Judaism features

The rabbi giving shiurim through his laptop

By Simon Rocker, May 30, 2008

New technology is giving shuls creative ways to reach out

Wednesday night, and a group of nine people is debating the finer points of a Jewish text with their rabbi. It is the kind of scene you would expect to find in any synagogue during the week. But these members of London’s North-Western Reform Synagogue are not in shul. They are all at home, wearing headsets and linked to each other by computer.


Lawyers help student avoid Shabbat exams

By Simon Rocker, May 23, 2008

A student has been allowed to take one of his final exam papers a day early to avoid sitting it on Shabbat, after lawyers intervened with his university.

Hertfordshire University had initially refused Joel Raivid, 21, a BSc psychology student from Edgware, Middlesex, permission to sit the exam on the Friday before its scheduled Saturday slot.

He was told he would have to wait until several weeks later and take it in the re-sit period in late June or early July.


Shuls use toilet walls to target domestic abuse

May 23, 2008

Synagogue denominations from Liberal to strictly Orthodox have agreed to give over space on thousands of ladies’ toilet walls to reach victims of domestic violence.

The charity Jewish Women’s Aid has reached agreement to place posters in synagogue toilets all over Britain to alert women victims of domestic abuse to its services. The campaign, to be launched in the next few weeks, is intended to give “a public voice to a private problem”, according to JWA chief executive Abigail Morris.


How mysticism took us nearer to heaven

By Simon Rocker, May 23, 2008

Professor Rachel Elior, an authority on mysticism, talks of angelic chariots and hidden spheres

Today’s festival of Lag ba’Omer has a special place in the heart of mystics. It is the day when the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is said to have begun illuminating the secrets of the Zohar, the “bible” of Kabbalah, and the day considered the anniversary of his death. Tens of thousands will have marked the occasion by flocking to his tomb in Meron, Northern Israel.


The halachic duty to avoid civilian casualties

By Daniel Reisel, May 9, 2008

Daniel Reisel examines how far Jewish law requires armies to protect civilians in battle

Hardly a day has gone by in recent years when Kassam rockets and mortar shells launched by militants in Gaza have not landed on the Western Negev. Inevitably, Israel’s military response has provoked controversy in the wider world because of civilian casualties. Israel counters that it is not always possible to protect civilians when returning fire in densely populated areas like Gaza.


Torah says you can be for Israel... and for Palestine

By Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah, May 2, 2008

A two-state solution reflects the Torah’s call for justice, says Rabbi Elizabeth Tivkah Sarah, ahead of Israel Independence Day next week

Life/death; blessing/curse; good/evil; love/hate; peace/war; left/right; black/white; right/wrong — the list of binary oppositions is endless. On the face of it, it may seem entirely reasonable to make sense of the world in binary terms: does the Torah not, indeed, urge us to “choose life” and “good” — and reject “death” and “evil” (Deuteronomy 30:15ff)?


Why Pesach is a time to toast the Messiah

By Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, April 25, 2008

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet explains why many Chasidim will be drinking four cups of wine on the last day of Pesach

As the final hours of the eight-day festival of Pesach draw to a close, many Chasidim gather for a final round of matzah and four cups of wine. This custom, instituted by Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (1698-1760), is a special celebratory meal known as seudat Mashiach — or the messianic feast.


A seder table tour

April 18, 2008

Five rabbis take a trip around the Pesach plate and explore the symbolism of the items that will feature on it tomorrow night



How horseradish came to be the chosen herb

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, April 18, 2008

Rabbi Chaim Weiner on how communities have preserved their history through Pesach customs

Passover is a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. But religious rituals do not survive solely as historical reminders. Rituals that endure over time embody eternal truths that capture the imagination over time and space. The real power of Passover is that it is a celebration of freedom. It marks the struggle of a people to escape slavery and to determine their own destiny.


The trouble with God

By Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah, April 4, 2008

When Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah set out to define the key principles of Liberal Judaism, one proved a greater challenge than the rest — belief in God

Why do people choose to belong to a synagogue? No doubt, for different reasons. In my experience as a rabbi for the past almost 19 years, belief in God does not tend to feature very high on the list.