Torah For Today: Jack’s Law

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Torah For Today: Jack’s Law

Rabbi Ariel Abel takes a topical issue and delves into Jewish texts for a response

Rabbi Ariel Abel

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Jack’s Law, which will come into effect this April, has been named in memory of Jack Herd, a two-year-old child who drowned in 2010, whose mother has since campaigned for the statutory right to paid leave for grieving parents. What does the Torah say about Jack’s Law?

At a time of bereavement, the shiva process of a week of mourning, followed by three further weeks of semi-mourning, allows for an incremental progress through the stages of grief.

Customarily, mourners should not go to work. Whether or not their earning capacity is affected, it is customary for people who know them to prepare meals for them.

The mind of the mourner should be focused on the passing on of the deceased. If the mourner is preoccupied with everyday matters, they cannot grieve.

This is a mental health issue. With the need to invest so much in mental health, surely the best way to deal with grief is to allow it to be expressed.

Should it be facilitated or subsidised by government? It stands to reason that parents who have lost a dependent may need tzedakah to support their time off from work while grieving.

Whether or not payments should be made, or simply food delivered from community kitchens depends on the culture of that Jewish community.

Since most workers do not work on a daily hire contract basis, but on a monthly contractual basis, it follows that an employer – as well as the government and HMRC – have some form of duty to the mourner in the same way as the rest of the community, along with the government.

In this way, a mourner can be assisted for at least one week of shiva and be given further flexibility for the essential month during which time there are many painful and practical issues to sort out.

  •  Rabbi Ariel Abel CF serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to Merseyside Army Cadet Force
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