It was a regular morning – with the regular challenge.
Taking my son to school means I have to reverse the car into the road and then turn right – which means to do this both lanes have to be clear.
At 8:00am that is not the case.
So I normally have to wait for the traffic to build up so someone will realise that to stop to let me out will not add any significant time to their journey as they cannot drive due to the red light a few hundred yards ahead.
It can sometimes be a bit of a wait – people are busy.
However last Tuesday as I was backing out, a car stopped and waved me through – I began to reverse and then as I passed the driver, I smiled and thanked them with a wave.
And a woman in a hijab smiled back.
As I drove down the road, I realised that I had just experienced a Kiddush Allah and realised the power of a Kiddush Hashem – let me explain.
What went through my mind when she let me reverse? I thought, what a kind thing to do. However, the fact that she was a frum muslim woman made me think very positively about Islam – meaning that I credited that the observance of Islam was why she behaved in that way.
That may not be true, we know many people who would stop to let people through in a car – and they could be atheists. My Muslim helper could simply have done the nice thing – nothing to do with her religion. However, my immediate reaction was to connect an observant Muslim woman with the act of kindness.
Similarly, when Jews who are clearly known to be Jewish perform acts in a positive way in the wider world, we create a Kiddush Hashem.
Last night we dedicated an evening to a very special woman who was a walking Kiddush Hashem – Gena Turgel zl. Someone who suffered unspeakable horrors yet emerged from hell to be an ambassador for goodness and kindness wherever she went. A committed Jewess and proud Zionist, she inspired everyone from schoolchildren to royalty.
The evening had tributes from the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Sacks, Ambassador Regev as well as those in the media and politics – Tracy Ann Oberman, Natasha Kaplinsky, Ed Balls and Eric Pickles. All of them spoke about her majesty, her determination, her faith and her family.
Ki Teitzei begins with the situation of when we go out to war and the effect war can have on the soldiers of Israel specifically the situation of the ‘yefat toar’ – the captive woman. Chazal say that this episode is ‘Lo dibra Torah eleh k neged yetzer hara’ – that the Torah only spoke in response to the evil inclination, meaning that we understand the soldiers desire but hope that in the 30 days we require him to wait, the desire will evaporate.
On a deeper level, the Torah is describing how certain situations can be incredibly difficult and damaging for a person and it is trying to find a pathway to allow the soldier to spiritually survive.
Gena experienced the most horrendous conditions, experienced the horrors of war and beyond and yet emerged into life after the Shoah spiritually strong.
Her grandson Adam, last night opened the evening by telling us that his Grandma was always proud to say to him for years “you know I say Modeh Ani every morning”. He explained to us why. ‘Despite witnessing the systematic murder of men, women and children, never knowing whether she would be next, when she might eat or drink, whether she would see her family again, despite this she knew it was with the hand of God she was spared. So when she said to me, “I always say Modeh Ani in the morning”, she was actually saying it was the guiding hand of God that saved her and by returning her soul every day for 95 years, she was so grateful to be able to serve the Almighty and speak for the all those that had no voice’.
She was a beautiful captive woman – she was liberated and her beauty shone out for the world to see.