All posts by Jeremy

B’midbar

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.

People and places are what it’s about in the desert or wilderness of B’midbar. The wilderness is, as is evident in the English, a wild place, without boundaries or clear delineating forms, but in the opening parsha of the book of B’midbar, definition is given to the people of Israel. They are counted, all except the Levites, according to their tribes, and then they are placed around the Communion Tent: Judah, with Issachar and Zebulun, to the east; Reuben, with Simeon and Gad, to the south; Ephraim, with Manasseh and Benjamin, to the west, and Dan, with Asher and Naphtali to the north. The Levites are in the middle, also divided into sub-groups. In the midst of nowhere, a nation is created on both a spiritual and a physical plane.

But I forget myself. What about B’har and B’chukkotai, last week’s double parshiyot? Well, the first covers redemption of land, property, people and, in a sense, time. There is good agricultural sense in letting the land rest, but the Torah adds a spiritual dimension. Resting the land every seven years clearly reflects Shabbat and honours God and His creation. B’chukkotai underlines the importance of following God’s laws, promising peace and fulfilment if we keep them, suffering and loss if we don’t. Yet there is also the promise of redemption, thus continuing the theme of B’har. Property and slaves can be redeemed by time. Israel can be redeemed by repentance.

Let us return to this week. Liz Berg will be leading us in prayer, song, reading and conversation, so come to Three Bridges School on Saturday at 10.30

Tazria-M‘tzora, Shabbat Atzma’ut

Imagine, you are walking along beside the Ark of the Covenant, as King David leads the procession to take the Ark to Jerusalem. You are in a privileged position at the side of the cart on which the Ark is placed and feel especially responsible. Just as you reach an important farming settlement on the way, the oxen pulling the cart stumble. What do you do? Do you stand by and risk the Ark tumbling to the ground, or do you reach out to catch hold of this most precious of all of Israel’s possessions? Well, Uzzah, son of Abinadav, in whose house the Ark had been kept up until this journey, did reach out and God’s anger burned against him and “God smote him there for his error, and he died there by God’s ark.”

This terrifying event, recounted in Samuel 2 6:1 – 7:17, appears in the Haftorah for Shemini and mirrors the equally terrifying account in the parsha of the death of Nadav and Avihu, two of Aaron’s sons, for offering unauthorised fire to God. The death of the brothers appears even more shocking as it comes just after Aaron and his sons have been consecrated as God’s priests and when the people were in a state of harmony with the will of God.

Why were the punishments so severe? Several reasons have been given in each case. Uzzah was a Levite and it was right for him to be involved in the carrying of the Ark, but there is the whole point. The Ark was meant to be carried upon the shoulders of the Kohathites, not loaded upon a cart. It was meant to be carried, but not to be touched. As for Nadav and Avihu, they failed to appreciate the difference between the sacred and the profane and they assumed that they were able to decide what God wanted. And yet, I, for one, still feel great sorrow for the brothers and for Uzzah. Yes, they did wrong, but could we not expect mercy from “God, omnipotent, merciful and kind, slow to anger, with tremendous love and truth”? (Shemot 34 8)

No doubt, we will wrestle with such questions for long and many times. However, this week we are come to the double parshiyot of Tazria-M’zora and the exposition of the laws of cleanliness and uncleanliness as they relate to the leprous curse and to both male and female discharges. Pat Lipert  will lead us in prayer, reading and discussion. Come and take part at Three Bridges School,  starting 10.30.

Yom Ha-Atzma’ut begins this year on the evening of Monday 1 May.

Shabbat Chol Ha-mo’ed Pesach

On the news this morning, I listened to an item on money laundering and the corruption of oligarchs from a country somewhere to the east of here. Clearly, these oligarchs have not read Deuteronomy 10: 12-19 where it says, “He is the great, mighty and awesome God, who does not give special consideration or take bribes.” Perhaps they have read this, but, to them, it is just words. We will read them this Shabbat, when the normal cycle of Torah readings is interrupted for Pesach. We will also read Exodus 13: 3-10. How appropriate that, during this festival of remembering, we go back to consider again the laws of Pesach and how we are instructed, in the future, to tell the story. How appropriate, too, that we go forward to remember the journey we have made through the generations, and now through the desert, always with God’s love. God loved our ancestors and “chose you, their descendants, from among all nations, just as the situation is today.” What do we do in return? Only “remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all his paths and love Him, serving your God your Lord with all your heart and all your soul.”

The Torah reading finishes with another, oh most significant reminder to show love toward the foreigner, since we were foreigners in the land of Egypt, and have been again many times since.

Come and celebrate the fifth day of Pesach together at Three Bridges School, starting at 10.30.  Harvey Kurzfield will make the past present.

Since it is still Pesach, please bear this in mind when deciding what to bring for the kiddush lunch. Given our varied traditions, food containing kitniyot is fine, but, equally, given our respect for other traditions, please make it clear if what you bring does contain it.

The day after the night before

March ended and April began for Kehillat Kernow on a spiritual, social and culinary high. Friday 31st brought down from remotest London David and Hannah Jacobs. David led a joyful Shabbat evening service, followed by a delicious meal with many tastes prepared to perfection by Estelle Moses.

On Saturday morning, David led the service, together with Pat Lipert, who gamely stood in at the last moment for Liz Berg, who sadly had to return home due to feeling very unwell. The service was followed by kiddush, and kiddush was followed by a most interesting exploration and discussion of Pesach, chaired by David and Hannah. We looked at a variety of haggadot and noted how these were influenced by the historical and cultural context in which they had been produced. We then focussed on the four sons or, in some modern haggadot, four children and their four questions. Some most imaginative representations of these have been produced and working out, for some of them, which of the children are which is itself a challenging question.

It is always good to be stimulated by the particular focus that different individuals bring to old topic and questions, and stimulated we were.

Vayikra

Last week there was a double parashiyot, namely Va-yakhel and P’kudei. In Ya-yakhel, the instructions given to Moses earlier on the building of the Tabernacle, the Ark and the other furniture, furnishings and devices to be used both as a place of sacrifice and an amazing mobile home for the presence of God begin to become a reality. What a wonderful transformation we have here after the dreadful sin of the golden calf and our earlier complaints and fears. Moses ask for offerings of skins, wool, fine linen, gold, silver and precious stones with which to build and weave the furniture and furnishings. He asks for volunteers to craft and form everything as it should be, and he is overwhelmed by the contributions and by the volunteers. So much is given that the architects and builders have to ask the people to stop bringing things. Sometimes one’s family can bring sorrow and pain, but here they bring joy.

What a wonderful ending to Shemot, the book of names and the story of the Exodus. “God’s glory filled the Tabernacle” and the people are ready to move on, as move they must. The journey will be difficult and sometimes painful. There will be backsliding and rebellion. Yet, slowly, we will grow in strength and, with God’s help, make ourselves ready. Chazak, chazak, v’nitzchazeik.

And so we come to Vayikra. God calls to Moses, speaking to him from the Communion Tent, and proceeds to instruct him in the intricate rituals of sacrifice. There are many kinds of offering, some freely made by any member of the community, peace and sin offerings, one for the High Priest, one for the King (though there is not yet a King to sin) those for the community and those for commoners. There is far too much for me to recount here. However, this week we will have a shabbat service that will be even more special than usual. We are lucky to have David and Hannah Jacobs visiting us, and David will be leading the service, together with our very own Liz Berg.

After kiddush, David Jacobs will  lead a discussion. The topic will be Pesach and the Haggadah .

Don’t miss our most excellent day: Shabbat service, kiddush and discussion all rolled up in one super package at Three Bridges School, starting 10.30.