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

19/11/2020 01:50:44 PM


‘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...

Rabbi Jonathan  Sacks - A Tribute

11/11/2020 10:53:34 AM


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


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


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


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

15/10/2020 02:31:04 PM


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

08/10/2020 02:25:26 PM


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...

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

01/10/2020 12:10:18 PM


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

24/09/2020 11:48:31 AM


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...

It's One  Strange Strange Rosh Hashana!

17/09/2020 12:30:22 PM


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... 


A Whiff of Memory

10/09/2020 02:06:31 PM


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”. 


Words, Words, Words

03/09/2020 09:55:02 AM


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...

The Case of the   Stolen Shofar?

27/08/2020 12:03:25 PM


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...

Band of Brothers

20/08/2020 03:50:14 PM


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...

The Waiting Game

13/08/2020 02:25:38 PM


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... 

06/08/2020 05:19:28 PM


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...


30/07/2020 12:13:13 PM


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...


23/07/2020 02:18:43 PM


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?

09/07/2020 01:44:19 PM


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

25/06/2020 04:45:00 PM


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’ 

18/06/2020 01:26:51 PM


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

11/06/2020 12:41:09 PM


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

04/06/2020 06:48:06 PM


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...

28/05/2020 12:22:47 PM


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..... 

21/05/2020 08:33:44 AM


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

15/05/2020 06:37:41 AM



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

07/05/2020 04:26:04 PM


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

30/04/2020 02:26:08 PM


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

07/04/2020 01:19:24 PM


​​​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?

02/04/2020 11:55:19 AM


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...

Wed, 20 October 2021 14 Cheshvan 5782