Judaism features

A treasury of sacred cloth

By Simon Rocker, November 20, 2008

When you think of prize Judaica, what probably comes to mind are antique books or the silver bells and breastplates that adorn a Sefer Torah. But a new Jewish Museum exhibition that has just opened in London features another type of religious artistry - the mantles in which the Torah is dressed.

Some of the "sacred textiles" that have been in the possession of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation for three centuries have gone on display at the historic Bevis Marks Synagogue in the East End.

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How Chief Rabbis have battled against Reform

By Rabbi Dr Jeffrey Cohen, November 18, 2008

Faith against Reason: Religious Reform and the British CHief Rabbinate, 1840-1990

Meir Persoff
Vallentine Mitchell, £50, £19.95 pb

It may be coincidence that, within the past two years, three books have appeared on the subject of the British Chief Rabbinate. This perhaps indicates that religious hierarchy and authority are largely becoming relegated to the status of historical curiosity, with most committed young Jews owing allegiance to their own individual and charismatic spiritual gurus.

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An Orthodox woman can lead the prayers

By Nathan Jeffay, November 6, 2008

Two Israeli scholars have put their necks on the line to try to answer one of the most controversial questions in Orthodox Judaism today: what role can women take in public worship?

In the last decade, around two dozen "partnership minyanim" have been founded in Israel and the USA. These congregations have tried to pioneer services that increase women's participation, while operating within the parameters of Orthodox religious law. But they have faced two major problems.

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Is the Lubavitch book Tanya really racist?

October 30, 2008

Yes

The debate about the Tanya is about values rather than freedom of speech, as some have contended.

The Hebrew Bible and classical rabbinic sources contain texts which, for example, command us to look after the stranger within our midst as we were once strangers in the Land of Egypt. These sources inspire and provide a basis for living in today's society.

In contrast, other texts have, in common with almost all classical literature, the completely opposite viewpoint and clash with modern sensibilities.

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Why the Creation story favours organic food

By Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah, October 23, 2008

This week we begin the cycle of Torah readings again, and read the account of Creation. All peoples have sacred narratives about the Creation of the world - but why do we turn right back to the beginning, again and again each year? Why don't we start our narrative with the first ancestors of our people, Abraham and Sarah?

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Should we pray for rain?

By Rabbi Ariel Abel, October 17, 2008

According to a recent report from Nasa scientists, if current rainy weather patterns continue, we could face worldwide food shortages as a result of widespread ruin of crops. Where does this leave our prayers this year for wind and rain?

The latter half of Succot focuses on water, parties thrown in honour of the festival are called "Water-drawing Simchah" (Simchat Beit Hashoevah) to commemorate water libations in Temple times and the last day of Succot, Hoshana Rabba, is dubbed "Day of Judgment for Water".

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Has Simchat Torah become too boozy?

By Nathan Jeffay, October 17, 2008

This week's festival has become an excuse for binge drinking. Where is the justification?

If one thing is certain about Simchat Torah, it is that, by late afternoon, at least one youngster from an Orthodox neighbourhood will be having his stomach pumped. It happens every year in North-West London, usually Hendon or Edgware, or in Manchester's Broughton Park district.

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Sometimes God just wants to dance

By Jay Michaelson, October 17, 2008

Simchat Torah is all about dancing. On the literal level, Jews (especially Chasidic Jews non-Chasidic Jews, young Jews, and Jews who just like to move) dance with the Torah, parading it around in circles and chains until finally someone shouts out "Ad Kan" - enough for this circuit of ecstasy. And symbolically, the whole holiday is a dance, circling around from end to beginning, concluding the autumn holiday season, refusing to admit of linearity.

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The roofless hut that is stronger than a castle

By Lord Jonathan Sacks, October 10, 2008

In these turbulent times, Succot shows us why we still have cause to celebrate.


What an era ours is. Iran is in pursuit of nuclear weapons, threatening to destroy Israel. The world seems suddenly full of rogue states, failed states, civil wars and ubiquitous terror. Financial markets are in turmoil. Rarely in my lifetime has the global economic and political future seemed less predictable. Ours is the age of uncertainty.

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For the DIY novice: an easy-to-build succah

By Simon Rocker, October 3, 2008

It must seem a curious sight to a non-Jewish neighbour. You look out of your bedroom window and suddenly canvas and wooden shacks are sprouting in Jewish gardens as though the houses had given birth to strange little offspring.

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