Gifts from our Friend ודודי – ומתנות The month of Elul is characterized by the “king in the field” metaphor: we can easily address our Sovereign, bypassing palace bureaucracy and tedious ceremonies, as if the Almighty is our friend (Dodi). The most famous work where the word "Dodi" sounds is, of course, the Shabbat poem Lecha Dodi. We enter the Sabbath day with a hymn, where we turn to our friend with an appeal to celebrate Shabbat together. But we also call the Eternal One o
The new year hides in itself a striving for relationships. The Hebrew letters with which the year 5783 are written are ת-ש-פ-ג. The word that comes up is pagasht or pagashta, feminine and masculine for 'you encountered'. To encounter, to meet, to come together are the food for relationships. With the letters gimel and shin there is an active form, 'gash' which means to step forward. A relationship does not always arise by itself but sometimes needs a nudge. Stepping forward i
TALES FROM THE RABBI’S DESK. YIZKOR. I like Yizkor. That time in the service when we remember those who once lived - and who no longer live. It is a quiet time in a day filled with liturgical noise. Walls of sound crash from the choir, children chatter, adults murmur, the door slams as people go in and out...... but at Yizkor all is quiet and calm and the only people there are the ones who want to be there. They know why they are there and they see no need to disturb each ot
When we help the poor, we help ourselves לי = לאביונים One day, a Rabbi announced an event under the infamous name "Shabbat for the rich." This immediately caused a very negative reaction - so negative that even on the Internet, which remembers everything, it is almost impossible to find traces of this event. Many, including me, immediately remembered the legendary formula from the novel "Generation P" by the modern Russian writer Pelevin: "Reputable Lord for reputable lords"
RABBI NACHMAN As the shofar announced the end of Yom Kippur last year who could have predicted the state of the world a year later as we look to the High Holydays in the coming days. Who would have thought that our discussion this Rosh Hashanah would be about food poverty, energy poverty, poverty. Who could have predicted an ongoing war and millions of refugees from a European country that was brutally attacked by its neighbour? We looked forward to a good summer, but not as
Days are scrolls, write on them what you want to be remembered Bachya ibn Pakudah (c1050 – 1120) In one of the great cartoons produced by Harry Blacker, z’’l, there is a drawing of a man holding a placard which reads, ‘Repent now and avoid the High Holy Day rush!’ Yom Kippur is fast approaching and the imagery presented to us in our prayer books is of God, the Record Keeper and Chief Accountant, who makes daily notes on our actions in three ledgers, depending on whether our d
22 The Selichot of Library Books I grew up in a poor family; we owned few possessions of note beyond our books. Every wall was covered with them, the accumulation of dusty tomes being a life’s long work. It had been my father’s dream to run a second-hand bookshop. I’m not sure it would have been a commercial success. And once my mother understood that he only planned to sell her books, she quashed the idea, by telling him that he should rather start with his own. Yet the book
Yom Kippur is no longer a day simply of general and ritual atonement. It is a day for us to restructure our lives, to reconcile our realities with our requirements. Loud and clear through the prayers comes the reminder – we are mortal, we, and those around us do not have all the time in the world, and so if there are things we want to do, we should be planning to do them now, if there are things we need to change, we should be arranging to change them now, if there are thing
Half way through the days of creation, two great lights were put into the firmament to act as signs for the seasons, days and years. They were not put there to create light – that was done on the first day, but to mark the passage of time. Why two lights? They mark time differently – the sun’s movement appears fixed and unchanging to the ordinary viewer, rising in the East and setting in the West. But the moon waxes and wanes over the month, and wanders through the night sky.
The days of Elul are falling away and Rosh Hashanah will soon be upon us. On the streets of Jerusalem the pomegranates redden on the trees. The playgrounds empty and quieten as the new school year begins. A new year that promises both new delights and new challenges. We hope for good health and renewal in the Book of Life, with the strength to deal with the many uncertainties of the world in which we live. I write this reflection on the evening of the day on which the Queen h