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Showing posts from February, 2016

Intelligent Design

Parashat Ki Tissa Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
Intelligent Design
V’emale oto ruach Elohim bechochmah uvitvunah uv’da’at uv’chol melacha’ – ‘And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with insight and with knowledge for all his craftsmanship.’
We learn from this verse then, that Betzalel ben Uri, Master Craftsman is divinely inspired. We tend to gloss over these verses in search of what follows: the description of the Tabernacle and the laws of Shabbat. But I’d not like to take us there yet. I’d like to linger a little longer at ‘wisdom, insight and knowledge’.
Why does the Torah tell us that Betzalel possesses these three qualities? The Torah is usually terse and one descriptor would have been enough. Yet we get three for the price of one!
Chochmah, binah and da’at. Wisdom. Insight. Knowledge.
Rashi picks up on too and gives us a very meaningful interpretation: Chochmah, wisdom: ‘mah she’adam shomea me’acherim v’lamad’ – ‘what a person hears from others and learns’. Binah, insi…

The Game of Altars

The Game of Altars Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
The challenge of a visiting rabbi when preaching is how do you share a little about yourself so people get a more rounded picture of who you are. I’ve spent half of Shabbat with you already and look forward to getting to know all of you much better. As for ‘a little more of me’: I’m a science fiction and fantasy nerd (most rabbis are). And I share a particular predilection for ‘Game of Thrones’.
‘Game of Thrones’ is a highly-successful television series based on George RR Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ fantasy novels. Set in a Medieval-esque world, the series distinguishes itself from the usual ‘sword and sorcery’ type through its explorations of power and political intrigue. The premise of the show centres around different characters vying for the Iron Throne, the centralized seat of power that unites the known world. The brilliance of the show lies in how it discusses questions of character and influence: how power corrupts, alliances shif…

‘Pleasing to the Eternal’

‘Pleasing to the Eternal’ Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
Please complete the following sentence: ‘my most favourite smell in the world is…’ I know you’re British so this might be a bit awkward, but let’s try anyway. ‘My most favourite smell in the world is…’
My toddler’s and baby’s freshly washed hair. Cinnamon. Fresh ginger root. Logs burning on the fire place. Challah hot from the oven. Cut grass on an early summer’s day.
Any of our senses can take us back to our most precious moments in a matter of milliseconds yet few things are successful at plummeting the depths of the soul as smell. An entire childhood of summer holidays, memorable Shabbatot with loved ones or the romantic linger of someone’s perfume can be conjured up by the most fleeting scent.
According to the Torah, a sense of smell isn’t only important to human beings but also to God. We read in parashat Vayikra, this week’s Torah reading: ‘V’hiktir haKohen et hakol haMizbecha olah isheh, reich nichoach lAdonai’ – ‘and the Kohen shall caus…