16/17 August 2019, 15/16 Av 5779

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LJY Israel Tour just returned. It included 4 FPS folk, and also Kayitz, the year above, visiting Croatia, Serbia and Austria, 20% of whom were from FPS. I have been thinking of Coming of Age Summers. I'm not sure if you can remember yours, I can recall mine and here it is remembered for posterity on Radio 2 Pause for Thought, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07hkg07

There is something viscerally different about these long days of Summer. a slowness kicks in even when we work at our desks. This week's portion Va'etchannan contains the Shema where we are told to remember and talk of these things; God morning and night. We often forget it's Torah not a ready made prayer composed generations after. The blessing before the Shema, Yotzei Or u'Vorei Hoshech who makes light and creates darkness takes on more meaning during these light evenings.

This Shabbat evening will be our August Resouled. Do join us if you are here and experiencing summer in North Finchley.

Shabbat Shalom and look forward to seeing you.

Rabbi Rebecca

9/10 August 2019, 8/9 Av 5779

Last weekend I went to listen to Yael Naim at the Purcell Rooms. She is an Israeli French songwriter, indeed she became the first Israeli ever to be in the U.S top ten when one of her songs was picked by Steve Jobs to advertise the new Mac Book Air in 2008.

She brought much Jewish neurosis ad charm to her performance on Sunday, including her protegee, 'younger brother' Eyal another Israeli musician who warmed us up before she arrived. Her repertoire had been upbeat but Sunday's concert was her new material, 'fresh from the fridge' as she described. It was mournful and full of both grief and acceptance. I find such music always moving. Indeed Joni Mitchell and Carole King form the soundtrack of my life, melancholic female vocals.

But sitting in the Purcell rooms life and our Jewish calendar coincided. Unwittingly it was the perfect way to approach the 9 Av which falls this Shabbat and is, as we know, the ultimate day of mourning in the Jewish calendar. We Progressive Jews, have struggled at times with this memorial of disaster; for the destruction of both temples, believing as we do in progress of Judaism from Temple worship, but the day has also acted as a magnet for disaster throughout history. But, of course, we have no problem engaging with grief and mourning and so this day reminds.

Rabbi Alan Lew z'l *changed my perspective when he suggested 9 Av, Tisha B'Av is the gateway to the 'undoing' of our hearts in preparation of Elul and the HHD season. We will only benefit from the renewal and return that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer if we unpack or break up the walls, protection and stubborness that we have built through the past year [or years].

Whether you relate to the history and memory of this day or the symbolic and religious opportunity it gives, it offers something rich.

This year we do not have a commemoration at FPS but I attach a Thought for the Day I recorded for Jewish Care on the theme of Tisha B'Av. Click here to listen.

Shabbat Shalom and hoping your summer is suitably recharging and relaxing.

Rabbi Rebecca

*This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation 2003

26/27 July 2019, 26/27 Tammuz 5779

Mattot means tribes or clans. the name given to this week's portion. But it coincides with the quiet period of Summer when many of us will be relaxing in our clans, with our tribes and even ourselves, the most critical clan member. It's a welcome custom we have of re-calibrating ourselves during the weeks of high summer. The next portion often doubled with this is Maasei; Journeys. Again apt for this time of year.

Some of us travel and some of us stay put and enjoy our gardens. We will be here, enjoying our countryside.

Taking a pause and that second cup of coffee with a book after breakfast might be just what the soul needs after the fast pace of life, work and school. Even for a few days.

Here is my Pause for Thought on Coming of Age summers and the joy of laziness.

Shabbat Shalom to All

Rabbi Rebecca

12/13 July 2019, 12/13 Tammuz 5779

We anticipated the donkey of this week’s portion with our Pet Service last shabbat. Exceedingly concerned about decorum, flow and interruptions I was pleasantly surprised by the service. Admittedly not to everyone's taste but we managed a memorable Shabbat B’Yachad with 8 dogs and 2 rabbits making up our minyan. And we truly managed to pray. This week’s Parashat Balak is famous for the talking donkey (it probably inspired the makers of Shrek). But actually the donkey just points out the obvious. What are you doing, she asks Balaam, and pay attention to what is happening, not least me talking. Forget the animal, words of wisdom are shared.

I took some days at home at the end of June. Attending to the children and their needs and just catching my breath. Balancing being a parent with work and busyness is always interesting. I know some of you have not experienced it or perhaps are far from those days, but the challenge of sharing oneself across our responsibility and passion is never dull. Being busy is a blessing and I never forget that but it sometimes entails robust consideration and planning. We often have our eyes fixed on goals ahead and can miss the life we are in the midst of.

Shefa Gold, a rabbi and liturgist wrote this extraordinary poem. We can, she suggests, miss " the miracle is where you’re standing”.

The treasure is where you’re standing.

I just had to tell you …

Though your gaze is fixed on distant shores, 

and though you’re scanning the sky madly for that one

miracle that will tuck your doubts to bed

and kiss them away.

You’re looking for the one that will clinch it, aren’t you?

Well, you’re looking too far … ‘cause,

the miracle is where you’re standing.

Miracles are commonplace.

They can walk in broad daylight, 

and not be recognized.

But rare … oh so rare is the one who can step up to that

imposter-ordinaire and rip away the mask and say to

each and every day in its disguise,

‘Aha! This here and now is miracle and I wasn’t fooled

For a minute.’

The miracle is where you’re standing,

But who would think to dig beneath the soil of his own


Here is my Pause for Thought on Leaving Home as well, some of you may be navigating that at the moment.

Shabbat Shalom. 


5/6 July 2019, 5/6 Tammuz 5779

Zoe Jacobs writes:

As a Harry Potter fan, I love a bit of magic and this week's portion is full of it. Blood sprinkling, hyssop dipping, rock knocking and serpent sculpting.

It seems an odd moment in the Israelites’ story – where problems come up, God waves her metaphorical magic wand and the problem disappears.

This is not how it works any more. We might be grateful we are no longer likely to suffer 40 days and 40 nights of rain (climate change aside) nor do we think we should stone women who have been sexually assaulted. But neither do we have a direct line to God’s magic powers. If we want something to change, it is people who will make it happen.

This week I am on Citizens UK 6-day training in Birmingham. FPS is a member institution of Barnet Citizens and it is with, and through, them that we successfully petitioned Barnet Council to welcome 50 Syrian refugees to the borough and recently ran our listening week which led to our Barnet Citizens listening event.

As one of the leaders on the course just said, “We are here to make change … (I really must stop writing this and start listening again!). This week, along with 50 others from around the UK, I am exploring the best ways we as institutions, and groups of institutions, can create the ‘people power’ to make change. It is inspiring and exhausting. I think this is a remarkably accurate representation of the emotions we’ll experience as I – and I hope, we - move forward trying to make change in our local communities. It is challenging and difficult and can be frustrating but sometimes it will be extraordinary.

It is a shame we don’t have a magic wand, a shame we can’t change the world by clicking our fingers. But we can’t and this is the next best thing. I hope you join me on the Citizens journey.

Zoe Jacobs
Youth and Community Development Manager

28/29 June 2019, 25/26 Sivan 5779

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I never stop being thrilled that our young people flock to FPS and their activities. Of their own volition, and I am assured this is true, they choose fortnightly to be part of their KT group on Saturday evenings.

The photo shows the first year class enjoying an evening of Radio 4’s Panel Games with Jewish tasks. Highlights were singing Adon Olam to the Beatles’ Hey Jude. Playing The Unbelievable Truth they snuck facts about Rabbi John Rayner z’l and Lily Montagu past team mates. In short, they were impressive.

I share this during the week of Parashat Korach where Moses is challenged by Korach who insists in Numbers 16:3 "….all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Eternal is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the God’s assembly?” Now Korach famously was causing trouble and there is much written on his challenge for leadership, exceedingly topical at the moment. But for me in our congregation I am reminded of the truth of his statement here. When I’m not here I see how rich we are at FPS in fabulous teachers and those who lead services and organize us from our teenagers to our older folk.

Watch out for our beautifully lay-led services this Shabbat and consider learning if it takes your fancy. My door is always open to talk more how you can contribute your skills to FPS.

Shabbat Shalom to all

21/22 June 2019, 18/19 Sivan 5779

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As a proud constituent member of Liberal Judaism, supporting our Days of Celebration is our responsibility. It's this coming Sunday for our 2019 Day of Celebration. The theme “If I am only for Myself ....” explores the roles communities play in supporting their members, when the state does not. How do we manage welfare and ongoing structures of activities that make our synagogues the community hubs they are. I have chatted to a few FPSniks who have confessed being unexcited by the title. Please come anyway. Let your children be part of the LJY NETZER track, meet their madrichim whom they'll encounter on Kadimah.

Be part of learning and building what our movement looks like and cares about. This year our focus is inwards towards our synagogues and what they manage to do. I do hope you will consider joining me and my family, even at this late stage.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Rebecca

p.s looking ahead to our PET Service, a regular joyful Shabbat B'Yachad with pets! No cats unless they love dogs! Lizards, dragons, good natured dogs, tortoises, fish in bowls...anything you would like to bring! Exotic is good.

14/15 June 2019, 11/12 Sivan 5779

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Last weekend’s Shavuot celebrations (Dalet & Hey, right, making 'Tanach cake' at Ivriah on Sunday morning), combined with Kabbalat Torah celebrations, reminded me of the power of stories.

I have just recorded 8 Pause for Thought scripts to be aired on Radio 2's late night programme with OJ Borg and repeated on Sunday mornings. For this week the Best Story Ever. Stories are brilliant and I truly believe that one of the most important story-related skills children can learn is to tell stories about themselves and each other.

Last month the fantastic author Judith Kerr died. She was 95 and had written stories for 60 years. Judith was famously a refugee. She arrived in this country before WW2 seeking refuge here with her parents and brother.

In her book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit she shared her experiences of leaving her home in Germany and travelling in danger across Europe to safety in London. She was one of our most beloved story tellers and my favourite is The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

All my children grew up on this story book as did I. A tiger knocks on Sophie’s door and has an unexpected tea with her and her mother. He wolfs down cakes and sandwiches, even the tins in the cupboard are emptied. Sophie gazes on delightedly, as the tiger drinks all the water out of the taps and finally Daddy’s sad face appears as he arrives home and is told there is no food left in the house. And to the delight of Sophie they all go out for sausage and chips.

Judith always rejected the suggestion that the tiger symbolised the Nazi Gestapo echoing her own experience of unwelcome guests knocking on your door. Actually the reverse seems to be true.

Judith Kerr has told the best story ever because she of all people knew of the kindness of strangers, the joy of being open to the unexpected, the welcoming of visitors (human and otherwise) and the excitement of an unanticipated dinner out in your pyjamas.

And in this year, with all its uncertainties, this is the story I’ll keep coming back to. A reminder that, like Abraham welcoming visitors to his tent in the heat of the day, I must always reach out to strangers, remain open minded and generous and welcoming. Judith taught us and our children an invaluable lesson, that welcoming a tiger to tea is exactly what one should always do.

Shabbat Shalom and let’s hope we keep telling stories.

Rabbi Rebecca

7/8/9 June 2019, 4/5/6 Sivan 5779

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Last week I stumbled upon the oldest synagogue in Europe, Solanova in Trani, Puglia. Most exciting as we found ourselves on VIA SINAGOGA and followed it till we arrived at the gates with the Magen David. This year one of our newer members went to the Beth Din and wrote an amazing essay about the history of Jews in Italy.

We are all curious when it comes to Judaism's presence in other lands and the connections we feel with it. Our new Beit Midrash Series on ROOTS deals with exactly this. Learning is something we love at FPS.

Shavuot comes this Saturday night and with it we have our evening of learning, we have invited members of FPS to lead sessions on Judaism from their perspective; Sara Dibb on Biblical Images in Art, Robert Bud on Whether Science and Religion are Bed Fellows.  , Our Emeritus Rabbi Frank Hellner on the Shavuot Controversy, our Kabbalat Torah first year group on their commitment to Judaism in conversation with the Book of Ruth. See the programme below.

Shavuot's alternative name is The  Time of the Giving of The Torah. It is a neat circle we have managed this year by holding our annual Confirmation/Kabbalat Torah service on Shavuot. Our 15 year olds "Receive Torah" on the anniversary (so we hold onto) of Receiving Torah at Sinai. This year's group all grew up at FPS. some were even born into the community, one young man is  a 4th generation member!

I can think of no better way to honour our community than this. Song of Songs Rabbah tells the midrash of the Israelites needing to offer God sureties in return for receiving the Torah and its covenant. God rejects ancestors and indeed parents as guarantees; but happily accepts their children 'these are good sureties ...'
I like to think our children are the same for us. 

Join us this weekend. Bring your own cheesecake for our communal tasting and some interesting bread and cheese for shared supper on Saturday evening.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and Hag Shavuot Sameach, 

31 May/1 June 2019, 26/27 Iyar 5779

I struggled through A Level mathematics because I liked the simplicity of numbers. My answer was either (occasionally) right or (usually) wrong. And yet, it seems there is one go-to way to make numbers complicated: put them in the hands of humans.

We are a subjective, emotional race, and it seems when we come into contact with something even as empirical as numbers we infect them with our complexity, turning them into subjective, emotion-ridden, experience-influenced opinions. As the results of the EU elections came in, I was struck by how the same numbers were being used to support completely opposing arguments.

This week the Torah (in aptly named portion B’midbar; ‘numbers’) is mainly about numbers as God asks Moses to organise a census. But for a decent majority of the Torah we get contradictory stories and inconsistent rules. If plain(ish) statistics and numbers become complex and subjective, what are Jews supposed to do with a text that comes ready-made with inbuilt complexities? It seems cruel, almost, to request we walk towards a text that requires such constant questioning and grappling. I feel like God is asking an awful lot of us.

If the world were a simple space of black and white, yes and no, right and wrong, I might welcome the opportunity to get my teeth into some complex contradictions. But at the moment I seem incapable of understanding anything that’s going on in ‘real life’, never mind adding an extra dose of ancient incomprehensibility for fun.

But the Beatles – an obvious source of advice – offer insight into this situation; we get by with a little help from our friends. On the evening of Saturday 8 June we will come together for Erev Shavuot for our Tikkun Leyl (study evening) where members and guests will be offering us a chance to untangle some of the toughest Jewish complexities. Whether you come to dive into a challenging text, or to escape from a challenging world, please do join us. And bring cheese, bread, cheesecake and fruit for our bring-and-share dinner (from 6.30pm) and Kiddush (at around 9pm). There'll also be a Shavuot service on the morning of Sunday 9 June (further details below).

Shabbat shalom
Zoe Jacobs

24/25 May 2019, 19/20 Iyar 5779

For those that were not with us last Thursday night I wanted to share my Appeal from last week’s Dinner 


"Thank you Ed Balls, thank you Richard Greene and thank you my brilliant friend Erica Wax who persuaded her brother-in-law to come out to Finchley and speak to us. 

You might expect me to talk about the roof, which does needs replacing; and the fact we run out of space every Shabbat morning; and the fact our windows are tired and the red carpet needs refreshing.  All of this is true. 

Our building is our temple and it requires our love.

But it is the relationships that make this community and that is why we must secure the future and health of this congregation.

I look around this room and over the eight and a half years I have been with you, I have learned so much about so many of your lives. Your illnesses and losses, some of them devastating and some easier to bear. The births of your children and the marking of their childhoods. I know who bounded up the steps of this Bimah and who needed more cajoling. I know who amongst you have wept here in this synagogue building and which of you have shared joy.

That is what I celebrate tonight - that this is a community of deep connections. You have found your way here brought by parents or of your own volition. Motivated by loneliness, disappointment from other parts of the Jewish world or just where we are.  The path of your life brought you to this threshold and as the conservative siddur describes 'it has been kind to straying feet’.

Our liberal synagogue has been a home and a haven for many of you, who needed to find such a welcoming and tolerant place and some who fell in love with the congregation as they arrived. Perhaps greeted by one of the four rabbis over its past sixty six years. We are a unique community 'our messy shul with a soul' and the only Liberal Judaism synagogue from St John’s Wood to Southgate.

It is our stories that necessitate the synagogue raising funds to move forward purposely and generously. To teach children well, to train and develop our young people. To offer learning and intellectual debate for all of us, bring music to uplift the soul, reach out to you in times of sadness, accompany you through all your milestones. And of course act together for a just society.

A community gives a sense of belonging, structure and connection. We might argue that we have never needed that as much as now.

The poet Raymund Carver wrote in his poem Fragments
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.. 

Finchley Progressive Synagogue tries hard to do that." 

Shabbat Shalom to all
Rabbi Rebecca

Our teenagers waiting to say HaMotzi as our President Alan Banes welcomes everyone. 

Our teenagers waiting to say HaMotzi as our President Alan Banes welcomes everyone. 

17/18 May 2019, 12/13 Iyar 5779

Today as I write is the 26th day of the Omer. This week we focus on KAVOD respect or honour.  KVD in Hebrew is the root or shoresh which also means heavy. The act of honouring is a reminder to be heavy and grounded and consider those who pass before us. We have put together a short film and history of FPS to remember where we have come from and where we are going. Recalling those founding families of FPS; the Levys, Mundys, Zimmermans and Slaters .  Our synagogue is more than the building that holds us but the people who have passed through contributed and been looked after by the folk of this community.

It's nice to be reminded of who we honour, who's shoulders we climb on daily. This week's Torah portion Bahar challenges us with a simple theology that suggests good behaviour will always be rewarded.
If you walk in my statutes, keep my commandments and do them; then I will give you rain in the rights season and the land shall yield.... (26:3-4)

Whilst that is not always fulfilled in ways we can comprehend. What is true is that honouring those who came before us, who created and considered legacies for us deserve our respect.

Shabbat Shalom dear members and wishing you well.

Rabbi Rebecca

10/11 May 2019, 5/6 Iyar 5779

I wanted to share this poem during the week of Yom Ha’Atzma’ut.

Yehuda Amichai  (1924-2000) always, in my opinion, managed to capture the complexity of Israel. This is particularly poignant as the poet captures the experience of one man. Last Shabbat I learned with our B’nei Mitzvah families about Israel, our experiences there, our understanding of it and the chronology that propelled the past 71 years. This weekend accusatory posters emerged over London. We are never far from complex reactions to Israel. 

Tourists by Yehuda Amichai
Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust after our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.

Once I sat on the steps by agate at David's Tower,
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists
was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. "You see
that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an arch
from the Roman period. Just right of his head." "But he's moving, he's moving!"
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
"You see that arch from the Roman period? It's not important: but next to it,
left and down a bit, there sits a man who's bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”

Rabbi Rebecca

26/27 April 2019, 21/22 Nisan 5779

We just had the most wonderful communal seder, over 90 of us gathered last Saturday night. But Pesach is not just Seder, it continues as the festival that reminds, even insists on freedom as the gift that can permeate life. Sigmund Freud, avowedly secular yet speaks to Judaism often, wrote Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility. Many of us, if asked, might say we feel free.

Yet, we have just witnessed another attack in a place of worship, three churches and nearby hotels in Sri Lanka. Responsibility for the deaths claimed by an Islamicist group.   Apparently in retaliation for the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. I am not sure what we do with the reality of another sacred space, a church this time being the target of attacks. Places of worship have always been understood as sanctuaries. And now they are no longer safe sanctuaries; whether there is security at the gate or not. We are not immune to the fear or the outrage these attacks provoke. Our heart breaks for the 300 killed and the devastation wreaked on their families.

We are committed to integrating the world outside of our synagogue into our religious practice. And we know Freud was right. Judaism at its best wakes us and offers a filter to negotiate the world. To be involved and engaged in the world feels ever more critical and necessary when we learn of these brutalities. Our faith, our community may become ever more relevant at these times as we negotiate what being in our places of worship means.

This Wednesday (April 24), tonight, we feedback with other Barnet institutions on our listening campaign and the practical applications of the concerns that have emerged for life in London and our fellow Londoners. Join us if you can and are interested at Finchley Reform Synagogue 7.30pm. And then Thursday for the last night of Pesach’s service at 7pm before learning with Lionel Lassman on The Jews of Azerbaijan. Service and discussion Friday 11am.

Today is the 4th day of the OMER. As we mark these days of Omar and move to the end of Pesach lets do so together.

Hag Sameach.

19/20 April 2019, 14/15 Nisan 5779

We recently welcomed a school visit to the synagogue. I enjoy asking the children questions that make their teachers squirm, like "do you think I look Jewish?". It is enormous fun watching the 4 and 5 year olds look me up and down thoughtfully while their teachers look on in horror wondering what might come out of their mouths.

It is, usually, harmless nonsense - I don't look Jewish (almost always the answer) because I am not a boy, because I am not wearing a hat, because I am white(!), because I don't have big enough eyebrows. A useful and efficient way to identify and quash stereotypes!

With our littlest guests I ask them where they keep their most special things. Usually shells and stones they pick up. They keep them wrapped safely in fabric or tissue in a special box. This is how I introduce our Torah; something special wrapped safely in fabric in a special box (or cupboard!).

It's with this in mind that I looked on in horror at the photos of the Notre-Dame fire. We know something is special because it is kept somewhere special - and it was so clear that Notre-Dame was that place for so many Catholics, so many French people, and indeed people across the world.

We must be grateful that no-one was hurt, grateful for the bravery of our firefighters, and hope that in a time of such division our appreciation of Notre-Dame's beauty, our acknowledgement of its place within our history, and our wish for restoration unites us - if only for a moment.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach, 


12/13 April 2019, 7/8 Nisan 5779

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One is supposed to think about Passover at least two weeks ahead of time. A friend shared this from her Seder sourcebook; You cannot just walk into a major life transformational experience like a seder -where you discover your every essence as a human and a jew -with no preparation.  Last week at Kiddush I was shown one congregant’s choice of Haggadah for seder, it was a family decision, he and his father had discussed using a new creative one for this year, this moment, this time.

Nisan, the new month began last Shabbat. The Torah calls it Hodesh HaRishon, the first month for Israelites as a free people. It begins the calendar year, it is full of possibility and newness.  Every other month comes behind it. So the Seder offers us that renewal and refreshing of ourselves. 

We look always for ways to refresh and amplify this story of liberation that stands at the centre of our Jewishness. The recollection of trouble and then escape, moving into gratitude. This is at the heart even of keeping Shabbat (so Deuteronomy’s version of 10 sayings remind).

Pesach is one of the three pilgrim festivals -foot festivals-without the temple what do we make of the movement and journey that Pesach, Sukkot and Shavuot ask for?

Mitzrayim, always translated as narrow place, the straits, offers as always a symbolic place from which to move as well as the ‘historical’ land.

For Seder to capture our imaginations and hearts we work hard to bring ourselves into this story.

How are we prepared. As we clean (to whatever extent we do clean) what do we throw away that keeps us stagnating? How do make this 7 days and the Sedarim be moments for personal integrity. As Aviva Gottleib Zornberg says:

It is for this reason that the Exodus and Passover focuses so compellingly on telling and retelling the story. It is only by taking real risks of language …that the self can reclaim itself…

Start thinking, attending and preparing for this.

Shabbat Shalom 

5/6 April 2019, 29 Adar II/1 Nisan 5779

Surely we have reached a moment in the Torah cycle where you’d probably rather my weekly message talked about BREXIT or Cabinet meetings rather than Leviticus details. Tazria, this week’s portion, talks a great deal about bodily fluids and infections. Indeed we read of skin complaints in minutiae and also about the laws of family purity as the verses on menstrual impurity are euphemistically called.

The description of the scaly skin complaint, which was probably leprosy, insists on immediate isolation and exile. It is no wonder that the anthropologist Mary Douglas named her book about Leviticus Purity and Danger (1961). It is very physical, this section of Leviticus. And to that end, these verses are a rather marvelous antidote to global politics and the abstract terms we are mired in just now. How we treat each other in illness and in trouble is the core of how we live in community. The Biblical community were terrified, even repulsed by illness, discharge, infection and human messiness. Chapter 14, which we will read, amplifies the isolation;  The priest is to go outside the camp and examine them.

Skin disease was always stigmatisingMoses comments on his sister’s skin condition in the Book of Numbers. "Don't let her be like one half dead coming out of the womb . . ." (Numbers 12:12).

This parasha is concerned with the impurity of such ailments and the way the community must respond to them. It is only after elaborate checking, cleaning and rituals that they are allowed back into camp.

Thankfully, we have moved on.

It was not till much later when the Talmudic rabbis reinforced the importance of care and connection for someone ill, and visiting the sick "bikur cholim" becomes a form of "walking in God's ways" (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 14a). Centuries later we challenge the idea of blame and guilt that is attached to illness. The messiness, literal and otherwise, that accompanies illness of all kinds is understood to be an essential and unavoidable fact of life. No one's fault.

Shabbat Shalom


29/30 March 2019, 22/23 Adar II 5779

As we come to the end of the Ivriah, Shabbatots and Kabbalat Torah term I want to share our highlights. It’s been such a good year – we have added another 10 children to our Ivriah, we have 4 new families at Shabbatots, we have more teachers than ever, our Kabbalat Torah and B’nei Mitzvah groups are our biggest yet, and our Challah Baking project has reached so many members of the community.

I recently saw a Torah commentary called “Learning from a Sandwich”. As a good Jew (i.e. someone who perks up and the sight of food) this title caught my eye – and seemed especially relevant this week as our Torah Portion tells us the Kosher laws.

Our year 5 and 6s (aged 10-11) explored the Kashrut in all its forms, from the laws in the Torah and traditional adherence, to progressive interpretations of Kashrut, through to Eco-Kashrut and how it influences our ideas on all purchasing.

Perhaps a highlight for both adults and children was when they came into Café Ivriah to lead a discussion on FPS members’ experiences, adherences and encounters with Kashrut. The children wanted to know how adults in their community chose to respond to the laws of food as they begin to look at the decisions they will make as adults.

This is so important. Adults in our community are the role models for our children. Children are intrigued by our truths, our lives and our decisions. The more I do this job the more I expose young people to the inner workings of the adult mind – not so they can be weighed down by mortgage payments and blocked sinks – but so that they can see we sometimes stumble and struggle, that conversation is essential, and crucially that children can learn from listening to adults but also that the adults continue their thought journeys by listening to children.

Our incredible teachers make our ever-growing Ivriah a fun and interesting place to learn – and our children respond with (lots of!) exuberance and joy. However, we know we’re tucked away in the Education Corridor. So please do join us when we come out into the light – our Kabbalat Torah teenagers will be taking the Shavuot morning service, our teachers take most B’yachad services (special shout-out to our Musical B’yachad on 12th May), our Duke of Edinburgh volunteers challah bake every Thursday, our B’nei Mitzvah students will be taking part in the Yom Ha’Shoah conversation on 2nd May, and you can always, always catch them near the Kiddush table every Shabbat morning – because you really can learn a lot from a sandwich!

Shabbat Shalom

Zoe Jacobs

22/23 March 2019, 15/16 Adar II 5779

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These days have been so strange. We have gathered for Purim in the aftermath of the mosque shootings in Christchurch. We have read the Megillah, even an edited version hints at seemingly gratuitous violence by the Persian Jews. And of course we read of the fear of being recognized as Jews. Esther did not reveal her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had told her not to reveal it.(Esther 2:10) the name Esther even means hidden.

The symbolism is not lost. Sylvia Barack Fishman suggests the way Esther negotiates her position in the royal household and her relationship with the king models diaspora living for Jewish groups (and indeed all minority groups). That is not the message many of us want to take from the Book of Esther, particularly now. We read these megillot (books) celebrate these festivals and insist on a fresh way to understand and make meaning from them.

The jollity, levity and general silliness encouraged at our Purim party, spiel and feast coincided last night with World Jewish Relief opening their appeal for Cyclone Idai that has hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbambwe. If Purim calls for matanot levyonim gifts for the poor, then this is it. www.worldjewishrelief.org/cyclone. Please consider giving.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Rebecca