Rev David Wolfson l'z 7th Annual Memorial Lecture

The Rev. David Wolfson's z'l Memorial Lecture, on Wednesday 26 April 2017, our guest speaker was Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler. 'The title of his talk was 'Things you never knew about the Siddur.

Menahem Briskman welcomed one and all and said how pleased he was to see Rev Wolfson's family and Rabbi Shisler on this auspicious occasion. Rabbi Stanley Coten pointed out that it was also the very first lecture that Ruislip Synagogue had hosted as members of the family of the United Synagogue, and he trusted that there would be many such occasions in the future.

Rabbi Shisler reminisced that Rev. Wolfson z'l presided over Ruislip's congregation from 1974-2010, and that he remembered David Wolfson as having the twin virtues of humility and the ability to make friends - these attributes endearing him to all who knew him. He then went on to ask (rhetorically) several questions- “what is in our prayers? why do we say things”, and he also posed the question of the history of the prayer book and from whence it came.

In a scintillating exposition, he evoked responses from his audience as he explored the basis for prayer - believing it to be a spontaneous reaction to experiences, and what is more - takes place because we want something!

He pointed out that there were clues that people from long ago gathered to pray at the Synagogue, and that it was also a specific place for sacrifices. He offered a tantalising titbit of information that there was a specific place in the synagogue for non-Jews where they could offer sacrifices. In the year 600 the Talmud was established, but no Siddur. The priests were against writing down prayers as they believed the wording could be altered, but they were agreeable to the congregation accepting what they said on their behalf and that is where the words 'amen' come into play as it means 'I agree'. Rabbi Shisler explained that Rabbi Gamiel in the year 100 said there must be three services a Shachrit is the morning service, Mincha the afternoon service and Maariv the evening one. Day. Midrash is a commentary on the bible, 700 years after Mishnah - the old law prayers were still not written down apart from the penitentiary prayers. In the 9th century Amram ben Sheshnah wrote all prayers in order and the Siddur was born.

The vote of thanks by David McCallum who, in succinct phraseology, spoke of the three 'e's' - described Rabbi Shisler's talk as being entertaining, educational and enjoyable, and presented him with a bottle for his enjoyment.

Finally, Alvin Barnett spoke movingly of the help that Rev. Wolfson had given to him and his guidance in his studies which led to 'opening and expanding his knowledge and his mind' and enabling him to write a book about his endeavours. After acknowledging the debt to his study partner - David McCullum and, help given by Sylvia McCullum, he presented the tome he had written to the family Wolfson with his best wishes, which was acknowledged with gratitude.

Angela Feuer