Rabbi Sch­nei­der’s weekly words of wis­dom

Be­cause there was no room on the Ju­daism page, Rabbi David Sch­nei­der (who is ab­so­lutely no re­la­tion to the writer/ac­tor/di­rec­tor David Sch­nei­der you may have seen on television) will be re­view­ing the weekly sidrah here

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES -

What a won­der­ful par­sha to be­gin th­ese Weekly Words of Wis­dom (With Rabbi David Sch­nei­der) — the par­sha that tells of the last three plagues and the go­ing out from Egypt. A new be­gin­ning for the chil­dren of Is­rael and, more im­por­tantly, a new be­gin­ning for the fea­tures pages of the JC. Of course, it would have been bet­ter to have started at Rosh Hashanah or Sim­chat To­rah, when we start read­ing the To­rah all over again, but no, the ed­i­tor, in his wis­dom, um-ed and aah-ed and was fre­quently un­avail­able, like the four pre­vi­ous edi­tors be­fore him, un­til fi­nally, like Pharaoh, he gave in and re­leased my words from bondage. At least I didn’t have to slay any first-borns to get my way. I’m jok­ing, of course. But what about the par­sha, with its story of Passover? When I think of the Seder night, I think of the four sons in the Ha­gadah, es­pe­cially the sneer­ing son who says of the Passover mir­a­cles: “What’s this to me? Be­hold, am I both­ered? Does my face look both­ered?” Well, if he were my son, I would be quite witty and say in a smil­ing but adult way: “Re­move thy hoody and be both­ered! We may no longer be slaves in the strict Kirk Douglas Spar­ta­cus sense of the word (though they were more gla­di­a­tors, I sup­pose), but in many ways we still are (slaves, not gla­di­a­tors).”

There are many dif­fer­ent forms of slav­ery. Take a con­tem­po­rary ex­am­ple. A man’s wife tries for years to get him to agree to hav­ing an ex­ten­sion built at the back of their house so they can have a break­fast bar and easy ac­cess to their south­fac­ing gar­den. It’s an in­vest­ment, she says, it’ll put value on the house.

So fi­nally he con­cedes. So they get quotes, choose a builder (even though, quite frankly, his quote was the least com­pet­i­tive) and the work com­mences. Lit­tle progress is made; in fact, af­ter a few weeks it seems to the man that work has ground to a halt. But he’s a busy, work­ing man and he’s en­trusted the project-man­age­ment to his wife, so he keeps sh­tum.

So imag­ine his sur­prise when he comes home one day dur­ing the day­time to find his wife of 22 years in bed with the builder. All the more sur­pris­ing, see­ing as the builder’s com­pany is called Lady­build and the builder’s ac­tu­ally a wo­man called — con­fus­ingly, be­cause it’s a man’s name as well — Les­lie. No apolo­gies, no ex­cuses, just “that’s the way it is, like it or lump it!” Is that not treat­ing some­one worse than a slave? Is that not be­hav­ing ex­actly like Pharoah, do­ing what­ever you want? I rather think it is! I rather think only Pharoah would hire a les­bian builder then sleep with her be­hind her hus­band’s back!

And I don’t think she can wrig­gle out of it by say­ing it’s his fault, he’s to blame! He’s been spend­ing all that time with a fe­male mem­ber of the con­gre­ga­tion who’s in her 30s and who is, I sup­pose, very at­trac­tive, not that I’ve no­ticed. Doesn’t mat­ter that she’s blind and re­cov­er­ing from ma­jor surgery, that she’s un­able to read to her­self, so it’s ac­tu­ally a mitz­vah to spend time with her, read­ing, talk­ing.

Yes, we’re all slaves in one way or other, we all have to en­dure dif­fer­ent forms of bondage — be it de­pres­sion or anx­i­ety or ma­li­cious gos­sip say­ing, for ex­am­ple, that there’s some­thing phys­i­cal go­ing on with this con­gre­gant which, by the way, is pure loshen hora, speak­ing evil of an­other per­son, which, she should know, is a griev­ous, re­ally, re­ally hor­ri­ble sin.

I fol­low the sages when they say it is bet­ter to lose one’s tongue than speak evil of a per­son. I’d hon­estly rather be struck dumb than say one neg­a­tive word about some­one else. It’s just a shame that this pa­thetic, spite­ful, schem­ing witch who’s cast­ing as­per­sions on an in­no­cent, at­trac­tive blind girl doesn’t feel the same way.

Next week: Pa­tience, trust and love: Par­sha Be­shal­lach

TO­RAH POR­TION: BO (Ex­o­dus 10:1 – 13:6)

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