The High Holy Days have passed, promptly giving way to Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simhat Torah over the next two weeks. The succession of yamim tovim can be quite challenging, even when working for the Friends of Louis Jacobs! Thankfully, we have quite a few topical pieces available which might prove uplifting for our readership:
- a short dvar torah for parashat Ha’azinu, the penultimate portion in the yearly Torah-reading cycle, which was read yesterday in synagogue;
- an encyclopedia entry for a useful introduction to the festivals of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret;
- a reflection on the significance of the Law (or Torah) in Judaism, from the biblical period to modern times, which seems particularly relevant in the days leading to Simhat Torah;
- a detailed explanation of the priestly blessing, which generally receives a bit of attention during Sukkot as throngs of Kohanim recite it in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
A recent trip to Oxford allowed me to locate some earlier sources, predating the Affair and the establishment of the New London Synagogue. One article entitled ‘Judaism and Freedom’, for example, appeared in 1949 and offers some comments on Passover and the meaning of freedom in the aftermath of the establishment of the State of Israel. These might appear rather incongruous to those who knew Rabbi Jacobs through his more mature writings, which express a slightly more reserved approach to the Jewish state. An even better example appears in ‘Halachah and Changing Conditions‘, published in 1950, which articulates an understanding of the halakhic process quite at odds with the views he espoused in later years. More pieces will be uploaded shortly, offering similarly thought-provoking pieces.
It is no secret that Rabbi Jacobs was not just a remarkable Jewish theologian in his own right, but also someone with a great interest in general philosophy. The following book review of a collection of essays by the great analytical philosopher Bertrand Russell hardly does justice to his erudition, although it does demonstrate Jacobs’s interest in the subject.
Another exciting thing to look forward to! We are about to upload over twenty of tapes of classes Rabbi Jacobs offered at Leo Baeck College, quite a few years ago, which were recently found in their archives. These deal with a whole range of topics. The recordings date back a number of years, but thankfully, the quality is quite good!
Finally, the video of Elie Jesner’s latest Honest Theology session, entitled ‘Is there a Jewish sexual ethic?’, is available online. Highly recommended to all those who were not able to join us last August, or to anyone who wants to review the lecture!
Wishing everyone a hag sameah!
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