A twig once delivered an epiphany. One warm Jerusalem evening I was part of an outdoor Friday evening prayer service. I felt a branch, from the tree next to me, brushing against my shoulder. I went to snap it off and stopped. It was Shabbat. On Shabbat I move and the twig lives to bud another day.
The nation of Amalek is presented in the Bible as a nihilistic, destructive force that attacks without mercy and without reason. Saul, Israel’s first king, had an opportunity to exterminate Amalek entirely but, whether because of compassion or because of greed, he stayed his hand and was punished for his hesitancy.
The language of Judaism is ritual and, as quintessential moderns, we Jews have lost our appreciation for its expressive power. For one thing, we’re not very good at it and like normal adults we don’t like doing what we don’t do well.
Over the past few months, the term “partnership minyan” or PM, has increasingly been on people’s lips Though rather clunky, it refers to a relatively new concept on the Orthodox prayer scene in which women play a larger role in tefillah.
It is Friday late afternoon and the synagogue is packed. Though we still have 10 minutes to the start of the service, we have to make our way to the very back of the women’s section — at least 400 have got here before us. Looking behind the curtain, we see that there are far fewer men.
Tu Bishvat in my Jewish primary school was celebrated as a largely Zionist festival, emphasising the importance of planting trees in the state of Israel. That was not an inappropriate slant; after all, Tu Bishvat was originally concerned with the trees and the produce of the Land of Israel.