Below is a transcript of the address from Rabbi Dweck that was shared in all our synagogues on Yom Kippur. We look forward to your participation in this new and exciting community programme!
Senior Rabbi’s S&P Learning Programme
We open Yom Kippur with Kal Nidre, a dissolution of vows. The mindset necessary for such a dissolution is precisely the same that is necessary for teshuba— returning to truth and clarity in our lives. In order to annul a verbal commitment we must acknowledge that the thinking we had at the time we made it is no longer viable or helpful for us.
In our path towards return — to teshuba — we must be open to the fact that we have made choices in our lives that are not in our best interest, or that we have refrained from action when it would have been better for us to act.
On Kippur we are meant to question the permissions we’ve allowed ourselves as well as the restrictions we’ve placed upon ourselves that are hindering us from being better Jews and better people.
One area that undeniably enhances our lives is education. As children we relentlessly seek knowledge because we intuitively know that we will not survive without knowing more about how the world works. Children are learning machines; from morning to night they are absorbing information. They hate going to sleep because they know that they will almost surely miss something!
I have found in my 25 years of teaching young and old alike, both formally and informally, that we never lose our love of learning. When we perceive something as being applicable to our lives, and offering us meaningful insights to the nature of reality our childlike excitement is reignited and we find great pleasure in learning.
The Torah is the source of our people’s wisdom, fortitude and longevity. With its precious teachings we have thrived through thirty centuries against every challenge imaginable. It belongs to us all. It is our inheritance! Tonight I urge you to come forth and claim it.
Tonight, leil Kal Nidre, I ask that we all — every one — dissolve our unspoken vows, mental blocks and personal restrictions that have led us away from study. Come with me on a journey of discovery. A discovery of our own heritage, wisdom and thought. I commit to you that it will illuminate your life, it will be exciting, stimulating, and it will challenge your thinking. It will kindle your soul and you will take part in the inheritance that belongs to each and every one of us. I therefore am calling this learning programme Morasha which means ‘inheritance’ in Hebrew.
Our community is the oldest and most illustrious in this country, but we must refresh and renew the source of our strength. It is neither our age, nor our synagogues, our artefacts or our customs that are our crowning glory. It is our thought. Our ideas. Our Torah.
And to those of you who sit in the synagogue this evening listening to my words thinking he’s talking to ‘her’ or ‘him’, or thinking ‘not me’ I am talking to YOU. This is for everyone.
Here is how it will work:
Each month at Rosh Hodesh I will submit a piece of literature to the community. It will be emailed as well as accessible through the community’s website on the Senior Rabbi’s page.
All Hebrew selections will be translated into English. With each selection there will be guiding points for discussion and questions for consideration. You may engage with the text on any level you wish. One can search for further related texts and develop the ideas or simply read and understand it as it stands.
Bring them up at your Friday night dinner tables! Share them with your friends. Discuss them with other community members. Towards the end of the month I will give a lecture on the piece and answer select questions submitted in advance about it.
This joint endeavour will not only help strengthen our collective consciousness as a community, but also our unity. We will all literally be on the same page, thinking of the same issues, together.
The introductory piece that we will read will be chapters 11, 12 and 13 from Herman Wouk’s book The Will to Live On. In which he beautifully explains the nature of the Written and Oral Torah. It is available for iBook or Kindle as well as on Amazon. (Subsequent pieces will be much shorter and available for download straight from the website.) The lecture on this section will take place at Lauderdale Road Synagogue on 15th November at 8pm. Notifications will go out to the community.
From the bottom of my heart I call you all to action. Men and women young and old nourish your souls. Our Sephardi heritage is at stake. We must fortify it — we must learn.
I look forward to taking this journey with you, my dear yehidim. It will be a beautiful and challenging voyage, but we will all be better for having embarked upon it. Godspeed!
Margalit and I along with the children wish you all a Hatima Toba, Tizku Leshanim Rabot, Ne’imot vetobot!!
Rabbi Joseph Dweck