Covenant & Conversation

  • 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
  • Don’t Sit: Walk (Pekudei 5776)

    Sitting is the new smoking. So goes the new health mantra. Spend too much time at a desk or in front of a screen and you are at risk of significant danger to your health. The World Health Organisation has… read more
  • The Social Animal (Vayakhel 5776)

    At the beginning of Vayakhel Moses performs a tikkun, a mending of the past, namely the sin of the Golden Calf. The Torah signals this by using essentially the same word at the beginning of both episodes. It eventually became… read more
  • The Closeness of God (Ki Tissa 5776)

    The more I study the Torah, the more conscious I become of the immense mystery of Exodus 33. This is the chapter set in the middle of the Golden Calf narrative, between chapter 32 describing the sin and its consequences,… read more