10/11 May 2024, 3 Iyyar 5784

I recently noticed that the Quakers have come up with a new tagline: ‘Simple. Radical and Spiritual.’

In the 1930s, many Quakers were involved in kinder transport, sponsoring many children. Their concern for the outlier has not diminished. The Quakers still lead on refugee settlement and support. But they also lead on simple prayer and community.

I think a great deal about what it means to be Jewish right now. What three adjectives might any of us choose? I suspect we will go on thinking about this ad infinitum or l’ad olam in the Hebrew. Prayer, community, courage, action, kindness might be just a few we’d pick.

I’m writing these words on Yom HaShoah, having lit my yahrzeit candle and caught the National event. On the 3rd May 1960, 64 years ago, the Anne Frank House opened its doors to the public. I have taken many groups of Jewish children there and their response is always palpable. When I was a child, learning and talking about Anne Frank as a traditional Jewish woman was de rigueur in Orthodox synagogue’s Bat Chayil ceremonies on a Sunday afternoon-with no prayer leading. Now, I believe we want to honour the memories of Anne and her sister Margot and to teach our own children the gift and responsibility of their Judaism, to spur them to action and pride.  I showed this extraordinary film of Ben Ferencz to anyone I could over this weekend. The legacy he leaves is so vivid right now.

So when this week’s portion K’doshim tells the Israelites – and us of course as we read it now, “You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2), we consider what it means to be holy.

Parashat K’doshim teaches that it’s impossible to separate decent relations between humans from the commandments between a person and their God.

It’s all the same.

Harming or insulting a person is the same as harming or insulting the image of God in that person; therefore, it is harming or insulting to God. Embezzling public money is no different from embezzling that which is holy to God. The reason to “be holy” is because “I, the Eternal your God, am holy.” The holiness of God requires that we lead a thoughtful, sacred life. Part of that is bearing witness to the past, the present and our futures, including today’s recent escalations in Rafah. Let Ben Ferencz show you how.

I cannot say enough how important the concert will be at FPS on 19th May when we will mark Yom HaShoah this year together; as a community there are many stories and connections that we need to hear as well as the music that will accompany. Please join us. I’m proud that we are hosting this.

Shabbat Shalom,