The Blog of Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

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For Chanukah: Setting the light of the human spirit against all cruelty

I wish everyone a Good Chanukah, a Chag Urim Sameach, a happy Festival of Light. The lamps we kindle bring much needed hope and warmth in cruel and challenging times.

I also want to say Happy Thanksgiving. These celebrations go well together, calling on us to appreciate the blessings we have and, above all, to celebrate the resilience, imagination and courage of the human spirit.

In the shadow of the drowning yesterday of so many refugees attempting to cross the English Channel, the light of that spirit and the lamps of Chanukah must be set against all the misery, indifference, injustice, hard-heartedness and exploitative cruelty, by whoever and in whichever country it is inflicted, which culminate in such horrors. We have hosted in our home young people who have made similar crossings in equally unseaworthy dinghies; we’ve heard them speak from their hearts, and our hearts go out to them.

The story of the Maccabees as recorded in the Talmud may never have happened. Who knows if, when they reconquered the Temple in Jerusalem, they really searched among the ruins and found that one sealed vial of pure oil, or whether it actually burnt miraculously for eight cold winter days?

Yet that is precisely what happens all the time. The Sefat Emet, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh-Leib of Ger describes the matter with succinct grace. There is in every person an infinitesimal but irreducible amount of inextinguishable spirit. Just as the jar of oil found by the Maccabees was closed with the High Priest’s insignia, so this spirit is marked by the seal of God. It is the sacred core of every soul; no one can take it from us and nothing can corrupt its essence. Our challenge is to find it, deep within ourselves, and, when we have done so, not only to kindle it but also to let its flame light us.

Such a flame, when it burns in the dark days of the world, possesses a compelling magnetism. It draws others into its circle of brightness and warmth. It inspires us, illumining the pathway to our own inner light. Soon we witness how not just one sole candle, but many flames burn in the night. They are not easily extinguished; once lit, their fires cling tenaciously to the wick, casting back the darkness of harsh days, weeks, and sometimes years and even decades.

Halakhah, Jewish law, requires the Chanukah lights to be set outside, or at least in the window which overlooks the public domain. Except in times of danger, they are not a private secret which has to be concealed.

Across the world our public squares need such illumination. The spirit’s light, the heart’s warmth, the fire in the conscience, must be set at the centre of human activity, in the board room and the body politic, in council and senate chambers, in parliaments, and in the souls of all who work there and the minds of us all. With its illumination we must follow the pathway to recognise, connect with and protect what is sacred in every human life and holy in all creation.

We are not at liberty in these complex and difficult times to neglect the search for our own inner light, or to refuse to kindle it and bring it as our contribution to the square. The light of all humanity is needed, urgently.

 

 

Turning struggle into blessing

Life throws so much in peoples’ faces. I can’t bear to see the news, a friend just told me. The earth has so much beauty, yet is beset by so many threats and troubles, and each life is a world in miniature: how does one avoid feeling overwhelmed?

Against all this I set Jacob’s words which we read in the Torah tomorrow: ‘I shall not let you go until you bless me.’ It’s his response to the strange figure which attacks him in the night as he stands alone in that liminal space which is neither here nor there, which lies outside of life’s unremitting ‘do this’ and ‘do that’, somewhere in the solitary landscape of the soul. Who is he, this mysterious assailant, who comes upon him in the lonely dark: is it man or angel, Jacob’s conscience, the guardian spirit of his wronged brother Esau whom he will shortly re-encounter, or God and truth itself? The Torah refrains from saying.

But when at daybreak this unnamed combatant sees that he cannot overcome Jacob and begs him, ‘Let me go because the dawn has risen,’ Jacob replies, ‘I shall not let you go until you bless me.’ That line is my motto and my hope.

Through all life’s troubles those words call out like the light from a far-away house at the edge of a pitch-dark moor. They shine through fear, exhaustion, sorrow, depression and misjudgement. Sometimes their light disappears from sight; then one has no choice except to put one foot before the other, keeping faith through the bleak and utter darkness, until it re-emerges. For those words ‘until you bless me’ are the inextinguishable flame in the soul, the inexpressible inspiration for all song, the source of courage and hope: Whatever you throw at me, life, I shall not let you go until you bless me.

In 1940, Rebbe Kalonymus Kalman Shapira wrote in the Warsaw Ghetto that Jacob spoke those words as a signal to the generations to come. It’s not enough to survive troubles and persecutions. One has to wrest from them a blessing. This, he explains, is the assailant’s parting challenge as he changes Jacob’s name to Israel, which means ‘one who yassar im El, who struggles with God,’ or, as the mystics like to read it, ‘one who shar im El, whosings God’s song.’

One cannot help but question if it is truly always possible to find blessings. But it remains an aspiration.

Challenges lie behind and before us. Tomorrow is AJEX Shabbat, honouring Jewish service- and ex-service- men and women. Last week was Remembrance Sunday. The terrors so many faced in war, and still confront today, are unimaginable to those of us lucky enough to have been spared such experiences.

Before us lie other battles, first and foremost for the future of life itself on our planet, for humankind and nature and a new, more humble understanding of the relationship between us.

When everything feels overwhelming, I shall set Jacob’s words before me: ‘I shall not let you go until you bless me.’

And there are blessings. This is Interfaith Week. I participated in four multi-faith gatherings at COP 26 in Glasgow and have attended in several since. We spoke with different, but never differing, voices. We drew from the distinctive wisdom and beauty of our own faith’s prayers and teachings, but the import was the same: love and humility before the dignity of life, wonder at the complex beauty of this world, and a shared determination to take responsibility, learn, cherish and care.

Soon it will be Chanukkah. I see myself sitting in my grandmother’s lounge, watching the candles burn in front of me. They are reflected in the windows at either end of the room, and the reflections are themselves then reflected. There are two, four, eight chanukkiot hovering in the night, as if lamps from past generations were signalling to the future: make light, keep hope, don’t give up until you turn the darkness into blessing.

 

 

Shaken, after 5 days at COP 26

I just came back from five days at COP 26, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. ‘Discombobulated’ is how Graham Usher, the Bishop of Norwich and Church of England’s climate change lead, described his feelings. I agree; I feel shaken.

Climate isn’t a subject I was disengaged from beforehand. But it’s different when you sit on a panel with a woman from Greenfaith working in Kenya who says: ‘When you’ve walked 7 kilometres with a pregnant mother who’s got a child on her back just to fetch water, then you understand what climate justice means.’

I stopped by a poster ‘COP welcomes Climate Criminals.’ Protest is necessary; 100,000 people are expected at demonstrations in Glasgow this weekend. Without the voices from the streets, many leaders would do much less. Anger has a role too, if controlled and directed, especially with hypocritical boasts or insincere promises about what this country or that business is doing for the climate. But the poster didn’t capture what I feel, and the worst climate criminals didn’t even show up in Glasgow.

What affected me deeply were the multi-faith meetings. At the interfaith vigil, live-streamed globally as COP began, prayers, – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Bahai, Buddhist, pagan, – didn’t focus on ‘against’. They were pleas for the earth, its peoples and leaders; they were prayers that those who bore huge responsibilities for the future of life itself would open their hearts and use all the skills and powers they have for good. For just as there’s only one planet, there’s only one team here. We’re all in it and we need each other to do our utmost, and more.

I sat with my friend Andy Atkins from A Rocha, a worldwide Catholic group focussing on NSBs, Nature-based Solutions. (I’m interviewing Israel’s NSB lead next week). ‘What are you here for?’ he asked me. ‘I’m with EcoSynagogue,’ I said. (Our stall in the COP green zone for NGOs went well.) But he was after something deeper.

So I asked him the same question. ‘What are you here for?’ ‘To lobby,’ he replied. He’s a COP veteran. ‘Deforestation ended by 2030 sounds great. But what does it mean? If there’s no detailed plan how to get from here to then, no measuring, no monitoring, no powers to implement and supervise, it amounts to nothing, or worse, a ten-year licence to exploit even faster. We need to hold feet to the fire.’

I was deeply affected by representatives from Africa, South America and the Pacific. Daryl Botu from Ghana was at the stand opposite EcoSynagogue. ‘I’m here about the Atawa Forest. It’s one of the most biodiverse places on earth. It provides water for five million people. Chinese investment wants to turn it into a bauxite pit. We’re campaigning to have it protected.’

Such voices were few: costs, Covid and vaccination recognition made it hard for people from the global south to get to Glasgow. I learnt a new term ‘recognition justice’: there can’t be climate justice or climate solutions without the voices, imagination, leadership and resilience of those who’re suffering the most.

I’m back in London, eager for our Eco-Shabbat, vegan Kiddush, ‘consume less’ and ‘waste less’ projects and glad about EcoSynagogue and Jtree.global (All I learnt indicates we’re planting trees with the right groups).

Being at COP was a success for EcoSynagogue. It was wonderful to be together with colleagues across the denominations and work with the Board of Deputies, and the Jewish community in Glasgow welcomed us warmly. Ever more synagogues are committing to the journey.

It was great, too, to be part of Faiths for the Climate, and to meet the leaders of Hazon, America’s Jewish environmental organisation.

But the real issue is: will COP 26 be a success for the planet?

There’s that personal question too: ‘Why are you here?’ I don’t yet know how, but this experience has, and has to, change me.

Why I’m going to COP

I’m going there to listen, learn, find every cause I can for hope and positive action and come back inspired and even more determined. I’m spending most of next week in Glasgow, the town where I was born, at COP 26, the most important gathering ever for the future of the planet.

I’ve no idea what it’ll be like, but I’ll certainly report back. I don’t imagine I’ll have the chance to meet the Pope, though I’d love to. I don’t think I’ll meet either President Biden or the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the State of Israel, though I’d like to. I don’t suppose I’ll bump into our own PM either, though there’s a lot I’d like to say.

It feels a bit Kafkaesque: there’s a green zone, for the NGOs (people like me with EcoSynagogue, leaders of Eco Church, etcetera); a blue zone for political actors, and a red zone for the highest level of heads of state. Like most faith leaders, my pass will only take me as far as the green zone, (I guess green is my true colour.) But walls and barriers have never put a stop to that age-old spiritual endeavour of trying to tell truth to power.

In fact, those truths are coming from every direction, from the world’s poorest countries already suffering the great impacts of climate change, and from the richest, where ever more economists and business leaders understand that there’s no point investing in fossil fuels and that green enterprise needs, and deserves, every support it can get. They come from the street, where across the world hundreds of millions of people, especially the young, are making it clear to their political leaders that they are out of patience with short-termism, self-interest, lip-service and lack of urgency. As the Talmud says about Noah’s flood, the truth is coming up through the earth in the form of droughts and fires and down from the skies in floods.

But I’m not going to Glasgow to find more cause for misery. These are hard times; only in this last week I’ve listened to several young people speak of their hopelessness. The climate emergency is a cruel inheritance to receive from their elders. But I’m mindful of Rebbe Nachman of Breslav’s maxim: Assur lehitya’esh – It’s forbidden to despair.

I’m going to Glasgow to find out about every form of positive action that I can. If I’m asked to plant trees, I’ll pick up my spade; if to show solidarity with communities struggling to adapt to climate change, I’ll ask them how; if it becomes even clearer that habits need to be changed, I’ll make my best efforts to do so.

I’m involved with all this because I’m haunted, possessed twice over. I’m seeing shadows where I hadn’t noticed them before: they follow my shopping bags and squat in my kitchen and bedroom with increasingly vividness. They whisper: ‘Is that there which you’re eating or wearing really worth what it’s doing to the earth and its peoples?’

But they don’t cling to me half as much as something else, a passionate, ineradicable love of this earth. It’s a love and joy as deep in me as the roots of a great tree. It brings nourishment to my body, mind and spirit. My God breathes in every living thing.

Nothing can suck that love out of my soul, and there’s nothing greater I want to bequeath to my children. Therefore, though I know I fall short, I want to do, and engage others to do, everything I can to protect this wonderful world and pass it on, vital and beautiful, to the future.

Hinneni: trying to be truly present

There’s one overriding question in the Hebrew Bible, and one essential answer. The question never lets one go and the answer is never complete.

The question comes right at the beginning: it’s what God asks Adam after he’s eaten the forbidden fruit. It consists of just one word in Hebrew, ‘Ayekah? Where are you?’

The answer, given by Abraham, Moses, and all of us too, with different degrees of consciousness, is also a single word: ‘Hinneni, I’m here.’

Between these two words lies the whole of our life, with all its relationships, to others, ourselves, the world, and God.

I felt bad on Wednesday night, pushing my trolley straight past the woman sitting on the ground outside Tesco’s. I’d given her a coin before and said hello; this time I had no change and failed to muster even a greeting before, mercifully, someone else spoke to her. I wished I’d at least acknowledged her existence. Some years ago, Nic Schlagman spoke on Yom Kippur about Isaiah’s command, ‘Feed the hungry.’ He’d been working among homeless people. It’s the communication, he said, the connection, the human contact: these are individuals, with lives, stories, hopes.

Hinenni, ‘I am here,’ is not something one says, but lives.

I’m chastened when I hear in eulogies, ‘Mum was always there for my sister and me;’ or ‘He was such a good friend; when any of us needed someone to talk to, someone you knew really cared, he was there.’ A little voice inside me then invariably says, ‘And what about you? Have you been there for your nearest and dearest?’ Yes? No? Partly? There are many half-ways: one can live one’s relationships (we probably all do, sometimes) in a state of presence-but-absence; one can hear, but not really listen; one can be there, but only when it suits.

(On a lighter note, our puppy dog Nessie is the champion of Hinneni from the moment you come through the door: licks, paws, tail wagging the whole of her eager dog body, ‘I’m here just for you,’ she says – and for your attention, biscuits and a walk.)

A cruel voice inside my head tells me, ‘You’re living your life in a flurry of inadequate Hinnenis.’ An excusing voice answers, ‘But we all do; that’s reality. One can’t be there for everyone all the time, even those one loves and cares for most.’

Then a kinder and wiser inner voice answers, ‘Don’t think like that. Say rather, ‘How can I deepen my Hinneni?’ How can we be more truly present, for those we’re closest to, for friends, for those who turn to us?

Hinneni is, as I wrote above, just one word. But that’s only part of its story; it’s actually the concatenation of two: hineh and ani, ‘Look,’ and ‘I’. But the combination doesn’t mean ‘Look, – me!’ Rather, the opposite is the case: Hinneni takes ‘me’ and makes it part of looking; it transforms the ‘I’ of me, my self, my wants, my ego, and reformulates it as awareness, attentiveness to the world. Rashi explains it as ‘an expression of readiness and humility.’

Hinneni is being there, with and for others, with and for ourselves, and with, if one experiences it that way, God. RS Thomas puts it magnificently in his wonderful poem Alive:

….I listen

And it if you speaking…

…At night, if I waken,

there are the sleepless conurbations

of the stars…

 

Hinneni is the deepening of who we are, life’s response to life.

What our lives add up to in the end

The best film I’ve seen this year lasts just 30 seconds; it’s been screened in one place only, on a friend’s iPhone. I asked him, ‘How does your daughter-in-law-to-be get on with your young twins?’ He opened his What’s App and showed me them throwing themselves into her arms with delight.

That needs no explanation, – but here’s a long-winded effort. God’s first words to Abraham are ‘Lech Lecha, Set forth! Be gone!’ With them, the journey of the Jewish People, and of every individual ever born, begins.

They sound at life’s beginning, when, according to the kabbalists, the soul parts reluctantly from God and descends into the body. They sing in the wind which carries us ineluctably over life’s ocean: ‘Onward, the sailors cry.’ They’re the words those who love us will say quietly after we die, ‘He’s gone.’ They’re the unspoken hope that somehow life’s journey continues, in realms unknowable from earth.

That’s why Lech Lecha resonates inside me, so that I tremble when we read those words in the Torah, as we shall tomorrow.

I used to be drawn to the mystics who, with typical licence, read lecha not simply as an emphatic particle, ‘Get thee gone’, but as ‘to you’: Go to yourself; make life a journey of ever deeper self-discovery until you reach the very wellspring of your spirit:

Go to yourself! Travel until you reach the roots of your soul. (Rebbe David of Lilov)

Go … to the land which I will show you: Go to the place where I’ll reveal to you your own true self. (Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi)

Life is, undeniably, thankfully, a voyage of self-discovery, though it goes in no straight line.

However, nowadays I’m compelled by a more basic explanation. It too is a play on words, though not one I’ve encountered in the classic commentaries. ‘Go to you’: make life a journey toward ‘you’, towards not yourself but other people. For who we are is what we mean to them, – and they to us.

I’ll never forget someone that I greatly respect said at the stone-setting for her husband: ‘Your place was in my arms; now it’s in my heart.’ Our ultimate place, the lands we reach on our journey, lie in each other’s hearts.

I’ve been to cemeteries too often in these last years. I look across the field of graves and the questions rise from the very earth: ‘What does it add up to? What does it all mean?’

‘Go to you’, is the best answer I know. We devote our lives to one another. We do so consciously, as parent, child, partner, friend, colleague, neighbour. We need to give; we want to make life kinder, better, gentler, for the other person.

We go beyond that circle, as we must. Yesterday I was asked: ‘Will your write a commentary about this picture from your community?’ I opened the file with the photo and saw an elderly doctor from our congregation gently examining a refugee. ‘Go – to the you of others who need you’ is God’s most urgent command. How many voices are there right now in the world, crying ‘Is anyone out there for me? Will you go – to me?’

Our places in each other’s hearts are not always good. We lack the power to select only those which show us best. They also include the wrongs and hurts we leave behind, which is why apology and healing are so important.

In the end I believe the journey to find ourselves and our journey toward others are the same. Ultimately, we are what others garner of us; that’s what continues to live of us after we’re gone.

That’s why those 30 seconds are my favourite film, that beautiful innocent image of throwing oneself so completely into such welcoming arms.

Was Noah the Greta Thunberg of his day?

Nature isn’t all loveliness. Yesterday just outside my study I saw a bird prey in the act of tearing open the pigeon it had just killed. I thought it was a sparrow hawk, but minutes later a peregrine perched by the window, looking for another victim.

Nevertheless, I feel awe, wonder, curiosity and joy before nature. Like many, I increasingly appreciate how interdependent we are with the natural world, from the rainfall to the quality of the soil, to the bees and the trees. Ruin nature and we destroy ourselves.

So Noah, the ‘righteous man before God’, the preserver who saves two of every species and ushers them into a new world, ought to be my hero. But he’s not; at least not entirely.

Here’s why. He simply obeys orders. When God tells him the world is wicked and about to be destroyed, he builds the ark as instructed. But he doesn’t argue back. He doesn’t say: ‘How can you, the creator, who holds such power, obliterate your own handiwork which you just recently called ‘good’ or ‘very good’?

Noah says neither a single word to God nor so much as a syllable of warning to his contemporaries. He could have taken up Dylan Thomas’s refrain: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’ He could have done like the Jonah who, albeit reluctant, finally got to Nineveh and, covered in whale-spit, shouted down the streets: Change your ways or else this place will be destroyed.

The Zohar has this to say about Noah:

When he came out of the ark and saw the world in ruins, he started to weep and said to God: ‘You, who’re called “merciful and gracious,” shouldn’t you have shown mercy to your creatures?’ God replied: ‘Foolish shepherd; now you tell me! Why didn’t you say that when I instructed you…to build the ark?’ (Zohar 1:69)

Perhaps Noah thought there was no point: God’s mind can’t be changed. Maybe he saw in the power-holders of his day the same obstinacy and bondage to self-interest which has so often characterised it since. But in the Torah, he doesn’t even try. He isn’t the Greta Thunberg of his day.

Avivah Zornberg quotes Andre Neher: Noah shows ‘unqualified apathy.’ That’s harsh, since he does build the ark and cajole even the lions, elephants and mosquitoes aboard. But as Zornberg says in her own words:

[T]he impact of Noah’s silent acquiescence in the destruction of the world is devastating.

The rabbis, as ever, filled in the gaps in the biblical account. What happened during all the years it took Noah to build that ark? His contemporaries mocked him, and he answered back. But even here, Zornberg notes, his ‘imaginative solipsism’ is apparent: God ‘told me to make an ark,’ he says to them, ‘so that I and my household may escape.’

We, on our imperilled planet, in our ‘generation on the cusp,’ need to do more. The Biblical cue lies in the words Mordechai passed to Esther in the hour before Haman’s decree of destruction: ‘If you remain silent now…’

We need to speak up, and above all act, personally, communally, locally, nationally, internationally, for the sake of our beautiful world, on behalf of humanity, for the future. It’s a wonderful world and its children and children’s children deserve to receive it that way.

World of beauty, world of horrors?

I’ve never understood this; I’ve always been troubled. The Torah opens with a magnificent poem, a paean to the glory of creation. That first chapter of Genesis is utterly beautiful; the dawn light shining through the division of the waters, the first green stalks above the soil, the fruit-bearing trees, the fish in the rivers, the birds of the air, and on land the animals and humankind, in harmony all together.

Yet within scarcely three columns Cain has murdered his brother and his great- great- grandson Lemech is busily boasting to his wives that he’s killed a child. By the end of column five even God acknowledges, shockingly, that it’s all been a terrible mistake and it would have been better if humans had never existed in the first place: ‘I’m sorry I made them.’

How can something so wonderful descend so quickly into disaster?

Then I realised: this is the world we live in every day.

It’s full of beauty. The magic may be greatest when one’s young, the first fallen leaves to stomp through, the first excitement of snow. But one doesn’t get over it. On the contrary, the older one gets the more precious it often all becomes: that view crossed by the sun’s low rays of the autumn woodlands, yellow and orange, down to the fields with the ponies above the lake:

So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise. (Dylan Thomas: Fern Hill)

It’s true, at least it seems so in our moments of wonder: God renews the work of creation every day.

But the cruelty, misery and injustice are no less real.

Late last night I casually picked up The Guardian’s Long Read but paid careful attention when I saw that it was written by Zarlasht Halaimzai, whom I know. Her family were refugees from Afghanistan; now she devotes her life to helping others forced by violence and war to flee their homes:

Don’t leave the people in darkness, I pleaded. (The Long Read)

Most of her letters to officials across the globe received no reply at all.

Jewish leaders, she wrote, responded with heartfelt solidarity:

Many recognised their own family’s experiences in the images of parents handing their children over…

Several members of our community are desperately trying to get people out of the reaches of the Taliban. ‘And it’s only one family out of tens of thousands,’ a friend said as we sat last week in our Succah. ‘Whoever saves one life is as if they saved the world,’ we all replied.

Just that is our predicament: we stand at the interface between life’s wonders and its horrors. There, too, lies our responsibility. What can we do to help or save one person, one child, one living thing, one tiny corner of the earth?

The Torah does not state that God regrets making the world; God is sorry only because of the way human beings behave. But God, tradition tells us, longs to rejoice in creation once again. What can we do to make that happen in one more child, one more parent’s heart, even in the free flight of the birds? That’s the everlasting challenge those first five columns of the Torah bequeath to us.

 

Hoshana Rabba

I’m taking the last opportunity in these High Holydays to wish everyone Shanah Tovah and Gmar Chatimah Tovah, a good and worthwhile year.

I’ve just come home from the beautiful Hoshana Rabba – the Great Hoshana – service, in which we circle the synagogue seven times just as the pilgrims in Jerusalem circled the altar when the Temple till stood. We chant the ancient litany composed by a community which was deeply connected to nature:

God, save humankind and animals; body, soul and spirit; bone, ligament, and skin.
Renew the face of the earth, with the planting of breath-giving trees.
Send rain to make the earth fragrant, to restore abandoned lands.
Save the olive crop from falling, the wheat from locusts, the vines from worms, humankind from terror…

If once we thought such prayers quaint, far removed from our high street realities, we realise now that we’ve been mistaken. They could have been written today, as we experience a renewed appreciation of our dependence on the earth, the rainfall, the green life of nature, and even the wellbeing of bees, invisible insects and fungi.

To me and many others this year, Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world and the celebration of creation, is closely linked to COP 26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which follows a month from now. The ancient liturgy therefore speaks straight to the heart, with its deep attachment to the earth, its humility, and its beseeching chorus ‘Hoshana - Save’. This is expanded at the end of each section to ‘God and I, please save,’ referencing that long-standing partnership between humanity, God and nature which we so urgently need to restore, spiritually as well as ecologically, and in which we need to take a more conscious and constructive role.

The High Priest himself, after completing the complex atonement rituals on Yom Kippur, the most sacred day in the year, concluded with a prayer for

a year of grain, wine and oil; a year of dew, rain and warmth, a year of blessing over bread and water, a year of plenty, a year of peace and tranquillity.

May this be God’s will for all humankind and all life on earth, and may we do our utmost to contribute to its fulfilment in the time ahead.


PS Please wish me luck for the virtual London Marathon this Sunday. If all goes well, I hope to finish at shul around (ideally a little before!) 11.45 or 12.00. If it doesn’t go so well, I hope to finish by Chanukah latest. You can see my route and the causes I’m running for here.

Virtual London Marathon

I’m planning to run (slowly) the virtual London Marathon on Sunday 3rd October 2021 to support World Jewish Relief and Israel Guide Dogs.

Please help them (and my stamina) by donating via these links:

Donate to World Jewish Relief
Donate to Israel Guide Dogs

Thank you!

Virtual London Marathon route plan (excluding various loops and pit-stop details)

I hope to start from home before 7.00, taking East End Road to East Finchley, then round the block and back via Long Lane, Squires Lane, Summers Lane, Ashurst Road, and on to the main road up to Whetstone; then via Friern Barnet Lane, Russel Lane and Gallants Park Road up Cat Hill and down Bramley Road to take a left opposite Oakwood Station into Trent Park; then out through the main entrance onto Cockfosters Road, across via Hadley Wood to High Barnet, along Wood Street, left at The Gate pub, across to Totteridge Lane, all the way along to Longland Drive, up to Nether Street, then, with any extra loop and circuits of Avenue Park, back to shul for Minchah. I hope to manage to run at least two thirds, and walk or crawl the rest!

Thank you for your support.

RJW with puppy

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