Rabbi David Schneider’s Weekly Words of Wisdom 17: Bamidbar

desert(Numbers 1:1 – 4:20)

And, whilst we’re at it, Behar and Bechukosai (Leviticus 25-27)

Every Jew should try in his lifetime to emulate Moses. Look at me, for instance. Moses went up on high to receive the Torah from G-d, so I too have gone up on high. The only difference is that whereas Moses ascended upon Mount Sinai, I have ascended upon a clock tower in Stockwell, South London, right opposite the seedy-looking flat where Jeremy the Radio 4 so-called producer lives. Moses spent forty days and forty nights hearing the words of the L-rd, and I’m prepared to stay here just as long until I hear the words of Jeremy saying thou shalt have your “Thought for the Day” back, it was a mistake to give it to Rabbi F for he is a big stupid-faced idiot (and he has a drink problem).

And just as Moses had the Torah dictated to him from upon the mountain, so I am dictating this week’s article to my friend the woman who once pretended to be blind (that’s me, Elaine. Shalom-salaam-peace!) and, hold on, what are you writing? Don’t write “salaam”! They won’t like it. Just write exactly what I say! Word for word.

Just as the Torah shines out barmy bar… No, barmitzvah!… No, not barmitzvah. B.A.M.I.D.B.A.R. Bamidbar! – it means “in the wilderness”, it’s the name of this week’s Persia. No, par-shah! Torah portion. Just write it down!

Where was I? Yes, just as the Torah shines out bamidbar, in the wilderness, as a beaker of justice – beacon of justice – so I shine out with Rabbinical righteousness across the wilderness of Stockwell (and it is a wilderness – try finding a bite of kosher food round here. Not that I’d eat it anyway as the big flaw in the bucket-on-a-rope system we’ve developed to feed me and allow me to answer the call of nature up here is that we’ve only got the one bucket – so…well, you know, smells linger). Like Job, “I have put on righteousness as my clothing, justice is my robe and my turban”. What’s so funny?… I’d look good in a turban… Oh! Goodness Gracious Me! Would you like a curry?… Don’t write that, they’ll think I’m racist.

Barmitsvah is the name of this week’s parson and the Hebrew name for the book of Numbers, and our sages stress that, in order to be able to receive the Torah and be a holy person like me, you need to be bamidbar, “in the wildebeest”. What? “Wilderness”!  I know… it’s the wind… I’ll shout louder.

Some people are frightened to enter the wilderness, to leave material things and their lego behind… Not lego, ego! Instead they write into the Jay Sea, pointing out that I’m getting the order of the week’s Torah persians wrong, that I’m getting confused. It certainly looks like that, but it isn’t. I’m a Rabbi. Of course I know that on some weeks two parsleys are read together. I just wanted to give each weekly pigeon its own slot. Besides, haven’t you heard, Rabbi F, of the serious chews of ancient times… no, the Syrian Jews of ancient times who divided the reading of the tow-rope into three-yearly cycles, as we’re told by Rabbi Benjamin of… the Lido? The Ludo?… It doesn’t matter! Just write down any old name. I make half this stuff up anyway, all Rabbis do. No-one ever reads this far so what does it matter?

What do those youths want, Elaine? They look a bit threatening.

The important thing is not to see the wilderness as a frightening place. Unlike Stockwell. Now that’s a frightening place… Tell them to go away… Yes, even if you’re at the end of your tether, abandoned by a treacherous wife who’s now got plans to serialise her forthcoming book “The Cook, the Thief, The Rabbi and the Lesbian” in the Sunday I’m not racist! I was just doing an impression of… a friend, the waiter from my local kosher curry house, the, er, Bollywood Knaidel. Please! Put those stones down! I’m very precariously balanced here. Elaine! Elaine! Can you stop writing and do something?!!

This article first appeared in The Jewish Chronicle.

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