Judaism features

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.


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.


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.


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.


Why Yom Kippur is a personal challenge

October 3, 2008

We asked five rabbis to recall from experience what the central concept of teshuvah - repentance or return - means to them 

Marcia Plumb


Your short guide to High Holy-Day terminology

By Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, September 24, 2008


"Man whose foundation is dust" (Musaf Amidah); the human being, composed of frailty and wonder; made of earth, yet in the image of God. We are susceptible to loneliness and fear, vulnerable to accidents, illness and violence. People we adore are torn from our lives; we realise that we too must die. So what is our existence worth? Yet our heart knows love and our soul recognises God. When compassion floods our being, when we feel joy and register beauty, when all our being sings, how marvellous it is to be human, what a privilege to be alive.


The rabbi who’s in the honey

By Simon Rocker, September 24, 2008

It is probably just as well that Rosh Hashanah takes place now rather in a couple of months' time. According to recent reports, stocks of British honey could run out before the end of the year.


A prayer you can eat

By Rabbi David Lister, September 24, 2008

Sir James Frazer, one of the founding fathers of modern anthropology, scrutinised the practice of sympathetic magic in his monumental work, The Golden Bough. His book documented in detail how primitive peoples believed that by performing symbolic acts, they could somehow influence events to obtain the outcome depicted by the symbolism.


The two faces of Kabbalah

September 19, 2008

INWARD BOUND - A GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING KABBALAH By Rabbi Nissan Dovid Dubow, Devora, £13.25

INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD OF KABBALAH By Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, Kabbalah Society, £18

Reviewed by Daniel Jonas


The battle over Rabbi Nachman’s bones

By Mordechai Beck, September 12, 2008

The campaign to bring the remains of the Chasidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, from the Ukraine to Israel