Reflections from Rabbi René – Simchat Torah

We are almost at the end of the month-long Jewish festivals of the autumn. This Shabbat, we will welcome the festival of Simhat Torah. We will finish the last verses of the book of Deuteronomy and read the first verses of the book of Genesis.

The cycles of time

Our understanding of time is twofold. On the one end, time is linear, heading towards a future that we are constantly creating. We use the expression of “messianic times” to describe a moment when, in Judy Chicago’s words, everything will be called Eden once again. But at the same time, we live in cycles. We go through a wheel of events and opportunities to learn, and we look back to them every year, as if to see how we have grown these past twelve months.

In the heart of each Jew, a love for life

The last word of Torah is Israel, and the first is Bereishit. The last letter is a lamed, and the first a beit. Combined, they form the word Lev, heart. At the heart of Israel is God and God’s Torah, and in the heart of each Jew, a love for life. When we finish a cycle, we can look back and assess where we are, as we did some days ago on Yom Kippur. But when we start a new cycle, a new beginning, in the sense of the first word of Torah, Bereishit, in a beginning, we open our heart and mind to new possibilities, to new adventures.

A time of impernance

Sukkot is a time of impermanence, but it also a time when we think about the Ushpizin, the guests we host under our Sukkah. On Friday evening, we will conclude the week of Sukkot by opening the first book of Torah. We also want to remember that there are people on this planet who do not have the same privileges and rights that we enjoy. As we are about to leave the EU, we want to think about the child refugees who want to be reunited with their families who live lawfully in this country. There are attempts to drop these rights and yet the Lords have passed an amendment that protect them. It has now to go to the Commons, and we will ask you on Friday evening, and explain why we do so, to petition your MPs to vote in favour of these unaccompanied children who are suffering from being torn apart from their families and who are living in dire circumstances. It is our moral duty as Progressive Jews to raise our voice to protect the vulnerable among us, and I hope many of you will be there on Erev Simhat Torah to discuss this matter.

Simhat Torah is also the occasion to invite people to say the blessings over both Torah readings. This year, I have decided to invite Craig Simmons, our chair, to thank him, and through him the council and all the team that have helped to build KLS’ online presence. I have also invited Jenny Osorio to say the blessing for the book of Genesis, and through her the entire “Keep in Touch” team, who have made sure that all our members were contacted on a regular basis.

Moadim le-Simha, it is indeed a season of gladness.

You can also watch René deliver his message here: