Sunday, 27 January 2019

A 10-Point Plan for Chasidic Vaccinations

What follows is Reb Tickle's 10-point plan for increasing vaccination in Chasidic communities:

  1. Have as senior a member of government as is available pay homage to Chasidic Rebbes, or Grand Rabbis, to request them to urge their followers to vaccinate their children. Ideally this should be the Secretary of State for Health in the respective countries provided it is not a woman. Not only would that make it impossible to show the meeting in frum papers, it would also be immensely disrespectful to report of a meeting between a Grand Rabbi and a woman. The meeting must be handled with great sensitivity so that each Chosid gets the impression that his Rebbe is the only one who truly matters in the corridors of power and that it is he who holds the keys to the health of the nation. Once one visit has taken place a suitable interval must pass before another visit is scheduled with the next Rebbe so that by the time of the second visit the first visit has faded from memory. A visit is necessary for A-class Rebbes only because if every rebbe (with a lowercase 'r') was visited we'd be long wiped out from the diseases that the vaccinations are meant to prevent before the visits are completed. Bear in mind, however, that we are discussing the real A-Classers here. Those who are clad in technicolour coats and are on first name terms and speed dial with Michoel, Gavriel and the rest of the lads. These are not mere mortals. They fly the globe yet have never seen the inside of an airport, handle millions yet don't even have a bank account in their name. To get an idea of how steeped in Avodas Hashem these Rebbes are, some don't even stop at red lights. Imagine that. So get the vaccination message through to them and the rest is a doddle.

  2. Once the Rebbes are on board, or on tish, they must be persuaded to talk about vaxing at very opportunity including shaleshudes, kol nidrei, tekias shofor, shovevim, at the yortzeit seudo for the previous Rebbe and even during the cordial visits between Rebbes when about 139 people crowd into a dining room that seats 8 and they sip from silver beakers, and offer each other slices from a round brown sponge cake which each rejects with a swipe of the hand, and they tell each other stories of the cat that interrupted their grandmothers' dream which is followed by trying to figure out whether they may both be related to the cat. Getting the Rebbes to agree to talk about it is no doubt the most challenging bit though once this has been broken through all else is guaranteed to flow smoothly thereafter. I concede that they do sometimes plumb our plebeian depths and talk about smartphones and even, when they really must, the tightness of women's t-shirts though that depends of course on how eye-popping they turn out to be. But vaxing? Does Rebbe Reb Shmiel Yankel of the farmyard near the wagon stop, 15 miles north-east of Lublin discuss it in his book which angels only browse on Yom Kippur night? Of course not so who are we to be wiser? Such is therefore the task to get Rebbes to put vaccinations on their tish that it may well require intervention by the Head of State himself. Or herself as Rebbes would probably make an allowance when it comes to the Head of State.

  3. A Rebbe alone is not enough as he can only intercede in Heaven while we need someone in an executive role for the mundane tasks of getting the stuff in the blood flow. For that we must appoint a heimishe health czar or macher who is connected to the very highest echelons of government. In fact so high that when there's a government resignation his beeper goes off even in the middle of Tashlich. This macher, or super-macher - though not a Rebbe because besides the reasons above he will also be talking far too much sense than we are used to hearing from the Rebbes - must tell us why for the sake of not making a chilul hashem and because we are in golus and Moshiach is not yet here we ought to vaccinate. He must then promise that once Moshiach, who is due any day, arrives we can safely give it all up. He will also need to assure us on the size of the needle and that the needle has been tested on all the gedoilim and not one of them said, oy, ouch, oy vey, och, ach, ay or anything of like effect. Of course, the czar should not speak to the Times, Telegraph, JC and Vanity Fair as we have one such czar already and stepping on his toes is generally not advisable besides that it can also put at risk your kids' school places. We are talking of a heimishe health meiven who actually talks to us. Us the heimisher oilom. Us in shul, in the shops, at a kiddush with a mouth full of eir kichel, at weddings while yelling over the loudspeakers, at a shive on the back row because you anyway don't have what to say to the mourners. That said, he must still keep a certain distance. Should he talk to us too much then he's one of us and so we stop trusting him (because of course it's a him). He must therefore strike a careful balance: close enough to be trusted that he cares for our interests but distant enough to be trusted that he knows what he's talking about. It will greatly assist if this super-macher has connections to a top Harely Street doctor whom you can approach only through him. This will get all the moneyed families flocking there and so even the schlimazels who can't afford it will still turn to their local NHS clinic in order to keep up with the Getzels and Yehosua Meirs.

  4. Now that the Rebbes are signed up and a super-macher, or an arseken, is in place the next step is to start a campaign. For that we must employ a Chasidic graphic artist to design a campaign in garish colours, close-up, in-your-face photography, drawings of kids with peios, fathers in shtreimels and of course no mothers or sisters chas v'sholom. Then set us in suspense for months on end with blank pages in the various newssheets and only a graphic in the bottom corner so that by the time the full advert comes we'll be rolling up our sleeves, exposing our arms and handing over our kids while begging for any pin prick just to be told what's hiding behind the months of blank. Next, hire every lamppost, tree trunk, shop front and any spare wall or hoarding to paste the campaign and by the end of it we'll be begging again though this time for any affliction even if it means pricking us black and blue just to be rid of the notices, adverts, phone calls half an hour before midnight, loudspeakers on the streets, soliciting stands in shuls and taps on the shoulder while wrapping the tefilin.

  5. Next we want Chasidic copy writers to write the content of the ads. These must warn, threaten, promise, cajole, badger, blackmail that unless your kids are vaccinated you will not inherit the World to Come, your kids won't be accepted in local schools, your Rebbe won't consent to your next child's name and God forbid your WhatsApp groups may even expel you. Whatever you do, do NOT include long expository articles with scientific information on the necessity of vaccinations. Firstly, we don't need no education, is our holy call from Above. Besides, what chutzpeh do they have telling us about science and medicine as if it isn't included in our Torah and Talmud studies. How many times do we have to repeat this? Our Torah studies combine secular studies and we don't do drugs and the supermarkets don't follow our kids through the aisles and therefore our gedoilim can carry out open heart surgery with a circumcision scalpel and they know as much about vaxing as any professor. Anyway, how many kids do they have and how many do we and we need no lesson from them on chicken pox, thank you very much. The copy must of course contain many stories of the 'open' miracles that people experienced a day after the jab, the jabs that were given to heimishe jailbirds and how it strengthened their faith in Hashem and of gedoilim who took a jab for 40 consecutive days and soon after their beard doubled in size. Just one important caveat: do not include any psukim in the ads or that may invoke the wrath of the rabbis. No matter how many times healing is mentioned in the holy books and no matter how many lives may be saved, psukim do not belong in adverts. A baby up, a baby down but keep the psukim out.

  6. Before we get on to the vaxing itself, we must introduce money somewhere. It's difficult to say at this stage what role the money will play especially if the NHS foots the bill and this will have to be figured out or improvised. The money need not necessarily be in the form of a charge for the jabs though that should certainly not be ruled out. And it does not have to be handouts to parents who bring forward their children though that too ought to be considered. But at this stage we're talking money in the abstract. We need something to grease the campaign with plenty of juicy gossip about sticky fingers, hands in the till, the macher who's all of a sudden built an extension, bought a new car and gone to Israel with his family for sukkos. Only this will ensure that the entire vaxing issue is kept high on the communal agenda. One possible way of blending in money could be if those being vaccinated are not told of the content of the vaccination such as whether it's a placebo, blessed water from a mekubal in Northern Galilee or the real thing. However, once the vaccination has been administered those pesky oiber chachomim who must know the content of their injection can be provided with the information for a $500 payment, or $1,000 if the reply is needed within 14 days. (I am using dollars as it’s safer if the data is exported far away from our crazy data protections laws.)

  7. And so for the vaxing day itself. For this we must set up a heimishe kosher wonka factory laden with a rainbow of colours of sour sticks, gushers, cherry nibs, fruit winders, twizzlers, candy planets, mayim chaim cherry flavour and even Chazon Ish-size popcorn helpings. This is not for the babies who are of course too young though they can also be bribed with Ribena, Robinsons, chocolate syrup in the milk bottle and a winky or two. The main purpose of this candy paradise is for the brothers and sisters of the vaccinating child. Trust me, even the most resolute parents cannot withstand an onslaught of 2 dozen Chasidic kids when faced with the multi coloured choice with a mehadrin hechsher. True, it may have a side effect on the teeth but we have already been assured by the Chareidi Health Forum that it's all under control so there isn't really much to worry about. Anyway, since our teeth are anyway rotted we might as well scoff as much nosh as we can get our gums into.

  8. The adults may not be ignored either. Lay on a heimishe spread as only we can. Now don't stereotype about cholent and kugel though of course they should not be given a miss. And while you're at it, just pass me that plate, there behind the herring. But nowadays we've matured and if the government really wants us to vaccinate then we want something serious in return. And that something had better consist of giblets and cold cuts, tongue and lamb, sushi and fish balls, a giant salmon with a leek, cherry-tomato and cashew salad at the side and of course a beverage table with more whiskys than at a St Andrew's ball. Because as Hashem promised Abraham ‘I will multiply thy seed as the carbs at your kiddush and the whisky cups at your chupehs. So just give us that and we'll deliver up our kids to the government for as many vaccinations as are needed so long that protected characteristics are kept off the menu.

  9. Vaccinations with a hechsher should be a top priority. For a start it will assure the doubters and sceptics that it must be safe because which rov in his right mind would give a hechsher to something that might endanger your health? But I'm afraid one hechsher will not do the trick because that would still mean 80% of the oylem refusing to take it because the rov of that hechsher's wife's tights are skin coloured and she also changes to cream tights from a day after we start saying moirid hatol. You need at least 3 heimishe hechsheirim to cover every permutation of the rebbitzen’s headgear and then a U inside a circle plus a KLBD for those Englishe fusspots who insist that they eat only from a hechsher where the mashgichim are paid on the books thus losing all their benefits - that's how big reshoim those Englishers are.

  10. Finally, whatever you do, do NOT mention measles or chicken pox at any cost. Our parents and grandparents and the First, Second and Third Rebbe of blessed memory to the life of the World to Come all had measles and chicken pox and look what they achieved and so we should not try to be any wiser than them chas v'sholom. Mind you they had buckwheat for breakfast while we have Weetabix but that is a question which as a great Rebbe said, questions are a side effect of sinning. And another said, any question is heresy. So don't be so clever and just do as you're told and walk in the footsteps of the lemmings and Hashem and our arsekonim will look after the rest.


PS These tips are for Chasidic non-vaxers only. Alas, Litvishe non-vaxers actually believe the nonsense they are fed and so unfortunately are beyond redemption. And as Rebbe Reb Ber said, Yad hachasidim al hoelyoino, the [vaccinated] arm of the Chasidim always comes up tops.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

“A Time to Act – For the Sake of the Schoolchildren


As is well known to our esteemed public may they live, members of Chareidi communities throughout England, the future of the education of Jewish boys and girls to enable them to be educated on the path of the Patriarch Israel and in accordance with our ancient traditions passed down through the generations is in a dire situation.

As that Elder, Jacob, peace be unto him, prepared [in time of crisis] with three strategies [appeasement with gifts, prayer and battle] so have we also followed in the footsteps of the sheep. We have held days of prayer and supplication in all our communities when young and old assembled to tear at the Gates of Heaven to revoke the evil decrees. Our efforts have certainly had an effect upon High and behold the Almighty God does not despise the prayers of the many. And we hereby beseech each individual to plead and increase their prayers before the Creator Blessed be His Name to revoke the evil decree. Likewise, we have also made intense efforts to rescind and revoke the decrees in every way possible with a variety of lobbying efforts, both public and private. Obviously many of the discussions with the authorities are best kept secret and [as the sages teach us] the blessing is best applied on matters hidden from sight.

In previous generations when the authorities increased the burden of the exile on the necks of the Children of Israel, communal dealings with the authorities were purposefully through representatives of the communal heads and its sages and they would assess the most appropriate methods for interceding with the authorities in their elevated and difficult task. Likewise, in contemporary times, the only way, with the help of God, to succeed to rescind and revoke the educational decrees from upon us can be only through representatives who carry out their duties to which they have been appointed by the communal heads and who thereby have the authority of the entire community.

Therefore, we the leaders of the Holy Nation have gathered to appoint and to endorse the representatives of the Merciful, our representatives, who are the appointees and activists of ChinuchUK may they live, who carry out their work faithfully and whose hands are like our hands. May they go from strength to strength to revoke the difficult decrees upon us by pursuing the traditional methods that have been utilised throughout the generations.

And this is our message to the representatives: be strong and be fortified for the Honour of His Blessed Name, and may it be the Will that we should merit the revocation of the evil decrees speedily. Amen.

We hereby sign 18 Shevat 5779 [23 January 2019]

*Bold in original

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Hatzola in Intensive Care?

It would be disrespectful to the good work of the Stamford Hill Hatzola organisation to cover their latest troubles in a mere few tweets, plus since this is a work-free week time is more in abundance. A full bodied blog must therefore be the order of the day.

There is a dense fog surrounding Hatzola's latest saga with the main participants reluctant to 'get involved' (a favourite localism) whether out of a sense of loyalty, an unwillingness to further fan the flames or for fear of repercussions, which, given the allegations, may well be real. Our press is of course useless on anything that really matters and even then they'll spin the line they're told to or they know they are supposed to, so there's not much information to be gleaned from them either. However, this is not an excuse to desist from wading in and so if you're still here let's go.

Established in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Hatzola is a voluntary organisation of medical first responders serving the chareidi community in the Stamford Hill area. There are other UK Hatzolas with similar names and while they cooperate with each other they are not affiliated and are each run independently. I am referring here to the Stamford Hill Hatzola only.

Hatzola is a registered charity though confusingly there are two charities: Hatzola Trust and Hatzola Trust Ltd. There are 5 trustees and directors of the charity company and there are then the volunteers, numbered in the low 40s. It is these volunteers who are the embodiment and visible face of the organisation and who are ready 24/7 to go out on emergency calls. This is what wins them the most respect coupled of course with the often life-saving nature of their work.

The current problems reportedly stem from a large number of disaffected members who are unhappy with the way things are being run and are agitating for change. This includes representation of the volunteers on the board which those in control will not countenance.

They complain of bullying of volunteers by management. For example, a new radio system was recently installed which allows management to disable volunteers' radios remotely and which is allegedly being carried out with little or no prior notice to the affected volunteers. According to the complainants, this new level of control is used arbitrarily without giving reasons so that volunteers suddenly find themselves locked out with no explanation. They also claim that management can listen in to the radios which the volunteers are required to have on at all times. Assurances were sought over who has access to this and they claim the replies given were unsatisfactory. In addition, disciplinary procedures against 'troublesome' volunteers have been commenced and then withdrawn with little or no explanation either way.

More seriously, the rebels point to a 2017 report by the Quality Care Commission (CQC) which found some worrying failings at Hatzola including staff working above competency level and shortcomings in record keeping. For comparison, the latest NW Hatzola (which covers the Golders Green area) CQC report also has areas requiring improvement but the Stamford Hill Hatzola list is longer and appears to cover more serious issues. They complain that few of the recommendations have been implemented despite Hatzola being the best funded of the UK Hatzola organisations. Hatzola's income for the last reported year was over £1m while NW Hatzola is only about a third of that.

There are then complaints of non-medically trained volunteers who supposedly fulfil no clear role and with whom confidential data is shared. They are also said to be higher up in the pecking order than those on the front line who actually treat casualties in accidents and attend emergencies. There is then allegedly a high turnover of administrative staff with a figure put to me of 'a healthy 15 who have left with grumpy faces, including fundraisers, CQC advisors, trainers etc' all in the last year. Unfortunately, an opaqueness surrounds the group at corporate level and their website has no About section telling you who actually runs the organisation. The best I could find on the management team is this page which is out of date and to which there is no link on the website.

Things came to a head about a month ago when 31 members signed a letter of no confidence in the management. A meeting was called and management stipulated that it would meet only 4 representatives whom the rebels must appoint. 2 hours were allocated to the meeting and 4 of the trustees/managers were to attend for the board. Of them, one turned up 10 minutes late while another left after 50 minutes. The meeting ended with no outcome other than that shortly after, the very same 4 representatives had their radios disconnected and were ejected from Hatzola. This re-enforced the view amongst the rebels that they are taken for granted and that the management will act as ruthlessly as suits them in order to avoid relinquishing any control.

The allegations are multiplying. The rebels claim they helped raise about £83,500 towards a new ambulance after one of the ambulances was involved in an accident. Management then decided that the damaged ambulance can be repaired after all and they mixed the raised funds with the general budget without acknowledging the role played by the volunteers. They also claim there are bequests towards ambulances which management refuses to implement. I must admit that arguments on ambulances leave me cold. The kids and youngsters love them as boys’ toys but I somehow doubt Stamford Hill needs a permanent fleet of this size.

As an example of the flexing of raw power, they point to a recent email from one of the trustees to the volunteers "Please be aware that there are no rights for a volunteer as there are for an employee" as if the issue here is rights over unfair dismissal or an employee/employer relationship. They also claim that there are amongst their number 2 fully trained paramedics but management won’t recognise them since it would allow them to increase their profile and eclipse those higher up. In addition, they complain that the trustees have never been frontline volunteers and look down at them with disdain and do everything possible to deny them board representation. I cannot say to what extent any of this is warranted but there is not doubt that there are a significant number of disgruntled volunteers and their case deserves a respectful hearing.

Now there is talk of the rebels starting a splinter group in association with Ihud Hatzalah of Israel. This would be a huge mistake in my opinion and one the local powers that be will probably never allow. The Israelis may do wonderful things but they are best kept in Israel. Whatever the case, if it is true that up to three quarters of members are disaffected, the current managers will have to give way or they will be left with no organisation.

In the court of public opinion the rebels seem to be winning. They have WhatsApp at their disposal to present themselves as the lifesaving underdogs versus an aloof management that won't dirty its hands yet is determined to maintain an unworkable status quo that suits no one but themselves. It may be true that some of the rebels are young hotheads who want more control than can be responsibly entrusted to them and some of the frantic messages will certainly have done them no favours. (The term in one of the Yiddish messages 'Hatzola trucks' for ambulances suggests a hired US hand may have written some of them.) There are, however, also plenty of current and ex-volunteers who are successful in their day jobs but are not allowed to move up. All the trustees but one are no more qualified or educated than the volunteers, their trimmed beards notwithstanding, and some possibly less so. Three of the five have been there since 2013 and are preventing fresh blood from contributing or Heaven forfend taking over.

For a broader picture, this seems to be a fight over control and succession which bedevils almost every chareidi organisation the world over and which we are used to from scores of such battles. Letting go and moving on is not in the Ten Commandments and constitutions and good governance is for the goyim and non-frum world which, wink wink, is anyway honoured only in the breach. Our Beth Dins are hardly fit for purpose and governance doesn't occupy too many column inches in the holy books either. So when they look around at other communal organisations like UOHC, the Adath Burial Society, our communal schools and numerous other ‘communal’ charities’ all they see is people in control since time immemorial and so why should they be any different?

Unless people leave voluntarily which is a rarity round here or they are removed in a box, it's fisticuffs or near enough every few years wherever you turn. Indeed, Hatzola itself had similar turmoil over similar issues about 15 years ago and no doubt we will be here again in a decade or so. Despite there being nothing unique about Hatzola in this, given how close Hatzola is to people's hearts (excuse the pun) anything relating to it inflames passions like little else. Chinuch for all its problems is something occupying the minds of our elites whereas Hatzola is a grassroots organisation or at least this is how people feel it ought to be. Yet by the sound of it it seems to be run more of a version of the poem: It’s Yankl this an’ Yankl that an’ chuck him out the brute/It’s saviour of your zeide when his heart begins to shoot. Or the appeal is short of fruit.

So having set out the issues, Reb Tickle's solution is simple. Trustees should serve a maximum of 4 or 5 years and move on once they have passed their sell-by date. In addition, rank and file members must be represented at every level with a representative of the volunteers at board level and volunteers who have been in Hatzola for a year or longer should have a full vote in the running of the organisation like a shareholder in a company. It would also do no harm if potential users of the service have a representative there too. If Hatzola can have a rabbinical adviser surely it should be no different for a patient rep.

Furthermore, term limits should not be confined only to management and should also apply to volunteers. By all means sign up the volunteers when they're lithe and lean and raving to go. They love the air of authority it bestows upon them, the jargon they get to use, the power of revving an engine outside shul on a shabbos morning and the entirely justified pride and sense of achievement after never having sat a recognised exam in their life. But at the same time send packing those of them who when reaching their mid-30s turn into tubs of lard. Though, by that stage they will have accumulated years of front-line experience which makes them invaluable as trustees or in executive roles. They can put themselves forward for election and if they have what to give they will hopefully get to serve.

Transparency and accountability, both in the finances and administration, are an absolute necessity to maintain our trust in the organisation. In the days of WhatsApp, emotional blackmail doesn't wash any longer and the entire town knows in an instant what's going on despite the best efforts of those seeking to cover up. Lives saved, injured treated, sick assisted are all very nice for the pre-appeal publicity but we are entitled to be confident that there is nothing untoward lurking in the background. Those to whom we entrust our lives must earn their trust but having done so ought to be trusted to have a say in the running of their own affairs for the sake of all of us.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

A Vort for Sukkos

Moirai V’Raboisai! Here is my vort Lekovod Sukkos specially for my dear readers and followers.

Why is it that on Pesach we pile on the stringencies while on Sukkos it is just the opposite and the leniencies win over?

Let me give some examples. The Torah tells us to eat Matzoh on Pesach because our ancestors left Egypt in a hurry or because it is a slave’s ration and yet we spend a lifetime’s saving on some stale indigestible cardboard that supposedly complies with every stringency under the sun. That is also nothing compared to the ban on chometz. The Torah commands us to refrain from unleavened bread for just seven days which might be bad enough. But along come Chazal and add on about three-quarters of a day on Erev Pesach when chometz is also forbidden just in case. And it’s not just the duration of the ban but also the subject matter. Chometz means leavened dough but along came the rabbis and throw rice and millet into the bargain and of course the ashkenazim go even further and ban all legumes. The Torah says only that chometz may not be found in your homes but along come the sages and say it must be burned.

But these examples are largely unnecessary because who doesn’t know how crazy Pesach gets. Every other prohibition has a de minimis exemption whereas chometz on Pesach, even the tiniest of particles is forbidden. Which is why we drive ourselves crazy for weeks before and which all culminates in the hide-and-seek game of Bedikas Chometz. All for the sake of eliminating that leavened atom hiding in the eaves of the attic or in the crease of the curtain.

Now contrast all this with Sukkos. The Torah could not be plainer by saying, thou shalt sit in booths for 7 days. Or tabernacles. Or sheds. However you translate it, it still comes to something that shields you from four sides and on top. The Torah also gives a reason, for in booths did I settle the Children of Israel when I brought them out from the Land of Egypt. So there you are. A booth is a booth is a booth. Well, so you would think until Chazal intervene though this time in the opposite direction.

It needn’t have 4 walls and actually 3 walls will do very nicely. And while we’re at it even 3 complete walls are a tad too much and the 3rd wall can be a mere tefach in width, which is all of about 8-10 cm. As for the height of the walls, they needn’t reach the roof and so long that the gap is not too large we’ll create a legal fiction of the ‘crooked wall’ and pretend the wall reaches to the roof even though in reality it does not. This is still not the end of it and there are yet more fictions to ‘connect’ that which is asunder and to ‘suspend’ invisible walls. And all of this to create a supposed booth even if it is so small that it can hold nothing but the head and the majority of a single human body and little else.

Which brings us back to the glaring contrast where on Pesach which is supposedly to celebrate our freedom and yet we pile it on while on Sukkos when we are supposed to shield ourselves from the elements and yet it is all interpreted in the direction of exposure.

And so we come to the vort itself.

On Pesach we indeed celebrate our liberation from our oppressors and our emergence from slavery to independence and so the Torah and Chazal remind us that freedom need be handled with care. Too much freedom may bring on overindulgence, the liberation of oneself can lead to the oppression of others and and an overabundance of individual liberty may be followed by an abuse of the very freedoms we pined for during our affliction.

We needn’t look far for examples. In our times we find countries that in the past fought to shake off their oppressors, whether the Americans of their British overlords or more recently Eastern European countries of Soviet rule, are now electing semi-tyrants with oppressive policies towards minorities and the disadvantaged. The leader of a country formed of immigrants and which gave us the first amendment protecting freedom of speech spends his time viciously attacking migrants and a free press. Likewise, the internet that was supposed to empower individuals, communities and society at large with ready access to information and communication is instead used to spread lies and hate and addict people to the very portal through which their freedom was supposedly to be gained. As the Posuk says in Shiras Ha’azinu after listing the abundance enjoyed by the B’nei Yisroel, And Yeshurun grew fat and kicked - you became fat, you became obese, you became engorged - and he abandoned the God who made him and held in contempt the Rock, his Saviour.

Thus on Pesach when we were released from human servitude and we were awarded our first taste of freedom we tether ourselves to a higher duty and more meaningful purpose in order to contain the abuses that may follow the acquisition of too many rights and privileges. To enjoy our newly acquired freedom and liberation we limit them and set ourselves boundaries so as not to become corrupted by instant gratification and inebriated by too much of a good thing.

Sukkos on the other hand is the very opposite of Pesach. The Israelites were punished to wander in the desert for forty years when they were prevented from entering the promised land. Sukkos thus symbolises wandering and exile. We say in the prayer on the first night of Sukkos when first entering the sukkah, In the merit of leaving my home may it count for me as if I have wandered far. Also in the famous Yiddish poem, A Sukele a Kleine (A Weeny Sukkah) by Avraham Reisen (see here for translation) the shaky Sukkoh buffeted by the winds symbolises our exile and persecution along the way.

And so when we wander and are afflicted our attitude must be the very opposite of Pesach. We cannot in such times afford to close ourselves off from the world in a narcissism of exactitude and pedantry. Instead we must make allowance for outside winds to blow through our midst. Be they winds of change or be it a cooling breeze, sealing ourselves off from the outside on all sides with top to down walls is not an option. A sukkah with too thick a covering is invalid and instead we are forced to construct a roof through which the stars may be seen. Walls need not be on all four sides and they need not hermetically seal us off from the outside. We may breathe the outside air and we may dream beyond what is close and familiar and yet the sukkah will continue to shield and protect us. Because even in its reduced and exposed state the sukkah is still where God settles the Children of Israel.

Have a Good Yom Tov!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Non-denial denial “from UOHC Rabbinate”

IMG-20180912-WA0010 (002)

Wednesday ‘Vayelech’, Fast of Gedaliah… 5779

[12 September 2018]

Denial on behalf of the Rabbonim

A signed public rabbinical announcement was published on the eve of Rosh Hashono purportedly from the Rabbonim and Dayonim of our holy community have announced their support, intervened or have expressed a view in respect of one of the candidates in the English [British] Parliament.

We hereby clarify that none of our rabbonim has signed the public announcement and that our principle remains as ever that we do not intervene or express any view in relation to general political affairs.

There Rabbonim and Geonim will in future not express either verbally or in writing any view regarding political affairs. May it be the Will [of God] that no fault should result from us.

Signed on behalf of the Beth Din



There is something odd about this letter it being in Yiddish which is not used for public announcements of this type and extremely poorly written. It also misrepresents the initial letter as if it commented on a specific candidate or party which was never the case. The initial letter condemned other Jews for antagonising Jeremy Corbyn and on this this letter [assuming it’s genuine] is silent.

I repeat that I spoke to a signatory himself who confirmed the original letter was a true document. I also know from other sources that Rav Schlesinger signed it. In addition, had it been forged they would have added the Vizhinitzer Rebbe to the original notice but who is conspicuously absent.

UPDATE: As initially suspected, this letter is a fake