Thoughts for the Week 6 July

This week the accounting firm Ernest & Young sponsored an evening to discuss Diversity & Inclusion. Among issues covered were; gender equality, disability access, lifestyle choice and faith in the workplace. Listening to a senior partner explain the importance of employees bringing their full identity to work, reminded me how much has improved in two generations.

My late father often related that when he’d graduated university after having served in the US Navy during WWII, despite having an engineering degree with high honours, on his first job interview the employer told him if he wasn’t willing to work on Saturdays, there would be no place for him in their firm. My own experience, as an orthodox Jew in a UK-based Japanese corporation when asking to leave early on winter Fridays and use annual leave for Jewish holidays, was to be told euphemistically that ‘some religious observance could hinder advancement in the firm’.

How refreshing to see resources now being expended to teach religious literacy and to offer diversity training in the corporate sector. Granted much of this has now become part of employment law. But as they mentioned several times during the EY presentation, there’s a difference between compliance (being tolerant of difference) and of actively embracing diversity. The latter, they believe, enhances creativity, productivity and employee loyalty.

Please join us on Shabbat to celebrate Meir Gotlieb’s bar mitsvah. Meir had his tefilllin ceremony earlier this week. He grew-up in this community and has for the past 5 years attended Shabbat services with his father from the start. Meir is well-known for reading part of the Zemirot, leading the boys in singing Yimlokh, and being one of our best football players against the BES older boys. We wish Meir and his family Mazal Tob.

This brief comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others. [Note: Quoted verses are taken from the Mechon Mamre website.]

Chapter 48: Psalm 48 is attributed to the sons of Korah and is a celebration of Mt Zion and Jerusalem. The Psalm divides into two sections. The first describes G-d’s presence on the mountain and in Jerusalem (Verses 1-9). And the second encourages nations to experience the majesty of G-d’s holy city and to feel the Divine Presence (Verses 10-15). [A copy of the full text can be found here.]

The Hebrew word Zion means monument. The great importance of Jerusalem is in its role as home for G-d’s Temple, where offerings could be brought and atonement affected. Great wonders and miracles occurred in the place where the Divine Presence was to be found, and the reputation of Jerusalem was known throughout the lands.

גָּדוֹל ה וּמְהֻלָּל מְאֹד– בְּעִיר אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ, הַר-קָדְשׁוֹ. Great is the LORD, highly to be praised; in God’s city, the holy mountain. (Psalms 48:2)

כִּי-הִנֵּה הַמְּלָכִים, נוֹעֲדוּ; עָבְרוּ יַחְדָּו. For, lo, kings assembled themselves, they came onward together. (Psalms 48:5)

כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁמַעְנוּ, כֵּן רָאִינוּ–בְּעִיר-ה צְבָאוֹת, בְּעִיר אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ: אֱ-לֹהִים יְכוֹנְנֶהָ עַד-עוֹלָם סֶלָה. As we’ve heard, so we’ve seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God— establish it for ever. Selah (Psalms 48:9)

From Abrahamic times, G-d’s sanctity was brought to rest on this sacred mountain where our forefathers expressed their utmost devotion. The metaphor of ‘knowing Jerusalem’ means also to share that experience widely throughout the known world. Venerating Jerusalem enabled the Jewish people to achieve a sense of immortality.

כְּשִׁמְךָ אֱ-לֹהִים– כֵּן תְּהִלָּתְךָ, עַל-קַצְוֵי-אֶרֶץ; צֶדֶק, מָלְאָה יְמִינֶךָ. As is Your name, O God, so is Your praise unto the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness. (Psalms 48:11)

יִשְׂמַח, הַר צִיּוֹן–תָּגֵלְנָה, בְּנוֹת יְהוּדָה: לְמַעַן, מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ. Let mount Zion be glad, let the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of Your judgments. (Psalms 48:12)

כִּי זֶה, אֱ-לֹהִים אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ–עוֹלָם וָעֶד; הוּא יְנַהֲגֵנוּ עַל-מוּת. For such is God; our God, for ever and ever; guiding us eternally! (Psalms 48:15)

Some consider that this Psalm refers only to the past while others see it allegorically as related to Messianic times. Psalm 48 is traditionally read at the end of Shaharit as the daily psalm for Monday mornings.