'M ai Chanucah? - What is Chanucah?", asked the rabbis of the Talmud. They asked the question, not because they didn't know, but because they had a problem with it. Chanucah earns just three pages in Tractate Shabbat (21b-24a), most of which are concerned with rituals relating to the kindling of the lights and the place of this minor festival in the liturgy.
Yosef Mendelevitch, who is coming to next month's Limmud conference, is one of the heroes of the refusenik movement who defied the oppressive yoke of Communism. His Jewish activism did not stop after his release from Soviet jail. He became an Orthodox rabbi in Israel, sporting a long, white beard.
It is not every day that diaspora Jews are encouraged by Israelis to intervene in their country's affairs. But a few weeks ago an advertisement in this newspaper urged readers to petition the Israeli government.
'No more heroes anymore," sang the Stranglers in the 70s; their song became an instant hit, tapping into the disillusionment that we feel when our leaders let us down. Sadly, this applies in the Jewish world too. Our latest scandal involves a distinguished American rabbi, who is accused of mistreating potential converts and planting cameras in a mikveh to peek at women as they showered.
While thousands celebrate Shabbat UK this weekend, many frum teenagers will be texting their friends on Saturday. "Half-Shabbos", as it's called, is widespread and reflects the reality of how many young observant Jews today balance keeping Shabbat with their constant need to stay in touch via social media.
Since the dawn of humanity mankind has gazed at the stars in wonder, contemplating our place in the cosmos. As the holiday season draws to a close and the dancing and celebration of Simchat Torah comes to an end, we recommence our routine Shabbat Torah reading with the story of Genesis.
Jules Benjamin, a close friend of my father, used to say, "Money doesn't buy you happiness, but I don't mind being miserable in comfort."
We live in interesting times. On the one hand, never in the history of the human race have our lives been physically easier and more comfortable, and on the other, never has emotional dysfunction been so prevalent.
As we head into 5775, it's hard to escape the jarring dissonance between the language of our Yomtov prayers and the news coverage of our daily lives. We pray to a God of love and compassion, who shows mercy to the generations of those who are faithful.
The story of Hannah, which we read as the haftarah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, provides a much- needed moment of inspiration for us to begin a New Year. When we first meet Hannah, at the start of the Book of Samuel, she is a picture of desolation and defeat, due to her infertility.