Meeting date: Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Meeting of the Parliament 22 November 2016
Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Adoption and Permanence, Business Motion, Decision Time, Erskine Hospital 100th Anniversary
- Time for Reflection
- Topical Question Time
- Adoption and Permanence
- Business Motion
- Decision Time
- Erskine Hospital 100th Anniversary
Time for Reflection
Good afternoon. Our first item of business this afternoon is time for reflection, for which our leader is Rabbi Yossi Bodenheim, who is the Jewish chaplain for all our universities in Scotland and assistant rabbi at Giffnock and Newlands synagogue.
Presiding Officer, thank you for the opportunity to share a thought with you.
I would like to talk about the attributes of kindness—“chessed” in Hebrew—and concern for others. The importance of chessed is emphasised by King David in the book of Psalms, where he writes that the whole world is built on chessed.
That idea is illustrated by the portion of the Torah that we read this week. It tells how our patriarch Abraham sent the head of his household to identify a suitable wife for his son Isaac. The Torah tells that Eliezer devised a test to help him to identify the right girl. He would ask for water, and if the girl offered to give water also to his camels, he would know that she possessed the attribute of chessed—kindness.
As Scotland’s Jewish student chaplain, my role is to bring chessed to Jewish students and to make sure that they are comfortable on campus, whether it is ensuring their welfare, providing social and educational events, or just being a listening ear. I also have to help them cope with anti-Semitism, because unfortunately it is an issue on campus as well.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I spent the weekend with Jewish students here in Edinburgh. We held a very successful Friday night dinner attended by around 50 students and, on Shabbat, my wife and I took our four young children for a walk in this beautiful city. However, as we were walking, a woman pushed my wife aside, grabbed my kippah, threw it on the ground and ran away. That took place less than a mile from here, in front of my young children; you can imagine how distressed they were. That hatred is the very opposite of chessed. Chessed is kindness, empathy and support for others. It means doing mitzvot—usually translated as “good deeds”—which is another of the key ideas of Judaism.
Recently, the idea of a special annual mitzvah day has caught on. Of course, that is not the only day that we do mitzvot but, like so many special days, it is an opportunity to focus on a single idea. Next Sunday will be mitzvah day, when Jewish communities will be doing chessed to others. I will be encouraging our students to think about practical ways of helping the less fortunate and to realise that, in this world where there is so much uncertainty, it is the mitzvah of chessed that joins us together.