Yes, I know, many of you will say – what time is this to be sending Machshavot! However when you have brought 18 top scholars from Israel and are sending them to a myriad of communities all over the UK for Shabbat to then bring them all to Kinloss for Sunday….you will be amazed that Machshavot was written this week at all!
However, I had to write as we are so excited about what this Shabbat and Sunday represent.
We say it every Shabbat in the prayer for Medinat Yisrael: “Ki Mitzion Teitzei Torah – from Zion shall come forth Torah” and this weekend it certainly has!
We had a lunchtime reception for our scholars, it was humbling to have all these great educators and leaders in the same room – you too will have that pleasure on Sunday. There has been a huge amount of organisation from the Mizrachi team these last few weeks. Flights to be booked, Shabbat hospitality to be arranged, taxis to be ordered and of course, source sheets to be printed for over 100 shiurim that will be given over the Shabbat and Sunday.
So what is the real drive behind this weekend?
I remember a few years ago I was invited around this time to a local non-Jewish primary school. I had spoken there when I first came to the UK, back then the school had loads of Jewish kids – now none, it is predominantly Muslim and Hindu. It was the day after Yom Ha’Atzmaut but I did not mention Israel, I spoke to them instead about Pesach and Judaism.
Then it came to the questions. Why do you wear that thing on your head? Do you have fasts? How many Jews are there in the world?
Then came a strange one ‘Are you a Rabbi all the time?’
I wasn’t sure what she meant, I answered that being a Rabbi, I was involved in many different areas. In a deeper way I guess the question could be taken as – You are a Rabbi in public, but do you act that way when you have no community around?
It’s an excellent question and we can ask it of all of us not just Rabbis!
The question is: are we Jewish all the time? Ideally we should be, Halacha governs how we eat, speak, do business, run our daily lives. Hashem exhorts us at the start of Kedoshim – kedoshim tehiyu – you must be holy, and that is 24/7. However, what does it mean that we should be Kadosh?
Rashi explains that it means: “You shall be separated – from forbidden sins.” The Ramban focusses on the idea to “sanctify yourself by withdrawing from that which is permissible to you”. However, the Chatam Sofer to me is the most fascinating. He says that one might think the message of this mitzvah is one of abstinence, to become a monk, to live alone and avoid any temptation. The Torah therefore makes clear that the “holiness” of a monk is not desirable.
This section was specifically delivered “b’hakhel”. Everyone was present – the men, the women, and the children. Be in the world – not separate from it – it is a challenge, but that is the mission of Torah and in many ways the mission behind the scholars who are gracing our shores this weekend and the mission of Mizrachi globally.
I do hope you can join us on Sunday. Last year was a fantastic day, and this year looks like being even better. Of course, if you are davening in one of the forty minyanim around the country where our Mizrachi scholars are coming to – you will get a great preview. However, don’t forget to come to the main event!
Rabbi Andrew Shaw