Kenton Shul

The Rabbi

Rabbi Black

Rabbi Yehuda Black and his wife Yehudit came to the Kenton community in 2004. Previously, they were Rabbi and Rebbetzen in Newcastle upon Tyne and before that they were in Staines for five years.

He was brought up in Ilford and then after studying in various Yeshivot in the UK, Israel, USA and Canada, he received Semicha from Chief Rabbi Hirschprung in Montreal.

Yehudit is a French Parisien and brings her own vitality and energetic devotion to Judaism in her role as Rebbetzin. They live in Kenton together with their nine children.

Rabbi Black and family

Yom Kippur 5777 – 12 October 2016

How are we going to move forward this year?

"Through repentance, prayer and charity we can avert the severity of the decree"

The words above are amongst the most famous in the Yamim Noraim services and are taken from "Unetana Tokef", that most beautiful and powerful piece of our liturgy which describes, what I think is, the essence of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For me these words tell us what our aims should be in the coming year. And not only that. They are prefaced by those chilling words:

"On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. Who will live who will die. Who will be poor who will be wealthy?"

Of course, none of us knows what this coming year has in store for us. That is something well beyond our control. However, there are things which are within our control, things that we are able to do and which will make a difference not only to ourselves but also the world around us. These words about repentance, prayer and charity represent the ingredients with which we are told how we can make that difference and effect a change for the better.

Teshuva means the resolve to turn back to G-d

Let's just look at one of those ingredients.

What does "teshuva" actually mean? We translate it as "repentance" but the truth is that this is a very loose translation. "Repentance" implies that we are full of sin and far away from G-d. It denotes negativity in our relationship with G-d. But, in reality the Hebrew word "teshuva" comes from the root word "shav" which means "to return." Perhaps we are not so far away from G-d as we think. We were with G-d once but maybe things have gone a little wrong recently and so we need to come back home, so to speak.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, philosopher, great leader of modern orthodoxy and a man steeped in the traditions of the great yeshivot of Eastern Europe, taught that teshuva is like the centre point of a big circle. Wherever you are in that circle, said the Rav, you can always turn towards the centre point. Wherever a Jew is, he or she can always come back to G-d.

Similarly, the great Chassidic leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, said that teshuva is as far as east is from west: if you're standing in the west and you want to face east all you need to do is turn around. So, too, teshuva means making the resolve to turn back to Him. Nobody is saying that teshuva is easy but if we make the first move we can be assured that G-d will help us along the path. Our rabbis say that when it comes to making real changes G-d says:

"Open for me a hole the size of a needle and I will open it as wide as a huge hall."

So, rather than signifying negativity, teshuva is an opportunity. An opportunity to draw ourselves closer to G-d, His Torah and His people. A wonderful opportunity to turn to Him and come back home. As they say, Yom Kippur isn't a time for beating ourselves up, it's a time for building ourselves up.

I would suggest that there's a three-fold action plan to Teshuva:

First: let's look at ourselves, honestly, in our present situation. Are we doing everything we should be doing? Are there ways in which we can be better people? Better Jews?

Second: let's look at the past and make a resolution and recognise and regret the errors of any of our ways.

Third: let's make resolutions for the future. Let's resolve not to repeat the mistakes of the past. And, above all, let's mean it.

Past, present, future. Without this threefold action plan, the teshuva is not real. When we stand and say "Al Cheit" and beat our breasts for our past sins if we do not mean to change then it's just a cosmetic exercise. Indeed, our sages say the whole viddui - confession to G-d on Yom Kippur - is entirely pointless unless is accompanied by the intention to change and improve. However, the power of true teshuva is unlimited and our sages say that an honest and sincere teshuva even has the potential to turn past sins into merits.

One step at a time … Everybody is counted in.

We are blessed in Kenton with a wonderful, forward-looking community. Apart from our every day services which are part and parcel of what a shul is about, just consider, for example, our ReJewvenation programme - a wonderful Shabbat away, our celebration of Purim and the upcoming and exciting initiative when we will welcome our friends from Strassbourg for Shabbat in November. We have so much about which to be proud. And they say that Kenton is a declining community!

Finally, look at the box below to see the programme of educational activities that I have designed for 5777 and just let me offer a couple of words of explanation.

Traditional Jewish learning is text based and so we're offering three shiurim in which participants will engage with the three primary texts of Jewish life. Which are - Torah, Nach (Bible) and Talmud.

  • Every Wednesday evening I will be giving a Talmud shiur in which we will be studying Tractate Chullin although, in fairness, I should say that participants should be gentlemen who have had some experience of Talmud study.
  • Also on Wednesday evening, Rabbi Martin Taubman will be giving a shiur on the First Book of Samuel. Rabbi Taubman is an experienced teacher, currently teaching Jewish Studies at Hasmonean High School. Prior to that he taught at JFS and you may well remember that Rabbi Taubman was a most welcome guest of ours in Kenton at Shavuot. This is a shiur is for everyone. Although it will also be text-based, nobody need feel intimidated by a lack of Hebrew knowledge or by a lack of previous experience. All that you need is the will.
  • On Shabbat mornings from 8:40 to 9:10am, I will be giving a parashat hashavua - sidra of the week-shiur. I promise you that it will be worth getting up for and like Rabbi Taubman's shiur, everyone is welcome.

Please join us in this venture. Here's an opportunity to make 5777 different and fulfil the great mitzvah of Talmud Torah - the study of Torah. Just choose a shiur, come along … and we'll do the rest.

And really finally - Three point Action plan:

  • Resolution. For those who are only coming to shul a few times a year, please try to come to shul a few more times. You will be most welcome and you never know - you might really enjoy coming.
  • For those of you who are coming every Shabbat, please try to make a resolution to come during the week.
  • Finally, even if you are a regular attendee at all of our services, you can always add more to whatever you are doing.

May this year 5777 be a year of health, happiness and peace for all Israel. May we grow from strength to strength in all our endeavours. Amen.


Rabbi Black's Educational Programme - all starting in the autumn
Wednesday evenings at 7:45pm - Talmud Shiur for men - and
Rabbi Taubman's Shiur on Samuel (1) for men and women
Shabbat mornings before Davening - parashat ha'shavua Shiur
All are welcome.
Archive of the Rabbi's Messages

To read any of Rabbi Black's previous messages in PDF format please click the appropriate link below.

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Please click the appropriate tab to view previous years.

2016

2015

Rabbi's Black's Videos
Rosh Hashanah 2015
Yom Kippur message 2015
Chanukah 2015
Chanukah message 2015
Ketubah
What is the significance of
the Magen David?
Rosh Hashanah 2015
Rosh Hashanah message 2015
Ketubah
What is a Ketubah?
Shema
Why is the Shema so important?
Questions to the Rabbi

Q. At every simcha we sing "Moshiach, Moshiach, Moshiach …" – but:

  • In this messed up world – what could possibly encourage Moshiach to come?
  • If he were to come – where would he arrive?
  • How would we know it's him?
  • Would the world believe him?

A. This is a pretty broad question and I will try to answer it to the best of my abilities.

The Moschiach song to which you refer became a Number one hit in Israel a few years ago. Made popular by the Chassidic singer Mordechai Ben David, I have seen all types of Jews from various backgrounds dancing ecstatically to this fast pace niggun.

The words are comprised of the famous words of the twelfth principle out of the thirteen principles of faith. Ani Maamin… I believe in perfect faith in the coming of Moschiach, and even though he may tarry I wait for him every day that he will come.

These thirteen principles were formulated by Moses Maimonides over 850 years ago. He based his formulation on the tenth Chapter of Sanhedrin which delves specifically into these aspects of faith.

He speaks about Moschiach in greater detail in his Magnum Opus; Mishneh Torah in Hilchot Melachim where he expounds on the theme; who will he be; what are the signs that he will be Moschiach; what is his mission in this world.

Moschiach is a fundamental aspect of our faith. It is something about which we have prayed for thousands of years and is mentioned in our daily Tefillot countless times.

In a nutshell, the potential Moschiach is a man of flesh and blood, a descendant of King David, learned in Torah and mitzvoth, who will influence/persuade Jewish people to come closer to their faith. If he does this, and brings people back to the land, and then begins the rebuilding of the temple then he is Moschiach.

Some of the benefits of the Messianic age will be worldwide peace, knowledge of one God, people no longer desiring war.

Living in a world of utter confusion, where Israel faces threats to its existence from inside and outside. In a world, where poverty exists and so many have lost their moral compass, we need Moschiach more than ever to make the world a better place.

Moschiach does not have to come from Israel but he could come from anywhere.

Our Sages say that in every generation there is one amongst us who is ready to be revealed as the Moshiach.

In our long history we have had quite a few personalities who have been fitting to have been Moschiach. We have had impostors as well as people who fitted the bill. The problem is, was our generation ready for Moschiach.

It's up to us to do what we need to do as individuals, as a community to help bring Moschiach.

The difference between Gallut - exile and Geulah - redemption is one letter. An Aleph. It is the Yehudi echad- the one Jew; by doing the extra mitzvah that can help bring the imminent arrival of Maschiach, speedily in our days.


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