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What Really Matters 

15/04/21 10:22:08

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

08/04/21 14:50:45

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

25/03/21 15:04:33

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

18/03/21 14:06:27

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

11/03/21 12:54:55

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

04/03/21 14:26:44

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!

25/02/21 13:49:19

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

18/02/21 13:42:54

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

11/02/21 13:13:50

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

04/02/21 12:44:22

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

28/01/21 12:58:17

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...

21/01/21 13:32:25

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

17/12/20 13:01:44

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

10/12/20 09:18:00

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

02/12/20 09:24:29

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

25/11/20 09:41:43

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

19/11/20 13:50:44

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

11/11/20 10:53:34

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

05/11/20 14:29:45

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

29/10/20 14:46:39

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

22/10/20 16:57:12

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...

Between Hope and Despair

15/10/20 14:31:04

Oct15

Life under lockdown often feels like a struggle between hope and despair – the numbers go up and down; the promises of freedom and opening of boundaries and then there’s yet another cluster in one of our favourite Malvern Malls. A glimmer of hopefulness that we’ll have that family Shabbat meal (and who knows maybe even a hug?). A...Read more...

The Road Best Travelled

08/10/20 14:25:26

Oct8

The celebrated American poet laureate, Robert Frost, wrote famously about “the road not taken”. Its central theme is about the two roads a hiker comes across in the forest:  

“Two roads diverged in a...Read more...

The Real Festival of Words (why words matters now more than ever...)

01/10/20 12:10:18

Oct1

We may think of Pesach as the festival of words; its very name suggestive of a speaking mouth -Peh (mouth) Sach (that speaks).We may think of it as the holiday about a story - the exodus - the night that tells of the great tale of liberation.

It’s however Sukkot that should claim the rights to the story, challenge the monopoly on words. Sukkot, after all, is about the story of not just a week of liberation, but a 40-year...Read more...

Teach me how to Fail - Yom  Kippur Drasha 5781/2020

24/09/20 11:48:31

Sep24

Rabbi Ralph Genende OAM 

The people of Israel have messed up awfully. Not long after hearing the 10 Commandments, they have built an exotic golden calf, an alluring idol and are dancing   around it with promiscuous abandon. Dismissed by God, Moshe is coming down the mountain with the Tablets bearing the Big Ten. When he sees the awful scene he drops and shatters them. 

Now it’s 40 days...Read more...

It's One  Strange Strange Rosh Hashana!

17/09/20 12:30:22

Sep17

It’s got to be the strangest Rosh Hashana you will ever experience – locked out of shule, locked-down at home. No shofar to blast you out of your sleep, no chazan and choir to get you out of your seat, no rabbi to get you onto your feet and no crowds of family and friends to greet and meet... 

Read more...

A Whiff of Memory

10/09/20 14:06:31

Sep10

At the beginning of his classic novel, East of Eden, John Steinbeck writes of memory: "I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers... what trees and seasons smelled like, how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odours is very rich”. 

Read more...

Words, Words, Words

03/09/20 09:55:02

Sep3

Everyday we are assailed by words from the moment we wake till we lie down at night. We all use about 20,000 words a day (and despite the myth, women don’t actually use more words then men). 

I love watching my...Read more...

The Case of the   Stolen Shofar?

27/08/20 12:03:25

Aug27

For my piece this week, I’m reprinting the article I wrote a few years ago. Heard it before? Well, it’s like the shofar itself, hopefully worth hearing once more! 

The Case of the...Read more...

Band of Brothers

20/08/20 15:50:14

Aug20

It’s a stellar speech, a powerful presentation by an actor at the peak of his performance. The words are strong and inspiring, the sentiment is stirring and enduring. It may be jingoistic, but it’s also jarringly relevant, and carries a message for our time and from our Parasha or Torah reading...Read more...

Sat, 17 April 2021 5 Iyyar 5781