On Thursday evening I went to two very different events, both focussing on the importance of Jewish education.
A large crowd gathered in our road in the early evening for the levaya of our neighbour, a well known talmid chacham and Torah teacher. One of the speakers said that although he was a businessman, he learned enough hours in the day to put many full time kollel men to shame. When the rabbi, another neighbour, began by observing that shortly we will be saying “U’nesaneh tokef” with the awe inspiring “who will live and who will die”, and who would have imagined that when we said it last year, we would be standing here now at this levaya, a shiver spread across the whole crowd. The 3 people who spoke: the rabbi, a son and a brother, all emphasised the deceased’s love of learning and teaching, while at the same time, showing his normality. His son said that every week, he would take orders from his numerous grandchildren for what Shabbos treat they would like. He would go and buy the treats, then pack them up in labelled bags and deliver them before Shabbos. When I told this to my daughter, a friend of his granddaughter, she smiled and said, “Yes, I’ve seen that.”
I rushed from the levaya to an event in honour of Jewish schools, organised by the Jewish Leadership Council, attended by about 200 key players in Jewish education, from primary to post graduate level. It was a stylish and original evening and emphasised the important place that Jewish schools have in our community today. The Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb pledged the Government’s continuing support for faith schools, and the Chief Rabbi and Daniel Finkelstein spoke both wittily and movingly about Jewish education in their respective families. It was a very positive event, and a welcome upbeat antidote to the earlier sadness.
I think the key unifying factor of both events was the difference that one person can make, to his own life, the life of his family and the life of the community. Maybe this is a suitable Elul thought to take with us into a new working week.