Judaism features

Was the Chief Rabbi right to speak on gay marriage?

By Simon Rocker, July 20, 2012

A wry smile might have crossed the lips of anyone who read the JC letters page last week. Not often do you find the chairman of the Reform movement jumping to the defence of the Chief Rabbi, after he had been attacked for opposing government plans to introduce civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

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The fearless champion of tolerant Orthodoxy

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, July 12, 2012

When an Israeli friend visited the Sephardi Synagogue in Lauderdale Road, she was shocked. “We were brought up viewing the Sephardim as the down- trodden, second-class citizens of Israel,” she said, “but here were Sephardim elegantly dressed in top hats, holding decorous services accompanied by a melodious choir. These were Sephardi aristocrats, something I never dreamed possible.”

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Pay your taxes, says the Torah

By Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, June 28, 2012

The controversy over those who seek to avoid paying taxes may have hit the headlines recently, but is also to be found in the Bible and rabbinic literature.

Taxes themselves go right back to Leviticus, although in those days it was called a tithe, and was levied on the then major commodities: grain, wine, oil, cattle and sheep.

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If only our synagogues were more like spas

By Simon Rocker, June 21, 2012

When Rabbi Laibl Wolf was younger, he used to drop into an ashram from time to time. Not that he ever thought of giving up davening for yoga: he simply wanted to know why so many young Jews had fled the suburban Judaism of their childhood to seek spiritual gratification elsewhere.

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Wanted: a Kindle you can read on Shabbat

By Dr Harry Freedman, June 14, 2012

The Jewish relationship with books goes back to Moses. We are known as the People of the Book. So it’s a fair bet that Jews will play a significant part in the massive upheaval that the Kindle and other digital book readers are bringing about in the publishing world.

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The History behind the Prayer for the Royals

By Nic Abery, May 31, 2012

On recording his visit to a synagogue on Simchat Torah on October 13 1663, Samuel Pepys made two observations. Firstly the decorum was terrible and secondly a special prayer was recited in Hebrew for the King. How true are both today!

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Thank heaven for Shavuot

By Simon Rocker, May 24, 2012

Shavuot ought to be the most popular of the major festivals. There are no long services, like Rosh Hashanah; no fasting as on Yom Kippur; no rain-spattered meals in a draughty succah. And a slice of cheesecake is a lot more appetising than a week-long diet of matzah.

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Why I won’t be singing on Jerusalem Day

By Simon Rocker, May 17, 2012

When Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks issued his new edition of the Singer’s Prayer book, the United Synagogue’s standard siddur for the first time mentioned Jerusalem Day.

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Two heads are better for learning than one

By Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, May 10, 2012

An ancient Jewish system of learning is being suggested as the way forward for schools in the UK.

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The historical disaster the rabbis covered up

By Rabbi Dr Jeffrey Cohen, May 3, 2012

The traditional way of teaching the background of the Omer period, between Pesach and Shavuot, is that its original, joyful harvest spirit was suddenly transformed into a period of semi-mourning on account of a tragedy that occurred to the disciples of Rabbi Akiva (135 CE).

The talmudic account of that tragedy is significantly vague and is a tapestry of statements by different sages, rather tha

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