Apologies for not writing last week, but I had good reason.
It was our 25th wedding anniversary, and we spent a wonderful Shabbat in Tel Aviv. Of course, the subject for my message this week comes from that trip!
We had ordered a taxi to take us to the airport, we knew how long it could take at Ben Gurion for check in, so we were slightly upset and concerned when our cab turned up 10 minutes late. As I got into the cab, I quickly checked Waze to see how long the short journey from Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion would be.
Waze presented me with two stark options. Go north to avoid the Tel Aviv centre traffic (25 minutes) or go through town – much less distance but 41 minutes. Well, I thought, thankfully we now have Waze so we will be at the airport in 25 minutes – still ok for time.
You can imagine my surprise and annoyance when my cab driver, who was not in my good books for being late, began driving the 41-minute route! I noticed that he was not using Waze or Google maps – inexcusable. In the old days, I would have been in the dark about routes and timings, but now I had the evidence in my hand, and I told him.
‘Excuse me, why are you going this way? Waze says this way is much longer – over 40 minutes.’
He snorted, ‘Waze!’ ‘I am a Cab Driver, I know these roads, you will be at the airport in just over 20 – trust me!’
Ani Maamin b Waze, how could he be so sure, so convinced? I was not happy.
However, he then explained.
‘If you were driving a car, then yes, the shorter route through town would be much longer in time. However, there are roads only open to cabs and buses, I can use them, I know we will be much quicker – trust me’.
Sure enough, just over 20 minutes later we arrived at Ben Gurion. He turned to me ‘Now do you trust me?’ I admitted I was wrong to doubt his expertise in driving in Tel Aviv and we parted ways with a handshake and a smile.
What was the reason that I should have trusted him? The evidence I had in front of me said he was making a mistake. The issue was that he had a knowledge of something that I didn’t, which is why it appeared to me that he was taking the longer route. Yet, he is the expert, I should have just trusted him to go the correct way from the beginning. However, we live in a world where trust in a whole range of areas is at an all-time low. My incorrect initial thoughts were, I do not trust this driver.
With the release of the ‘Lockdown Files’ this week, this trust has decreased even more. Trust in government, media and academia is at an all time low. It is a sad state of affairs when only 27% of the population trust the mainstream media, 35% trust the government and 19% the banks. It is especially sad considering just 40 years ago these figures were 53%, 65% and 90%.
In America it is even more pronounced. The question that was asked over time was ‘Do you trust the government to do what is right just about always/most of the time’. This is a moral question, not a political one. Throughout the 50’s and half of the 60’s – the percentage was in the high 70’s. It is now languishing in the high teens!
However, there was another survey I saw this week, from Nishma, ‘Beliefs, Practices, Attitudes and Priorities Across the Jewish Community With a Focus on U.S. Modern Orthodox and Haredi (Chasidish and Yeshivish) Sectors’.
It is a fascinating look at how pretty much across the board, there is huge trust in the system, high levels of belief, observance and practice. The main reason there is trust is that over 90% believe in Hashem, Torah m Sinai and the mesorah. Once you have those areas as part of your world view, based on years of learning and experience, you can be like that cab driver, who has a knowledge of a world that others do not.
However, the most important area, is not that Orthodoxy is thriving, but that we have to be responsible for the rest of the community. To allow and encourage others to see the beauty, relevance and meaning of a Torah lifestyle. In the survey over 90% find their lives Jewishly fulfilling.
Furthermore we have to realise that within Orthodoxy there are different ways to approach Hashem. Whether Chassidic or Litvak, Sephardi or Ashkenazi or Chareidi or Modern – all are valid approaches, as long as they are part of the Mesorah. Further than that, we have an obligation to love all Jews regardless of their belief or practice. We learn that from the actions of the focus of this week’s parsha – Aharon ha Kohen.
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 difference demonstrates 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 Gemarah 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 Aaron. 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 and has caused a lot of the breakdown in trust across the institutions.
However, Aharon’s happiness is authentic and is in essence the solution to a lot of the world’s problems but so difficult for people to achieve.
A taxi ride in Tel Aviv made me understand the importance of realising the need for a restoration of trust to the western world, which will only come with a restoration of the Divine moral values displayed by Aaron and the Torah and ignored by Achashverosh and far too many people across the western world today.
They should begin by agreeing with the official motto of the United States of America