For those of you that know me, I have been in absentia for a number of weeks. For the moment, I won’t be posting here. Life has thrown me a huge curveball, and I need to take some time to regroup. I have been writing creatively elsewhere – a form of catharsis, if you will. Perhaps, when the time is right, I will reinvigorate my thoughts here.

Thank you.

Balak – when animals speak

13 Tamuz 5773 / 21 Jun 2013

If an animal speaks in your native language, if your kettle decides to spew forth words as well as steam, if your sofa yawns and instead of swallowing you up, enters into a conversation, I think it might be wise to pay attention.  Treating things as normal, when they are not, is generally a sign that something wants your attention.

Whilst I think it’s unlikely that the oven will serve you up a helping of advice along with your lasagne, matters which are much less strange may be passing you by, as you read this. Check in, take some time, observe what’s going on around you.

We could all do with paying attention. Even if the sign isn’t in the form of a talking donkey.

Shabbat Shalom, wherever you are…

Chukkat – access denied

6 Tamuz 5773 / 14 June 2013

It’s a good job we can’t see into the future, don’t you think? I for one would hate to be forced to carry around a crystal ball wherever I went. Put it this way, if I had known what my working week was going to be like (where everything takes twice as long and is twice as complicated as it needs to be), I might have been very tempted to stay in bed and hide under the duvet!

In this week’s parashah, we learn that neither Moses nor Aaron will reach the Promised Land. What shocks me is the way in which we learn it. They are simple sentences, not very dramatic – job done. Equally odd (to my mind) is that there is no major outcry from either Moses or Aaron when they learn their fate. Aaron dies during this parashah, Moses has some time to wait. It must have been a terrible shock to them, even though they must have understood why – they had gone beyond God’s instructions. Not as bad as Korach, but still…
I think back to times when I’ve taken a decision or acted in a way that deep down, I have realised isn’t congruent with what is ‘right’. When the error of my ways is revealed to me through the  inevitable consequences, I don’t tend to shout too loudly in protest. In fact, I go quiet. Very quiet. I know that I deserve the payback. It’s just not always clear what form that payback may take.
Thankfully, the consequences haven’t been quite so final (so far) as the ones inflicted on Aaron and Moses.
Shabbat Shalom, wherever you are…

Korach – the zero sum game

29 Sivan 5773 / 7 Jun 2013

Speaking out against incumbents in power is all very well, but what if your reason for doing so is to gain power yourself, not for the good of the people? And who should determine whether the current regime is ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Are there totally impartial, utterly objective ways of measuring this ‘good’ and ‘bad’? Once again, I scratch my head over the ‘right’ answer to these questions and am also amazed at how our Torah, an ancient text, is so relevant today. Look at what has happened in the Arab Spring, look at the events in Turkey, in Greece, in Cyprus, in Spain, here at home in the UK… plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

It could be said that the account of the Korach rebellion as described in Torah is a reflection of only the view of the ‘victorious’ (although I think it could be argued that, since there was so much loss of life in the events so described, everybody lost). Korach and his followers tried and failed to usurp Moses’ leadership. Torah tells us that Korach got what he deserved, he was only after power, he was not trying to help out anybody else but himself.

I do feel frustrated and saddened when I hear the ‘you are either with us, or against us’ type of argument. It informs us that there are sides, and only two sides, at that. It sounds infantile, not to mention aggressive. Life is so full of grey areas. That is what makes it so wonderful and yet terrifying to be alive now, in the past of our ancestors and for our descendants of the future.

For / Against

Right / Wrong

Yes / No

On / Off

Good / Evil

Life isn’t that simple now, and never has been. Let’s not give into this infantile way of thinking.

This stream of consciousness has been brought to you by the parashah Korach. What do you think?

Shabbat Shalom, wherever you are…


Shelach lecha – fear of the unknown

22 Sivan 5773 / 31 May 2013

Apparently, the Promised Land was full of giants, or so the spies sent off by Moses to investigate what lay ahead would have us all believe. Still yet, they advised that the best thing everyone should do was to give the whole thing up as a bad job. In fact, we should never have left Egypt, if you think about it.

Oy vey! What a bunch of moaning minnies!

All of this talk of the bad stuff that lay ahead puts me in mind of those old maps where, once the cartographers weren’t really sure what lay beyond places that had been investigated, resorted to filling the blank space with rough seas and indications that ‘here, there be dragons’.

Generally though, the actual experience of what is in store for us tends to be less terrifying than the wildest of our imaginings. We are our own worst enemies. Let’s face it, the most horrifying of scary movies don’t materialise out of thin air – they are the product of the human mind.

So yes, there might be dragons ahead. But dragons aren’t always scary. Dragons have nightmares too.

Shabbat Shalom, wherever you are…

Beha’alotcha – gratitude in short supply

15 Sivan 5773 / 24 May 2013

I’m writing this ahead of time. By the time you actually read this, I will (hallelujah!) be on holiday, enjoying some well-earned time away from hustle, bustle, deadlines, crack-of-dawn alarm clocks and all the good stuff that goes with the workaday world.

But I’m feeling ungrateful, I must admit. I set up this blog, so it’s up to me to maintain it. Which means that if i want to keep up my schedule of weekly Torah-related musings, I need to be a bit organised, and squeeze in three Shabbats’ worth of thoughts into a few days.


Much like the Israelites, I’m feeling a bit jaded. They didn’t like this, they didn’t like that, the food was dull, dull, dull (I’m not fed up with my food, I’ve just had salmon for tea and it was lovely!). So, they got food, more than they knew what to do with. So then they make themselves sick on it – and aren’t grateful for that, either.

In short, we are never satisfied. We wish for something, we get it, it’s just not good enough. What are we like?

So, in the spirit of snapping myself out of the ‘I’ve got too much to do, woe is me’ attitude, here’s a very small selection of what I am grateful for, right now:

– I’m going on holiday soon

– Which means I have a job

– Which means I am better off than many, many people these days

– Which means I can afford to buy the computer I’m using to communicate with you all

Shabbat Shalom, wherever you are…

Naso – raising us up

8 Sivan 5773 / 17 May 2013

This week’s offering is inspired by the words of Psalm 147:4, which I have used as the first line of my… creation. Shabbat Shalom, wherever you are…


HE reckoned the number of the stars, to each He gave its name

what do WE do?

WE name who we are


we are NOT numbers
we ARE names

HE lifts our heads
WE stand tall
we ALL count

HE counts – we are MAGNIFIED

WE imitate HIS counting – we disappear

HIS census increases
OUR census serves to diminish

WE are not numbers
WE are names

I am zivah

i AM zivah

i am ZIVAH