know, like many questions about the Holocaust, this is not an easy one to answer. But perhaps you can offer some solace.



Dear Keren,

I don’t need to tell you that God’s logic is not always transparent or easy for any human being to figure out.

The Holocaust itself is a huge and tragic mystery that none of us will ever come close to being able to fathom.

On the other hand, we know nothing of this man’s life and whether it was a good or tortured one.

For those of us of faith, it is a certainty that this man will answer for what he did in life and will pay the full price. With interest.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

The latest Israel-Palestinian peace talks gave me renewed hope that there might finally be a solution on the horizon.

But I was disappointed to see last week that Israel has approved plans to build 1,200 more West Bank homes for Jewish settlers.

Do you think this is the right time to keep expanding? Surely Israel will only provoke resentment from allies and foes by taking such action?



Dear Dina,

Your question is a political hot potato and needs to be answered by someone in command of the complete facts on the ground – something that you definitely cannot get from the media or your local rabbi!

From where I sit, what you ask pre-supposes that these areas will possibly need to be returned at some point, after peace talks. Many have argued that the 1967 lines are not a viable basis of any final agreement between the two sides.


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

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