All posts by Jeremy

Ki-tetze

“Thou shalt not deliver unto his master a bondsman that is escaped from his master unto thee; he shall dwell with thee, in the midst of thee, in the place which he shall choose within one of thy gates, where it liketh him best; thou shalt not wrong him.” 

There is a tenderness about such a commandment, one of many aimed at protecting the poor and vulnerable. It fits with the command not to harvest all the corn, olives or grapes, but to leave some for the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, and the law not to oppress a servant. Other laws appearing in Ki-Tetze seem to be designed to ensure the functioning of a well-ordered and considerate society, such as building a parapet around the roof of one’s house to prevent anyone from falling, or looking after the lost animals of a neighbour until they can be claimed. 

There are, on the other hand, some laws which, today at least, appear draconian. Stoning a rebellious child or the adulterous man or woman, or banning the mamzer (often translated as ‘bastard’ but, more likely, the offspring of an incestuous or forbidden union) from marrying a son or daughter of Israel are examples of such laws. Indeed, throughout the Torah, there are laws which are troubling, to say the least. Perhaps we should make a list of them and seek to explain or confront them. 

Do not miss this week’s service on Saturday starting at 10:30, for it will be your last chance to hear Sharim Atilano for some time, since she will soon be giving birth to a son or daughter of Israel.

high holy days

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

Erev Rosh Hashanah (Sunday, 29 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.

Rosh Hashanah (Monday, 30 September, 1st day), 1 Tishri, 5780 at 10:30 a.m.

Service will be followed by a catered luncheon sponsored by Jo Richler and Paul Kleiman.

Kol Nidre, Erev Yom Kippur (Tuesday, 8 October), 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 again be blessed with the services of Student Rabbi, this time, Eleanor Davis, who is escaping from London to conduct 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. Eleanor began as a peripatetic music teacher in Gloucestershire before moving to work in arts administration, spending many years in London’s West End. She has been especially involved in adult education at Edgware & Hendon Reform Synagogue and for Reform Judaism. “Why should children have all the fun studying Torah?” asks Eleanor. Covering maternity absence led her to four years of creating a weekly e-newsletter (Eits Chinuch) for Jewish educators, which wove Torah together with many and varied topics. That in turn led her to Leo Baeck College to further her search for ways both to bring our whole selves into the synagogue and inspire us to take our Jewishness with us as we go back out into the world.

Re-eh

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals. Man is the measure of all things, at least that is what many would have us believe for the last few centuries. And yet, to me, this is a depressing prospect at best, since I, a member of the human race, am often filled with base thoughts, my mind full of trivia, my heart full of dross. If man is the measure of all things, poor man, poor all things! The possibility that there is no greater, better being in the universe than the human being is terrifying. How brilliant then that Re-eh, together with most of the other parashiyot in Devarim, is filled with a greater presence. Obviously, God is mentioned all through the Torah, but in the last Book His presence is at its most intense. Consider the following short passage from Chapter XIII, for example: 

 “…for the Lord your God putteth you to proof, to know whether ye do love your God with all your heart and with all your soul. After the Lord you God shall ye walk, and Him shall ye fear, and His commandments shall ye keep, and unto His voice shall ye hearken, and Him shall ye serve, and unto Him shall ye cleave.” 

Israel is so bound to God that it truly is the laws and the story which is woven between God and Israel which bring the nation into being and give it its identity. 

To hear the laws and the story at their most eloquent, come this Saturday at 10:30 when Pat Lipert will lead us with noble words and song. 

Va’ethannan

The names we give today to the five books of the Torah are revealing. In the beginning is Bereshit, which, with vibrant intensity balanced by serene elegance, launches the Torah, life and the world. Shemot and Exodus are both apposite names. The latter is a perfect introduction to the story of our, well, exodus from slavery, Egypt and the past. The former is more subtle. Names are wrenched from people who are enslaved or are imprisoned in concentration camps. Their names are replaced by numbers as one part of the brutal process of dehumanisation. Our names, after all, are part of our identity and have their stories to tell. It is fitting then that, immediately before we read of the slavery of our ancestors, we start with the names of their tribal parents. We never stopped being people. 

Vayikra (and He called) Moses. Why? To tell us the levitical, and other, laws. B’midbar is perfect, for, while it also includes more laws, it also focuses on the forty years we spent in the wilderness, seemingly going from pillar to post, but really preparing to arrive, to become Israel. 

Which brings us to Devarim. Words, just words, words which make us human. God uses words in Bereshit to create the world. Adam and Eve complete the creation of the animals by naming them. Together with music and art, words are what enable us to transcend our mortality.  While they may be used to hurt, deceive and lie, at their best, they enable us to soar with the angels, though our feet may be made of clay. They are what dreams are made from. They weave harmony, beauty, Torah.

Now we have come to the second parsha of Devarim, Va’ethannan, which is packed with riches, some of which have entered into our liturgy, and a special guest, namely Student Rabbi Lev Taylor, will tell us more, lead us in prayer and song (for, remember, Lev Taylor has a full-hearted, melodious voice). Don’t miss him this Saturday at 10:30.

Mas’ei: map of the past, map of the future

Forty years of wandering through wilderness, mountains and desert are coming to an end and the future is about to arrive. What stories of hardship, inspiration, rebellion and faith we have heard. The one constant through all of them has been the towering, though most humble, figure of Moses. Moses has been through so much. He has put up with repeated kvetching, pleaded with God to spare the people on several occasion. He has fought battles, dictated laws, directed the construction of the Tabernacle and all its furnishings. For years he was supported by the brother and sister, who had shared so much and been so close, but now he has lost them. His wife seems absent or also dead. He has been told that he will not enter the Promised Land and, on asking God to appoint a successor, he has had to accept that he will not pass on the leadership to either of his sons. He has endured more than any of his fellow Israelites. Does he complain? Does he speak out in bitterness? No, he continues to guide the people, while appointing Joshua to lead where he will not go. He continues to pass on the laws given by God, to encourage and to reassure them as they prepare for a great and daring venture. What nobility is here, self-sacrifice and heroism!

And so we come to the end of B’minbar but not the end of the story. There are words to come, many and rich. Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek!  And to help us all be strong, Sharim Atilano will lead us in prayer and song and prepare us for the journey ahead. Be there at 10:30 this Saturday.