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Machshavot | Parashat Tzav

March 22, 2019 Andrew Shaw
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While I was getting ready for Purim on Wednesday night the news came through that Theresa May was going to make a statement to the country at 8pm.

The internet was abuzz with what the statement could be – will she resign? Will she tell us she is going to move ahead with no deal? Will she explain what she is going to ask the EU for? Etc.

I, like any normal person was very interested in what she was about to say, unfortunately, no one had given her Megillah times and it was unlikely that we would be finished by 8pm. Obviously someone did tell her, as she delayed for 30 minutes, and most of us were finished by 8:30pm.

In the end, I didn’t listen, I was breaking my fast and schmoozing with friends in shul after Megillah. However, I did read the transcript later – and I was astounded. What am I about to write is nothing about Brexit and politics and everything about Purim and Torah!

The core of her speech was this:

‘So far, Parliament has done everything possible to avoid making a choice. Motion after motion and amendment after amendment have been tabled without Parliament ever deciding what it wants. All MPs have been willing to say is what they do not want. I passionately hope MPs will find a way to back the deal I have negotiated with the EU.’

In summary – I am not the problem, the MP’s are.

Now let me explain the Purim link.

As we know, Purim is a day like no other. It is a day when we can achieve a connection to Hashem through pure physical actions that connect us deeply to Hashem and to our family and community. There are a lot of connections between Purim and Yom Kippur. The first link is of course the words themselves, the words for Yom Kippur in the Torah are Yom Kippurim, which literally means a day like Purim. However, you would find it hard to find two days more different than the serious fast day of Yom Kippur and the joyous feast day of Purim. The idea given is that we can achieve a higher level of Kedusha on Purim by engaging correctly with the physical world, than we can with our ascetic approach on Yom Kippur.

The Sfat Emet explains that another link is that Purim is a time of teshuva and it is written in the kabbalah that Yom Kippur and Purim share this same spiritual concept. When we look at it, the whole victory of Purim was because the Jewish people did Teshuva and merited the salvation. Therefore on Purim as well as focussing on the mitzvot of the day, we should also be understanding the bigger picture of the story of Purim and the mitzvot of Purim motivating us towards teshuva.

Teshuva is not easy whether on Purim or Yom Kippur, but the core of any teshuva process is the realisation that you are the problem that needs fixing – don’t go blaming everybody else – take responsibility for yourself.

As Purim came in, Theresa May demonstrated how not to do Teshuva. Rather than realise that the fault of the failure to vote for her deal, was because the vast majority of MP’s think it is awful, she decided to tell us that the fault lay with them not with her. Needless to say this didn’t go down well with MP’s on both sides of the house.

However, this is not a fault solely of our prime minister – we are all guilty of failing to realise our faults and blaming our mistakes on others. It is far easier to point the finger at others than actually deal with changing ourselves.

I don’t know if Theresa May knew it was Purim yesterday, but she is badly in need of some sort of Shushan salvation. I guess she could get drunk and forget about it – or she could ideally follow the message of Teshuva and look inwards for solutions.

Who knows with all these extensions … we may not leave till Pesach!

Shabbat Shalom

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