Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi YY Schochet

There’s No Place for Hate!

Dear Rabbi

A senior rabbi is alleged to have spoken on Shabbat and referred to the Dayanim of the London Beth Din as being corrupt and also spoke disparagingly about the Chief Rabbi, advising all his congregants to do the opposite of whatever the Chief Rabbi says. Is it ever right for a Rabbi to use his pulpit for this purpose and is it ever acceptable to make such allegations? 



Dear Yakov

In a word or two – no and no. There was a voice note circulating right after Shabbat where someone was giving a breathless account of what this rabbi supposedly said on Shabbat. The voice on the recording was so impassioned about what his rabbi had to say and suggesting that everyone in the congregation was uplifted from the speech.

How pray tell, does one get uplifted from a rabbi maligning other rabbis? If it’s true, what does that say about the congregation, and I suppose they then deserve the rabbi they have. If it’s not true, then the source of the voice note ought to get up in front of his whole community and ask forgiveness for suggesting they get spiritually uplifted from supposed venom spewed by their rabbi.

Should a pulpit be used for speaking lashon hora? Never, ever. Even when certain knowledge is in the public domain, there will always be those oblivious to rumours, and bringing it to their attention, from the pulpit, on Shabbat, is unconscionable.

Moreover, if, as is reported, disparaging things were supposedly said about the Dayanim of the London Beth Din, referring to them as corrupt and apparently suggesting that they’re blinded by the money they get paid, that is tale-bearing, gossiping, malicious slander and every other associated offence rolled into one. 

Furthermore, if, as reported, apparent denigrating remarks were made about the Chief Rabbi, and equating listening to him is like listening to the Nazis – “always do the opposite of what he says,” then the onus is on the synagogual body to which he belongs – in this case, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations – to censor him and make him publically apologise for his remarks. Otherwise, they are complicit.

What with Purim coming up, it is worthwhile remembering the words of Haman when describing the Jewish nation to the king, “They are dispersed amongst the nations.” The commentaries observe that it is the dispersion, the divisiveness that makes us ripe for the picking and in peril. Thus the immediate antidote was when Queen Esther’s immediate instruction was, “go and gather all the Jewish people.” Rehabilitation happens through unity. 

If rabbis use their pulpits to feed into Haman’s diatribe, then they are directly responsible for bringing the Jewish community into jeopardy. Rabbis are meant to teach and pulpits are intended to be used to inspire. It’s not too late to be conciliatory and embrace the dictum of Esther such that, as per the end of the Megillah, “to the Jews there was light and joy and gladness and honour.”  


Can I date without marriage?

Dear Rabbi

Is it wrong for me to date my non-Jewish friend if I have no intention of marrying him?


 Dear Judy

Not any more so than sitting in front of a fry-up at McDonald’s with an empty stomach and promising yourself you won’t eat. You’d have to be either masochistic or enjoy playing with fire. Either way, it is wrong for us to walk down the path of temptation, lest we stumble.


Is It Right to Drink on Purim?

Dear Rabbi

Last year my son got arrested on Purim because he was driving while under the influence. He was nineteen at the time and the peer pressure from his friends encouraged him. I am all for having a good time but can you please get a message out there that people should drink responsibly.


 Dear Anon

A policeman was sitting in his car outside a Purim party hoping to catch someone on the night. He got very excited when he saw one man come staggering out of the party swaying to and fro holding a set of car keys. The policeman fixed his eyes on him waiting with glee. The guy tried one car, then another. The policeman was delighted – it had made his wait worthwhile. Meanwhile, people are leaving the party but this policeman had his prey – waiting to pounce. Finally the guy gets into the right car, and first the window wipers go on. Then the radio is blaring. More and more people are leaving the party and finally when all is still, this man starts up his engine and proceeds to drive. The policeman – his moment has arrived – zooms out in front of him and orders him out of the car. The man gets out. “Blow into this.” The man blows into the breathalyser. Nothing. The policeman changes it for another one. Still nothing. “These must be broken. You’re going to have to come down to the station with me.” The man looks up to him: “You know you’re wasting your time don’t you?” The policeman looks to him: “Why’s that?” “Because I’m tonight’s designated decoy.” 

Drinking on Purim is a mitzvah. Putting yourself in danger is a sin. So drink responsibly; do it for all the right reasons – to engender happiness – and don’t do anything stupid.

By Rabbi YY Schochet