Rabbi Thurgood’s Message

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Shalom Friends!

It is hard to believe that Yom Kippur is over. After the days of Awe, weeks of anticipation, and months of preparation we stand on the other side of this Great Day, and I for one feel both great relief and great privilege to have shared this day with you all and achieved atonement. Once again, my sincere thanks for all of the thousands of hours of work – and more importantly, all of the heart and soul – that went into crafting a truly special experience.

I have been thinking for some time about the issues of identity and sacrifice. In the past, Jewish identity was something very fundamental to every Jew, which is not something that we can take for granted today. As Richard Joel, former President of Yeshiva University put it, “This is the first generation in which being Jewish is an option, rather than a fact.” Today, there are many different things that compete for our identity – are we Apple people or Android people? Liverpool or Manchester United? Pro-Trump or Anti-Trump? The list goes on about the way in which we define ourselves by the positions we take and products we consume in our world and circles of engagement. The upshot is that if we still desire people to make real commitment – and consequently real sacrifice – for their Judaism, that it needs to be a core and important part of their identity, of how they see themselves and explain whom they are.

My 2 minute Parsha for Sukkot is called “The Mutual Relationship” and you can find it here. This week I discuss the dynamics of the Sukkah (Hashem giving to us) and the Lulav and Etrog (us being proactive in our relationship with Him). I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Simchat Torah is coming and it will be very special indeed to celebrate with our community and Sifrei Torah. We didn’t know that last Simchat Torah would be the last time that we would dance with our old Sifrei Torah, but even if we had known, I don’t think that there was anything we would, could or should have differently. We give the greatest honour and respect to the Torah in our celebrations and I can’t wait to do so again this year. Make sure to book! This year we’ll have more space to dance than ever and will be continuing our partnership with Bnei Akiva and Yeshiva College for a truly uplifting celebration.

As I announced on Yom Kippur, our celebrants for this year are:

Chattan Torah: Phillip Weinstein

Chattan Bereishit: Lance Katz

Eishet Chayil: Ma’ayan Jowell

Chattan Ne’arim: Jethro Klitzner

A hearty Mazaltov to you and your families all!

It’s funny that the English language has the expression “no rest for the wicked”, which is in stark contrast to the Torah approach. The Rabbinic version is צדיקים אין להם מנוחה, “the righteous have no rest,” although this is an adaptation of the earlier Talmudic distum of B’rachot 64a: תלמידי חכמים אין להם מנוחה לא בעולם הזה ולא בעולם הבא – Torah scholars have no rest, not in this world and not in the world to come. The idea is that we are placed on this earth to be productive and achieve good things – not to sit around. This is certainly felt with the rush for Sukkot after Yom Kippur. We have Sukkot to build, Lulavim and Etrogim to acquire, meals to prepare, guests to invite, and shiurim and drashot to research – and only a few days in which to do it! But the idea is that we are taking the momentum of holiness of Yamim Noraim and carrying it through into Sukkot, not allowing it to dissipate. And I love the energy of Sukkot in our Shul – especially after the intensity of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it is relaxed, convivial and genuinely joyous. Come and join us!

And my the way – if you’re wondering where the phrase “no rest for the wicked” originates – it is a mistranslation of Yishayahu/Isaiah. He actually says in 54:21 אֵ֣ין שָׁל֔וֹם אָמַ֥ר אֱלֹק֖י לָרְשָׁעִֽים There is no Peace, says my God, for the wicked. There is a great difference between having no rest and no peace! I’ll leave you to ponder the difference and perhaps expand at some in one of the many drashot that I have ahead of me!

Aviva, Shalva, Tzuriya, Azriel and I wish you a Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Sam Thurgood