Saturday, December 02, 2006

Time for Reflection

This is the d'var Torah that I gave to the Scottish Parliament many moons ago (Wednesday 26 January 2000 to be precise). You can see it on the official record of the parliament

Not very good, but what would you have said. E-mail me your topic of choice for the Scottish Parliament (religious, not political please).

Time for Reflection

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): Our time for reflection today will be led by Rabbi David Sedley of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation.
Rabbi David Sedley: I am honoured to have been chosen as the representative of the Scottish Jewish community to offer the time for reflection. The desire by the Parliament of Scotland to involve religious leaders of all faiths is a tribute to the openness of Scottish society, and its encouragement of pluralism. Scots should be proud of their long history of tolerance towards other religious communities, and of the safe haven that they have offered when doors were closed in other parts of the world.
Yesterday the country celebrated Burns day. I suppose that as Rabbie Burns is unable to attend today, it is appropriate to have another Rabbi to offer the opening prayer in his place. In his poem, "How can my poor heart be glad", Burns's wish is that the brotherhood of man will bring about peace. The last verse reads:
"Peace, thy olive wand extendAnd bid wild War his ravage end;Man with brother man to meet,And as brother kindly greet!"
The concepts of peace and brotherhood are universal goals and ideals. Peace is one of the three pillars that the world stands upon, as the Mishna states:
"The world stands on three things, on justice, on truth and on peace."
Peace is the foundation upon which all other blessings are built, for without peace, physical and spiritual prosperity are meaningless.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which according to Judaism is one of the many names of God. It is also used as a greeting, in place of both hello and goodbye. I suppose that that can cause confusion, as we do not know whether we are coming or going, but it also serves as a constant reminder that the most important kind of peace is one that occurs in our daily interaction with others.
The prophet Isaiah tells us:
"I will create a new expression of the lips, 'Peace, peace,
both for far and near, says the Lord'."
That teaches us that there are two kinds of peace: one which operates on a national or global level, but another, equally important, which is near, and occurs on a daily basis in our interactions with others.
The peace and welfare of their host nation is always important to Jews, as Jeremiah commanded us in the name of God:
"Seek the peace of the city into which I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray to the Lord for it. For in its peace shall you have peace."
In the Bible, Aharon helped his brother Moses to free the Jews from slavery in Egypt and lead them through the desert. The Mishna describes him as one who personified peace:
"Hillel used to say, 'Be among the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace'."
I would therefore like to conclude with the priestly blessing, which God commanded Aharon and his descendants to confer upon the nation:
"Yevarech'cha Adonai v'Yishmerecha, Ya'er Adonai Panaiv Ailecha Vichunech, Yissa Adonai Panaiv Ailecha v'Yasem Lecha Shalom".
May the Lord bless you and protect you; may the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn His face to you and give you peace.

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