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.