Selections: What's on the Rabbi's Mind

A Kosher Murderer?

A line of reasoning about religious sincerity by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals piqued my interest. The ruling brings up a host of really ‘good questions’ about Jews and Judaism. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Following is an excerpted report by the JTA:

A Texas prison inmate should be served free kosher meals, a U.S. appeals court ruled in overturning a lower court decision.

Max Moussazadeh, 35, who is serving a 75-year sentence for a 1993 murder, has a sincere desire to keep kosher and his religious rights were infringed upon, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled earlier this month. The 2-1 ruling by the appeals court panel rejected a decision by a U.S. District Court. 

The prison system argued that his commitment to a kosher diet was insincere because Moussazadeh had gone through the general food line at the commissary on occasion and had purchased food without kosher supervision.  

"A finding of sincerity does not require perfect adherence to beliefs expressed by the inmate, and even the most sincere practitioner may stray from time to time," Judge Jerry Smith wrote for the majority, according to Courthouse News. "[A] sincere religious believer doesn't forfeit his religious rights merely because he is not scrupulous in his observance; for where would religion be without its backsliders, penitents, and prodigal sons?" 

Here are some questions for starters:

1)    Does a Jewish murderer need to keep kosher? If he does, of what value is his Kosher observance? What would you say? What would your Rabbi say?

2)    Question: For religious beliefs to be ‘sincere’, must they be consistent? If I transgressed this morning, can my Mitzvot of this afternoon be genuine?

3)    When speaking of Judaism, what is the meaning of a “sincerely held religious belief”? Can a Jew ever be insincere about his Jewish practice? If indeed he is insincere, should he still continue to practice?

4)    If I don’t believe in G-d, should I still do Mitzvot? When is doing a Mitzvah hypocritical?

Let’s discuss!

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