tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:/posts Belovski 2014-10-01T11:56:27Z Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/749432 2014-10-01T11:56:27Z 2014-10-01T11:56:27Z Belovski on Atonement Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

01/10/14


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Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/745572 2014-09-23T13:42:40Z 2014-09-28T20:58:15Z Belovski on Treasured Possessions Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

23/09/14

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Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/742702 2014-09-17T18:56:56Z 2014-09-17T18:56:56Z Belovski on Momentous Decisions Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

17/09/14


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Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/739213 2014-09-10T13:40:33Z 2014-09-17T05:31:22Z Belovski on Inspirations from Literature Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show

10/09/14


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Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/728406 2014-09-05T05:45:35Z 2014-09-05T05:46:46Z Summer Reading 2014 A number of people have expressed interest in what I've been reading during the summer break.  Here is a list in no particular order:

Nancy Kline, Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind

Jonathan Beckman, How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette, the Stolen Diamonds and the Scandal that Shook the French Throne

Adin Steinsaltz, My Rebbe

Alison Hardingham et al, The Coach's Coach: Personal Development for Personal Developers

Dennis Prager & Joseph Telushkin, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism

Robert Galbraith, The Silkworm

Roman Krznaric, Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution

Hayyim Angel, Peshat isn't so Simple

Finis Leavell Beauchamp, The Terrible Beauty of the Evil Man

Joseph Telushikin, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History

Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

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Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/725632 2014-08-10T21:20:13Z 2014-08-10T22:06:55Z Isaiah's Comfort and Today's Prophets: a Message of Hope Sermon Notes 09/08/13 - VaEtchanan & Nachamu 5774

The palpable sense of relief that generally follows Tisha B’Av is absent this year.  I usually feel that having spent three weeks contemplating the destruction of the Temple and other horrors of Jewish history, I’ve met my obligation and can leave Tisha B’Av refreshed, ready for the summer holidays and with one eye already on Rosh HaShanah.  This year, however, given the recent conflict in Israel and the shocking increase in anti-Semitism in Europe, the air is heavy, laden with uncertainty and ambivalence – almost guilt – at having moved back to normal life post-Tisha B’Av.  It feels to me that the notoriously flimsy boundary between valid criticism and naked anti-Semitism is in danger of collapse.

This past week, the spectre of divestment from Israel again raised its head.  I suspect that for many it will be the anti-Israel instrument of choice for in the months ahead, in preference to the rather more demanding option of reasoned discussion.  Those it affects most are our students on campus, who often find themselves on the front line of anti-Israel hostility. Even if their convictions are strong, their Israel experience is characterised by the constant need to justify and defend.  The opportunity that I had as a student to create what Ambassador Daniel Taub once described to me as ‘my Israel’ narrative – the space that allowed me to consider what Israel meant to me, what I aspired for it to be and what my role might be in attaining that – is commonly denied our students, who are constantly on the back foot.

It is in that vein that we turn to today’s haftarah, the first of the so-called ‘seven of comfort’ read between Tisha B’Av and Rosh HaShanah, selected from the 40th chapter of Isaiah.  It starts with the famous line:

נחמו נחמו עמי יאמר אלקיכם

Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)

To whom is God is addressing His words – who should comfort My people?  The Aramaic Targum offers the obvious answer – God is speaking through Isaiah to His prophets:

נבייא אתנביאו תנחומין על עמי

My prophets! Prophesy comfort to My people. (Targum Onkelos ad loc.)

This reading (also favoured by Rashi) does not address the repetition of the word נחמו – comfort, something that can only be understood properly with reference to the next verse:

 דברו על לב ירושלם... כי מלאה צבאה כי נרצה עונה כי לקחה מיד ידוד כפלים בכל חטאתיה

Speak to the heart of Jerusalem... her time of estrangement has been fulfilled and her transgression has been forgiven, for she has been doubly punished by God for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:2)

It seems that the Jewish people require a double measure of comfort because their punishment has been doubled, a view validated by midrashic sources (e.g. Midrash Tanchuma Devarim 1).

Whatever the intention of the verses, we are only too familiar with this ‘double punishment’ – the media distortions, the obvious double standards of Israel’s detractors (where are the mass demonstrations against daily massacres in Syria and exterminations in Iraq?) and the frequent uncritical adoption of a single version of a war narrative, when, as always, there are multiple perspectives.

If we are subject to ‘double punishment’, we need double comfort, as God demanded from our prophets.  They must replace pain with comfort, negativity with positivity and despair with hope.

But today there are no prophets and so the call of Isaiah must go out to their modern-day substitutes – the leaders of our communities.  That call is not restricted to rabbis or other formal leaders, but it goes out to everyone engaged in Jewish life who is able to do something.  All of us can write a letter to an MP or minister, respond to a blog-post, speak out sensibly against all bias and bigotry, attend an event, support communal efforts to counteract the negativity and inspire others to do likewise.

An unfathomable aspect of the current situation is the unwillingness of many free-world leaders to articulate something obvious.  Many of those who violently attack and seek the ultimate elimination of the State of Israel, and especially their financial backers, harbour the same long-term intentions towards Christians and, indeed, the whole of Western society.  As much as we worry about events in Israel and Europe, we are not oblivious to the brutal, barbaric persecutions of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq.  I believe that Israel and the Jews are just first in line; in reality, the very fabric of our society is imperilled for all people, regardless of faith or creed.  Emphasising these threats is one way of focusing the attention of others.

Yet as well as highlighting these wrongs, we must double our message of hope and comfort.  If the pain is doubled, the message of hope must be doubly powerful.

The importance of articulating the message is highlighted by Isaiah a few verses further into his prophecy:

על הר גבה עלי לך מבשרת ציון הרימי בכח קולך מבשרת ירושלם הרימי אל תיראי

Ascend a high mountain, herald of Zion.  Raise your voice powerfully, herald of Jerusalem.  Raise it, do not be afraid... (Isaiah 40:9)

 We have to carry our message of hope to high places and speak it where it can be heard.  We should never underestimate the impact we can have, nor where we have friends – sometimes critical friends – but friends nonetheless.  They are everywhere, members of every religious groups – Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – and of none.  They exist at the workplace, among journalists and at universities.  We must redouble our efforts to build friendly, functional relationships with them, even when we disagree about Israel, or, indeed, anything else.

This is one message of hope.  The other is that that our voice, even if it small, cannot and will not be silenced.

נחמו נחמו עמי יאמר אלקיכם

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Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/724254 2014-08-07T21:00:33Z 2014-08-07T21:00:33Z Belovski on Events that Changed the World Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show (Penny Smith standing in)

07/08/14


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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



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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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

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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


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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


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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


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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


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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

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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.


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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.

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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

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Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/580842 2013-05-24T07:30:49Z 2014-08-29T16:37:10Z 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





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Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski