28/29 June 2024, 23 Sivan 5784

There are sharp divisions between the Jewish people all over the world.

We might not yet call it a civil war, thank God, but the dissent between us is distressing.

I am not sure about the percentages but a large group of Jews are more, and maybe even exclusively, drawn to the suffering of Jews and the plight we are in; such is the trauma that it is impossible for them to see others’ suffering. The other group feels that pain but also deeply feels the responsibility and values of Jewish life threatened by the suffering unleashed on others. It is safe to say this is a profoundly difficult time for all of us, wherever we sit on that continuum. Dissent troubles us in the British Jewish community, even though our name means wrestling with God – Yisra (wrestle) El (God). I heard yesterday about families torn about these past 7 months or so – families not even caught up in the terrible troubles – just the mere act of talking and conversing has proved divisive and injurious.

In the Book of Esther study group, we have been reading with great interest this diaspora fairytale that speaks so acutely to the news right now.

There have always been passionate differences of views and as always, our Torah portion speaks to this, with the fractured response to those scouts who checked out the land for Moses and the people. The scouts produced bad reports about the land that they had seen (Numbers 13:32). The people began to panic, screaming and crying, and saying they wanted to go back to Egypt (Numbers 14:1). They even threaten to throw stones at anyone who tries to calm them down (Numbers 14:10).

I pray for us to keep talking, keep discussing and keep open to each other’s points of view, however challenging we may find them.

Shabbat Shalom,