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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Naming Baby After Relative Who Died Young

My uncle passed away from cancer at 59. A grandchild was just born in the family and the parents would very much like to name him after our dear uncle. He was a wonderful human being and we feel it is very appropriate to name the child after him. I am concerned, however, because of his premature death. Is that a legitimate concern or are we just being superstitious?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is certainly appropriate to name a baby after a righteous relative. However, some have the custom not to give the baby the precise name of a person who died young, especially if he was killed rather than dying naturally.

Some consider passing away before 60 a premature death (based on Talmud Mo’ed Kattan 28a). Others disagree based on the Prophet Samuel and King Solomon, both of whom died at 52 and whose names are popular today (although again, some distinguish between dying naturally and unnaturally).

As an interesting aside, many are lenient to name after Holocaust victims even though they died young. Clearly, perishing in the Holocaust is no indication that a person’s name is not suited for long life.

In your nephew’s case, there is room to be strict not to give him your uncle’s exact name but to add a name – either before or after his name. If the parents prefer the exact name, it is appropriate to state, while speaking at the brit, that they are naming the child in memory of your uncle’s good qualities and values, rather than his tragically short life.

Otherwise, mazal tov! May you and your family be granted many blessings in life!

(Source: Igrot Moshe Y.D. II 122.)

Living Together

My boyfriend just got a new job and will be moving to my city. He says that it’s time we start living together. The idea seems to have advantages – shared expenses, and we can spend more time together. But I’m wondering if there is a downside to this as well?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Living together is a bad idea. It is a convenient way for a man to have all the “benefits” with none of the responsibilities. Then when he gets tired of you, he will move on. I've seen it dozens of times, with women who come crying to me because they have been hurt in this way. (For this and many other reasons, Judaism frowns on this arrangement.)

Even in the event you do get married, studies show that couples who lived together before marriage were more likely to get divorced early in their marriage than couples who did not live together. There is a simple reason for this. When a man and woman live together, they approach their relationship very differently than they would as a married couple. Finances, household chores, social lives, major decisions, minor decisions, resolving conflicts, give and take, and expectations about the future are all executed by two individuals who lack a basic long-term commitment.

When they get married, what usually happens is that their expectations change. The rules are now different, only the couple is now set in a previous mode of relating, and cannot handle the transition. It’s a prescription for disaster.

I recommend the book, "The Case for Marriage," which has a chapter discussing this phenomenon.

Religious-Secular Strife

I am very disturbed at the growing divisions between the Orthodox and secular communities in Israel in particular, and in Judaism, in general. The Jewish people are so few in number that we cannot afford such sharp and bitter divisions. Something must be done to bridge the gap.

I feel this is the single greatest issue facing the Jewish people today. What can be done to correct it?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

You are absolutely correct about the severity of the problem and the urgency to find a solution.

The Talmud records that hatred was the principle cause for the destruction of the Second Temple. Factional struggle and petty vindictiveness destroyed the cohesion of the Jewish Commonwealth, condemning the Jews to 2,000 years of exile. Even when the Romans had besieged Jerusalem and total disaster was imminent, hostile groups within the city fought among themselves and plundered stores of food, causing terrible famine.

Today, as then, we have differences. What are the reasons for the religious-secular divide in Israel today? One can point many fingers – the factional nature of the political system, or the media which constantly stirs animosity in order to sell more papers.

I think it comes down to a basic lack of understanding between both sides. We differ greatly in our understanding of the authority of Torah and its role in shaping the cultural and legal character of the modern State of Israel. In short, the religious feel that Torah is that which has always distinguished our people – and in today's volatile world it is more crucial than ever to have that anchor. The secular take a somewhat opposite approach: Specifically because of Torah's unique lifestyle, it prevents Israel from full integration into the community of nations.

Indeed, this is a wide gulf. Yet because we have differences, that doesn't mean the other side is less intelligent, less well-motivated, or less desirous of truth than ourselves.

Our differences mean we disagree. Men of good will can and must disagree about matters of great importance without questioning their love or commitment for one another. Two people who learn together will battle passionately, says the Talmud, and end more committed to their friendship because their disagreements express a common search for truth.

We cannot afford for this to become polarized into a matter of "us against them." Each and every Jew is completely integral to our mission – regardless of their beliefs or level of observance. One of the spices used in the incense at the Holy Temple was the foul-smelling "galbanum," from which the Talmud (Kritot 6b) derives that even the worst amongst us are inextricably bound into the community of Israel.

Further, all Jews must be united in order for our nation to succeed. In Exodus 19:2, which says the Jewish people camped at Mount Sinai, the word for "camped" is written in the singular – to indicate that they were "like one person with one heart." Says the Midrash: If the Jewish People were lacking just one person from the 600,000 at Sinai, they could not have received the Torah.

It's all a matter of attitude. Rabbi Baruch Ber Leibowitz, one of the great rabbis of 20th century Europe, was quoted as saying: "When I will stand before the heavenly court and they ask me, 'What merit have you brought with you?' – what shall I answer? Torah? Is my Torah knowledge worthy enough to be mentioned? Fear of Heaven? Are my deeds worthy of that description? There is only one thing I could possibly claim – that I loved every Jew with all my heart. Whenever I walk in the street and I see a Jew, one thought comes to me: A blessing on his head!"

The key is that we each take whatever small steps from our own side to help build a bridge.

The Talmud says that in each generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt, it is as though it has been destroyed. Just as hatred destroyed the Temple, the only way of repair is by making the maximum effort to love every member of the Jewish people. We must seize that chance now... before famine grips Jerusalem once again.