Rabbi David Schneider’s Weekly Words of Wisdom 6: Tetzaveh

tetzaveh(Exodus 27:20-30:10)

What a wonderful week! “Happy are they that dwell in Thy house! They will ever be praising Thee!” And who are “they”?

“They” are not the editor of the Jewish Chronicle who insists I make it clear that I haven’t been receiving letters of support from Nelson Mandela. OK, oshamnu bogadnu, I made a mistake. On closer examination they’re from a man with terrible handwriting called Nathan Mandelbaum.  But they still count.

Nor are “they” Rabbi F, who must be smarting from finding himself uninvited to give a “Thought for the Day” on Radio 4 next month. Unfortunately for him, the producer bumped into another Rabbi who believes, with King Solomon, that “truthful lips endureth forever”. He felt it was a mitzvah, a holy duty, to tell the truth about the sort of scheming, backstabbing incompetent Rabbi F is and how his only pleasure in life is badmouthing his colleagues in the hope that they’ll fail. And badminton – apparently he quite likes that as well.

For this other Rabbi, there’s no greater joy than performing a mitzvah without any ulterior motive, simply for the joy of the mitzvah itself. Try telling that to the yobbo minority of 80% of his congregation who bring shame on the other 20% by insisting on disrupting his sermons and incidentally nowhere is there an exception made in the Talmud that permits the throwing of orange peel at a Rabbi on shabbes. And whilst we’re at it cracking an egg into a Rabbi’s coat pocket also constitutes work.

Why do they do it? Good question. Is a Rabbi bringing shame on his community by holding down a regular column in the Jewish Chronicle, even if he has to threaten the editor with excommunication to do so? – No. Is a Rabbi bringing shame on his community by doing a “Thought for the Day” on Radio 4 next month which came out of the blue from nowhere a complete surprise? – No. Is a Rabbi bringing shame on his community by staying the night with a young, single, ravishingly attractive blind woman with gorgeous chestnut hair, a wonderful, curvaceous figure and full lips that offer the promise of eternal bliss? Of course not. Because there was nothing at all physical in his motives.

She was simply there, in shul, after weeks of non-returned phone calls and threatened restraining orders, and she witnessed a sermon which touched her deeply. She saw a man put aside his incredible erudition, his phenomenal knowledge of Torah, his wit and eloquence and other sort of stuff like that, reach inside his soul to that place where we are most ourselves and say to her honestly, openly: Help! I need a shower.

What is it about blind people? They may look funny when they talk to you, but the wisdom they possess! Just look at some of the great blind people of the past: Samson (after he was blinded), Stevie Wonder, the teacher with the ping pong eyes from the 70s TV series “Kung Fu”. Such seykhel, such wisdom, such good songs (in the case of Stevie Wonder. The sages do not record whether Samson used to sing or not).

And such generosity. Maimonides tells us there are eight degrees of charity, and surely the highest of these is a Eucalyptus and Lemongrass bubble bath accompanied by a glass of Palwins (No.4A – surely the choice of a connoisseur). Now that’s a mikvah I’d visit again!

Can it really be a sin to stay up till late in one’s tsitsis and a pink kimono-style dressing gown you’ve borrowed talking about one’s hopes with a gorgeous young blind girl in pyjamas that look about two sizes too small for her? The answer is – no.

So, happy are they that dwell quite literally in Thy house (in the synagogue store cupboard for the last three weeks to be precise), for things are really looking up for them. And I hope my wife and her lover the builder who’s a woman who’s dwelling quite literally in my house read this and weep.

Oh, and this week’s parsha is about the clothes the priests were meant to wear which is all very interesting.

This article first appeared in The Jewish Chronicle

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