Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi YY Schochet

Dear Rabbi

Is it ever right to listen in on someone else’s conversations? I have been having this debate with my wife – a die hard Boris supporter. I (admittedly a Hunt supporter) think it is perfectly OK. She says it’s wrong. We agreed to abide by your opinion.


Dear Gerard

Let me ask you something. Let’s assume for arguments’ sake that this Boris/Hunt debate between you and your wife escalated to a point of her throwing dishes at you and you screaming your guts out at her. (Hey I know pro and anti Trump couples that got divorced so anything is possible). Your neighbour, Mrs Noseystein, records the whole thing. How would that make you feel? And then Mrs Noseystein submits said recording to the Jewish Weekly, and we all get to read a transcript of your spat: “You meshuganeh, supporting Boris!” “Who are you calling Meshuganeh you farkrempte, kranke Hunt supporter!” How would that make you feel? 

Sure, you might argue that he’s a public figure and that there’s a difference. That raises a two-fold question. (1) Does the “private” character of an individual matter in public office? (2) Can you be certain that the recording really attests the character of the individual?

Regarding the first point I would suggest to you that in Jewish law it was always the case that leaders, judges, et al needed to be of impeccable character because what you are will invariably spill out into how you lead. If you’re narcissistic at home, you’ll likely be the same in office and that could be a big problem. But politics is not governed by Jewish law and there have been (and continue to be) many narcissistic or other character flawed individuals who still manage to govern exceptionally well. If you could, in the main, separate your “private” character from your required leadership duties, then so be it.

Regarding the second point, it’s enticing, is it not, to quote bits of a recording, like, “get off of me,” which conjures up all kinds of bullying and abusive images? Of course, they could have both been tussling over the spilled bottle of wine and that same expression could have been used. But the media are wont to make us draw the most salacious conclusions. The police didn’t seem too concerned, but we, the judge and jury of society get on our sanctimonious high horses and decide the verdict.

Here’s the bottom line: Boris supporters will say it’s wrong. Hunt (or anti Boris) supporters will say it’s right. Neither is objective and hence both are wrong. I don’t vote in elections and have no dog in this fight. I will tell you, objectively, it is wrong. Now go apologise to your wife. But first, you might want a word with Mrs Noseystein.

Is Judaism Homophobic?

Dear Rabbi

In these modern times, more rights and media coverage is given to the homosexual and lesbian lifestyles. Yet by my understanding the Halacha states these practices are wrong. Many modern Jews from liberal and reform movements indulge in this expression of their sexuality. As Orthodox Jews should we show compassion and
tolerance instead of outrage and anger. Please clarify what the position is here. 


Dear Jonathan

The position is clear. Traditional, historical Judaism does regard such lifestyles as antithetical to religion. Just as it does the same for those who drive on Shabbat, eat non-kosher and gossip about others. Do I, as a fellow Jew, disavow association with the individual who parks around the corner on Shabbat morning before coming into Synagogue? Do I condemn him when he walks in and chastise him? Do I shun him? Frankly, even as I might know he drove to services, while stopping at McDonalds for a quick take away, as much as I don’t sanction what he does, that’s not going to impact on the way I treat him. Why should it be any different with homosexuality? I can love the individual even as I don’t condone the lifestyle. The fact that people make distinctions in their minds between one example and another might speak more to their homophobic tendencies. 

That said, to be sure, most liberals will still pounce all over this and insist, I must condone their lifestyle, otherwise I am homophobic as well. Don’t ask me to compromise my religious principles in order to validate you, anymore than you would not want others to expect you to forgo your ideals, in order to validate them. We can separate the issues from the personalities. If you choose to reject that, then it is you who is being Theophobic and really the divisive one. Mutual respect is the name of the game. 

By Rabbi YY Schochet MA CIArb
Twitter: @RabbiYYS