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The Waiting Game

13/08/20 14:25:38


One of the messages doing the rounds now is that it’s all a waiting game. Waiting for the lockdown to end, waiting for a vaccine, a treatment. Waiting for the shule to open, life to return to some semblance of normality... It’s like we’re all in a waiting room; as I’m reminded when I zoom into a session and am told...Read more...

Patience, plodding, perseverance... 

06/08/20 17:19:28


There’s an eerie silence shrouding our cold Melbourne nights and early mornings. I never realized just how conscious I am of the constant buzz of traffic on my busy corner. Now I miss the sound of the fretful traffic, voices from the street. This lockdown is different from our first one. It’s more worrying; the number of Covid cases is...Read more...


30/07/20 12:13:13


It was a time of deep darkness and anxiety. Uncertainty and unpredictability stalked the future. It was, to adapt Dickens, the worst of times for the Jewish people. It was the year 70CE. The Temple was smouldering, Jerusalem was lost, Jewish sovereignty ravaged, Jewish survival in the balance.

Into this bleak landscape, steps Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, student of the great Hilel, brilliant scholar and leader in Jerusalem. He quits...Read more...


23/07/20 14:18:43


There’s a different mood this time round. The first lockdown took us by surprise. It was a shockdown, filled with fear, uncertainty and deep apprehension. We couldn’t quite believe what had hit us; we struggled with it as one struggles with a sudden loss: a mixture of denial, defiance, sorrow, panic and pathos. This time, this lockdown, feels more...Read more...

If not now, when?

09/07/20 13:44:19


Carpe diem may be a Latin phrase but it has its Hebrew equivalent. It’s called ‘Im Lo Achshav Aymatai’; If not now, when? It comes from Hillel’s famous aphorism in Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot 14). It’s about seizing the moment, recognizing an opportunity when it comes your way. It has a sense of urgency in that this instance may never come your way again.

And it this sentiment that motivated Roy and Belinda Smith when...Read more...

How the Shule closed and I "discovered" Shabbat

25/06/20 16:45:00


Some three months ago, the Board of our Shule decided to close the Shule due to the onset of the Coronavirus. It felt like a body-blow. I was shattered; not only were the minyanim, the daily tefillot and especially the Shabbat services part of the very fabric of my being, but the services were what knitted us together as a community. How would the...Read more...

‘Why’ and ‘Why not’ 

18/06/20 13:26:51


George Bernard Shaw put it well: “Some people see things as they are and ask “Why”. Others dream of things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’ 

These are telling words for a Corona age; they are also profound words...Read more...

Hope and Humility

11/06/20 12:41:09


Two words have echoed strongly in my mind during this strange season we’re living through. They’re both “h” words, the one is hope, the other is humility. 

There are so many hurting in our own community from the loss of jobs, security...Read more...

I can breathe

04/06/20 18:48:06


USA’s Kareem Adbul-Jabbar is considered one of the greatest players ever to play in the NBA. In the wake of the protests and riots unfolding in the USA, he asked a cogent question: “What was your first reaction when you saw the video of the white cop kneeling on George Floyd’s neck while Floyd croaked, “I can’t breathe”?

If you’re white, you probably muttered a horrified,...

Take some nice Cheese Cake or ten of these tablets...

28/05/20 12:22:47


If you were offered a freshly baked, deliciously alluring slice of cheesecake or taking ten tablets which you are told will keep you in good health which would you choose?

I suspect that if we were asked the question in public, most of us would give the noble answer -the tablets of course. In reality I think most of us would go for the cheesecake. After all, it’s real, it’s here right now and it’s simply tantalising. We may well...Read more...

It’s a Strange,  Strange World..... 

21/05/20 08:33:44


In 1968 the South African folk group, Four Jacks and a Jill, composed a hit song called Master Jack. The key lyrics of the song are “It's a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack. "You taught me all I know, and I'll never look back. It's a very strange world and I...Read more...

Bold and  broken Haleluyahs

15/05/20 06:37:41



It’s one of the commonest words and, it’s one of the most sublime sentiments. It’s the word halelujah, praise or sing out loud for God. Thanks to Leonard Cohen, it’s now one of the most well-known Hebrew words across the world. Of course, he didn’t coin it – it was another Jew, King David, arguably the greatest poet of the Hebrew language.

The word does appear in a different form early in the Torah, but it is in...Read more...

Gamzumped, Gezoomt and Gezunt

07/05/20 16:26:04


You’ve probably heard the word “gazumped ‘’or “gazumping,” which is believed to be derived from a Yiddish slang expression that means “to swindle.” It is used to describe the practice of raising the price of a house after an agreement with a buyer on what the price would be. The buyer would find he had been gazumped when he showed up for the closing. 


Loneliness and Alone-ness

30/04/20 14:26:08


Loneliness and Alone-ness

As I stepped into the Shule this morning, it struck me again that it too was suffering isolation, alone without its usual friends, bereft of the sounds of tefillah and shmoozing, leining and darshaning.

With a world in lock-down, batei knesset, synagogues, across the world are in splendid solitude and, of course, countless people across the planet are suffering the solitariness; struggling with...Read more...

Rabbi Ralph's Regular Anti-Corona vaccine of Chizuk and  Inspiration

07/04/20 13:19:24


​​​Look Up!

On Monday night Caron alerted me to look up to the sky. We stepped outside; it was a crisp and lovely autumnal evening with a clear sky punctuated with stars. We looked up at precisely 7pm – and there it was moving rapidly across the firmament; the ISS, International space station tracking across Australia. And for a few minutes we stood transfixed. Our thoughts were far from our ailing planet, mesmerised by this...Read more...

Why is this Pesach different?

02/04/20 11:55:19


I can’t get my head around Pesach this year. What’s a Pesach without the table extended to its magnificent best, groaning with hungry guests and kneidlach fests? Can it be Pesach without my grandson Ezra present opening his eyes to the wonder of the first seder he can appreciate? What’s a Mah Nishtana said by my spouse? What’s a Pesach without Shule, even if you don’t always get to the service on time or not at all. What’s a...Read more...

Words of Inspiration and Chizuk (March 27 2020)

26/03/20 14:55:29


There are lines that leap out of our daily prayers and speak to me during these days of dismay and dissonance. They give me strength, they give me solace. I’ve said them a thousand times, but this time, in these times, they are strangely, eerily resonant. And being able to say them in the solitude, quiet space and measured pace of home pares them down to their essence. There’s a power and wisdom in these ancient words; they speak of...Read more...

Rabbi Ralph’s Daily Dose (Keeping in Touch) Your daily anti-Corona Vaccine of chizuk and inspiration

19/03/20 13:54:04


Kurt Vonnegut put it superbly:


‘’Hello babies. Welcome to earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule I know of babies- ‘God damn it you’ve got to be kind’.”


If I were writing to the newborns today, I would add –It’s a tough and confusing planet right...Read more...

Meshuggah Times

12/03/20 14:36:51


We really are living in “meshuggah” times – our certainties overturned, unpredictability at every corner, panic in the supermarkets, fear in every heart. The Talmud tells a story of Joseph, the son of the sage Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who became deathly ill and was thought to have died. Then he suddenly regained consciousness. It was as if he had returned from some far-away place. As he regained...Read more...

This Too Shall Pass

05/03/20 14:19:38



This cartoon probably sums up the current mood best – one of fear, apprehension and anxiety; it also highlights our search for safe preventative measures like working at home and our agonising over travel plans and air-travel...Read more...

The New C Word / Who's Afraid of  Coronavirus?

27/02/20 14:56:20


The “C” word conjures up so many fears and strong emotions – it’s usually about cancer, but of late it’s also about climate change. Now we have another “C” word to add to our fearful lexicon and it’s called Coronavirus.

There’s widespread fear across the world, huge media coverage, paranoia, conspiracy theories, racist attacks and deep economic anxiety. It’s been pointed...Read more...

Please Don't Pass Me By

20/02/20 12:50:11


As I read the parasha, the Torah portion of this week (Mishpatim), a line leapt out at me. It caught my breath, tapped my heart and dug into my memories. I’m referring to a line in the verse: If you see your enemy’s ass weighed down under its burdens, you shall not pass by. You shall surely release it with him” (Exodus 23:5).


The line that got to me...

How to Start Talking About Money

17/02/20 12:58:43


Money can have a huge impact on our relationships. According to our report on the nation’s relationships, The Way We Are Now, money worries are actually the biggest strain on couples across the UK - with over a quarter saying they experience this pressure. 

Yet research also shows that, despite its influence on how happy we are in our relationships, a large proportion of us feel unable to actually talk about money with our...Read more...

Cast a Giant Shadow

13/02/20 14:41:29


Handsome, with an unmistakable chin described as the most popular natural rift in America with the exception of the Grand Canyon (!); muscular, a man’s man; noble and iconic. Not a bad description for the son of a shmatta – seller from Belarus! I’m talking, of course, about Kirk Douglas, Izzy Demsky, born Issur Danilevitch – 103 years ago in 1916.

The storied life of Kirk Douglas has...

We Will Keep on Going...

06/02/20 14:16:23


Darcy Howard is a 16-year-old student from Bowral who has a passion for agriculture and enjoys spending time on his grandparent’s farm in NSW. He has many friends from the farming community whose families are gripped by depression and suicidal thoughts as a result of the drought: “I’d say a lot of people are thinking they can’t keep going when there is no rain”.

It felt natural for Darcy to write a poem for an English...Read more...

Drama, Trauma, Fear & Triumph

30/01/20 13:49:24


It’s been another week of drama, trauma, fear and triumph. The dramatic: ‘Deal of the Century’, President Trump’s peace plan. The fear: the spreading Coronavirus reaching our shores. The trauma: ongoing bush fires raging – this time near Canberra. The trauma: Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January.

The triumph: An Australian laboratory, the Doherty Institute, is the first outside of China to re-create the Coronavirus which...Read more...

Of plagues, pain and pride – Australia Day 2020

23/01/20 14:30:52


I woke up this morning to find my car covered in a sludge of red mud, the swimming pools in Melbourne, like the Yarra River, had turned a dirty orange. It was all apparently a gift from the north and dust storms in the Mallee drifting our way.


After the smoke haze, the golf-ball (or were they tennis-ball) sized hail stones and the torrential ran (not to mention...Read more...

      A light heart in a heavy world

16/01/20 13:52:31


It was dark, smoky and hazy over Melbourne. We experienced the worst air quality in the world. Our beautiful, liveable city was suddenly a shadow of itself. A week ago I was in Auckland on a bright and clear summer’s day. Around midday an eerie orange glaze coated the sky; it was followed by a dark cloud which plunged the city into darkness. Aucklanders panicked - they called the police and emergency services....Read more...

Of Silence, Shame and Malka Leifer

19/12/19 13:13:11


One of the most difficult of moral dilemmas is knowing when to be silent and when to speak out. The wise King Solomon understood this well when he said “There is a time to speak and a time to keep quiet” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).


There are occasions when silence is the best response such as a conflict when a misplaced word can...Read more...

From White Island to Mt Sinai

12/12/19 13:11:53


Whakatane is one of those attractive New Zealand towns, a sunny place known for the highest numbers of sunshine hours in NZ. It’s situated in the beautiful Eastern Bay of Plenty and has a plentiful selection of Maori historical sites, native forest, a stunning river and an abundance of yellow fin tuna. It’s not that far from Auckland and I remember it well from my life in NZ.


Sat, 17 April 2021 5 Iyyar 5781