On Wednesday a number of Israeli scholars, including the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Shear Yashuv Cohen
and his wife, Dr. Naomi Cohen, an expert on Philo and Talmud:
arrived in Manchester for the Judaica Fest, being held at Manchester University:
On Wednesday evening the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, together with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, gave a talk at Whitefield Hebrew Congregation, in North Manchester, on the subject of Jewish women who wish to gain a divorce - otherwise known as the agunah problem.
Solutions are there in the earliest sources. According to the speakers, it is a matter of using these sources.
The next day we took Dr. Naomi Cohen and Rabbanit Shoshana Daichovsky for a trip in the Lake District. A great deal of thought had gone into this (ad)venture and we decided the north lakes would be better than the south lakes. This proved to be a good guess.
Keswick was beautiful and relatively empty.
By the time we reached
on the way back, the day trippers were out in the glorious sunshine and we were glad we had aimed higher up. The Lake District was declared by our guests to be more beautiful than the New York Catskills,
which was praise indeed!
We took a picnic hamper, plenty to drink and a camera. The guests had their own cameras too and couldn't stop taking pictures. What impressed them the most was the peace and quiet. And to think that all this is less than two hours from our home in Manchester!
On Shabbat morning, the Chief Rabbi addressed our shul
on the subject of leadership in Israel today. He found some parallels with the time of Moses, as depicted in the Book of Midbar (Numbers):
Then, in the evening, Rabbi Riskin gave a lecture on the subject of what is required of Jews and Judaism. Judaism should reach out to the world and hope for repentance even in our worst enemies, such as Hamas.
We should try to make overtures to those who don't like us, but at the same time act as Jews should. God does not require us to have comfortable lives, away from the fray. Nor does He wish us to study Torah and Talmud all day, to the exclusion of earning a living in the 'real' world. When Jews start to behave as God wants, the rest of the world will respond.
Both sermons were inspirational and the synagogue was packed.
The weather had been glorious throughout and our Israeli guests had thorougly enjoyed their stay. The words we had heard gave a great deal of food for thought, especially in the wake of news such as this:
But then, today, at a shiur in north Manchester, we discussed the origin of the word 'Jericho'. Jericho (now in Palestinian hands) comes up in the Book of Numbers. The place is a mini oasis in a desert area, and has constantly growing, sweet-smelling flowers. This is one meaning of the letters y, r, kh. Another is 'moon'. It appears that Jericho was at first inhabited by moon worshippers!!
It is hard to convey to people who are not Jewish just how important the Hebrew language is in understanding the Bible. And how inadequate translations are. If this is true even of novels and poetry, then how much more so it must be in the case of sacred writings: