Thought of the Week: 5 May 2016

Written by Writings & Sermons by others — 5 May 2016

This week’s Torah portion is deeply concerned with how we treat each other. It is Kedoshim, known as the Holiness Code, in the Book of Leviticus. It includes the central statement of Judaism, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).  It includes the basis of every Jew’s requirement to support the needy so that they do not starve: “You shall leave part of every harvest from your land for the poor and the stranger to gather” (Leviticus 19:9-10).  It tells us not to bear a grudge against other people (Leviticus 19:18) and not to spread lashon ha-ra, malicious gossip against other people (Leviticus 19:16). Every one of these statements ends with the words “Ani Adonai” – you shall do this or avoid this behaviour because “I am the Eternal God.”

This portion tells us that a holy world fit for God and for humanity is one where our relationships with each other are good, decent, caring and constructive. What a different world from that which racists hope for.

This past week there has literally been, in the language of Kedoshim, an unholy row about what constitutes anti-Semitism, about whether it can ever be right to be racist against another people. This week it is our people, Jews and especially the vast majority of us who are engaged with Israel, as Alyth always is, who are in the frame. Rightly politicians and commentators from all sides of the political and social spectrum have been saying that anti-Semitism is racism. Rightly they have been saying that using the language of Nazism to condemn Israel is totally unacceptable, even more poignantly unacceptable in the week of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Rightly they have been saying and being anti-Zionist is to condemn  a nation in a way that would not be used against any other country and quite different to being a critic of a particular Israeli government policy which is the right of anyone engaged in the politics of the Jewish State.

The Torah portion of Kedoshim makes it absolutely clear that it is right to rebuke those who fail to love their neighbours as they love themselves. Leviticus 19:17 says hoche’ach tochi’ach et amitecha, reason with or rebuke even those who are close to you.  Don’t let them hurt, insult or oppress other people.

I am impressed that there has been such widespread condemnation of anti-Semitism this week in all its forms, from politicians, commentators and activists. I am saddened that public figures have felt that it is acceptable to express anti-Semitism and hope that they will learn that Britain only works it all its peoples are able to live together with respect for each other’s deeply held values. Alyth will always be a leading part of the Jewish community which reaches out to our neighbours to create understanding and constructive work together for the good of the society we share. The Alyth community will combat anti-Semitism with positive activism, interfaith dialogue and being the most open and welcoming Synagogue that we can build. We will love our neighbours as ourselves and encourage them to reciprocate.

This week at Alyth our celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut on Wednesday night at Alyth will show that our Judaism includes engaging with, learning about, celebrating and asking searching questions about Israel. Come and join your congregation and enjoy a great evening celebrating Israel today and especially the Mizrachi communities that make up the majority of the Jews now in our land.