27/28 October 2023, 13 Cheshvan 5784

I was sitting in a café this week nursing an Americano and fretting over the news. Someone at a table next to me expresses concern that a man is pacing on a call in front of the window.

Her friend reassures her and even I added my (unasked for) reassurance until the diner comes back and resumes his lunch. I share this because anxiety is high at the moment – for everyone here, of all backgrounds.

This Shabbat is Parashat Lech Lecha, where for the first time we meet Abraham and Sarah, the parents of the Jewish people. As always, I think, Torah speaks to us in this moment of our lives. Abraham is honoured by Jews, Muslims and Christians as the founder of ethical monotheism. Most of all, he is remembered for courage to move into the unknown, Lech Lecha. Rashi insists God meant go for your benefit and for your good. This courage and positivity is important. This week of all weeks, it helps to be reminded of this; there is much we share. Julie Siddiqi, Muslim scholar and teacher and one of the founding members of NISA-NASHIM, (Jewish and Muslim women) spoke of the importance in Islam of not letting outward expressions of loyalty disturb and threaten neighbours. Indeed, she quoted the Koran and explained one who carries a flag that frightens a neighbour is, according to Islam, a non-believer. Brave statements of solidarity like these at this time are immensely welcome.

Moments and connections like these are so critical as is the reminder of what we share here as people of faith in Britain. And despite, or maybe in spite of, the grief and the fear that still permeate we continue to mark time and moments of life in our congregation. We commemorate an admission of someone new into our Jewish community, a Bar Mitzvah on Shabbat and an extra one in the afternoon for an Israeli family who can’t get home. We celebrate with all three families who look to us as a synagogue to enable these moments that celebrate life.

Our attachment to life and being cajoled continually to choose it has never felt more critical than now. It is an act of optimism and hope.

”This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, that you and your children may live,” Deuteronomy 30, means we continue reaching for these moments.

Shabbat Shalom,