Judaism features

Why the Torah is green

By Rabbi Ariel Abel, February 5, 2009

In February 2008, a fig tree was mauled in Bodh Gaya, India. Allegations focused on a thick branch of the tree that was mysteriously lopped off and sold in Thailand in 2006. The branch reappeared for sale on the black market; accusations of corruption followed. Apparently, police never resolved the case; it was hard to conclude whether the tree had been legitimately pruned, or whether the nefarious activities of the black marketeers were to blame. Nowadays, the tree is surrounded by protective railings.


Still fighting the battle over Israeli conversions

By Mordechai Beck, January 14, 2009

For many Israelis, Rabbi Chaim Druckman represents the very essence of religious Zionism. His cheerful countenance, swathed in a flowing white beard, commands great respect well beyond the confines of the Zionist yeshivah world in which he has been a major player for almost half a century.


Why Limmud is now the festival of festivals

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

At the closing gala of the recent Limmud conference in Coventry, the historian Deborah Lipstadt recalled an earlier conversation with some young people who were struggling to think of any contemporary Jewish heroes. But instead of suggesting a few examples herself, she did something else. She asked members of the audience to stand if they had been part of the Limmud organising team; next she asked anyone who had presented one of the 900-plus conference sessions; and so on, through to visitors from abroad; or anyone who had supported a Limmud event .


What you should say when giving a eulogy

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, December 30, 2008

My great uncle was never much of a shul-goer and in his final years, illness and frailty prevented him attending synagogue altogether. When he died, we panicked. “How will the new rabbi find words to eulogise him at the funeral?” we asked. But my aunt was not perturbed. Using a shocking but highly memorable expression, she informed us that, “If the birdie don’t sing, he won’t get no bird seed.” Sure enough, somehow the minister managed to assemble a suitable tribute to a man he had never met.


Review: A Brief Guide To Judaism

By Paul Lester, December 23, 2008

A Brief Guide To Judaism — Theology, History and Practice
By Naftali Brawer
Robinson, £8.99

If, like me, you are rusty on your religion, this is surely a Chanucah must-buy; a neat précis of the story and beliefs of — according to the jacket — one of the “least understood” major faiths.


Did Adam have a taste for mince pies?

By Rabbi Ariel Abel, December 18, 2008

As a child, I always wondered why mince pies were on sale in kosher supervised bakeries in my native Manchester. Was this food not themed on a strange custom — the celebration of festivals of non-Jewish origin? Why would this be “kosher” on a Jewish table?

These were the days before my rabbinic ministry. On Merseyside, I was to discover fruit loaf and yes, kosher hot cross buns at the Penny Lane Bakery.


There’s plenty of colour among the black hats

By Rabbi Harvey Belovski, December 11, 2008

The students of a prominent Eastern European rabbi were about to join him to light the Chanucah candles. The rabbi noticed a broom near the window next to his menorah and asked for it to be removed; apparently he was concerned that in their zeal to emulate him, his followers would place a broom by the window before lighting their menorahs too. There is a humorous (and definitely fictitious) end to the story: having visited the rabbi, each of his students went home, placed a broom by the window and then removed it before lighting his candles.


Become an entrepreneur by studying the Torah

By Simon Rocker, December 4, 2008

Moses has been hailed as many things: leader, liberator, lawgiver and, above all, teacher. But he was also “the most successful entrepreneur of all time”, according to a new book.


The cartoon Torah that’s getting teens animated

By Simon Rocker, November 27, 2008

Over the past decade, the internet has been pushing open the gates of Jewish learning to wider audiences. Online ask-the-rabbis field questions from around the world, teachers give shiurum via computer using voice-over technology and if you miss shul on Shabbat, you can still catch the rabbi's sermon the next day on a podcast. But a recently launched venture is taking virtual Torah to a new plane.