Ask the Rabbi: “Reform snub at a funeral”

Ask the Rabbi: “Reform snub at a funeral”

Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi Yitzchak SchochetAsk the Rabbi

Reform snub at a funeral

Dear Rabbi,

I recently attended a funeral at a United Synagogue cemetery. A very good friend of the 99-year-old deceased was not permitted to say a few words about his friend because he was a rabbi of the Reform Movement. Is this common practice and what’s your opinion?


Dear Alan,

You’ll appreciate that heterodox movements [defined as ‘any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position’] do not adhere to authentic, traditional Judaism, in contradistinction to Orthodoxy. As such, Orthodoxy cannot recognise any of the heterodox movements. When religious leaders of heterodox movements are given a platform, it smacks of granting legitimacy to such movements. Generally speaking, Reform leaders are not invited to participate at Orthodox events. It is for this reason that they would not be typically allowed to speak at an Orthodox funeral either. However, there is always a grey area, such as when one is attending as a friend and not in any religious capacity. I would have thought in such circumstances the “rules” would be relaxed. However, the question here is whether the friend was being asked to speak entirely as a friend. Or, on account of there being family and friends around, was he singled out more because he is a rabbi as well? Lest my words get misconstrued (and God knows some fickle readers of this column, especially hyper-sensitive ones, always misinterpret my words) this is not to suggest that we do not recognise fellow Jews. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, full stop; no labels. This is specific to the movements per se that have veered away from traditional, historical Judaism.

Why did we end it so quickly?

Dear Rabbi,

My question for you is on relationships and love. I met a girl through speed dating. At first I didn’t think there was any chemistry, however we became passionate and intense with one another. Suddenly, our relationship fell apart when she told me one day she didn’t want to be with me any more. I was totally devastated. I had never felt this way in my life. I’m not a bad person and felt there was nothing wrong in the relationship. What does Judaism have to say about what brought us both together? Was this something God had in store for me? How can a relationship can suddenly vanish into nothing after so long?


Dear Dean

First, I am sorry for your break-up. But let’s call it like it is. At first you didn’t think there was any chemistry? You don’t say. How much chemistry are you expecting to experience in the five minutes of your speed date encounter? Then, suddenly, there is intensity and passion. And then, suddenly, it all fell apart. Do you see a pattern here? Seems to me you were both coming from totally different places. Whatever “intensity” and “passion” you had – you thought it was love. She thought it was fun and God has nothing to do with your misconceptions. Mysticism does maintain that the people we go out with – for long-term relationship sake, not just for fun, even if they don’t work out – pave the way towards our ultimate intended one. Sometimes this is just a channel you have to go through. As with any loss, the challenge is to grieve. There’ll probably be some anger in there somewhere thereafter. Then pick yourself up and move on. As for what I think about “how a relationship can suddenly vanish after so long” – well, for one thing, I don’t know your definition of “long,” but I have seen people married 30 years and still their relationship “vanishes”. So consider yourself lucky in breaking up before rather than after.

I stick up for my views anywhere

Dear Rabbi,

I’ve noticed you getting pretty heavy-handed with some antagonistic Muslims who’ve written to you recently. Your staunch defence of Israel, your defence of the Temple Mount and comments on fundamentalists are all very brave from the safety of your keyboard. I wonder how much you’d air these same views in a dark alley if you came face-to-face with those you clearly consider to be the enemy.


Dear Aamil I don’t know what you’re babbling on about. If you are implying I am Islamaphobic, well, that’s just wrong. As you note, some choose to write antagonistic letters, challenging the validity of Israel or insinuating justification of certain actions. I will always offer a vociferous retort. If the best you can do is by invite me into some alleyway, then clearly you have lost the argument and are not much better than them. But I’m always up for a challenge. Name the time, name the alley. I’ll see you there. And bring your friends… you’re going to need all the help you can get.

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