tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:/posts Belovski 2020-06-03T17:03:33Z Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1553387 2020-06-03T17:03:33Z 2020-06-03T17:03:33Z Belovski on Lockdown Prayer

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

03/06/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1547566 2020-05-21T09:25:32Z 2020-05-21T09:25:32Z Belovski on Counting

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show (Dermot O'Leary sitting in)

21/05/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1533506 2020-04-22T08:39:00Z 2020-04-22T16:43:23Z Coronavirus Thoughts (2)

On Coronaheterim and the Future of Jewish Life

I ended my previous post by mentioning that the quiet Shabbat and Yom Tov days during the lockdown have provided me with an unusual opportunity to reflect on the current situation and its impact on our Jewish lives.

One thought has dominated those quiet moments – a sense of awesome, almost overwhelming responsibility.  Of course, I must play my role in seeing my family, my community and the organisations I advise through the crisis in good form.  But what is playing on my mind is something bigger – my responsibility to protect and preserve Judaism itself.

The pandemic has produced religious dilemmas of a degree of import that I had not previously encountered.  Each requires the halachic decisor to navigate the tension between normative practice, pressing immediate need and the ramifications – short and longer-term of each possible ruling.  Some – such as at what stage to close Shuls, required the Office of the Chief Rabbi, the United Synagogue and the London Bet Din to follow medical and government advice.  Others – such as whether to conduct burials on second-day Yom Tov and which regular foodstuffs are permitted in extremis on Pesach – were taken centrally.  In the former, the London Bet Din allowed something that is technically permitted yet never usually practised; in the latter, I believe they demonstrated great sensitivity to those who simply couldn’t access Pesach-supervised foods due to isolation or location, while remaining faithful to the requirements of halachah in a situation where (unlike in historic cases of famine or conflict), there was no shortage of staples.

Yet some decisions have been left more to local discretion.  I believe that the way in which we handle them will impact on the future viability of Judaism in our communities.  This is best explained through two examples – minyan / kaddish and the ‘Zoom Seder’.  Both have been subject to detailed scrutiny in the Jewish press and on social media.

One of the consequences of necessary social distancing has been the inability to gather for regular minyanim and the impossibility of forming ad hoc minyanim at shiva houses.  This has led to the painful consequence that those recently bereaved or marking a yahrzeit cannot say kaddish for their loved one.  This is because kaddish falls into the category of ‘devarim shebikedushah’ – holy content that may only be included in our prayers in the presence of a minyan.  Many communities, including mine, have been hosting virtual weekday prayer service which provide an opportunity to ‘see’ each other, pray together and intercede on behalf of those who are ill.  Some are also including Torah study and memorial prayers for the deceased, reflections on his or her life and words of comfort to the bereaved.

Yet for many, the omission of kaddish remains vexatious and disappointing.  As such, some individuals and rabbis are relying on an eccentric, outlying view (almost certainly taken out of context) that has emerged from Israel which permits reciting kaddish even when the prayer group (I am reluctant to say ‘minyan’ here) is convened entirely by virtual means.  Despite its marginal nature (the ruling is rejected by virtually every other halachic decisor of repute in the world), its attraction is obvious.  Yet just as obvious is the threat to the very fabric of public prayer that adopting a ruling of this sort poses.  And while I admire the ingenuity of its originator (while rejecting its acceptability out of hand), I am deeply suspicious of how a ruling of this sort could have been issued, something I have attempted – unsuccessfully – to clarify directly.

The imperative to socially isolate radically changed the way most of us celebrated Pesach this year, with thousands of older and vulnerable people unable to enjoy seder with their families.  We all know people for whom Pesach – usually a joyful gathering to which they look forward for months – was transformed into a week they were absolutely dreading, with many facing it alone for the first time in their lives.  Again, communities did their best to provide not just shopping and other pre-Yom Tov support, but also familiar and enjoyable online content before Pesach and during Chol HaMoed.  Yet while certainly appreciated, this is unlikely to have mitigated the reality of a long Yom Tov in isolation and seder alone.

A couple of weeks before Pesach, a group of relatively unknown Israeli Sephardic rabbis issued guidelines for what has been become known as the ‘Zoom Seder’.  This allowed people to commence a virtual meeting prior to Yom Tov, leaving a device running into the festival, thereby enabling family members in different homes to ‘share’ their seder.  Apart from the technical difficulties of following even these guidelines, this ruling was also rejected by practically every halachic expert of note, some in the strongest terms.  And the ruling itself turned out to be a fiasco, as many of the signatories subsequently withdrew their support, some even claiming that their names had been appended without permission.[1]  For understandable reasons, some seized on this idea as a solution to their seder dilemma.  I am truly fortunate – while our sedarim were much smaller than usual – they were lively and beautiful family occasions.  I can hardly imagine the distress of those facing Yom Tov alone and I appreciate why those most affected by the lockdown and otherwise facing days of isolation – would choose to adopt this solution without consulting their usual rabbinic advisors.  Yet some rabbis – perhaps without thoroughly investigating the background to the ‘Zoom Seder’ – even promoted it to their communities.  Again, I can only point out the glaringly obvious – the potential long-term damage to Shabbat and Yom Tov observance caused by the dissemination of such blanket rulings.[2]

Virtual kaddish and the ‘Zoom Seder’ touch on two of the pillars of Jewish life – public prayer and scrupulous observance of Shabbat and Yom Tov.  They are the very lifeblood of Jewish communal life and our inability to gather in prayer as usual and the disruption to our usual Shabbat and Yom Tov practices are deeply painful.  They have held communities together from time immemorial and they will – and must – outlive the unprecedented challenges of the present crisis.  As Ahad Ha’Am famously said, ‘more than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews’, an aphorism that might also be applied to public prayer.  I passionately belief that interfering with the core principles on which these constructs rest risks disastrous long-term effects, far worse than the very real – yet temporary – distress the current lockdown causes to those who cannot gather to pray or celebrate family-oriented festivals in the usual way.  We must be exquisitely sensitive, creative and bold to mitigate their anguish, but within carefully defined parameters, not with irresponsible, swinging changes to the underlying fabric of Judaism.  Shabbat, Yom Tov and public prayer – mainstays of our communal and private Jewish lives – are the heritage of every Jew and of the Jewish people.  They are entrusted to us by the collective history of the Jewish people and the tears and sacrifice of our forebears with the expectation that we will pass them on intact to future generations.  We are the guardians of a system that is not ours to fundamentally modify.  The extraordinary technology that enables virtual prayer gatherings and internet sedarim must not supplant core areas of Jewish practice, remaining its servant, never its master.

And as leaders we need to be realistic – with even the best intentions, members of the public will understandably draw general conclusions about the long-term permissibility of certain practices, however much we explain that they were only intended for one-off emergency situations.  We cannot easily undo the ‘Zoom Seder’, nor the virtual kaddish said without a minyan, once the genie is out of the bottle.

Misuse of the wise leniencies of this year’s ‘in extremis’ Pesach list may lead to someone purchasing unsupervised apple rings for Pesach next year – this is regrettable and should certainly be corrected, yet it is unlikely to have broader ramifications.  But misuse of virtual minyan and ‘Zoom Seder’ leniencies threatens the very foundations of Jewish life.  These rulings – to the extent that they can be called that – are popular, understandable and address genuine needs, yet at a great – I believe too great a – cost.  As Rabbi Shimon says ‘Who is wise? One who perceives the outcome of one’s actions’.[3]


[1] This shambles is described masterfully here by my friend Rabbi Pini Dunner of Beverley Hills.

[2] Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon – a great contemporary Israeli halachic expert – offered a beautiful alternative, what he called ‘a family Zoom pre-Seder meeting before sunset’ (see here for details).  This encouraged families to gather by Zoom an hour or two before Yom Tov to sing favourite Seder songs, discuss issues about liberty, share favourite moments from the evening and invite individual contributions.  Rabbi Rimon felt that this could offer what he called ‘an exciting reunion that will be a meaningful beginning to the Seder night’, potentially allowing dozens of family members to participate in an inspirational pre-Seder gathering.

[3] Avot 2:9.

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1533504 2020-04-20T16:23:31Z 2020-04-22T08:39:25Z Coronavirus Thoughts (1)

A Changed World

I was in New York on a short business trip a few days before Purim.  Early one morning, I received an unexpected call from my Shul chair to say that a group of scientists and medics in our community had advised that we cancel all forthcoming social events including Shabbat kiddushim and Purim parties.  We were slightly ahead of the curve, although in common with other communities across the globe, by a few days after Purim, we had held our final minyan. That was just five weeks ago, but it might as well have been five years ago.

Since then, the Coronavirus pandemic has changed every aspect of communal life, creating new norms none of could have imagined a short while ago.  It has also had an extraordinary impact on the life, role and expectations of rabbinic leaders, something compounded by the suddenness of the changes and the proximity of the lockdown to Pesach, even in an ordinary year the busiest season for most rabbis.

Sadly, the impact of the crisis has hit many families and communities in the harshest of ways, with a marked increase in the number of bereavements and those who are seriously ill.  To make matters worse, social-distancing requirements mean that funerals may only be attended by a handful of people, shiva gatherings are forbidden and it is not permitted to visit the sick.  These rules add multiple layers of distress and anxiety to what are already life’s most painful experiences.  My prayers are with all those affected and their loved ones at this exceedingly difficult time.  And my thoughts are with those colleagues for whom this period has been unusually stressful.  They have been called upon to conduct numerous funerals in short order, while simultaneously supporting multiple bereaved families.  They have all risen to the challenge admirably.  I don’t underestimate the emotional and physical toll on them and their families.

As with all crises, this one has sorted the heroes from the zeroes.  Across the community, religious and lay leaders have set aside their personal anxieties, stepping forward to take bold, thoughtful decisions, creating a sense of engagement, care and spirituality for their flocks.  I am awed at what many of my colleagues have achieved in a short time and I am filled with admiration at what my own lay-leadership has put in place to support our community, something that I know is replicated in many others.

I have spent much of the past few weeks supporting our rabbinic and lay teams as we reimagine our community online, devise new programming designed to reach the largest possible number and create enhanced welfare systems to support those isolated by the crisis.  It’s been one of the most intense periods I can recall, notwithstanding that I’ve barely left the house.  Yet it has also been a time of introspection, especially as Shabbat and Yom Tov have been so quiet and free from formal responsibilities.

Where these quiet moments have led me and their intersection with certain recent developments will be covered in my next post later this week.

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1528212 2020-04-07T10:45:02Z 2020-04-07T10:45:03Z Belovski on A Different Night

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show (Amol Rajan sitting in)

07/04/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1523066 2020-03-23T23:14:56Z 2020-03-23T23:14:56Z Belovski on Regression

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

23/03/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1521027 2020-03-17T18:02:59Z 2020-03-17T18:02:59Z Rabbi Belovski on Community and Coronavirus

Inspirations and Initiatives

17/03/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1520549 2020-03-16T15:19:09Z 2020-03-16T15:19:09Z Belovski on Marriage

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

16/03/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1518064 2020-03-09T12:52:14Z 2020-03-09T12:52:15Z Belovski on Purim and Remembrance

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

09/03/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1503146 2020-01-27T11:31:28Z 2020-01-27T11:31:28Z Belovski on Holocaust Memorial Day

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

27/01/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1498652 2020-01-15T10:58:54Z 2020-01-15T10:58:55Z Belovski on Time

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

14/01/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1496005 2020-01-06T11:44:43Z 2020-01-06T11:44:44Z Belovski on Children

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show (Nicki Chapman sitting in)

06/01/20


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1494496 2019-12-31T21:20:20Z 2019-12-31T21:20:20Z Belovski on Cliffhangers

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show (Nicki Chapman sitting in)

31/12/19


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1479850 2019-11-23T19:36:47Z 2019-11-23T19:36:47Z Belovski on Liberty

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

19/11/19


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1476722 2019-11-12T11:17:43Z 2019-11-12T11:17:43Z Belovski on Blessing

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show, special with Rylan Clark-Neal

12/11/19


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1474306 2019-11-05T22:25:54Z 2019-11-05T22:25:54Z Belovski on Daf Yomi

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

05/11/19


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1467015 2019-10-18T10:34:36Z 2019-10-18T10:34:36Z Belovski on Sukkot

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

17/10/19


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1463711 2019-10-07T13:55:37Z 2019-10-07T13:55:37Z Belovski on Yom Kippur and Joy

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show (Gary Davies sitting in)

07/10/19


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1462115 2019-10-02T18:06:50Z 2019-10-06T23:15:00Z Belovski on Rosh HaShanah and Optimism

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show (Nicki Chapman sitting in)

02/10/19


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1457233 2019-09-19T20:11:38Z 2019-09-19T20:11:38Z Belovski on Responsibility

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

17/09/19

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1442136 2019-08-07T16:03:58Z 2019-09-11T16:19:08Z Belovski on Sadness

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show (Amol Rajan sitting in)

05/08/19

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1424702 2019-06-26T12:58:34Z 2019-09-11T16:18:24Z Belovski on Connecting with Nature

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

25/06/19

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1421291 2019-06-19T13:58:30Z 2019-06-19T13:58:30Z Belovski on Waterloo

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

18/06/19

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1419416 2019-06-13T06:33:02Z 2019-06-13T06:33:02Z Belovski on Graduation

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

12/06/19


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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1411877 2019-05-22T18:16:38Z 2019-05-22T18:16:38Z Belovski on Meeting People Where They Are

Zoe Ball Radio 2 Show

22/05/19



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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1407031 2019-05-09T12:13:21Z 2020-05-28T16:39:13Z Belovski on Peace

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

09/05/19



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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1401197 2019-04-23T17:15:02Z 2019-05-09T13:21:55Z Belovski on Time

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

23/04/19

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1399365 2019-04-18T16:05:46Z 2019-05-09T13:23:18Z Belovski on Passover and Freedom

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

18/04/19

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1395757 2019-04-09T10:21:49Z 2019-05-09T13:24:14Z Belovski on Standing up for what's Right

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

09/04/19

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1393852 2019-04-04T19:55:14Z 2019-05-09T13:24:57Z Belovski on Changing Direction

Radio 2 Zoe Ball Show

03/04/19

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Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski