(Exodus 35:1 – 38:20)
First of all, let me make one thing clear: I am not racist. Some readers, no doubt friends of a particular “person” who’s my wife’s lover and a builder who’s a woman, felt my implying in my last column that the surname Mebolowayo-Lowenstein was a ridiculous name was outrageously racist. Mebolowayo is, of course, a perfectly acceptable surname (on its own) even if it is actually spelt Mplulmweno which looks as if someone’s spilt the Scrabble on the floor. The last thing I want is to cause offence and I want to reassure everyone, especially the editor of the JC and Jeremy, the producer of my forthcoming “Thought for the Day” on Radio 4, that I’m definitely not racist. I’m sure they think Lowenstein is a funny sounding name in Um-bongo-land or wherever. (more…)
(Exodus 38:21 – 40:38)
There is much to be said for spending night after night in a cramped synagogue storage cupboard. For a start, it puts you in touch with our ancestors living in the wilderness of Sinai. Like them, I’m bloody uncomfortable. And the dreams aren’t much fun either. The other night I dreamt I was being force-fed 12 dozen long-haired poodles only to wake up and find that a box had fallen open on one of the shelves above me and dumped a whole load of taleysim onto my face. That was two days ago and I’m still picking fringes out from between my teeth.
But the simplicity of life in a store cupboard can lift us up. (more…)
(Leviticus 1 – 5)
It’s no surprise that, traditionally, little Jewish children begin their study of the Torah with this parsha, which details the different types of animal sacrifice. Boys would enjoy hearing how the priest used his long fingernail to separate the head of a bird from its body then wrenched off its throat, squeezed out its blood and set fire to it, whilst girls might like to colour in a picture or something.
It’s important for children to learn about sacrifices such as sin offerings and guilt offerings and crippling school fees that don’t even take into account uniform and ski trips and sports gear, (more…)
(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. (more…)
(Leviticus 9 – 11)
The time: First day of Nissan, one year to the day after the Exodus.
The place: Sinai.
As the Children of Israel stand full of awe before Moses, who’s about to share with them the laws of kashrus (what you can and can’t eat), Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron, offer up something unprescribed on the altar of the L-rd and are struck dead by a fire from on high.
The time: the present, 3287 years later.
The place: North London.
As the readers of the Jewish Chronicle stand full of awe before another of Rabbi Schneider’s inspirational dissections of the week’s parsha, a certain Rabbi F sends round an abusive email claiming that I’m mentally unstable and that in the past few months I’ve been served four injunctions and been cautioned by the police on no less than five occasions.
It’s not hard to see the similarities between these two events. Plus ca change, as we say in Yiddish. (more…)