Once, when sitting with a woman who was near to the end of her life, she asked if she could confess something about her son. He had had a difficult life, she said, in childhood and in adolescence and now, as a young man, he had ended up in prison.
In my installation address earlier this week, I highlighted the importance of ahavat chinam, the natural, unquestioning love that we should have for others. We sometimes take this idea for granted, not fully appreciating just how tough a challenge it really is, but also how significant an impact it can have.
Even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day.
We all know the routine. As the ordered blasts — Tekiah! Shevarim! Teruah! — come in quick succession, the congregation holds its breath in anticipation of the dramatic climax. Finally, the longest note of all: Tekiah Gedolah!
Rosh Hashanah means, literally, the Head of the Year, an idiomatic way of saying in Hebrew the beginning of a new year. The element of doubt in this idiom comes from the fact that the Mishnah devoted to Rosh Hashanah identifies four “heads of the year”.
As we enter the reign of a new Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Mirvis has declared that his mission is to develop each synagogue into an all-embracing community centre, evolving from a centre simply of prayer and learning.
Many of us were amused, and perhaps a little flattered, to hear that the Archbishop of Canterbury had a Jewish father. But our ability to treat the archbishop’s ancestry in a light-hearted manner is a testament to the quality of contemporary interfaith relations.
Those who are trained in philosophy can spot logical fallacies a mile off. From politicians to talk show hosts, debates will often be peppered with deceptive and disingenuous language dressed up to look like meaningful argument. One of the classic fallacies is that of the false dichotomy, which presents two alternative positions as both exhaustive and mutually exclusive.
I think I’ve changed my brain. A year ago I read books, magazines, newspapers even the cereal pocket. I was lover of fiction, albeit with very little time for reading. A year ago, I, like tens of thousands of Jews around the world, started the Daf Yomi cycle — a seven-and-a-half-year commitment to learn a page of Talmud a day. Or more accurately, a folio, which has two sides.
The book of Leviticus instructs us “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour” (19:16) and tradition takes this obligation so seriously that we find this mitzvah extended from being obligated to save life to being duty bound to hire others if necessary in order to help us (Sefer Hachinuch 237).
Several years into becoming shomer Shabbat, Sabbath observant, I found Jewish practice to be profound but frustrating. I had been learning a basic yoga practice and it began unsettling my now-comfortable understanding of the Jewish milieu.