When rabbis deliver their sermons tomorrow, many will take a passage from the weekly Torah portion and make some link with a contemporary issue or event. The assumption that the biblical texts have something to say to us thousands of years after they emerged is so natural to us that we hardly give it second thought.
British Jewry is currently enjoying the race for the chief rabbinate, but it should be more concerned about the foot soldiers of the rabbinate than the field marshal. The mainstream Orthodox community in Britain is haemorrhaging rabbinic talent and unless that trend is stopped, it will sap our religious vitality for decades to come.
Nothing is such a test of our humanity, and religion, as whether we can be true to the first mention of the human being in the Bible. It’s not a commandment, just a statement: God makes man in God’s image.
At Simchat Torah, death and life are linked by just two beats of the heart. Our Torah reading cycle reaches its final episode, the death of Moses. A single heartbeat later, we are once again “In the beginning”, as we restart the cycle, affirming life through Bereshit, the Creation of the world.
What is the relationship between Succot and the Days of Awe? The common perception is that while Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are spiritual festivals that remind us of our mortality (“Who will live and who will die?”) Succot is a physical festival full of vitality.
To those who fully open themselves to it, Yom Kippur is a life-transforming experience. It tells us that God, who created the universe in love and forgiveness, reaches out to us in love and forgiveness, asking us to love and forgive others.
It’s the season of forgiveness, are we ready to forgive? It’s not always easy to let go of our resentment and bitterness towards those who have hurt us. Sometimes the scars are permanent. Can those who have suffered loss and injury in war and terrorism ever find it in their hearts to forgive? Should they even try?
It is not always easy to get in the mood for Rosh Hashanah. The sound of the shofar piercing the hush of the congregation may stir something deep within us: or we may be roused by a haunting melody from the choir. But the liturgy can seem long and difficult and ultimately leave us struggling to find the high in the High Holy Days.