My thoughts are with the families of the murdered Israeli boys, and the murdered Palestinian boy. This has been a horrendous week. My prayer is that this awful experience of tit-for-tat murder shall push us all to reject acts violence as incendiary and exponentially ever-more-dangerous. The ray of hope came in a stunning call of the uncle of Naftali Fraenkel, one of the murdered Israelis, to bring a halt to calls for ‘revenge.’ “The life of an Arab is equally precious to that of a Jew.”He insisted, “Blood is blood, and murder is murder, whether that murder is Jewish or Arab.” It’s a point made in the Talmud, but never has it been so desperately needed.
It takes a certain spiritual power to rise beyond the experience of deep pain, to find a truth more needed than revenge. It’s a power desperately needed in this battered world and, sadly, one of the greatest exponents of this power has also passed this last week. Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi was the greatest spiritual teacher I have met. He was a guest at New London around five years ago. He lit up the Synagogue with his blend of irreverent humour, extraordinary compassion and profound understanding of Torah. Reb Zalman preached a Torah of respect and love of the other. May his life’s lesson guide us beyond his death.
While at New London, Reb Zalman taught of a speaking tour he undertook with Rabbi Louis Jacobs, founding Rabbi of this Synagogue – it must have been some meeting. This week we commemorate Rabbi Jacob’s Yartzheit and I have the honour of giving a memorial lecture in his name. The first time I prepared to give a class on Rabbi Jacobs the class was cancelled - Rabbi Jacobs had passed away that very week and I was instead invited to speak at his Shiva. As many will know, I grew up at New London. Louis was my first Rabbi, and still is the vision of a Rabbi I see when I close my eyes and think of what a Rabbi should be. I’ll be speaking about the relationship between the man and this community, as we celebrate our 50th year. I’ll be looking both backwards and forwards, trying to understand and re-understand his inspiration for us today, and into our future. It would be an honour to have you join me. The lecture will follow Maariv led by Louis’ son Ivor at 7:30pm on Sunday. I hope to see you there,