Good morning Justin, good morning John and good morning to you all.
Well, back in the good old days of World War II, I was evacuated from my cosy East End flat to the countryside. The countryside was horrible. It had all these big wide open, spaces covered in green stuff and it was full of animals. I can't tell you what a relief it was to get back home to The Blitz.
I learned all I need to know in the University of Life, on Whitechapel High Street. Have I ever mentioned that it feels better to give than to receive? I don't think I have, so I'll mention it now: it feels better to give than to receive. You don't believe me? Honestly it does. If you've never given anything before, give it a go, you'll be amazed how good it feels.
In the good old days, when hot buttered scones could be bought at a dozen for a farthing, my granny used to tell me that you're never closer to the Invisible Magic Friend than when you meet a beggar. Who would have thought that the Invisible Magic Friend would be accompanied by such a distinctive aroma? In the good old days there were rather a lot of beggars on Whitechapel High Street. I believe they still have them in the more godly parts of eastern Europe.
You should never pass a beggar without giving them a penny. In the good old days this consumed all my pocket money, but I felt better for giving it away. Have I ever mentioned that it feels better to give than to receive?
Anyway, let's end with a little joke. A woman meets a beggar and the beggar tells her he hasn't eaten in three days. "Force yourself," she tells him. "Force yourself."
Monday, 22 August, 2011, 08:30 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Good morning Justin, good morning Evan and good morning to you all.
Well, whatever the news is, I'm sure it's terrible. There'll be wars, financial collapse, riots in the streets. Although congratulations to the people of Libya, but apart from that, everything is just depressing and hopeless and thoroughly miserable.
Let's think of things like our bed and snuggling under the duvet, or maybe a nice hot cup of cocoa. Think of how much better off we are than victims of the Nazis. Alternatively, in these harsh, desperate, unfortunate times, why not give something to charity. Helping a starving child will make you feel so much better in this relentlessly grim world.
And now, so as not to leave you in a forlorn, pessimistic, wretched mood, here is a short humorous tale to alleviate the otherwise uncompromising awfulness of it all.
One woman asks another, "How is you son the professor?"
"Oh he got the sack, but now he's a brilliant suit salesman. He made an amazing sale to a widow for her husband's funeral."
"What's so brilliant about that? You have to look good for your husband's funeral."
"Sure, but with two pairs of trousers?"
I'm getting on a bit and have to visit hospitals and clinics rather a lot. I'm learning things that I never appreciated when I used to visit as a hospital chaplain. It's little things that make the experience more human. The volunteers who sell goods from a trolley provide an opportunity to socialise. The nurse who gave me some knitting needles gave me not only a new hobby, but a distraction. The staff at the Parkinson's clinic remain patient when we bump into things or each other. It's kindness that distinguishes a hellish ward from a heavenly one.
Good morning Sarah, good morning Justin, and good morning to you all.
University students are beginning to celebrate the end of their exams. For some, the result will not be all they had hoped for. I can sympathise with that. Sixty years ago, a mental breakdown took me from anticipating a first to barely scraping through. Being gay, any relationship was a criminal offence. As a Marxist, I had no Invisible Magic Friend to turn to. Even my parents had threatened suicide.
It's only when you've experienced failure, what it's like to be at rock bottom, when your pride has been stripped and revealed as false, that you learn mercy and compassion. You have to make mistakes in order to learn how to do things right. Sometimes this involves many false starts. It took my first two relationships to learn that you must love people as they are, rather than as you would want them to be.
And to the students with a first class degree in politics and economics who still can't get a job - well at least you're clever enough to know why you can't get a job.
Monday, 21 February, 2011, 08:31 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Good morning John, good morning Jim and good morning to you all.
Well isn't the news just terrible, whatever it is. I don't pretend to know how it all happened or how it should all be solved, but I do want to point out that it's all happened before.
Long, long ago, when I was a lad and woolly mammoths still roamed the great icy plains, we had an economic downturn too. People moaned about the lack of crumpets to toast while sitting at their mammy's knee. At times like these, people become angered and embittered, they turn to scapegoats. Well let me tell you this is precisely how Nazi Germany started.
My friend, Baroness Vera von der Heydt, she was a baroness you know, lost everything to the Nazis when she came to Britain. She didn't remain all bitter and twisted. Instead, she prayed to the Invisible Magic Friend and he told her to become a psychoanalyst.
I too wandered from chapel to chapel, being bitter and muttering bitterly.
"What should I do?", I asked the Invisible Magic Friend.
"WELL, YOU'RE IN A CHAPEL, WHY NOT BECOME A RABBI?"
"What a good idea," I said.
Laughter is also a good way of not being bitter, so here's a joke that I learned long, long ago, in the distant past, from my grandfather, who was married to my grandmother, that being the accepted fashion at the time.
A Jewish beggar finds a £5 note, but being the Sabbath doesn't want to pick it up.
"What will I do, oh Invisible Magic Friend?" he cried.
The LORD understood his problem, and in his divine mercy, waived the death penalty for gathering fuel on the Sabbath.
"LET IT BE WEDNESDAY WHERE YOU ARE," said the Invisible Magic Friend.
Well, time for bed. Good night John, good night Jim and good night to you all. Good night Invisible Magic Friend.
"GOOD NIGHT LIONEL."
Monday, 14 February, 2011, 09:05 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Good morning John, good morning Justin and good morning to you all.
I've known many atheists you know. Many have been very nice people indeed. In fact, some of my best friends are atheists. Just because they haven't got an Invisible Magic Friend, there is no reason why they can't do good. I've known atheists who took an active interest in politics, in charity and even in helping strangers.
Why, we are bound to ask, did the Invisible Magic Friend make atheists? Well, to be truly moral, you have to act as if there wasn't an Invisible Magic Friend. There is one of course but just act as if there wasn't. Atheists are also very good at doubting things. They doubt the existence of the Invisible Magic Friend for instance. In particular, they don't worship an Invisible Magic Friend stuck in a bronze age mentality. Worshipping no Invisible Magic Friend is better than worshipping a false one.
Our prayers can be so fervent that the Invisible Magic Friend is moved to do what we want, but better the prayers that move us to do the Invisible Magic Friend's will, although I'll just remind you that you should do it as if he didn't exist, even though he does.
There are many militant people out there, militantly giving their point of view and militantly not listening to what others have to say. They're so shrill. But they're not the nice atheists. The truly wise ones learn from everyone.
Monday, 7 February, 2011, 08:33 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Good morning Sarah, good morning John and good morning to you all.
Isn't the news, whatever it is, just terrible? There are all these people out demonstrating, trying to change the world. Long, long ago, when the earth had not yet cooled, I used to demonstrate, trying to change the world, but we never succeeded. No one ever does. It's all so depressing.
This morning, I asked my Invisible Magic Friend to make all this disturbance and hullabaloo go away. But if he didn't save millions from the gas chambers why should he act to make me feel better? It all seems so hopeless, so pointless, doesn't it?
There's a lot of religion about, much of it bizarre, and that's pretty depressing too. The Invisible Magic Friend really seems to have made a complete mess of everything. The reason why this is, is a mystery, a depressing mystery, but never forget, the Invisible Magic Friend is your friend, always there to help you, unless you're faced with a gas chamber that is. He created us to straighten out the mess that he created, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it, so it's not really a mystery after all.
You're probably all as depressed and disillusioned as I am, what with all these terrible things happening. Isn't the world just awful? Never mind, cheer up. A bit of hard work to try and change things will soon lift you out of these terrible doldrums that you seem to have gotten into, even if you'll never actually succeed in changing anything. Think about all the excellent recipes you can conjure up from the leftovers in your fridge. There, that cheered you up a bit, didn't it? Put a coin in a collection box and whistle "Always look on the bright side of life." You'll soon forget about what a dreary, abysmal place the world really is.
John Bunyan's pilgrim hymn is a good song to sing, the one with the hobgoblins and foul fiends in it. Of course, I don't believe in hobgoblins and foul fiends, that would be just silly. What sort of silly person believes in hobgoblins and foul fiends? So say something nice to the Invisible Magic Friend and have a happy day, no matter how dreadful the news is.
Well, I must be going, it's time for bed. Good night Invisible Magic Friend.
GOOD NIGHT LIONEL.
Begone foul hobgoblin!
Monday, 25 October, 2010, 09:01 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 1 out of 5 (Hardly platitudinous at all)
Good morning Evan, good morning Jim and good morning to you all.
Let me begin with my usual talk of hard times and nostalgia for happier times gone past.
And now on to my annual reminder that many old people find themselves lonely and abandoned at Christmas. Whatever you do, don't treat yourself to a pampered holiday at a swanky hotel. Someone I know exceedingly well tried that once. They soon discovered that sitting at a table for one in the midst of a crowd only makes things worse.
My advice is to go on retreat or find an empty place of worship where you can speak your hurts into the silence. Watch out for that "inner voice" though.
Yes Fred, you.
And now it's time for my closing joke. A woman at a party admires another woman's ring. "Can I touch it?" she asks. "It's the famous Cohen diamond," comes the reply, "but it comes with a curse attached. I can feel the curse now, it's approaching. Meet my husband, Mr. Cohen."
Well time for bed. Good night all, good night Fred.
GOOD NIGHT LIONEL.
Good morning Jim, good morning John and good morning to you all.
Well it's Autumn, not just in the sense of being Autumn but in the sense of being the autumn of my life and so I like to contemplate death.
So is death the end? No, definitely not. There's no such thing as an after-life, but there is a "beyond-life" which is something entirely different. I know this because of the joy I feel when I'm kind, or generous or considerate and I see the smile on a child's face. If you haven't tried being generous before then I really do recommend it, you'll be amazed how good it makes you feel. That's what it's like all the time in the beyond-life and that's how we know that it exists.
This life is like a departure lounge: noisy, crowded, full of people trying to sell you things. It's where you wait for the big shiny plane that whisks you off to happy lands far away.
And now my traditional end of talk joke. A man dies and goes to heaven where an angel asks him what he'd like to do.
"I'd like to see my old teacher," he replies. A door opens and there sits his old teacher with a young blonde on his knee.
"Teacher, is this your reward for all your years of righteousness?"
"No, I'm her punishment."
Time for bed. Good night Jim, good night John and good night to you all.
Good morning Jim, good morning Sarah and good morning to you all.
My ma used to be very nice, very nice indeed. Dear, dear ma. She never wanted me to become a rabbi you know? But I became a rabbi anyway. You see, I had problems at the time, holocaust nightmares and knowing I was gay made life difficult.
Then I realised that quiet, academic chapels, quakier meeting houses and lots and lots of sitting around quietly seemed to make things quieter, calmer, more soothing. Religion really works. It helps you get away from the hustle and bustle of that hectic old world out there, where everything's just a rush.
What did the boom times bring us? Celebrity footballers? Bankers bonuses? Do we really want more of that? I suppose it depends whether you're a celebrity footballer or an evil banker. Now that footballers and bankers don't earn millions any more, those of you who were never rich in the first place can look forward to a simpler, quieter, poorer, life.
Time to end on a joke. Man A meets Man B in the street. "You haven't asked me about my problems," says Man A. "Sorry," says Man B, "how are you're problems?", "Agggh! Don't ask!" Or have I told you that one before?
Well it's time for a nice hot cup of cocoa and then off to bed. Good night Jim, good night Sarah and good night Invisible Magic Friend.
GOOD NIGHT LIONEL.