Why Gandhi Couldn’t Be Jewish

When a family returns from a funeral in the Jewish tradition, there is a meal, seudat havra’ah, the meal of consolation. It is the first step in returning to life after loss. At the end of shiva, the seven days of mourning, the mourners rise and walk around the block. After grieving at home for a week, one must rejoin the outside world. Shiva is not to extend past seven days; as there is mandated mourning, there is a mandated end to mourning.

The Jewish emphasis on the sanctity and beauty of life is not only seen in difficult times. Gandhi could not have been an observant Jew — because he went on fasts that lasted for many weeks. In the Jewish tradition it is a mitzvah – a commandment – to eat three meals on the Sabbath. A Jew is not permitted to fast on the Sabbath day, with the sole exception of a Sabbath that falls on Yom Kippur. Excessive mourning and strict self-deprivation go against the ethos of appreciating and enjoying the life God has given.

Each day is a blessing, and even after a loss we affirm “L’chaim!” To life.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.
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