I was in Manchester this week. We brought over Benny Davidson, a survivor of the Entebbe hijacking, and he is inspiring communities up and down the country. He spoke during the week to packed audiences in Glasgow and Hale. If you want to catch him, he is speaking in Hampstead as part of The Spirit of Hampstead Festival on Sunday afternoon or on Monday evening in Kenton.
Anyway, we arrived at Manchester Piccadilly Station, and took an Uber to North Manchester. Our Uber driver was Mohammed and straight away we got into a heated conversation about religion. It was both enlightening and amusing.
You see, Mohammed loves to cook, his brother owns a restaurant and of course, they both keep Halal. ‘Problem is’, he tells us, ‘It’s not good enough anymore to have a restaurant that says it is Halal – now we have to have an organisation that we have to pay a fee to, to obtain a licence that says we are Halal’.
He understands the needs for standards, but is upset by the extra fees he has to pay to the HRC (the Muslim equivalent of the KLBD!).
As we drove through the streets of Manchester, we spoke about the similarities between Kosher and Halal, the difficulties of living a traditional way of life in an untraditional age, and the friendliness of people from Yorkshire (he was a Leeds boy).
We got out at a Kosher restaurant in Manchester and invited Mohammed to join us. He declined as he had to get back on the road, but thanked us profusely for our invitation – and off he drove.
The drive made me think, we live in a society where we are threatened by the other. We fail sometimes, especially when it comes to Muslim / Jewish relations, to see the similarities in our lives of those who we may perceive as the other.
Tetzaveh is the Parsha of Aharon HaKohen. We know Aharon practiced ‘ohev shalom v’rodef shalom’ – loving peace and pursuing peace. However, it goes deeper than that. Aharon was aware of the glorious differences between human beings and that differences demonstrate human uniqueness. In essence, the less one is threatened by another’s unique and distinct creativity, the further you are from sinat chinam – baseless hatred. This was Aharon exactly.
Tetzaveh is also normally Parshat Zachor and therefore the Shabbat before Purim. There is the obvious link between Tetzaveh with the stress on clothing. In fact the Parsha (28:2) uses the words ‘l chavod u l tifaret’ for ‘glory and splendour’ to describe the Kohen’s garments. In the Megillah (1:4), the same words appear to describe the banquet, ‘Kvod Malcuto v et yakar Tiferet’. The Gemara remarks that it was the same clothes. Achashverosh used the vestments of the Temple and the clothes of the Kohanim at the feast.
Achashverosh was the polar opposite of Aharon. For him, there was a complete disregard of individual dignity. His personal unhappiness always needed to prove significance; he was constantly groping for popularity. Something I would say is very much the curse of the 21st century.
However, Aharon’s happiness is authentic and is in essence the solution to many of the world’s problems, but so difficult for people to achieve. A taxi ride in Manchester made me realise the importance of realising the humanity in all of us and the need to recognise our similarities, not just our differences.
Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach!
Rabbi Andrew Shaw