13/14 September 2019, 13/14 Elul 5779

Rabbi Rebecca writes;

I am busy searching for all texts and anecdotes to open our hearts this month of Elul. This is to signify the journey we begin on 29 September, Erev Rosh Hashanah.

This week I listened to Malcom Gladwell’s new book Talking to Strangers. His premise: we can never really know the stranger and often as humans make catastrophic errors of judgement about people we meet. We rely on feelings and instinct and sometimes are very wrong. How prescient of the BBC to broadcast this Book of the Week now when mistrust and suspicion is palpable in our parliament and filters down to others.

Gladwell recounts one of the greatest ‘follies’ in 20th century history, Neville Chamberlain’s catastrophic misreading of Hitler. But he softens judgement by demonstrating how difficult it is to read others.

A tiny verse in the portion this week Ki Teitze captures this unease and mistrust:

When you go out [as an army] against your enemies, be on your guard against anything untoward in them. (23:10) and yet is somewhat contradicted by a later one: You shall not subvert or abuse the rights of the stranger… (24:17)

I invite you to consider trust this week, and the way we offer and withhold it. Shabbat will be 14 Elul, almost half way through the month. I am reminded of Barbara Crooker’s poem In the Middle of a life that’s as complicated as everyone else’s, struggling for balance…

Good luck with Elul and look out for our new learning beginning next week and our shared Selichot service at FRS on 21 September, beginning with my study session with Rabbi Howard Cooper entitled Fail Better.

Shabbat Shalom to all
Rabbi Rebecca