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Showing posts from August, 2014

The Elul Pop Music Project Revisited and Continued!

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שִׁירוּ לַיהוָה, שִׁיר חָדָשׁ; שִׁירוּ לַיהוָה, כָּל-הָאָרֶץ. 'Shiru la'Adonai shir chadash, shiru la'Adonai kol ha'Aretz'  'Sing unto the Eternal a new song, sing unto the Eternal, all the Earth!'  ~ Psalm 96:1
Music has always been an inextricable part of my spirituality. I didn't grow up in a 'musical' family (we were the sort who cultivated the 'visual arts') but the musical choices of my older brothers did rub off on me: Bob Marley, Queen, Nirvana, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Tracy Chapman.  Queen and Bob Marley were especially formative to me. It was in this music that I found my earliest spiritual inspiration. When I was 19, I discovered Tracy Chapman and was so inspired that I decided to teach myself to play the guitar and have been writing songs ever since. Once I started getting involved with the Jewish community, I also started composing liturgical and religious music.
As a rabbi, I love engaging with music professionally. Ser…

Into the Wild

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photo credit: Dave Middleton
Sermon Parashat Ekev  Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz 
Into the Wild 
There’s something a bit mad about leaving the creature comforts of your modern life – central heating, indoor plumming, WIFI, a hot bath and microwave –to go out into the wild to pitch your tent, get rained on, eat beans on soggy toast and shiver on a thin mat and an inadequate sleeping bag. Oh, the joys of camping. 
And yet we do this every year, with great enthusiasm, much greater than might expect since according to one camping website (biased data perhaps!), 18 million Brits go camping every year. What is it about the attraction of going ‘into the wild’ and leaving it all behind? Every summer, we embrace the ritual of fleeing our mundane lives by going on vacation. And although some vacations are spent in greater luxury than what one may be used to during the year, the fact of the matter is that most vacations embrace an ethos of simplicity. We like going ‘back to basics’. 
My family and I did…

From Rebuke to Reconciliation

Parashat Devarim  Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
From Rebuke to Reconciliation 
After the parshiyot of the last few weeks talking about the failure of the spies to show courage and the conquest of Cana’an, the first parashah of Devarim (Deuteronomy) repeats much of the same theme and I’m inclined to move onto a new type of Torah. Some ‘Torat imi’ to paraphrase Proverbs, ‘Torah’ from my mother. 
When my older brothers and I were children and would devolve into the usual sibling conflict, we’d play every card of the blaming game. Rather than taking sides, my mother would always say, “you are responsible for your own actions, not for the actions of someone else.” This would inevitably be followed by our predictable protestations, to which she would answer, “thinking that you’re in the right is not the same thing as having your right acknowledged”. (It works better in Dutch!)  My mother’s message was clear: don’t shift the blame, be critical of yourself and take ownership of your actions. She’s…