Rabbi David Schneider’s Weekly Words of Wisdom 22: Chukas

(Numbers 19:1 – 22:1)

chukasFirst of all, “thanks” to all those who wrote in about my column last week, pointing out that I didn’t even mention the parsha and accusing me of being, chas vecholilah, Heaven forbid, self-indulgent. Anyone who’s read my column knows there’s nothing I deplore more than the “me me me” self-indulgence you find when you look away from my Words of Wisdom and read other stuff. People just aren’t interested in the dull minutiae of a writer’s life, as I’m always telling Rabbi F, my wife, her lover the woman who’s a builder, the honorary officers, the local shopkeepers and, most recently, the fresh-faced, pretty young schoolgirls emerging from the local girls’ school, which has got me into a certain amount of unmerited trouble. But I would never mention that in my column.

Do those who criticise have any idea how hard it is to compose a fascinating and definitely not self-indulgent analysis of the week’s parsha whilst lying in the doorway of British Home Stores, sharing a moist blanket with an elderly Asian gentleman whose idea of entertainment is to remove his teeth and play them like a xylophone? And before you write in (again), I’m not racist. Nor am I sexist, ageist, hopelessly out-of-dateist, or “responsible for the most offensive, irrelevant, inane writing since my three year old tried to urinate his name in the sand at Netanya”. Nor, despite my wife turning overnight from a virtuous wife, an eishes chayil, into Billie Jean King, am I homophobic or anti the gays and similar abominations. How I understand Moses’s anger and frustration in this week’s parsha which caused him to strike the rock for water instead of speaking to it as the L-rd had commanded. He’d had enough. And so have I.

If any of you even bother to read this week’s parsha, you’ll see it feels like the end of an era. Miriam and Aaron both die just before the Promised Land, as has the generation that wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. The Children of Israel stand at the threshold of a new beginning, and so do I, though in my case it’s not so much a threshold as Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport. I’m with my new friend, Francois, who’s already taught me so much – that there’s a huge clandestine Jewish community in West Africa (as I said, I’m not racist) that doesn’t have a Rabbi, and that their only contact with other Jews is through copies of my articles smuggled in by Francois in the heel of his left shoe. These people worship me, though not in a fashion that contravenes the mitzvahs, or with witch doctors and funny dances like on Tarzan films (not racist). I have to go to them. Of course, there’s a lot keeping me here in England although I can’t think of any examples. But some of these Jews have never even heard of Rakusens. And I have to say I’m touched by the generosity of so many people who, when they heard I was thinking of leaving the country, reached deep into their pockets to make sure that I did. I even had enough for a ticket for Francois, who, like Moses, I have thus delivered from the bondage of being wrongly convicted of fraud and offences under the mental health act for most of his life. It just goes to show we never know what awaits us in our Promised Land. Perhaps, after all, mine isn’t a post in the Chief Rabbi’s cabinet, a series of TV documentaries and Nigella Lawson. Perhaps my Promised Land is, in fact, Chad.

So these are my last Words of Wisdom. I have new demands now, people who will literally hang on my every word (of wisdom). Thank you for your letters of support, which – I don’t care what others say – I think are genuine (why shouldn’t there be JC readers called Mr J.Goebbels and Mr H. Himmler?). I leave you with the words of the prophet Micah: act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your G-d and if you see Rabbi F or the woman builder who stole my wife, tell them they’re going to rot in hell.

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