Ask the Rabbi: ‘Don’t presume to know God’

Ask the Rabbi: ‘Don’t presume to know God’

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

Ask the Rabbi

Do not feed the crocodile

Dear Rabbi,

I know one shouldn’t mix religion and politics but, as a leading rabbi, I want to know if you think Jews should support Ed Miliband considering his stance on Israel. And with the increasing problem of people not integrating in Europe, do you not think we should vote for UKIP who will help put an end to the problem, at least in the UK? Who you are voting for?


Dear Robert,

Don’t you know it’s impolite to ask someone about their voting choice? But, since you ask, I’ll offer some perspective.

Nigel Farage, I think, could be best summed up as a post-turtle. Let me explain.ASK THE RABBI 2

A 75-year-old farmer from Lincolnshire was in conversation with a London doctor about the General Election, and Nigel Farage’s candidacy. The old farmer observed: “Well, you know, Farage is a post-turtle.” The bemused doctor asked what a post-turtle was, and the old man replied: “when you’re driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a post-turtle.” He continued: “You know he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there and you just wonder what kind of fool put him up there to begin with.”

If this country had the sort of immigration laws UKIP would like to implement, you have to ask yourself, where would we be as Jews if those laws were in place when our ancestors sought to make their home here all those years ago.

Sure, they could play on the trends emerging in Europe, but make no mistake about it: prejudice runs deep. Today it might be someone else – but tomorrow it will be the Jew. Voting UKIP is like feeding the crocodile so that you’ll get eaten last.

As for Miliband and his stance on Israel, it has to be said that he is obviously identified as a Jew, and with that image he might invariably look to bend over backwards to not be seen to be too Jewish – which will result in a harder line against Israel.

But, let’s be clear. His views and rhetoric against Israel have no significance other than the way the media will report on it and how it in turn might rile you.

What he might say will have no meaningful impact whatsoever. So you need to consider how a particular party will impact your life as a Jew here – whether, for example, in health and schools, rather than anything else. May the best man – and party – win.

Let’s wish them Muzzle-tov!

Dear Rabbi,

A YouTube video is making the rounds of a ‘bark mitzvah’. I’m not an observant Jew at all but find this totally distasteful. Is it genuine? How low can some Jews stoop?


Dear Renee,

Apparently, very low! I presume it is celebrated when a dog turns 13, which is really a problem because that’s the equivalent of 91 dog years. The video (which made its rounds once before some years ago) depicts a dog wearing a prayer shawl and a yarmulke with its paw on a Torah, which is simply shameful.

The ceremony was initially condemned by most rabbis when first introduced in the late 1990s. But, as is all too often the case, the fad gained momentum and today is more commonplace.

One rabbi was quoted condemning it because, he argued, a proper barmitzvah requires so much time and preparation. That’s the issue?!

You shouldn’t be too surprised this has happened. Once lines become blurred and standards are compromised, why shouldn’t people cross yet more lines? For those to whom Judaism is an arbitrary faith, there are no boundaries. Mark my words – it’s only a matter of time before the madness hits the UK as well. I say, forget the “arf”–Torah and just wish the dog owners “Muzzle”–tov!

Don’t presume to know god

Dear Rabbi,

The earthquake in Nepal resulted in death and despair. One top rabbi, however, was quick to observe how some of the idolatrous temples there were destroyed, implying this is why the earthquake happened, or at least that there was some upside to the disaster. Is this an acceptable position in Judaism to explain or justify tragedy?


Dear Yossi,

In a word, “no.” The rabbi, whose name I redacted, has made several such comments, often implying, if not stating outright, the reason for tragedies. Unless I am a prophet and God told me why this happened, to suggest anything of my own accord is fundamentally wrong.

How ludicrous is it to suggest the death of so many people is because God wanted to destroy some temples? If we are oblivious of the causes of incidents in our own day-to-day lives, how much less can we know about cosmic events, especially those affecting so many people and the world at large?

Not only is this not an acceptable position in Judaism – it is utter gibberish and nonsense.

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