Rabbi

  • Rabbi Yitzchak Y. Schochet M.A.

    Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet arrived in the UK in 1991. Having previously served as assistant principle of Oholei Torah Boys School in New York, he assumed the position as Minister of the Richmond Synagogue in Southwest London for two years, while also teaching Advanced Jewish Studies at the Jews Free School. In 1993, at the age of 28, he was offered the position as rabbi of the Mill Hill Synagogue. His vibrancy and dynamism has resulted in a continuous growth of membership, now in excess of 3000 members.

    He has a Masters Degree in Jewish Studies from University College London. He authors numerous articles for newspapers, magazines and journals. He served as Diary Rabbi to the Guardian Newspaper and also writes for the Jewish Chronicle as well as a very popular weekly column in the Jewish News. He has featured in The London Times as well as Time Magazine International. Rabbi Schochet can often be seen on television including BBC as a regular panelist for The Big Questions as well as CNN.

    Rabbi Schochet is a sought after international speaker on a vast range of topics. He has lectured across the world including Russia, Australia, Israel and all parts of the USA and Europe and has been rated top speaker at the National Jewish Retreat in The USA for several years running.

    Rabbi Schochet served on the Chief Rabbis Cabinet with the portfolio of the family and as chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue. He was named by the Jewish Telegraph as one of the ten most influential Rabbis in the United Kingdom. The Jewish Chronicle recently described him as "one of the most outspoken Rabbis in the world."


    One of Anglo-Jewrys most dynamic orthodox rabbis, who has turned his synagogue into a vibrant source of religious and social activities. 
    The Jewish Chronicle
     
    He's extremely entertaining.. 
    The London Times
     
    ...the rebel rabbi doubled his synagogue attendance in four years 
    The Daily Mail
     

     



    Contact the Rabbi on Facebook (RabbiYYSor twitter (@RabbiYYS)
    or send him a message
     by using the form found on our Contacts page.
     

  • Rebbetzen Chani Schochet
    ChaniSchochet

    Chani Schochet was born and bred in North London.
    She graduated the Lubavitch Girls Senior School in London with 4 A levels and pursued a post graduate degree in New York.
    She received her teachers degree in 1987 and married in 1989.
    She juggles her family life (5 children) with community life, currently teaching Bat Chayils, brides to be, and she runs the Welfare of the Mill Hill community.
  • Shabbat Shiurim

    TorahJEWISH PHILOSOPHY

    with Rabbi Schochet
    Shabbat Afternoons after Mincha

    Men & Women welcome

     

     

  • Ice Bucket Challenge


    If you are unable to view the video above, click here.
     

  • Ask The Rabbi - Archive

     title

     



    Dear Rabbi
    My grandfather passed away a while back and my grandmother wants to give his several pairs of shoes, all in good condition, to a charity shop. I was once told you can give away clothing but never shoes. Is this another Jewish superstition?
    Raymond
     
    Dear Raymond,
    It’s not about not being allowed to give them away it’s about whether someone is allowed to wear shoes of a deceased person. A great 12th century scholar, Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid wrote a tract in which he discusses numerous customs based on deep spiritual and some practical significance. There he writes that one should not wear the shoes of a deceased person. However the reason for it was rather ambiguous: Some suggest a more spiritual reason based on the Talmudic statement that when one dreams of a deceased person coming to take away any object it is a positive sign, unless it is a pair of shoes. Dreams tend to be generated by daily activity and as such wearing a deceased’s shoes could generate such thoughts whilst sleeping, which is a bad omen, hence to avoid it altogether. An altogether different and more practical interpretation of this injunction is that leather could be a transmitter of contagious diseases. It would follow therefore that if the person did not die of a disease, say an accident, then there would be no such concern and wearing the shoes should not be a problem. On balance, Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid was a deeply spiritual person, so I would err on the side of caution and avoid it altogether .


    Dear Rabbi
    Last year I spent Pesach at a hotel in Israel and got to watch enviously as so many people were enjoying all the rice concoctions while I had to sit idly by and enjoy my more bland Ashkenazi diet. Is there any way I can switch to becoming Sephardic next year?
    Julie-Ann
     
    Dear Julie-Ann,
    I’m always intrigued how people that may not be observant in their Kosher diet all year round (what is it they call it these days? “Non offensive food.”) are nevertheless punctilious in their observance of Pesach dietary laws. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great, and I believe deep down it is linked to one’s spiritual essence and how that correlates with Passover and our birth as a nation, but I remain intrigued all the same. So you were in a hotel – didn’t cook a meal, didn’t make a bed, just luxuriated for eight days, and you’re still not happy. The grass on the other side is always greener isn’t it – or in this case, the rice being whiter. You don’t mention if you’re married or single. If it is the latter, you could always find a nice Sephardic man and then you would have to follow his customs. Word of warning though: I gather some of them have a custom to beat you with the horseradish during the Seder .


    Dear Rabbi
    Would it be permissible for one to walk to a football match on Shabbat if they didn’t carry anything or break Shabbat in any way and picked up their ticket at the ground?
    James
     
    Dear James,
    And what if you are a Chelsea supporter and after you arrive, you watch them lose, slipping further away any title race or a Spurs supporter and watch them lose, never quite making it to the top (I’m trying to offer realistic scenarios here). Bang goes your Shabbat enjoyment! How’re you going to deal with that? Bottom line: Beyond all the practical dos and don’ts of Shabbat, there is an overriding principle of the “spirit of Shabbat” that has to be maintained. Doing any sort of such mundane activity is not in keeping with that spirit. Why do you think they don’t put Match of the Day on till after Shabbat goes out?

    Dear Rabbi
    Is there a law concerning drinking wine after the burial of a family member? I have seen this done and wonder whether there is a source for it?
    Ronnie
     
    Dear Ronnie,
    There is a custom to give mourners some wine after the burial. The source is the verse in Proverbs (31, 6), Give liquor to one who is lost, and wine to those who are bitter in heart. Of course we yearn to never have to fulfil this verse.

    Dear Rabbi
    I am not Jewish but I wonder if it is true that Jewish people do not get out of bed in the morning without washing their hands first? How are you supposed to do this unless you have a sink next to your bed?
    Yvonne
     
    Dear Yvonne,
    You’ve obviously never visited a Jewish bedroom. Some have sinks built into their beds. Others simply never get out of bed! Seriously, there is a Jewish law which says that one should not walk more than four cubits (approx. 6 feet) in the morning before washing their hands. The reason for this is because one is regarded as being in an impure state during the course of the night, whilst the body is virtually non conscious. In the morning, (or any other time) upon awakening, the spiritual impurity leaves the body through the hands. Some remnant remains hence we wash our hands before we handle anything so as not to transmit that impurity. It is therefore referred to as negel vaser – or nail water. Many are especially stringent to ensure not to step out of bed before washing their hands and will therefore have the cup and bucket next to their bed. For the record, the washing is done by way of pouring the water over your hands three times nately. [This as opposed to when we wash for bread when the water is poured onto each hand individually].

    Dear Rabbi
    I attended a synagogue recently for a Bar Mitzvah. I noted how some of the Jews rock when they pray. Why?
    Vera
     
    Dear Vera,
    We don’t just rock – we roll! Some of the suggested reasons are as follows:
    1. There is a verse in Psalms (35:10) which says, All my bones will speak referring to praising G-d through body language as it were.
    2. Yet another verse states before my name he will bow (Malachi 2; 5) which is again a reference to physical movement during prayer.
    3. There is a verse in Exodus (20:14) which tells that that the people trembled before G-d, which is also taken as a reference to prayer.
    4. Finally, it is also a habit that evolved the fact that several people had to share the same prayer book in earlier times, and it was often the case that every time someone else had to bend down toe read the writing.

    Dear Rabbi
    I have a large storage shed which is used to store bicycles. Does it require a mezuza?
    David
     
    Dear David,
    The guiding principle for this is that if the storage area has a door frame (however thin) or a structure with two uprights and a lintel then it requires a mezuzah. The size of 2 meters by 2 meters is an area requiring a mezuzah.

    Dear Rabbi
    Why does the Torah refer to converts as strangers? Doesn’t this imply inferiority? Are they not considered fully-fledged Jews upon conversion?
    Dasa
     
    Dear Dasa,
    In Judaism, a convert is called a “stranger” for two reasons: because he comes a foreign culture and foreign beliefs, and because he comes outside the socio-ethnic and racial gene pool that Jews have maintained between themselves over the centuries - physically he often appears different (he’s the one with the better nose). He is most certainly not treated differently. On the contrary: Torah emphasizes the fact that though he may be perceived as a stranger, standard ‘love your fellow Jew’, in all its detailed glory, applies to him as well.

    Dear Rabbi
    1) You once claimed that you have a family-tree going all the way back to King David. This is a very strong claim. Could you provide some evidence for this?
    2) You once also ridiculed the assertion that there would have been records of Israels tribes in the temple. As you regard this assertion as rubbish, would you like to tell me Israels tribal records were kept?
    3) You also claimed that there are mutually contradictory inconsistencies in the alleged genealogy of the Christian messiah, proving that they did not know what they (were) talking about. Matthew-Levi Chapter 1 is likely to be providing the genealogy of Yeshua HaMashiach for his foster father Joseph, while Luke 3 does that for his mother, Miriam. They both were of the House of David. So is the inconsistency?
    Robert Weissman (Rev)
    Christian Jew Foundation
     
    Dear Robert,
    1) To show my family-tree here would take up this whole page, thus impossible. Note also, that my family is not unique. There are literally thousands of Jewish families (all descendants of the Maharal of Prague or of Rashi) that can trace their descent to King David.
    2) Even assuming that they kept written records (as opposed to oral confirmation generation to generation), these would be kept by the authorities of the 12 tribal provinces, the only ones of whom such things were relevant. The only tribe this was of national interest is the tribe of Levi (specifically for the authenticity of claims to belong to the priestly class). In any case, for the other tribes there was really no significance. As for the royal house of David, this was public knowledge.
    3) (a) The genealogy in Matthew is irrelevant, as a foster-son has no legal standing in Judaism beyond that of his biological father: he is not entitled to estate or titular inheritance, or tribal affiliation of his foster-father etc. That is a law spelled out explicitly in the Torah of Moses which Yeshu claimed to uphold.
    (b) Matthews list contradicts the Divine Bible (i.e. the Jewish Scriptures), in I Chronicles 3 the list of generations is:
    1-David 2-Solomon 3-Rehoboam 4-Abiyah 5-Assa 6-Yehoshaphat 7-Yoram 8-Ahazyahu 9-Azaryah. Matthew missed Ahazyahu, thus proving ignorance and messing up his claim of 14 generations.
    (c) According to Luke there is a completely different genealogical list for Joseph the foster-father, in full discrepancy with Matthew. Christians try to get around this by claiming that Matthews list is Josephs, and Lukes list is Marys. This may sound ingenious but is nothing less than disingenuous. There is not even the slightest hint or allusion in Luke to suggest this reinterpretation. Indeed, Luke could not possibly have meant that, as a)obviously he tried to link Yeshu to the royal succession of King David, and b) must surely knew that in Judaism matrilineal descent has no bearing on tribal affiliation and rights of succession. Thus if he had in mind Marys descent, he would ipso facto have disqualified Yeshu any Messianic claims. Then again, he was automatically disqualified anyway, because - as stated above - foster-son or foster-father has no legal standing beyond voluntary obligations that a foster-father assumes upon himself. Either way you lose.
     

    Dear Rabbi
    I recently learned that the reason that married women immerse in the mikvah every month is not for purification following her monthly cycle (as many believe) but more because of the spiritual impurity caused by her failing to conceive a baby that month. If some methods of contraception are permissible should that mean that a woman who practises one of these methods is not required to immerse in the mikvah because it is already not possible for her to conceive a baby and so does not need purification?
    Ruth
     
    Dear Ruth,
    The whole notion of ritual impurity is linked with the principle of a spiritual vacuum. Hence the greatest form of impurity is that of a deceased body, the soul has now departed. Similarly, when a woman gives birth she is rendered impure because of the soul contained within the child now leaving her womb. And each month the egg dispelled is a potential child, also bringing in its wake a spiritual void. All this is restored through the waters of a mikvah. Water, which is the prototype of fluid, unlike solid matter, is capable of change and does not have any permanence. Moreover, water is the life force of man without which we cannot exist. It balances the solidity of our universe and metabolises the body of man. Even as one may have become ritually impure they can change and become ritually pure again. If one’s spiritual essence has become affected as a result of a vacuum then we utilise the greatest physical life force available to us to restore oneself to their original spiritual state. I recommend the laws of family purity to every Jewish couple and give my unqualified guarantee it will do wonders for their overall relationship.
     

    Dear Rabbi
    I have a very close friend whose grandmother is on the verge of death. She asked me to attend shiva with her one night once the inevitable occurs. As an Irish (non-practicing) Catholic, traditions I am used to are very different when someone dies (think Guinness and Whiskey). I know that more than anything she simply wants me to be there for her, but I would like to make an effort to, at minimum, show as much respect for her and her familys faith as possible. What is expected of someone that isnt Jewish? Should I bring a gift (or some food)?
    Paul
     
    Dear Paul,
    The shiva is a seven day mourning period which should be treated precisely as such. Unfortunately even in Jewish circles it has lost some of its semblance. Several do a post funeral shindig – more in keeping with a wake but which has no basis in Jewish law. And then there is all the laughter and frivolity that typically goes on many nights of the shiva. It’s all wrong and missing the point of the paramount respect that should be shown to the deceased. What you need to do is simply be there for her, as you suggest, bring in some kosher food if so required, and that’s pretty much it.
     

    Dear Rabbi
    I often enjoy reading your answers and thought it time I ask one of my own. In the news today was a story about an initiative to automatically put everybody in the UK on an organ donor scheme, unless they opt out. What is the halachic law concerning organ donation?
    Perry
     
    Dear Perry,
    The human body is and always remains sacred even after death. That’s why there is the notion of a chevra kadisha or sacred brotherhood/sisterhood that ensure the most befitting, respectful and spiritually imbued burial for the deceased. Part of that responsibility includes the idea of keeping the body intact. So much so that were one to G-d forbid has a limb amputated, that limb is immediately buried, and is later reburied with the individual upon passing. That said there are circumstances that would allow for the transfer of an organ it will go immediately to save another’s life (as opposed to sitting in a bank waiting with the risk of eventual disposal). But even here there are more and less humane ways to remove organs (say an eyeball for example) and all that needs to be taken into consideration as well. The Chief Medical Officer’s proposals are seriously problematic for the Jewish and other Ethnic communities and the London Beth Din have issued their own ruling in this regard.
     

    Dear Rabbi
    If a member takes their synagogue to a Din Torah can the synagogue refuse to go and if so what recourse do the member and Beth Din have against that synagogue?
    Bryon
     
    Dear Bryon,
    Just between you and me – is it the Rabbi’s sermon or the Chazan’s dirge? How much are you suing for? Can they put a price on such mental anguish? You want to sue the ladies guild for the lack of fishballs and diluted whisky? The synagogue hierarchy is typically obligated to respond if they’re summoned by the Beth Din. If they refuse to attend they need to state their reasons. The Beth Din then reserves the right to refer them to another Beth Din they may be more willing to attend – or, failing that, even a civil court. There are also other strict measures that could be enforced when one ignores a Beth Din summons. But I would strongly suggest the pursuit of a compromise in the first instance.
     

    Dear Rabbi
    It seems that everyone is given a Hebrew name when they are born. I was born during the war and was not given a Hebrew name and even on my Ketuba my English name is written in Hebrew. Do I need a Hebrew name and if so, how do I go about choosing one?
    Suzie

     

    Dear Suzie
    As a Hebrew name is intrinsically linked with the essence of one’s soul, it is of course especially meaningful to have one. I am deeply sorry as to the circumstances that prevented you getting one at birth and I am thinking that you should go with Shoshana which means Rose. Besides its common correlation with Suzie, it also reflects your circumstances, having been born during such a tragic time in history, bringing light into the prevailing darkness, like a rose amongst thorns. Perhaps you could get someone to make a special prayer for you by the Torah reading on Shabbat to formerly assume the name. But even if not, you could adopt it and make it yours. Wishing you only goodness in your future, Shoshana.

     


    Dear Rabbi

    I am fifteen years old and I have been smoking for two years. I would like to know the true answer. Is smoking against the halacha?
    Heidi

     

    Dear Heidi
    First you wait till you’re addicted, then you ask? I changed your name but your real one came through on the email. I should call your Mom and rat you out, but I was a teen once too, so I know the thrills and kicks involved. Does the Torah say, “Thou shalt not smoke, lest a lightning bolt will emerge the sky and smoke you?” No. But insofar that smoking damages your health and can kill you it is against the most basic fundamentals of Torah and all of Judaism which cannot overemphasize the importance of good health and the sanctity of human life. Your young, so quit while you’re ahead and while you can still use your head.

     


    Dear Rabbi

    Why are people in Israel buried straight into the ground instead of in a coffin?
    Leonard

     Dear Leonard
    “ dust you come and to dust you shall return.” The ideal is in fact to be buried directly in the earth in keeping with that verse. There are laws against that though in most countries who insist on a coffin instead. Coffin or earth – wishing you a long life before you get there.   

     


    Dear Rabbi
    Why is it that Yeshiva boys are not serving the army in Israel? I never read in the Bible or in any other books that it is against our religion. Students in the University have to serve every summer holiday three months, and after they finish the university they have to serve the rest of the time.
    Nathan

    Dear Nathan
    That is something of a generalisation. There are certain Yeshivot the boys learn part time and do their military duties part time. Interestingly enough, in Biblical times, every male over the age of 20 had compulsory military duty. Of course there were exceptions but that was the standard rule. There are two things to take into account: the first is how the Israeli army today is mixed and that presents a problem for many young Orthodox men. However the army got around this problem by allowing for the separate troops when so required. The other point is that inasmuch as the military serves to protect us physically, the Torah serves to protect us spiritually. Even as we may have foot soldiers we also need soul soldiers. While the rest of us are caught up in the daily grind, the world is being infused with spiritual oxygen through the power of those who study.
    Many Yeshiva boys are raised in a certain mould and a whole new-fangled experience as that which the military provides can be very counter-intuitive to their whole stability. In short, they simply wouldn’t be able to handle it. It’ll throw their religious stability off kilter.
    Having said that, again, the Israeli military today provides for Rabbis to be with their troops and offers more by way of dealing with this problem as well. Therefore, inasmuch as you and I cannot see that sweet Charedi boy Bnei Brak in military fatigue running through the trenches, there are many others who can, and dare I suggest, should get more involved. The army is there to protect the people and everyone, to one degree or another, shares in that mutual responsibility.

     


    Dear Rabbi
    My younger brother and I fell out several years ago. I was really bothered by the way I felt he acted badly toward our parents and I decided to stop talking to him. I heard through the grapevine that he got ill a few weeks ago. I was thinking of calling but before I had a chance, he passed away. The family told me not to bother coming to the funeral. I am now really confused. Did I do the right thing by ignoring him? I feel nothing for him inside but should I have been there in his hour of need? Can you help me with my conscience?
    Ezra

    Dear Ezra
    You say you feel nothing for him inside and yet you speak of a conscience and are dealing with confused emotions about not being there for your brother. Obviously you do feel for him more than you care to admit – even to yourself.
    There are always issues in life that cause tension between people. It then becomes a question of you we choose to deal with it. You can ignore the problem by ignoring the person and like a critical disease that you choose to ignore, that’s a recipe for disaster. Or you can bring the issue to the fore, tear it open, cut it out, and like any ailment, when operated on, however painful and sometimes long the recovery – ultimately you get better.
    Many people don’t know this, but there were two brothers, Adi and Rudolf Dassler who started making sports shoes together in their mothers bathroom in the 1920s. During World War II they fell out, it is presumed on account of political differences and in 1948 they set up rival companies. One became known as Adidas (Adi Dassler) and the other Puma – two of the leading sportswear companies in the world today. Such was the level of acrimony that the whole Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach both companies are based was split between those who were employed and therefore loyal to one brother or the other. Only last year they made their peace for the first time, on that ultimate of all sacred peace-making grounds – a football pitch, directors of both companies shook hands and then played. Sixty years as a split community – and because of what - political differences?
    Your brother was/is your flesh and blood. Bonds between loved ones have to transcend the stuff that gets in the way trying to pull us apart. And in regard to the rest of the world we have to live by the notion of Two Jews, Three Opinions, One Heart.
    I am not going to make your conscience any easier. When you have a moment, go to your brother’s gravesite, pray there, connect to him on some level, ask him to forgive and tell him that you do too. I don’t know if it is too late to make peace with the rest of his family but you could certainly still make your peace with him in your own special way.



    To see the current set of questions, please click here.

    © Copyright 2010-2012 Rabbi YY Schochet - All Rights Reserved

  • Ask The Rabbi

     

     

     

     


    Dear Rabbi
    I moved into a new place recently. The previous tenant was Jewish and took the mezuzot with him. I said the landlord needs to put up new ones. He really couldn’t care less and says it’s my problem. As far as I’m concerned if he won’t put them up I am not going to bother either. Who is responsible and how necessary is it?
    Helena
     
    Dear Helena,
    It is precisely for this reason that when a tenant vacates a property it is appropriate they leave the mezuzot for the benefit of another Jewish tenant who might otherwise not care less. The landlord is not responsible for placing your mezuzot anymore than he is responsible for placing mirrors or other extremities in your home. However, it is certainly something you want to put up even before your mirrors. The Torah itself stipulates in the Shema prayer the obligation to place mezuzot on doorposts. That in itself makes it necessary. But even more so is the fact that mezuzot serve as protection over the home and its inhabitants. This is not some hocus-pocus, or something referenced only in some mystical tract. Code of Jewish Law itself (quite unusually) makes very specific reference to this. Which is why even those that have mezuzot on their home should ensure to check them regularly (once every couple of years) by a reputable scribe to ensure their kosher status. There is only one concern, as per the Christian who questioned his Jewish neighbour why his house was always broken into while the Jew’s home remained unscathed. The Jew explained about the mezuzot and the Christian promptly put some up on his home as well. Months later he came crying to his Jewish neighbour: “What a disaster those mezuzot! No one’s broken into my home ever since, but men in black hats and beards have come knocking incessantly and taken more money than thieves ever have.”


    Dear Rabbi
    My mother is diagnosed with a terminal illness. I have a very frosty relationship with her going back many years. I now feel guilty and need to do something about it before she passes away. What can I do?
    Emma
     
    Dear Emma,
    I’m sorry about your mother’s plight. I am not sure why you’re asking me what you should be doing though. Follow your heart and do what you know is the right thing to do. Break the ice. Sure it means putting your pride aside, but when it comes to parents there never is nor should there be pride involved. I don’t know the detail of your ‘frosty relationship’ and what caused it. What I do know is, a mother is a mother, the umbilical cord is never really severed and while there are many things that can sometimes creep in and mask over it – if one is willing, it doesn’t take much to peel it all away and rediscover what may have been lost for years. Honouring parents is a paramount mitzvah such that it extends even in their passing. No matter how much we do, it can never be enough. All this should be taken into account all the more so in your mother’s current circumstances. With thoughts and prayers for your Mom, here’s hoping you can make your time together as meaningful and magical as ever.


    Dear Rabbi
    One of my closest friends is celebrating his sixtieth birthday party. I’m one of his more religious friends who won’t eat non-kosher. He is Jewish and is making the party in a non-kosher restaurant. I am not sure what to do about it. He would make kosher provision for me of course.
    Manfred
     
    Dear Manfred,
    You need to ask yourself the following question: What’s more important to you, your friendship or your life principles? Your friend will also need to ask himself the question, “How important are my friends to me and how much do I respect them?” The point is if you’ve never gone into a non-kosher restaurant before, are you looking to compromise that now for the sake of a close friend’s party? If your friend truly respects you then he’ll know there are some lines you won’t cross and that your friendship is bigger than a one off party. You can always take him out for a drink and celebrate in your own private way. Let me stress that there are some exceptions when kosher provisions are being made, and different cases need to be weighed up on their merits but this as a general rule.


    Dear Rabbi
    Why are Jews not into proselytising the same way Christians and Muslims might be? Why can’t we go out there and look to bolster our numbers a little? It can only help. Instead we deter even those that want to join the faith!
    Gerald
     
    Dear Gerald,
    Unlike other faiths, our mission never was about turning the world Jewish. It was and remains about making the world more truly G-d-conscious. We look to bring what you might call the “higher consciousness” principles of Sinai more fully into the world and establish them here permanently for the greater good of all humanity. Anyone can join in this cause and so they should. But you don’t need to become Jewish to do so. Judaism maintains that G-d made you as you are intended to be with the very real ability of being able to fulfil your greater Divine purpose as you are. That means that you can accept this Jewish worldview and philosophy upon yourself without taking up the rites and rituals of Judaism. We don’t need a Jewish world, or a Christian world or a Muslim world. We need a G-dly world every man, woman and child is committed to making the world a better more peaceful place, just as G-d intended for it to be.


    © Copyright 2013 Rabbi YY Schochet - All Rights Reserved

     

     

  • What Yizkor Now Means To Me

    The following is the talk Rabbi Schochet delivered at Yizkor on Yom Kippur 5774

    You know its amazing. You can speak for twenty Yom Kippurs at Yizkor - you could mean every heartfelt word you say - you could feel the passion of the message you look to convey - and still it feels altogether different when youre suddenly sitting on the other side of that mortal fence. So I suppose for those of you already there - you can welcome me to your club. Some people have a Kiddush club others have a Kaddish club and its a lousy club to be in! With that in mind; with Yizkor now taking on a whole new dimension in my life, I’d like to share with you some personal thoughts of what Yizkor means to me:

    I remember some years ago I would often recommend at Yizkor that people take a moment during my speech to close their eyes and just think about their loved one. There was one member who took exception. He told me then how he had lost his father twenty years prior and how not a day goes by that he doesnt think of his father. my current vantage point I get that. I really do. And Im barely two months in.

    Some people have said to me, “time is a healer.” I suggest whoever coined that phrase probably had too much time on his or her hands. Im sure time takes the sting out of the initial pain - but there is something so overwhelmingly final when losing a loved one - something that leaves an indelible wound - a gaping hole which, even if with time, the hole gets filled - the scar remains - an eternal reminder of what you lost and cant get back. Or as someone put it to me: At the outset it feels like gaping into a hole, right in the middle of your living room. You never get over it. With time you simply learn to walk around it.

    When you consider how loved ones are essentially pieces of a puzzle - all different parts of one big inter-connected soul - well we all know the feeling when theres a piece of the puzzle missing. Every morning you wake up and you look at it. Every night you go to sleep and you look at it. And that gaping bit that missing piece is staring you in the face. I imagine over time you get used to it - you accept it - but you never get over it.

    One thought that has consumed my mind over these past weeks is that my siblings and I – we effectively shared our father with many people around the world. Of course that makes me proud but it also fills me with a sense of regret, wondering whether I appreciated him enough in my life – whether I took enough advantage to drink the well which many were nourished though was always there, readily available at my own feet.

    Yizkor is there to remind us that our parents, our spouses, our children - our loved ones are there for us as reservoirs of love to drink and with which to nourish our souls. We’re not supposed to fall out with them – we’re not supposed to become estranged them. We’re supposed to drink their tenderness and lap up their sweet caresses on our hearts.

    I don’t know – maybe it’s a man thing that fathers and sons don’t typically say “I love you” in the same way that mothers might do. Or maybe it’s just me. I can honestly say, I probably told my father “I love you” in the last week I was with him more times than in the past forty-eight years. It’s true – it doesn’t always have to be said – it can be expressed in numerous other ways – but if there is one thing that Yizkor focuses our minds on it is the value of our relationships and the need to say or show that love to our nearest and dearest at every given opportunity. Because alas there comes a point, sometimes when we least expect it – when the opportunity is no longer there – when we are no longer able to whisper sweet nothings, share an embrace, say ‘I love you.’

    Each year since the day I was born, at the onset of Yom Kippur my father would put his warm hand on my head and bless me with the special priestly benediction – what we call birchas habonim – the children’s blessing. And when there was a geographical divide, still there would be that moment, just prior to leaving to Shul for Kol Nidrei when I would call him, and he would recite the blessing over the phone. And this year – this year – for the first time in my 48 years – I didn’t have that experience – and I missed it – and it hurt – and my heart ached.

    But fundamental to Jewish belief is that bichayehem ubimoisom loi nifradu – in their passing, just as in their life, they do not become separated. So sometimes I will take a little walk at night, and I will look up to the heavens, and I will have a conversation as no doubt many of you might do. I couldnt do that previously. Before it would involve picking up a phone at the right time. Now – it’s any time - any place, because even as we may not see our loved ones, they are certainly watching over us. Even as we may not hear them, they are undoubtedly attuned to our words, our tears, whether of sadness or joy. Even as we may no longer be able to hold them, they certainly reach out and hold us in their ethereal embrace. And I know in my heart of hearts that this year, like every year before, just prior to Kol Nidrei, my father OBM will have blessed me.

    That’s what this moment of Yizkor is all about. It is a unique moment of transcendence in time when we bridge the gap between heaven and earth – when that sense of closeness is that much more compelling – when if only we want to we can truly feel the warmth of our loved ones lovingly embracing our souls. And they are certainly blessing us – each of us just as they will have done all that time before.

    A little girl had been shopping with her Mom in Asda. She must have been 6 years old, this beautiful red haired, freckle faced image of innocence. It was pouring outside. The kind of rain that gushes over the top of rain gutters, so much in a hurry to hit the earth it has no time to flow down the spout. Everyone just stood there, under the awning, just inside the door of the store. They waited, some patiently, others irritated because nature messed up their hurried day. Rainfall has this mesmerizing effect. You can get lost in the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of the world. Memories of running, splashing so carefree as a child come pouring in as a welcome reprieve the worries of the day.

    One woman standing there overheard the sweet voice of the young girl as it broke the hypnotic trance everyone was caught in: “Mom lets run through the rain,” she said. “What?” Mom asked. “Lets run through the rain!” she repeated. “No honey. Well wait until it slows down a bit,” Mom replied. This young child waited a minute and repeated: “Mom, lets run through the rain…” “Well get soaked if we do,” Mom said. “No, we wont, Mom. Thats not what you said this morning,” the young girl said as she tugged at her Moms arm. “This morning? When did I say we could run through the rain and not get wet?” “Dont you remember? When you were talking to Daddy about his cancer, you said, If G-d can get us through this, He can get us through anything!”

    The entire crowd stopped dead silent. You couldnt hear anything but the rain. Everyone stood silently. No one left. Mom paused and thought for a moment about what she would say. Now some would laugh it off and scold her for being silly. Some might even ignore what was said. But this was a moment of affirmation in a young childs life; a time when innocent trust can be nurtured so that it will bloom into faith.

    “Honey, you are absolutely right. Lets run through the rain. If G-d lets us get wet, well maybe we just need washing,” Mom said. Then off they ran. The woman recalled: “We all stood watching, smiling and laughing as they darted past the cars and yes, through the puddles. They got soaked. They were followed by a few who screamed and laughed like children all the way to their cars. And yes, I did. I ran. I got wet. I needed washing.”

    Have you ever wondered why our bodies shed water – tears – when we are sad? Tears are our earliest forms of communication. Before babies can speak, they can cry. The only way for infants to express frustration, pain, fear, or need is to cry. Different languages can provide barriers to spoken communication, but emotions and the tears that accompany them are universal. The rain falls because the cloud can no longer handle the weight. The tears fall because the heart can no longer handle the pain. Scientifically it is proven that the tears shed when crying are distinctly different to those shed when say slicing an onion. There are higher levels of stress hormones being released when crying which is why one tends to feel a little better after a good cry. Those tears provide the washing of our soul.

    Jews around the world assemble for Yizkor today. It is a universal language expressed the depths of our hearts. It is a moment of rain – of tears – of relieving the pain in our hearts and washing the anguish and sorrow our souls in the realization that we can always connect to our loved ones whose bodies may sleep but whose souls remain eternally aware and bound with us as one.

    I found myself wondering more than ever as to the significance of the Kaddish prayer. Yisgadal V’yiskadash Shimay Raba – “Exalted and sanctified be His great Name.” It’s a powerful prayer – its words are rich with meaning, depth and spiritual significance. But what has it to do with a loved one? If I’m taking out several moments throughout each day to connect with my beloved father through prayer, why do I make no reference to him – maybe something like a mini-Yizkor prayer instead? Why the Kaddish in which I exalt G-d but make no reference to man?

    The point however is that man is an extension of the Divine. There is a part of G-d indelibly imprinted at the core of each of us. Just as G-d is past, present and future rolled into one, everything we do is linked to our past, impacts our present and has consequences for the future. What affects us invariably affects G-d as well. When man expires this world, there is a part of G-d, as it were, that leaves this world with him. It’s not just us mere mortals who feel the pain. He feels it too. When reciting the Kaddish we are, as it were, comforting that Divine element and by extension the individual who bore that sacred hallmark.

    Kaddish emphasizes the enormity of the loss – Yizkor accentuates the greatness of the connection. Kaddish is the rain, the tears that fall. Yizkor is the washing – the cleansing of the heart and soul. “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven,” said the wisest of men. We must always ensure to take time to run through the rain because even as circumstances can take away your material possessions, your money, your health G-d forbid, no one and nothing can ever take away your precious memories...Dont forget to make time and take the opportunities to make memories every day.

    When I stood there watching my father’s coffin being lowered into the ground – and that chilling sound of the earth hitting against wood, I thought and I felt as though a part of me had passed on with him. But by the time the grave was filled an altogether different realization dawned on me. A part of me doesn’t lie buried with my father. A part of him continues to live on in me.

    Yizkor is all about realizing that the cessation of life is only as we perceive it on this earth. But we can continue to give nachas to our loved ones even as they may no longer be in our physical midst. It really never is too late. We can always reciprocate the love through the mitzvois that we undertake – the extra good that we commit to right here, right now, in their merit. Sometimes maybe we feel guilty about missed opportunities – chances gone. Yizkor drives home the fact that there are no lost moments. We can still do something – we can still give nachas - the relationship endures.

    The very last words I said to my father before I had left back to the UK, not realizing they would be my final words, was that my oldest son got his smicha – that there was another Rabbi Schochet in the family. I said it once and I said it twice and it didn’t seem to register. Then I said it a third time just before leaving to the airport and my father gave me this smile that will remain with me forever and in barely audible words he said,
    Boruch Hashem “With thanks to G-d.”

    Yizkor is also about passing the baton to the next generation. We speak of family heirlooms. Sometimes it’s a piece of jewelry we wear or something else we carry around. It comes a grandparent or a great grandparent and sometimes it gets passed through many generations. It makes us feel closer to the loved one and keeps their memory alive. Before the onset of Yom Kippur I put on a pair of tzitzis – they were the tzitzis my father was wearing when he took his last breath – and in which the Chevra Kadddisha carried him the home.

    Never mind the house, the car, the money, maybe the business; the single most important question we need to be asking ourselves at this moment in time is, “what spiritual heirlooms are we leaving for the next generation?” We remember those who walked before us in order to pass on the legacy to those who come after us. That’s the ultimate nachas. At the gravesite of loved ones we place a tombstone and we put an inscription. But the real tombstone is the loved ones who live on and the inscription changes all the time. It is up to us, the changes we make in our lives and the impression we leave on the next generation as to what that inscription will say.

    Let me leave you with this final story and thought: There was a great Rabbi of the last century - Yisroel Zev Gustman. He was a prodigy who served as a young man in the Rabbinical Court of Vilna. Alas this was short lived with the devastation of the Holocaust he found himself fleeing for his life. Somehow he managed to survive.

    First in America then later settling in Israel he founded a small Yeshiva. One of the regular participants at his Talmudic lectures was a professor at the Hebrew University, Robert J. Aumann. The year was 1982. Israel was at war. Soldiers were mobilized, reserve units activated. Among those called to duty was a reserves officer, a university student who made his living as a high school teacher: Shlomo Aumann, the son of Prof. Robert Aumann. On the eve of the 19th of Sivan in particularly fierce combat, Shlomo fell in battle.

    Shlomo was married and had one child. His widow, Shlomit, gave birth to their second daughter shortly after her father was killed. She would grow up never knowing her father but no doubt being inspired by stories of his bravery. The family had just returned the cemetery and would now begin the week of shiva - mourning for their son, brother, husband and father. Rabbi Gustman went to the funeral, then to the cemetery, and there went straight to the home of the broken family for a shiva visit. He entered and asked to sit next to the father, Professor Aumann. The father said, “Rabbi, I so appreciate your coming to visit but you have spent all day with our family, feel free to go back to the Yeshiva. I am sure the students are waiting for you.”

    Rav Gustman spoke, first in Yiddish and then in Hebrew, so that all those assembled would understand: “I am sure that you dont know this, but I also once had a son. His name was Meir. He was a beautiful child. He was taken my arms by the Germans and murdered. I escaped. I later bartered my childs shoes so that we would have food, but I was never able to eat the food; I gave it away to others… My Meir is a kadosh, he is holy; he and all the six million who perished are holy.”

    Rav Gustman then added: “I will tell you what is transpiring now in the World of Truth in Heaven. My Meir is welcoming your Shlomo into the minyan and is saying to him I died because I am a Jew; but I was a mere child. I couldn’t do anything for anyone else. But you Shlomo, you died defending the Jewish People and the Land of Israel. My Meir,” said Rabbi Gustman, “is a kadosh, he is holy - but your Shlomo is a Shaliach Zibbur - a Cantor in that holy, heavenly minyan.” Rabbi Gustman continued: “I never had the opportunity to sit shiva for my Meir; let me sit here with you just a little longer…” Professor Aumann listened to the story. And then he said silently: “I thought I could never be comforted, but Rebbi, you have comforted me.” (Professor Aumann later went on to be awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for his gaming theory).

    Rav Gustman & his wife would attend the annual Jerusalem Day parade children would march in song & dance. A Rabbi who happened upon them one year asked the Rabbi why he spent his valuable time in such a frivolity. Rav Gustman explained, “We who saw a generation of children die, take special pleasure in a generation of children who sing and dance in these streets.”

    A student once implored Rav Gustman to share his memories of the ghetto & the war more publicly. “Tell people about your son, about your sons shoes,” to which the Rav replied, “I cant talk about it - even all these years on the pain is still raw, but those shoes – I can tell you I think about those shoes every day of my life. I see them before my eyes every night before I go to sleep.”

    On the 28th of Sivan 5751 (1991), Rabbi Gustman passed away. Thousands marched through the streets of Jerusalem accompanying Rav Gustman on his final journey. As night fell on the 29th of Sivan, nine years the moment that Shlomo Aumann fell in battle, Rabbu Gustman was buried on the Mount of Olives. No doubt Moshe will have been there to greet him along with his own son Meir and all the other “Kedoshim.”

    This story demonstrates the compelling connections between past and present; the connections which transpire up above and those which take place down below – and perhaps most of all the connections between the above & below – between this world & the next. The relationship between loved ones is chiefly of a spiritual nature, much more so than that of a physical one. It is something deep and intrinsic, a bonding of souls. As such, even as the physical may be removed our midst that spiritual bond remains intact for all eternity and that’s what this moment of Yizkor is all about.

    On a lighter note, a bereaved husband feeling his loss keenly thought distraction would be good by travelling abroad. Before his departure, however he left orders for a tombstone with the inscription: “The light of my life has gone out.” During his lengthy time abroad he found love again & before his return he had taken another wife. Before returning he suddenly remembered the tombstone and the inscription. His new wife might be offended. He quickly contacted the stonemason. I am returning home but my circumstances have changed. I need you to use your years of experience & ingenuity to come up with a better inscription. Upon his return he took his new wife to see the tombstone & found that the inscription had been made to read: The light of my life has gone out; but I have struck another match.

    This is the essence of Yizkor. With the departure of our dearly departed a light in our lives has gone out. But today – we strike another match as we kindle a new spark within our soul, in anticipation of giving nachas to our loved ones that were; in awareness of the deeper connections that are; and – for all of us - in the hope of being a light, an inspiration by passing the baton of Jewish life and tradition unto the next generation that will be. May the souls of our dearly departed be bound in the bond of eternal life – and may we live on in good health to inspire those who came before us and those who will walk after us, v’hokitzu v’ranenu shoichnai afar – until that day when those who sleep with rise up and dance once more, and let us say Amen.

  • Rabbi's Blog

    Rabbis Blog

     

     

    You can read all the blog entries from Rabbi Y Y Schochet by clicking here.

     

     

  • Run Rabbi Run!
    Rabbi Schochet will be taking part in the Maccabi GB community fun run (Sunday 14 June),
    raising money for US Futures. 
    He is taking part with a number of other US Rabbonim to walk the 1km three legged race style!  

    Please sponsor Rabbi Schochet via his ‘Just Giving’ page
    https://www.justgiving.com/rabbischochet
  • Rabbi Schochet's Birthday
    Please RSVP by filling out the form here.


     
  • You may also be interested in
    Services
    Details of the services that take place daily at the shul, including timings.

    Eruv
    All the latest information about the Mill Hill Eruv.

    Shavuot
    Details of everything taking place for the festival of Shavuot this year.

    Share this page
    Share this page on social media using the buttons below: