Religion is making the headlines daily, not least the recent vote at the Church of England Synod paving the way for women as Bishops:
The Roman Catholic Church is concerned:
As for Judaism, rabbis are not the same as vicars, and certainly not the same as Bishops. The Reform and Conservative movements now ordain female rabbis, unlike Orthodoxy. The Orthodox prayer service includes a great deal of melodic narrative intoned in Hebrew and Aramaic, as well as a sermon in the vernacular. An increasing number of Orthodox synagogues in Jerusalem are allowing women to conduct their own abridged services at least once a month. And, in the last few years, women in some of these synagogues have also been invited to address the entire congregation after the service.
However, this is only one part of what Judaism is about. Every Tuesday evening, I attend a shiur, or seminar on religious matters, which deals with the nature of God and creation. Naturally, we cannot know what God is, only what He is not.
This is the most profound shiur I've ever attended.
Last night we considered the nature of evil, as expressed in the words of Isaiah 45:7:
God forms light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates evil
Why the different verbs? What is the difference between forming, creating and making?
Forming is moulding what is already there. God is light and therefore the light we experience is formed from this.
Darkness and evil are the absence of God, or God absenting Himself. God's absence creates the darkness and evil - God concealing His presence.
Peace is made through reconciliation in the material world.
Why does God absent Himself? So that we are enabled to use our free will to make choices.
In the outer world, the Church of England, whose Supreme Governor is the Queen, makes history by offering women episcopelian status. Meanwhile, the eternal verities continue to perplex us. In an imperfect world, how can we make sure that the light shines through in our own lives as well as in the life of the entire cosmos? By performing a mitzvah with the right intention, will those starving in Darfur ultimately be fed?
That is the nature of this shiur.