Shabbat Lech Lecha

Candles Oct 31 5.33pm
Havdalah Nov 1st 6.37pm

God’s promises to Abraham are expressed in this week’s reading of the Torah. He tells him to leave his birthplace, that he will succeed and be blessed. Later on there are two covenants in which God promises that the land from the Mediterranean to the Two Rivers would be his and his children’s. And at the same time he promises that Ishmael too will be blessed.

What is the nature of a Divine promise? It is a way of saying, “You have the capacity to achieve this.” But still it depends on your own efforts if you are to succeed or not. Its not unlike a parent seeing the capacities of his or her children, putting all their love and support into them and hoping they will succeed. But they can never be sure how things will work out.

This commitment is explained in the Torah, this week, through the idea of a covenant, a Brit.

In the first, the “Covenant of Parts" God intervenes to ignite a sacrifice that Abraham has prepared. This mystical capacity to intervene in human affairs can happen, but one can never predict when or how . So one has to get on with ones life nevertheless. One can access this spirit through Torah, prayer ( meditation) and good deeds but, again, one can never be sure of the results. This is Divine pro-action.

The second Covenant, circumcision, symbolizes dedicating our bodies to a higher authority; our commitment to an ideal. But a once only commitment is not good enough. Life is a constant struggle and we have to go on trying our best to be good and to succeed. This is human pro-action.

Despite Gods initial promises, encouragement and support Abraham still had to face famine, war, competition, tragedy, family conflicts and a wife in a state of crisis. He did not expect everything to go smoothly and yet he survived and flourished.

As the rabbis say in the Talmud, “We cannot rely on miracles.” The message is that God helps those who help themselves and even if one is fortunate to receive Divine help, one never know when or how it will come about.


Rosh Hodesh Cheshvan

Candles Friday 24th 5.42pm
Havdalah 25th 6.36pm

Those of you who have seen Hollywood’s recent version of Noah starring Russel Crowe will know how much fanciful material was added to the Biblical story. Some of it actually has a source in Midrash most of which was written down a thousand years after the Torah. And in a way we keep on adding to Midrash whenever we try to find explanations or lessons that are relevant to us today. The Hebrew word Darshan, the person who explains the Torah in lectures or sermons is the same word as Midrash. The difference lies in authority.

The Torah tells us almost nothing about Noah’s sons except in the case of Ham whose son Canaan was cursed for seeing Noah drunk and naked and making fun of him (some Midrashim say he did something much worse). The narrative is hinting at the reason for the Israelites future displacement of the Canaanites for their corruption and immorality. All three sons had an identical background yet one of them seems to have spawned more evil than the others.

And indeed we see all around us different cultures and different people within cultures who are more violent or more corrupt than others. Some cultures glorify violence and death more than others. Like the Canaanites, those that choose violence end up destroying themselves.

The message I derive is clear, that good moral education starts at home and can have a profound impact on the way our children lead their lives. But it also illustrates how even within perfect homes some children do not always turn out the way parents hope. It may not be because of anything we have done. The more we understand of genes the more we realize that humans are are capable of being both better and worse than the examples they have seen around them.


Sukot Timetable

For Sukot we will be back on the ground floor in our usual, but now refurbished, synagogue. Entrance is on East 68th Street. There will be a Sucah there and lulavim and etrogim will be available during the service.

Erev Sukot October 8th
Candles 6.07pm

1st Day Sukot October 9th
Shaharit 9.30am
Torah 10.15am
Speech 11.30 am

Evening Candles 7pm

2nd Day Sukot October 10th
Shaharit 9.30am
Torah 10.15am
Speech 11.30am

Shabbat Candles 6.09pm

Shabbat Hol Ha’moed Sukot October 11th
Shaharit 9.30am
Torah 10.15am
Speech 11.30am

Havdalah 6.52pm

Hoshana Rabah October 15th
Erev Shmini Atzeret Candles 5.56pm

Shmini Atzeret October 16th
Shaharit 9.30am
Torah 10.15am
Speech 11.30am

Simhat Torah Candles 6.49pm
We join the main service at Park East for the evening.

Simhat Torah Friday October 17th
Shaharit 9.30am
Torah 10.15am
Dancing and refreshments 11.30am

Shabbat Candles 5.35pm

Shabbat Bereishit October 18th
Shaharit 9.30am
Torah 10.15am
Speech 11.30am

Havdalah 6.46pm


Timetable for Yom Kipur 2014/5775

Friday October 3
Candles 6.15 pm
Fast begins 6.20
Mincha 6.30 pm
Kol Nidrei 7 pm

Saturday October 4
Shacharit 9.15 am
Torah 10.30 am
Musaf 12 am
Mincha 4.30 pm
Neilah 6 pm
Fast ends 7.08 pm

There will be children's supervised activities in the classrooms from 11.30 onwards.
Please remember not to bring cellphones to the synagogue and to respect the atmosphere for those who wish to pray and mediate.
If you want to talk please do so outside the sanctuary. 
Please ask your children play outside and not disturb those praying. 
Thank you.