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Topic: Reflections

Sitting On An Aeroplane, While Grandma Dies

By Nigel Savage Originally posted at – http://www.zeek.net/fict_0411.shtml I’m writing this on Tuesday 26th August 2003, on a plane en route back to New York. I came back to Manchester last Thursday to see Grandma and to say goodbye to her. She’s 95, has liver cancer and, according to the doctors, she has at most “weeks rather than months” to live. So when I said goodbye to her last night that will almost certainly have been the last time I see her. My other grandparents died more suddenly that this, when I was younger and at a different stage in life. I’ve never had this experience of “saying goodbye” to someone in this way. I don’t know how I feel. Sad, certainly, though I’ve only really felt the feelings, as opposed to thinking the thoughts. (more…)

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Reframing Jewish tradition in an era of ecological challenge

Jewish tradition is so old we easily take it for granted. But it’s quite an incredible thing: to have been one of the world’s indigenous peoples, more than three thousand years ago, to have maintained since then a continuous historical identity and existence, and still to be here, in the postmodern age. We have gathered, in that time, what I think of as “treasures in the garden” – traditions and teachings of immense beauty and value, which we easily fail to notice, or take for granted, or perhaps never knew of in the first place. In this short piece, I mention seven of them. For those who are from religiously observant backgrounds, these seven concepts will be mostly familiar; yet contemporary environmental challenges place them in a new light. For those not from a traditional background, these ideas may be new, or newly framed. In either case, I believe that they’re well worth a fresh look. Though these are central ideas within Jewish tradition, the context in which we discuss them has often become stale. Yet these ideas truly are treasures. They have been at the heart of Jewish life for three millennia, and they bear every possibility of enriching […]

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Jews in the Woods

In the summer of 1998, I led a group of Jewish teenagers on a two week hiking trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This is the story of how awful it was – the miserable weather, the arguments, the religious problems, the midpoint mutiny – and why, nevertheless, I think we should all get out in the woods a lot more often… This is the group: nine Jewish teenagers: seven girls and only two boys. Religiously most are observant, but not all: of those who are there is some difference between the strictly halachic and the conservadox. At the other end of the spectrum is a girl who attends a Conservative dayschool but has a Turkish Moslem father and and is proud of her Turkish heritage. Most are from the Boston area, but one is from the Midwest. The strongest character is a sixteen year old girl; the youngest, a thirteen year old boy who is big for his age and who seems to be present in consequence of familial “encouragement” – his cousin really wants the trip to happen and says that without him there’ll be too few people. (more…)

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The Queen and the Messenger

Once there was a Queen. She was a wise and kindly Queen, and she loved her subjects. Saddened at the pain and suffering of her people she decided to send messengers to help them in their lives. To each messenger she said: “You are my chosen messenger and the message I shall give to you is a special message. The future peace and happiness of my land and its people depends upon you. My message is simple and complex; timely and timeless; personal and universal. Guard my message; never forget it; teach it to your children, lest anything happen to you and my message be lost.” The Queen gave roughly the same message to each messenger; but she met with each messenger individually, and inevitably the Queen would vary the message slightly each time. To be honest, we don’t know whether this was deliberate or accidental. Perhaps she felt that it would be dangerous to entrust the entirety of his message to just one person. Perhaps she really wanted to transmit messages that were slightly different from each other, thinking from the very beginning that each messenger and each message would contribute something unique to the welfare of her people. […]

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