(This is almost the fourth year that I am answering questions in the Jewish Press forum entitled, “Is it Proper?” All the rabbinic responses – and more – can be read at Jewishpress.com)
How should we treat friends and family members who intermarry?
There was a time not too long ago when intermarriage was a red line that even impious Jews knew not to cross. And if they did, they were ostracized. That changed approximately fifty years ago, probably because of the skyrocketing number of intermarriages as well as an increased number of other Jews who were also no longer that pious.
The results should have been anticipated. In economics, as in life, you get less of something when you penalize it, and more of something when you subsidize it. Consequently, the more intermarriage becomes acceptable among family and friends, the more they occur, to the extent that most marriages involving Jews in America today are intermarriages. In the non-Orthodox community, the rate of intermarriages is over 70%, an astronomical figure that does not bode well for the future of American Jewry.
As a result, there are incessant demands to tolerate and even celebrate intermarriages. There are constant efforts to reform the Torah, to see the bright side and to remove any remaining stigma. These are all foolhardy and reflect a lack of Jewish commitment and an excess of unconditional love – a concept, unknown to Jewish parenting, that has been fabricated to rationalize acceptance of all sorts of bad behavior.
Friends are ordinarily those with whom one has shared values and interests. It is hard to imagine Jews having shared values with those who intermarry. Dealing with family members is more problematic, as we are admonished not to turn away from our own flesh (Yeshayahu 58:7) and could possibly be a good influence even on miscreants. Certainly, Jews should not participate in intermarriages, whether family or friends. Besides being forbidden, how can any Jew celebrate an event that heralds the demise of the Jewish people?
A relationship should be retained, doors should be kept open, but without acquiescence in a grave sin, which itself sets a bad example for children, friends, and the community. May Hashem spare us such tzarot!
Is it proper to casually sit on the floor (say, to play with one’s children or at kumsitz) when it is not Tisha B’Av?
There are sources that discourage us from sitting on the floor because that is a sign of mourning. It is not universally accepted and I have only heard of this reluctance on Shabbat, and even then it is rarely observed. And for good reason.
We need not fear innocuous acts because of a mystical concern that such will engender an undeserved and deleterious fate. That borders on superstition which has a genuine harmful effect on our spiritual state as it removes us from true reverence for Hashem and an appreciation of His goodness. This is certainly so when we do something that is not a sin whose intentions are proper.
Just the other day I got down on the floor to play with my five year old grandson. I noticed his joy (unexpressed, of course) that we were now on the same level, and I, on his turf. That bond surpasses any fear that we fabricate in the false and frantic hope of manipulating Hashem’s scales of reward and punishment in our favor.
We should fear only Hashem – and not that sitting on the floor will bring misfortune upon us. Tamim tihiyeh im Hashem Elokecha – be wholehearted with Hashem. That is our task in life.
Is It Proper to Own a Gun?
It is proper, it is recommended, but it is certainly not for everyone.
The Torah places a priority on Pikuach Nefesh (preservation of life) and to the extent that owning a firearm enhances personal safety, it is a no-brainer. One enormous caveat is the necessity for licensing, training, safety, and ensuring that the weapon is always properly locked and stored, away from children but available for immediate use.
Our long history has taught us that when government has a monopoly on force, it usually ends sadly for Jews. Dictatorships often first collect the weapons owned by private citizens, the better to execute their nefarious and restrictive policies without opposition.
The rise in Jew hatred in America, words for sure but accompanied by routine eruptions of physical violence, should put Jews on notice that their safety is not guaranteed. As much as we support the police, the authorities are useful when it comes to investigating crimes and making arrests; they almost never prevent crimes. As the old saying goes, “when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.”
Additionally, many jurisdictions today have prosecutors who refuse to prosecute, so attacks on Jews often go unprosecuted and the assailants unpunished, something that is not sustainable in a civilized society. It is important to realize that most gun owners, like most police officers, rarely fire their weapons in hostile situations, and for civilians, merely displaying the firearm most often deters the criminal.
The greatest Jews – Avraham, Moshe, King David, and others – bore arms when necessary to protect their lives and the lives of the Jewish people. We have to overcome the squeamishness that the exile has engendered in Jews. Guns are not for everyone but undoubtedly, if word got out that Jews were armed, the number of attacks on Jews would plummet precipitously.
Considering that antisemitism is on an exponential rise, I believe it is prudent that all jewish high schools offer their students an opportunity to enroll in gun safety and target practice classes as an after school activity. In my shul in Manhattan, there are several people who daven and carry a concealed weapon. Apparently, the same holds true for many shuls in the NY area.