Rabbi David Schneider’s Weekly Words of Wisdom 15: Kedoshim


(Leviticus 19-20)

When Hillel was asked to sum up the Torah whilst standing on one foot, he famously replied: “That’s not a good idea. I’ve got a veruka”.

I’m joking, of course. (Top tip for budding rabbis: always start a sermon with a joke, even if you risk implying that hygiene standards in mikvahs of the Talmudic period were dangerously low). What Hillel actually said, inspired by the words of this week’s parsha, was: “do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you”.

Pretty obvious, you’d have thought. Even to a ginger-haired dullard of a Radio 4 producer. How would he like to have the thing that’s most precious to him brutally ripped away like a precious child snatched away by merciless foreigners (I’m not racist, so please stop writing in. That’s the sort of thing foreigners do).

Of course it would be terribly wrong to imply that losing my “Thought for the Day” is like losing a child. It’s worse. At least if you lose a child you’ve spent a few years teaching it to walk, playing toy soldiers and lego with it if it’s a boy, and, if it’s a girl, playing toy soldiers and lego with its friends who are boys. At least you’ve had a few years of fun out of it, but I haven’t even got started on “Thought for the Day”.

And I had so many ideas! Like doing a sort of theological Rory Bremner one with me doing different voices – the small, still voice Elijah hears, the voice of Jacob pretending to be Esau, Frank Spencer from “Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em”, because I can do him as well.

Or doing it as a rap. I tried it out at shul in a sermon about Jews being attracted to Eastern philosophies like Buddhism and Yo Sushi:

“Talmud, Torah, Rashi, Mishnah –

Much, much better than Hare Krishna!”

It worked! They weren’t booing at me, they were booing with me!

And how about my idea to start my “Thought for the Day” with the word “G-d” then leave a 2 minute 58 second silence before saying “You”, just to bring home how distanced most of us are from Hashem. That’s not dead air time, Jeremy Mr so-called Producer, that’s genius!

So why take the programme away from me? If it’s because of last Purim I’m sorry I made jokes about you starring in a musical with Barbra Streisand based on an Isaac Bashevis Singer story called “Gentile”. But we all make mistakes, especially on two and a half bottles of Palwin’s No. 4A.

You don’t have to pay me, if that’s what’s worrying you. I don’t have a bank account at the moment anyway since the bank “deauthorised” me after my attempt to donate all of my wife’s and my joint savings to charity. (Do they not know that “Through charity man rises to a height where he meets G-d”? And I still maintain that LAWBULB – the League against Wives who Become Under the influence of Lesbian Builders – is a charity, of which I’m proud to be a trustee).

Please, Jeremy. If you don’t like the 2 minutes 58 of silence idea you could always get John Humphries to say “You’re listening to Radio 4” every thirty seconds. Please. Look at this week’s parsha: it tells us the way to holiness lies in judging others favourably and giving them a slot on “Thought for the Day” (I paraphrase).

Please .The very ugly therapist the honorary officers are making me see (I’m not sexist) told me that every time I feel angry I should pinch my bicep till the feeling goes away. Well, I’ve given my bicep such a pinching I can now only put on my tefillin over a child’s inflatable armband for swimming. And even though there’s nothing explicit in the Talmud forbidding the use of Donald Duck flotation devices, it certainly raised a few eyebrows at the Hasidic shtibl I attended last week.

Please, Jeremy. Please. Be a ginger-haired, Jesus-sandal’d, corduroy-jacketed mentsh. Please.

P.S. Please.

This article first appeared in The Jewish Chronicle.

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