The story is told that, after the tough winter of 1622-23, the pilgrim fathers of what became the United States of America, celebrated their survival with a feast of wild fowl. By 1790 the day had been enshrined by Congress as one of “public Thanksgiving and prayer”.
While much of Britain was awaiting the winner of The Great British Bake-Off, Jewish Brits were whipping themselves into a frenzy as to whether or not Chief Rabbi Mirvis should attend this year’s Limmud conference. The history of this debate is well-known.
In the 19th century, the early leaders of Reform Judaism detected the longstanding bias of the Jewish tradition towards the Torah section of the Bible and away from the remainder, in particular the prophets.
After most of a century, I still get a thrill every time we recommence the Torah reading at the New Year, because I know it won’t be the same as last year. Partly it’s me — I’ve changed, I’ve learned something in the past year, so the way I read changes.
Who was Rabbi Ovadia Yosef? An aged rabbi responsible for countless offensive statements (on Arabs, Ashkenazim and countless others he saw as opponents) and the head of a political party with a reputation for corruption? Perhaps.
Simchat Torah is an emotional day, concluding the Tishri Yomtov season and ending the entire festival sequence that started with Pesach. As its name, Joy of the Torah, indicates, it’s a day focused on the Torah, when we complete the annual cycle of Torah reading and begin it all over again amid singing, dancing and communal festivities.
Succot is the Festival of Joy. The word simchah is used more often in the Torah in relation to Succot than any other Yomtov. In our prayers we call it zeman simchateinu, the time of our rejoicing. Joy is the leitmotif of the holiday.
Jews do not often talk about Satan and hell, but Yom Kippur has a surprising and meaningful relationship to the demonic. This is not surprising given that it is the day on which we loudly list our sins over and over again by reciting the Ashamnu and Al Chet prayers.
Once, when sitting with a woman who was near to the end of her life, she asked if she could confess something about her son. He had had a difficult life, she said, in childhood and in adolescence and now, as a young man, he had ended up in prison.