Covenant & Conversation

  • A Sense of Direction (Bechukotai 5776)

    Smartphones can do amazing things – few more amazing than Waze, the Israeli-designed satellite navigation system acquired by Google in 2013. But there is one thing even Waze cannot do. It can tell you how to get there, but it… read more
  • Family Feeling (Behar 5776)

    I argued in Covenant and Conversation Kedoshim that Judaism is more than an ethnicity. It is a call to holiness. In one sense, however, there is an important ethnic dimension to Judaism. It is best captured in the 1980s joke… read more
  • Holy Times (Emor 5776)

    The parsha of Emor contains a chapter dedicated to the festivals of the Jewish year. There are five such passages in the Torah. Two, both in the book of Exodus (Ex. 23:14-17; 34:18, 22-23), are very brief. They refer only… read more
  • In Search of Jewish Identity (Kedoshim 5776)

    The other day I was having a conversation with a Jewish intellectual and the question came up, as it often does, as to the nature of Jewish identity. What are we? What makes us Jewish? This has been one of… read more
  • The Courage to Admit Mistakes (Acharei Mot 5776)

    Some years ago I was visited by the then American ambassador to the Court of St James, Philip Lader. He told me of a fascinating project he and his wife had initiated in 1981. They had come to realise that… read more
  • The Power of Shame (Metsorah 5776)

    On 20 December 2013, a young woman, Justine Sacco, was waiting in Heathrow airport before boarding a flight to Africa. To while away the time she sent a Tweet in questionable taste about the hazards of catching AIDS. There was… read more
  • The Eighth Day (Tazria 5776)

    Our parsha begins with childbirth and, in the case of a male child, “On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Lev. 12:3). This became known not just as milah, “circumcision”, but something altogether more theological,… read more
  • The Dangers of Enthusiasm (Shemini 5776)

    Excavating the history of words can sometimes be as revealing as excavating the ruins of an ancient city. Take the English word “enthusiasm”. Today we see this as something positive. One dictionary defines it as “a feeling of energetic interest… read more
  • Understanding Sacrifice (Tzav 5776)

    One of the most difficult elements of the Torah and the way of life it prescribes is the phenomenon of animal sacrifices – for obvious reasons. First, Jews and Judaism have survived without them for almost two thousand years. Second,… read more
  • The Pursuit of Meaning (Vayikra 5776)

    The American Declaration of Independence speaks of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Recently, following the pioneering work of Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology, there have been hundreds of books on happiness. Yet there… read more