In 1844 the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne was relaxing at a clearing in the woods near Concord Massachusetts at a place called Sleepy Hollow. He recorded in his notebook his experience of utter stillness and tranquillity: "Sunshine glimmers through shadow, and shadow effaces sunshine, imagining that pleasant mood of mind where gaiety and pensiveness intermingle."
The world of psychology has fallen in love with mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the intentional focusing of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, with acceptance and compassion.
What does Judaism have to say about this form of meditation? Do we have anything similar in our traditions?
Hiddur is the concept of making Jewish observance glorious or beautiful. The aim of living an observant Jewish life isn't taking every short-cut and looking to get away with every least-demanding option.
People are often surprised when I say there is no actual command in the Torah to repent. You might compare it to the afterlife. It is something that was so obvious on a spiritual level and so universally accepted by every civilisation at that time that it did not need to be stipulated in a book concerned with living life in the present.
I thought it was a simple enough question: which are the worst sins in Judaism? In many synagogues the rabbi's High Holy Day sermons encourage their community to "do a little more", or "take on just one more mitzvah". This is because they are realists and understand that change happens slowly.
There is a widespread view within Judaism and, indeed, all the great faiths that, in a world where secularism and materialism are such powerful forces, our religious services must be made to be more relevant and personally engaging.
'Shalom, this is Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence," says the minister of Kinloss (Finchley United) Synagogue, who is standing by a signpost pointing to Bethlehem, while a camel in the background mooches under a palm tree.