Rabbi Kathleen thoughts

Thoughts for the Week

PURIM

Purim celebrates the deliverance from extermination of the Jews planned by the wicked Haman, Vizier to Achashveros, King of Persia and Media. The plot was thwarted by the interventions of brave Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai as we read in Megillah Esther – the Scroll of Esther.

Traditionally we celebrate the Purim with much cheerfulness, fancy dress, and a comical Purim Spiel. This year however, as Israel is still enmeshed in a war against an enemy who, appears to ascribe wholeheartedly to the aims of Haman, and as we are still praying for the safe and immediate return of the hostages, it doesn’t feel right to celebrate Purim with the usual cheer.

Instead, this year we would like to highlight some of the other mitzvot attached to Purim. Traditionally these are the following four mitzvot:

  • Keri’at megillat Esther – the public reading of Megillat Esther
  • Mishloach manot – exchanging of gifts of food
  • Mattanot la-evyonim – donating charity to the poor
  • Se’udat Purim – eating a festive meal

We will be reading the Megillah on Saturday at 7pm – you can choose between a Masorti or a joint Reform and Liberal Erev Purim service – as well as on Sunday morning at 8.30am in the Masorti shacharit service.

The services will be followed with some usual nosh and on Sunday morning with fun activities for the whole family organised by HaMakom.  Non-HaMakom attending families are more than welcome to attend as well.

We would like to encourage everyone to focus this year particularly on the mitzvot of Mishloach Manot and Mattanot la-evyonim, by donating generously to our two charities: Goods for Good and the Harrow Food Bank. Baskets are available near the entrance of the shul office.

We wish you Chag Purim sameach

Rabbi Kathleen

March 21, 2024

Parashah of the week: Mikketz

Rabbi Kathleen has written an article for the Jewish Chronicle on Parasha Mikketz. To view the article, please click here

December 14, 2023

Thoughts for the Week

CHANUKAH

In the Talmud (Shabbat 21b) there is an interesting discussion regarding how, when and why the Chanukah lights are lit.

In those days, it appears, there was a variety of traditions, depending on people’s religiosity. The basic tradition was that on Chanukah each household lit a light every day. Others lit a light a day for each member of the household. Only the most religious would adjust the number of lights daily.

Regarding this last tradition there was a dispute between the Beit Hillel and Beit Shamai: Beit Shamai advocated starting Chanukah with all 8 candles lit, reducing the number by one candle daily. The reason given, to make it correspond to the number of bulls sacrificed daily on the festival of Sukkot, which was also reduced by one each day (acknowledging the fact that during the period of Greek oppression it had not been possible to celebrate the festival of Sukkot with the appropriate sacrifices).

However, according to Beit Hillel we should start with one candle and each night add another one, until we have all 8 candles burning on the last day. His reason being that in matters of holiness, we add and do not take away.

We know of course that Beit Hillel’s argument won, for this is the universal practice to this day.

It is surprising that on Chanukah we follow the tradition of the most zealous: one light every night would have sufficed!  Chanukah, however, evokes a deep sense of identity in us, even though it is only a minor festival, and it is not only because for many it serves as a Jewish alternative to Christmas.

Chanukah inspires us because of the enduring symbolism of hope embodied in the act of daily adding a little more light to dispel the darkness in a unpredictable and dangerous world.

It is a symbolism that we can so easily emulate in how we treat others at this time, by conscious acts of kindness and tzedakah, and of course also, by just coming together as a community as we light our Chanukiyot each night in Halsbury Close; whether it is for the lunch on Thursday, potluck dinner on Erev Shabbat, Havdalah on Saturday, a musical service on Sunday, the interfaith gathering on Tuesday or the young people’s drop in on Wednesday afternoon, we look forward to seeing you there.  Chag Chanukah sameach!

Rabbi Kathleen

December 7, 2023

Parashah of the week: Chayei Sarah

Rabbi Kathleen has written an article for the Jewish Chronicle on Parasha Chayei Sarah. To view the article, please click here

November 9, 2023

Thoughts for the Week

ROSH HASHANAH

It might not quite feel like it at the moment, as it seems as if the summer has only just begun with last week’s heat wave, but the season is turning; summer is coming to an end, and so does the year 5783.

With endings and new beginnings inevitably comes reflection and self-evaluation: how do we rate the year that has just passed and, more importantly: How did we do in it? Have we truly been the best version of ourselves as we think we could have been? Did we live up to the high expectations we have for ourselves and others?

This process of self-reflection, which comes to us so naturally, is of course part and parcel of our High Holy Day preparations.  It is what our Rabbis call cheshbon ha-nephesh (accounting for the soul), a process of self-evaluation, which precedes Teshuvah – Repentance.

Rosh Hashanah is also known as Yom ha-din, the day in which we stand in judgement before God.  We truly feel the need for atonement from God and forgiveness from our fellows, whom we have hurt or wronged during the year – whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Making teshuvah is hard work and seeking forgiveness involves more than merely saying that we are sorry. Moses Maimonides, sets out in Hilchot Teshuvah (the Laws of Teshuvah), that it involves owning up to the hurt we have caused and changing our ways. However, whilst it might be possible to improve ourselves, to diminish the possibility (or temptation even) of making the same mistakes again, we also know that some actions cannot be undone and some words cannot become unsaid… If we take teshuvah seriously, we might feel weighed down by guilt.

How do we forgive ourselves? One way to let go of our guilt and the burden of our misdeeds is by taking part in tashlich (the act of casting our sins away), which is done by throwing breadcrumbs into a body of water.  Although it is only symbolic, taking part in a tashlich ceremony can be truly cathartic, even more so if we do this communally.

Why not join us for a Mosaic-wide tashlich at Temple Mead Pond (off Gordon Avenue) at 5pm on First Day Rosh Hashanah, Saturday 16th September.  Read the notices for more information.

May we all feel lifted from the burden of our past and look forward to a truly good and sweet 5784. Shanah tovah tikateivu.

Rabbi Kathleen

September 14, 2023