'There are four new years," explains the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 1:1). The best known is Tishri 1, the New Year par excellence, Rosh Hashanah, when "all who enter the world pass before God". Next most familiar is Shevat 15, the New Year for Trees, the Jewish "Earth Day". Least known is Ellul 1, the New Year for the Tithing of Cattle.
A few weeks ago the corridors of online communication were buzzing with a video clip of a sit-in protest at a Jewish chicken grinder plant in Israel. At the centre of the room was a macerator, a blender into which one-day-old chicks are fed and cut to ribbons. In this type of bone-crushing machine a chick can escape some of the blades ending up not quite dead and in unimaginable agony.
Fifteen hundred years ago, the ancient residents of the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan carved two giant Buddhas — each well over one hundred feet tall— into the side of a cliff, where they stood until one March day in 2001 when the Taliban set explosives at their base and toppled them. I remember the news that day clearly.
There were many Freuds: the scholar, the academic, the researcher, the neurologist, the founder of the new discipline and psychoanalysis, and the Viennese professional. All were noted for their rejection of religion and their identification with prevalent German culture. This was the picture painted by Freud's principal biographers.
Israeli girls in secular high schools recently wrote to the Education Minister to protest discriminatory dress codes in secular Israeli schools; girls, unlike boys, are banned from wearing shorts to school. Girls who wore shorts in defiance of the ban were reportedly sent home and not allowed to take their exams.
When poems about falling in love 1a>appeared in a GCSE English exam this year1b>, a number of Orthodox schools were unhappy. They felt their students were at a disadvantage because the subject was outside their cultural and social experience.
When I got married in the mid-1990s, it was obvious to me that I would be observing the mitzvah of covering my hair.What I didn't realise was that it would take me nearly 20 years to find a way of covering that I felt fully comfortable with.
In name, Rabba Sara Hurwitz is one of a kind. Six years ago she was the first woman to be openly ordained as a member of the Orthodox ministry. But she is not alone. Other women have followed along the trail she blazed, even if they do not carry the title "rabba".
In recent months social media was buzzing with news of a revolutionary invention for Jewish homes: the KosherSwitch. A new frontier has been pushed back in halachic history - no longer may it be forbidden to turn on the electric lights on Shabbat and festivals. For observant Jews, reining in the everyday impulse to flick on a switch is a central pillar of how Shabbat is different from a weekday.