Renewal, by Limmud Festival

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Renewal Made by


At its core, Limmud Festival is a place and time for renewal. Every year at Festival, I renew my drive to learn, as I am inspired by the ever diverse and accomplished presenters. I renew friendships, as I reconnect with friends and festival-goers from across the Jewish community. I renew my sense of ownership within the Jewish community, as I find my place as a volunteer helping to create the event that defines my Jewish journey. In these core values, Limmud Festival will remain the same even in this very different year. In a year where so much has changed, even in its digital format, Festival will continue to be a place of renewal; of learning, friendship, and volunteering. I hope you enjoy an opportunity for renewal over this high holy day period, and look forward to seeing you all (virtually) in December. Look out for more information coming next month including details of our amazing programme and how to book your place.

Siempre es tiempo de creer, crear y crecer en la identidad judĂ­a. It is always time to believe, create and grow in Jewish identity.



RENEWAL That word takes on a different meaning when you are elderly Maybe in the past maybe you wanted, or felt you needed, to find something new, a challenge. I think as for me, the end of life approaches rapidly –something different occurs. As far as I was concerned –it was a slow dawning of realising this new way of being renewed I guess for my age group the concept of renewal asks for time to look back rather than forward . Yes I know that is real cliché territory but after all ambitions for an energetic future would be a bit silly at my age . Yes I yearn for the health and happiness of my beloved family and that the world should be a place of peace and calm for all, but for me? Nowadays after a rather busy indeed even hectic life, I am satisfied with a quiet time, in the sun-or out of it, watching TV films and other programmes, Listening to music when I want to or not doing anything except and remembering –ah..remembering . All those lovely busy days ,in love, in friendship groups, learning, laughing ,studying ,arguing yes I can still do those things but in a more subdued way There is no doubt that a good dose of unzoomed Limmud would be welcome ,but I do have the booklets to read from times past Ah and that magic word –reading One unexpected blessing of old age is the ability to forget what one enjoyed reading in the past and other things too. So renewal for me means recalling what once I so enjoyed –by reading it again or listening again or watching again. Sometimes it is a blessing to forget how the music sounded, the story of a film, the magic of brilliant writing . Even rediscovering old friendships or finding as I did this week the child of a long departed friend brings new pleasure So hopefully at a dark time, for us all who are older, memories of times past brings a good renewal. This new year, which for many of us may be spent alone for much of the time , hopefully will bring renewed inner strength and peace and hope.


With September now greeting us with open arms, we can finally say that we have survived ž of this year. For any other year, this would not be a grand achievement. Yet, we all know, this year has not been like other years. No. This year started with threats of World War Three; the Amazon Rainforest burning and a global pandemic. Pretty hefty. So now I am sitting back, reflecting on what I have learnt from this year. There are times I am proud of myself for how I have coped. Studying from home for example, is a crucial one for me. Before, I could only study in a library. Headphones on, numerous cups of coffee littering my desk, a short 30 minute pace around the whole building to give me some slither of motivation. Suddenly, I was thrust into working and studying from home, where distractions were endless and my determination decreasing minute by minute. Now, after completing my second year degree with a solid strong mark, even during COVID-19, I have realised that studying from home is a skill I have truly unlocked during lockdown. Another pastime I have truly enjoyed has been cooking. Being a massive foodie, but also a student on a tight budget, do not always go hand in hand. Like Oreos and orange juice. However, with more free time during lockdown, I tried channeling my inner Gordon Ramsay, filling the kitchen with beautiful aromas and 9/10 times - beautiful dishes. Whilst my Grandma’s chicken schnitzel and latkes remain unparalleled, I have to admit, I think my effort surpassed all expectations. So whilst I can look back at these months and think of the skills and memories I have gained from living in and turning 20 in such a tumultuous time, there is a part of me that is yearning for this year to be over. A year where I can take what I have learnt, but not have to experience the grief and sadness that this year has caused. A renewal of events is what I am looking for. Of course, I know this is wishful thinking. Predictions state that we will have at least 2 years of Covid-19 impact, whether this be social distancing or not travelling to certain countries. This may sound cringeworthy, but one thing that has motivated me has been the fact that this has been a global pandemic. Everywhere, people have come together to share their stories and condolences about their experience with the pandemic. If we take this energy into next year and harness this supportive mindset, I believe that we can create goodness within this Universe. And here I will sit and wait patiently for the new year to dawn upon us. A renewal of months, weeks, days and hours.


Fifty-one years ago in the summer of 1969, American youth shared in the cultural event of the 60's, Woodstock. The cult-like audience experienced firsthand what a whole generation was searching for: peace, love and happiness. Fifty-one years ago on the day of Yom Kippur in 1969, I was an American youth of 15 who ran away from home. I also experienced firsthand what a whole generation was searching for: freedom, independence and self-identity. But on Yom Kippur? Of all days, why run away on Yom Kippur? Was it the ultimate form of parental rebellion to leave home on the holiest day of the year? Was it rejection of my religion or my heritage? Was it a direct message of God? I don't really think so. At the time it just seemed the smartest day to leave. I figured if I could get out of going to all-day services, I could get a whole day's jump on my flight to freedom. Why run away? At the time, it wasn't all that clear, but I still believe it was essentially necessary. I remember catch phrases echoing in my head: “I've got to find a better life. There's got to be more than just this.” “There was this girl and it didn't work out.” “No one told me about emotions...about love...and pain.” “My friends were pushing me into drugs.” “I had this little incident at camp...I took too many aspirin...I was a little depressed.” I just knew I had to get away. Yom Kippur was as good a day as any. After attending the Kol Nidre evening service with my family and returning home, I retired to my bedroom. I remember listening to the words of Simon and Garfunkel's “I Am A Rock, I Am An Island” as I packed my suitcase complete with alarm clock, bar mitzvah suit, Rod McKuen books of sappy poetry and a bathroom kit. No one had instructed me that a sleeping bag might come in handy on a cold night. As I crudely drew a sign with the word “North”, I fantasized about my future life in some small town where I might find a quiet job as a shy, sensitive salesclerk in a quaint, used bookstore. There I would be left alone to read, to think, to wallow in my emotional numbness. It was around 6 a.m., Yom Kippur morning when I scotch taped the note on my bedroom door: " I don't feel very well. Go to temple without me." I figured if everything went according to plan, they wouldn't even know I was gone until they returned later that night to break the fast. With a total cash supply of $8.70, a plastic bag stuffed with several slices of bread, my crudely scrawled “North sign and my suitcase, I quietly snuck out of the house and walked several miles to the freeway on-ramp to Highway 101. Needless to say I missed the Shacharit”morning service. By early afternoon, I was well up to mid-California. Many rides, same question. “Where you going” “North,” I'd reply. They stared back blankly. Hitchhiking conversation wasn't very deep. It was right outside Gilroy on a rural part of Highway 101 that I waited once again with my thumb held up proudly in the air. I watched as a car going the other way hit the brakes, swerved around, and started towards me. I froze as the car pulled up and a young man in military garb shouted out, "I'm AWOL, this car is hot, and I ain't got no money or clothes 'cause I just broke out of the brig. Where you going?” "North,” I replied as I opened my suitcase and offered him my bar mitzvah suit. He picked out a T-shirt and jeans instead. "Got any money for gas?”he asked. I gave him half my fortune (a little over four bucks) and a slice of bread. I was too afraid to ask what AWOL was as I climbed into the stolen vehicle. As we traveled less than a quarter of a mile, I remember we went around a mountain bend right smack into the sun. Beyond the glare of light stood a trio of hitchhikers, a male, a female and a dog. My driver stopped and immediately broke into his rap. "I'm AWOL, car is hot, just broke out of the brig…” "So? they shrugged as they hopped into the back seat. They were returning from Woodstock. They had had this “far-out” time at this “far-out” concert with millions of “far-out” people. They looked cheerful, rugged, wise, free and easy. They were themselves. I wanted to be part of this new generation. Our military escapee decided to go into hiding in Berkeley, so the trio and I continued hitchhiking north onto Interstate 5. My companions were experienced travellers. Harry must have been in his early 20’s and had hitchhiked across the country about seven times. He was headed up to Tacoma, Washington to crash out for awhile in a house in which he owned a forth share. Sarah was in her late teens and she and her dog, Peace, were heading back to her mom's in Portland after being on the road several months. I was lucky they took me under their wings. From thin bologna sandwiches to 15-cent cans of sardines, from bumpy, late-night car rides to tanning in the back of a pick-up truck, from sleeping on the floor of a bug-ridden motel room to sleeping in the car on the bug-ridden dog, we made it up to Portland in two and half days later. There, Harry and I bid a fond farewell to Sarah and Peace. Harry asked again where was I going. “North…” I slowly dribbled out the word I had said numerous times the past three days. "North…” Harry said I could stay in his one fourth of the house in Tacoma until I figured out where “North” was. We made it from Portland to Tacoma in a matter of hours. Eight miles before our destination outside Tacoma, we had a close call. It was about 2:00 a.m. and an older guy in a pickup truck gave us a lift. He had an open bottle of beer and offered us a swig. As we swigged and proceeded a mile or two, a red light went off. The cops! The beer! The drunk! The 15-year-old runaway!!! Me!!! Our drunken driver sobered up quickly and reached down below his feet. He quickly grabbed the bottle of beer and brought it to the ground. "Drilled a hole in this old mama decades ago. Done poured out more hooch than piss though the last couple of years.” The patrolman suspiciously stared at the old man's license as he waited approval and verification from headquarters. It was a tense few moments as another patrol car joined the scene. Finally, word came in. No outstanding warrants. We were free. Just then the patrolman shone the light directly in my face. “How old are you boy? “I'm 19, sir. I couldn't see his reaction as the lights blinded my sight. Had I traveled several thousand miles over three days to have such a downer ending as this? He turned the flashlight suddenly off and gently said, "Go home kid.” I did go home...after shacking up 10 days with an unusual group of people. They took good care of me and gave me the air and space I needed at the time. They must have been patient. They even drove me to a job interview at a lumber mill where I thought maybe my calling was chopping down trees. They lived a different lifestyle. The basic essentials were the records and the stereo, the pot in the cupboard and the LSD in the freezer. They definitely weren't into Sinatra. It was after a night of hallucinating and intense looking inwardly that they helped me decide to call my parents and return home. It was concluded that the place for a confused 15 year old was probably at home...or at least in therapy. Fifty-one years ago this Yom Kippur... Yom Kippur is a day for asking forgiveness. For those I hurt years ago, I ask forgiveness. Yom Kippur is a day when some individuals’ fates hang in the balance; please remember those that lent a hand to this 15-year-old kid. And Yom Kippur is a day for shedding one's old skin, to be able to being anew, On this Yom Kippur, I hope to re-examine myself, my life, my values, as closely as I did when I was young. If I have gathered bad traits, or been insensitive to my fellow beings, I hope to shed off the old skin and once again begin anew. After all, even after running away from God, Jonah got a second chance.


This is the one thing my father preferred over any dessert. And I know why. It’s the one his mother made so often. My grandma was an amazing cook. Oh, I know every grandma was the best. But mine – she was truly amazing! When she was baking a cake, my friends must have had some premonitions – they just showed up at my door. I have made the lekach so many times already, but there wasn’t one, when I wouldn’t remember her. I love cooking. I consider myself a pretty good cook. But I have a long road to go to reach the level of my grandmother – Surah bat Leizer. May her memory be for a blessing forever.

Ingredients: 3 eggs; 1 cup honey; 3/4 cup sugar ( I use raw); 1 cup warm strong coffee (2-3 tsp of instant coffee to a cup of water); 1/2 cup vegetable oil; 2 teaspoons baking soda; 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 teaspoon ginger; 1 teaspoon ground cloves; 2.5 cups flour ( you can use a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat); Optional – candied citrus peel, dried cranberries, raisins or a mix of all; Optional – 1/4 cup strong liquor – vodka, brandy, whiskey.


In a bowl mix eggs with honey and sugar. In a separate container add baking soda to warm coffee (watch the chemistry class in front of your eyes). Pour coffee into egg mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients, pour into a prepared baking dish (I use round or square pan nicely greased) Bake in a preheated oven (350-360 F depending on your oven) for about an hour. Cool on the wire rack. Then invert to a plate.


""Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon

Preface The rabbis tell us that the power of prophecy ended with the first exile of the Jewish People to Babylon in 597 BCE. And the end of it in 538 BCE, 59 years later, ended the use of Hebrew as a language for any purpose but prayer. Aramaic then became the daily language of speech for all Jews. And if the rabbis were not enough, there is a saying that the only ones who can predict the future are children or fools. A quick illustration: On November 7th, 1917, three Jewish men gathered after a day's work in a coffee house on the lower East Side. They were tired but excited. How could they not be? One man had a copy of the Forverts. Events were happening in the world. Earth-shaking events! "Did you see? The village of Passchendaele was captured by Canadian troops yesterday? Mark my words, This World War will be over soon now that American troops are fighting. And like President Wilson said, " it will be the war to end all wars." Avraham proudly proclaimed his knowledge of the future. It was immediately attacked by Hershel, a socialist, if there ever was one. "You don't know anything. The Bolsheviks have launched a revolution against Kerensky. If they win, they promise to stop fighting the Germans. Marx was right. All working people will be united. Capitalism will end. Each according to his abilities. Each according to his needs." But both men were trumped by Moshe, a living embodiment of a Litvak's skepticism. " If they win? You really know nothing. It's like saying that the Balfour Declaration put out yesterday will create a home for Jews in Eretz Yisrael. And who's going to live there in the desert? What language will they speak? Be a realist. Besides needs grow faster than abilities. So then what happens?" A quick prediction and prayer (May) Next year will be better than this one.


Ledor Vador Every Chag, we all sing, remembering like Jews everywhere – now, then and back to forever. When in Israel, before my eyes and ears, times past build layers on every floor of each apartment block. Big families crowd round small tables, pour wine, spill onto balconies talking loudly, their chanting just behind or ahead of us, acting out our story – and . from our window we witness strata forming – some, memory-resistant, others, permeable soaking up memory, willing themselves to survive – like the children of all those other children, chanting, generation to generation


Making Magic A friend of mine recently taught me a trick. It’s a bit like magic only anyone can do it. Close your eyes. Do it when the world feels like it’s spinning too fast. When you feel like you have to catch your breath. Close your eyes. But keep listening and feeling. And take a moment to breathe. When you open your eyes everything seems clearer and brighter. The world is in focus again. For a while now I’ve been thinking about those moments of darkness. About how we think about things in terms of black and white, light and dark, good times and bad. How all those terms are loaded and how perhaps everything is not as cut and dry we were brought up to believe. For the last months I’ve taken a walk every day. I’ve walked the same paths and seen how nature changes. I’ve watched blossom turn to leaves. I’ve seen ducklings grow up. I’ve seen the roses bloom. I’ve learned the names of the dogs and their owners and even befriended Freddie who once growled every time he saw me. I’ve taken comfort in the routine, the fact that when so much was spinning out of control I knew the paths I would take and when I would take them. There is no doubt that walking has kept me sane but perhaps it’s not the walking itself but rather because it’s part of a time that gives me space to breathe, part of a bigger picture. Perhaps it’s because that time is an in between time, a liminal space, where I think, have ideas and make connections that wouldn’t otherwise happen. I was once told that somewhere in Jewish tradition it says that the white spaces between black letters and words are as important as the words themselves. Without the spaces the words don’t make any sense. And whilst I’m not religious there’s something about this that has intrigued me. There’s something curious about how the dark letters are defined but how the spaces in between are more amorphous . Something about how the words don’t make sense without the spaces and the spaces could not be seen if not for the letters and the words. Over the past weeks I’ve thought about that more. Mostly when I’m walking. How everything is connected. How nothing is as it seems. How things fit together even when it seems that they don’t. How the words need the spaces and the spaces need the words. How nothing is really as simple as black and white. How my walks give me space to just be. And how if I close my eyes I’m not blocking out everything that’s going on in the world I’m giving myself time to make things clearer. And sometimes it still seems a lot to deal with and it still feels like the world is spinning out of control, because perhaps it is. And when it does I close my eyes and take a moment to breathe in the darkness. Try it. It’s magic.


Starling “Mozart discovered the starling in a Vienna pet shop, where the bird had somehow learned to sing the motif from his newest piano concerto. Enchanted, he bought the bird for a few kreuzer and kept it for three years before it died. Just how the starling learned Mozart’s motif is a wonderful musico-ornithological mystery.” (From Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt) I In version one the starling, perched by an open window, hears Mozart ambling the streets, whistling. Drawn to the melody drifting in, the bird begins to trill. II In version two, Mozart, ambling the streets, passes an open window, hears the starling trilling. Drawn to the melody drifting out, he begins to transcribe. III “…there is one thing we know for certain: Mozart loved his starling.” (Lyanda Lynn Haupt) Trilled, whistled, sung, or heard, melody is the heroine: that pulsating wave traversing space, connecting bird and man, as animate as an organism, as invisible as air as alive as memory. IV If I’ve learned anything it’s that the window must be open.


Renewal There is a famous essay by the Zionist leader Berl Katznelson (1887-1944) called “Tradition and Revolution”, written in 1934. Katznelson reflects on what it means for a people to look to its future whilst still maintaining some authentic connection to its past. He argues for a balance between conservation and revolution, between continuity and change: Man [today, we might say humankind] is endowed with two faculties: memory and forgetting. We cannot live without both. Were only memory to exist, then we would be crushed beneath its burden and would become slaves to our memories, to our ancestry … And were we ruled entirely by forgetting, what place would there be for culture, science, self-consciousness, and spiritual life? Renewal, as is the theme of this season, can only take place when we pay due attention and give due respect to some of our traditions and inheritance, whilst also selectively and self-consciously rejecting others. In English, the word “renewal” indeed embodies this – it is a continual process of “re-new-ing”, of making new again and again by re-evaluating and re-visioning. Some Jews critique others for “picking and choosing” practices, values or observances, but I would argue that, on some level, we are all picking and choosing all the time. It’s in the nature of being Jewish. We look back to look forward, but we aren’t totally bound to that which came before. Renewal is the constant negotiation of remembering and forgetting. What you choose to hold onto and what you choose to let go of are, arguably, the most important of all the decisions you can make – as a person and as a Jew.

Robin Moss is Director of Strategy for UJIA and a Limmud volunteer. He currently edits Limmud On One Leg, Limmud’s weekly parashat hashavua email. Sign up at



Gather windfall fruit from unloved park Detach red chillies from absent girlfriend’s plant Chop onions from random neighbour’s allotment Decant cider vinegar bought for the dog’s arthritis Infuse with memories of my grandfather’s spices -Coriander, mustard seed; black pepper, fresh ginger Retrieve rape oil from the fields no longer in flower Counter the bitterness with just enough sweetness Bring to the boil all thoughts of the year past Simmer off excess regrets, reluctance, resentments Store in perfectly sterilised jars. Best enjoyed next year.



Ingredients: 4 eggs 75g caster sugar 75g soft brown sugar Zest of half an orange Pinch of salt 150g plain flour 1 tsp mixed spice ½ tsp ground ginger ½ tsp ground cinnamon 25g butter 2 tbsp runny honey 1 tbsp water A few tablespoons of icing sugar For the filling: 300ml double cream 300ml crème fraiche 3 tbsp honey 100g walnuts

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C) and line the base of a large swiss roll pan with baking parchment. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugars and salt until thick and foamy and tripled in volume. This will take about five to ten minutes. While the eggs are whipping up melt the butter and honey together with the water in a small saucepan and set aside. Sieve the flour and spices over the top of the beaten eggs and fold in. When there are no longer big patches of flour in the mix pour the butter mixture, which should still be slack and slightly warm, around the inside edge of the bowl and fold this into the cake batter. Pour the batter into the lined baking tray and bake for ten minutes until the top is golden brown and the cake is well risen. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven. Sieve over the icing sugar making sure there is a thin layer over the top of the entire cake. Lay a piece of baking parchment (which is larger than the cake) on a flat surface or table and flip the still hot cake out onto this. Peel the baking parchment off (what was) the base of the cake. Soak a tea towel in cold water, wring it out and lay this over the cake and leave to cool. This will stop the cake drying out when it cools and reduce the chances of cracking.

While the cake is cooling make the filling: Remove about ten walnut halves which look nice and set them aside. Roughly chop the remaining walnuts and tip them into a large frying pan. Toast the walnuts over a medium heat until they just start to turn golden. Remove from the heat immediately and leave to cool. Whip the double cream until it is almost at stiff peaks. Whip the crème fraiche for about 30 seconds to thicken a bit and fold into the cream.

Once the cake is cool, spread about two thirds of the filling over the entire cake and sprinkle most of the toasted walnuts over this in an even layer. Use your hands to push the walnuts into the filling. This will allow the filling to stick the cake together. Using the baking parchment the cake is resting on, lift one end of the cake up and over to start the roll. Continue to roll up the cake using the parchment to ensure the roll is nice and tight. If it starts cracking, just ease up on the tightness of the roll at that point and it should be ok. Once the cake is fully rolled, wrap it tightly in the baking parchment and place it in the fridge, seam side down, to rest and set for ten minutes.

Place the cake onto your serving platter and trim the ends to make a neat looking spiral. Spread the remaining filling in a thick line across the top of the cake and stick the reserved walnuts to it. If there are any toasted pieces left, sprinkle these over too. Drizzle a little bit of honey over the walnuts and cream.


Heavy metal and renewal Aesthetically, I never feel less Jewish than at Rosh Hashanah. Don’t get me wrong, the festival is an essential part of my year and I’d be at a loss to know what to do without it. The process that begins at the start of Ellul and culminates at Neilah on Yom Kippur is always spiritually renewing for me, even though I may grumble about some of the upheaval it creates in my schedule. Yet what I’ve never managed to do is to integrate this cycle of renewal into my aesthetic life. The art that calls to me - the art I listen to, read and watch - is not art that seems to integrate well with the enduring revolutions of the Jewish calendar. Indeed, at a broader level, even though I love the liturgy of the festivals, I respond to them differently to the art I love outside of shul and I have no desire to integrate the two. It’s not that the aesthetics that I am attracted to exist in a steady, unchanging state. In fact, much of the art that I love - music in particular - invokes a construction of time that seems more Christian than Jewish. And that’s true most of all with metal, the music that speaks to me most insistently, and is rooted in Christianity so deeply that it remains so even when it sees itself as anti-Christian. It’s not that Jewish metal doesn’t exist. Indeed, one of my favourite Israeli metal bands, Orphaned Land, go so far as to set piyyutim to music. But Jewish metal is but a drop in the metallic ocean. And this ocean drains towards a Christianised apocalypse. Jews, of course, have our own end times, and Jews are even part of the Christian end times. Yet the Christian apocalypse grounds a fundamentally different attitude to time than in Judaism. As we Jews await moshiach (or, for progressive Jews like me, the messianic age), we remain locked into an annual cycle of redemption and renewal. The Christian calendar, while it sometimes nods towards this cycle (in Lent/Easter in particular), works somewhat differently and, pre-second coming, the process of repentance and renewal is much more personal, standing within yet also outside the festive cycle. After all, with Christ having appeared once, Christians are engaged in a kind of breath-holding, a time that exists to be transcended in his return. But while I cannot relate spiritually to Christian time, I can relate aesthetically to it. So much of metal concerns damnation, the wretchedness of humanity and the apocalyptic conflagration that will consume us all. That’s as true of metal Satanists who exult in humanity’s fallenness as it is the more usual atheistic tendency in metal, who are so imbued with the history of Christianised art that they rarely know how much they owe to it. I thrill to the power of this semi-coherent apocalypticism. It packs a visceral punch topped off with an almost camp sensibility. Take Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs': Day of judgement, God is calling On their knees the war pigs crawling Begging mercy for their sins Satan, laughing spreads his wings

Or the darkly over-the-top doggerel/poetry of Cradle of Filth’s 'From the Cradle to Enslave': This is the end of everything you have ever known Buried like vanquished reason Death in season Driven like the drifting snow

This attraction to the end times also manifests itself in metal lyrics about environmental destruction or about nuclear war, such as Metallica’s ‘Blackened’ Fire Is the outcome of hypocrisy Darkest potency In the exit of humanity Colour our world blackened

This ‘end of the world music’ offers none of the comforts of Jewish messianism, let alone the annual promise of entrance into the gates of repentance. So why is it that I can be so attracted to art whose cultural and theological underpinnings are so different to my own? Part of the answer is that it’s difficult to choose the aesthetics that we respond to. The heart wants what it wants. Love is a desire that is never fully under our control. We can be theologically Jewish and aesthetically something else. Yet at the same time, hidden amidst the distorted power chords of metal, lies a form of renewal that is complementary to that offered by the Jewish calendar. Anyone who takes Ellul/Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur seriously knows that renewal is an arduous process. It doesn’t come easy. It requires a shock to the system, embodied most powerfully in the call of the shofar blast. We do not enter the gates of repentance on Neilah simply through following formulaic rituals, but by allowing ourselves to be carried along by them. Renewal involves surrendering, to a degree at least, to a force that is bigger than ourselves, to be carried along with it. We pray collectively for a reason: in Judaism it is the collective that both inspires and ‘holds’ the individual Jew in the journey towards renewal. In loving metal, I open myself up to shock, to being carried along on a wave of intimidating noise. I am part of a collective, of metal scene members all over the world, that creates a culture bigger than any one of us. I do not and cannot own metal - none of us can. Metal replays the end of the world again and again. It pushes me off a cliff into nothingness, yet still I always survive. I am reborn as the song ends, as the noise abates, as the act finishes. I am renewed. I am not arguing that metal is fundamentally Jewish. I am not making a facile argument that metal is midrash or some such nonsense. What I am saying is that this form of apocalyptic art allows me to build up the muscles needed for the far more arduous journey that I embark on ever year at Rosh Hashanah. The irony that this art form is imbued with a Christian sensibility does not negate its spiritual usefulness - to this Jew at least. So maybe it doesn’t matter that the art I love does not speak directly of my specifically Jewish journey towards renewal. Art does not have to speak directly of Judaism to be part of a Jewish life. We will not find the new beginnings we seek every year - and particularly this year - purely in the shul or the machzor. We can find them anywhere, should we choose to do so, even in the darkest and most Jewishly ‘alien’ forms of culture that humanity affords.


Please God, renew me. – A Rosh Hashannah Prayer Renew my heart as you renew the cycle of the seasons, Help me start to rediscover rhyme amongst my reasons. Give me the strength in standing firm and feeling tender, Show my fragile face the grace of this surrender.

Please God help me renew my soul’s connection, In this place let me embrace my imperfection. Through my blindness may I rediscover sight, For within my deepest darkness lies my light. In every moment you are life and you are death, Your simple truth is born again in every breath, In this new year please let me hear your guiding voice, Through my fear direct and steer my every choice. Please grant me strength to chew off all that I have bitten, And in the book of life please let my name be written. Let anger, doubt and dark confusion cease, Within, without please let this year be Peace. God please help me remember we are one, All duality and separation gone, We are married down below and up above, In this moment here and now is only Love. Please God, renew me.




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