The last few months have been a very challenging time for me and I am pleased to report that I am well on the road to a full recovery. I am extremely grateful to the many members of our community for all the support and messages of care and concern that I have received.
It has been wonderful to be back in shul and our Shema Community has been a particularly joyful and exciting place to be over the last couple of weeks. On the Shabbat of 1stand 2nd July we joined the other Masorti communities in the UK (and many other communities) in celebrating Pride - demonstrating our commitment to inclusivity and welcome to all members in our community.
On Friday night, one of our co-chairs, Steven Lux, hosted a delightful bring-a-dish dinner in Maxwell Park Community Centre in Borehamwood which was attended by about 30 people (including lots of children). We davened Kabbalat Shabbat and then sat down together for a wonderful meal washed down with some delicious cocktails - and don’t even get me started on the sumptuous desserts...
On Shabbat morning in our Edgware building a much larger group of us gathered to daven and to deepen our understanding of the lived experience of LGBTQ people both in our own community and in the wider community. The Beit Knesset was beautifully decked out with a range of flags and other decorations.
Last Shabbat our Edgware building was filled with people who had come to celebrate Joey Lurie’s Bar Mitzvah. Joey’s dad, Pete, was previously co-chair of our legacy EBMC community and had played a huge role in facilitating the merger, so it was a particularly poignant occasion for him and his family. Joey, who had been taught by the indomitable Jack Buechler, gave a fascinating and insightful d’var Torah on his parasha, Chukat, stressing the importance of surrounding ourselves with people we can learn from and of balancing confidence with humility. He also leyned revi’i with great precision and his younger sister, Ava, led the congregation in Anim Zemirot with gusto. We even had guests joining us on our Livestream from South Africa and Australia!
We are looking forward to the Beit Knesset being full again to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of Alicia Burger on Shabbat 23 July. Please do join us for this simcha and help to celebrate the coming of age of another young person in our community.
I have to say that seeing the shul full and ringing out with the sound of children of all ages running around, joining in and taking part in the children's service has been a source of great joy and nachas to many of us.
We are now approaching the 17th of Tammuz (the fast of Tammuz), which begins in the early hours of Sunday morning. This day begins a period of mourning for the Jewish people known as the Three Weeks, which ends on the 9th of Av with the fast of Av. During this time we commemorate the destruction of the temples that once stood in Jerusalem and other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people throughout history, such as the expulsions of our people from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492.
However, before we enter into these three weeks we read parashat Balak this Shabbat. One of its key messages is the importance of blessings. Each day we have an opportunity to look at the world negatively and with a critical eye, or with a good and generous eye. In this week’s parasha, Balaam intends to curse the Jewish people and ends up blessing them with the “mah tovu” prayer that we now say each morning:
How wonderful are your tents O Jacob, And the places where you live O Israel!
As we enter the Three Weeks and in the midst of any difficult times in our lives, it can be incredibly helpful and comforting to remember and focus on the blessings in the different areas of our own lives – taking this approach has really helped me in my own road to recovery.