Vayikra 5774 - 7th March 2014
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Friday 7th March 2014

If the headline of The Times gave you pause for thought yesterday - “Stop ritual slaughter of animals, says top vet” - just consider what the average Times reader might have made of the sub-headline: “Muslims and Jews urged to use humane methods”.

In an age where one person’s tweet or Facebook post can shape a global debate in a matter of seconds words matter a great deal, as do informed opinions and a preparedness to act on them.

But what determines when something has happened that warrants our taking action? From a Jewish perspective there is no shortage of issues of concern in the political landscape, (shechita, brit milah or anti-Semitism dressed up as anti-Zionism to name just a few). Yet how many of us can say with confidence that we have done all that we should to shape that landscape? How many of us have yet to receive a sufficient stimulus to enter the debate? This problem is exemplified by the boiling frog syndrome. The theory goes that a frog placed in water that is ever-so-gradually heated to boiling point will fail to notice the change in its surroundings and eventually be cooked to death.

Today’s newspapers may be more a reason to take umbrage than to take up arms – we may not feel that any ‘red lines’ have been crossed - but in any event it behoves each of us to at least consider the following: What are the ‘red-lines’ in the issues that I really care about? Am I properly informed about the issues? When push comes to shove, would I be prepared to speak out? If we don’t engage with these questions then our future might be hot and frog-shaped.

A final observation: the boiling frog syndrome should be approached as a metaphor only. One shudders to think of anyone perpetrating such an experience on a defenceless animal. Such would not be a very Jewish way to behave; we don’t do cruelty to animals.

Shabbat Shalom,

The You & US Team


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