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The Anger Mantra  

17/06/2021 12:32:20 PM

Jun17

It seems that everybody is angry today. There is anger on the streets of Melbourne – outrage at the politicians, fury at government Covid and refugee policies, vexation at the slow vaccine rollout. There is rage across Israel – people mad at the new government, people outraged at Bibi. And across the world we are feeling the antagonism and hostility towards us as Jews.  
   
Even the temperamentally mild are...Read more...

Jews, Facebook and Reflections on the Social Network

10/06/2021 05:03:06 PM

Jun10

Back in 2010 the movie The Social Network about the world’s then youngest billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, who created Facebook while an undergraduate at Harvard University, attracted a lot of attention. The film is about the revolutionary nature of Facebook and how it redefined social interaction. It is a mixture of fact and fiction but also a compelling story of greed, friendships, sex and betrayal. It is also an uncomfortable...Read more...

Making Space for Women

03/06/2021 10:43:32 AM

Jun3

Making Space for Women

It was the comment of Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Lunshitz, the eponymous ‘’Kli Yakar," who lived in Poland and Prague in the sixteenth century which caught my attention once again as I studied this week’s Torah portion (Shlach, Numbers 14), about the twelve men sent to scout out the land of Israel before the Israelites entered it. He suggests the mission failed because God had wanted women to be included but...Read more...

You are not alone!

26/05/2021 04:19:08 PM

May26

I grew up in the halcyon days, days in which anti-Semitism was on the retreat – at least in its public expression. Democracy and liberalism appeared to be dominant and spreading. There was optimism about a future freed from prejudice, genocide and totalitarianism. Political Scientist Francis Fukuyama spoke confidently about the end of history as we had known it. 
 
How different things turned out. Over the last few weeks,...Read more...

Journeys

20/05/2021 11:14:03 AM

May20

One of my favourite poems is Ithica, written by the Greek poet Cafavy in 1911. He looks back to the legendary journey of Ulysses and uses it to refer to the journey of every individual through life - each person is looking for their own mythical island of Ithaca, the locus of their longing and dreams. However, in the end, it is not the goal but the journey that matters, because this odyssey is what makes us wise and who we...Read more...

City of stones,  hearts and dreamers...

13/05/2021 11:00:06 AM

May13

There is no place quite like it – city of dreamers and schemers, pivot of our prayers, fulcrum of our faith, locus of our longings. Jerusalem!

It is a city that has seen too much, it is a city that we Jews can’t seem to get enough of. There are cities that I call home or at least feel so much at home in: the city of my upbringing, Egoli, city of gold, Johannesburg. The city where we raised our young family, city of sails,...Read more...

If you prick us, do we not bleed?

06/05/2021 02:15:32 PM

May6

As a young boy growing up in apartheid South Africa, I just knew there was something very wrong, something rotten in the Republic. When I was about 12 years old, I had an epiphany. A distressed middle-aged black woman confronted my brother and I out of the blue. She pointed to her skin and said: “You know, I may have a different colour skin from you, but I bleed like you.” At that moment, something deep stirred inside me; I was...Read more...

Hear Our Voices

29/04/2021 03:21:17 PM

Apr29

One of the most poignant lines in one of our most poignant Jewish prayers is: “Do not turn us away, Oh our King, empty (handed) from your presence“. The word for empty in Hebrew is ריק/reik. To be empty must be one of the most devastating conditions of being human. To be emptied of love, empathy or even anger and hatred is to be devoid of humanity. To encounter the absence of God is one of the most painful...Read more...

We need cool heads and warm hearts

21/04/2021 11:38:25 AM

Apr21

This week's piece is an adaptation of one published last year

In 1973, at the height of the Yom Kippur War, the celebrated singer Leonard Cohen, performed in Israel as an act of solidarity and support. One of the songs he presented was “There is a War,” an anthem for the perennial conflict that grips humanity, an elegy for the “real war” that takes place within us all.

Read more...

What Really Matters 

15/04/2021 10:22:08 AM

Apr15

Chag Sameach! Today is Yom Hatzmaut, a day of celebration, of revelling in our good fortune to live in an age of Jewish sovereignty and independence. What past generations would have given to be part of this era Jewish history, to be able to sing that line of Hatikva “To be a free nation in our own land”!

Yesterday was Yom HaZikaron, a sad day of remembrance of all those who gave their lives to earn and protect this precious piece...Read more...

How Now Brown Owl

08/04/2021 02:50:45 PM

Apr8

A few weeks ago on a Friday evening as I stepped outside after dinner for a walk, my son Yoni pointed out an unusual sight – an owl on the roof and one close by on a tree. It’s not often you catch a sight of an owl in Melbourne and two is a treat!

These silent and solitary birds have a singular presence and of course a rich symbolism. I was tickled to see them on this particular Shabbat as I had just...Read more...

It was the year of living dangerously

25/03/2021 03:04:33 PM

Mar25

It was the year of living dangerously; it was the year of living anxiously. It was the year of living in confinement, it was the year of enslavement to a tiny, elusive tyrant. 

It was the year before the exodus when the world turned upside down – weird plagues scarred the land and people’s hearts. The darkness was desperate; people could not see one another, they could not reach out and touch each other....Read more...

The shame of silence, the flame of a voice

18/03/2021 02:06:27 PM

Mar18

On Monday, I changed my schedule, I rearranged my diary so that I could join the Women’s March for Justice at Treasury Gardens. I’ve been in this beautiful setting many times, either on my way to a meeting or to perform a wedding ceremony. I’ve never been there for a protest, I’ve never seen so many people -especially women -gathered there, I’m never felt the kind of energy that I did this past Monday.

As a rule, I’m not...Read more...

The ice is melting

11/03/2021 12:54:55 PM

Mar11

In his magisterial, challenging and controversial book, The Dignity of Difference, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks quotes an extraordinary statement of an Eskimo from Greenland at a world global peace conference:

“About 10 years ago now, one of my people came back to our village and reported a strange phenomenon. ‘There is a trickle of water coming down the glacier. I think that the ice is melting.’ Today that trickle has become a stream....Read more...

The Power of Two

04/03/2021 02:26:44 PM

Mar4

One of the challenges of the past year has been the restrictions on celebrations, the postponement and limitations on bar mitzvahs and weddings. We’ve been Simcha starved! It has been a special joy to celebrate so many bar mitzvahs and weddings over the past weeks. Enjoying the beautiful chupah and wedding of Taryn Silver and Joshua Hurwitz on an exquisite Melbourne day last Sunday got me thinking again about the power and perplexity of...Read more...

Give me people with heart!

25/02/2021 01:49:19 PM

Feb25

What do you look for in people?

What’s the most important thing for you when selecting a good friend, a good neighbour, a good worker?

The kind of people we choose to surround ourselves with reflect who we are, what we aspire to and what we really value.

Positive, refined and thoughtful individuals diffuse their energy like the perfume from a beautiful rose. Negative, toxic individuals spread their gloom and cynicism...Read more...

Why we need to talk about politics from the pulpit

18/02/2021 01:42:54 PM

Feb18

We are often told that sex, religion and politics are to be avoided in polite company and many feel that should apply in Shule as well. After all, they would argue that Shule is a place of refuge from the storm, a therapeutic oasis in a wilderness of strife and struggle. Prayer, they would add, should soothe and calm you. And the rabbi’s sermon should make you feel good, inspire you to focus on Torah and Halacha, the joys of Shabbat,...Read more...

Upside down and right side up

11/02/2021 01:13:50 PM

Feb11

A year ago, at the onset of the pandemic, I recalled the story in the Talmud of Joseph, the son of the sage Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who became deathly ill and was thought to have died. He suddenly recovered and regained consciousness. It was as if he had returned from some far-away place. As he regained consciousness, his father said to him: ‘What did you see?’ Joseph said: ‘I saw an Olam Hafuch (a world turned upside...Read more...

Let our words carry   us

04/02/2021 12:44:22 PM

Feb4

It was 1946 in a displaced persons camp in Germany. Among the survivors waiting to be resettled was a group of rabbis. They approached the American general in charge and asked if the US Army could help locate a set of the Talmud so that they could resume studying and teaching this critical Jewish work.

They were unable to find a single complete set of the Talmud in all of Western Europe as the Nazis had made a point of burning sacred...Read more...

This is not my God

28/01/2021 12:58:17 PM

Jan28

 

“A religious Jew is a wicked person, a learned Jew is an ignorant person, a good Jew is a foolish person”.

These astonishing words are purportedly those of the maverick, legendary and reclusive Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, Poland (1787–1859). He was known for his brilliant and sharp insights, his many paradoxical and pithy sayings.

This arresting quote caught my attention, not only because it challenges our...Read more...

Little is enough...

21/01/2021 01:32:25 PM

Jan21

Just last week, I was struck by  the words of an American Rabbi being interviewed. They caught my attention because of their simplicity and profundity. They are the words of Rabbi Steve Leder of LA in which he summed up three primary lessons to be learned from the covid crisis. In my words and re-collection they are:
1. Okay is great
2. Little is enough
3. Love is limitless

If I had to choose one Jewish saying which...Read more...

A Chanukah Light

17/12/2020 01:01:44 PM

Dec17

Hot off the Internet – some Chanukah sparklers entitled “Top Reasons to Like Chanukah”.  

1. No roof damage from reindeer  

Read more...

Orthodox Judaism Must Embrace Change - or Wither

10/12/2020 09:18:00 AM

Dec10

I am on leave this week but sharing with you an article I wrote several months ago. I did provide an abbreviated version of it in a previous newsletter. It's a reflection on how the times are a changing and challenging Orthodoxy especially in an online and Covid (and post-Covid) era. It's particularly relevant at Chanukah time which is about how Judaism responded to a...Read more...

The Sound of Silence

02/12/2020 09:24:29 AM

Dec2

We had a power outage at our house this morning and my PC, laptop, TV, DVD, iPad, and my new surround sound music system were all shut down. Then I discovered that my mobile phone battery was dead and to top it off it was raining outside, so I couldn’t play golf. I went into the kitchen to make coffee and then I remembered that this also needs power, so I sat and talked...Read more...

Yavis and Zavis

25/11/2020 09:41:43 AM

Nov25

One of the cruellest elements of the Corona virus has been its effects on the most vulnerable. Like the ancient Amalekite enemy of the Jews, in the first instance, it attacks the elderly and the infirm. In Australia, the deaths of so many older people from the virus has left a trail of sorrow and sadness. It has also highlighted the...Read more...

Tribute to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks - Australia 11/11/20

19/11/2020 01:50:44 PM

Nov19

‘When a righteous person, a good person, a צדיק departs from a place, the place is impoverished. It loses something of its spark, its grace.’ (Midrash) 

And when Rabbi Jonathan left our world on...Read more...

Rabbi Jonathan  Sacks - A Tribute

11/11/2020 10:53:34 AM

Nov11

On Sunday morning, I woke to the news that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has passed away. It was a new day, but the morning had lost its charm. The aching beauty of a perfect Melbourne morning competed with the painful ache of Judaism’s loss; to adapt King David’s evocative words, the beauty of Israel was diminished with the fall of this mighty...Read more...

The Cold Winds of Polarisation

05/11/2020 02:29:45 PM

Nov5

In 1973 at the height of the Yom Kippur War, the celebrated singer Leonard Cohen, performed in Israel as an act of solidarity and support. One of the songs he presented was “There is a War”, an anthem for the perennial conflict that grips humanity, an elegy for the “real war” that takes place within us...Read more...

Living with the Enemy

29/10/2020 02:46:39 PM

Oct29

Who would have thought that going out for coffee with a couple of friends could be so liberating and energising? Who would have imagined that being able to have Shabbat dinner with one of your kids or being able to daven / pray indoors with just a minyan could be so deeply...Read more...

The Journey Continues

22/10/2020 04:57:12 PM

Oct22

This week’s Parasha may be Noach but I’m looking forward to Lech Lecha, next week’s Torah reading about the call to Abraham.  I’m focusing on Lech Lecha because it’s particularly resonant for me as I announce my resignation from Caulfield Shule as its Senior Rabbi, a position I have held for...Read more...

Mon, 21 June 2021 11 Tammuz 5781