Rabbi David Schneider’s Weekly Words of Wisdom 11: Tsav

tsav(Leviticus 6 – 8 )

In this week’s parsha, we read how it was the priest’s job to remove the ashes that had built up overnight from the altar. It seems like a menial task but the priests, the loftiest members of the Israelite community still did it. Imagine Lord Winston in yellow rubber gloves taking out a bin bag which is leaking a bit so he has to hold it away from him and therefore ends up mincing slightly. That’s exactly the image this parsha’s trying to convey. It reminds us that a lord isn’t necessarily better than a dustbin man, that a Rabbi isn’t necessarily better than a caretaker. Though mostly he is.

We must never be too hasty to judge a person, unless he’s a paedophile or newspaper editor. Less impressive Rabbis than myself tell us at this time to think of those who aren’t at a Seder. Maybe they’re living in countries where Judaism’s banned under pain of death or, worse, their wife’s had an affair with a builder who’s a woman and their son who’s at Oxford is spending Seder night with a friend whose big macher father won’t let this person in despite their friendship which dates back years, even though the sages highlight the importance of an open door policy on Seder night as he told them through the letter box for at least 20 minutes till they emptied a bucket of water over his head.

But look closer at this soaking wet man wandering the streets alone on Seder night and you’ll see he’s enjoying himself. Watch how he hides in the bushes till a family opens the door for the prophet Elijah, then pops into view and asks them if they have a resident’s parking permit he could borrow for his fiery chariot. Sometimes they’re so shocked he even has time to rush inside, knock back the kos of wine left out for Elijah and rush back out again. The tears on the faces of the children are tears of joy.

Yes, we mustn’t judge a book by its cover, especially if the book is a holy one like the Talmud or the Shulchan Orach or “Big Fish, Little Fish, Smelly Fish, Dead Fish: a retelling of the Jonah story for orthodox Jewish children (and maybe Masorti) by Rabbi David Schneider”. A curvaceous young blind woman might not be a deceitful, uncaring little witch with 20-20 vision. She may be an actress, and a talented one at that, though what she’s doing in a show as offensive as “Holy/Hole-E”, Heaven only knows. It was totally disgusting, a shandeh, a disgrace, with swearing and filth and a woman wearing only a pair of tefillin. I couldn’t believe I was seeing such depravity! Perhaps I’d been mistaken? The mind can play tricks when you’re sleeping every night in a synagogue storage cupboard. But no, it was the same the next night and the night after that, and I imagine the following night except they didn’t let me in and threatened to call the police.

But on the night before Pesach, my blind girl finally yielded and said, with Moses: Let my people (i.e. Rabbi) go (to see the show one last time). Once more I sat through the whole performance, including that most disgraceful, offensive moment when she offers to strip for the Rabbi character if we, the audience, shouted loud enough. How horrified I was to witness all those around me shouting and screaming!

After the show, I found her backstage. I couldn’t really say much as I’d more or less totally lost my voice. But we talked honestly, openly. She explained she had a fiancé she was serious about; I quoted the Song of Solomon and told her her breasts were like two young deer that feed upon the lilies of Mount Gilead. She seemed pleased with that, but then what woman wouldn’t be.

At least now we know where we stand. And with Solomon I can say: let her kiss me with the kisses of her mouth and ravish my heart with her lips of comely scarlet. But platonically.

This article first appeared in The Jewish Chronicle.

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