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The Heart of Conflict

13/06/18 11:10:32

Jun13

The optics were astounding, the words remarkable – the unpredictable President Trump and his spurring partner “Rocket Man”, smiling, walking alongside each other, talking peace and compromise. For now at least, this enduring and deep conflict in Korea appears to be closer to an end…

It’s a promising moment for a world more...Read more...

The Gratitude Attitude

07/06/18 11:25:12

Jun7

Some years ago, when I was College Rabbi at Mount Scopus Memorial College, I attended an “Erev Todah”, an Evening of Gratitude, the culmination of a month long unit on the virtue of appreciation by the Year 6’s.  For a month they had not only studied about the meaning of gratitude in general and especially in Jewish sources, they had also visited shelters for the homeless and...Read more...

She Still Has Hope

30/05/18 10:49:51

May30

There’s a pervasive poison that penetrates this place; there’s an affronting beauty to it.

I am referring to Wannsee, just outside Berlin, the setting for the conference on 20th of January 1942 that determined The Final Solution. Here the architects of darkness constructed their deathly shadow plan, here they killed any humanity that...Read more...

30/05/18 10:49:36

May30

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What a Difference a Day Makes

10/05/18 11:26:04

May10

So goes the old song of Dinah Washington.

Being in Israel during this past week, but especially on one particular day, brought this home with a particular and peculiar force: Monday challenged and provoked, brought energy and despair.

There was firstly the historic opening of the American embassy in Armona (following on the heels of Jerusalem Day). At exactly the same time news of the deaths, rioting and protests in Gaza was...Read more...

L’Chaim – Embrace Life!

04/05/18 08:24:13

May4

L’Chaim – Embrace life! That’s the Jewish imperative and one our community of survivors has taught us so well in Melbourne. Death may be inevitable, but life is incredible. So many opportunities for giving, learning, enjoying and affirming. This idea informs and clarifies our Parasha this week which opens with a call to the Kohanim (the priests) to separate themselves from contact with the dead. They were not to occupy themselves with a...Read more...

Soup, Soul and Community

26/04/18 14:49:50

Apr26

At last week’s Soup, Sandwiches and a Chat meal, the project of our Darchei Shalom (Social Action) Group, there were about 40 residents of the Inkerman Road Council apartments (more than half were Jewish including one Chareidi man; most are of Russian extraction). There were also half a dozen of our volunteers. I came in while the residents were having dessert after enjoying soup and toasted sandwiches.

The atmosphere was relaxed,...Read more...

Matzo Balls, Gefilte Fish and a “Gevaltike” (aka great) Governor

19/04/18 16:37:56

Apr19

In the week leading up to Pesach, I attended a dinner at the stately Government House in our Royal Botanic Gardens. I’ve been fortunate to have visited this splendid State House on several occasions, but this time it was different. Our Jewish Governor, the Honourable Linda Dessau’s invitation was to a “Multi-Faith Youth Passover Dinner”. This was a dinner for young, Jews, Christians and Muslims, and a...Read more...

Happy 70th!

11/04/18 13:32:59

Apr11

Israel, it’s hard to believe you’re seventy. 70, after all, is a ripe old reverential age. The Mishna calls it the era of settled old age or seiva. I don’t think of you as old even though the years have not been kind to you – you’ve been battered  by wars, torn by the loss of so many of your finest children, pilloried by the UN, maligned by too many nations and become a magnet for some of the oldest and newest anti-Semitism...Read more...

It’s All OK, Beseder Mate!

28/03/18 12:05:09

Mar28

It’s a popular Hebrew response “Hakol beseder” (הכל בסדר), everything is ok, it’s alright mate… You can also translate this phrase as “It’s all in the Seder.” And in a sense this sums-up the essence of those magical first nights of Pesach. Everything you need to know about being Jewish is indeed contained in those nights. The seder experience is unique in its structure, exciting in its vision and visionary in its...Read more...

Ask Me a Question

22/03/18 09:54:34

Mar22

It has been said that animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions. Oliver Goldsmith once retorted: “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies”.

I can’t imagine comments less Jewish than these! The Kotzker Rebbe who was known for his sharp retorts was once faced with a challenging question from a Yeshiva student. The student asked why it took God so long to...Read more...

Press the Pause Button

15/03/18 14:56:52

Mar15

Do you find yourself rushing from task to task, event to event, appointment to meeting? Stressed-out, worn-out, burnt-out seems to be the mantra of our manic lives. Apparently 52% of people say stress keeps them up at night.

Not only is ongoing stress bad for our health, it also affects our relationships, our capacity to be effective and of course our well-being. Even when we are...Read more...

The Measure of Transparency

08/03/18 14:16:44

Mar8

Transparency, accountability, openness – these are the buzzwords today for any organisation or business worth its salt. They are also the key words to understanding the opening of the second parasha this week, Pekudei, Exodus 38. It begins with Moshe giving a detailed financial accounting of the costs of setting up the Mishkan (Sanctuary).

Moses was all too aware of the need to...Read more...

A Woman’s Voice

02/03/18 11:16:34

Mar2

We had a riotous run-up to Purim with our young bubs (Caulfield Mums & Bubs) in their colourful Purim costumes, a spectacularly smart and entertaining Grand Debate on the “Future of the humble ham (entasch) and topped it off with a splendid carnival of Purim activities for our kids. Not to mention 5 Megillah readings (including one at Arcare Kooyong Rd by Rabbi Gedaliah Levin).

Read more...

“The Whole Megillah”

23/02/18 08:14:45

Feb23

We may call it a Megillah, we may think of it as a long, rambling, rambunctious fairy tale drama, we may joke about unchecked, unfiltered dramas being “gantseh megillahs”. The truth is that this little book, Megillat Esther, the story or scroll of Esther, is as profound as it is perceptive, as succinct as it is short. It comprises ten brief chapters and is more of a long short (but sharp) story than a book. At...Read more...

Saying Sorry

15/02/18 14:43:37

Feb15

It’s been ten years since Kevin Rudd’s historic statement of apology to the ‘Stolen Generation’. It was a breakthrough moment for the survivors; as one survivor put it – “It was what happened to Aboriginal people more broadly. And it wasn’t an argument, it wasn’t a debate, it was just the sky is blue, the grass is green. This happened and we need to do something about it...Read more...

The Stranger is Me

09/02/18 10:37:19

Feb9

It’s one of the thorniest questions across the world today. It’s causing controversy and a heated debate in Israel today. It’s not new to us in Australia. It’s the question of accepting “illegal” asylum seekers, or those who enter a country without going through the usual channels and processes.

It came to the fore in Israel in...Read more...

Moon dance and #MeToo

02/02/18 11:55:39

Feb2

If you stepped outside at midnight on Wednesday, you would have had a once-in-a-blue-moon experience! The streets of Caulfield were quiet and sleepy, but the moon was colourful and vibrant. It wasn’t blue, but in fact a ‘super blood moon’, radiating an eerie reddish-orange glow as it was slowly and majestically eclipsed by shadow. It’s called by this impressive name because it was...Read more...

The Year of Chai

25/01/18 12:22:13

Jan25

 Welcome to the year of the “Chai” – 2018! Even though our Jewish new year (5778) commenced several months ago, we live by a parallel calendar, which especially outside of Israel, shapes our routines and determines so many of our plans....Read more...

From Trump to Triumph

15/12/17 13:56:09

Dec15

I arrived in Jerusalem on the eve of Trump’s historic announcement and I left it on the eve of the historic festival of Chanukah. I would like to say I timed my visit deliberately, but then there were no calls from Jared Kushner and  even though Rabbi Riskin may have heard I was in town Bibi seemed oblivious…

Jerusalem is always an edgy city. Even when it’s relaxed it’s looking over its’ shoulder. This past week it...Read more...

Clothes to kill for

05/12/17 13:54:39

Dec5

If ‘clothing makes the man’, sometimes it can also kill the man! The story of Joseph can be seen as a man betrayed or at best greatly endangered by his clothing.  I am of course referring to the “ketonet passim”, the magical dream coat given to Joseph by his father.

It is the coat which singles out Joseph and gives him an initial edge over his brothers. They rightly read into the coat their father’s favouritism and...Read more...

Vayishlach

29/11/17 14:40:39

Nov29

As Jacob prepared to encounter his brother Esau after a separation of twenty years, he has one of the strangest encounters recorded in the Torah.

Leaving his family on one side of the river, he crosses it, remaining alone on the other shore in the dark of the night. 

Read more...

Turning rocks into stars

24/11/17 13:54:37

Nov24

U

It’s my Barmitzvah parasha, Vayetze, this week. Shakespeare knowingly asked “what’s in a name?” and we could just as well ask “what’s in a parasha?” A Jewish name is significant in that it conveys ones essence and potential. The parasha of the week of one’s birth is important in that it transmits something of one’s substance and capacity.

I was given the name of my father Isaac’s brother Raphael killed as...Read more...

Looking back with love

17/11/17 12:47:32

Nov17

In 1956 a young British playwright wrote a play that is said to have changed the face of modern drama. The playwright was John Osborne and the play was a verbal barrage on a wide range of topics from the class system to family, sexuality to religion. It was ferocious and unrestrained and apparently set the scene for a new cultural movement and the libertine 1960’s.

I was thinking of the play this week (which I studied at Uni) not...Read more...

We all start as strangers

10/11/17 12:47:28

Nov10

From the beginning of time we have all been strangers. The very first encounter between human beings was one between two strangers: Adam meeting Eve. We all know what it is to be the other, an outsider. It’s part of the universal human experience; it’s something we’ve all felt, and it’s not necessarily negative; most of our friends and partners were probably strangers at first.

As Jews we have felt the loneliness and...Read more...

Good Yontif Pontiff

02/11/17 12:47:24

Nov2

Just last week the astronauts on the International Space Station reflected on the spiritual significance of their experience. Speaking to Pope Francis via video call they spoke of seeing planet earth “from the eyes of God”. Randy Bresnick one of the Americans on board said that what gave him the greatest joy in space was “to be able to look outside and see God’s creation maybe a little bit from His perspective. People cannot come up...Read more...

My kind of man

26/10/17 12:47:20

Oct26

I was asked two probing questions this week which relate to the charismatic founder of the Jewish people – Abraham. Firstly someone asked who my models and role models for leadership are. I replied that of the biblical figures, Abraham was definitely my hero. Secondly, when speaking to our bar mitzvah boy Walter Minc and his parents they asked if the superlative leader, Abraham, had any flaws.

My answer to both questions is linked....Read more...

From Adam to Harvey

20/10/17 12:27:12

Oct20

Gender issues feature prominently in our lives. Just this past week we witnessed the unravelling of a Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein for his serial harassment and assault of women and abuse of his privileged position. Hilary Clinton spoke on ABC about her harsh treatment as a woman candidate, the shameful name-calling and the way she was stalked by Trump in their debates.

Just these past weeks the Torah prominently featured gender...Read more...

Buds, bubs and blessings

15/09/17 12:27:08

Sep15

I love the first buds and blossoms of spring and the hope, fragrance and freshness they bring. So on Tuesday morning when I noticed the jasmine bushes in bloom my heart lifted. This year though, the blossoms were more of a bouquet then a promise, for my heart was already singing: On Monday night, a first grandchild, a boy, was born to my son Eyal and Carly.

Caron and I had already been primed for grandparenthood by the enthusiastic...Read more...

Saying yes to the sound of the Shofar

07/09/17 12:27:06

Sep7

It’s just two weeks to go until Rosh Hashanah, a time of reflection and introspection. A period that calls for restraint and thoughtfulness, compassion and concern for others. The Chafetz Chaim, when writing on the beautiful food customs (the so-called ‘simanim’) associated with Rosh Hashanah – the apples dipped in honey, the pomegranate seeds and the other sweet reminders – cautions these are all lovely symbols but the critical...Read more...

Mon, 18 June 2018 5 Tammuz 5778