People of Inspiration Part 2 – Rabbi Lionel Blue, Wise Man, Humorist and Much-Loved Jewish Raconteur
Rabbi Lionel Blue 6 Feb 1930-19 Dec 2016
I was sad to learn of the death of Rabbi Lionel Blue on 19 Dec 2016 and here is my tribute to him, as originally published on my blog:
As the second personality in my mini-series on People of Inspiration, step forward Rabbi Lionel Blue.
This much-loved man of wisdom and hilarity and spiritual insight first came to my attention when I worked at the BBC in Religious Schools Radio a few decades back. My Jewish friend in the office had brought in a magazine, and I was leafing through it and attracted by an article headed up: “Rabbi Lionel Blue and His Luscious Latkes.” I was captivated by this article, in which this delightful rabbi in his chef’s apron described his favourite recipe (the famous Jewish potato cake) and the massive numbers of latkes he produced in order to feed the hordes. His sparkling humour and impish personality came out in that article. He intrigued me.
Over the years he has popped up again and again in my life. I’ve read and loved his books, I’ve listened to his stories and his classic Jewish jokes on “Thought for the Day”, and I’ve seen him on more than one occasion in “An Evening with Rabbi Lionel Blue”. The more I’ve listened to him, the more I’ve found in him – of poignancy, truth, discernment, spirituality. He courts controversy with his witty observations of life.
A few years ago I went to see him at a retreat house in London E14. Most of the evening was taken up with tales of his childhood in the East End, and his mother. We were kept in fits of laughter, throughout. But woven through his picaresque tales is such psychological and spiritual depth, leaving us with a more open and a freer view of ourselves and our place in this world. He doesn’t often say overtly philosophical things, being largely a storyteller. But when asked about his view of the afterlife he made this observation: “eternity is all around us. Part of us inhabits it already.”
Another observation that remains with me is one he made in his autobiographical account: “I learned that my religion was my spiritual home, not my spiritual prison.”
I’d love to have your comments!