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.
There is a mystical theme to this year's Limmud Fest, which takes place in Sussex at the end of next month: Pardes, meaning "orchard", a richly symbolic idea in Jewish tradition.
"The orchard is a mystical place for coming close to God, for finding connections and delving into multi-levels of meaning," explains artist Jacqueline Nicholls, who has jointly overseen the event's programme.
A colleague once told me about a call he received from a congregant informing him of the death of a family member. Before the rabbi could even offer his condolences, he was asked if he could recommend a good caterer for the one-night shivah.
All communal rabbis face a daily challenge in dealing with the lifecycle events in their communities, whether births, bar/batmitzvahs, weddings or sadly, bereavements. All these events are charged with various levels of emotion which demand sensitive handling.