The haftarah for Shemini Atzeret in the diaspora recalls the ceremony mounted by King Solomon for the inauguration of the First Temple. In this it provides a fitting climax to the careers not only of Solomon but also of his father, King David, who, in the parallel text in the Book of Chronicles, planned and devised almost every detail of its complex architecture. The amount of words lavished on the building's design in both sources only emphasises its supreme importance in the annals of ancient Israel's history.
"It's concentrated poison." That was the bitter assessment on my proffered home-made etrog jam. Not because it tasted so bad, but because this particular guest was an avowed "greenie". As he put it, eating a batch of post-Succot etrog jam was equivalent to dipping one's liver in a barrel of weed-killer.
Martyrdom does not figure as prominently in Judaism as it does in other religions. There is no hint of it in the Bible until Daniel is thrown into the lion's den in Babylon. If Israelites died, it was defending their lands, conquering others or simply carrying out royal commands.
The Yom Kippur Machzor is so long that as we turn page after page, our minds can easily wander away from essence of the day. But there is one little prayer that really gets to me and is a reminder of what Yom Kippur is all about. I am referring to the Thirteen Attributes of God, Yud Gimmel Middot. For many of us, just the first few words of this prayer evoke the traditional tune: Adonai, Adonai, El, rachum, v'chanun, erech apayim...
It was an invitation I could not refuse. Next month I will be joining the Dalai Lama at Emory University for a seminar on happiness. It appealed to me first because the Dalai Lama is, like Nelson Mandela, one of those rare figures who has led his people through suffering by forgiveness.
Danny: The first similarity that strikes me is that many Jews and Muslims who are not usually so observant are more concerned with these holy days than many others in the calendar - it seems that something about them has a broader appeal than many other festivals or rituals.
One of the phenomena of post-War Judaism is the ba'al teshuvah movement. Thousands of young Jews from secular or moderately traditional homes have opted for Orthodoxy and a more devout religious lifestyle. But few can have made quite such a leap as Rabbi Jonny Hughes.
He is on the staff of Midrash Shmuel, a yeshivah in Israel popular with English-speaking students. He has just published his first book on one of the luminaries of the Torah world, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik. But if you had suggested a decade ago where he would be today, he probably would have laughed in disbelief.
The story is told of a boy travelling with his mother on a bus in Israel. He escaped from his mother’s grasp and ran off down the bus. His mother called, “Esav, Esav (Esau), come here.” Responding to the other passengers’ astonishment, she asked, “What’s your problem? It’s a biblical name!”
While even in the most secular circles, such lack of sensitivity to Jewish history and tradition is rare — Esau is the archetypal Jewish enemy — this story illustrates the importance attached to names.