Today’s service is the longest in the Jewish annual calendar. I want in this talk to unpick some of what the late Raphael Lowe called the “machinery of religion – liturgy, ceremonial, and their associated culture pattern”.
Whether we come to shul every week or twice a year, whether we pray daily or not at all, the synagogue service provides a structure and space, freed for an hour or two from daily cares, within which to contemplate big ideas: love, truth, life, death.
Having come to Oxford 3 years ago as a stranger Sara talks of how the congregation has done so much for herself — and many others — in helping make Oxford a home and including them within the ranks of the synagogue and communal life.
She wanted to relate this idea to the themes of our Torah and Haftorah portions during Rosh Hashanah — about Abraham and Sara and the near sacrifice of Isaac; and Elkanah and his wife Hannah, who also have a child, Samuel, late in their marriage.
The situations we have in these biblical stories is surely familiar to us moderns: dysfunctional families, blended families, childlessness, near death experiences, physical and mental disabilities, difficulties of everyday life as well as traumas of the spirit. Our matriarchs and patriarchs also knew the human emotions that so many of us have also experienced: jealousy, fear, grief, bitterness, pain, as well as joy, serendipity, and fulfilment.
Kol Nidre Address 5777/2016 by Penny Faust
There's a phrase we use at regular intervals in the High Holy Day services, Oo tshuvah Oo tfillah Oo tzedakah ma'avirin et ro'a hagtzerah – ‘And Penitence, Prayer and Charity avert the severe decree’.
It's interesting that the three go together without any indication of which might be most important. We can't cherry pick, we can't decide that we'll do only one or two. In our liturgy, hopefully in our practice, they're linked inextricably together.
There are two things in Judaism that came to us directly from God. Everything else in the Tanach was passed on to us by Moses and then by the later prophets, but the priestly blessing, with which we bless our children every week, and the shofar, which Benjy blows for us so well, came to us direct. God said to Moses ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them This is the way in which you shall bless the Children of Israel……………. When the shofar was first heard at Sinai, that shofar was sounding from heaven. ‘The voice of the horn waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice’, giving us those Ten Words that we see above the Ark here.
Sarah looks at the command to Abraham to listen to to the ' קוֹל , the voice
of his wife, to 'everything that Sarah says'.
2nd Day Rosh Hashanah Address 5776/2015 by Bernard Gowers
The first appeal is not for your money, but for your help. If you would just like to try helping, or being available to substitute for someone who is ill, or if you want to be occasionally useful, please contact me. Our future, your future as a Jew in Oxford, being part of a Jewish community here, depends on you, on me, on everyone doing their bit for the OJC.
Our first appeal for your financial help is always for an Israel charity and there is inevitably a big choice. The one that touched Council, however, and will I hope touch you is Forgotten people; this charity supports the Jews who came from Ethiopia, the Beta Israel.
Our second choice of charity is always a local secular one because the OJC feels strongly that we are part of the wider Oxford community. This charity was the first choice of three members of Council, and the rest agreed with a speed that is frankly unusual in Council. The charity is called See Saw and it helps children who are bereaved because they have lost a brother, a sister or a parent.
Yom Kippur, a day of reckoning. The day of taking stock of what has happened in our lives over the last year. What have we done that has been good; what have we done that has been less than good; and what have we done that has been bad. Student or professor; zero hours contract or captain of industry; Care worker or consultant. We all stand before God in what we have done, or failed to do. We are all the same, each one of us moulded by God in His image, yet each different and unique.
This is a copy of the eulogy given by Professor Jeremy Adler for Franz Baermann Steiner at Wolvercote Cemetery on 19th October 2014 at a ceremony for his Tombstone Consecration.
Franz Baermann Steiner was born in Prague in 1909 and died in Oxford in 1952. He was a Fellow of Magdalen College, and a leading anthropologist, linguist and polymath of his day. He was famous for his posthumously edited book, Taboo (1956), which was a standard text for many years. He also wrote several incisive articles, including 'Chagga Truth', and 'A Sociology of Labour'. Franz Steiner was also a major poet, whose verse was published in two volumes by the German Academy of
Language and Literature, with a complete edition appearing in 2000. His poem, 'Prayer in the Garden', which was translated into English by Michael Hamburger, stands alongside Paul Celan's 'Death Fugue' as one of the great lyric meditations on the Holocaust.
Steiner's closest relatives were killed in the war, and there were no family members to commission a tombstone. However, a group of his scholarly admirers recently decided to rectify this long-standing omission, and have commissioned a stone in his memory. Current members of the OJC – and other interested parties – are warmly invited to attend. (Note: A more extensive biographical note about Franz Steiner can be found on the OJC's Oxford Jewish Heritage website at http://www.oxfordjewishheritage.co.uk/notable-jews/ modern-period/243-franz-baermann-steiner-)
Growing up in a community is an important part of growing up Jewish and just as Sarah had to create the right environment for Isaac to grow up in - as we learn in the Torah reading - so we have to do this for our children today here in Oxford.
We should be justly proud about what we have achieved as a community. Giving of yourself to your community is, indeed, a form of Tsedakah but what is its wider meaning? Isaac looks at the true meaning of Tsedakah and of giving of yourself.
This is an appeal on behalf of two charities, The Karen Morris Memorial Trust and Shalheveth. The first is a Trust which porvides a "Home from Home" for leukemia patients and their famlies, within the grounds of the hospital; and the second is a Jerusalem based programme to enable adults with severe physical disabilities to live "like you and me".
He looks at the second of the elements of the threefold dictum that stands at the heart of our rosh hashana and yom kippur services, namely u'teshuva u'tefila u'tzedaka ma'avirin et ro'a ha-g'zera (usually translated as 'but penitence, prayer and charity will/can avert/lessen the severe decree'). He looks at the element of tefila and what it means in Judaism and why it is so important at this time.
Why if Hannah wanted a child so badly was she ready to give it away as soon as it was weaned? Why are the other characters in the narrative portrayed as insensitive?
Miriam discusses an extract from her mothers' diary, her own experiences in the community, faith which is linked with the history of our people, our cultural heritage and spiritual guidance.
This is an appeal on behalf of two organisations which are changing people’s lives. The first, Refugee Resource, which supports asylum seekers mainly in Oxfordshire; the second, the Langdon Community provides support for young Jewish adults with learning difficulties and is based in London.
Is it the case that Judaism thrives on questions?