OPINION: Avoid butchering these holy days

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: Avoid butchering these holy days

Rabbi Miriam Berger
Rabbi Miriam Berger

by Rabbi Miriam Berger

Miriam Berger
Miriam Berger

Witnessing the frenetic atmosphere of the kosher butcher just before the Shabbat leading into Rosh Hashanah led me to ask the question: “For whom are the High Holy days more stressful ­– the rabbis or the kosher butchers?”

“Definitely the butchers,” he retorted without missing a beat. “There are no expectations of the rabbis, they trot out the same thing year after year. But me… I’m meant to reinvent the Friday night dinner every week so it doesn’t get boring, be in control of portion size and sell better products more cheaply than my competitors. I have to be a magician, the rabbi just has to do whatever he did last year – they’ll come to shul whatever.”

Did you get more from your rabbi than your butcher during the High Holy days? Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman has identified three profound ways in which we make ourselves present, three modes of human consciousness. It is each of these that should have been tapped into during the High Holy day period to ensure one doesn’t come away from these services unmoved, unchanged and unfulfilled.

These modes are believing, behaving, ritualising.

Believing: Perhaps the one our pragmatic religion shies away from so easily. Liturgy might be something we rattle through but prayer should not be. Diane Elliott writes:

“The Hebrew root l’hitpallel, which we translate as ‘pray’…comes from an Arabic root meaning ‘to tear oneself open in worship’. Did the liturgy pierce your heart and allow you to tear yourself open in prayer or did it remain liturgy, merely words to be recited?

Behaving: Were you encouraged to think beyond the Jewish practice to ensure it influenced the way you think and behave?

Jews flocking to their synagogues for The High Holy days is the most incredible opportunity to be called to action. With the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, were you called to “love the stranger, for you were a stranger in the land”?

Ritual: Were the rituals of this time just part of the chain of tradition or did they “make outrageous ideas believable”? If you answered no to these questions perhaps you’d be better off at the butcher’s! And don’t get me started on the queue at the bakery…

• Miriam Berger is rabbi at Finchley Reform Synagogue

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: