Monthly Archives: January 2017

Thoughts for the Week 26 January

At the Community Meeting on 11 December 2016, you spoke and determined the future direction of Rambam Sephardi. We now have the first of a series of materials that we’ll ask you to look out for in coming weeks. It includes a rolling calendar for you to engage with, and material tracking our progress. A summary is on our website and on this pdf.

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY: Friday 27 January is Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK. This week and into next, local municipalities will hold commemoration ceremonies for all victims of Genocide. Though this date is not the one traditionally observed by the Jewish community, it wholly deserves our support.

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 27: The 27th Psalm is attributed to King David. It should be familiar to readers, as it is recited each year in Ashekenaz communities from the beginning of Elul through the end of Shemini Atseret, a period largely of self-assessment and repentance.

Among the themes in this Psalm are: trusting in and crying out to G-d, for our needs and for rescue from our enemies; aspiring to dwell in the metaphysical House of the Lord, and relying upon the Almighty’s graciousness and protection. 

לְדָוִד:ה, אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי–מִמִּי אִירָא; ה מָעוֹז-חַיַּי, מִמִּי אֶפְחָד.

Of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalms 27:1)

Verse 4 of this Psalm has been popularised by the famed singer Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and many others and can be heard here (traditional) and here (modern).

אַחַת, שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת-ה– אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ:שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-ה, כָּל-יְמֵי חַיַּי;לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם-ה, וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ.

One thing have I asked of G-d; to dwell in the House of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold G-d’s graciousness and visit His temple. (Psalms 27:4) 

The House of the Lord is a state of mind, open to anyone seeking it sincerely. We need only seek out closeness with the Almighty, and commit to understanding and living according to G-d’s will.

שְׁמַע-ה קוֹלִי אֶקְרָא; וְחָנֵּנִי וַעֲנֵנִי.

Hear, O LORD, when I call with my voice, be gracious to me, and answer me. (Psalms 27:7)

אַל-תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ, מִמֶּנִּי– אַל תַּט-בְּאַף, עַבְדֶּךָ:עֶזְרָתִי הָיִיתָ; אַל-תִּטְּשֵׁנִי וְאַל-תַּעַזְבֵנִי, אֱ-לֹהֵי יִשְׁעִי.

Hide not Your face from me; put not Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; cast me not off, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. (Psalms 27:9) 

Echoing the turbulent times in which we live today, King David refers to enemies that bear false witness against Israel and breathe violence (Hamas). Our only hope is to be courageous and await Divine redemption.

אַל-תִּתְּנֵנִי, בְּנֶפֶשׁ צָרָי: כִּי קָמוּ-בִי עֵדֵי-שֶׁקֶר, וִיפֵחַ חָמָס.

Deliver me not over unto the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen up against me, and those that breathe out violence. (Psalm 27:12)

קַוֵּה, אֶל-ה: חֲזַק, וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ; וְקַוֵּה, אֶל-ה.

Await the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; await the LORD. (Psalms 27:14)

Parshat VaEira – Rosh Hodesh Shevat

SUMMARY: VaEira is the 2nd parasha in the Book of Shemot, spanning chapters 6:2-9:35 and containing the 1st seven plagues brought by G-d against Pharaoh and the Egyptian people.   Where Parshat Shemot ended with Moshe’s frustrated claim against G-d for failing to free the Jewish slaves, VaEira begins with G-d’s response to Moshe that he’s heard the people’s cries and will 5-fold redeem them. Yet despite G-d’s reassurances, Bnei Yisrael refused to pay heed.

Rebuffed by his own people, Moshe challenged G-d, ‘why should Pharaoh listen if the Jewish people won’t?’ Patiently, G-d reiterated the command to Moshe and Aharon, both for Pharaoh and Bnei Yisrael.

The parasha digresses to give details of the children of Reuben, Shimon & Levi and then specifically, the family of Amram & Yokhebed, parents of Moshe & Aharon, listing the life spans of Levi (137), Kehat (133) and Amram (137). It adds Aharon’s wife Elisheva and their 4 sons and includes the children of Korah and Elazar.

Again Moshe was commanded to tell Pharaoh to release the Jewish slaves. G-d added that Pharaoh would harden his heart and refuse to listen, in order for the Egyptian people to witness these wonders. Moshe was 80 years old and Aharon 83.

G-d sent them to Pharaoh, charging Aharon to use his staff and turn it into an alligator [not a snake as popularly thought]. When Pharaoh’s magicians did the same, Aharon’s staff swallowed theirs, but Pharaoh wasn’t impressed.

Moshe was sent to greet Pharaoh by the Nile in the early morning and threatened to turn the nation’s water supply into blood. In front of Pharaoh and his servants Aharon struck the water with his staff, it turned to blood killing all the fish. Pharaoh ignored the hardship and the Egyptians dug troughs to access drinking water.

The 2nd plague was an infestation of frogs. Again the Egyptian magicians reproduced the same. But Pharaoh, unable to withstand it, called Moshe & Aharon demanding they remove the frogs, offering to let them sacrifice to G-d. Moshe allowed Pharaoh to choose when the plague should cease, then left the city beseeching G-d to arrange accordingly. The following day the plague ended and shortly after Pharaoh’s heart hardened again.

Next was the plague of lice, also brought about through Aharon’s staff, and something Pharaoh’s soothsayers and magicians were unable to replicate. Still Pharaoh’s heart wouldn’t be turned.

The fourth plague was swarming flies which only affected the Egyptians and not the Jewish people in Goshen. Pharaoh consented to allow the people time off. Moshe insisted they needed 3 days to go into the desert to perform their sacrifices. Again, the plague ceased and Pharaoh reneged on his promise.

The fifth plague was murrain, a disease that affected all their livestock, though it had no impact on that belonging to Bnei Yisrael. Even though Pharaoh verified the Jewish people’s livestock weren’t impacted, he still refused to let them go.

The sixth plague was boils brought by Moshe throwing a handful of soot into the air. Though the magicians were unable to stand before Moshe due to the affect, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart.

The seventh plague was hailstones. Moshe rose early to warn Pharaoh it would be one of the most severe. The hailstones would even kill servants and animals left out in the fields. Some heeded Moshe’s warning and brought their chattel indoors. Others refused and left their servants and animals outdoors. Moshe extended his staff toward the heavens and fiery hail rained down unto the ground – something never seen before. It destroyed the trees and crops in all of Egypt except for Goshen.

Pharaoh summoned Moshe & Aharon admitting his sin; recognising G-d was righteous and he and his people were wicked, and asking for a reprieve. Moshe promised to ‘lift his hands heavenward upon leaving the city’ and bring a halt to the hail. When the hail ceased Pharaoh continued to sin and again hardened his heart.

COMMENT: An unsettling question is why all Egyptians had to suffer for the cruelty of Pharaoh and his advisors. True, the government of Pharaoh’s Egypt perpetrated crimes against the Hebrew slaves; throwing their first born males into the Nile and oppressing the Israelites with hard labour.

But why should the entire populace have suffered?

Abraham decried G-d’s ‘unjust plan’ to destroy the population of Sodom & Gomorrah consuming the righteous among the wicked. Wasn’t Egypt similar?

One view is that such a large part of the population either participated in the enslaving of the Jews, or stood by unwilling to protest, that in effect the entire nation became culpable. Leviticus 19:16, compels ‘not to stand idly while your brother’s blood is being shed’; implying that failure to protect creates liability.

In the past month, there’s been a controversy within the Orthodox community regarding recognizing the plight of victims from war-torn parts of the world and, at the least, introducing a prayer into the weekly liturgy beseeching upon them Divine mercy. Some have responded in favour and others have dissented.

VaEira teaches us that in each generation there’s a collective responsibility to champion and uphold basic human rights and freedoms. To be worthy of our mission as G-d’s holy nation – it’s not enough to stand idly by, helplessly, while devastation occurs both near to home and farther away.

Some glibly opt-out with statements ranging from suspicions of the evil intent of refugees to outright prejudice. But we all know what support we would want if in their place. VaEira is a reminder we were once oppressed, and that our silence today, like the Egyptians of old, could render us complicit in G-d’s eyes.

Pause for Thought Series – Dec 16 thru Feb 17

Rabbi Jeff was asked to prepare a series of 8 inspiration pieces for BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought. They can be heard on BBC iPlayer for up to a month after the broadcast date.

Here is a link to the 1st pre-recorded piece on the topic Hanukah aired on the Friday 30 December 2016 Alex Lester After Midnight Show. (Please skip to 34’30”).

The 2nd piece on New Year’s Resolutions aired Monday 2 January, also on the Alex Lester After Midnight show, can be heard here. (Please skip to 2′ 33″ 30

The 3rd piece on What Makes Me Happy aired Monday 9 January on the Janice Long After Midnight Show and can be heard here. (Please skip to 2′ 51″ 45 seconds.

The 4th piece on Martin Luther King Day aired Monday 16 January on the Janice Long After Midnight Show and can be heard here. (Please skip to 2′ 55″ 20 seconds.)

The 5th piece on Life’s Theme Tune aired Monday 23 January on the Janice Long After Midnight Show and can be heard here. (Please skip to 2′ 54″ 25 seconds.)

Thoughts for the Week 19 January

BLUE MONDAY Much attention was given this week to Blue Monday, said to be the most depressing day of the year for any of the following reasons; winter weather, unpaid debts from year-end holidays falling due and/or a sense of failure to keep our New Year’s resolutions. Experts suggest January is an introspective time of year; fraught with feelings of uncertainty over what the new year holds in store.

If it is any solace, we’re weeks already past winter solstice and the days are beginning to get longer. Notwithstanding the above, as part of the 4 February JAMI Mental Health Awareness Shabbat, Rambam Sephardi will host a talk at Yavneh College on 1 February Wednesday evening. For more details, please visit our website at

Following our Community Meeting in December, the Rambam Sephardi Board have prepared materials outlining our Values & Objectives as well as the top new initiatives for the upcoming months. A summary can be found on our website.

PRESERVING VILNA’S JEWISH CEMETERY There’s been a What’sApp message circulating from rabbinic colleagues requesting support in protesting against plans to build a shopping mall in the centre of the Vilna Jewish Cemetery. To read more and add your support to the petition please click here.

RECITING PSALMS Introduction: 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 26: The 26th Psalm is attributed to King David. It can be divided into 2 parts; claims of being just and righteous, and a confidence in his own integrity.

לְדָוִד: שָׁפְטֵנִי ה– כִּי-אֲנִי, בְּתֻמִּי הָלַכְתִּי; וּבַ-ה בָּטַחְתִּי, לֹא אֶמְעָד.

To David. Judge me, O LORD, for I’ve walked with integrity, and I’ve trusted in the LORD without wavering. (Psalms 26:1)

The righteous follow a path of purity with vigilance, praying for G-d’s protection to avoid the many moral challenges along the way.

לֹא-יָשַׁבְתִּי, עִם-מְתֵי-שָׁוְא; וְעִם נַעֲלָמִים, לֹא אָבוֹא.

I haven’t sat with men of falsehood; nor will I go in with idlers. (Psalms 26:4)

This Psalm also references the Mishkan or House of G-d. As all who navigate a perilous journey, when reaching their goal, they publicly sing thanks to the Almighty who prevented them from stumbling.

ה–אָהַבְתִּי, מְעוֹן בֵּיתֶךָ; וּמְקוֹם, מִשְׁכַּן כְּבוֹדֶךָ.

LORD, I love the habitation of Your house, and the place where Your glory dwells. (Psalms 26:8)

רַגְלִי, עָמְדָה בְמִישׁוֹר; בְּמַקְהֵלִים, אֲבָרֵךְ ה.

My foot stands in an even place; among the congregations will I bless the LORD. (Psalms 26:12)

Commentators soften the self-righteous tone of Psalm 26, suggesting King David asked G-d to test him as Abraham was tested. When tempted by Bat Sheva – and failing, David offered this Psalm as a plea for Divine assistance.

Parshat Shemot

Summary: Shemot (Names) is the 1st parasha in the book with the same title. It spans chapters 1:1-6:1 and serves as the starting point for the long Jewish servitude.

Shemot begins with a summary of the names of Jacob’s 12 children – part of the 70 souls who came to Egypt; Joseph and his brothers died off and their descendants proliferated filling the land.

When a new king arose in Egypt, Bnei Yisrael were perceived as a dangerous element to be dealt with cleverly. Slowly they were ensnared until their freedoms were lost and they were enslaved building the towns of Pitom & Ramses. As they continued to flourish, a more drastic solution was required – Pharaoh demanding the midwives kill the new-born children and failing that, commanding the nation to cast all male babies into the Nile.

Shemot includes the story of Moshe’s birth, his mother illegally hiding him for 3 months before sending him in a basket down the Nile, where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised, with the help of a Hebrew nursemaid, in Pharaoh’s palace. As he matured and saw the oppression of the Israelite slaves, one day he killed an Egyptian task master and had to flee to Midian to escape death.

After defending a group of shepherd girls at a well, he was invited to take up residence with Yitro, high priest of Midian, who offered him Tsiporah as a wife. They had 2 sons – Gershon & Eliezer. At that time, the King of Egypt died and the cries of the Israelite slaves rose up to Heaven.

While tending his father-in-law’s flocks in the wilderness, Moshe came upon a burning bush where he had a vision of G-d commanding him to go back to Egypt to lead the Israelites to the promised land of Canaan. Putting forward several reasons why not to be the one, G-d provided him with signs and miracles. But, when his refusal persisted, eventually G-d angered, assigning Aaron his brother to be their spokesman.

Asking leave of his father-in-law, Moshe and his family journeyed toward Egypt. Stopping at an Inn along the way, G-d wanted to kill him; relenting only after Tsiporah circumcised their son.

Aaron went to meet Moshe at G-d’s Mountain and there learned of their mission. Together they returned to Egypt, gathered the Jewish elders and announced G-d’s redemptive plans.

Their first attempt to persuade Pharaoh to set the people free went badly. Instead, Pharaoh decreed they would henceforth have to gather their own straw for brickmaking. The Jewish taskmasters being forced to impose these new restrictions were incensed, complaining bitterly to Moshe & Aaron. Seeing his initial failure, Moshe cried out to G-d asking why he was sent, if his efforts would only cause more harm to an already oppressed people.

Comment: A well-known 8th century Midrashic commentary suggests from the opening verses that after the original generation of Jacob and his children died, their descendants assimilated throughout Egypt. The word VaYishretsu (Shemot 1:7), meaning to increase abundantly, also connotes swarming like insects and was, according to this commentary, the reason why Bnei Yisrael were loathed by the Egyptians. Their redemption thus being dependent on Teshuvah (Return).

This interpretation goes against the classical explanation that Abraham was told generations earlier his offspring would be slaves in a foreign land before being redeemed. Nonetheless, perhaps we can understand this Midrashic comment to mean that the more one tries to mimic a culture not their own, the less likely their effort is to succeed.

Egypt was a culture that knew not A-donai. Pharaoh famously asked Moshe ‘who is this G-d that we should pay heed?’ Instead, the most advanced culture of its day would have to suffer 10 plagues and many wonders before relenting. The purpose behind the Exodus was not so much about freeing the Hebrew slaves but about re-establishing a G-d-centred world. This lesson shouldn’t be lost on us today.

Parshat Vayhi

Summary: Vayhi is the 12th and last parasha in the Book of Genesis spanning chapters 47:28-50:26. Though named Vayhi (he lived), it records the ends of the patriarch Jacob’s life and of Joseph his favoured son.

The parashah begins with Jacob’s request to Joseph not to be buried in Egypt and with Jacob blessing Joseph’s sons, Ephraim & Menashe, after which he blessed each of his other sons by name. To fulfil his oath to his father, Joseph asked permission of Pharaoh to journey to Canaan. The Egyptian government dispatched for Jacob, who died age 147, an elaborate entourage, and a state funeral was held at the border town of Goren HaAtad.

The parasha ends with Joseph reassuring his brothers he held no malice toward them and with his promise to sustain them until his demise. Joseph, who merited to see three generations of his descendants, made his brothers swear an oath they too would take his bones from Egypt when the Almighty remembered and elevated them once again out of this land. Upon his death, age 110 years old, Joseph’s body was embalmed and put into a casket.

Comment: Vayhi tries to bring closure to the many complicated relationships of Bereshith. In particular to the issue of leadership within Jacob’s family – which of the sons would head the next generation – and who would receive the Divine blessing and legacy promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

A famous Rembrandt 1656 painting of Jacob Blessing Joseph’s Sons depicts (inaccurately) a pastoral family scene with Ephraim & Menashe as young princes – not too dissimilar to when Jacob appeared before Isaac to take his brother Esau’s blessing. Yet, all is not so idyllic.

Let us imagine the 17 years after Jacob’s resettlement in Egypt and his delight in being close to Joseph. The family spread out, was prosperous, with their father re-established as patriarch. Yet, already tension existed.

Jacob realised that Egypt was only a step along the journey. For one who had lived in Canaan and had dreamed of angels at Bet El, what an unfortunate place to die. Why during those 17 years didn’t Jacob return on his own to Canaan? Why did he have to ask his son to pledge an oath to take his remains there instead?

Travel for Jacob and his family must already have been difficult. In fact, when the time came to bury their father, Joseph had to seek permission through an intermediary in the ‘house of Pharaoh’, the proximate relationship had grown distant. And, the brothers, when escorting their father’s coffin to Canaan, had to leave behind their children and livestock. Freedom of movement seemed already restricted.

Ironically, within a generation, the descendants of Jacob would propagate and assimilate and when the enslavement began it would no longer matter who was the favoured son because soon they would all be treated equally with Egyptian contempt.

The lesson relevant to our community today, perhaps, is that infighting plays into the hands of our enemies. And, in the end, only our reliance on Divine Providence can redeem us.

Thoughts for the Week 12 January

The week began sadly with the tragic death of 4 IDF officer cadets deliberately murdered in a terrorist attack, run down by a Palestinian lorry driver. Though the perpetrator was killed at the scene, the pitiful and senseless loss of 4 young lives intensifies our desire for peace and elicits immense sorrow and compassion for their families.

May the Almighty hear our prayers and bring comfort to the families of Yael Yekutiel, Shir Hajaj, Shira Tzur and Erez Orbach.

The Hasmonean School for Boys and for Girls has put forward a planning proposal to merge schools onto one campus for a long-overdue redevelopment. Please support the planning petition here.

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 25: The 25th Psalm is attributed to King David, presumed to be written during the later years of his life.

It can be divided into 3 sections: desiring connection with G-d, confessing sins, and pleading for the Almighty’s mercy and redemption.

הַדְרִיכֵנִי בַאֲמִתֶּךָ, וְלַמְּדֵנִי– כִּי-אַתָּה, אֱ-לֹהֵי יִשְׁעִי; אוֹתְךָ קִוִּיתִי, כָּל-הַיּוֹם. Guide me in Your truth, and teach me; for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day. (Psalms 25:5)

It is an acrostic poem in 22 verses; each verse beginning with a consecutive letter of the Aleph-Bet (with the exceptions of the letters Bet, Vav & Kof).

 ְלֹמַעַן-שִׁמְךָ ה; וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲו‍ֹנִי, כִּי רַב-הוּא.For Your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is great. (Psalms 25:11)

 רְאֵה-אֹיְבַי כִּי-רָבּוּ; וְשִׂנְאַת חָמָס שְׂנֵאוּנִי.Consider how many my enemies are; and the cruelty with which they hate me. (Psalms 25:19)

Commentators suggest that David wrote this Psalm for all who wish to draw close to G-d. One implied message is that those who sincerely desire to be in G-d’s world will merit Divine assistance.

פְּדֵה אֱ-לֹהִים, אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל– מִכֹּל, צָרוֹתָיו. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles. (Psalms 25:22) 

Psalm 25 appears in our liturgy as a penitential prayer, part of the daily Tahanun service.

Parshat VaYigush

Summary: VaYigush is the 11th parasha in the Book of Genesis spanning chapters 44:18-47:27. It begins with the climactic speech of Judah, offering himself in place of Benjamin who was about to be incarcerated for the falsified crime of having stolen Joseph’s silver goblet.

Judah’s heart-wrenching plea pierced Joseph’s cold veneer and the charade came to an abrupt and tearful end. Revealing to his brothers his true identity, and after their deep shock, Joseph instructed them to return home to Cana’an to persuade their father Jacob to move to Goshen in Egypt.

Expunging them of all sin, Joseph explained the famine would continue for 5 more years and to avoid perishing, they had to relocate nearby where he could personally sustain them. Wagons were provided and Jacob, after stopping in Be’ar Sheba to offer a sacrifice to G-d, made his way to Goshen.

The Torah lists the 70 souls who went down to Egypt, Judah arriving ahead of the others to get orientated. Joseph, preparing his own chariot, welcomed his father; they fell on each other and cried. Joseph rehearsed his father and brothers for their royal audience with Pharaoh, who afterwards invited them to live in Egypt as his guests. Joseph provided the family with bread when the rest of the country was without.

As the famine deepened, the Egyptians traded their money, their livestock and eventually their land just to have food and grain to sustain themselves. The populace, other than the Priest class, became sharecroppers, giving 20% in annual tax to Pharaoh and keeping the remainder for themselves.

Comment: On the surface it would seem Joseph’s behaviour toward his brothers was one of anger and revenge. Just as they treated him heartlessly as a youth, so was his approach toward them during their time of need. And, as readers, we might side with Joseph. Didn’t he have every right to get back at them?

Years of his life wasted, hardships he was never expected to endure as a son of Jacob, we can almost imagine the rage boiling within Joseph. Judah’s integrity in vouching safe for Benjamin convinced Joseph that his older brother, whose idea it was to sell Joseph as a slave, had matured. And, perhaps he perceived the family would welcome his return.

At the Aleinu Conference in London this week, Rabbi Aharon Lopiansky of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington expounded the passage from morning Tefillah before the Shema where we recite the words Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh (Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Hosts who fills the world with Divine Glory).

These words are attributed to the Angels praise of the Almighty. The rabbi explained Angels must do so in unison because all of Creation reflects the Unity of G-d and to deviate from this formula would be a corruption.

In a similar way, a mistreated Joseph was the one person who could restore a sense of unity with his brothers. Justifiable hatred would have left them an ordinary family. For the Children of Israel to eventually achieve their destiny to become a nation worthy of G-d’s redemptive effort and Divine intervention, this restorative moment was invaluable.

At various points in Jewish history, families pulled together in times of crisis to overcome hardship. This is one of the legacies we inherited as Jews.

Thoughts for the Week 5 January 2017


The rabbi was asked to prepare a series of 8 inspiration pieces for BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought. They can be heard on BBC iPlayer for up to a month after the broadcast date.

Here is the 1st piece on the topic Hanukah aired just after midnight on Friday 30 December 2016 on the Alex Lester Show. Skip to 34:30 in the recording.

The 2nd piece on New Year’s Resolutions aired on Monday 2 January can be heard here. (Please skip to 2′ 33″ 30


This Sunday will be the Fast of 10 Tevet, a dawn-to-nightfall fast beginning at 6:15am and finishing at 4:58pm. It commemorates the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 588 BCE which led, 2-and-a-half years later, to the breaching of the city walls on 17 Tammuz, and 3 weeks thereafter to the destruction of the 1st Temple on 9 Av 586 BCE.

According to the Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 9), other lamentable events occurred around the same time including; the forced translation of the Torah into Greek in the 3rd century BCE by Ptolemy, the death of the prophet Ezra (and possibly Nehemiah), and a mysterious additional reason that couldn’t be mentioned.

The Chief Rabbinate in Israel has further designated 10 Tevet a ‘general day of Kaddish’ for those who don’t know the exact date of death of their loved ones. Some synagogues recite a special memorial prayer on this occasion.

One of 4 minor fasts, the only restriction is on eating or drinking during the daytime. The elderly or unwell, and women who are pregnant or nursing, may be lenient.

The unique aspect of 10 Tevet is it can fall on a Friday; in which case fasting is not deferred but takes place until after Shabbat candle lighting. Some may remember this occurring in 2013 – it’s next expected in 2020. (For more details about the fast click here or here.)

RECITING PSALMS Introduction: 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 24: The 24th Psalm is attributed to David. One commentary suggested it was written on the day David acquired the land that would become the future site of the Temple.

It begins with the statement that all of creation belongs to G-d. The rabbis derive from this the necessity to recite a blessing before taking enjoyment from the world.

לְדָוִד, מִזְמוֹר: לַ-ה, הָאָרֶץ וּמְלוֹאָהּ; תֵּבֵל, וְיֹשְׁבֵי בָהּ. A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. (Psalms 24:1)

Psalm 24 also outlines the personal spiritual journey one must embark upon in order to be worthy to ascend G-d’s mountain. These are a purity of heart in dealing with humanity and an uncompromised reverence toward the Almighty.

מִי-יַעֲלֶה בְהַר-ה; וּמִי-יָקוּם, בִּמְקוֹם קָדְשׁוֹ. Who shall ascend into the mountain of the LORD? and who shall stand in His holy place? (Psalm 24:3)

נְקִי כַפַּיִם, וּבַר-לֵבָב: אֲשֶׁר לֹא-נָשָׂא לַשָּׁוְא נַפְשִׁי; וְלֹא נִשְׁבַּע לְמִרְמָה. He that has clean hands, and a pure heart; who hasn’t taken My name in vain, nor hasn’t sworn deceitfully. (Psalm 24:4)

Further Talmudic tradition indicates that after King Solomon built the Temple and was ready to bring in the Ark to dedicate it, the gates wouldn’t open before him until he praised his father for all the preparatory work King David had done.

שְׂאוּ שְׁעָרִים, רָאשֵׁיכֶם, וּשְׂאוּ, פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם; וְיָבֹא, מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד. Lift up your heads, O gates, yea, lift them up, you everlasting doors; that the King of glory may come in. (Psalm 24:9)

מִי הוּא זֶה, מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד: ה צְבָאוֹת– הוּא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד סֶלָה. ‘Who then is King of glory? The LORD of hosts; He is the King of glory.’ Selah (Psalm 24:10)

In practical terms, this Psalm is recited on Sunday morning at the end of Shaharit. It’s read on weekdays when returning the Torah to the Ark. Several of its middle verses are also found in the Musaf Amidah for Rosh Hashana.