Newsletter Feature

Thoughts for the Week


There is something tremendously liberating in dressing up in fancy dress, loudly drowning out the name of our adversary during the reading of a story, and in just being a bit silly. Letting our hair down is not something one does very often in polite society, but neither do we often think that right and wrong are as easily recognizable as they are in the Purim story.

Perhaps that is precisely why there is a practice connected to Purim to drink – not so that we are a tad tipsy, but ‘ad d’ lo yada’ (literally until one does not know), until the distinction between Mordechai and the evil Haman becomes unclear!

In the topsy turvy world of Purim we need to get a little shikker to see the world how it is;  to be reminded of the sobering fact that in the real world good and evil are not as easily distinguishable as they are in the Purim story.

We do not really support irresponsible drinking, so why not come along and indulge in the make-believe world  of Purim and join us, suitably attired (in fancy dress), on Monday 6th March  and Monday 7th March for a whole variety of Purim activities.

Rabbi Kathleen

March 2, 2023

Thoughts for the Week


This Sunday evening we enter Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of Shevat – a semi-festival popularly imagined to be a New Year or birthday for trees. The reality is somewhat less romantic – this is the end of an ancient agricultural tax year. Reflecting a prohibition on fulfilling the tithe on an old crop by taxing a new crop, the Sages eventually affixed the 15th of Shevat as the day after which a ripening fruit was accorded to the next year’s ledger books for tax purposes. 


Indeed, there is little sign that there was any substantial observance of Tu B’Shevat throughout the classical Rabbinic period. Hillel and Shammai would probably have reacted to the suggestion with the same surprise with which we might greet a proposal of fireworks and champagne on Erev April 5th (Rosh HaShanah l’Tax).


But with the flourishing of the Kabbalah of Sfat in the 16th century, Tu B’Shevat comes into its own – growing its own liturgy of seders and piyyut, becoming a festival of yearning for the Land of Israel – the actual, soily, dusty Land; a celebration of its 7 species, and the rich miracle by which seeds perennially germinate into fruit; a recommitment to the idea that we can repair the world, and heal the indwelling Divine presence, just one fruit tree at a time. And so our modern Tu BiShvat is born. And, personally, I rather prefer it to classically dry observance of an agricultural tax form. 


I’d particularly like to draw your attention to the next Shabbat Beiteinu – Friday night services followed by a communal meal in our new Home on Stanmore Hill, on February 10th. Please email Rabbi Anna if you would like to attend. Also, on Tuesday March 14th, we will be joined by Johnny Benjamin, his father, Michael, and representatives from JAMI to discuss the experience of facing, and caring for someone struggling with, serious mental health challenges. Johnny and Michael are inspirational speakers – who have been on an incredible journey – and will be well worth hearing. 

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom


Rabbi Anthony


February 2, 2023

Thoughts for the Week


I cannot say that I have done something special to reach my age. Playing bridge, has been a major feature in my lifetime and I sadly only play 3 times per week, which is just sufficient to keep me alert and stimulated but, I’d love to play more.

As I lit the Chanucah candles this year, the question came up as to how many Chanucah candles have been lit in my days. My granddaughter is a teacher and what fun her pupils will have, to work this out. It is practical sums. The answer is 4,488 candles so far, including the lead one – each night. The question then arose as to, how many shabbat candles I have been around for and it is 10,710.  Gillian’s pupils could make a mistake, but I am not 103 till Shabbas morning, so I wonder if her students will calculate the right answer.  So, the last question is obvious and I ask how many birthday candles I will have lit, by my birthday tea.  Some of you will know a formula. It is 5,356 candles. So, by the end of my birthday this year, I will have experienced 20,556 candles.  At my age, one should not look too far into the future, but in 365 days’ time, I will have used in the next year, the same number of shabbas candles during the year, as my age will be, by my next birthday.

There used to be a game called Trivial pursuits, which I did not like. I have a question and it is not a trick one, but how many days have I been on earth?  I know the weekly bulletin is important and I congratulate everyone for finding interesting things to write about for my weekly interest, but one has to read it from beginning to end, to know what is going on.  You will have to flick through to somewhere near the end of the general section, to find the answer……………

Lore Lucas

January 5, 2023

Thoughts for the Week


‘Mai Chanukah (What is Chanukah)’? is a question the Rabbis ask in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b). It was a rhetorical question, asked not because the Rabbis did not know the answer, but because they wanted us to know the correct one. Surely, we all know that Chanukah celebrates a miracle, as it says on our dreidels: ‘nes gadol hayah sham’ (or poh): a great miracle happened there (or here depending on whether the dreidel is for Israel). The Talmud explains that when the Temple was dedicated a little flask of oil was found, with enough kosher oil to keep the menorah in the Temple burning for one day, but miraculously it kept burning for 8 days, until new oil was procured.  Historical accounts of this time however, do not refer to a miracle of oil but imply that the miracle of Chanukah was the fact that the Maccabees defeated the mighty Greeks.

Most Jewish children when asked ‘what is Chanukah?” might probably mention presents, doughnuts, latkes, and dreidels before they come to tell about a chanukiah and a miracle of oil.

This year, for us, Chanukah may mean something different yet again. Chanukah means dedication, as it celebrates the rededication of the Temple after the Maccabees retook it form the Greeks.  As we just dedicated the shul with a chanukat habayit by affixing the mezuzot, it seems fitting that the first festival we should celebrate is Chanukah, which starts on Sunday 18th December in the evening. We will be lighting the Chanukiah every night from 5-6 pm in the shul. The first candle will be lit on Sunday. Please, bring your own chanukiah as we will light the candles together with time to sing songs, eat some latkes and sufganiyot, schmooze and perhaps play a game of dreidel or two.

Rabbi Kathleen

December 15, 2022

Thought for the Week


I am so looking forward to the AJEX Parade in Whitehall.  It is as much an annual event for me, as are the High Holy Days. In my recent article in Kehila about Neilah and the ark closure, I highlighted how powerful the honour of doing this was for me and how I thought about the moment and what it stood for.

The same feeling comes to me, as I wear my father’s war service medals on the opposite side to where he wore them. I remember my father regularly, be it with mannerisms or customs, from yesteryear.  Our congregant Simon Rutstein, saw me recently at a non-shul event and was wondering if I always wore a tie, as he could not remember seeing me ever, in the UK, without one. I laughed, as my father always wore a tie, and in those days it was fashionable, as opposed to today. Old habits die hard or should I say live hard and coming to the Cenotaph is a live hard moment.   I value the attendance of many offsprings of those who served and survived, in addition to those who served and perished. It is all their efforts which made it possible for me and my family to be brought up in a European free land of milk and honey.

My parents and parents in law came to the UK as refugees in Holocaust times. Their lives started again. My mother at 102 and my father-in-law at 99 are still going strong, healthily. Whilst marching on Sunday,  I will be thinking of all those people who made today possible. I will wear my tie with a smile and the medals with pride, knowing that I have shown off my father’s UK war effort on 44 occasions.

Edwin Lucas, Chairman Mosaic Masorti

November 17, 2022

Thoughts for the Week


I knew very little of my great grandfather because my mother never met him. I was always told that it was the first world war that killed him but not until 20 years after the war itself, of course this was confusing, but it turned out that he died from the delayed results of being gassed when he was a soldier. With two world wars necessitating conscription and the physical and mental effects of those wars as well as the effects lasting for years beyond the fighting, millions of families are affected by the losses and the impact of the violence and destruction even to this day. After my grandmother died, I was handed her father’s war siddur, a pocket sized singer siddur with the prayers we are so familiar with and in prime position, the prayer for entering battle. Its pristine condition probably reflective of my great grandfather’s secular beliefs but regardless of his denomination or practice, as a Jewish soldier, he was gifted this book lest he need comfort in the liturgy in that unthinkable time. 

This coming Sunday is Remembrance Sunday, an opportunity to remember all those who sacrificed their lives in war defending our freedoms in the first two World Wars and those British Soldiers who have lost their lives in the wars that have waged around the world since. The red poppies represent the poppies that flowered in Flanders Fields during the battles of the First World War. Some wear white poppies, a symbol of hope for peace and that no soldiers will have to enter battle again. We pray for peace around the world, lo yisa goy el goy cherev, lo yil m’duod milchama – nation shall not lift up sword against nation and never again shall we know war. We remember those who lost their lives in battle and through the effects of war that lasted years after. 

Mosaic will be represented at the multi faith Remembrance Sunday ceremony, 11.00 am at Harrow Civic Centre.

Rabbi Anna

November 10, 2022

Thought for the Week from Rabbi Rachel Benjamin

According to the Torah (Leviticus 23:36), the seven days of Sukkot are followed by Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of assembly, or conclusion.  The Torah calls it an ‘eighth’ day, but it is not clear whether it is part of Sukkot or not.  The Talmud, Yoma 2b-3a, concludes that it is the eighth day of the festival, and so is part of it.  However, there is no requirement to dwell in the Sukkah, or wave the Lulav on Shemini Atzeret, so a question mark still hangs over the meaning and purpose of the day.

Simchat Torah, Rejoicing of the Torah, is a post-biblical festival, which occurs just at the end of Sukkot.  In the Talmud (Megillah 31a), it is referred to as the second day of Shemini Atzeret.    Perhaps the lack of clarity of the purpose of Shemini Atzeret led Liberal and Reform communities, and the State of Israel, to mark Simchat Torah on the same day as Shemini Atzeret.  In Orthodox and Masorti communities, Simchat Torah continues to be practised as an additional day after Shemini Atzeret.

The main practice of Simchat Torah is the completion of the annual cycle of Torah readings, with the reading of the end of the Book of Deuteronomy.  It is then the custom to immediately read the first parashah of the Book of Genesis, to show our love for the Torah, and our wish that it would never end.

The expression of our love for Torah is perhaps what led to the practice of honouring a Chatan or Kallat Torah for the Deuteronomy reading, and a Chatan or Kallat B’reishit for the Genesis reading – a ‘bridegroom’ or ‘bride’ of the Torah and of Genesis.  Some communities conduct the reading of the Torah under a chuppah, a wedding canopy, to symbolise the ‘marriage’ and love between God and Israel.  It is also a custom to make seven hakafot, ‘circuits’, around the synagogue, with the Torah scrolls, while dancing and singing.

Our Liberal and Reform communities will be celebrating Simchat Torah on Sunday evening and Monday morning, while our Masorti community will be marking Shemini Atzeret on Monday morning, and Simchat Torah on Monday evening and Tuesday.  See below for all the service information.

Simchat Torah marks the end of the High Holy Day season, and I wish you all the joy of the festival.

October 13, 2022

Thoughts for the Week


Can we build a sukkah on the top of a camel? We may not ever have contemplated this question, but the Mishna, the first written Rabbinic collection of ‘Oral Law’, does. And perhaps so should we, as we still wait for our new building, so near completion, to open its doors. And so, if we are not in our new building, but in temporary accommodation, where can we build our communal Sukkah?

The primary mitzvah of Sukkot is leshev ba sukkah (sitting/dwelling in a sukkah). The reason for this is given in Lev 23:42-43. We should live in booths for seven days to remind us that our ancestors lived in booths when God brought them out of Egypt, in other words, to provide a historical link with the past.

Booths also remind us of the fact that Sukkot is a harvest festival. Booths are temporary shelters, which were built in the fields for harvesters to shelter against the sun.  A reference to it being a shelter against the sun can be found in the book of Jonah, who build himself a sukkah when he left Nineveh.  This is also the reason why the s’chach, the roof of a sukkah, must provide more shade than it lets through sun.

Most Rabbis explain that we should dwell in sukkot at this time to teach us humility. Although Sukkot is a happy festival, we should not feel too self-congratulatory for all we have or rely too much on the permanency of our homes (and synagogues).

This year, if we feel that building a sukkah on a camel in either Hatch End’s or the Masonic Centre’s car park is not possible (and yes, we would be allowed to, however, sadly, we would not be able to climb up to it on Shabbat and festivals), we should not feel too despondent that we cannot fulfill this particular mitzvah.  For this year, more than any other year, we’ll experience exactly what Sukkot is all about: we do gather in temporary accommodation and, as we visit each other’s personal sukkot we will experience the humility of a nomadic existence, which will remind us of our ancestors in the wilderness, but above all, we will rejoice in celebrating together. Chag sameach!

Rabbi Kathleen

October 6, 2022

Thoughts for the Week


We are accustomed to think of Yom Kippur as a day on which we seek atonement for ourselves: we fast, we pray, we seek to avert the harsh decree. But the book of Jonah also describes a very different kind of teshuvah: a whole community, Nineveh, in mourning. This is a kind of communal grief, a national changing of ways, which is basically inconceivable to us. On Yom Kippur we are commanded to afflict ourselves. But Nineveh does this en masse in a way which London never could. Why? If we were convinced that we were going wrong, what could make our society change tack?

We have a very different relationship to pain to our biblical forebears. They believed that suffering had a purpose – it was divinely intended to teach us something. We tend to believe that pain is random and basically meaningless. One thing Yom Kippur tries to do is give us some measure of physical discomfort to remind us that suffering and pain are universals which are, ultimately, unavoidable; and sometimes, should even be sought out. What we do with pain is a puzzle left for us to solve.

And so we read Jonah: this story of a person and a society righting themselves by means of just the right sort of discomfort. For our Teshuvah, we too would need to learn that each of us has a responsibility to shoulder some discomfort for the collective good; to learn that when one person does good, or indeed when one person simply endures rather than taking a shortcut, the ramifications of that act are felt beyond its local confines. This awareness would be the counterbalance to environmental indulgences, international isolationism, and general tax evasion. We all need to balance our own discomfort with the common weal.

The Rabbis insist that Jonah’s repentance happened inside a fish which was really a synagogue: Jonah entered the fish’s mouth like a man who entered a great synagogue and his two eyes were like windows [Midrash Pirkei Eliezer]. This is the story of a guy who went into a fish that was really a synagogue and learned that there’s such a thing as personal responsibility. May your ventures into our synagogues this season prove so transformative. May our fasting be not only to improve ourselves; and may change come to our damaged world.

Rabbi Anthony

September 29, 2022

Thought for the Week from Rabbi Anna

As Rosh Hashanah arrives, we greet each other with ‘Shana Tova’, happy New Year and eat apples and honey symbolising the wish for a sweet New Year. Yet it is not the greeting alone nor the apple honey that give us that sweet New Year. Rosh Hashana is a time for renewal, we dig deep into our souls to understand what we want to bring with us into the New Year and what we want to leave behind. This Cheshbon Hanefesh – accounting for the Soul, helps guide us through into the New Year so we can start afresh. Our New Year begins with ten days of repentance until Yom Kippur. While as individuals we should always be striving to be our best selves (sometimes what we can manage as our best fluctuates!) this time between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur gives us a unique opportunity to start off the New Year with a clean slate. Often, when we make New Year’s resolutions in January, we can use them to beat ourselves up if a few weeks on we don’t manage to fulfil the colossal task we’ve set ourselves. Yet, at Rosh Hashannah, we’re given ten days. Ten days to repair relationships, to assess our actions, to take stock then at the end of Yom Kippur we move forward. In our High Holy Day liturgy, there are four words used for sin, pesha, meaning rebellion, עָווֹן – avon, meaning to be crooked, עַבֵרָה – averah, ‘to pass over and cheyt, to miss the mark. It is that final word, cheyt, that is the most commonly used. As we enter into a sweet New Year we are allowing ourselves to heal and move forward from those moments where we missed the mark, so we can start afresh for the Year ahead. Yet, it is not just about those times we want to leave behind, as we search for that sweetness, let’s take stock of the highs along with the lows and bring our whole selves into a shana tova – a happy New Year. 

This wonderful website, 10Q ( offers a question a day to help your thinking through from Rosh Hashannah to Yom Kippur, it then stores it until next year and will email your answers to you to read before you answer again. Wishing you all a sweet, happy and rejuvenating New Year.

September 22, 2022