Rabbi Michaels Visits Little Heath

Rabbi Maurice Michaels from South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue was interviewed by the Sixth Formers from Little Heath school

Q:    How long have you been a Rabbi?
A:     7 ˝ years. This was my second job. My first job, which I did for 35 years, I retired from. It then took 4 years of studying before I became a Rabbi.

Q:     The Bible says that Jesus was a Jew. What do you think of Jesus?
A:     Jesus was a Jew because the only/main religion at the time was Judaism and if you were not Jewish you were a Pagan.

Q:     What does the name Rabbi mean?
A:     The name Rabbi literally means my teacher. Teaching for me is one of the best parts of being a Rabbi.

Q:     Do you like other religions?
A:     Religion is very important. Most religions have one thing in common – beliefs. Each religion has some sort of belief and that is important. I feel I have a lot in common with these religions because I also have beliefs.

Q:     What do Jews do instead of Baptism or a Christening?
A:     When a child is born, there are ceremonies both at home and at the Synagogue, which take place in order to welcome the child into the Jewish community. Then when the child is 3/6 months old, on the Sabbath the mother and father bring the child to the Synagogue to give thanks for the birth and baby, bless it and give the child it's Hebrew name. At home there are prayers said and often a party or celebration. None of this involves water.

Q:     What type of clothing do Rabbis and Jewish people wear?
A:     Most Jews wear normal clothing like everyone else. Strict Jews wear different clothes – Women wear skirts to the floor and sleeves to their wrists, men wear black suits and hats. A Rabbi's outfit is a gown or robe just like a Christian minister wears. The special item that Jewish men wear is called a Kippa. It is worn on the head and is a mark of respect for God. Jews believe they could never approach God without anything between them.

Q:     Do you have to sign some forms to be a Rabbi?
A:     No. It is actually the other Rabbi's who have to sign the forms to say that I have learnt enough about teaching and the faith in order to become a Rabbi.

Q:     What do you like about being Jewish?
A:     Tradition – background that comes through the generations of my parents, my grandparents and so on. Family life – I try to spend as much time with my family as possible. Food – Jews have lived all over the world and borrowed food from the people. I also like Jewish jokes. I think I have a good sense of humour when it comes to Jewish jokes. I also have a responsibility to look out for the poor and sick and to be tolerant of others. I really like the strong emphasis I have on teaching people.

Q:     Do you like reading from the Torah?
A:     Yes I do. It is the Holy writings and teachings. It contains part of the Bible. Each week a new section is read out in the synagogue during the service. I think it really makes a difference to the service. It carries on the tradition that has been going on for centuries.

Q:     Who is your God? What is his name?
A:     I believe that my God is the same as any other God. The same as the God Christians believe in, Muslims, Jewish – there is just one God. I believe God is one. A Prayer that Jewish people say is “Hear Israel, God is God, God is one”. The name that Jews use for God is “Adonai” which literally means “Lord”. Jewish people will never speak the true name of God because the Temple where Jews spoke the name was destroyed and now it is never said. For different things/occasions we give God a different name i.e. we use one name when we talk to God about death and a different name when we talk about giving thanks.

Q:     What made you become a Rabbi?
A:     There's an easy answer but a hard part to that. The easy answer is because I wanted to help people. The hard part is why did I think being a Rabbi was the best way to help people. I enjoy teaching; training and working with other people and I felt the best way to do that was to become a Rabbi.

Q:     What is the symbol for Jews?
A:     The Shield of David.

Q:     Why is your Holy book called the Torah?
A:     The word “Torah” comes from a root, which means teaching.

Q:     Do you like being on the Bima?
A:     A Bima is a stage and yes I do like being on it. I see myself as a performer, I'm fine with being on stage and very much enjoy it. It feels like the right place for me to be.