14/15 June 2019, 11/12 Sivan 5779

Last weekend’s Shavuot celebrations (Dalet & Hey, right, making ‘Tanach cake’ at Ivriah on Sunday morning), combined with Kabbalat Torah celebrations, reminded me of the power of stories.

I have just recorded 8 Pause for Thought scripts to be aired on Radio 2’s late night programme with OJ Borg and repeated on Sunday mornings. For this week the Best Story Ever. Stories are brilliant and I truly believe that one of the most important story-related skills children can learn is to tell stories about themselves and each other.

Last month the fantastic author Judith Kerr died. She was 95 and had written stories for 60 years. Judith was famously a refugee. She arrived in this country before WW2 seeking refuge here with her parents and brother.

In her book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit she shared her experiences of leaving her home in Germany and travelling in danger across Europe to safety in London. She was one of our most beloved story tellers and my favourite is The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

All my children grew up on this story book as did I. A tiger knocks on Sophie’s door and has an unexpected tea with her and her mother. He wolfs down cakes and sandwiches, even the tins in the cupboard are emptied. Sophie gazes on delightedly, as the tiger drinks all the water out of the taps and finally Daddy’s sad face appears as he arrives home and is told there is no food left in the house. And to the delight of Sophie they all go out for sausage and chips.

Judith always rejected the suggestion that the tiger symbolised the Nazi Gestapo echoing her own experience of unwelcome guests knocking on your door. Actually the reverse seems to be true.

Judith Kerr has told the best story ever because she of all people knew of the kindness of strangers, the joy of being open to the unexpected, the welcoming of visitors (human and otherwise) and the excitement of an unanticipated dinner out in your pyjamas.

And in this year, with all its uncertainties, this is the story I’ll keep coming back to. A reminder that, like Abraham welcoming visitors to his tent in the heat of the day, I must always reach out to strangers, remain open minded and generous and welcoming. Judith taught us and our children an invaluable lesson, that welcoming a tiger to tea is exactly what one should always do.

Shabbat Shalom and let’s hope we keep telling stories.

Rabbi Rebecca