Torah For Today! This week: Dominic Cummings
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Torah For Today! This week: Dominic Cummings

Rabbi Ariel Abel looks at the controversy caused by the Government advisor who travelled across the UK during lockdown

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Dominic Cummings top aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at the back of Downing Street  (Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire via Jewish News)
Dominic Cummings top aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at the back of Downing Street (Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire via Jewish News)

Government adviser Dominic Cummings (pictured) and his wife Mary Wakefield drove 260 miles to his parents’ farm in Durham during the Covid-19 lockdown, despite restrictions on travelling across the country.

So, what does the Torah say about setting an example for the public?

Rabbi Lippa Rabinowitz, former principal of the Manchester Jewish Grammar School, always insisted upon following the example of behaviour outlined in the Torah verse (Numbers 32:22): “You shall be (of) clean (hands) before God and before Israel”.

As with justice, so it is with public moral example that senior leadership advising government must be especially careful to show the way.

In Liverpool, deputy mayor, Councillor Lynnie Hinnigan temporarily resigned from duties since a surprise gathering was held in her back garden to mark her 50th birthday.

Even though she did not know beforehand, as it was a surprise, and social distancing measures were all complied with, she felt it correct nonetheless to take responsibility.

At a time when so many people are cooped up in flats, in hot weather, in sickness and in health, unable to enjoy the outdoors, Boris Johnson’s chief advisor may indeed have not technically broken the law, but the effect of such conduct is arguably the same.

As a result, the public would hardly be encouraged to comply.

In the aforementioned Biblical account, Moses the lawgiver and leader of Israel warned the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Menashe they could not expect to take their allotted land in the scheme of Israel’s settlement of the east bank of the River Jordan until they had also participated in and contributed to the settlement of the entire west bank.

They responded by saying their commitment to see through their own duty was beyond question.

Mitigating circumstances excepted, it is time that senior political leaders, paid from the public purse, take responsibility.

Rabbi Ariel Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to Merseyside Army Cadet Force

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