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Look up!

23/06/17 14:49:08


It’s been said that confidence doesn’t come when you have all the answers. Rather, it comes when you are ready to face all the questions. Confidence isn’t the same as close-minded-or smug self assurance. We have another word for that: It’s called arrogance! Or to put it more prosaically, arrogance is when people consider themselves “too glam to give a damn”. No, confidence is about being humble in your attitude but courageous in your conviction.

Confidence is essential for our own ability to achieve; a lack of self-confidence can be crippling. Confidence is critical for a community and pivotal for its leaders. It is often born out of angst and fed by doubt, but embodies the capacity to live with and overcome both because you have principles and conviction. In our shule community over the past few weeks we had to follow the mantra: inhale confidence, exhale doubt. We believed that by bringing gay Orthodox Rabbi, Steven Greenberg to CHC we would also bring out an important conversation in our Jewish community.

Despite our critics, the gentle presence and mentschlik approach of Steve did exactly that. Unlike many of his antagonists he was neither strident, demeaning nor offensive in his presentations. The approximately 160 young Jewish adults at our inkr572 Shabbat dinner last Friday night listened intently and questioned earnestly. The discussions around dinner tables, at sessions and shiurim that he led around the community; the comments of leading Orthodox rabbis across Melbourne this week; all vindicated our invitation and intention. Rabbi Greenberg is a serious Jew who wrestles with his faith and the Torah texts, recognises the difficulties and certainly doesn’t try and advocate only for his own lifestyle or persuade young Jews that this is an easy and legitimate choice within Halacha.

If there are important lessons to be learned from this, it’s that the conversation about inclusion (in our community) is one that we need to continue to have. Its ramifications go beyond the GLBTI community; it’s about all who feel marginalised or excluded. It’s about the place and the role of women in Orthodox Shules; it’s about the ‘invisibility’ felt by many singles (especially older singles) and single parent families; it’s about the way we respond to people with disability; it’s how we treat the other, the stranger and the estranged. It’s about our attitude towards those who don’t have the right ‘affluence or success rating’; those struggling with poverty, grief and (or) depression, often living off support from Jewish Care and MJCF.

On a wider level it’s how we reach out to those living beyond our Jewish community on the fringes of Melbourne – the refugees and the migrants, the homeless and the helpless. Yes, our priority is first to our own in the Jewish community, but if charity begins at home it never ends there…

On Sunday night our Caulfield Bubs Parents group had an inspirational guest speaker, Fiona Grinwald. Fiona is a young mother who has faced the loss of her husband with courage, equanimity and insight. Speaking to almost a hundred young parents her message was: “In 2014 the ground fell from under me after the sudden death of my 39yo husband. I was 37, and without warning or consent, a single mum of two young children. I had 2 choices. Look down and let what had happened swallow me up... or throw out my old rules, live a life with no regrets and allow myself #2lookup”

Fiona, acting in the spirit of Jewish tradition, looked up. This is what King David always counselled: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where will my help come from” (Psalm 121). It’s what the Jewish people did when facing the ferocious fighting force of Amalek: “They looked up at the hands of Moses and prevailed” (Exodus 17:10). It’s what the two singular spies, Joshua and Caleb did when confronting the negativity of the ten other spies and the demoralised people of Israel “ עלה נעלה“   “We shall surely go up and conquer it for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30). “Look up at the sky” is what the Chassidic rebbe advised his disciples, Haykel, who had told the rabbi how frantically busy he was in pursuing his business…

Finally, it’s the position that Moshe took when faced with the formidable rebellion of Korach and his cohorts in this week’s parasha. He tried to get them to look up at the budding blossoming almond staff of Aaron: dead-wood coming to life rather than dead attitudes going down into the earth. (Numbers 17:22).

There’s been some negative and critical talk about Caulfield Shule both within and without and some seem to be feeling we’re not doing great. Let’s remember that toxic and critical talk can be self-fulfilling. It can sap the best soul, undermine the best organisation. Your shule is an energetic and vibrant place: just come in for one full week (or just pop in) and experience it for yourself! Confidence is contagious, catch it, spread it. It’s time to look up!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Ralph

Tue, 14 July 2020 22 Tammuz 5780