Month: י״ג בסיון תשע״ח (May 27, 2018)
Not everyone can say that ‘ People would like to have ministers like me’
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Wonderful Methodist fringe event at Southport synagogue
Congratulations and thanks are in order to the Jewish British Board of Deputies and our own Methodist external relations department who came up with the idea of a Jewish cultural evening and seder meal as a fringe event to our own Methodist Conference.
The local synagogue in Southport pulled out all the stops and made us feel very welcome. I was, incidentally, very touched by the personal invitation from members of the Jewish community despite not being a conference delegate.
There were about 120 delegates present making it one of the biggest fringe events ever held at a Methodist Conference in living memory. Rabbi Saunders – please G-d let us have Ministers like him – introduced us to the fabric and layout of the synagogue. Much of what he said resonated with members of a denomination which started worshiping in fields and barns.
The Rabbi then led us into the community hall where there was an exhibition on the Jewish Way of Life (by the way this will be open again this evening for delegates who didn’t make it last night). We then sat down for a splendid meal as the Rabbi explained each element of the meal, and described how they mixed worship and education with food, much like a good Alpha course!
We then had short speeches from the local chair of district, the vice president of the BOD and the head of our external affairs department. They described the painful journey from last year’s awful conference (my word, not theirs) when relations between the two communities had broken down following the disgraceful (again my word not theirs) acceptance by conference of the “report” on Palestine and Israel.
Since then there has been a series of meetings which have now enabled a dialogue to get underway. Last night’s meal would have been impossible during last year’s conference and we must hope and pray for better understanding between the tow communities.
In this week’s sedra the Jews complained about their lack of good food. They recalled all the delicacies of Egypt and asked specifically for meat. Hashem eventually gave meat to them but killed them all after a month.
How could the Jews be so ungrateful as to complain and ask for meat? After all, they had everything they needed handed to them on a plate.
Why does the Torah use the expression (ch 11 v 1) ‘The people were LIKE COMPLIANERS’? Surely they were complainers!!!!
I think these questions can be answered as follows:
The Rabbis tell us that there are 13 expressions of prayer (midrash shimonei beginning of parshat vo etchanan). Each expression denotes a different aspect to prayer and all of them can be used. The midrash recounts all the instances where they were used in the bible. Here are there English equivalents;-
(explanations of these expressions is beyond the scope of this work at the moment)
Moshe used many of these expressions to intercede to Hashem on behalf of the Jews. After the Jews made the golden calf He reasoned with Hashem not to destroy the Jews on account that the nations would think G-d was too weak to bring the Jews to the land of Israel.
This is what I believe the Jews were doing in this instance. They tried to reason with Hashem that if in the slavery of Egypt they had meat then how much more so in the utopic situation of the desert they should enjoy the same delicacies.
This is why the Torah uses the expression ‘like complainers’ because they were not really complaining. However, they still sinned on their exulted level because they should have been contented with their lot.
This is how we can understand all the other instances that the Jews complained. On many occasions when faced with either no water or with on rushing enemies they reasoned
‘What was the point of leaving Egypt to die in the desert, we might as well return’
This was not a statement of ungrateful people but rather a plea of reasoning and persuading Hashem to answer their requests.
The Rabbis in their great wisdom have advised that people should not reason with Hashem nowadays. This is because the line is so thin and it is easy to cross over to the realms of sin.