All posts by Jeremy

Shof’tim

A few days ago, in the Today Programme on Radio 4,  veteran newsman John Humphrys asserted, while discussing religion with a Christian minister, that the Old Testament is a load of rubbish. Well, here are a few examples of such rubbish taken from last week’s parsha of R’eih and this week’s, Shof’tim:

Political rubbish

When you come to the land that God your Lord is giving you, so that you have occupied it and settled it, you will eventually say, “We would like to appoint a king…. He, however, must not accumulate many horses…. He must not have many wives, so that they do not make his heart go astray. He shall likewise not accumulate very much silver and gold.

Judicial rubbish

Appoint yourselves judges and police for your tribes in all your settlements that God your Lord is giving you, and make sure that they administer honest judgment for the people.

Do not bend justice and do not give special consideration (to anyone). Do not take bribes, since bribery makes the wise blind and perverts the words of the righteous. 

Social welfare rubbish

Therefore, make every effort to give to him (your impoverished brother), and do not feel bad about giving it, since God you Lord will then bless you in all your endeavours, no matter what you do. The poor will never cease to exist in the land, so I am commanding you to open your hand generously to your poor and destitute brother in your land. 

Religious rubbish

Among you there shall not be found anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, who practises stick divination, who divines auspicious times, who divines by moments, who consults mediums and oracles, or who attempts to communicate with the dead.

Military rubbish

The lower officers shall then continue speaking to the people and say, “Is there any man among you who is afraid or faint-hearted? Let him go home rather than have his cowardliness demoralise his brethren. 

Environmental rubbish

When you lay siege to a city and wage war against it a long tome to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding an axe against any food producing tree.

And finally, from the Haftorah for Shoft’tim, some poetic rubbish

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good news, who announces peace, the harbinger of good news, who announces salvation; who says to Zion: “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices and sing together; for eye to eye they will see God’s return to Zion. Break forth joyously together, you wasted places of Jerusalem. For God has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. God has bared His holy arm before the eyes of the nations; and all the ends of the earth will see God’s salvation. 

To hear some more such rubbish come along this Saturday at 10:30, when Pat  Lipert will show us piles of the stuff. 

High Holy Days in Cornwall

Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur will be celebrated this year as follows.

Erev Rosh Hashanah (Sunday, 9 September), 29 Elul 6:30 p.m.

Service will start promptly at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a catered evening meal provided  by Kehillat Kernow to bring in the New Year 5779.

Rosh Hashanah (Monday, 10 September, 1st day), 1 Tishri, 5776 at 10:30 a.m.

Service will be followed by a catered luncheon meal provided by Kehillat Kernow.

Kol Nidre, Erev Yom Kippur (Tuesday, 18 September), 9 Tishri 7:00 p.m.

Yom Kippur (Wednesday, 19 September), 10 Tishri 10:30 am

Yischor Service is scheduled for about 4:30 – 5:00 p.m.. A catered dinner to  break the fast will follow the last service which should end about 6:30 p.m.

Visitors who will be here during this period are welcome to attend our celebrations and services. Donations to help cover costs will be appreciated.  At the same time, we participate in the MRJ High Holy Days Ticket Scheme for anyone aged between 18 and 27, but without the tickets!  In other words, if you are Jewish and aged between 18 and 27 just come along without worrying about making a donation.

A highlight for this year is that we will be blessed with the services of Student Rabbi Lev Taylor, who is coming down from the wilds of London to work with Harvey and Adam  on Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur, so another reason to add to those you already have to come along and join in our most sacred days.

Lev grew up in Reading Liberal Jewish Community and has been part of synagogues in Barcelona, London and Istanbul. He worked for seven years as a campaigner in the charity sector before training to be a rabbi. He is now going into his second year of study at Leo Baeck College. Lev strongly believes in making Judaism more inclusive and accessible. The day will include opportunities for everybody to participate. In place of the Additional (Musaf) service on Yom Kippur, Lev will lead a study session, looking at the life of one of the greatest rabbis in the Mishnah.

Eikev

Can a woman forget her nursing child, not having compassion on    the son of the womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands;

These words are not from the parsha of Eikev, but from its accompanying haftorah, words by Isaiah, prophet of doom and of hope. Why quote them, rather than a text from Eikev itself? Well, as we know, all of the haftorot are, in one way or another, commentaries on their respective parshiyot. The seven haftorot of consolation which come just before Rosh Hashanah, however, are so profoundly linked they serve as continuations of the texts they follow on from. They are a fulfilment of the words of Moses. In much of Devarim he swings continually between promises of reward for good behaviour and warnings of dire punishment for bad. The descriptions of disaster and ruin are so heavy and detailed they augur ill for the future. And, with the benefit of painful hindsight, we know that disaster and ruin did come, not once, but repeatedly. Isaiah’s words of comfort, the promise that God will never completely forget His people, are, therefore, both poignant and vital to our sprit and survival. 

Eikev, and Va-etchanan before it, are rich with text, meaning and resonance. As they unfold, Moses gathers oratorical strength and purpose, like the first movement of a symphony, which sets in motion the sounds and echoes of the grand themes which will be picked up and developed in the following movements. Many of these themes resonate regularly for us in our services. prayers and blessing, particularly from the Shema, the Commandments, even from the Seder. Moses also continues to remind the people of the story to date, some of it good, but much of it embarrassingly bad, especially the episode of the golden calf. So let us return to Isaiah and thank God for His mercy. 

For God has comforted Zion. He has comforted all her waste places and had made her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like God’s garden. Joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving, and the voice of song. 

And let us remember to turn up on Saturday at 10:30, when Harvey Kurzfield will lead us away from disaster and ruin.

Chukkat

After all the rebellions and unrest Moses has recently suffered, he must have needed a good Shabbat. The number and intensity of the revolt has been enough to drive any leader to despair. First of all, the food is not good enough. Next, Aaron and Miriam complain. That must have been a real shock to their unassuming brother, who has consistently honoured both of them. Then the spies’ fearful reports provoke the people to turn against him and demand another leader. No sooner has Moses interceded yet again for them than they rebel the other way and insist on mounting an attack, despite Moses’ plea for them to remain still. And now Korach starts one of the most evil rebellions of all, clothed in the words of equality but, in fact, embodying envy, greed and the lust for power. Surely, the destruction of Korach and his fellow conspirators is enough, but no, the people begin to grouse again, this time claiming that Moses has “killed God’s people!” On this occasion, Aaron saves the people. Only a demonstration by God, who makes Aaron’s staff burst into leaf and blossom, puts an end to the spate of almost continuous revolt. We are not told how Moses, and Aaron and Miriam for that matter, spent their Shabbats, but the one that came after the Korach episode must have seemed particularly blessed. 

Unfortunately, the spirit of revolt is not completely quelled, and the next episode will lead to Moses and Aaron themselves losing the right to enter the promised land. The parsha of Chukkat does not end badly, however. The people finally discover courage and burst into song when they next come across water. There is also the little matter of the red heifer to consider, and to consider it more deeply, come along on Saturday at 10:30, when Pat Lipert will lead us once again. 

Sh’lach l’cha

Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch… what is wrong with these people? Anyone would think that Jews were born to complain. Oh, perish the thought? The parsha of B’ha’alot’cha, though, seems full of it. On the one hand, Aaron is lighting the lamps of the Menorah – surely a wonder to behold. The Levites are purified and inaugurated into service and some of the rules of Passover are given. On this occasion, some ask Moses a very reasonable question, not because of any ill feeling, but because they want to be allowed to prepare the Passover offering, but are concerned about their having become ritually unclean. The divine signs for moving and settling are described, more wondrous sights, surely awe inspiring, what with the cloud rising from the Tent and settling when the people were to come to rest. Yet the people complain and moan. On one occasion we are not even told what about, so we can assume it was some pretty heavy grouching about everything and nothing. Even Moses, who usually pleads on behalf of the people and begs God to be merciful, has had enough. Then Miriam and Aaron complain against their brother, who has showed no sign whatsoever of wishing to lord it over them, or over anyone else for that matter. 

Well, that was last week. This week, in Sh’lach L’cha, Moses sends out spies, who come back, all, except Joshua and Caleb, cowed and fearful from what they have seen. Then, there is another mighty bit of kvetching, matched only by the fear that leads the people to say that they would prefer to return to Egypt and slavery. They so easily forget that the God who delivered them from slavery can surely deliver them to a new land. I like to think that, had I been there, I would have joined Caleb and Joshua and shouted to the people to be stout of heart, to believe in themselves as they believe in God. But would I?

There is more in Sh’lach L’cha, and to hear and read it, to sing, pray and join in conversation, come along this Saturday at 10:30. Pat Lipert will lead us.