My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Talmudic Advice Column for December 2016
Dear Rabbi Zahavy,
My friend’s son got married recently to another man. I never knew that her son was gay. I was surprised when I heard about this from a mutual friend. When I met my friend shortly after learning about the wedding, I congratulated her, and then, after a bit of hesitation, I wished her a mazal tov.
A bit later I wondered if I did the right thing. What do you think?
Circumspect Congratulator in Old Tappan
Yes, you acted properly in extending your best wishes. I don’t think you are asking me if you were right to hesitate at first. If that would be your question, my answer would be that today by American values, there is no basis for hesitation. Gay marriage is sanctioned and legal and it is celebrated by the couple with their family and friends.
That said, on the other hand, in many Orthodox Jewish circles gay relations of any sort are not acceptable. If that is the source of your hesitation, I understand it, though I do not applaud it.
Based on the less-than-enthusiastic acceptance of gay marriage in traditional Jewish life, I’m guessing you wonder if a traditional Jewish formula of congratulations was in order. Let’s be clear. Mazal tov means good luck, or more specifically, “good sign” since the word mazal originally denoted an astrological sign.
THERE is no drug — recreational or prescription — capable of inducing the tranquil euphoria brought on by swimming. I do all my best thinking in the pool, whether I’m trying to figure out how to treat a patient’s complicated ailment or write a paper. Why that is is mysterious, but I have a theory.
Assuming you have some basic stroke proficiency, your attention is freed from the outside world. You just have to dimly sense the approaching wall before you flip turn and go on your way. Cut off from sound, you are mostly aware of your breathing. You have to traverse boredom before you can get to a state of mental flow. Now your mind is free to revel in nonlinear, associative thought. Nothing has to make sense. You suddenly become aware that time has passed. You are not sure what elapsed in that strange discontinuity, but the solution to a problem that escaped you on land is perfectly obvious emerging from the water — a rapturous experience.