Monthly Archives: September 2016

Thoughts on the Week 29 September


This brief comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others. [Note: Quoted verses are taken from the Mechon Mamre website.]

Chapter 10:

The 10th Chapter of Psalms, like Psalm 9, decries the apparent success of the wicked at the expense of the downtrodden. Provocative to a degree, it resents evildoer’s acting with contempt for G-d. It denounces the injustice experienced by the poor and oppressed. It demands of the Almighty to bring punishment against those ho commit evil. (In the non-Jewish bible, chapters 9 and 10 are often combined.)

קוּמָה ה–אֵל, נְשָׂא יָדֶךָ; אַל-תִּשְׁכַּח עניים (עֲנָוִים).

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up Your hand; forget not the humble. (Psalms 10:12) 

One of the verses appears both in the daily morning and evening (Ashkenaz) prayers.

ה מֶלֶךְ, עוֹלָם וָעֶד; אָבְדוּ גוֹיִם, מֵאַרְצוֹ.

The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations perish from His land. (Psalms 10:16)

Psalm 10 coincides nicely with the days before Rosh Hashana. In some traditions it’s recited during the 10 Days of Repentance, and part of it is found in the repetition of the Rosh Hashana Amidah.

תַּאֲוַת עֲנָוִים שָׁמַעְתָּ ה; תָּכִין לִבָּם, תַּקְשִׁיב אָזְנֶךָ.

LORD, You heard the desire of the humble: You direct their heart, You cause Your ear to attend. (Psalms 10:17)

Death of the Late President of Israel Shimon Peres

The passing of Israeli statesman and Noble Prize winner Shimon Peres so close to the High Holidays reminds us, no matter how much one achieves in a lifetime, there’s still a point when ‘our innings’ must come to an end.

The former 2-time prime minister, peace-maker and President of Israel, sadly passed away at the age of 93 this week. Though hardline in his early political care, his older years were associated with the movement for peace. World leaders have voiced unanimously that an important champion has been lost. A lengthy obituary by Prof Colin Schindler of SOAS can be found here.

An apocryphal story making the rabbinic social media rounds is that as an 8-year-old, Szymon Perski was taken by a religious uncle against his will to see the sainted Rabbi Yisrael Meir of Radin, the Hafetz Hayim. There, he argued stubbornly the case for labour Zionism, until finally the Rabbi in despair blessed the young Peres with long life, and to become a great leader in Israel.

In 1993, according to this story, while in New York City on the day after Yom Kippur in the presence of Senator Daniel Moynihan and a representative from Aish Hatorah, Peres, who was not a devoutly religious man, recounted the story saying that every Yom Kippur night he remembered that old Rabbi’s words.

Extraordinary Drawers Competition

Touchstone, the inter-faith arm of the Methodist Church, is running a fascinating photography competition called Extraordinary Drawers. The aim is to use the hidden life contained within drawers to share insights into the everyday lives of ordinary people.

The instructions for submission state ‘no need to tidy, just take a picture and upload it via e-mail.  Photos should aim to open up insights on faith, culture and journey. A short description can be submitted with each photo.

Submissions should be sent to After preliminary editing, photos will be loaded onto the site, and can be seen here.


Parshat Nitsabim – Rosh Hashana

This week is the last of the 7 Haftarot of Consolation before Rosh Hashanah. A reminder that Rambam Sephardi selihot are at 5:50am at the Elstree Shteible; 7:00am on Sunday followed by Hatarat Nedarim. For our full list of Rosh Hashanah 5777 service times, please click here.

Parshat Nitsabim is the 8th in the Book of Deuteronomy spanning chapters 29:9-30:20. It is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah.

Summary: Moshe reminded Bnei Yisrael they ‘stood today before G-d’ as a nation, from the exalted princes to their lowliest class, established as a divinely-chosen people. Their decision to follow G-d’s Will would affect them and successive generations.

Violation of the expected Code of Conduct, in particular, worshipping idolatry, would unleash a torrent of curses, including Exile from their homeland. Even those secretly planning the private worship of idolatry would be separated out for punishment.

Eventually, nations from afar would wonder in dismay at the devastation, asking ‘what caused this great destruction?’ They’d be told, because the people worshipped other gods they were cast out to foreign lands.

‘Hidden things would be known to G-d; while the revealed would remain an everlasting calling upon Bnei Yisrael to fulfil the Torah’. (Deut 29:28)

Chapter 30 describes the process of return in slow stages, once the people reflected on their misfortune and began seeking G-d again. G-d too would ‘return them’; first, they’d be gathered from exile and restored to their land. They’d be able again in their hearts to worship the Almighty; the curses would be levelled against their enemies instead.

When they resumed performing G-d’s commands in the land, they’d be blessed with good harvests and prolific flocks; leading to a return ‘with their whole heart and soul’.

Moshe reminded the people the Torah wasn’t beyond reach in Heaven or distant beyond the Seas, but in their mouths and hearts. They’d been given a choice between Life & Good and Death & Evil. Choosing to worship G-d would result in blessings; choosing to worship false deities would lead to their destruction.

‘Choose life so you and your offspring shall live. To love, cleave and hearken to the Almighty’s voice, this is your life and the length of your days, to dwell in the land that was promised to your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ (Deut 30:20)

Comment: Recited together with VaYelekh except during leap years, Nitsabim repeats the challenge to Bnei Yisael to accept their new covenant with G-d, listed in Parshat Ki Tabo. It contains a final warning from Moshe to Bnei Yisrael that their choice would be as grave as choosing between Life & Death.

Rabbi David Fohrman explained exquisitely that the process of Teshuvah described in Chapter 30 is a ‘dance of rejuvenation’ between the Jewish people and G-d. By their own volition, and trapped in a terrible cycle of curses, an exhausted and exiled Jewish people realise they can only survive by returning to the G-d of their forefathers.

But once they begin the first mental and emotional steps to return, their efforts are aided immensely by Divine benevolence. The more we want to return to G-d, the more our path is made easier. It begins with rational thought, is enhanced emotionally by the small successes we experience, and blossoms into a fully active return of ‘heart and soul’.

For those of us too numb to begin recognising how disconnected we are, the first step is in acknowledging the barriers and mentally willing them to be removed. Though it may seem an impossible task, those who have tried to change just one small issue in their lives have found enormous spiritual support awaiting them.

With Rosh Hashanah less than 4 days away, isn’t it worth the effort to spend a small amount of time in reflection? What do we have to lose?

Parshat Ki Tabo

This week is the 6th of the 7 Haftarot of consolation which will soon lead to Rosh Hashana. A reminder that Rambam Sephardi selihot are at 5:50am at the Elstree Shteible. Services this Sunday are at 7:00am.

Parshat Ki Tabo is the 7th in the Book of Deuteronomy spanning chapters 26:1-29:8. It can be divided broadly into 2 parts; the first section describes the Bikurim (first fruits) ceremony and the Ma’aser (tithing) testimony.

The second section describes the command to set-up plastered stone monuments on the eve of inheriting the Land of Canaan – a new Torah covenant inscribed upon them.

Moshe then sent half the tribes to Mt Ebal and half to Mt Gerizim, where they undertook a 12-pronged oath. The parasha includes blessings Bnei Yisrael would receive for following the Torah and curses for their disloyalty.

Ki Tabo ends with Moshe giving a synopsis of all that transpired since the revelation at Sinai up to the Trans-Jordan conquest, urging Bnei Yisrael to abide by this new covenant.

Comment: In the verses describing the horrifying curses that were to befall Bnei Yisrael for not observing G-d’s commandments, there’s a perplexing pasuk ‘… because you didn’t serve the Almighty from joy and a good heart during your abundance.’ (Deuteronomy 28:47).

It seems incomprehensible for the G-d of Righteousness & Justice to punish an entire people with immense suffering for their lack of ‘a joyous attitude’. And, while from experience we’re resigned to the idea that humans can never understand the ‘mind of G-d’, we recognise many of the problems of humanity stem from failing to recognise the undeserved blessings we constantly receive from the Almighty.

The Bikurim farmer’s testimony before the Kohen at the beginning of Ki Tabo, encapsulating Jewish history all the way back to the life of Abraham, recognises G-d’s benevolence. Ignoring the Divine Will behind Creation can instead lead to an uninhibited life pursuing passions and desires to excess.

Perhaps a message of the curses is that when human beings deny the universal laws of the Almighty, we’re exposed instead to an internecine world of random aggression and violence that makes even the frighteningly-unimaginable possible.

Thoughts on the Week 22 September


This brief comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others. [Note: Quotated verses are taken from the Mechon Mamre website at]

Chapter 9:

The 9th Chapter of Psalms carries the message that the success of evil is temporal while righteousness endures to the end. It opens with a song of Thanksgiving, then takes up the central theme of good overcoming evil. (In the non-Jewish bible, chapters 9 and 10 are often combined.)

גָּעַרְתָּ גוֹיִם, אִבַּדְתָּ רָשָׁע; שְׁמָם מָחִיתָ, לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד.

You rebuked the nations, destroyed the wicked; You blotted out their name for ever and ever. (Psalms 9:6)

And, it closes with the idea that G-d will punish wickedness and reward good.

וְהוּא, יִשְׁפֹּט-תֵּבֵל בְּצֶדֶק;  יָדִין לְאֻמִּים, בְּמֵישָׁרִים.

And He will judge the world in righteousness, He will minister judgment to the peoples with equity. (Psalms 9:9)

Another familiar verse also appears at the end of UvaLeTsion.

וְיִבְטְחוּ בְךָ, יוֹדְעֵי שְׁמֶךָ: כִּי לֹא-עָזַבְתָּ דֹרְשֶׁיךָ ה.

And they that know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, haven’t forsaken those that seek You. (Psalms 9:11)


International Peace Day – Designated by United Nations Resolutions, International Peace Day is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 with a declaration for a day ‘commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples,’ in 2001, the resolution was augmented further so that International Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.

Earlier this week the Rabbi was invited on British Muslim TV’s Ask the Alim (Expert) – a talk show exploring religious discussions, moderated between Sheikh Atabek Shukurov Nasafi from Uzbekistan and his guest. Questions asked included; in your religion what makes for a good marriage? How should parents respond to teenage rebellion? What role does a synagogue play? Is the G-d of Judaism the same as the G-d of Islam? The show ended with a blast from the Shofar.

Afterwards, the Rabbi visited the Touchstone community in Bradford, an inter-faith project, part of the Methodist Church, where for 2-hours he spoke with a small group of church leaders free to ask anything about Judaism that was on their minds.

In Orthodox Judaism there are some who prefer an inward engagement exclusively within the Jewish community. Others find an outward view more appealing. Presenting one’s religion to a sympathetic but under-informed audience brings out nuances and new understandings that make the effort inspiring to all.

Parshat Ki Tetsei

This week is the 5th of the 7 Haftarot of consolation which will eventually lead to Rosh Hashana. A reminder that Rambam Sephardi are at 5:50am at the Elstree Shteible. Sunday mornings start at 7:00am.

Parshat Ki Tetsei is the 6th in the Book of Deuteronomy spanning chapters 21:10-25:19. The parasha contains miscellaneous laws covering one’s public and private life, the famous law of shooing away the mother bird before taking its eggs and concludes with the portion about Amalek read on Purim.

It includes female war captives, inheritance, the wayward son, burying the person given capital punishment, found property, helping someone in distress, rooftop safety, prohibited admixtures, sexual offenses, membership in the congregation, hygiene within the camp, runaway slaves, prostitution, usury, fulfilling vows, gleaning in the field, kidnapping, repossession, prompt payment of wages, court-ordered lashes, treatment of domestic animals, levirate marriage, keeping accurate weights and measures, and remembering to eradicate Amalek.

Comment: Last week’s parasha dealt with the treatment of an enemy during siege and warfare, and ended with the unusual law of the unsolved murder (Eglah Arufah). This week Ki Tetsei begins with the female war captive (Ye’fat To’ar).

Me’am Loez suggests there are 2 reasons for this seeming interruption between laws related to war. The first is that bloodshed is foreign to the Jewish people and thus all efforts must be made to atone for the shedding of innocent blood. The second reason is to suggest that the Jewish people’s success in battle is dependent on their just, moral and ethical behaviour, not on strength of numbers or technology.

It would seem odd then that the Torah permits a soldier to take a female war captive. To this, Rashi comments that G-d understands and grants concessions to human weakness.

Left unregulated, as documentary evidence from this and the last century well proves, the battlefield is a place absent of compassion or morality. The Torah’s laws of the Ye’fat To’ar provide a higher degree of protection than any society offers.

But is that sufficient? Is it enough to claim that Jewish behaviour is the ‘least evil’ of all other nations or should we aspire to a more positive, exemplary standard – resisting battlefield temptation altogether?

This applies to other areas of behaviour as well. Too often we’re happy to live within the confines of the law while what we should be aspiring to is a much higher standard.


Thoughts on the Week 15 September 2016


This brief comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others. [Note: Quoted verses are taken from the Mechon Mamre website at]

Chapter 8:

The 8th Chapter of Psalms is attributed to King David. The opening instruction for the conductor is to use the Gittit instrument.

There are 2 main messages within this Psalm; the first is that when we contemplate the magnificent world of creation and the majesty of G-d’s handiwork, it should help us feel awe and love of the Divine along with a realisation of our own relative insignificance.

מָהאֱנוֹשׁ כִּיתִזְכְּרֶנּוּ; וּבֶןאָדָם, כִּי תִפְקְדֶנּוּ.

What is man, that You remember him? The son of man, that You count him? (Psalms 8:5)

The second is that all our skills and characteristics are a gift from the Almighty and therefore we should use them in serving G-d and humanity.

תַּמְשִׁילֵהוּ, בְּמַעֲשֵׂי יָדֶיךָ; כֹּל, שַׁתָּה תַחַתרַגְלָיו.

You made him to have dominion over Your handiwork; You put all things under his feet! (Psalms 8:7)

Some verses appear in other parts of our prayer liturgy. For example; verse 10 appears at the end of Uva LeTsion in Shaharit. (We find this quite frequently throughout the siddur, a single verse taken from a Psalm tagged onto a prayer.)

ה אֲדֹנֵינוּ מָהאַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ, בְּכָלהָאָרֶץ.

O LORD, our G-d, how glorious is Your name in all the earth! (Psalms 8:10)


The Problem of Abundance

Toward the end of the book Scarcity, the New Science of Having Less and How it Defines Our Life, authors Sundhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, offer a strategy to overcome life’s difficulties. They focus on scarcity of time, money, food and occasionally loneliness (a kind of scarcity of social interaction).

The cyclical nature of Indian sugarcane farming is an example. Farmers work all year to produce a crop that when harvested and sold leads to a windfall payment that must last a full year.

As one can imagine, the initial post-harvest months are comfortable but by the end of the year before the next harvest season, many farmers run out of funds. In countries that offer social payments a similar thing occurs, money or food coupons received at the beginning of the month often runs out before the next expected inflow.

One way to resolve this is to even-out the cycle creating ‘longer periods of moderation rather than spurts of abundance followed by heightened periods of scarcity.’ In the case of the farmers, researchers persuaded them to set aside and spread out part of their annual payment for later in the year.

Another serious issue people face is the ‘Vigilance vs. Neglect paradox’. Often while focused on life’s immediate demands, we neglect future decisions that are equally if not more important but less pressing – saving for retirement, making a will or even getting a medical check-up.

By contrast, some behaviour must be avoided because it defeats our best intentions. A dieter who struggles all week counting calories but binges on the weekend, is an example of the struggle for vigilance.

The authors discovered that converting vigilant behaviour into one-time actions improved results immensely. Filling the larder with healthy snacks prevents binging on unhealthy calories, setting-up an automatic savings plan at work allows money to accumulate for retirement; these are one-time decisions that free us from being constantly vigilant.

Rosh Hashana is just more than 2 weeks away. Perhaps some of these insightful strategies can be applied to this introspective time of year. Like the Indian Farmer, we focus our attention on Teshuvah for about 10 days and then neglect it for the remainder of the year.

By the end of Kippur, we have an unobstructed view of the kind of lives we’d like to live. But, we run out of inspiration long before the next Rosh Hashana cycle begins. We also struggle with the problem of neglecting our spiritual search and on occasion failing to remain vigilant with one form of behaviour or another.

There are many things we’d like to do better in our lives but for various reasons are unable. It may be due to poor planning, neglect, a lack of vigilance or incorrect prioritising.

Just as the authors of Scarcity discovered that a windfall of abundance needed to be spread more evenly throughout the year and that one-time actions can replace the need for perennial vigilance, we may want to ask ourselves if we are living the kind of life we aspire to.

Are we binging once-a-year on religious attendance and neglecting our souls the rest of the time in favour of material comforts? What one new action can we take that might improve our vigilance and reduce the need for constant struggle?

Parshat Shofetim

Parshat Shofetim is the 5th in the Book of Deuteronomy spanning chapters 16:18-21:10. It concerns establishing a legal system and judicial infrastructure once Bnei Yisrael entered the Land of Canaan. Part of Moshe’s 2nd discourse to Bnei Yisrael on how to create a viable and just society, it was delivered as they stood on the eastern banks of the Jordan River.

Among the major topics in the parasha are; judging righteously, prosecuting idolaters, appointing a king, looking after the Kohen & Levi, avoiding pagan practices, identifying true from false prophets, setting up cities of refuge for the accidental murderer, the punishment for false testimony, military draft and proper behaviour during war and sieges, and the unsolved murder (Eglah Arufah).

Comment: The Book of Deuteronomy is made-up of 34 chapters. Parshat Shofetim spanning the half-way point, is part of Moshe’s second speech encouraging Bnei Yisrael to be stout-hearted when inheriting the land of Canaan, and to remain faithful to the Almighty once they’d settled-in.

In verse 11:26 of last week’s parasha, Moshe promised ‘a Blessing and a Curse’ to those who adhered to or veered away from G-d’s statutes and commandments. Later in verse 27:11 after 16 chapters of laws (extending across 4 parashot), Moshe returned to that imagery, making Bnei Yisrael accept a public oath on the tops of Mt Gerizim & Mt Ebal.

The thread tying all of these seemingly disparate laws together is the Revelation at Sinai. Looked at closely, much of Deuteronomy is an elaboration of the 10 Commandments in varying forms and iterations. For example, the law establishing Cities of Refuge is an offshoot of the commandment Do Not Murder. The laws about Witnesses derives from the commandment Do Not Bear False Testimony.

For a closer look at the law of Refuted Witnesses or Aidim Zomemim and its relevance today, please see an article that appears in this week’s Jewish News.

Thoughts on the Week 8 September 2016


This brief comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others. [Note: Quotated verses are taken from the Mechon Mamre website.]

Chapter 7:

The 7th Chapter of Psalms is attributed to King David’s authorship. The introductory verse identifies what many believe to be an instrument called the Shiggayon.

Generally, the message of this Psalm is the righteous may appear weak and vulnerable, but in the end they will prevail over the wicked who will fall victim to their own evil schemes.

ה אֱלֹהַי, בְּךָ חָסִיתִי; הוֹשִׁיעֵנִי מִכָּל-רֹדְפַי, וְהַצִּילֵנִי.

O LORD my God, I’ve taken refuge in You; save me from all who pursue me, and deliver me. (Psalms 7:2)

Because its penultimate verse promises to return violence onto the head of the perpetrator (as happened to Haman), in some Ashkenaz communities this Psalm is read on Purim.

יָשׁוּב עֲמָלוֹ בְרֹאשׁוֹ; וְעַל קָדְקֳדוֹ, חֲמָסוֹ יֵרֵד.

His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violence shall come down upon his skull. (Psalms 7:17)

Since wickedness diminishes G-d’s presence in the world, the righteous ask for judgement against sinners not only for their own personal relief but in order that G-d’s Presence be exalted once again.

אוֹדֶה ה כְּצִדְקוֹ; וַאֲזַמְּרָה, שֵׁם-ה עֶלְיוֹן.

I give thanks unto God according to His righteousness; and sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. (Psalms 7:18)


The Burden on Junior Doctors

This week a young man we know, married to a junior doctor, shared his frustrations about the working conditions his wife faces daily.

The circumstances include; being made to work more than 50 hours per week in a stress-filled atmosphere literally involving life or death decisions. She’s regularly on call for 12-13 hours overnight for a minimum of 3 shifts in a row while having to work her normal 8-9 hour day shift in between.

Holidays are determined by Rota not by personal preference, sick time is hardly tolerated, and she constantly needs to learn new techniques and procedures on-the-job because there’s little time or budget for professional training.

She’s often put in charge of wards and rounds even though a senior doctor should hold that responsibility. She hardly ever has opportunity to take a break during her shift.

Adding to the ‘normal’ stress of being an overworked doctor is the systematic failures within the NHS. Computer systems break down regularly and there’s very poor IT support. She has no regular office or desk.

Even worse, some NHS Trusts are well-known for underpaying their staff and then creating a bureaucratic maze before the mistake can be corrected. On top of that, she’s expected to continue studying, to pass her exams and interviews and is constantly juggling many other appointments related to her work.

The husband’s lament is that half the country think ‘junior doctors are lazy’. The way he sees it is that they’re not lazy – they’re dangerously exhausted.

The NHS, he says, is held together by the enormous sacrifices of doctors, nurses, midwives and countless others working long hours under unimaginably difficult conditions – just so everyone can have free healthcare. Perhaps, he believes, it’s time to recognize a new system is needed.

One scenario might be to impose co-payments on working adults who use the NHS, to help reduce overall some of the financial and operational burden!

Parshat Re’eh – Rosh Hodesh Elul

This week is the 3rd of the 7 Haftarot of consolation which will eventually lead us to Rosh Hashana. A reminder that Rambam Sephardi will begin reciting morning selihot from 2nd day Elul on Monday 5 September 2016 at 5:50am at the Elstree Shteible.

Parshat Re’eh is the 4th in the Book of Deuteronomy spanning chapters 11:26-16:18. It begins with Moshe setting before Bnei Yisrael ‘the Blessings and the Curses’, explaining they’d be blessed for following G-d’s commands and cursed for acting otherwise.

Re’eh is one of the longer parashot in the Torah, containing 55 of the 613 commandments. The opening sections concern destroying the idolatry of Canaan, building a central place of worship for sacrificial offerings, permitting the local slaughter of meat if its blood was covered, prohibitions against the false prophet, the enticer or the town whose people have gone astray.

Re’eh also includes the laws of Kashrut, Tithes, Shemitah; treatment of Hebrew slaves, redemption of 1st-born animals and the 3 pilgrimage festivals. (The final section is also read on Festivals.)

Comment: Parshat Re’eh seems preoccupied with prohibitions against idolatry – as does most of the Book of Deuteronomy. From the retrospective distance of 3 millennia plus, to the modern reader it’s startling to think this was the largest issue on Moshe’s mind. Why should the G-d of Creation feel threatened by man-made idols?

Consider that immediately after the Sinatic Revelation, Bnei Yisrael built a Golden Calf and, had it not been for Moshe’s swift intervention they’d have been written out of history. And, consider further that for 40 years in the wilderness the people, watered and fed directly by the hand of G-d, leapt at the first opportunity to prostrate themselves before the Idols of Ba’al Pe’or.

A famous story in the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 69b) states that the Rabbis asked how it could be such great personalities of the ancient world were enticed to worship idols of wood and stone. They fasted for 3 days and were shown the likeness of a fiery lion cub emerging from the Holy of Holies. The tale goes on to explain that when they seized it, a hair fell out of its mane and its roar could be heard for 400 miles. (The continuation of the tale is highly worth reading.)

While allegorical in intent, two curious things about this story are 1) the fallen hair of the lion cub, and 2) that it had emerged from the Holy of Holies in the Temple.

Our scientific minds are quick to dismiss anything failing rational explanation. The notion of worshipping multiple gods; the sun, moon, rivers or mountains, should hold little sway over us. But, perhaps we’re missing something more obvious to Moshe – Bnei Yisrael’s motives.

Moshe ‘spoke with G-d face-to-face’. He understood if there was an omnipotent, omnipresent, monotheistic G-d, than giving priority to anything else was based on self-interest, distraction or false worship. Not only would it be irrelevant but sacrilegious to use a surrogate form of worship.

We have an opportunity to be in a personal relationship with G-d but too often spend our time doing other things. Consider the pathos of trying to hold a conversation with your child while they’re playing on an electronic handset!

The fallen hair of the lion cub which emerged from the Holy of Holies perhaps can mean the difference between G-d worship and idolatry is sometimes as thin as a hair’s breadth. Sadly, for 3,300 years, humanity has too often tried but failed then become distracted if not in direct conflict with, the aim of promoting human interaction with G-d.

It wasn’t only the ancients who struggled with this challenge, the ‘roar of the lion cub’ still echoes loudly today. But, it seems we may be closer than ever in finding our way back to the Holy of Holies.

Thoughts on the Week 1 September 2016


Introduction: This brief comment is in memory of the Rabbi’s late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others.

Chapter 6: The 6th Chapter of Psalms is attributed to King David’s authorship. The 1st verse appears to provide instruction how it was sung, what instruments were used and when it was performed, presumably in the Mishkan and then in the Temple.

This chapter would be for anyone suffering from sickness or distress or even for the people of Israel while suffering through oppression. It addresses 3 listeners; the supplicant, G-d, and the enemies.

חָנֵּנִי ְה, כִּי אֻמְלַל-אָנִי: רְפָאֵנִי ה–כִּי נִבְהֲלוּ עֲצָמָי.  Be gracious unto me, O LORD, for I languish away; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are affrighted. (Psalms 6:3)

With pathos and a hint of self-pity, the supplicant beseeches G-d’s forgiveness ‘because in the nether world, who can offer You praise?’

יָגַעְתִּי, בְּאַנְחָתִי–אַשְׂחֶה בְכָל-לַיְלָה, מִטָּתִי; בְּדִמְעָתִי, עַרְשִׂי אַמְסֶה.  I weary with groaning; every night my bed swims; I melt away my couch with tears. (Psalms 6:7)

Similar to other Psalms, it comes to a redemptive end; feeling renewed, the penitent turns to condemn his enemies and ask G-d to ‘receive my prayers’.

שָׁמַע ה, תְּחִנָּתִי; ה, תְּפִלָּתִי יִקָּח.  LORD, hear my supplication; Oh, G-D receive my prayers. (Psalms 6:10)

The Late Gene Wilder (Jerome Silberman)

This past week the Jewish comedian, actor writer and director Gene Wilder (Jerome Silberman) passed away aged 83. He too was part of a remarkably successful, American-driven Hollywood entertainment scene during the early 1970s.

There are several lengthy interviews available for anyone interested. In print, there’s this excerpt from The Scroll. Taped interviews are available on YouTube, this biography was done when he returned to theatre after 35 years hiatus.

Wilder brought an uninhibited silliness and hysterical madness to his performances. He was described by Leonard Nimoy as having a soulful sensitivity with an energetic mania. Though not Hebrew-educated, his Jewishness was highly evident on screen especially in the films he collaborated on with Mel Brookes.

For those who grew up in the 1970s, he endeared to audiences what it meant to be Jewish. One favourite scene is from Frisco Kid, an 1850-s Western where Wilder plays a Polish rabbi on-route to head a community in San Francisco – co-starring young bank robber Harrison Ford. Captured by a native Indian tribe, Wilder guides them in a hora-style rain dance while singing in a Polish shtetel-accent Or Zaruah LaTsadik (a light is planted for the righteous).

We pay tribute to a man who helped many find humour by challenging our notions of normalcy, overriding them with concocted absurdity. Later in life, Wilder summed up his own contributions by saying that he ‘wanted to bring beauty to the world’.

He was a man who knew suffering and by experience taught others how to laugh at pain. A talented watercolour painter, he was also an active public advocate for cancer prevention raising millions of dollars for both ovarian cancer and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma research.

In all his many personas, may he rest in Peace!