tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:/posts Belovski 2014-07-31T05:37:11Z Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/720751 2014-07-30T16:21:47Z 2014-07-30T16:21:47Z Belovski on Making Amends Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

30/07/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/717622 2014-07-23T16:10:29Z 2014-07-23T16:10:29Z Belovski on the Commonwealth Games BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

23/07/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/715952 2014-07-19T22:52:47Z 2014-07-19T22:52:47Z Belovski on the Wise Things Children Say BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

17/07/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/699043 2014-06-02T15:40:30Z 2014-07-31T05:37:11Z Belovski on Bravery BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

02/06/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/694128 2014-05-21T09:52:11Z 2014-05-21T10:11:48Z Belovski on Marriage BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

14/05/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/687748 2014-05-07T13:11:40Z 2014-05-07T13:11:40Z Belovski on Freedom BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

07/05/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/684534 2014-04-30T15:08:38Z 2014-04-30T15:08:38Z Belovski on Lessons Learned from Life BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

30/04/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/680929 2014-04-23T13:23:04Z 2014-04-23T13:23:04Z Belovski on Courage BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

23/04/14



]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/656810 2014-02-21T08:29:25Z 2014-02-21T08:29:26Z Belovski on Looking in the Mirror BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show20/02/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/654470 2014-02-14T06:53:37Z 2014-02-14T10:40:19Z Dayan Gershon Lopian Obituary for Dayan Gershon Lopian זצ"ל

A prominent halachic expert, rabbinic mentor and empathetic spiritual leader with international influence, Dayan Gershon Lopian was rabbi, then emeritus rabbi, of the Edgware Yeshurun Synagogue.

Gershon Lopian, scion of a distinguished rabbinical family, was born in Portsmouth in 1938, the first child of Rabbi Leib and Tzippa (née Levy).  Rabbi Leib, a founding member of Gateshead Kolel (Institute for Higher Rabbinical Studies), was subsequently co-head of Gateshead Yeshiva.  His paternal grandfather Rabbi Eliyahu was a major figure in the ‘Musar’ (ethical discipline) movement, known for his incisive teachings and exceptional piety.

Rabbi Lopian studied first at Gateshead Yeshiva, then in Israel under his grandfather in Kfar Chassidim and at Chevron Yeshiva in Jerusalem, receiving semichah (ordination) from Rabbis Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Ovadiah Yosef and others.  He pursued advanced studies at Sunderland Kolel, where he was learning when he married Judy Saberski in 1964.  He also trained in practical rabbinics with the renowned halachic decisor Rabbi Henoch Padwa, whom he visited in London for extended periods.  While in Sunderland, Rabbi Lopian officiated at a local Shul on festivals, supervised the mikveh and butcher’s shop, and delivered shiurim.

In 1974, on a trip to the USA, Rabbi Lopian was introduced to the world’s foremost halachist, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.  He subsequently studied intensely for several months under the tutelage of Rabbi Feinstein, who conferred upon him an advanced semichah, allowing him to deliver complex rulings in a broad range of halachic fields.

In 1976, Rabbi Lopian was elected rabbi of the Federation’s Edgware Yeshurun Synagogue, a position he occupied with distinction until his appointment as emeritus rabbi at his retirement in 2006.  For a period in the ‘80s, he also served as a judge on the Beth Din of the Federation of Synagogues; this appointment dubbed him ‘the Dayan’, a title by which he was affectionately known for the rest of his life.

The Dayan was known as an attentive and capable rabbi: compassionate pastor, expert educator and effective champion of greater halachic observance. His tenure at Yeshurun coincided with a tremendous development of the Edgware Orthodox community: an increase of Shuls and opportunities for Torah study; the construction of a mikveh in which he was a driving force; the influx of observant families and newly religious to the area and the consequent proliferation of Jewish shops and other facilities.  This transformation is in large part attributable to the efforts of the Lopians, who gradually emerged as the senior Orthodox leaders in Edgware.

The Dayan's growing role as an halachic decisor of national and, ultimately, international significance reflected a unique confluence of outstanding scholarship, absolute conviction in the benevolent universality of the halachic system, a loathing for superficiality - what he called 'sartorial Judaism', a genuine love of people and a legendary sense of humour.  He was renowned for an ability to identify intensely with an individual's circumstances and challenges, sometimes even crying with strangers who had unburdened themselves.

The Dayan's decision-making technique was bravely anthropocentric, although his reputation for blanket leniency is an oversimplification.  He would actually start from the needs and context of the inquirer and move outwards to find a bespoke, yet irrefutably authentic, halachic response.  He fielded questions from all over the world, especially in the areas of Jewish family law and the challenges of the newly religious.  With a reputation for accessibility, he learned all day in a tiny study, constantly interrupted by calls, which he answered himself.  He taught hundreds of bridegrooms and was the advisor to many organisations, especially the transformational ‘Family Week’ programme, through which he and Rebbetzin Judy became long-term friends and mentors to numerous families.

The Dayan was also friend, guru and counsellor to scores of rabbis, many of whom he trained in practical rabbinics and halachic methodology.  A true 'rabbi's rabbi', he rejected rabbinic dependence, encouraging his students to make their own halachic and counselling decisions.  Enormously influential in the current rabbinate, his students lead communities across the globe.

In recent years, Dayan Lopian suffered from a number of debilitating complaints which he bore with fortitude, supported tirelessly by the rebbetzin.  Yet his increasing immobility scarcely impacted on his communal engagements and despite his obvious pain, he continued to attend events and teach shiurim, the last of which was delivered less than 24 hours before his unexpected passing.

He is survived by Rebbetzin Judy - his partner in every aspect of his communal work, two sons, three daughters, grandchildren, a great-grandchild and seven siblings.

Harvey Belovski is rabbi of Golders Green Synagogue and a long-standing student of Dayan Gershon Lopian

A version of this obituary first appeared in the Jewish Chronicle


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/653990 2014-02-13T15:43:23Z 2014-02-21T08:28:07Z Belovski on Love BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show13/02/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/651129 2014-02-06T15:25:19Z 2014-02-06T15:25:20Z Belovski on Community BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show
06/01/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/648014 2014-01-30T12:55:13Z 2014-02-06T15:25:36Z Belovski on Teamwork BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show30/01/14


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/638135 2014-01-05T21:57:31Z 2014-01-06T06:17:19Z Halitatea Tea House 5 Hillel Street, Jerusalem

I've been in Israel for the last week and a half for a combination of Shul business and a winter break. While here, I've met people a couple of times at the Halitatea tea house.  It's tucked away behind Rehov Hillel and I, like you, would probably not have found it had it not been pointed out.

There's a lovely atmosphere, great selection of tea, good music (very un-Israeli - they lowered the volume on request) and the staff are friendly and helpful.

Halitatea, which bills itself as a 'Speciali'tea Shop', stocks a huge selection of black, green and white teas, herbal teas, flavoured rooibos and they also knocked up a excellent version of my latest indulgence, the chai latte.  Tea comes in a glass pot with a delightful warmer and it's actually strong enough to enjoy, belying my British cynicism about Israeli tea.  If you need a nibble, there are also breakfasts, cakes and pastries and, if you ask Gabriel, the owner, nicely, he'll give you their wifi code.

A great place to meet people, hang out, relax, pretend to be British, or buy tea accoutrements.

To find Halitatea, turn down the first passageway on the left coming from the King George end of Rehov Hillel

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/630837 2013-12-16T06:14:48Z 2013-12-16T06:14:48Z Reporting Sexual and Domestic Abuse A Jewish Legal Perspective

Please feel free to download and distribute

A version of this first appeared in the Jewish Year Book 2014


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/628708 2013-12-10T13:55:55Z 2013-12-10T13:55:55Z Belovski on Peace BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

10/12/13


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/626062 2013-12-03T12:47:57Z 2013-12-03T14:23:35Z Belovski on Hope BBC Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

03/12/13


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/605058 2013-09-29T09:28:44Z 2013-10-08T17:30:44Z Too Much Dancing is Bad for the Simchah What to do if you don’t like all the Simchat Torah frolics

Simchat Torah is an emotional day, concluding the Tishri Yomtov season and ending the entire festival sequence that started with Pesach. As its name, Joy of the Torah, indicates, it’s a day focused on the Torah, when we complete the annual cycle of Torah reading and begin it all over again amid singing, dancing and communal festivities.

Yet lovely as it sounds, some are at best ambivalent towards Simchat Torah, others even regard it as an annoyance. Some of my most loyal congregants, among them daily attendees, arrive very late on Simchat Torah and others fail to turn up at all. And I’ll admit that in the years before I was a communal rabbi, on Simchat Torah I attended a “naughty boys” minyan that completed the hakafot — dance-circuits — in 15 minutes and had me home for kiddush by soon after 10am.

Of course, by the time Simchat Torah arrives, people are shuled out after a long and gruelling Yomtov season and nothing less than a day off shul will satisfy them. And it’s also obvious that no experience, however exciting, can work for everyone. Nonetheless, some aspects of the way we celebrate Simchat Torah should be re-examined in the hope of making it more attractive.

I am not a member of the “more is more” club. If dancing on Simchat Torah for an hour is enjoyable, it does not follow that two or even three hours’ dancing is more enjoyable. In fact, it can easily turn into a drag. In some shuls, Simchat Torah celebrations are even longer than Rosh Hashanah services and are chaotic experiences, major disincentives to participation, especially when, as this year, Simchat Torah falls on erev Shabbat.

The Torah reading often takes far too long (there are ways of speeding it up) and long before it’s over, people have lost interest and wandered off to the kiddush. Shuls should publish clear timetables and have enjoyable hakafot that are not too long and allow people to get home at a reasonable time.

This leads inexorably to the subject of excessive liquor consumption on Simchat Torah. There is no basis for the drunkenness that prevails in many shuls: Simchat Torah is not Purim, the only day in the year on which inebriation is sanctioned, even then in the very limited context of home feasting.

The spectacles of adults sneaking whisky bottles into services and intoxicated teenagers staggering from shul to shul are hardly among the most edifying of the Jewish year. And while there is no harm in adults having a glass of wine or the odd lechaim (it’s actually a mitzvah to drink wine in moderation at Yomtov meals), what has evolved in some places is a Simchat Torah that is too much simchah and not enough Torah, akin to barmitzvah celebrations that are too much bar and not enough mitzvah.

For many women, much of the Simchat Torah service is boring and frustrating. While some are entirely comfortable watching their menfolk sing and dance, others would love to dance with the Torah themselves, in celebration of their connection to Jewish life and learning. Many shuls have recognised this need as part of the extraordinary transformation of women’s Torah study that has taken place in recent decades and make separate provision for women’s dancing with Sifrei Torah on Simchat Torah.

And what about those — men or women — who for whatever reason, don’t dance? Some are physically unable to dance and others simply dislike dancing. And some can’t dance but don’t know it (always the fellow next to me).

The Torah itself reminds us that it is the “heritage of the community of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4), the legacy of every member of the Jewish people, irrespective of age, gender, state of health or competence at dancing.

For those seeking an alternative, some shuls provide learning programmes to coincide with the dancing and Torah reading. I think there is room to expand this to include family programming and introductory Torah classes, as well as encouraging private study. And while these shouldn’t detract from the main event in shul, they should be professionally run and of a high standard rather than a lifeless alternative for those who can’t be bothered to dance or do anything else.

We may take as the role model for brief hakafot and alternative modes of celebration no less a figure than the Vilna Gaon (died 1797). It is said that on Simchat Torah he would emerge from his private study to dance with tremendous passion for a short while and then return to his learning. If you currently feel disenfranchised by the end of Yomtov, these relatively small changes might just restore the simchah to Simchat Torah.

This article first appeared in the Jewish Chronicle


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/595580 2013-08-18T16:00:33Z 2013-10-08T17:28:41Z Summer Reading 2013 Several people have asked me what I've read during the summer holidays, so here is a list in no particular order:

The Addictive Organization, Wilson Schaef and Fassel

Can I Recycle My Granny? And 39 Other Eco-Dilemmas, Greenhart

What Is History?, Carr

No Joke: Making Jewish Humor, Wisse

Gagging Jesus: Things Jesus Said We Wish He Hadn't, Moore

The King Of Schorrers, Zangwill

In Defence Of History, Evans *

Anti-Judaism, Nirenberg *

A Curable Romantic, Skibell

The Jewish State: An Attempt At A Modern Solution Of The Jewish Question, Herzl

Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change, Beck and Cowan

The Definitive Book of Body Language, Pease and Pease

A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens

* Thanks to Daniel Hochhauser for these recommendations

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/595587 2013-08-18T15:54:55Z 2013-10-08T17:28:42Z Self, Family and Children Sermon Notes 17/08/13 - Ki Taytzay 5773

This week’s parashah includes more mitzvot than any other in the Torah – somewhere between 70 and 85, depending on how they are counted.  They cover the entire range of human activity – from marriage and divorce to business ethics; from warfare to the correct treatment of animals; from hygiene to public safety and purity – and they appear to be assembled somewhat randomly.

Yet Devarim is a single text – Moses’ great valedictory sermon – and as such, forms a cogent whole, which means that the order of the mitzvot in this parashah is significant.  The rabbis interpret some of the juxtapositions quite creatively; two follow.

The parashah begins with three consecutive mitzvot: a) how to treat the beautiful woman captured in war; b) the prohibition of disinheriting the son of a hated wife in favour of the son of a beloved wife; c) the elimination of the rebellious son.  The rabbis comment:

The Torah speaks only to the evil impulse, for if God does not permit the beautiful captive, he will marry her anyway.  Yet if he marries her, he will come to hate her and will eventually father a rebellious son with her. (Rashi to Devarim 21:11, paraphrasing Midrash Tanchuma Ki Taytzay 1)

The parashah ends with two mitzvot: a) the requirement to have honest weights and measures; b) the obligation to wipe out the memory of our arch-enemy Amalek.  The rabbis comment:

If you deceive people with weights and measures, you will worry about the assault of the enemy. (Rashi to Devarim 25:17, paraphrasing Midrash Tanchuma Ki Taytzay 8)

These explanations may seem a little far-fetched and devised solely to explain away the juxtaposition, but I believe they are underpinned by a profound, yet simple, psychological message, one that is certainly germane to the upcoming Yom Tov season.

A common Chassidic interpretation of the ‘war’ with which our parashah begins is that is refers not just to an external war against a physical enemy, but to the internal war that each of fights with our own demons.  Going ‘out to war’ is a symbol for the inner struggle that constitutes a good part of all of human experience.  And if we don’t win the battle against crass desires, selfishness and the tendency to exploit others, we risk transporting the unresolved demons into relationships that could fail, and, in turn, dumping the problems on to our children.  This is the meaning of the juxtaposition of the three mitzvot at the start of the parashah.  Similarly, when we exploit others by robbing them with dishonest weights and measures, we should recognise (and fear) that we have really fallen victim to the demons within – the Amalek that prompts to behave selfishly and destructively.

The fact that the Torah worries not just about how we behave, but also our motivation, is illustrated by the final phrase of the mitzvah of restoring lost property, also in this parashah.  Having told us that we must not pretend that we haven’t seen the item, rather attempt to return it to its owner, the Torah says:

לא תוכל להתעלם (Devarim 22:3)

This phrase is usually translated as ‘you shouldn’t hide yourself’, or similar, but it really means ‘you should not be able to hide yourself’ – i.e. you should not be capable of turning aside when you encounter an item that has been lost by another.

So the Torah regulates how we think – in this case, about a lost object – but this is only illustrative.  We need to understand what motivates us: why and how we think about things, and to try to uncover what unarticulated needs or desires prompt us to act.  Only then can we avoid pernicious chains of experience in our lives and the lives of those we love.


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/590134 2013-07-22T16:43:49Z 2013-10-08T17:27:35Z Dancing in the Vineyard Today Sermon Notes 20/07/13 - VaEtchanan and Tu B'Av

With Tisha B'Av behind us and a delightful cluster of weddings this year, today affords an opportunity to discuss a little-known day in the Jewish calendar: Tu B'Av, the 15th of Av.

Said Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel: there were no festive days for Israel like 15th Av or like Yom Kippur, on which the daughters of Jerusalem went out dressed in white and danced in the vineyards.  What did they exclaim?  Young man, please direct your eyes this way and decide what to choose for yourself. (Mishnah Ta'anit 4:8, paraphrased)

It is remarkable that the Mishnah places Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year and Tu B’Av, a day completely forgotten until modern times, side by side.  And equally remarkable is the unexpected dedication of Yom Kippur, a fast day usually associated with introspection and abstention, to matchmaking.

Yet putting each of these days into its original historical context will explain their connection and unexpected focus.  Yom Kippur is of course, the anniversary of the day on which God finally forgave the Israelites for making the golden calf, hence its selection as the annual day of  national atonement.  But the origins of Tu B'Av are more obscure.  The Talmud (Ta'anit 30b) offers a number of possibilities, one of which is that it was the day on which those condemned to die in the desert 'stopped dying'.  Rashi (ad loc.) cites a midrash which explains that each year on the evening of Tisha BAv, the anniversary of the fiasco of the spies, some of those doomed to die in the desert would lie down to die.  But on Tisha B'Av of the 40th year, no-one died.  Assuming that they had miscalculated the date, they tried again the next night, and the next, but again, no-one died.  Finally, when they saw the full moon on 15th of the month, they knew that the decree had expired and all those remaining could now enter the land.

So both Yom Kippur and Tu B'Av are days of affirmation - festivals of survival.   Either the sin of the calf or the debacle of the spies could have ended the Jewish people there and then, yet we survived and thrived.  In that sense, Yom Kippur and Tu B'Av are, indeed, the greatest moments of the Jewish year.

And when we affirm our survival, sometimes against all the odds, how do we celebrate?  By creating opportunities for singles to meet, to create loving, happy relationships and build new families.  We refute the prospect of our demise by making shidduchim.

In our community and across the Jewish world, it has never be more difficult for singles of all ages to meet each other.  Many live increasingly busy, atomised lives and create complex personal realities that are difficult to match with others. Yet most would dearly love to meet someone with whom to share their lives and despite all their professional and personal accomplishments, cannot.

There are many events in the Jewish community designed to bring people of all types together - dinners, trips and classes as well as agencies and individuals geared to this purpose.  Some are well established, others, like the shidduch.im initiative, are new.  (Don't assume that matchmaking is only for the very observant - singles from across the spectrum can benefit from a sensitive introduction).  All deserve our support and encouragement, and with God's help will facilitate many matches.

But I remain convinced that the best way for singles to meet is round your table, at your social event, through your introduction.  By which I mean that everyone in the community ought to be creating opportunities and comfortable spaces in which those who would so like to meet a life-partner can get together.  It's the responsibility of all of us, one that represents the greatest and most powerful affirmation of the Jewish future and our way to ensure that everyone has a chance to dance in the vineyard.

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/587001 2013-07-03T23:38:44Z 2013-10-08T17:26:58Z Tisha B'Av 5773 at GGS Full Programme - All Welcome

Tisha B'Av 5773

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/580842 2013-05-24T07:30:49Z 2013-10-08T17:25:45Z Belovski on Locusts Gefiltefest

19/05/13

I spoke about the kashrut of locusts at this year's Gefiltefest Jewish food festival.  Here are some clips of me looking at locusts from before and during the festival.

Jewish Online Magazine

Simon Rosenberg's film for Gefiltefest

Jewish News One





]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/580155 2013-05-21T04:16:06Z 2013-10-08T17:25:36Z Hesped for Joe Friedman ז"ל

Delivered outside Golders Green Synagogue

GGS 19/05/13

Few rabbis or communities are privileged to have a Joe Friedman in their midst.  It has been my tremendous blessing over the past 10 years and the great good fortune of our community for many more to have had Joe among us. 

Joe was the kind of ba’al ha-bayit with unswerving communal and personal loyalty, a man who gave everything of himself with no desire for any recognition; all he wanted in return was that his beloved community should thrive and be successful.

In 2005, I took the unusual step of reviving an ancient, yet dormant, tradition – the awarding of a ‘chaver’ title, of course, to Joe.  This turned him into a ‘companion’ of the community, a status he richly deserved.  The decoration took Joe and Yaffa by surprise; we gathered on a Shabbat morning on some pretext and I presented him with the award.  There was, of course, no other way to do this, as had he been asked in advance, he would never have accepted.  I looked back at the certificate we presented Joe on that occasion, which included the following:

He served as gabbai of our Shul for many years, faithfully worked for the community, whether in gabbayut or acts of chesed, including visiting the sick, accompanying the dead, comforting mourners, discreetly giving charity to the poor, arranging meals of visitors to the community; he strengthened Torah and awe of heaven.

On reflection, to many, many other contributions, I add these:

Hosting, together with Yaffa, more than 15 years of fantastic Shavuot-night programmes, holding the hand of a youngish rabbi as he found his feet in the community, being constantly available for sage advice and fighting for the Shul in every way.

The latter became quite literal when on one Shabbat morning, Joe physically wrestled a suspicious visitor to the floor of the bimah!

In every respect, Joe was a gibor – a warrior; how remarkable that he left this world on the Shabbat on which we read the Haftorah from Shoftim 13 about the birth of the original warrior – Samson.  At the time of the ‘chaver’ presentation, I described the award to Yaffa as a kind of knighthood for Joe, a knighthood for a gibor, a man who might be described elsewhere as a ‘knight of faith’.  Joe was a gibor for his family; a gibor for his Yiddishkeit, a gibor for his friends, a gibor for his rabbi and a gibor for his beloved community.

Although I am flooded with memories, I will offer just three brief vignettes to illustrate the kind of man Joe was.

On the day (1st April 2003) that my family and I arrived in this community, we moved into a house in Woodstock Road.  I recall that there was an old-fashioned single-legged telephone table in the hall which I was unable to remove from the wall where I wanted to erect a bookcase.  A man called Joe Friedman, whom I hardly knew, had mentioned that if I needed anything, I should give him a call, so I did.  Within five minutes, he was round at the house, holding a crowbar, with which he first ripped the table from the wall and then completely demolished it.  My wife reminded me that his pockets were also stuffed with sweets for our children.

A few years later, I was in the process of buying a family car, something I’d mentioned to Joe.  He was absolutely insistent that he accompanied me, as he was sure that I would get ripped off if I went on my own.  He test-drove the car, negotiated a good deal with the garage and for a few days, even covered a considerable shortfall.

And who could forget Joe’s appearance on Yom Kippur?  On several occasions, my wife remarked that with his white tallit and kittel complementing his white hair and shining face, Joe looked like an angel.  Whether leading the davening, reading Maftir Yonah or concentrating on his own tefillah, he presented a memorable and inspirational vision.

Joe’s given name was actually Shmuel Yosef, although no-one ever called him that – he was always known as Joe, Joseph or to Yaffa: Yossi.

It is written about the great prophet, the original Shmuel:

והנער שמואל משרת את ה

The lad Shmuel served God… (I Shmuel 3:1)

This verse sums up our ‘Shmuel’ – he regarded himself as just a lad, an ordinary person, although, of course, he was not.  And, quite simply, Joe ‘served God’.

At the start of Shemot, we learn about the transition of generations as the period of the Egyptian slavery begins.

וימת יוסף וכל אחיו וכל הדור ההוא

And Yosef died along with all his brothers and all of that generation. (Shemot 1:6)

This depiction hits a nerve for us.  Our ‘Yosef’ was of a type and from an era that will not be seen again.  Joe’s passion, generosity of spirit and deep commitment came from a generation that passes with him.

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has asked me to include the following personal tribute to Joe:

I remember Joe Friedman as a warm, friendly, deeply committed member of the Golders Green Synagogue, loyal to Judaism, the Jewish people and the state of Israel. He was always quiet and modest in manner, but always felt a sense of responsibility and always had a strong conscience and a determination to do the right and menschlich deed. It was a privilege to know him, and Elaine and I will miss him deeply. Our deepest condolences go to his loving wife Yaffa, his lovely children, Gaby, Ben, Annette, and Dana and the other members of his family. He was a blessing in life, and may his memory continue to inspire us.

To Yaffa, who stood by Joe’s side, supporting him in every endeavour, we say: your loss is huge and we try to share it and cry with you; we admire your fortitude and love.

Gaby, Ben, Dana and Annette, be comforted in the knowledge that your father Joe was a true gibor – a warrior who is a blessing to you and to all of us, an inspirational man whom I and no-one in our community will ever forget.

To Judith and Michael, we mourn with you the loss of a remarkable brother.

I conclude with the words of a congregant who was not able to attend today’s funeral, as he has summed up all our feelings so beautifully:

Please let Joe’s family know how fond all people were of him, and quite literally, how loved he was by all who met him.  He was truly a most wonderful and charming man.  His passing is a terrible loss to the community.

בלע המות לנצח ומחה ה אלקים דמעה מעל כל פנים

He will swallow up death forever and the Lord God will wipe away tears from upon all faces... (Yeshayahu 25:8)

יהי זכרו ברוך

May his memory be for a blessing.


]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/577474 2013-05-05T22:16:10Z 2013-10-08T17:25:03Z 'Autopilot' and the Spiritual Quest Sermon Notes 04/05/13 - Behar-Bechukotay 5773

If you walk in My statutes, observe My commandments and perform them. (VaYikra 26:3)

This verse, which opens the second of today’s parashiot, is subject to much discussion in the classic sources.  A key difficulty is the unexpected use of הליכה – walking – to describe adherence to statutes, divine laws for which no reason is known.  Rabbi S.R. Hirsch (commentary ad. loc) explains that הלך means to ‘move towards a goal’.  Spiritual life involves constantly moving towards spiritual ambitions, relentlessly striving to attain communion with the divine, exemplified by the statutes.

This interpretation is supported by a beautiful midrash:

If you walk in My statutes… As the verse writes: I considered my way, but I returned my feet to Your testimonies. (Tehillim 119:59)  King David said, ‘every day, I decided that I would walk to a particular place or home, but my feet brought me to the Shuls or Yeshivot’.  As the verse says: but I returned my feet to your testimonies. (VaYikra Rabbah 35:1)

This reading identifies a phenomenon we might term our ‘autopilot’ – the direction in which we are led when we aren’t thinking by habit and subliminal interests.  I recall a long-retired senior colleague who mentioned that his car ‘went to Bushey on its own’ – that is, wherever he started driving, he ending up steering towards the Jewish cemetery in Bushey (outskirts of London), somewhere, sadly, he had frequented throughout his career.

King David records that despite his plans, he always found himself automatically led towards houses of prayer and Torah study.  As such, the midrash has reinterpreted the phrase ‘if you walk in My statutes’ as an exploration of our subconscious desires.  Have we sufficiently internalised our spiritual mission that we follow it without concentrating, even when we’re focusing on something else?

This passage is always read soon before Shavuot (see TB Megillah 31b and Yad, Tefillah U’Nesiat Kapayim 13:2).  The obvious rationale for this is that it contains the rebukes that are the consequences of disobeying the laws given at Sinai.  But perhaps there is another reason – prior to renewing our connection to the revelation and its laws, we are encouraged to consider where our true loyalties lie, those best characterised by where our ‘autopilot’ takes us.

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/576972 2013-05-02T16:35:54Z 2013-10-08T17:24:57Z Ten Years at Golders Green Synagogue Last Week's Celebratory Shabbat

The following article appeared on the US 'You and US' Website this week here

Golders Green United Synagogue marked the tenth anniversary of Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski’s taking up the position of rabbi with a special Shabbat Kodesh programme last Shabbat.

Following the service, Rabbi Dr Belovski gave a textual presentation entitled, “Frankenstein, Choni HaMa’agel and the Power of Companionship” (source-sheet follows), which he used as a springboard to express his feelings of affection and gratitude towards the community. The chairman of the shul, Professor Benjamin Chain then spoke briefly on behalf of the shul, to thank Rabbi and Mrs Belovski for their continued efforts in all aspects of the shul’s life and development.  Professor Chain presented Rabbi Belovski with a specially-made glass shofar, made by Michael Gore of Chicago, the same designer who is responsible for the shul’s new parochet, which has been donated by members as part of GGS’s redevelopment project. The service was followed by a celebratory Kiddush.

On Monday evening, more than 70 people attended a facilitated discussion in the new shul hall, on the theme of “Shaping our Future”, which was an opportunity for  Rabbi Belovski to set out his vision for the GGS community and for the members to share and discuss their views on how the kehillah should develop. Following Rabbi Belovski’s speech, Professor Chain expertly managed a lively, but good-natured, discussion on topics as diverse as seating arrangements in the remodelled shul building, educational programmes and provision of suitable social activities for both older and younger members. 

Professor Chain said, “Over the last ten years, both Rabbi Belovski and GGS have grown and developed immensely. It is an excellent partnership, which we hope will continue for many more years.”

Rabbi Belovski added, “It remains a tremendous privilege to lead such a wonderful community. It is particularly exciting to be planning the future of the kehillah at this time, as we come to the end of our magnificent redevelopment project.”

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/576762 2013-05-01T13:05:23Z 2013-10-08T17:24:55Z Shavuot 5773/2013 Please Join Us - All Welcome

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/443233 2013-04-22T07:52:25Z 2013-10-08T16:56:31Z Holiness, the Jewish State and a Rendezvous with History Sermon Notes 20/04/13 - Acharey & Kedoshim / Yom HaAtzmaut Shabbaton 5773

This week’s parashah starts with perhaps the most famous exhortation in the Torah:

Speak to the entire congregation of Israel and say to them: be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. (VaYikra 19:2)

This raises the perennial issue of the nature of holiness.  It is discussed by the mediaeval philosophers and has major ramifications for the State of Israel.  Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi (Kuzari) understood that holiness is innate not just to God, but also to people, places and even languages.  He believed the Jewish people and the Land of Israel to be intrinsically holy, in comparison with other peoples and lands.  In contrast, the Rambam (Moreh Nevochim) believed that only God is inherently holy.  For the Rambam, holiness is not innate, but instrumental – the Land of Israel offers the best environment (determined by climate, resources, location, etc.) for practising Judaism’s lofty spiritual goals.  Similarly, the history, experience and temperament of the Jewish people best empower us to pursue the objectives set out in the Torah.

The Kuzari's view has largely prevailed and informs much of modern thought about the role of the Jewish people and the contemporary state.  Yet it can be dangerous if misapplied – a view that sets one people or place as holier and somehow better than others risks fostering a destructive sense of superiority and triumphalism, and encouraging people to fight the wrong battles with the wrong people.

I believe that despite its marginalisation in recent centuries, the rationalist, instrumental perspective of the Rambam should be re-examined; it has important lessons to teach a modern, fractious Jewish state.

An important 20th-century philosopher who donned the Maimonidean mantle in this respect was Professor A.J. Heschel.  In his monograph, ‘The Sabbath’ he notes that the:

Holiness of the land of Israel is derived from the holiness of the people of Israel. (The Sabbath)

For Heschel, the laws and ideals of land, and, by extension, the state, must reflect the moral values and spiritual aspirations of the Jewish people: an ethical monotheism that recognises the divine image present in every member of society and strives to bring blessing upon them all.  The land’s holiness is not innate – it is a reflection of the moral conduct of its inhabitants.

In Heschel’s later book, ‘Israel: an Echo of Eternity’, written following his visit to Israel just after the Six-Day War, he adapts the answer to the Kotzker Rebbe's well-known question ‘Where is God?’ (Wherever you let Him in):

God is no less here than there.  It is the sacred moment in which His presence is disclosed.  We meet God in time rather than in space, in moments of faith rather than in a piece of space. (Israel: an Echo of Eternity)

But if God is mostly encountered in time, rather than space, what of a Jewish homeland, now the State of Israel?  It must certainly provide the Jewish people with a haven from persecution, as Herzl intended.  It must be a place where Jewish life, observance and culture can flourish and where true Jewish ambitions can best be expressed, as articulated by Ahad HaAm and later, in a more religious iteration, by Professor Eliezer Berkovits.  It must be a place where foreign influences can be cautiously filtered and incorporated where appropriate, rather than being the prevailing Weltanschauung, as they are in the Diaspora.  And it must encourage and implement Messianic aspirations for the Jewish people and for the world.

True to his Maimonidean leanings, Heschel explains the creative potential of the land for the Jewish people:

For the Jewish national movement, therefore, the land of Israel was not merely a place where, historically speaking, the Jews had once dwelt.  It was the homeland with which an indestructible bond of national, physical, religious, and spiritual character had been preserved, and where the Jews had in essence remained—and were now once more in fact—a major element of the population.  It is here where the great works of the Jewish people came into being: the Bible, the Mishnah, the Palestinian Talmud, the Midrashim, the Shulhan Arukh, Lurianic mysticism.  No other people has created original literary works of decisive significance in the land of Israel.  The words, the songs, the chants of Jewish liturgy, which have shaped the life of prayer in both Judaism and Christianity, were born in the Holy Land.... It is not only memory, our past that ties us to the land; it is our hope, our future. (Israel: an Echo of Eternity)

Heschel also coined a beautiful phrase to describe the role and aspirations of the State of Israel – ‘a rendezvous with history’, one which must be constantly renewed and reinvigorated.  In a section of ‘Israel: an Echo of Eternity’ by that name, he demands a ‘re-examination’:

The major weakness was to take the State of Israel for granted, to cease to wonder at the marvel of its sheer being. Even the extraordinary tends to be forgotten.  Familiarity destroys the sense of surprise. We have been beset by a case of spiritual amnesia. We forgot the daring, the labor, the courage of the seers of the State of Israel, of the builders and pioneers.  We forgot the pain, the suffering, the hurt, the anguish, and the anxiety which preceded the rise of the state.  We forgot the awful pangs of birth, the holiness of the deed, the dedication of the spirit.  We saw the Hilton and forgot Tel Hai.

The land rebuilt became a matter of routine, the land as a home was taken for granted.

The younger generation seeing the state functioning normally has the impression that this has been the case all along.  They have no notion of the distress and strain, of the longing and dreaming of generations. The miracle of Israel became a state like all states, with neither mystery nor sacrifice permeating it.   Habit is our downfall, a defeat of the spirit.  Living by habit is the destruction of creativity. (ibid.)

My generation (I was born a few months after the Six-Day War) have no recollection of a time when one couldn’t hop on a plane and visit Israel; when we visit Jerusalem, we need a tour guide, rather than a military vehicle, to point out the Israeli-Jordanian pre-’67 battle-lines.

Yom HaAtzmaut is a great opportunity to consider the real potential of the Jewish state and to ensure that we never take its existence – so long a distant hope – for granted.  Nor for that matter, our responsibility to build a land and a state that truly reflects the values of the Torah and the Jewish people – a life of holiness and a way of being that elevates us and all of humanity.

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/350739 2013-04-07T18:33:22Z 2013-10-08T16:36:46Z Kashrut and Mindfulness Sermon Notes 06/04/13 - Shemini 5773

The second half of this week’s parashah (VaYikra 11) is devoted to the laws of permitted and forbidden birds, mammals, fish and insects.

Today it is easier to observe kashrut than at any previous time.  That’s not to minimise the challenges for those travelling, at work meetings etc., but the range of products available, the advent of easy-heat kosher meals and the growing societal tolerance to ‘odd’ eating habits mean that a fully-kosher diet is more manageable than ever before.

Yet kashrut is also subject to more stringencies than most other areas of halachah and is sometimes the subject of political turf-wars between supervising authorities.  That’s not to say that I don’t support healthy competition: some duplication is a small price to pay for competitiveness; yet it is noticeable that stringencies are less popular in the areas of business ethics or gossip than in kashrut.

In a world where it’s easy to eat kosher, are we able to return to the core values that kashrut observance was intended to promote?  Actually, the Torah is not specific about the purpose of these laws, leading some mediaevalists to assume that they were health-related.  Many thinkers, however, speak of holiness as their goal, as indicated by the verses at the end of VaYikra 11:

For I am the Lord your God; you shall make yourselves holy and be holy, because I am holy.  Do not pollute your souls with any creeping thing that crawls upon the ground.  For I am the Lord your God who brought you up from the Land of Egypt to be God for you; so you shall be holy because I am holy...  To distinguish between the pure and the impure and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten. (VaYikra 11: 44-45, 47)

Elsewhere, Rashi remarks that since it’s simple to differentiate between a pig and a cow, a more subtle distinction is intended.  On our verses, Rashi, citing the Talmud, notes that the reference to the Exodus is intended to convey the importance of these laws – should the Israelites be able to sanctify themselves through them, God considers that it was worth bringing the Israelites out of Egypt.  What is the self-sanctification demanded by these verses?

I suggest that the Torah expects us to recognise that eating – fuelling our bodies – can be a base, animalistic and purely sensory experience, or it can be an opportunity to develop profound sensitivity to our food, its sources, what it means to eat and to those who may not be as fortunate as we.  Do we think before we eat?  Do we think about the intricate chain of processes that have made diverse foodstuffs available to us?  If we are eating meat or fish, do we consider the fact that our food was once alive, moving, feeling, breathing?  Do we recognise the privileged existences we have in comparison with the lives of so many who are less fortunate than we?  In short, does eating enable us to become more sensitive, more in tune with our world and its complexities, or less so; do we become more or less human when we eat?  Do we live to eat or eat to live?

I support this contention from a curious gemara that seems to read one of our verses out of context:

‘You shall make yourselves holy’ – this refers to pre-prandial hand-washing;

‘And you shall be holy’ – this refers to post-prandial hand-washing. (TB Berachot 53b)

Washing one’s hands before a meal is a ritual intended to foster reflection and mindfulness.  Before we begin a meal, the Torah requires us to consider the import of what we are about to do – this is ritualised by the rabbis as hand washing.  Similarly, the less-familiar ‘mayim acharonim’ – rinsing the hands at the end of a meal – encourages us to contemplate the significance of what we have just done.  These rules ensure that we are able to transform the act of eating into a meaningful and sensitising experience.

Mindfulness and reflection are an essential component all meaningful religious life.  The kashrut laws, when observed in their sprit as well as their letter, lie at the heart of Jewish spiritual strivings, surely ample justification for the Exodus:

For I am the Lord your God who brought you up from the Land of Egypt to be God for you; so you shall be holy because I am holy...

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/334492 2013-04-04T23:30:49Z 2013-10-08T16:33:12Z Moshe and the Fallible Leader Sermon Notes 01/04/13 - 7th Day Pesach 5773

The Song at the Sea is prefaced by the phrase:

…they (the Israelites) trusted in the Lord and in Moshe His servant. (Shemot 14:31)

The equation of God with Moshe troubled early commentators.  The Targum Onkelos renders the verse ‘they trusted in the Lord and in the prophecy of Moshe His servant’, whereas the mediaeval commentator/grammarian Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra rereads it as ‘they trusted in the Lord and that Moshe was his servant’!  The almost complete absence of Moshe from the Haggadah is often cited as a deliberate attempt on behalf of the text’s authors to move the spotlight away from Moshe, the human intermediary in the story, and focus exclusively on God’s direct intervention in bringing about the plagues and the exodus.

Recent problems both in the rabbinic world and beyond naturally lead us to question the role of charismatic leaders and recognise the inability of their most devoted followers to accept that they may have erred.  Of course, these issues are nothing new; indeed they are as old as Moshe himself.  Let me first examine two famous, diametrically opposed visions of Moshe, both offered by Jews of rather different allegiances.

Sigmund Freud opens his final major work ‘Moses and Monotheism’ as follows:

To deny a people the man whom it praises as the greatest of its sons is not a deed to be undertaken lightly-heartedly especially by one belonging to that people.  No consideration, however, will move me to set aside truth in favour of supposed national interests.

Freud devotes his work to just that – a demolition of the traditional picture of Moses.  Briefly and scarcely doing Freud justice, Moses was an Egyptian, who strove to impose a form of pre-existing Egyptian monotheism on a fractious group of ex-slaves.  Unable to tolerate his demands, the people rebelled and murdered Moses.  Because of the heinous nature of their crime, they sublimated, but did not totally eliminate their memory of it, which has resurfaced in Jewish national angst throughout history and manifested itself obliquely in the origins of Christianity.

Of course, this narrative is utter anathema to a believing Jew.  Yet it raises important and pointed questions about how we view leaders in general and Moshe specifically.  Interestingly, Freud himself is aware of the inadequacies of his own thesis; as he says in a footnote:

When I use Biblical tradition here in such an autocratic and arbitrary way, draw on it for confirmation whenever it is convenient and dismiss its evidence without scruple when it contradicts my conclusions, I know full well that I am exposing myself to severe criticism concerning my method and that I weaken the force of my proofs.

All of which makes one wonder why write the theory at all, given how successfully Freud undermines his own ideas.

At the other end of the spectrum, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov proposes a view that makes the ‘tzaddik’ virtually infallible:

Every ‘tzaddik’ in the generation is an aspect of Moshe – Messiah (Likkutey Moharan I:2)

Rebbe Nachman’s writings are permeated with this and similar ideas (he clearly regarded himself as the near-perfect ‘tzaddik’), a perspective on leadership that many of us likely find deeply worrying, as it can so obviously lead to abuse by a charlatan or his followers.

So is it possible to forge some middle ground – to devise a model that produces leaders who are inspirational role models yet accountable; capable of strong, assertive leadership, yet who obviously share the frailties and is subject to the same temptations of other human beings?  Actually, one needs look no further than Moshe himself for inspiration.

At the end of Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz’s commentary to Nashim, the author cites an un-sourced, rather controversial midrash (it is missing from some editions).  Briefly, it tells the story of an Arab king who wanted to know about the character of Moshe, the great leader who had brought the Israelites from Egypt with signs and wonders.  He dispatched a painter to the Israelite camp in the desert to prepare a likeness of the great man.  When the painter returned with his work, the king gathered his experts to pass judgement on the character of Moshe; they universally agreed that he was a wicked man: arrogant, mean-spirited and angry.  The king rejected their opinion and turned on the painter, assuming that he had been incompetent.  Yet the painter insisted that he had painted Moshe accurately and that the experts must have misinterpreted his character.  Unsure who was correct, the king travelled to meet Moshe himself and determined that the painter had depicted him accurately.  The king questioned Moshe who admitted that all of the deficiencies that the experts had identified were indeed native to his character, but that through a long process of self-development, he had conquered them and transformed his personality. (Tiferet Yisrael to Mishnah Kiddushin 4:14)

This midrash offers a new perspective on Moshe and a model of sustainable leadership.  The leader is human, yet is a role model of self-development; he or she is immersed in Jewish knowledge and has developed an understanding of the world through the eyes of the Torah that can be brought to bear on individual and communal issues, yet is subject to the same lack of personal objectivity and failings as other human beings.  We should not forget that according to Rabbi Nissim of Gerona, Moshe spoke with difficulty precisely to remind the people that he was a fallible human being – not the originator of the divine message, but merely its amanuensis (Derashot HaRan 3)

Maintaining the right leadership balance is a ubiquitous problem, but one that remains central to the Jewish experience.  Ernst Sellin, who influenced Freud’s view of Moshe wrote:

The final and most important question for all research into the Israelite-Jewish religion will always remain: who was Moses? (Cited by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi in ‘Freud’s Moses’)

Deciding who our Moses will be may be just as important for us.

]]>
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski