Saturday, 17 September 2016

A Shabbat Induction

I spent this morning as an ecumenical guest at the Shabbat Morning Service of the congregation of South Bucks Liberal Judaism.  It was for them a very special occasion because their new Rabbi, Charley Baginsky, was being welcomed and inducted.

Rabbi Charley is a young lady with a family and this branch of Judaism in which she serves is 10,000 strong with 40 congregations throughout the United Kingdom.

I loved the liturgy and the singing – those minor keys really get to me!  I loved to the welcome I received from the Synagogue leaders – many of whom I recognised from the times I have joined them for Passover in our own church hall.

The service – two hours long!! – included a few non-Biblical readings and these were fascinating.  One was from Isser Meltzer (1870-1953) on the theme of ‘leadership’:
The test of true leadership is to walk ahead of the people, not to conform to the inclinations and attitudes of the multitude….
I’d like to take that to one of our Life and Faith Groups with the word DISCUSS!

The other reading that caught my eye was about the value of community – part of it went like this
The modern emphasis in the individual has been a great advance, but we pay a heavy price for our individuality if we forget our need for community, and much of our feeling of alienation stems from that amnesia

The Induction of the new Rabbi was marked at the moment when she was presented with the Torah – this is how the service sheet described that moment:
Rabbi Rich will now hand the Torah over to Rabbi Baginsky, symbolically passing on to her the responsibility and privilege of transmitting its teaching to this congregation.

That felt like a very significant liturgical act – one that was rich in meaning and rather eloquently summed up the Rabbi’s prime role in the congregation as ‘Teacher’ of the Torah.

All of this was followed by a sermon preached by Rabbi Rich – Liberal Judaism’s senior cleric.  He was wonderfully informal, self-deprecating, welcoming of ecumenical and civic guests whist at the same time saying some really important truths – not least his desire that Jews should not only seek the renewal of their synagogues but also play a full and vibrant part in British society.  It’s not the first time I’ve heard Rabbi Rich preach and on this occasion, just like the previous one, I felt myself silently saying a strong ‘Amen’ to what he said.

So – it was quite a Saturday morning for me – a delightful one that will linger in the memory as I sat amongst fellow seekers after truth whose love for God and each other was both sincere and obvious.

May God’s richest blessing – his SHALOM – rest upon this congregation as they begin a new partnership with Rabbi Charley.

Best wishes,


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