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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 09 June 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Coronavirus Acts Report, Covid-19 Next Steps (Communities), Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon, colleagues. I begin, as usual, by reminding members that social distancing rules are in place throughout the campus, including in the chamber. I remind members to be particularly careful on entering and leaving the chamber.

We begin, as we always do, with time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is Rabbi Moshe Rubin, Rabbi of Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation and Senior Rabbi of Scotland, who joins us via live videolink.

Rabbi Moshe Rubin (Rabbi of Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation and Senior Rabbi of Scotland)

I was recently sent a picture of the first day back at primary school after the lockdown, and there, sitting at the children’s desks, were pupils—all in their 90s. There is humour and sadness, laughing and crying, worry and hope. I do not envy your task, parliamentarians. The word that we keep on hearing is “unprecedented” times—and never a truer word was said.

In making decisions about how and when to end the lockdown, how and when to reopen the schools, how and when to reopen the economy, and how and when to support the many who are suffering economically due to the lockdown, you are literally debating and deciding the wellbeing of every person in the country—what an incredible ask of you.

In the great book of the Talmud, Ethics of the Fathers, the sage Rabbi Yochanan asked his students, “What is the most virtuous path in life that one should choose?” The replies came back: one said a good eye; the second said a good friend; the third said a good neighbour; and the fourth said always seeing the outcome of your actions. Finally, Rabbi Eleazar replied, “A good heart,” to which their teacher responded that Rabbi Eleazar’s answer was the correct one, as it encapsulated all the other answers.

A good heart means being a supportive neighbour and a caring friend, and having a generous eye towards the other. Throughout the crisis, what has kept the country going is the good heart: the dedication of the key workers, the amazing voluntary work that is taking place in communities, the Thursday night clapping for the national health service, the sweet art work of rainbows by the children, the home-schooling parents, the ingenuity of our teachers—it goes on and on.

However, as we come out of lockdown and the full scale of the cost and the many other challenges that are due to lockdown come to light, that good heart will be tested. It is to you—the country’s leaders—that society will look for reassurance, hope and strength. It will be you and the leaders of the communities who will have the task of keeping that heart good and strong.

I bless you, and all leaders, with our prophet Moses’s blessing. May it be God’s will that he rest his divine presence in the work of your hands.

Thank you very much, Rabbi Rubin. I am sorry that you cannot be with us in person, but I thank you for joining us from home.