A Trinity of Lunches
Rabbi Andrew Shaw
Chief Executive, Mizrachi UK
I had three different lunches this week which got to the heart of what Mizrachi is attempting to achieve here in the UK.
The first was with our new Shaliach in Manchester, Rabbi Ari Silbermann, who, along with his wife Laura is bringing Torat Yisrael to communities all over Manchester as well as in the schools and the University – it was wonderful to hear about the sterling work he is doing.
The second was with potential future Mizrachi Fellows who will hopefully be joining the six couples already in Israel doing semicha, helping create the next generation of Religious Zionist Rabbis and Rabbaniot. Their passion and drive was a delight to listen to.
The third was a bit different. It was not a Rabbi, or a Rabbinic student.
At the third meeting, my lunch guest handed me a magazine and pointed me to the welcome message. The magazine, written in 2017, was in honour of 100 years since the Balfour Declaration.
The welcome message was as follows:
‘The return of the Jewish people to their historic Homeland is of global significance. The nation of Israel has been reborn and their language revived. No other people in world history can compare. It has happened because Almighty God said it would. The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob has restored His chosen people to the land He had chosen for them.’
Who wrote such an introduction?
It is something Mizrachi for sure would have written – had we been asked. No, this had been written by Christian Zionists, one of whom I met this week for lunch!
It was a wonderful lunch, to be both quoting pasukim from Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zachariah which all speak about the eventual return of the Jewish people to Israel was very special. We both agreed we are living in wondrous times.
What saddened me somewhat is that we spoke about the fact that most Jewish groups would not have written such a paragraph. So much of the Zionism in this country and globally does not relate to the Yad Hashem – the Hand of God in the miraculous return of our people in 1948. They don’t affirm that our return has religious significance which we are reminded of on a daily basis in our prayers.
There is a remarkable line in the parsha which I thought of during the lunch. It is in Shemot 2:6 when Moshe is discovered by Batia, Pharoah’s daughter. ‘Va tirehu et ha yeled, v hinei naar boche’– and she saw the child and behold a child was crying. However, the pasuk uses two words – yeled and naar. Why not just write ‘And she saw the child and behold he was crying’, why use a second word and why a different word?
Rashi says that the word ‘naar’ youth was used as even though he was a child, his voice and his cries had the maturity of a youth.
The Baal Ha Turim has a different and stunning interpretation. He says the youth the Torah is speaking about is Aaron – he was crying, as he was worried about his baby brother. I too am crying, worried about our community – both nationally and internationally.
The journey that stated this week in Parshat Shemot was destined to take us to two mountains. First Har Sinai for the Torah and then Har Moriah for the Bet Ha Mikdash and Yerushalayim.
The fact that our Christian brothers can see the truth of our miraculous return, and the importance of our Torah observance more than most Jews can, is definitely worth crying about.
However, my first two lunches allowed me to wipe my tears. There has to be a response to the crisis of lack of connection to Torat Yisrael, and the response is simply to create more leaders who have the ability to get that message out far and wide. That is at the heart of the Mizrachi mission.
My Christian friend pointed out to me the following. ‘About 15% of the Jewish community in the UK are religious but they are not Zionist’ he said ‘ A large part of the Jewish community are Zionist but they are not religious, but only a very small percentage of the Jewish community are both Religious and Zionist but that is what you need to inspire the UK Jewish community to become.’
All I could say to him was…