Rabbi Schochet has been writing an Ask the Rabbi column for nearly two decades with a huge following. Hailed as the Pierce Morgan of the Jewish world, his writing is witty and informative with no question too controversial.Looking for answers? Send your question to asktherabbi@thejewishweekly.com

Jews & Sushi

Dear Rabbi

I moved from New York to London a few months ago and I am amazed at the sushi craze here. It’s one thing to find it in restaurants but you have it in every kosher grocery stores and even bakeries too. Is all sushi acceptable and why are we so obsessed with it?


Dear Alon

Ah, Jews and Japanese delicacies. When I grew up the only fish I knew was gefilte and the only beans I knew were baked. Today, every kid over the age of three knows sushi and endamame beans. Chopsticks are as common today in Israel as falafel. And according to Rabbi Moshe Elfant, COO of the kosher division of the Orthodox Union in the States, nearly ninety percent of New York’s one hundred kosher restaurants, now serve sushi. “It used to be that what defined a Jewish community was a synagogue and a kosher butcher,” he was quoted as saying. “Then it was a kosher pizza shop. Now it’s a kosher sushi shop.” So we in London are just keeping pace with the rest of the Jewish world and even offer alternatives should you want to avoid the restaurants.

Tradition ultimately prevails though and Friday nights are still not the same without the gefilte fish. I mean can you imagine, dragon roll and chicken soup?!

Whereas many might assume that all sushi is kosher, or, at least, to use the terribly misconstrued modern day catchphrase, “non-offensive” – the hard fact is that some sushi can be as offensive and non-kosher as a bacon sandwich. Crab and prawns rate right up there with ham in G-d’s recipe book. And if there are kosher alternatives than why settle for anything else?

As to the Jewish obsession, I can only quote the words of that famous Rabbi, Jackie Mason: “Everyone thinks it was the Japanese who invented sushi. In fact it was two Jews who wanted to open a restaurant but didn’t want to have to pay to put in a kitchen.”

Does G-d Exist

Dear Rabbi

I’m a 6th form student, raised in a traditional Jewish home but I am starting to question my faith. No one seems able to explain to me, if G-d really exists, why is there so much bad in the world? All I ever get is, “We can’t know.” That’s a copout.


Dear Michael

You’ll appreciate that to do justice to your question I would need a lot more than just this column. But consider this: Eli Weisel – he who endured the depths of hell in Auschwitz, famously said: “You can either love G-d or you can hate G-d but you cannot ignore G-d.” In other words, whatever brought you to the belief of G-d in the first instance cannot be rejected outright in the face of adversity. That would be an emotional response, not a rational one. In fact it’s presumptuous arrogance. It’s like saying, “If I can’t understand Einstein’s theory of relativity then it must be flawed.” Our inability to comprehend doesn’t mean that the fundamentals are wrong.

Saying “I don’t know” is not a copout. It is itself something of an intellectual response. It is acknowledging that not only is there a limit to human understanding but human understanding itself should come to the conclusion that certain things are in principle, “unknowable.”

Consider physics. There is the idea that it is impossible to know both the precise position and momentum of a particle. “The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known.” This has nothing to do with the fact that we don’t have sophisticated enough instruments that can determine both and that with time we will advance and have this technology. It is that within the theory itself, it is asserted that this inability to know both measurements precisely is built into the fabric of the universe. It’s fact.

Imagine the following: You approach an eight year old child and you ask, “Tell me, what is the precise momentum and location of a particular particle?” The child’s answer is, “I don’t know.” Then you go to Stephen Hawking and ask him the same question. Guess what? His answer will be the same thing: “I don’t know.” There is however one fundamental difference between them. The child’s “I don’t know” is a declaration of ignorance. Hawking’s “I don’t know” is an intellectual statement of fact. He actually knows “why” he can’t know and he understands that in principle, based on current scientific thinking, it is impossible for him to know. In other words he says, “It can’t be known and I’ll explain to you why it can’t be known.” Suddenly, “I don’t know” becomes a rather sophisticated answer.

Besides, if you deny the reality of G-d’s existence then there are no questions to begin with. Darwin’s theory proves correct – survival of the fittest. “This happened to you? Tough luck!” It’s only when you accept the fact that things happen for a reason that you could start entertaining the question of ‘why?’

Of course there’s much more to be said and I’m sure future columns will provide for that opportunity. So keep reading.