The Jewish concept of ‘Hesed’ or loving kindness is upper most in my mind this week. Last week I was studying page 12 in Tractate Shabbat of the Talmud, about the laws of visiting the sick on Shabbat. The debate was around ‘Joy or Kindness’. The school of Shammai, (one of the great Jewish scholars of the first century who figures prominently throughout talmudic debates), forbids a range of activities on Shabbat, including visiting the sick as this would detract from the joy of Shabbat. However the school of Hillel (also one of the great scholars of this century and whose rulings were often more lenient and more commonly followed), permits visiting the sick. Hillel’s reasoning is that this action embodies the concept of Hesed which is even more important than Shabbat. Psalm 89:3 tells us ‘the world is built on hesed’ and this is repeated in many other places such as in the opening of Ethics of the Fathers (1:2). We are now all living in a reality where THE most important thing is acts of Hesed and we are seeing it in abundance in every day actions all around us: whether the nurse on the hospital ward, or the person that picks up a prescription for their neighbour or just a daily call to your family.
At CCJ we are a special community of Christians and Jews who exemplify this concept of Hesed in everything we do for one another. In the coming weeks The CCJ team and trustees are going to be reaching out to our members in a number of ways: to find out how you are in these difficult times and; to help you to facilitate your own virtual branch meetings if you wish, so that you can continue to meet. We will also be rolling out a number of online opportunities and other ways we can be involved with CCJ together, even at this time.
Below are some beautiful reflections on Lent. We are also featuring recipes from members and friends with a story as to why these recipes have personal meaning. Below is a recipe for Challah by Jemma Levine. Please feel free to send in your recipe with a picture to email@example.com We are also sharing some special prayers and reflections from our Presidents at this time. You can read and listen to these via the links further down. The Campus Leadership Manager spoke on a digital SOAS panel about interfaith and mental health. The event shared perspectives from multiple faiths, Katharine’s report on the event can be found below.
In Passage to India EM Forster writes: ‘Kindness, more kindness and even after that more kindness. I assure you it is the only hope’
Wishing everyone a healthy, safe and peaceful weekend,
Campus Leadership Manager on SOAS panel about interfaith and mental health
I was pleased to be a panellist for the SOAS group ‘The Movement’ on ‘Interfaith Narratives and Calming Anxiety’. This digital event brought together speakers from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Spiritualism to share perspectives on the intersection between faith and mental health at this difficult time.
I spoke about difficult theology which exists within some areas of Christianity. Passages such as ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (1 John 4:18) can imply that the cause of mental illness is a lack of faith, suggesting people with mental health problems can be blamed for their illness.
With the Church currently in the season of Lent I reflected that this is a time when we are encouraged to acknowledge difficult emotions. Next Sunday one of the Bible readings is from John 11 and is about Jesus’ friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus had news that Lazarus was very ill and by the time Jesus arrived he had died.
When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep.
What strikes me is that whilst Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead, he still weeps. As a Christian I believe that Jesus is God and I really like this image of God sharing in our human emotions. Jesus knew that weeping wouldn’t make a difference, perhaps there was pressure on him to behave in a certain way, but he still needed a cry. And sometimes we do too. Even if it may not be a practical response, sometimes we just need to acknowledge our emotions and let them out. It’s good for us.
But this passage also shows the importance of community. We hear that Mary and Martha are surrounded by fellow Jews as they mourn their brother, and I think we can learn a lot from Jews today about the importance of community. I admire the practice of sitting shiva and of communal prayer with a minyan. We are fortunate to have so many faith communities in this country that we can learn from, and I was pleased to be part of an event encouraging interfaith across our physical isolation.
Katharine Crew Campus Leadership Manager
CCJ’s Presidents respond in prayer and reflection to the Coronavirus Pandemic
CCJ’s Presidents have been sharing their prayers and reflections in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic and we have collected some of those statements for you to read.
The Chief Rabbi delivered a video message in which he reflected on the isolation we are all experiencing and said “While they are alone, let us guarantee that they will never feel lonely…” You can watch here.
The Archbishop of Canterbury led a service and preached on Radio 4 on Sunday. You can watch again and hear the Archbishop’s sermonhere.
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg has been reflecting in his blog on how we can respond to the anxiety of these times. Read Rabbi Wittenberg’s blogs here.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster sent a pastoral letter to Catholics calling on everyone to pray for each other. You can read the letter here.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner is sharing video messages responding to Coronavirus here.
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church Scotland’s message that ‘With God’s help we will get through this together’ can be viewed here.
Rabbi Danny Rich gave his final Thought for the Week as Senior Rabbi and Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism on the response to Coronavirus. You can read it here.
The Free Church Moderator, the Revd Dr Hugh Osgood, gave this message which you can readhere.
Rabbi Joseph Dweck delivered a message for Shabbat via video last week. You can watch again here.
A Lent Reflection 5
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible refers about 319 times to a covenant between God and humankind (berit 286 times and diatheke 33 times). The Psalmist says he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments (Psalm103). And God enters into a covenant with the people. But the covenant requires Israel to be faithful, to be loyal to God. From Abraham to the prophets, all speak boldly about the peoples’ unfaithfulness to that covenant and about how God continuously calls them back into the love relationship. Then Jeremiah proclaims that there will be a new covenant one day which will no longer be centred on the human condition but will be written within the heart.
Lent is a time to reflect that for Christians the passion of Christ—his death and resurrection—ushered in a new covenant which reminded God’s people to keep on loving until it hurts. As Christ climbed the hill of Calvary he reached out in forgiveness and love to all, teaching a way of hope, of peace, of love.
During these dark days of uncertainty let us be the people God intends us to be: a people regardless of race or religion or gender or social status which expresses itself in service and care to those living inside and outside our communities. As we enter a period of lockdown let us not retreat from the covenant imperative. Continue to share acts of kindness from behind our closed doors. Send virtual flowers, e-cards, make phone calls and Facetime, offer to shop for essentials for those unable to leave their homes. Be creative. Give the world hope that love will win out in the end.
The Revd Nicola Furley-Smith Secretary for Ministries, United Reformed Church
Tablespoon of quick yeast
5 ½ cups plain flour
1/3 cup of oil
1/4 cup of sugar
Cup of warm water.
Mix together, leave to rise for half hour
Kneed and plait
I make challah pretty much every week throughout the year, it’s something I’ve done for many years now. I have enough in the freezer now for next week, so this was my last bake before Pesach, and that’s always a bit special. I usually end up rooting around in the back of the cupboard to try to finish off any flour and yeast (this week’s bake included the ends of various different flour bags I found!). It’s also that moment when you realise Pesach is around the corner, with all the crazy cleaning, the once-a-year potato flour and ground almond recipes, and also the excitement of Seder night spent with family and friends.
This year is going to be a very different kind of year. There will be no synagogue, and no socialising, and no chol hamoed (interim festival day) outings. Like many others, I’ve bought my Pesach ingredients especially early just in case we need to self-isolate, and for the first time in many years, my mother in law won’t be moving in for the duration, she’ll be self-isolating at home. She will miss out on the Seder night discussions, the familiar family songs, and the dancing round the table at the end, while we sing ‘LShanah HaBa B’Yerushalyim’ – ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ – a centuries old plea for all suffering to end and redemption to come which will seem particularly relevant this year for all of us!
Alumnus of CCJ study tour and Deputy Director of HOPE not hate Charitable Trust
Applications for 2020 Yad Vashem Seminar extended until
The application window for CCJ’s annual seminar at the International School of Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem has been extended until 1 June. The seminar—which will take place Monday 12 to Thursday 22 October 2020—is open to ordained Christian clergy and lay church leaders. Now in its 14th year, the seminar is a unique opportunity for church leaders to learn about the Holocaust, pre-war Jewish European life, and post-Holocaust theology from the world’s leading experts. In doing so, participants will become part of our active network of over 250 "alumni" across the UK, committed to passing on Holocaust learning in their churches and communities, championing Christian-Jewish relations, and challenging antisemitism.
For more information on the programme and how to apply, please contact Senior Programme Manager, Rob Thompson, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources for Jewish Learning
The British Association of Jewish Studies have compiled a list of online resources for Jewish learning. You can find it here.