Having got up at the unearthly hour of 6.30 am on a Sunday morning to get to Bury Grammar School in time for the BBC's flagship religious programme, as blogged on yesterday:
in the evening I attended the Purim Extravaganza at our Shul. And without wishing to offend the BBC in any way, I must say that the experience of that programme provided a very decent prelude to the fantasy world of Purim and all it stands for. What with the weather threatening to blow up a storm, the metro running late on the day; the plethora of amateur helpers and professionals from Oxford who organise the programme, and the hierarchy of importance (panellists, then experts in the audience, then the 'hoi polloi' [just guess which I was!]), Purim in the evening was almost a bastion of sanity.
For a start, unlike on the BBC, at shul we were seated in the right place right from the start.
Secondly, unlike at the BBC, there was no obvious hierarchy - our rabbis were dotted around at different tables - and not treated like royalty.
Thirdly, the food arrived on time and everybody had the same menu.
Fourthly, I was invited to take the leftovers from our table to feed the Christian group from Bolton who are visiting tomorrow in order to experience the carnival atmosphere on our streets at Purim.
Fifthly, we were all given an extremely amusing and erudite quiz to solve, based on the names of the people present, and scattered (rather than 'twittered') with Hebrew, French and various Yiddishisms.
Sixthly, we were entertained ,not by a separate panel, from whose eminence and royal presence we were separated at all times, but by a group of synagogue members, who together form the excellent Barbers' Shop, the Voicemales. They alternated songs from the synagogue service with popular hits from the Beatles and Frank Sinatra: again an example of the sublime and the ridiculous blended together, if you will.
And, piece de resistance, we were thoroughly entertained by expert professional magician, Ian Lavin, who mesmerized us with us card tricks, and also (through ball games) got us to get to know each other better.
If you want an expert professional magician for your function, Ian's details are www.eventmagician.co.uk
Plus, we enjoyed a superb meal, including liberal amounts of whiskey, all for a tenner.
And this was only a prelude to Purim. The real thing takes place tonight and tomorrow.
The sages say that Purim is the most important Jewish festival of all. Based on the story of the Book of Esther It epitomizes the idea that all is not how it seems and that miracles are created daily out of despair. One is encouraged to drink a great deal, so much in fact that we cannot distinguish between the name of the 'goodie', Mordechai, and the 'baddie' Haman. Food for thought there, no doubt!
Let's not get this out of perspective. The BBC does occasionally rise to great heights. When it reports on Tibet, for instance, it nearly always gets it right.
But they don't seem to know how to deal with religion in this country. OK, portentous is out in the 21st century. But turning serious issues into entertainment can't be the only way. So that perfectly ordinary clergy with the right appearance get treated as gods who must not be approached. There's a name for this in most religions, and that is 'Idol worship'!
This article in today's Times is also relevant to the debate:
And if you really want a laugh, my great friend Fran Waddams, from Anglican Friends of Israel
has just sent this around - appears that she and MP Michael Gove are regarded by some as very sinister Zionist agents!!
Oh dear! As far as I was concerned Fran is actually a theology graduate with a great deal of common sense and a wicked sense of humour!
As for Michael Gove, one of the most modest and yet educated MPs in Parliament and a former Assistant Editor at The Times.
Come to think of it, maybe the BBC should consider having both of them on the panel in any future series of The Big Questions.
Meanwhile, Happy Purim to all!!