Dear Rabbi

If a person believes based on medical expert advice that wearing a mask on a quiet road is unnecessary, should he wear it anyways because of the chilul Hashem (tarnishing the good name of Judaism) it will cause in some circles if he doesn’t? Does the answer depend on his motivation (convenience vs. making a political statement)?


Dear Derek

Wherever a Jew walks he is representing more than himself. New York Mayor de Blasio’s remarks prove the point. When he observed a couple of thousand Chassidic Jews breaking social distancing rules at a funeral, he tweeted a warning to “the Jewish community – and all others.”

And while there is zero justification for him to tar all Jewish people with the same brush and his critique smacks of unquestionable Anti-Semitic undertones, that doesn’t negate the fact that society judges our actions collectively rather than individually. If therefore there is a national guideline which insists I have to conduct myself in a certain way, then that becomes my overriding obligation regardless of opinions and so-called medical expertise.

There was a wedding that took place in North-West London the other week. It was in a private garden with only fifty people present. There was, allegedly, some form of social distancing. The family in question had consulted and asked a leading Rabbi who granted them permission to proceed. Ultimately the police turned up, broke it up and the next day it made national headlines. The question I have for the Rabbi in question is, “would you have granted permission if you knew that it would cause such a chilul Hashem?”

It comes back to the same point. No act is committed in isolation. We hold ourselves to a higher standard and we will always be held to that standard. And it is always in that awareness that we must conduct ourselves.


Dear Rabbi

I lost three people close to me during this pandemic and I am feeling myself overwhelmed with sadness. I am an avid reader of your column and while this may not be something for the paper, I am looking for some words of encouragement from you. If you don’t mind to reply to me privately, or, perhaps in the paper for the benefit of others who may have endured loss at this time. Many thanks in anticipation.


Dear Deborah

There is a curious instruction in the Torah portion of last week where G-d says: “Be holy for I am holy!” How are we expected to emulate the Divine? I am mortal while He is immortal. I am limited while He is omnipresent? Our Rabbis explain that this comes to teach us that we

should strive to emulate G-d’s ways. By definition just as He is compassionate, so we must be. Just as He is merciful so should we be.

But I would take this one step further. Each time a loved one is taken, they take a piece of us with them. But G-d is saying you all have a piece of Me in you as well. Know therefore that even as your loved one may no longer be physically with you, they are safe by My side. And as you have a piece of Me in you, then just as they remain eternally with Me they remain eternally connected with you. And indeed as per the verse, “in all their pain He has pain,” I feel your pain and share in your loss – but I endure – “be holy for I am holy.” You have a piece of Me in you – you have the wherewithal to do the same. You have the very real ability to summon the strength and carry on. For this indeed is how your loved ones want it.

We wish we had even one extra moment; to ask, to discuss, to share, to have that one more embrace, to be able to say I love you just one more time. “Be holy for I am holy” teaches how we remain eminently close with those who enhance our souls, knowing the connections between here and there; that there is a staircase which connects this world and the next. Our loved ones remain eminently connected to us, they walk by our sides, they reach out to us. Even as we cannot see them, they are watching over us. Even as we cannot hear them they are whispering love into our hearts. Even as we cannot feel them, they are taking us into their ethereal embrace.

That awareness should give us the strength we need and should enable us to find the comfort we seek. “Be holy for I am holy:” You are the master of your soul. Take out time to be alone with your soul, to dig deep and carry on.

Indeed may all those who mourn find solace – may G-d wipe away tears from off all faces and may we merit an end to all this suffering for once and for all, forever more.