Monday, 31 December 2012

Ask the Rabbis at Kenton Shul

From left; Rabbis; Knopf; Hackenbroch; Black; Shainfield; Laitner

Well it's been a long time since I posted anything on my blog; so here we are and welcome back:

Over sixty people packed into the latest Ask the Rabbis session in Kenton Shul. The four Rabbis on the panel were;
Rabbi Pinchas Hackenbroch; Senior Rabbi at Woodside Park Shul
Rabbi Anthony Knopf: Associate Rabbi at Hampstead Garden Suburb
Rabbi Michael Laitner: Living and Learning Rabbi and Associate Rabbi at Kinloss Gardens Shul
Rabbi Ari Shainfield: Associate Rabbi at St John’s Wood Shul
Rabbi Yehuda Black from Kenton was in the Chair

Here is a short synopsis of the questions and some of the responses.

Norman Garber : Covenant; is it a contract, partnership or relationship?

Rabbi Laitner mentioned that the idea of covenant or Brit is to be found in Chapter 24 from the Book of Shemot and is an essential element of being Jewish, not just on a national level but also from an individual perspective. We are active in this covenant as partners with G-d.

Jeff Bennett; The decision to change the constitution of the US about women (allowing them to become chairmen), will this eventually lead to the appointment of women Rabbis?

Rabbi Laitner emphasised that there is a vast difference between women being permitted to become chairs and laws that apply to allowing women to be called up to the Torah and greater participation in services etc. These issues have been discussed elsewhere in articles such as those from Rabbi Michael Broyde in Hakirah.
Rabbi Hackenbroch welcomed the fact that women had a desire and enthusiasm to play a more active role. We encourage the communal involvement of women and indeed all members of our communities.
Rabbi Shainfield compared the relationship between ourselves and G-d as similar to the relationship between a man and woman. It is important to understand our individual relationship and role with Hashem.
Rabbi Hackenbroch went on to discuss the importance of being team players in the running of community and looking toward the greater good of the community and not being clouded by self interest.

David Hoffman: Thirteen principle of faith- how do they stand in Judaism?

Rabbi Laitner: Thirteen principles of faith are summarized in the Yigdal prayer. Professor Mark Shapiro wrote an essay entitled: "The limits of orthodox Theology" and Professor Menachem Kellner wrote: "must a Jew believe in anything?" Both of these writers are Orthodox academics.  The 13 principles of faith were set down by Maimonides in his commentary to the Mishneh from Sanhedrin. He needed to set down these principles because of challenges from Islam and Christianity against Judaism..
Rabbi Knopf: A Jew is somebody obligated to keep Judaism regardless of beliefs. Indeed The Rambam went out of his way to include people like the Karaites even though they did not believe in the Oral Torah. Rambam was trying to delineate what are our boundaries, what is our framework to being a Jew.
Rabbi Black interjected with the famous Talmudic statement which says: A Jew even though he has sinned is still a Jew.

Why are some of our Rabbis clean shaven and some have beards?

Rabbi Laitner: (doesn’t have a beard) My wife likes me to shave. I have not grown up in a family that had beards. And the fact that I do not wear a beard creates Kiddush Hashem.
Rabbi Knopf: (no beard) I cannot stand having a beard and it is indeed a big struggle in the Omer when I am obligated to have one!
Rabbi Shainfield: (little beard) I was at the levaya of the Shotzer Rebbe in Enfield cemetery and I made a resolution to grow a beard and not to shave with an electric shaver.
Rabbi Hackenbroch: (beard) Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky suggested that it would be a very good Segulah to grow my beard. But it is a constant reminder of who I am.
Rabbi Black: (beard) I never shaved in my life. It is in my family. My father had a small spitz beard. If you look at old photos of Rabbis- they always had beards. The default position of the Torah is not to use a razor on the face, therefore the default position is to grow a beard.

What are qualities of Chief Rabbi?

Rabbi Black: The new CR Rabbi Mirvis will bring great strengths to Chief Rabbinate. His strengths are: organizational- he has built the KLC (Kinloss Learning Centre) from nothing into something really vibrant and good. He has also tremendous people skills and is able to work and interact with everybody.
Chief Rabbi Sacks has been the greatest Ambassador for the Jewish people and has been able top explain Jewish ideas and themes to the non Jewish world.

Rabbi Knopf: The role of CR is to bring the Jewish community together and harness all its strengths.
Rabbi Laitner: Three aspects of role of CR:
  1. CR is CEO of Jewish Community. Matters of Jewish status; marriage registration and an external Jewish voice to the public square.
  2. Inspires and leads us by launching initiatives and building communities.
  3. Promoting Jewish communal causes like Shecghita and Brit Milah.
Rabbi Hackenbroch: The Chief Rabbi needs to deal with the Lost Tribe of the Jewish community. Those Jews who pop their heads in on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and that’s all we see of them. 80- 90% of our members are not involved. We need a Chief Rabbi to turn them on to Judaism.
Rabbi Shainfield: It’s not what the CR can do for us, but what can we do for the new Chief Rabbi to make his job more achievable..

Other questions were:
Are Liberal or Reform Rabbis allowed to be given an Aliyah in an Orthodox Shul?
Limmud. Why do US Rabbis not go?
What is the Jewish version of achrayut- responsibility?


  1. Very nice. Seems like it was an enjoyable morning.

  2. Not convinced that Rabbi Sheinfeld was at the levaya of the Shotzer Rebbe...

  3. He said / meant the kever of the Shotzer Rebbe