Weekly Davar: Shlach 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Davar Thought

When Moses sent the spies, he changed Hoshea’s name to Joshua. The rabbis understand that he prayed for him. The name Joshua means, ‘God should save you’. Moses knew that there was trouble brewing with the spies and prayed for Joshua to be saved from the social pressure he would face.

I have always wondered, however, why did Moses not pray for any of the other spies? It’s not that the others were already misguided, and he wanted Joshua saved from their bad intentions. We are told that at the time they left, they were all great and righteous men. It also can’t be that Moses felt Joshua was his best bet to come through the experience well because another of the spies, Caleb, also remained true to God without Moses praying for him.

So why did Moses only pray for one of the twelve spies?

I’m going to go out on a limb with a suggestion here. This is my take on it…..

In simple terms, I believe that you pray for someone that you care about. And you don’t for someone you don’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is any harm in praying for someone you don’t feel connected to. It’s certainly a sign of care for humanity. But, in my mind, prayer is about heartfelt feelings, not hocus pocus words. The rabbis say that ‘words from the heart enter the heart’. And that’s true with God also. Words from our hearts, so to speak, enter his. With that in mind, I’m not sure how heartfelt you can be about someone you don’t know or who doesn’t mean a lot to you. And I don’t mean that callously. It’s just very human of us that the vast majority of people in the world don’t mean that much to us. We don’t know them and have no relationship with them. We can love them in theory, but it’s hard to do so in genuine feeling.

And so, for prayer to mean something to us, the person must mean something to us. That’s just a fact of life.

In my mind, Moses knew Joshua very well. He was a close and beloved student of his. The other spies, he knew as a leader of 2.5 million people, but not personally. It’s hard to pray for someone you don’t know. And Moses didn’t. For me, our prayers are only as meaningful as they are heartfelt. Yes, it seems to me that there are those deep lovers of humanity who can pray for anyone – because they care about everyone. But that’s not me. Perhaps it was not Moses either.

In Judaism, there is a concept of regular prayer – whether you mean it or not – to keep in the habit of praying. And that makes sense. But, for me, if I’m going to pray a personal prayer – if it’s not going to be heartfelt and genuine, I’ll find something else to do instead.

By the way, I’ve just published a book on prayer called, ‘Mean What you Pray’! If you are interested in buying a copy, you can easily do so on our website here.

Shabbat Shalom

Parsha in a Nutshell

This week’s portion focuses on the story of the spies who are sent by Moses to check out the land of Israel. They return with a negative report – it is a land that eats its inhabitants. It cannot be conquered. A land of giants…… While the women, as usual, stand strong and insist on entering Israel nevertheless, then men are terrified. In spite of the miracles they have witnessed, they are unwilling to put their trust in God and refuse to enter. God responds that they are most welcome to spend another 40 years in the desert instead. Only their children will inherit the land. This is not a punishment, merely a granting of that which they requested – that they should not have to enter the land of Israel. God always leads us in a way that we have chosen.

The portion talks of other bits and bobs, but the spies’ story is the main event.

Weekly Davar: Behaloscha 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Davar Thought

In this week’s portion is the ‘Second Passover’. It is an opportunity for anyone who was unable to bring the Paschal Lamb offering on Passover to bring it a month later instead. And I believe the message is one of second chances. It’s easy to fail, often through no fault of our own, and become discouraged. And perhaps even give up. In Judaism, if you missed out on bringing an offering to God first time around, there’s always a chance to try again.

I love the idea of second chances because I believe that we all need them. And we all need to believe in them. Both for ourselves and others. The Bible tells us that, ‘a righteous person falls seven times and gets up. An evil person falls but once’. And so, yes, I don’t just believe in second chances. I believe in third, fourth and fifth chances also. There is never a place a person can sink to from which they cannot rise to great heights. There is never a person who is beyond hope. There is never a time in life when a person cannot simply reboot and start again. Second chances are on the human radar until our dying day. My all-time second favourite novel, Les Miserables, is about second chances. Well worth the thousand pages.

All too often, I see the results of people not understanding this. Instead, people make mistakes, identify with those mistakes, define themselves by those mistakes – and create self-fulfilling prophecies as a result. A person drinks too much and sees himself as an alcoholic. And there is no second chance for alcoholics – ‘once an alcoholic always an alcoholic’. A person has an affair – and becomes an ‘adulterer’. No second chance. A person fails in a business and is a failure. Or, perhaps worst of all, a person becomes disillusioned with life and believes it will always be that way.

One of the great things about human beings (and there are many to choose from) is, to quote Scarlett O’Hara, ‘tomorrow is [always] another day’. Our past does not in any way dictate our present. And certainly not our future. We are flexible. We are growing beings. We get to be the person we want to be right here and right now. The prisons of our own minds are built with illusory walls. If we could but see.

And so…..you messed up, you didn’t do the right thing; you were irresponsible; you were negligent; you lied; your ego got the better of you; you got angry……Welcome to the club. And, for me, all of that was just yesterday 😊! Second chances are our heritage, our birth-right, a gift from a loving God. There is no reason to ever give up on ourselves or on anyone else. Because tomorrow is another day – nothing to do with today. And the day after will be the same. For as long as we live.

Shabbat Shalom

Parsha in a Nutshell

This week’s portion talks about the mystical powers of the Ark to disperse and destroy the enemies of the Jewish people. The Talmud tells us that this Ark was hidden by King Josiah before the Babylonian exile and has never been seen since. The myriad caves and tunnels under the Dome of the Rock would be the place to find it.

The rest of the portion is a lot of complaining – the Jewish people complain about the manna, about the lack of meat, about lack of water and when they have nothing to complain about – they complain about nothing in particular. Yes, Jews complaining is not a new phenomenon, I’m afraid.

Weekly Davar: Naso 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Davar Thought

This week’s portion contains the Priestly blessing. Its words, from the Book of Numbers, are well known. ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord shine his face upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord smile kindly at you and give you peace.’

This three-thousand-year-old blessing is still given by the priests to the Jewish People on a daily basis, at least in Israel.

Maimonides, in discussing the laws around this blessing says that a priest who is not a good person is able to give the blessing. But a priest who is antisocial cannot.

I think that this is about rapport. People do not want someone blessing them whom they don’t live in a nice feeling with. If a grumpy, bitter, resentful person wants to do us a favour because they are mandated to do so, we are usually not interested. Favours need to be accompanied by a nice feeling, otherwise they don’t feel like favours. If the person at the till is unpleasant and rude, we will go to a different till. And if there is only one till, we might even go to a different shop. If the person driving the taxi is in a very bad mood, we might even rather get out and walk. In a certain way, when I’m trying to raise money, I prefer a smaller contribution with a smile than a larger one in a reluctant manner (although, don’t get me wrong, I’m always grateful for the larger contribution!). My point is that good feeling, rapport, matters to us.

If the person at the till, on the other hand, is disloyal in their marriage and dishonest with their friends, but smiling and full of goodwill, it likely won’t stop us from engaging with them.

Rightly, or wrongly, this is how we work. Rapport with others matters to us more than their behaviour. We can forgive people who behave badly if they come with a good feeling. But someone who comes with a bad feeling is hard for us to engage with, even if they have not actually done anything wrong.

And so, no one wants a blessing from a grumpy priest. We can do without it. Hence, Jewish law deems his blessing inappropriate. A priest, however, who behaves badly, but lives in a good feeling with those around him, is someone who can still be a conduit for God’s blessings.

I think the idea of rapport is often overlooked in our relationships with others – friends, family, children and especially spouses. We might be going through the right motions, doing the right things, behaving very appropriately. But if our feeling is bad, if we show up in a relationship bitter, resentful, with ill-will, it doesn’t really matter how many boxes we have ticked, the other person is unlikely to feel satisfied. The rabbis tell us (Avos 3:10) that ‘anyone who is pleasing to others, is pleasing to God also’. It is important to behave properly with others, but it is more important to show up with a nice feeling. Rapport trumps behaviour. Every day of the week.

Shabbat Shalom

Parsha in a Nutshell

The portion begins with the duties of the Levites in the desert. It then moves on to the fascinating section about a husband who suspects his wife of being unfaithful. Next, we move on to the concept of a Nazerite – someone who makes a vow not to drink wine, cut his hair or become spiritually impure. It’s an unusual combination of vows and there is method in the madness, but it’s for another time. The portion ends with the offerings of the princes of each Tribe, which were brought during the dedication of the Tabernacle. It’s the longest portion in the Torah.

Weekly Davar: Shavuos

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Davar Thought

We are told that when the Jewish people were offered the Torah by God, they said, ‘we will do then we will hear’. It’s a little strange because how can you do something before you have heard what it is? However, the word, ‘hear’ in Hebrew also has an aspect of it that indicates understanding. In other words, the Jewish people said that they would do and then they would understand why.

Any time in our lives when something important is at stake in an area we know little about, we will trust a professional. I don’t need to know what is in a pill; if the doctor tells me to take it, that’s good enough. If my accountant tells me to sign the tax papers he has prepared, I’m happy to do so without a closer look. And if I’m late for a flight and the taxi driver tells me he knows a shortcut to the airport, I’m willing to assume that he knows what he’s doing. So too with the spiritual world. The Jewish People were willing to do what God told them even if it did not immediately make sense to them. In other words, they had no more sense of how pig’s meat might damage their souls than I do how white bitter pills might take away my headache.

However, the Jewish commitment goes a step further. I have been taking white pills for decades – and never bothered to find out what’s in them. It doesn’t really matter; the pain in my head disappears and that’s good enough for me. However, the commitment at Mt Sinai was for more than this. The Jewish People said, ‘we will do AND we will understand’. Yes, doing precedes understanding. But it’s not enough just to do blindly. Judaism is not, and never has been, about blind faith; doing what an All-Wise God says to do because he knows better than little old me. That’s only a starting point. The end point is much more sophisticated and mature. It’s an end point of becoming spiritual connoisseurs; of understanding the science of the spiritual world and learning to live it not simply because God said so but because it makes eminent and obvious sense.

Whilst most of the Jewish world has forgotten, or lapsed, in both parts of this commitment, the Orthodox world remains steadfast at least in the former. But it is very rare to find a person who stays committed to both. It seems like the choice is between not doing – or doing but not understanding. I do get the temptation to follow a set of rules blindly – because to have to think for ourselves brings with it greater responsibility – as well as the possibility of making mistakes, but surely, surely……. surely we appreciate that the potential for human development is so severely limited without understanding? Surely, we know that wisdom is power – the power to change ourselves and the world around us? That’s why the commitment at Mt Sinai was two-fold. Because to want to understand before you do is a lack of trust. But to be satisfied with blindly doing and have no desire to understand is a denial of our own humanity.

Shabbat Shalom and Good Yom Tov

Weekly Davar: Bechukosai

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Davar Thought

This portion is in essence a list of punishments, or perhaps consequences, if the Jewish People chose not to keep Torah.

Nowadays, the idea of punishment to get people to change has gone out of fashion; understandably so. People might change superficially if you force them to do something. But the change will not be genuine, meaningful, or lasting. So, if God wants superficially compliant, but deep down sceptical, even resentful, ‘servants’, then fear of punishment is likely the way to go. But personally, I don’t believe that’s what God wants from human beings.

So, what’s this portion all about then?

I’ve mentioned before that when I was a very young boy, I was in a restaurant with my late father a”h. I noticed octopus on the menu and said that it sounded disgusting. My father responded how could I know it was disgusting if I had never tasted it? I answered how could octopus be anything other than disgusting… wrong answer. He ordered me the dish and insisted that I at least try it. I tasted the first bit, ran outside and threw up in the street. Thus proving my point that octopus was disgusting!

Kosher issues aside, I agree with my father in principle. When I was seventeen, I drank three quarters of a bottle of cheap whisky and was throwing up for forty-eight hours. For fifteen years, just the smell of whisky would make me retch. Or so I thought. A good friend of mine encouraged me to try again in my thirties. He insisted that I smell some whisky. Lo and behold, I didn’t retch as I was certain I would. I tried a sip and it didn’t taste as bad as I expected. Slowly but surely (for better or for worse!), I found my way back to drinking whisky and it has now become a great pleasure for me. It took a lot for my friend to get me to try it – and he was persistent. But once I did, I found a new joy in life.

There is a principle at play here. We human beings do not always know what’s best for us until we have tried it out. But since we are conditioned and make assumptions, we often are unwilling to try. So how do we get ourselves to try something new when we are convinced that we don’t want to?

I think this is Torah’s point. On the surface, being good doesn’t always look worth it. It usually doesn’t bring immediate gratification. And so, left to their own devices, people will not always do so. But create consequences and you should at least get people to try it out. And the theory is that once they have tried out being good on a consistent basis, they will see that they enjoy it a lot more than following every base desire that comes their way. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe there is a solid logic in it. The concept in Judaism is called lo lishma ba lishma. A person who does something for the wrong reasons, will eventually come to doing so for the right ones. There is, of course, much more to be said about this.

There will always be octopus situations – whereby people are so convinced they cannot enjoy doing the right thing that they will be resentful no matter what. But, on the whole, setting up a structure to insist that people taste the pleasure of goodness might well ensure that more people end up seeing its value in the long run.

Shabbat Shalom

Parsha in a Nutshell

The Torah portion talks firstly of the good that will befall the Jewish people if they live up to their billing of being a light to the nations and then it talks about what will happen if not. Unfortunately, the latter part of the portion is much more the story of Jewish history than the former.

Weekly Davar: Behar 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Davar Thought

There is a unique law in this week’s Torah portion, that of the Jubilee year. Indeed the word ‘jubilee’ itself comes from the Hebrew word, yovel.

Once every 50 years, Torah tells society to reset itself. Slaves go free, personal loans are cancelled and all land is returned to its historical owners, having been shared equally amongst all families during the times of Joshua.

Whilst Judaism believes in a free market, it is, however, a free market with some caveats.

There is no question in my mind that the ability for human beings to amass wealth is, on the balance of things, a very positive force in the world. As a means of individuals being rewarded in a cause-effect manner for their endeavour, nothing even comes close to money. Of course, however, there are downsides. It fosters greed and superficiality; it can put people at odds with each other and contribute to jealousy. But, on the whole, it’s a very positive force that fosters the growth and development of human society.

So Torah believes in, and promotes, a capitalist system. What Torah aims to avoid, though, is what happened across Europe in the Middle Ages – the development of wealthy landowner ‘haves’ that subjugated the ‘have nots’. A feudal system of lords and serfs that undermined human motivation and hence societal development in Europe for centuries. Torah has a response to this built into its system. Once every fifty years, all land returns to its original owners; slaves are freed; the operating system is, in effect, rebooted and all men are equal once again (Yes, I’m just being honest – the same equality didn’t necessarily exist for women). A wealthy landowner class could never have developed in Israel and so a key safeguard is there against abuse of the free market endeavour.

Torah has never been a fan of socialism. It significantly inhibits human enterprise. But capitalism has its dangers also. For better or for worse, it can produce Robert Maxwells and Harvey Weinsteins. Torah wants all the upsides of a free market, whilst protecting against the downsides. You cannot always have your cake and eat it, but in my mind Torah found a great balance. Donald Trump is an example of a landowner who has been in business for around fifty years. Even if he had started at the beginning of the Jubilee cycle, his property empire would be changing hands over the next few years. I feel that Torah’s system might make such a person poorer. But he would likely be a more Godly human being for it.

Shabbat Shalom

Parsha in a Nutshell

The Torah portion begins with the laws of shmita, where the Jewish people are commanded not to plant their fields or tend to them every seventh year. Every 50th year is the yovel, the Jubilee year, where all land returns to its ancestral owners.

Weekly Davar: Pesach 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Davar Thought

I spoke last week about slavery to negativity. It’s so easy for us to fall into pessimism about our lives and the world as a whole. I have seen a lot of it in some of my own family members recently, as they survey the war in Ukraine and their own thinking paints for them ever more frightening scenarios. It’s so tempting to do. And then, of course it turns into a cycle of miserable thinking begetting miserable feelings, which make the world look even worse than it looked already.

And, of course, this cycle gives birth to other slaveries also. People innocently seek to escape the pain of their own miserable thinking through eating, shopping, gambling, alcohol or drugs – and the list is much longer than that.

This slavery to our own negative thinking, followed by innocently escaping the bad feeling through addiction is the process to look to see beyond on Passover.

The antidote to it all, of course, is gratitude. And, hence, gratitude is the essence of our Passover seders.

Slavery and addiction are just not possible in a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude is the great human emancipator. Because when we value, feel and live life’s goodness, there is no need to escape into something else. The sentence, ‘life is good’, ends with a full-stop. There is nothing beyond it. No need to smoke too much; no unhealthy relationship with alcohol; no desperate drive for honour and success; we don’t even need to check our smartphones every few moments. Every few hours will do instead. Simply said, when life is good, we don’t need to run away from it.

So, in the Seder, again and again, we say thank you to God for the life he has given us – a life of meaning and purpose; a life of challenge and opportunity; a life of struggle that will help us attain greatness; a life of goodness without end. If we keep on looking in that direction, persistently, we might just remember it – and find lasting freedom from our self-imposed slaveries that we would all dearly love to achieve.

Shabbat Shalom and Good Yom Tov

Weekly Davar: Metzorah 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Davar Thought

I’m continuing on the theme of freedom prior to Passover. The word for Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzrayim. The letters at the root of the word mean ‘boundaries’ and that’s very much what slavery is about. It’s about boundaries, always chosen by ourselves. Whilst slavery inflicted by others does exist, it is always superficial. Ultimately, the fight for freedom is an internal struggle. It is the struggle to see beyond our self-imposed ‘is’ to a ‘could be’ that is filled with hope and possibility.

At the graduation for my rabbis this week, I spoke of optimism. Because pessimism is a form of slavery. It is a bad habit of looking away from potential and possibility, towards fear and limitation; those ‘boundaries’ of Egypt. Pessimists, as I can be at times, are slaves to their own beliefs, certainties even, about the inevitability of impending change for the worse. It inhibits, even prevents, growth and development.

Optimism, on the other hand, is a spiritual quality. And, whilst you will hear it said (by pessimists themselves) that pessimists are realists, I believe that the opposite is true. It is the optimists who are the realists – for two reasons.

Firstly, if you look at the trajectory of humanity over the past couple of thousand years, it has been inexorably upwards. Yes, there have been glitches along the way, times during which the pessimists might be looking to raise the flag of I-told-you-so. But always, always, the human race has ultimately overcome its challenges and moved onwards…and upwards. This is blatantly true in a material sense. But it is also true in a spiritual sense and in a moral sense. A hundred years ago, our lives were so much better than a hundred years before. And today, a hundred years later, our lives are so much better again. The same will be true in a hundred years’ time, despite the certainty of stormy waters along the way.

The second reason that optimism is rooted in reality is because we are, ultimately, spiritual beings. We are not animals with no vision or potential, living only from day to day, with no way to create a better future. Our spiritual nature makes us pure potential. We have within ourselves both the will and the wisdom, hence the power, to improve our lives, the lives of those around us and the lives of future generations. And, credit to us, we always do. Ultimately. As a whole. Even if there are individuals along the way who do not.

As my wife has taught me, and this was my message for the graduating rabbis, optimism is the quality of true leadership. Volodymyr Zelensky is a shining example. He exudes a feeling of hope and possibility. And such a feeling is magnetic. Because it resonates. Dictators lead though force. True leaders, and they are rare, lead through their tangible vision of a better future. Churchill, King, Mandela. And dare I add Thatcher or Rabin without getting my head chopped off?

Hope drives us to a better future. Pessimism enslaves us in what we have right now. It makes progress impossible and people will never follow a pessimist unless they are forced to do so. In certain ways Hitler was an optimist – an evil and misguided optimist, but an optimist. His vision of ‘Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer’ was understandably attractive to German society. And so, they needed no cardboard cut-outs at his Nuremberg rallies.

Passover is a time for freedom. Personally, one place I’m going to look to be freer this Passover is from my pessimism. Because it is at the root of so much of what holds us back as individuals, as societies, as nations and as a human race.

Shabbat Shalom

Parsha in a Nutshell

This week’s portion continues with the mystical affliction of tzaraas, in particular the purification process for someone thus afflicted. It also talks about tzaraas in houses and its purification. They are long and complex procedures and the Rabbis draw an analogy. Since tzaraas generally afflicts someone who has spoken badly about others, the process of purification is very complex and this is akin to the mistake itself. Undoing hurt that we cause others when we speak badly about them is likened to trying to gather together all the feathers from a down pillow – after they have been cast to the wind!

Weekly Davar: Tazria 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Davar Thought

With Pesach coming up, I’d like to talk about the idea of freedom.

It has always interested me that in many ways, we human beings don’t do so well with freedom.

The ‘freedom’ that ensued after the French revolution descended to violent anarchy. Russian serfs, for centuries desperate for freedom from the czars, did not create the best of societies once they achieved it. Power and the immense freedom that accompanies it, has led almost every historical empire to decadence and decline. Going all the way back, the Jewish People moaned, complained, and even wanted to return to Egypt once they had been freed.

Freedom seems much more attainable as an ideal, than in actual reality.

In contemplating a reason for this, I believe the following.

The fight for freedom is an incredibly meaningful endeavour. However, once the goal has been achieved, the accomplishment leaves a vacuum. We human beings thrive on meaning. But without it, we lose motivation and drive. We need vision and purpose to get us out of bed in the morning. Freedom without purpose is ultimately empty. Its pleasure is short lived. And, I would be so bold as to suggest, that perhaps the attainment of freedom for freedom’s sake is not even worth it. Freedom is only valuable if the free person or society uses that freedom to work towards a new and greater dream. Freedom is a platform, but not an end. It is a ladder to a greater good, but if the ladder is not climbed, the freedom is worth little. Worse, the years of struggle will seem to have achieved nothing. And that is incredibly deflating and discouraging.

This is why the rabbis tell us that, ‘there is no free person other than one who involves him or herself in Torah’. For the Jewish People, Torah is a direction, a goal, a purpose; it is the building of a good and moral society, a striving towards Godliness. It is climbing the ladder of freedom. Without direction, they are saying, there is no satisfaction in freedom. It doesn’t need to be Torah, it can be any meaningful goal, but ultimately freedom comes with a price tag. And it’s not just the price tag of the initial struggle to be free. Once freedom is attained, the struggle is by no means over. Indeed, I would suggest that the struggle has just begun. Because with freedom comes responsibility. Human beings can use their freedom to build for themselves and others a better world. Or they can slip into the decadence that freedom can provide. And find themselves in a world that is no better, perhaps even worse, than the slavery they came from.

Shabbat Shalom

Parsha in a Nutshell

The focus of this portion is tzoras, a physical disease that would afflict a person who transgressed the laws of speech. It would progressively afflict home, clothes and skin. It is often mistranslated as ‘leprosy’, but that’s clearly incorrect as leprosy only affects the body and the symptoms are very different.

Weekly Davar: Shemini 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Davar Thought

I heard this idea from our son, Akiva, at his inauguration on Sunday as rabbi of Hadley Wood Synagogue. It was an incredible pleasure to see how the blond haired, feisty toddler has grown up into a confident and wise young man.

When Aaron is being inaugurated as High Priest, he feels inadequate. Moses says, to reassure him, ‘do not feel inadequate, because you were chosen for this’. Akiva rightly asked, how does this respond to what is on Aaron’s mind? Why should he not feel inadequate just because he was chosen for the job? My son’s answer was to read the words slightly differently. ‘Don’t worry about feelings of inadequacy – it is precisely because you feel this way that you were chosen by God for this role.’

In other words… one of the great qualities of a leader is a sense of his or her own inadequacy. A feeling of humility and a recognition of his own humanness. I believe this is not weakness, it is strength.

In my mind, a leader who displays a level of insecurity and uncertainty is a more genuine leader than one who puts on a pretence of complete confidence. Yes, there is a balance, obviously, and too much uncertainty and insecurity would undermine his ability to lead. But leadership is about being a real person, not putting on a show. Real leadership is ‘warts and all’.

I say this because I firmly believe that, for any one of us, our greatest asset is our own humanity. Because in our humanity is our compassion; in our humanity is our Godliness; in our humanity is our common sense and wisdom; in our humanity is our love and generosity of spirit. When we try to create a persona for ourselves, we lose all these qualities, giving them up for the superficial rewards of recognition, respect, and a false feeling of security. And it simply isn’t worth it.

Yes, in our humanity is also our insecurity; in our humanity are also our doubts and uncertainties; in our humanity is also our lack of confidence. But, not only are these a small price to pay, I actually see them – when in proper measure – as qualities themselves. Because humility is the greatest quality of a leader. Humility is a putting aside of the ego and looking towards a deeper wisdom, a divine wisdom. And a leader who looks to be guided by divine wisdom, not personal agenda, will lead in a way that other leaders do not. A leader guided by a higher sense of calling is a leader that people will follow; and a leader that will not lead his flock astray.

Ultimately, this is the leadership that I believe in and that I am looking to develop through my Rabbinical Training Academy. If you are in the area and available, please do join us for the graduation in ten days’ time.

Shabbat Shalom

Parsha in a Nutshell

At the end of the 7 days of the Priests’ inauguration, Aaron brings offerings for himself and the entire nation. Nadav and Avihu, his sons, bring an incense offering on their own initiative and are consumed by a heavenly fire (perhaps the only time when someone did something wrong and was immediately struck by lightning!). God then specifies the kosher mammals (those that have cloven hooves and chew their cud), fish (those with fins and scales), birds (24 non kosher species, all the rest are kosher), and insects (only certain types of locusts!).

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