Time for Reflection

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 14th May 2013.

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Rabbi David Rose:

Presiding Officer, thank you for inviting me to address Parliament.

This evening, Jewish people in Scotland and around the world will begin to celebrate the festival of Shavuot. The festival has several different aspects. In the Torah—the Bible—it appears as primarily an agricultural festival, marking the beginning of the harvest season in the land of Israel and the bringing of the first fruits to the Temple.

In later Jewish tradition, Shavuot is regarded as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. On this festival, we read the book of Ruth, telling the story of the Moabite convert who, through her selfless kindness, merited becoming the ancestress of King David and eventually the Messiah.

Those different themes of the festival have much to teach us today. We live in a material world and, in many ways, a material society, yet the connection of the agricultural festival of Shavuot with the giving of the Torah teaches us the importance of the values that we hold dear.

The strength of a society or nation is measured not only by its economic success but by the values on which it is based. We need a strong economy, but also strong communities informed by strong values. Those values have to be part of our education system, inform our political debate and form the basis for our civic communities.

One of the most important values for any society is that related to the story of Ruth. Our sages teach us that Ruth was written and included in the Bible only in order to teach us the supreme importance of loving kindness. It is on the willingness to help others and, in some cases, sacrifice for them that the world is built. Kindness, consideration and mutual assistance are the glue that holds a society together and makes it strong. Without those values, even the most powerful state will eventually disintegrate and the strongest economy fail. Those are indeed the values that Scotland has rightly been famous for and that should be regarded as our greatest national asset.

So, as you go about your work to make a better Scotland, may God inspire you so that your actions are informed by kindness, and base everything you do on the values that are the foundation of our nation.

Thank you and happy Shavuot.