Va’etchanan

Va’etchanan

OUR VALUES, OUR CHILDREN’S VALUES This week, the Office for National Statistics released a new set of figures. For the very first time, more than half of all births in England & Wales are now to unmarried parents. In 2021, 51.3% of births were to unmarried parents compared to 49.0% in 2020. While covid clearly had some impact, the trend has been heading in this direction for the past twenty years. Harry Benson the Director of the Marriage Foundation, observes that the longer term trend against marriage matters a great deal. He cites research that married couples are more likely to stay...

Devarim

Devarim

FATHER OF MERCY This Shabbat we will be reciting an extra prayer before Ashrei called Av Harachamim “Father of Mercy.” Its origins lie in the wake of the First Crusade. Many Jewish communities in Germany were decimated as mobs found an outlet for their religious zeal in killing Jews before making their way to the Holy Land to wrest it from the Muslims. Thousands of men, women and children lost their lives in the communities of the Rhineland. Mainz, Worms, Speyer were ravaged over the course of a few weeks as the Crusaders made their way down Europe. Most of...

Matot-Massei

Matot-Massei

JOURNEYS With the holiday season upon us let me start by wishing you all safe travels, whether you’re going abroad or staying in the UK. Our second parasha, this week, describes the journeys and encampments that the Israelites made during their 40 years in the desert, from Egypt to the Promised Land. The list reads like a travelogue. The Baal Shem Tov (d. 1760) explains that it is so much more. It alludes to the journeys that all of us make from birth until we reach our promised land. We all start with the Exodus. The Hebrew word for Egypt,...

Pinchas

Pinchas

TACTICAL VOTING With the leadership contest of the Conservative Party having reached its final stage, it is now up to the members of the party to choose between the two candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. For some members, the choice may well be an obvious one: voting for the candidate they prefer. For others, it may well boil down to which candidate they don’t want! Such considerations are not new in leadership appointments. Look at what happens in this week’s parasha. G-d presents Moses with the tragic news that he will die and will not take the people into...

Balak

Balak

STAR PERFORMER The magnificent images from the James Webb Space telescope, released this week, have been breathtaking to behold. We can now see, in crisp detail, stars and galaxies that are billions of light years away. These images were a mere blur in the previous best system, the Hubble Telescope. Now a spectacular amount of detail has been thrown into focus. A dawn of a new era of astronomy has begun. For thousands of years, man has been gazing up at the stars. In the bible, G-d tells Abraham to look at the stars and says to him: “This is...