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Rosh Hashanah
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Rosh Hashanah

FROM THE INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW KOREN MACHZOR The ten days that begin on Rosh HaShanah and culminate in Yom Kippur are the holy of holies of Jewish time. The atmosphere in the synagogue is intense. You can almost touch the Divine Presence. Isaiah said: “Seek God where He is to be found, call on...

Nitzavim Vayelech
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Nitzavim Vayelech

THE FOURTEENTH PRINCIPLE OF FAITH The thirteen principles of the Jewish faith were enumerated by Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) in his introduction to his commentary on the Chapter Chelek in the tractate, Sanhedrin. They are probably most familiar to us in their poetic form in the hymn, Yigdal. Scholars of Maimonides are puzzled why he opts...

Ki Tavo
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Ki Tavo

BE HAPPY! In 1998, the author, Denis Prager, wrote a perceptive work, Happiness is a Serious Problem. He describes a paradox. Although many people in the West enjoy better standards of living, with improved health care, advanced technology and increased leisure time, there has not been a corresponding increase in levels of happiness. Every year,...

Ki Teitze
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Ki Teitze

RUNNING-MATES “You shall not plough with an ox and a donkey together.” [Devarim22:10] Whilst this commandment forms one of the hukim, or statutes for which there is no clear rational reason, many commentators, over the ages, have given insights into the significance of this mitzvah. Moses Maimonides in the Guide for the Perplexed relates the...

Shoftim
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Shoftim

TWO KINDS OF BLINDNESS “Do not accept a bribe for the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise and make just words crooked” [Devarim 16:19] This is not the first time in the Torah where we have been warned about the corrupting influence of bribery. In the sidra of Mishpatim there is a similar...

Re’eh
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Re’eh

FOR ONE AND FOR ALL “Behold I am setting before you this day a blessing and a curse” [Devarim 11:26] The opening words of today’s portion have occasioned much discussion amongst the commentators. The nuance of grammatical form of the verse is lost in the English translation. The verse begins with a command in the...

Ekev
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Ekev

ISRAEL’S EMBASSIES This week’s portion includes the passage well-known to us from the siddur: the second paragraph of the Shema. The conclusion of this passage seems difficult to accept at face value: “so that your days will be lengthened on the land which the L-d promised to your ancestors, to give to them.” The Torah...

Va’etchanan
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Va’etchanan

IS IT SAFE TO COME TO SHUL ON SHABBAT? We have been back at shul for a few weeks now, and it has been a pleasure to welcome all of you who have stepped through our doors, both for the weekday and Shabbat services. A number of you, though, are understandably still cautious, and rightly...

Devarim
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Devarim

LESSONS OF LISTENING It is often assumed that talking therapies are new, having developed from the work of Freud and others. In fact, “healing through words” is known in a number of ancient cultures, not least in our Jewish tradition. The Talmud (Yoma 75a) interprets the verse in the Book of Proverbs (12:25) “if one...

Mattot Massei
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Mattot Massei

TRANSFORMATIONS One of England’s transformational personalities is choirmaster, Gareth Malone. Whether it is Military Wives or Hospital Staff or simply individuals stuck at home during lockdown, Gareth manages to draw song and harmony out of people, who never knew they had it. He releases a musical and emotional energy that breaks barriers and builds lives....