Ask the Rabbi: ‘Are female rabbis acceptable?’

Ask the Rabbi: ‘Are female rabbis acceptable?’

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet answers readers’ questions in his weekly column, Ask the Rabbi. 

Ask the Rabbi

The rabbi in a dark alley

Dear Rabbi,

I read a piece about you last month in the Daily Mail on your [I presume] jokey comment about having a show-down with an extremist in an alley! You are a rare bird indeed. You must be getting something right to invoke such a response to this column. If this meeting ever took place, my money will definitely be on you! You’d eat the bugger for breakfast. Lots of us fear what the future holds. There is an enemy within in this country. May God go with you.


Dear Shirley,

Thanks for your kind words. To refresh readers’ memories, I responded to a Muslim who denounced Israel as the “root cause for problems in the Middle East” and also called for a stop to the “occupation”.

Yet another argued that the Temple Mount belonged to Islam and not the Jews, so I proved otherwise. Weeks later, along came a third who took exception to the other two responses and aggressively insisted I’m only brave toexpress my opinion from the safety of my keyboard. He claimed I wouldn’t dare make these points if I was confronted by him in a dark alley. I made the point then and reiterate it now – I am not Islamaphobic. Some of these letter writers, however, were anti-Zionist – if not anti-Semitic (today there’s hardly a difference).

I also made the point that challenging me to an alleyway confrontation makes the author of that letter just as bad – resorting to violence exposes him for who he is and what he stands for. I did, however, offer him to choose the time and the alley and bring his friends. I haven’t heard back.

The Daily Mail picked up on that and made a little shpeil out of it. It’s a shame he chickened out.

Had he turned up somewhere – now that would have been a story. I could just imagine the likely headline: “Violent Rabbi Knocks Out Peace-loving Gang.”

We’re now in a high holy daze

Dear Rabbi,

‘Kosher cannabis!” Now I’ve heard it all! Is it true that some kosher supervising authorities such as the OU plan to put their logos on medical marijuana? Is this not just ridiculous?


Dear Chantal,

ASK THE RABBI 2I know, right? Talk about a kosher high. First whisky, now this. So when is the London Beth Din getting in on the act? I know there is at least one rabbi from the Beth Din who is tasked each year with checking out the distilleries – with maybe a drink or three while he’s out there. I wonder whether they’ll be fighting over who gets to go to the marijuana factory. Also, will the Kosher for Passover brand cost double? And of course at least one other supervising body will have to come out in objection – “the leaves are too wormy.”

Perhaps several authorities can amalgamate and give it just one hechsher from The “Joint” Kosher Committee.

I think the real issue here is that leading halachic codifiers write strongly against taking any unnecessary drugs of any sort and even go so far as to ban smoking as well. So there would be a natural reluctance to take the drug even as more doctors are recommending it for medicinal purposes. To that end, these kashrut authorities are looking to reassure the would-be user that if it is a matter of genuine health concern then there is no issue and it is “kosher” to take it.

Female rabbis acceptable?

Dear Rabbi

I was always sceptical about ordained Orthodox female rabbis. And now one has now been given a job in an Orthodox synagogue. That should surely suggest it is becoming acceptable. Do you envisage that happening in the UK?


Dear Gregory

In a word, no. Don’t get me started on these pseudo-suffragettes, or should that read “rabbragettes”? In any event, she got a job in an “Open-Orthodox” synagogue – whatever that means. Suffice it to say, a little digging and one discovers on the website that on the High Holidays they have a “family section” in their synagogue, i.e. no mechitza and men and women sit together.

So, in summation, when someone gets “ordained” in some so-called Orthodox manner and immediately takes up her posting in a synagogue that breaches some of the fundamentals of Orthodoxy (I guess that’s what they mean by “open”), then you have to call into question the establishment that “ordains” these women and indeed the women’s own levels of conviction.
My father always told me: “If the end result is no good, then you know the whole premise is flawed.

Why should H&M say sorry?

Dear Rabbi

Do you have an issue with fashion chain H&M selling a scarf that looks like a Jewish prayer shawl? H&M has apologised, but weren’t critics being over-sensitive?


Dear Laura

Over-sensitive is an understatement. I only wonder, if one wears one to shul on Shabbat morning, have you fulfilled your spiritual duty or do you still need to go in and listen to the rabbi’s sermon?

Actually come to think of it, it’s a win-win for women in partnership services. Not only can they pretend their service is Orthodox, they can even pretend they are wearing a tallit.

Perhaps while wrapped in such scarves, one can take the opportunity to pray for better weather!


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