PURIM PARTY - stand-up comedy, catered dinner, Sunday March 20 - stay tuned
Question of the Week: I am open to being set up with girls and have been on a few blind dates. But it's going nowhere. I'm just not attracted to the girls I'm set up with. Are there no good-looking girls around?
You remind me of an old friend of mine. A few years back we were walking down a main street in Brooklyn talking about the dating scene. He complained, "Every girl I am set up with I find unattractive."
Then he nodded towards a girl across the road and said, "Why can't someone introduce me to someone like her?"
At that moment the girl crossed the street and walked straight past us.
"Oh," my friend whispered, "I did go out with her!"
We can be so kind in our judgment of strangers on the street, while being so harsh on the person we are dating. If she doesn't knock our socks off with her dazzling beauty, then we go into ultra-critic mode, waiting to pounce on any little flaw that we can find and say, "She's not for me."
I'm sure you have had the experience of meeting someone who at first didn't seem attractive, but as their personality unfolded their beauty emerged and you became attracted. Equally, we have all met someone who at first struck you by their beauty, but as you got to know them better an ugly side of their personality surfaces, and their beauty is soured.
A person is a multi-layered being, a soul as well as a body. These layers overlap and influence each other. An inner charm can spill over into outer beauty. An attractive inside makes someone more attractive on the outside too. Allow someone to share their whole being and you may surprise yourself and find that a deeper attraction develops after all.
Of course you need to be attracted to your wife. But she doesn't have to knock your socks off. (And by the way, she doesn't have to pick them up after you either). Better find someone who leaves your socks right where they are, but draws your heart closer and closer as her inner self is revealed.
View your date as a soul, not just a body. Then you will find beauty is not to be found across the street, but sitting right in front of you.
In my Torah studies I've learnt that not only should you do the right thing, but you should also be seen to be doing the right thing. The example that I was given was that an observant Jew shouldn't enter a non-kosher restaurant to use the facilities, lest someone think that he/she might be eating there.
At first glance this seems absurd. Why should anyone be so suspicious? What is it their business anyway? Should we be more concerned with the "appearance" of doing right (or wrong) or the actual practice??
Certainly you are correct, we should be more concerned about what we do than how we look. But this does not mean that we can completely ignore the way things appear to others.
We cannot be invisible. Nobody lives in a vacuum, unless you are a vacuum cleaner bag. Our actions impact others whether we like it or not. Every individual contributes to the social fabric. And so we are not only responsible for our actions, but also for the impression they make, because we are responsible for the morality of others, not just our own. Any behaviour that may counteract the furtherance of goodness is a moral problem.
It isn't about my reputation as much as about my influence. When I do something that looks wrong, even if I have a perfectly good explanation as to my innocence, the damage is done.
If I enter a non-kosher restaurant to use the facilities, while I have not broken any law of keeping kosher, I have crossed the divide between kosher and not kosher, and invite others to do the same. If I take shelter from torrential rain under the awning of a house of ill-repute, I give credibility to that place that it does not deserve.
But there's a deeper reason not to do something that just looks wrong, even if it isn't wrong, and even if no one is looking. Not only can such activity affect others, it can affect us too.
Stage actors know that when you play a character, you can sometimes become it. The self we project to others can sometimes be absorbed in our own identity. And so by looking like you are doing something wrong, you may come to actually do it. By feeling comfortable in a place that you don't really belong, you may end up thinking you do belong there. You can't remain immune from your surroundings.
This law teaches some powerful lessons. You affect your surroundings and your surroundings affect you. We build a community together, and so we are all responsible for it. Your morality is my business.
Please G-d we are expecting a baby soon. We know that if it is a boy then we can't tell anyone his name until the Bris. But why? And if it is a girl, she is meant to be named in synagogue before the name is announced, is that right? What is the significance of all of this?
Naming is a big thing. A child's Hebrew name is the description of their soul, their mission and their spiritual energy. Only when the name is given does the soul settle in the body. And so we give the name at the earliest opportunity, but also at the most spiritually suitable time.
For a boy, we wait for the Bris. We want him to receive his name after entering into the covenant with G-d. But for a girl, there is no need to wait. At the very next Torah reading after her birth, her father (or if necessary someone else) is called to the Torah, and the rabbi then says a prayer to bless the mother and name the baby. Some have the custom to wait until the first Shabbos after the birth, but it can be done before that on a Monday or Thursday morning when the Torah is read.
The reason we don't reveal the name before the actual naming is because we want her name to 'land' on her in an aura of sanctity and holiness. This is why we do it at the Torah, in synagogue. Such an occasion has similar holiness to a Bris. The soul of Elijah the Prophet is present at every girl's naming too, to bless the child and approve her name. We despatch this freshly born soul on her life mission surrounded by holiness and blessing.
Apart from the naming ceremony which is done soon after the birth, the parents should hold a Kiddush, a celebratory meal, in synagogue on a Shabbos day, some weeks after the birth of a girl, as a thanksgiving to G-d for her safe arrival.
If a girl was born but not named at the Torah, it is never too late. Even an adult can have a naming ceremony done for them, and hold a Kiddush to celebrate. This can only bring blessing, and who doesn't need more blessing?
Although I was raised in a traditional home, was brissed and barmitzvad (sorry about these spellings) I have never had any faith or "religious" belief. I am now aged 34, and would describe myself as an atheist. I have no wish to be buried in a Jewish cemetery (and my Will has also made this clear) and have married a non-Jew in a civil ceremony.
My question is, can I consider myself officially non-Jewish, by my effective opting-out, or do I need some sort of form or dispensation to be officially no longer Jewish?
Many thanks for your help with what is perhaps an unusual question.
I would like to help you, but I feel there's nothing I can do.
According to your question, you have done everything possible to negate your Jewishness: in practice you do not keep Jewish tradition; in belief you are an atheist; in family life you have married a non-Jew and thus won't have Jewish children; and even in death you are determined not to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.
One would think that all this would be enough to confirm your un-Jewishness.
For some reason, you are still unsatisfied: you still feel Jewish. So much so, you feel you need official dispensation.
And so, being an atheist, to whom do you turn to solve this problem? A doctor? A psychiatrist? The civil celebrant that married you? No.......You turn to a rabbi!!!
I'm reminded of the child who ran away from home, but ended up just going round and round the block because his parents told him never to cross the road by himself.
I'm sorry, Edward. There is nothing more you can do. You are as Jewish as Moses, Woody Allen and the Chief Rabbi of Wales. And you always will be. There is nothing you can do to change it.
In fact, it seems that being Jewish is the most dominant facet of your personality. It is even influencing the place you want to be buried. (Why would an atheist care about where they are buried?)
Edward, Jewishness is not a belief, a feeling, a conviction or a lifestyle. It is a state of being. You have a beautiful Jewish soul. You can either celebrate it or fight against it. But it will always be there. So why not celebrate it?