Torah for Today! This week: Lockdown weddings

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Torah for Today! This week: Lockdown weddings

 Rabbi Ariel Abel takes a topical issue and looks into Jewish texts for an Orthodox response. Here, he reflects on the JN Investigation in Charedi flouting of pandemic rules

Rabbi Ariel Abel

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Last week’s Jewish News investigation into Orthodox weddings being held across London despite the national lockdown has prompted accusations that not all are adhering to the law. What does the Torah say about this?

A Jewish wedding typically is kosher-catered, and a rabbi and two kosher witnesses validate the very legality of a marriage.

The Psalmist opens the book by saying: “Happy is he who has not walked in the advice of the wicked…” 

This means that it is in the ways of righteousness we are expected to tread and keep far away from dishonesty. All the more so, we are expected to avoid endangering life and well-being.

The dishonesty of Jews hiding and running from police visiting
a wedding venue in breach of the law is the nightmare that never crossed my mind. Surely we were brought up to be star examples of law-abiding citizens, as the prophets and halacha demand? What happened to our menschlichkeit, our decency and humanity? 

The flagrant disregard for others’ health and well-being in illegal weddings is a mutant variant of moser: when Jews hand other Jews into the hands of oppressors. 

Here, such irresponsible behaviour threatens to hand us into the grasp of renewed antisemitism, which will blame the Jew for the plague. 

A mitzvah must not be carried out when by so doing one is perpetrating a transgression, least of all the worst one, endangering lives. 

The hechsher on food should be considered removed by the licensing authority, and shomrim requested to declare the event treif and walk out if the law is being broken. 

For food to be kosher, it should take more than the right ingredients to pass the kosher test; it ought to also require an absence of law-breaking. 

Recently, a Manchester rabbi courageously questioned the potential halachic validity of a wedding conducted in violation of the law. 

Obeying the law is not a nice extra, it is a basic halachic requirement that reads clearly and bluntly: dina demalchuta dina: the law of the land is the law (of Torah).  

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

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