A Time For Brexit
Rabbi Andrew Shaw
Chief Executive, Mizrachi UK
So it is time for the Super Shabbat!
For the first time in almost 40 years, MP’s will sit on Shabbat to debate and discuss the small matter of Boris’s Brexit deal.
One MP mentioned that ‘We are in for a long Saturday’, and we certainly are with Hallel, Kohelet and Shabbat Hoshanot – for Jews round the world, this will also be a super Shabbat!
The last time that Parliament sat on Shabbat was Shabbat 3rdApril 1982, after Argentina invaded the Falklands. That Shabbat may not have been Shabbat Chol Hamoed Succot – but it was Shabbat Ha Gadol – another Super Shabbat!
I wonder what Shlomo Ha Melech would have thought about Brexit?
Kohelet is an immensely wise book, (for a full analysis I recommend Rabbi Sacks’s phenomenal essay in the Koren Machzor for Sukkot.) I believe the best thing MP’s could do tomorrow is stop the discussions and just read Kohelet – as we will be tomorrow morning. I suggest since time is tight – they might just read the start of chapter 3 where Shlomo Ha Melech explains that there is time for every experience under the sun.
A time for being born and a time for dying, A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;
A time for slaying and a time for healing, A time for tearing down and a time for building up;
A time for weeping and a time for laughing, A time for wailing and a time for dancing;
A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;
A time for seeking and a time for losing, A time for keeping and a time for discarding;
A time for ripping and a time for sewing, A time for silence and a time for speaking;
A time for loving and a time for hating; A time for war and a time for peace.
Fourteen powerful pairs of contrasting actions – spanning the gamut of the human experience.
Boris would probably say this is a time for planting, for healing, for building up and for embracing. I am not so sure if that will be agreed by everyone – but I am sure tomorrow will not be a time for silence!
One of the many reasons for reading this sobering book is to help us retain our perspective during these joyous days of Succot.
According to the Rambam – the book has three main themes, one of which is that Man’s spiritual essence is eternal and should be the focus of our activities while on this earth. So much of humanity is focussed almost exclusively on the physical essence of existence in their pursuit of meaning and fulfilment – Kohelet warns against this strategy. You may well have read this over the years but it is worth repeating and reflects the true message of Kohelet and Sukkot.
Edward Reichman passed away in 2005, leaving a large fortune. He left two wills, directing that one be opened immediately and the second be opened at the Shloshim.
Among the instructions left in the first will was a request the he be buried with a certain pair of socks that he owned. The Reichman children immediately brought the socks to the Chevra Kadisha, requesting that their father be buried in them. Of course, the Chevra Kadisha refused, reminding the family that it’s against the Halacha, They pleaded, explaining that their father was a very pious and learned man, and he obviously had a very good reason to make this request. The Chevra Kadisha remained firm in their refusal.
The family frantically summoned the Chevra Kadisha to Beis Din, where the Rov gently explained to them, “Although your father left that request when he was on this world, now that he’s in the world of truth, he surely understands that it is in his best interests to be buried without the socks.
Edward Reichman was buried without his socks.
30 days later, the second will was opened, and it read something like this; “My dear children. By now you must have buried me without my socks. I wanted you to truly understand that a man can have 1 billion dollars, but in the end, he can’t even take along one pair of socks.”
So on Sukkot, the Festival of the Harvest, perhaps we can gain the wisdom of Solomon who said at the start of Kohlelet
הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל׃
Utter futility!—said Kohelet — Utter futility! All is futile!
Yet he ended with
ס֥וֹף דָּבָ֖ר הַכֹּ֣ל נִשְׁמָ֑ע אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִ֤ים יְרָא֙ וְאֶת־מִצְוֺתָ֣יו שְׁמ֔וֹר כִּי־זֶ֖ה כָּל־הָאָדָֽם׃
The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere God and observe His commandments! For this is the totality of man.
Kohelet teaches us that ultimately, what matters is our devotion to God and our observance of Torah. In the end this is everything and all we have.
So tomorrow may be a time to remain or a time to leave
But it will always be a time for God
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach