King Edward II of England was born in 1284 in North Whales. His father, King Edward I, had recently conquered that area, and the castle in which the future king was born stands to this day. 

While Edward I is known for being the first European monarch to issue an edict of expulsion of the Jewish community, thus ending the centuries old English Jewish community in 1290, his son Edward II is known, amongst other things, for something more benign: In 1324 King Edward II formally defined... the exact size of the inch. 

The inch, rooted in the Latin word uncia, or ounce, had been around since Roman times and had varied in size. Edward now decided that one inch would be the size of three grains of barley, no more and no less. This legacy seems to have lasted, with the inch remaining that size down to this day.

Jewish law has its own set of measurements, ranging from the 'Etzbah'  (around one eighth of an inch) to a 'Parsa' (around 2.5 miles). One of these measurements is a 'Tefach', roughly 3.2 inches. 

Let's fast forward from Edward and his castles for a moment.

There is a lot going on in our world today. We question how to deal with new challenges, question the future and perhaps think about what the Jewish perspective on these might be. 

Judaism does not believe in avoiding challenges, but in dealing with them head on. It's why the very first Torah portion of Bereishit, which we read this week, begins with the story of the creation of the world, not the creation of the Jewish faith. The world we live in matters.

But Judaism does have a unique way for dealing with our world's ups and downs, and sometimes wild rides. It can be encapsulated in one old Yiddish Chassidic saying: 'Remain a 'Tefach' higher' (שׁטייען א טפח העכער). 

The Tefach, which we can now convert to 3.2 inches thanks to good old Edward, is not very large. It is the size of the fist of a man. But it can make all the difference:

As Jews we are blessed with a wealth of inspiration, holidays, milestones, experiences, Torah study, values, traditions and history. These treasures are a world unto themselves, providing a refuge and charging port for anyone who wishes to take advantage of them. They constitute an entire universe - one that is easily accessible, existing only a 'Tefach' away.

As we begin the first Torah portion of the year, moving on from the Jewish holiday season, let's remember that as Jews we are blessed with such a beautiful tradition. It belongs to each and every Jew, a millennia old inheritance waiting to be enjoyed, and shared with family and friends. It's all there, 3.2 inches away, waiting for us to enjoy and to use to make our world a better place. 

Rabbi Avrohom