Elkan’s view from natanya


Rabbi Dr Joseph Ber Soloveitchik (1903-1993) was the major leader of Modern Orthodoxy in the United States during the 20th century. In his essay “Kol Dodi Dofek  – Listen – my beloved knocks”, Soloveitchik discusses the religious significance of the creation of the State of Israel and the obligation that its existence imposes upon all Jews. 

 In one chapter he traces six occasions when he believed that Gd specifically intervened to ensure the establishment of the State of Israel, and he describes these as “knocks” that “The Beloved”, Gd himself, made. 

 The first was in the political arena. It was unbelievable in 1947 that Russia and America should both vote for the partition resolution which established the State of Israel. He believes the United Nations was specially created to pass it because “one cannot point to any other concrete accomplishment on the part of the United Nations”. 

 The second knock was on the battlefield. Gd heartened the hearts of the Arabs who went to war instead of accepting the 1947 Partition Plan. Had they done so the State of Israel would have been without Jerusalem, most of the Galilee, and much of the Negev. As there was a battle, so Israel was able with divine assistance to defeat its enemies. 

 The third knock was theology. Soloveitchik understood the doctrinal assertion that there was a “new covenant” under which Christianity had the right to the land of Israel. The victory of Medinat Yisrael and its possession of the Holy Land totally overturned this false concept.  

 The fourth knock was on the heart of those who were trying to forget their Jewishness. The existence of Israel raises a level of Jewish consciousness even amongst those who are most assimilated. 

 The fifth knock is that our enemies have discovered that Jewish blood is not cheap and that we have the ability, indeed the duty, to defend ourselves.  

 The sixth knock is “a new phenomenon in the annals of our history”, that every Jew is entitled to find safety and habitation in Medinat Yisrael – who knows what might have happened if the State of Israel had been born before the Holocaust.  

Acharei Mot and the last day of Pesach

Please note that service reminders aim to build a bridge between the last Saturday service two weeks before and the one being announced. They will therefore often focus on the previous parshah rather than on the one in the title.

Last Saturday, being the first day of Pesach, the parsha was different from normal and we would have read of the Exodus and, interestingly, from Deuteronomy, of the danger of forgetting God in times of prosperity. Of course, this is the main reason why we celebrate Pesach: to remember, and there is so much to remember. “…the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and a powerful arm, with overwhelming terror, and with miraculous signs and wonders.” We lived in tents, in the desert for forty years, agreed to accept the Covenant and gradually grew into a nation, ready to embark on a huge social experiment inspired by the word of God. We were slaves and we became free. In a way, we all repeat this journey in our own lives.

Now we return to the story in hand. Acharei Mot opens with God giving instructions to Moses for the sacrifices to be offered on Yom Kippur, one of which gives origin to the concept of the scapegoat. Ironically, the Jewish people themselves have often been made scapegoats for the misfortunes of the nations among whom they have lived. The parsha continues with the prohibition against eating blood. And then there are the sexual laws. I will say no more, but leave it to our service leader, who this week will be Liz Berg. Come along to Three Bridges School at 10.30 to hear her, to pray and to share the Sabbath with like-minded souls.

Ceremonies to Mark Restoration of Penzance Jewish Cemetery

The restoration was completed in August 2105. For more details of this and of the cemetery in general go to Penzance Cemetery on this site and to Friends of Penzance Jewish Cemetery.  A great deal of credit for the restoration rests with Leslie Lipert, Treasurer of both Kehillat Kernow and the Friends of the Cemetery, in raising the funds, and with Jon Pender, former Planning Officer and Chairman of the Friends, in processing the listed building applications and overseeing the restoration itself.

Two ceremonies are scheduled to mark the restoration. The first of these will be a re-sanctification, which will take place on 13 March, to be attended by the Jewish community in Cornwall and to be led by David Jacobs.

The second ceremony will take place on 18 May and will be attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, Colonel Bolitho OBE, Colin Spanjar, of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, local dignitaries, significant donors and friends of the cemetery. Please note that attendance at the civic ceremony is strictly by invitation.

Liz Berg’s Bat Mitzvah

Saturday 13 February saw a very special event for Kehillat Kernow, that is the Bat Mitzvah of Liz Berg. Liz is an accomplished shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader), so one might have asked why has she decided to be Bat Mitzvah as an adult. Before the service began, she gave a moving account of what had led her to this moment. Liz has spent her life fighting with determination, but also with tact and respect for the elders of the congregations she has belonged to, for the right of women to take a full part in the Jewish service. She feels she has achieved this right here in Cornwall and so decided to mark her sixtieth birthday with the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony. The parsha (Torah portion) for the week was Terumah, from the Book of Exodus. Terumah means offering, or lifting-up, and tells how the Israelites freely offered up gifts to God to enable the building of the desert sanctuary which they were to carry around with them for forty years. They were wanderers but God dwelt amongst them.

Liz certainly lifted up her voice as she intoned the Hebrew text with great skill and melody. There to offer her gentle support was Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, who travelled down to Cornwall to lead the service. The congregation were treated to a great Shabbat gift, as Rabbi Laura offered up her own voice and wisdom to everyone there and we all followed, recited and sung the songs and prayers of the service with renewed understanding and feeling.

After the service, Liz put on a tasty lunch for the congregation which was enlivened with much conversation. Is there anything new under the sun? It seems so each time.

Jewish Community in Cornwall