Multicoloured Smartypants Visits London, Part One

The children are with grandparents for the week. Their grandparents live 300 miles away, so we’re making the most of it. Truth is, we rarely have a babysitter, because when you have a special needs child, you have to know that the person caring for your child will be able to cope. If they have no experience of special needs, it’s an automatic ‘thanks but no thanks’.

So, Frank had to go to a meeting in London this week. I travelled by train, visited the Jewish Museum, and then met up with him. Walking into a museum is being a small child walking into a magical  world. I am the adventurer, slaying dragons, rescuing the imprisoned, discovering hidden treasure.

The Jewish Museum houses collections of Jewish paraphernalia, ranging from these 700-year-old tally sticks (Christians were forbidden from lending money, but Jews were permitted, so the Normans invited them across after the invasion…

Medieval tally sticks for paying taxes

Kindertransport girl’s doll

… to this 16cm doll hidden in the suitcase of a young girl on the Kindertransport in 1939. Edith left behind her loving parents, and the brewing horror, for a life in Britain. When I saw this tiny doll, I was struck with the thought ‘such a small thing tells such a big story.’ 

There is a brief history of Judaism, but mostly the museum tells the history of British Jews (which includes some very nasty moments of Christian-led anti-semitism, such as the massacre in York in 1190 – see here, contemporary British Orthodox Judaism, and the Holocaust.

One thing in particular was fascinating, which was the Seder meal enacted by a family on a conveniently-situated television. The Seder meal is a special ceremonial meal held at Pesach, or Passover. Every year, the youngest child asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” And in reply is told the story of the slavery of the Hebrews, and how they were rescued from slavery by God, when Moses led them out of Egypt. The same God gave them manna to eat – just enough, never too much or too little, and taught them all about himself.


The book of Exodus says that each family killed a lamb, brushed the lamb’s blood on their doorposts, and ate the lamb with unleavened bread. The following day, they escaped. Of course, that’s a very simple version of a story which is not only complex in itself, but part of the greater thread of biblical stories running right up to Christ and beyond. However, seeing the modern Seder meal reminded me of the Christian version of this nowadays – the communion. It also prompted me to recall the searingly obvious connection between the rescue of the Hebrews from slavery, and the rescue of humanity from a different kind of slavery, sin. 

Sin being defined as anything which is not of God, because anything which is not of God keeps us away from him. God is love, so anything, yes, anything and everything – without exception – which is not loving is sin. 

Just thought I’d throw that in there…

Where was I? Yes, the rescue of the Hebrews from Egypt was part of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant, which Jesus spoke about when he shared the Seder meal with his disciples on the night he was betrayed, was given during this same meal. And we now celebrate a variation of this same meal (which also echoes the weekly Shabbat meal) when we celebrate communion. I wonder why we have reduced it to a monthly ten-minute thing with nothing but a sip of wine (if you’re lucky, these days it can be grape juice or even blackcurrant squash!) and a mouthful of bread? What a shame we have lost the fellowship of sharing a regular meal together as brothers and sisters in Christ!

I was also struck by the beauty and holiness of this life set apart by God-given ritual. Don’t get me wrong, we have no way of knowing how much or how little of Jewish life of 2000 years ago still exists. The Jews of today don’t fulfill all the laws contained in (what we call) the Old Testament. It is a fallacy to look at modern Jews and see Jesus’ culture.

What we can say is that it was a life immersed in God-given ritual and laws. And, for followers of Christ, what was once a ritual-based life, beautiful and holy though that may be, is replaced by a faith free from the Law. Free from all sins, named and unnamed (by which I mean there are rules and laws in the OT telling you what to do and what not to do, but these rules are not an exhaustive list).  

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Jewish Museum. The staff were the most friendly and helpful of any museum I’ve ever visited! It was informative and interesting, and managed to inject the right amount of seriousness into the holocaust areas without being overwhelming (the holocaust is overwhelming in itself, the museum doesn’t need to be). Lovely museum, please do visit if ever you have the chance. My favourite part was actually the medieval mikveh.

Medieval mikveh, or ritual bath. Fascinating how this links to the later Christian tradition of baptism by immersion.

Unfortunately, my health isn’t brilliant, so today, after two days of walking, I am resting. No choice about it, either. My body decides it has had enough and shuts down. But that has given me the chance to write the blog, to talk to God, and to offer advice to my dear friend who asked for help, so all’s grace, in the end. And I got an answer to the prayer I was praying last night, after writing that post


In some ways it is the answer I least wanted to hear, but in other ways I know it is the only thing I want to hear. Jesus’ words to his beloved disciples, on the night he was betrayed, before his arrest:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

I do not give to you as the world gives. 

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 14:27 NIV

2 thoughts on “Multicoloured Smartypants Visits London, Part One

  1. Pingback: MULTICOLOURED SMARTYPANTS VISITS LONDON, PART TWO | multicolouredsmartypants

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