Last Tuesday the UK temperature passed 40 degrees.
For those of us who were here – it was very hot, and there was huge relief when the temperature dropped Tuesday night and we had a cool breeze again – wonderful.
However, I want to focus on Tuesday day and something that made me think.
Now Tuesday for me was less of a busy day than planned. Over the last two weeks, we have been running the year 6 Yehudi finale events for 12 of the 15 schools and their 550 kids. We were due to be in a school on Tuesday, but they closed early due to the heat.
This meant I spent pretty much the whole day in the office.
I arrived in the morning when temperatures were in the high 20’s – and settled into my office and started working. As the temperatures climbed into the 30’s and eventually 40’s, I sat blissfully unaware as the ac kept my office at a wonderful cool temperature.
Outside, in the non air-conditioned world, the heat was overwhelming. It was very difficult to function especially due to the cumulative effect of hour upon hour of record high temperatures.
Two worlds, the pleasant, enjoyable air-conditioned world and the oppressive, difficult one.
What was so interesting, was I was completely unaware of the severity of the heat as I was in my little bubble of ac.
This is similar to the Jewish community. Many people who live in the heart of the religious communities think, understandably, that Judaism is vibrant, strong and healthy- that is all they see and experience. Issues such as intermarriage and assimilation hardly affect them. From their standpoint Judaism has the ac blowing nicely – and all is good.
However outside of that bubble, all is not rosy. We know of the wide assimilation of Jewish people across the western world, the difficulty of maintaining a strong Jewish identity in the uncomfortable temperatures of the modern world.
What is the solution? How can more Jews find themselves in an air-conditioned Jewish environment?
The start of the answer can be found in the parsha.
In Pinchas we learn about the daughters of Tzelophchad, who brought a question about inheritance to Moshe
Why should our father’s name be eliminated from his family because he had no son? Give us a portion along with our father’s brothers? (Bamidbar 27:4)
Moshe asks Hashem. Hashem tells him that they should inherit.
The Midrash praises the daughters immensely for their actions. However, what is so praiseworthy? They wanted a share in the land. It was a financial question. Should people be praised for asking about stocks and shares?
The Midrash explains — consider the times. When everyone was yelling “Let’s go back to Egypt, this is not going to work, this is no good…” Moshe was taken aback by the request of these women. Their interest in and desire for the Land was totally out of step with the “issues of the day”.
They were determined. They said “We don’t care what everyone else is saying now, we know that the Land of Israel is where the future of the Jewish People lies.” At a time when others are nullifying the Torah, that is the time to stand up and be counted.
As the Jewish people as a whole were struggling with the various ‘heat’ of the challenges of the Spies, Korach, Bilaam and Moab, the five daughters were proudly demonstrating their spiritual air conditioner, allowing them to overcome the negative atmosphere and align their values with Hashem.
Today we face a similar challenge, to stand up against the current culture whether in terms of morality, love of Israel or strong Torah observance.
We need AC – Avodah and Chinuch – Divine service and education.
However, we must never shut ourselves away from the wider Jewish world who also need to feel the cool blasts of relevant Torah education and experiences.
Over the last fortnight, Yehudi has allowed me to see nearly 600 children in our Jewish primary schools from across the religious spectrum. To view first-hand the Avodah and Chinuch that goes on in all the schools, whether the children come from observant, traditional or secular homes is wonderful to behold. What the schools have given them is such a positive, uplifting and enjoyable experience of Judaism. It is our hope and prayer that through Yehudi we can carry that through into their teenage years and keep the AC on in them and their families lives for many years to come!