Messages from the Rabbis
Rabbi Suchard Messages
To Pursue Peace
By Rabbi S Suchard
When the time came for Aharon the Kohen Gadol to die, he was taken by Moshe to Har Hahar together with Aharon’s son Elazar. Moshe took off Aharon’s clothes and put them on Elazar. Rashi explains that Moshe said to Aharon, “enter the cave and He entered.” He saw a laid-out bed and a candle burning in front of it. He said go on to the bed and he went up; stretch out your hands and he stretched out; close your mouth and he closed it; close your eyes and he closed them. Immediately Moshe desired such a death and this is what it says in Devarim 32 “like Aharon your brother died, a death which you desired”.
The Ponivaz Rav, Rav Kahahana z”l explained that Aharon died as he lived, listening to G-d’s commands.
When Aharon died the verse reads that all of Israel mourned for thirty days, Rashi explains from (Avoth of Rabbi Natan, 12) that this included the women, because Aharon loved peace and pursued peace, he made peace between litigants and husband and wife.
To pursue peace was an extra dimension of loving peace. He looked to find where he could make peace and help people.
A cute anecdote is that of an eight-year-old boy who came late to class. His Rebbe asked him why he was late. He said that he had done a kindness like Aharon the Kohen Hagadol to love peace. He took an old woman across the road. “But what took half an an hour!” “She did not want to cross the road” replied the little boy.
An “askan” one who was constantly working for the public was asked by his wife to seek advice from the Chofetz Chaim, if this was correct. This man gave up his own time and money, and worked for the public at the expense of his family life. He was a good husband and father but did sacrifice his own leisure.
He came to the Chofetz Chaim’s table on a Shabbat during “shalosh seudat” – the third meal. The Chofetz Chaim explained the last verse in psalm 23, “Only good and kindness should pursue me all the days of my life …”
The Rabbi explained, all men have “redifot” - challenges, hard times, being pursued. King David wrote that let my hardship be in doing good and kindness.
The visitor heard this explanation and returned to his wife to tell her that sacrificing and working for good things and the public was correct. The verse in the psalm ends off “and I shall dwell in the house of Hashem for long days”.
I would like to add that King David is assuring such a person that he will live long and have time to achieve personal as well, because of his activities for others.
Pesach is a warm family festival as we get together for the Sedorim. It celebrates the beginning of the Jewish people and therefore it is a mitzvah to carry out the laws to the best of our abilities.
One may not possess Chometz over the 8 days of Pesach. Please note that you should not buy bread during Pesach, not even for your staff. You need to give them money before Pesach so that they can buy their own bread.
On Monday night, the 3rd of April from 8pm to 9pm I will be having an interactive discussion on all the aspects of Pesach and handing out material for the Seder. Please join me in the Games Room.
Attached please find a Calendar for Pesach and the Sale of Chometz form. Kindly complete the attached form to sell what you cannot discard and return it to the office.
I wish you and your family a happy and kosher Pesach
How to Love and Appreciate Hashem
By Rabbi Suchard
A young man approached his Rabbi to answer some questions – “Rabbi, I know that there is a mitzvah to love Hashem. We recite the Shema daily, ‘And you shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might!’ How does one come to this love?
We are told to honour and fear one’s parents. This is much easier as we realise what they do for us. Perhaps it is more tangible when a parent raises a child, sent him to be educated and is constantly attentive to his needs?”
“My young friend” answered the Rabbi, “the Rambam, Maimonides asks your question and replies as follows:
“In which way can we come to love and fear Him. When a person reflects on G-d’s outstanding and great deeds and creation. And one sees from them His wisdom and which is unfathomable and unending, immediately he loves and praises and extols and greatly desires with an enormous lust to know the great Name. As (King) David wrote: my soul thirsts to the Al-mighty, to the living G-d. When he (man) thinks of these things he is taken aback and fears and knows that he is but a small creature, lonely, in the dark, standing with little knowledge before Hashem who is all-knowing….” (Principals of Torah 2:2)
Every human being is a living miracle. Think of the ingenuity of our bodies, how we eat; the food is digested and gives strength to the body. We talk, see, hear, communicate through speech. How can one not realise that we were created by the Almighty.
It is true that we have many challenges during our lifetime. People get ill, battle to make a living; some have to cope with a loss in the family. Even so we are taught that in truth we do not always carry out our obligations as Torah Jews. The fact that we live and have our health is a kindness from Hashem
The Rabbi continued: “Look at the second paragraph of the Shema which tells us if you will surely listen to My mitzvoth which I command you this day to love the L-rd your G-d and to serve him with all your heart and with and with all your soul. And I shall give you the rain of your land in its time …. and you will eat and be satisfied.”
G-d provides our everyday needs. We work, we learn, we enjoy this world. These are the tangible gifts from Hashem.
“So my dear friend” added the Rabbi “Not only from admiring nature and not only from realising the ingenuity and precise workings of the human body can a person come to love G-d who gives us life.
We are promised a physical reward of life and sustenance. It is indeed difficult to stand up to the challenges of life, but realise what you do have, which is life itself
“For G-d will not forever be angry. For He will ever be compassionate according to His considerable kindness”. (Eicha 3:31 32)
Message: When one prepares the event becomes successful.
What is the longest duration of a mitzvah? A Yom Kippur fast. Succoth which is eight or nine days, Pesach to eat matzah? The longest mitzvah is perhaps Sefriat Ha Omer because in some opinions it is one counting of 49 days.
When you consider this mitzvah it is so unlike sitting in the succah or shaking a lulav and etrog, which is a mitzvah every single day. Here everybody’s counting appears to be so insignificant mentioning every night the day after the counting of the Omer.
However the Torah is teaching us an important lesson. According to the Zohar the purpose of counting is to be a preparation for the Revelation of Sinai, the Giving of the Torah.
Such an event needs preparation. To be excited and ready. The people at Sinai were told to groom themselves and prepare for that great day.
We too have to every day for 49 days take stock of our daily lives and see if they are in tune with what the Torah tells us.
One of the most important and sacred task any Rabbi has is that of imparting Hashem’s wisdom to as many people as possible by teaching Torah. For many decades Rabbi Suchard has lovingly shared his vast Torah knowledge and wisdom with tens of thousands of people across many platforms.
He has taught Torah with passion and devotion and this book is yet another expression – this time in the form of the written word – of his lifetime dedicated Torah teaching.
May Hashem grant us all the blessing of the teachings contained within this book securing a place in our hearts and in our deeds.
As quoted by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
The book is available from the Sandton Shul Office or directly from Rabbi Suchard
Cost: R200 each
Rosh Hashanah message – Standing before Hashem
Rabbi Eliezer, when he came to this verse, he wept. For it is written “And Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph, is my father still living. And they his brothers could not answer him, because they were shaken before him.” If a rebuke of flesh and blood (could cause such shame) how much more so the rebuke of the Holy One blessed be He. (Tractate Chagigah P.4)
In front of people we are so careful not to do wrong. We watch our actions and words. We even tell white or pretend not know things.
How much more so should we be aware of whatever we do, say or think, whether in private or alone, in order not to be disobedient to G-d. what can man to do to us, be upset or call us names, or even sue us. But G-d gives life, health and healing.
This is another significant reason for the shofar, when we contemplate our standing before Hashem in judgement we are speechless. At this very moment the book of life and death are being filled in and we correct, rationalise our misdeeds. The confession we say on Yom Kippur is ……… - But we sinned. So much Hashem gives us, life, money, children, food and still we are looking. Rabbi Leff explained that during the year we put the ‘but’ in the end of the sentence. “We sinned, but!”
We rationalise our mistakes, today we must face reality. The shofar is in a way a speechless object, it means that we are reduced to tears and cannot talk.
But, I use the but, this is G-d’s way of giving us an escape route. Blow the shofar to proclaim G-d is kind, blow the shofar that He remembers that we are descendants of Abraham and Isaac; blow the shofar to teach us the lesson of the shofar, to leave out the buts, but we never went to a Yeshiva, but my father was not a Rabbi, but I must work on Shabbat to feed my family!
Remember this significant reasoning of the message of the shofar, and we will make it through the next year in the best way possible.
My Rosh Hayeshivah Rabbi Chaim M. Katz obm used to quote the verse from Kohalat (Ecclesiastes 9:10) ‘All what comes to your hands to do, do it with your strength’.
This teaching of King Solomon is profound and important, the way of success and truth. To get ahead and be successful one must put in much effort and as we are taught in the Ethics of the Fathers ‘According to the pain is the remorse’. But King Solomon is emphasising that all what you do, do well. A well-rounded successful person does not choose what suits him to do well, he is consistent in everything.
Secondly, is the aspect of truth. Every person has certain duties in his job, and if he is negligent or non-caring this is not honest for those who depend on him. Take a simple example, a tailor who does not meticulously sew a suit, uses inferior material and is not particular with every centimetre.
If a person is energetic in his duties, and is known to put his effort into all what he tackles, then he will be known as dependable and honest. When people are enthusiastic about what they do, then his or her clients are confident that they are in good honest hands.
By Rabbi Suchard
People have approached me and asked me to educate them on what the laws are when one has Yahrzeit.
Further to our letter which is e-mailed to you prior to your Yarhzeit, the following should be adhered to:
1. A 24 hour Yahrzeit candle should be lit at the beginning of twilight i.e. when the sun sinks below the horizon.
2. Kaddish is recited that evening at Maariv and the following day at Shacharit and Mincha.
3. It is customary to visit the grave on the Yahrzeit. At the Cemetery there are prayer books with the appropriate prayers in them. Some people recite the following Psalms 13, 16, 17 22, 91 and 104.
4. It is customary to be called up to the Torah on the Sabbath prior to the Yahrzeit.
5. The Rabbi will recite a ‘Keil Melech Rachamin’ for the Yahrzeit, either on the preceding Shabbat or on the day of the Yahrzeit it if is a Monday or a Thursday, or on a Monday or Thursday before the day of the Yahrzeit.
6. For the first year one does not say Yizkor in Shul.
7. It is a Mitzvah to fast on the day of the Yahrzeit, from morning to evening. Some rule that if it is difficult to fast them you should give charity and do other Mitzvot.
8. A person who has Yahrzeit has preference to a mourner to lead the services.
9. Date of Yahrzeit: If the death occurred in Adar of a regular year then the Yahrzeit is on that day in Adar. In a leap year one should say kaddish on both days Adars. However if one fasts, then it should be in Adar 1.
By Rabbi Suchard
Message: The strength of Ya’akov and Yisrael.
The Book of Shemot Exodus, starts off with the words “ And these are the names of Yisrael who came to Egypt, together with Ya’akov a man and his house cam (Shemot 1.1).
The word Ya’akov represented Jacob’s being scholar “ a dweller of the tents” that he used to study. Yisraelpersonifie his encounter with the angel Esau, “ and you forget – “Sarita” with angels and men and you won (Bereishit 32:29),
The predominant name in exile was Ya’akov, as is mentioned in last week’s parsha, “ And Ya’akov dweleth in the land of Egypt seventeen years” (Gbid 47:28)
In exile the Jewish people must keep their religious identity through synagogues, yeshivot, through prayer. We cannot force ourselves upon the nations, as we are in their land. However, we can maintain our Yiddishkeit there.
In Israel itself, we are in our land and we need the same Yiddishkeit and prayer. However we must also build an army.
I was present when this new war at Gaza began and I wish to share some anecdotes with you, When Gaza was bombed there was a sigh of relief from the country because something was done to stop the missiles.
The people held their breath anticipating that eventually soldiers went in by foot. This meant a great possibility of Israeli lives.
It was openly reported that the chief of staff sent to Rabbi A.L. Steinman and Rav Chaim Konisky for a blessing. They told him to wait until the end of Shabbat before entering Gaza. So even theI phoned a friend who remained in Asdod and he told me Gedol Yisrael, the sages of Israel, are aware that we must have an army.
However they called out to those who are in the Yeshivot, to learn and pray that Hashem should help us,
At first being Jerusalem one did not feel the effect of the war. However, in Telshstone threre was a prestigious Rabbi who lived in Ashdod and had come to town when two missiles fell in proximity of his home. People there had 20 – 30 seconds to find a bomb shelter.
I phoned a friend who remained in Ashdod, and he told me, “I’m not leaving justbacause of a few missiles!”
But let me en with a reality which somehow
By RABBI SUCHARD
Message: Only belief in G-d can keep a man in check.
One of the great spin-offs of having the Soccer World Cup in South Africa is that great sportsmen, icons of soccer can be seen and heard right here in the country on our shores.
This should be a great thing for the youth that they aspire to greatness not tainted with many, greed and crime.
Unfortunately, the stars are far from models of virtue. The hero of South African cricket used to be Hansie Cronje, and when it was found out his being paid to lose games, so many admirers were crushed. And now the king of golf Tiger Woods has proved to be a person that one cannot use as a model.
What ingredient is missing which allows these people to succumb to greed, after all they are educated, wordly and come from First World Countries. One of the most famous episodes in the Torah was that if Yosef and …….. wife.
She tried to seduce him, but “he refused and said to his Masters wife “
(1) Behold I am in charge of anything and
(2) he has given everything he has owned into my hand.
(3) There is none greater than myself
(4) And has not withheld from me anything except you for you are his wife
(5) So how can I do this great sin, and Sin to G-d (Bereishit 39: 8,9).
Joseph offered five explanations why he should not succumb to temptation. All noble ideas, but what really hed him back was that he should not sin to G-d.
We too have heroes, the Jewish people have their own icons. Their measure of greatness is to be in control of themselves.
In the ethics of the fathers we say: ‘Who is a mighty man, he who controls his desires? And the only sure ingredient is to know that there is a G-d. without all these ‘greats’ fall apart.
There is a classical story of a person who went through a red light. A traffic cop stopped him and asked if he did not see the red lights. The answer was that ‘I saw the red light but I did not see you!’
By Rabbi Suchard
Message: Many times one takes the easy way out in order to avoid a challenge.
Jacob had to make a great decision to return to Eretz Yisrael to face his brother Esau. He was living with Lavan who was an unsavory character, but at the same time he had a good life. He was comfortable and has a livelihood. To return home meant a possible war with Esau and his 400 men, and as the verse reads “And Ya’akov was very afraid and in pain”. Rashi explains according to the Tanchman – he was afraid least he be killed, and he was bothered lest he kill others (Bereishit 30:8).
There were reasons why he did not want stay with Lavan, because he felt that Lavan and his sons were hostile to him, and they became rich at his expense, …. Also wanted to go home.
The overriding reason to return home “And I will return in peace to my father’s house and Hashem will be for me an All-mighty. And this stone which I made an alter will by the house of the Almighty” (Bereishit 25:21, 22).
Ya’akov had a goal in life, to further the teachings of Avraham and Yitzchak. To settle in Israel and build a holy nation.
So although it was easier to stay with Lavan and lean an easier life, that was not the reason for his existence. Therefore, Ya’akov realized that he had to face up to Esau, and if there would not be peace then he would be prepared to fight.
As one goes through life in the background, …. To make a difference.
Perhaps a project this year did not work, or expectations did not materialize. Perhaps one did not do so well in an exam. One must not give up and change one’s entire course. Difficulties are there to be overcome.
If one does not stand up for something one falls for anything.
One of the most important lessons from Chanukah was that the Kohanim let the kosher oil which was found in the Temple. They saw that it could only last for a day, so why trouble to light it. They did so and it lasted for eight days.
This is a kin to Ya’akov knowing that he must return, trusting in Hashem that he would recover.
By RABBI SUCHARD
We ourselves bear testimony to our Creator
A father arrived home after a tiring day and flopped into an easy chair. His daughter came into the room and the father asked her to make him a cup of tea. The girl replied, “Dad I love you, but I must get ready for my school play tonight”. His son came into the room, greeted his father who asked him to bring him a drink and he replied “Dad I love you, but I’m on my way to soccer practice”. The love was expressed, but the father remained thirsty!
The Hebrew root of love is “hav” to give, that is the message of the “Shema” we say twice a day, to express our love with actions.
We read in the “Shema”, that you must love the L-rd your G-d in three ways, with all your heart and all your soul and might (Devarim 6:5). Rashi explains according to the Sifrei with all your heart, means, with your desires which is the good inclination and the bad inclination.
To love Hashem with your evil inclination means to overcome bad desires and to be in control of your thoughts and actions. With all your heart, also means that you must believe without question.
Secondly, with all your soul is interpretated as to give up one’s life if He takes your soul.
There are three cardinal sins for which one must give up one’s life – idolatry, adultery and murder. The great sage Rabbi Akivah died rather than commit idolatry.
Thirdly, we are commanded to love G-d with all one’s might (Bechol Me’odecha). Rashi explains that this means to love Hashem accepting every measure He deals to you. As we find in the Psalms (116) “A cup of salvation I shall raise and I shall call upon G-d’s name,” “difficulties and sorrow I find”. To praise G-d for all of life’s encounters.
One may ask that if in the second commandment we are told one must be prepared to relinquish one’s life, what more can be added. To accept both good and bad measures is much easier than giving up one’s soul?
An insight to this is explained that it may be easier to on one occasion even to give up one’s life. However, to go through many years of life and be able to accept every challenge of life as a gift from G-d, this requires a great level of faith and trust in G-d.
Truthfully this level can easily be reached. We thank G-d daily in the Amidah, three times a day for all His miracles and wonders. What miracles are we talking about? It is our very existence, ourselves who breathe, eat and talk. Contemplate the blessing after going to the bathroom. We praise Hashem, “Who created man with wisdom and created n him all types of openings if one is open or closed one cannot stand before Hashem”.
As King David said in the Psalms, “From my flesh I see G-d”. We ourselves bear testimony to our Creator, we are walking miracles.
A person who had heard the above explanation of loving Hashem by accepting everything which comes one’s way got stuck on the highway. Normally he would have been upset and frustrated, but he now was content that this was meant and he had to accept “Bechol Me’odecha” every measure which comes your way.
Rabbi S. Suchard
Rabbi Shaw Messages
I want to say hello and to bless you all with a really good year.
I think that we are still on a high from the gorgeous services here at our Shul. I’m not sure about you but I am definitely inspired and uplifted when praying together with many hundreds and sometimes even well over a thousand of our community in one place.
I am writing to invite and to encourage you, together with your whole family and friends, to join us for a sensational Sukkot experience. Our Sukkah is by far the largest communal Sukkah in Johannesburg.
Here is just a sample of some of the highlights:
1st Night Sukkot – 04 October
Candle lighting 17h51
Maariv 18h00 followed by Kiddush in the Sukka with Avron and our choir
Birkat Kohanim this week and next week Thursday and Friday morning is where our Kohanim bless the community, especially our children, under the largest Talis in the southern hemisphere
2nd Night Sukkot – 05 October
Candle lighting - not before 18h51
Shabbat Chol Hamoed - candle lighting before 17h52 from an existing flame.
Enhance your life with G.R.A.C.E.
Talk by Roslyn Basserabie- author of her new book “From my heart to yours”.
Tuesday 10th October at 19h30 in the Sandton Shul Sukka.
Hoshana Rabba on Wednesday morning at 5:45am
Shmini Atzeret is on the Wednesday the 11th October and on Thursday there will be Yizkor at approximately 10:00am. Simchat Torah follows on the 12th commencing at 18h15 and at 18h45 all the children who come to celebrate with us will receive the customary flag and chocolate – Join us for Hakafot, yummy hot dogs will be served in the foyer from 20h00. Lots to eat! LOTS TO DRINK!! Followed by a sing along... drink along Tish!
On Friday morning the Kohanim will bless us at approximately 08h45 during Shacharit. All the children under the age of Barmitzvah will be called up to the Torah for the Kol Hanearim Aliyah.
The as yet, still secret Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereishit extend a special invitation to everyone to join us for our traditional Simchat Torah Braai where no-one goes hungry!!
A concise guide to help you navigate through Sukkot
Rabbi David Shaw
- Construction and decoration of your Sukka must be completed before Sukkot begins.
- The Four Species should be prepared and the myrtle (hadassim) and willow (aravot) branches should be tied to the lulav before the festival begins.
- Since Shabbat falls immediately after the first two days of Sukkot, each home must prepare an Eiruv Tavshilin to allow us to cook and light candles from an existing flame before Shabbat for Shabbat. See Artscroll siddur page 654 for details
- We make two blessings on candle lighting on the 1st and 2nd night of Yomtov. See the grey panel in the Artscroll siddur on page 296.
- In the Sukka we welcome the seven Holy Guests ( Ushpizin) in Artscroll page 720 followed by Kiddush at the bottom of page 722
I bless you and wish you a Happy and fulfilling Yom Tov!
G d bless
Gmar Chatima Tova
I hope your Yom Kippur experience with us will be meaningful and memorable. May Hashem forgive us and bless us with an altogether brilliant new year. May He answer all our prayers for good!
We abstain from 5 activities on Yom Kippur.
1 No eating
2 No Drinking
3 No Leather Shoes (Yes you may wear a leather belt or watch strap)
4 No anointing yourself with oil etc.
5 No Sexual intimacy
A few points to make your Yom Kippur more meaningful!
- Say sorry to anyone you may have wronged.
- Bless your spouse.
- Bless your children. Don’t rush. Nothing is as powerful as a parents blessing. (See the English text on page 33 in the Artscroll Machzor.)
- Forgive your spouse.
- Forgive your children.
- Give charity generously. What you give from you heart will come back to you manifold.
- Don’t speak unnecessarily in Shul. Please!
- Be physically and spiritually present in Shul. Men and Women. Come early and don’t leave till the end.
- Talk to G-d. The confluence of Yom Kippur and Shabbat are a most potent holy combination.
- Sing along! You know the melodies.
- While it’s important to act properly between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it is perhaps more important to act properly between Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana.
Mincha Erev Shabbat is at 2:30pm.
The Fast Begins at Friday at 5:48pm
Kol Nidrei at 6pm
The End of the Fast is on Saturday night at 6:38pm
G-d bless you dear friends
I look forward to welcoming you HOME later!
“Believing is not enough! We need to belong!”
Bullying is Never Ok!
By Rabbi David Shaw
Every now and again, and again, I hear about an episode of bullying or of intimidation, or of mistreatment, maltreatment, oppression or victimization of some kind, somewhere. I offer these words neither to the perpetrators nor sadly, to their victims. I am not absolving myself of responsibility to reforming the bullies nor of giving tools to the bullied to defend themselves because by the time I hear of it it’s almost always too late. In this short article, I would like to address all the bystanders. Oh! There are always lots of them. Those who witness something being done that is just blatantly wrong. Hurtful by action or even verbal, and who simply do nothing.
It was the late Eli Wiesel who said upon receiving the congressional gold medal of achievement at the White House in 1985 “In extreme situations when human lives and dignity are at stake, neutrality is a sin. The opposite of love, I have learned is not hate, but indifference. Jews were killed by the enemy but betrayed by their so- called allies, who found political reasons to justify their indifference or passivity.”
Bystanders, by definition can be as large as a nation or simply a lone individual or a couple of schoolmates or teammates who witness events and make the choice to ignore them. Here is a scary fact I came across by Professor Ervin Staub, that, motivated me to write this article. You know I am sure, that before the Shoah, almost no Germans protested the ill-treatment and intense persecution of Jews. The vast masses clearly co-operated with the Nazi’s, boycotting Jewish stores, breaking up relationships with Jewish friends and taking over their businesses, homes and jobs. It did not take long for so many of those who were initially passive bystanders to join, heart and soul with the most evil perpetrators, becoming perpetrators themselves of the most heinous deeds.
Bystanders, by doing nothing actually encourage the perpetrators. An extreme example of this is how the Nazi’s were actually surprised at the lack of response by the German public, to their initial acts of violence and intimidation against the Jews and their property. It spurred them on to greater viciousness. When the Community of Nations at the Evian conference refused to take in Jewish refugees from Europe and stood by, knowing all but doing nothing, Goebbels (Yemach Shemoh) recorded in his diary “the whole world wants to do to the Jews what the Germans were doing, but does not have the courage “
It works like that with nations, with groups, teams and learners in a school environment. In formal and in informal settings. And it is always the same. If your child simply stands by and watches another child bully someone, anyone, thinner, fatter, taller, shorter, smarter faster, slower, it is only a matter of time before the bystander become a bully themselves – and no one likes a bully! No one!
One of the most valuable life lessons that we can pass on to our children is that if they or their friends see someone bullying, speak up and speak out. Tell a responsible adult, a parent, teacher, madrich or yes even your Rabbi.
Bullying is not ok! Bullying is never ok!
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.*
The Torah says “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour. I am the Lord.” (Vayikra 19:16)
*Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
Encyclopaedia of Genocide
Grow up not down!
By Rabbi David Shaw
If we really understand the past, surely, we will be better equipped to understand the present and perhaps even the future.
The Torah informs us of the spiritually elevated and intellectually lofty level that our ancestors who left Egypt were able to reach. The generation that experienced the Exodus and the plethora of overwhelming miracles at the Red Sea and subsequently during the course of their 40-year sojourn in the desert, saw with their very own eyes all that G-d, our G-d, did on their behalf, transcending every known law of nature. In the light of what they experienced first-hand, it is altogether perplexing how quickly they fell from this pedestal of knowledge and how they segued into a bunch of cry-babies and super complainers. How puzzling it is how quickly this all occurred. From saints to sinners, from a nation whose hand maidens at the sea had a clearer and deeper understanding of G-d, even more so than the greatest of our prophets, greater than Ezekiel’s famous vision of G-d’s chariot and how He conducts Himself in this world.
In Beha’alotcha we find our familial precursors complaining bitterly and reminiscing selectively about the “good old days in Egypt”. Good old days!! What good old days?? Pinch me!! The Children of Israel were battered and bruised, starved, denied any human rights. Their children were brutally murdered in cold blood by the cruellest of regimes in history. And yet, they rebel against Moshe and against Hashem Himself and recall the free fish (as if….) and cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. Its incredulous!
Rav Moshe Rosenstein, the late Mashgiach (Spiritual Head) of the great Lomza Yeshiva in pre-War Europe, explains how the Jewish people could fall so swiftly from being the most G d conscious and aware generation ever, to becoming a bunch of whining, snivelling, complaining rebels. They went from one extreme, to the other. From such heights to the lowest lows over such a short time.
His answer is marvellously deep and has ramifications for us all. All our leaders, prophets and sages, all achieved their elevated levels through extraordinarily hard toil and immense effort. True greatness does not come easily. Ever! They literally clawed their way up the ladder of success centimetre by centimetre. The exodus generation, suggests the Mashgiach, did attain, neither their prophecy nor their greatness through their own efforts. Majesty and greatness was, as it were, foisted on them instantaneously by Hashem, the people did nothing. Hashem infused them with this spiritual greatness Himself in order to lift them appropriately preparing them for the receiving of our Torah. It came easily, a gift from the Almighty’s own hand. The lesson is so clear. If one does not work for it, whatever “it” may be, one does not truly transform oneself neither completely nor permanently, and therefore the nation fell. And so, can we. Because they never worked for their greatness, the handmaidens remained handmaidens. All they had been vouchsafed to see, all the had experienced became blurred and so quickly forgotten and all they remembered was onions. There is simply no lasting growth without genuine effort.
Shabbat Shalom U’mevorach
The laws of the Priestly Blessing – A summary by Rabbi David Shaw based on the Chayei Adam and the Kitzur Shulcan Aruch.
- It is a mitzvah from the Torah for Kohanim to bless the people. In Israel every
day but in the Diaspora only on the various Yomtovs and only in a Minyan.
- The Priest should not drink wine or any alcoholic beverage before going up to
bless the people.
- The Kohanim must remove their shoes and have a Levi pour water upon their hands until their wrists. If there is no Levi then a first-born son should pour the water. If there is no Levi nor first-born the Kohein should wash his own hands and not have it done by a Yisrael. The Levi should wash his hands before washing the Kohanim.
- When the Chazzan begins the prayer of Rezei, the Kohanim should go up to the Aron Hakodesh, they therefore should insure to have been washed by then.
- The Kohanim say the Modim de Rabbanan after which they say the Yehi Ratzon prayer while the chazan recites Vechol Hachayim.
May it be Your will, Hashem, our G-d and the G-d of our fathers that this blessing that you have commanded us us to bestow upon Your people Israel be a full blessing that there be in it neither stumbling block nor sin from now or forever ( Hebrew page 694 in the Artscroll siddur).
- The Kohanim should end this prayer together with the Chazzan in order that the congregations Amein will apply to their prayer as well.
- The Chazzan says Elokeinu Veilokei Avoteinu in an undertone except for the word Kohanim which is a call to the Kohanim to begin their blessings. The Chazzan says Am Kedoshechah Ka’amur in an undertone.
- The Kohanim now say the blessing” Baruch atah A-donai E’loheinu melech
Ha’olam asher kidashanu bikdushato shel Aharon… and then turn towards the congregation and conclude the blessing… vetzivanu levareich et amo Yisrael be’ahavah to which the congregation answer Amein. The Chazzan should not answer Amein.
- If there is only one Kohein the Chazzan does not call out the word Kohanim. The Kohein should turn by himself.
- The Kohanim should raise their hands to shoulder height and then spread their hands forward. Now separate their fingers so there should be five open spaces between them. Therefore between each two fingers there is one open space. There should be one open space between their thumb and index finger of both hands. That makes four spaces and then the space between the two thumbs make five. The right hand should be slightly above the left the right thumb above the left thumb but not touching and palms towards the ground the back of the hands raised towards Heaven.
- The Kohanim should not look around nor lose concentration. The congregation should face the Kohanim but not gaze at them nor should the Kohanim gaze at their own hands. We cover ourselves with our talit as do the Kohanim.
- The congregation should not be behind the Kohanim but should be in front or even in front to the side.
- The Chazzan recites Birkat Kohanim word for word and the Kohanim repeat each word until they conclude the first verse to which both Chazzan and congregation respond, Amein. This applies to the second and third verses of the blessing as well.
- At the following words the Kohanim turn towards the right at Yeverechecha then left for veyisharechah, (to the right) eilechah (to the left) vi’chunekah (to the right) eilecha, (to the left) lecha, (to the left), shalom (to the right).
- On festivals that do not fall out on Shabbat, the congregation (not the Chazzan) say the Ribono shel olam paragraph before the last word in the bracha i.e. Veyishmareicha, vichonekah and shalom.
- Only the Kohanim sing the traditional Ai yai yai melody while congregation recite the Ribono shel Olam, but not on Shabbat.
- The Chazzan begins Sim Shalom and Kohanim turn to face the Aron Hakodesh and say Veyehi Ratzon found on page 698 and 700 ( English 699 and 701).
- Again the Kohanim should endeavour to end their Yehi Ratzon with the word Bashalom said by the Chazzan, in order for the congregation’s Amein to applies to both.
- The Kohanim always turn to the right.
- A mourner does not bless the people unless he is the only Kohein present.
Catching Up! The week that was and the week that will be.
I am still on a high from last Shabbat’s unity Shabbos, unity Torah, El Al Ambassadors, the always outstanding Rabbi Amdurer, the service, Kiddush, panel discussion, yummy lunch, celebrating Josh Gordon’s 21st, with the largest whiskey bottle I have ever seen, and of course a luncheon celebrating Maish Preskow’s 7oth birthday and his 40 years in the choir, 36 as conductor.
This Shabbat after Kiddush, Chai FM’s popular and erudite Israel correspondent, Anthony Reich will address the community in the main Shul. He is an expat South African who now lives in Ra’anana where he runs a hedge fund. His topic is “The move of the USA Embassy to Jerusalem: The facts and the fiction”. I highly recommend that you join this conversation. Anthony is here to celebrate his uncle and aunt, Mervyn and Dianne Mittel’s 50th wedding anniversary. On behalf of all of us a huge Mazeltov to them.
Shabbos a fortnight… the 24th, we will be hosting a guest Chazan, Rabbi Phillip Heilbrunn, also an expat South African who is here for a 50th King David matric reunion which will be taking place right here on campus.
On the following Shabbos (3 from tonight) the 4th of March, one of the stars of the Chief Rabbi’s Sinai Indaba, Rabbi Reuven Leuchter will be our scholar in residence. I know that you will love him and his innovative approach to growth and spirituality. I will let you know more details closer to the time.
Our state of the art Mikveh is open again. Please daven for rain so we can fill up the the Keilim Mikveh.
Please let us know if you know of anyone in need of our prayers for a Refuah Shlaima.
Renovations to the upstairs Shul are on track. Please G-d they will be complete in the next few weeks.
Please check out our website www.sandtonshul.co.za for the latest news, forthcoming Yahrzeits, shiurim by Rabbi Treger and a sound-byte with a proper pronunciation for mourners Kaddish.
This week we read Parshat Yitro which contains the Ten Commandments (not suggestions hey!). Yitro is the smallest Sedra in the entire book of Shemot. There are 620 letters in the Ten Commandments 68 are the letter Aleph and there is not one letter Tet. If you know why, please let me know. It is interesting that there is not one single new idea in all the Ten Commandments.
Surely we know not to take G-d’s name in vain, to honour parents, not to murder, not to steal etc… so why the big deal? The reason is because we don’t keep them because they make good sense to us or that they are logical. Really, we should keep them because they are from G-d. We observe them because that is what G-d wants.
Looking forward to another special Shabbos in Sandton and hope to see you later!
RABBI DAVID SHAW
P.S: Purim is three weeks away and Pesach is seven!
A Special Shabbat at Sandton Shul
Sandton Shul hosted a very special Sefer Torah this last Shabbat, Parashat
Beshalach and Tu Bishvat as well as a dynamic group of EL AL ambassadors.
The Torah was written by an expert scribe and was inspired by an address by
the past President of Israel, Shimon Peres in the Bundestag, the German
Parliament in Berlin. The Chief of the Israeli Airforce General Eliezer
Shkedy was there together with a number of prominent Israelis while Mr Peres
addressed the parliament in Hebrew. He thought to himself, what could be
more symbolic than the head of State of Israel standing before the lawmakers
and the leaders of Germany, giving a speech in Hebrew, flanked by senior
military personal from the IDF, wearing berets with a Magen David, the Star
of David conspicuously displayed. All that was missing was a Sefer Torah.
Here in the least likely place in the entire world. The irony was palpable.
When he took over as the president of EL AL he set about to create a unique
Torah that would symbolise the unity of the Jewish people and our eternal
connection to the scroll, to our nation, uniting past, present and future
generations. Leading Rabbinical Sages, Nobel Prize winners, athletes,
members of the Knesset and thousands of Jews all over the globe, took part
in this ambitious project. The Torah was in fact written in so many
significant sites, both positive and negative for the Jewish nation. Letters
in this holy scroll were inscribed in the old city of Jerusalem, in the
Knesset, in Auschwitz, in the Wansee Villa, by Titus' arch in Rome and even
on the Great Wall of China. Thanks to Naomi Hadar and the IUA, EL AL flew
the Torah in a special case to Sandton Shul to join EL AL ambassadors on
this Shabbat who joined the community for a unity Shabbat, to spread
incredible goodwill and positive stories of the Holy Land. The exquisite
mantel of this Torah was designed by acclaimed artist Yaacov Agam.
The Community celebrated with a scrumptious Kiddush and shared this special
occasion with Josh Gordons 21st and the kehillah honoured Maish Preskow's on
his 70th birthday and his 40th year in the Sandton Choir with a sit down
summer cholent luncheon.
Hinei Matov Umanayim Shevet Achim Gam Yachad.
How wonderful to sit together in celebrating this wonderful confluence of
all these most special smachot in this place at this time.
Rabbi David Shaw
Veyechi, unlike any other Parsha in all of the Torah begins punkt in the middle of a column directly after last week’s reading with no break at all. Usually a break between paragraphs in the Torah is an indication of where, when G-d dictated the Torah to Moshe, Moshe stopped to intellectually digest what Hashem had just told him. Here, our sages explain that this lack of a break is symbolic of a lack of perception or understanding of what was about to unfold for the Jewish people in Egypt in the wake of Jacob’s death.
There are 85 verses in Vayechi, making it the shortest of all the Sedras in the Book of Genesis. While Genesis comprises about 26 per cent of all the verses in the Torah, it contains only three of the 613 mitzvot, less than half a percent of the Torah.
Even though the portion is short, it contains some power concepts. Jacob’s blessings to his children and grandchildren, (words which we still use today to bless our own kids on each Shabbat). You can find the blessing on page 354 in the Artscroll siddur. Jacob dies and is buries in the cave in Hebron and 147 years old. Joseph dies at 110, after prophesising that G-d himself will take his descendants out of Egypt.
At the end of the reading we say chazak, chazak venitchazeik! Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened! The word chazak is said three times and is then repeated by the Ba’al Koreh. We pray for strength. We were strong in the past! We are strong in the present! And if we remain a “WE” in other words, if we are united, concerned for each other and together in our service of G-d, we will be strong no matter what they try do to us in the future as well.
We are having one Minyan in the Big Shul this Shabbat followed by delicious sit-down Kiddush.
The daily Minyan has relocated to the Youth Centre while the Upstairs Shul is being refurbished.
- Candle lighting: 6:15pm *Shabbat ends at 7:39 pm
Welcome home. Welcome back to Shul. You have no idea how much I missed you! G-d Bless!
RABBI DAVID SHAW
Dear Sandton Shul Family
Shalom U’veracha. Peace and blessing to you!
If you are back home I look forward to seeing you in Shul on Shabbat, rested and relaxed. If you are still away, know that you are very much missed and I hope to welcome you back soon.
After last week’s cliff-hanger at the end of the Torah portion where Jacob’s twelfth son Benjamin was falsely accused of having stolen the viceroy of Egypt’s goblet, an act which would draw a lifetime of slavery upon the lad, this week, we see how the viceroy reveals his true identity. I am Joseph! Is my father still alive? Everything is going to be ok!! It is all as it is meant to be! The Torah continues and describes Jacob and Joseph’s reunion and his family’s relocation to the land of Goshen, setting the scene for the rise and fall and rise again of the Jewish people and our ultimate redemption with the Exodus from Egypt.
Vayigash is the 11th of 54 Parshiot in the Torah, and the penultimate Parasha in the book of Bereishit. It contains 106 verses with no mitzvot listed but lots of valuable life lessons.
The Fast of the 10th of Tevet falls out on this coming Sunday, the 8th of January.
There were three significant tragedies in the month of Tevet and our sages condensed these three sad days into one commemorative day so as not to make their observance too onerous on our people. What happened? On the 8th of Tevet, Ptolemy II forced seventy sages to translate the Torah into Greek. On the 9th, both Ezra and Nechemiah, who were both at the forefront of the rebuilding of the Second Temple, died. On the 10th, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Yerushalayim, paving the way, eighteen months later to the destruction of the First Temple.
- Candle lighting this week is at 6:15pm on Friday evening.
- Shabbat ends at 7:39pm on Saturday night.
- The Fast begins at 4:05am on Sunday morning and end at 7:23pm.
- One Minyan on Sunday morning in the upstairs Shul at 7:30am.
I wish you a pleasant, restful, safe, delicious and altogether Holy Shabbat, wherever you are! G-d Bless!
RABBI DAVID SHAW
And then the entire community lifted up their voice and gave it free rein, and the people wept all through the night. Then all the sons of Israel murmured against Moshe and against Aharon… (Bamidbar 14:1, 2)
The Gemara in Taanit (29) tells us that this took place on the ninth of Av. The Jews were murmuring. Again! They were grumbling for a change but come on, was that really so bad?
What’s wrong with a little grumble now and again? I mean, think of it, when you stub your toe or bump your keppie doesn’t saying “Ouch” help just a little bit? So why the fuss? When the Jews complained upon hearing the negative report of ten of the twelve spies, weren’t they entitled to a little whine? And yet we see that Moshe Rabeinu was incredibly disappointed in the people, just as Hashem must have been. Doesn’t everyone need a little moan once in a while?
I would like to suggest that it wasn’t just only the moaning, groaning and constant complaining that exasperated Moses, but that it was in fact the loss of opportunity and potential because of what they could have been doing in the time they chose to complain. It makes sense to me, to suggest that in the end of the day the people could have used the time better by learning, growing and Davening rather than murmuring and plotting and being so negative. I think a proof for this may be that on Tisha B’Av we are precluded amongst other things from learning Torah. Mida Keneged Mida, measure for measure. You want to moan when you shouldn’t instead of learning when you should, said Hashem, then there will be a time when you will moan when you shouldn’t have to, instead of learning. When? Tisha Be Av.
We often tend to focus on negative emotions and deleterious actions, when, if only we would take the time and think and do good instead we would be way happier and would induce those around up to be the same. So yes, an occasional kvetch is ok, but don’t do it for a living!
Renee and I wish every one of you a Shabbat Shalom !
Rabbi David Shaw
“And for the Miracles and for the Salvation, and for the mighty deeds, and for the victories and for the battles which you performed for our forefathers in those days at this time” This is the beginning of the introduction to the additional paragraph we say on Channuka during each amidah. G-d’s name is conspicuously absent from this short paragraph, which is really strange, considering the purpose of its inclusion in the first place. Namely to praise and thank G-d!I saw a comment by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita, one of our contemporary Gedolim that perhaps the reason for this is that it is a continuation of the previous paragraph of Modim Anauchnu Lach, where we mention explicitly “it is you who are Hashem, and we thank You and relate Your praise, for our lives, and for Your miracles, that are with us every day etc. evening, morning and afternoon. That is why , explains the Mishna Berura that the Channuka paragraph begins with conjunctive “vav” i.e. the word ‘and’ linking it to what came just before. It is most interesting to note that if we would inadvertently leave out this paragraph which has a focus on the brilliant miracles of the festival of Channuka, it is not imperative and one need not repeat the whole amidah. You see this paragraph has tremendous nissim, miracles at its core, and the incredible salvation from the Greeks. The miraculous victory of good over bad, of the tiny Jewish army against the superpower of the day, the Greeks. How amazing! How marvellous! However if we left out the phrase in the previous paragraph, about the everyday miracles that G-d does in his infinite kindness for us all , every evening ,morning and afternoon , the seemingly ordinary mundane serendipitous occurrences, we most certainly have to go back and say it again. It seems to me that the daily wonders in our lives are more significant than the once in a while wonders that come along now and again.
Maybe that’s why we have an eight day festival for a seven day miracle. Seven days to commemorate the miracle of the oil and one day to commemorate the miracle that oil even burns.
Rabbi David Shaw
I was always under the impression that the reason why there is only scant mention in all of the Mishna of the Hashmonaim and the laws and customs of Chanukah was because Rebbi, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi was not so happy with the Hashmonaim.
They were priests, yet they held on to the political and religious leadership of the nation for some 200 years until the destruction of the second temple. King David’s descendants should have led the nation of Israel and because of that, Rebbi “fined” them by leaving them out of his compendium of our Oral law.
I just came across a suggestion by a contemporary sage, Rabbi Nissan Kaplan which attributes a much more noble rationale to this question. Rabbi Kaplan submits that the real reason Rebbe did not write a specific tractate of mishnayot on Chanukah was in fact to win an eternal victory over the Hellenists and their Greek overlords. How so? Well, the Greeks were after our souls more than our bodies. If our ancestors would simply convert out and became Hellenized the Greeks would be as happy as “pigs in Palestine” (no one is after their bacon, if you know what I mean). Theirs was a war waged against our Torah and holy commandments including the oral tradition upon which all of our religion is based. Rebbi felt almost two thousand years ago that it was necessary to commit our Oral tradition to written form to prevent it from G-d forbid being forgotten. In a sense the Greeks won that battle. Our oral tradition was committed to writing. However Rebbi felt, that at least our victory over them and the subsequent holiday our sages created in the wake of this miraculous triumph of good over evil and right over wrong, would be that that tradition should be passed on in a totally pure, oral and therefore unadulterated form, as all Mishna as was meant to be, until our enemies made it impossible.
So the reason there is no Tractate Chanukah is because this is the celebration and festival of our Oral law. At the very least these laws, we will transmit from generation to generation in perpetuity, in the very form they tried to uproot.
I like it lots!
Chanukah Samayach Lekulchem.
Rabbi David Shaw
Those who pay careful attention to the Parsha while reviewing it or during its public reading on Shabbos will note a curious fact: unlike almost every other Parsha in the Torah, Parshat Vayeitzei contains no breaks from start to finish. It is written in the Sefer Torah without any of the customary spaces which indicate the beginning of a new section within the parsha. As there are no coincidences in the Torah, what is the reason for this anomaly?
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that Parshat Vayeitzei contains a number of subplots: Yaakov’s flight from Eisav, Yaakov’s dealings with his tricky father-in-law Lavan, Yaakov’s relationship with his wives Rachel and Leah and the interactions between the two women, the birth of the tribes, and Yaakov’s flight from Lavan back to the land of his parents. When examining any of these episodes in its own light, a number of difficult and seemingly unanswerable questions present themselves.
The Torah intentionally structured Parshat Vayeitzei as one long and continuously unfolding narrative to teach that it is impossible to split up the various events contained therein and judge any of them in a vacuum. Rather, each episode is just one small piece of a much larger picture, one which can only begin to be understood when one steps back and views it in the context of the bigger picture.
The Sefer Darkei Mussar relates a profound story about a Chassidic Rebbe – Rav Shimon of Yaroslav – merited living until well past the age of 100. When he was asked in what merit he had enjoyed such a long and healthy life, he responded with words packed with wisdom: “Don’t think that I’ve had an easy life. I’ve had my share of difficulties and pain just like everybody else. If anything, because I’ve lived longer, I’ve had more occasions and opportunities to suffer. It would have been very easy and natural to complain to Hashem, ‘Why did this have to happen? Why couldn’t that have turned out differently? However, I was afraid that if I began demanding a justification and explanation of Hashem’s ways, the Heavenly Court would say, ‘If this Rabbi wants answers so badly, let’s call him up here and give them to him!’ So I never asked any of these types of questions. I didn’t have any more answers than anybody else, but because I never asked for them, they let me stay down here for quite some time!”
As the Torah was written for all generations, it is clear that the lessons contained therein are applicable to every person throughout the ages. The lesson of needing to view events in the context of a larger perspective can be extrapolated to the situations which occur in each of our lives. We should realize that although we don’t always understand the ways of Hashem, we nevertheless must trust the processes. In the end , it will always make sense.
Rabbi David Shaw
The Vilna Gaon, the preeminent Torah sage who lived in the 18th century taught that Mankind’s primary occupation in this world is to refine our characters. To take our natural predispositions and to work on them, on ourselves, to ensure that we become more than what we have in fact become. This implies that YES!! Human beings can with effort actually change and change for the better. We can change, fundamentally, in our mindsets in our hearts and in our souls and not merely temporarily in our external behavior. That’s good news I think! We have within us a capacity to improve every aspect of who we ultimately are. We can reengineer ourselves for good. We are, my friends, but 1 month away from Rosh Hashana, who will live and who will die, who will be rich and who will be poor, who will succeed and who will struggle. Health, wealth and happiness. The stakes are humongous.
All Hashem asks of us is to veer a little in His direction, He will do the rest to make the connection strong and secure. May I suggest that one good way of preparing for the Yemei Din, the days of Awe is to be religious about not speaking bad, neither about one another, nor to one another? The merit of this will go a long way to bring great merit to us as individuals, to our families and to our precious community.
May Hashem bless us all with the very best year ever.
Rabbi David Shaw
I vividly recall how as a grade ten student at a Jewish Day School here in Johannesburg, our Jewish Studies Rabbi asked my class the following question. “How many stages or steps are there in the Teshuvah process?” My hand shot up and I waited to be acknowledged by the Rabbi who was no doubt relieved that at least one of his students displayed such enthusiasm. That I was enthusiastic, was not at all hard for him to discern, I still remember how my hand reached high into the sky and I all but stood up while panting loudly, with an eager look on my face which could only mean, “I know! I really do know!” There are four stages, I blurted out. He looked at me curiously and gingerly asked for me to list them. Well, the first stage is that one has to actually sin. His smile changed to a frown and he promptly kicked me out of the class. But tell me my friends, was I not right? How can one repent if one has not erred in any way? Knowingly or unknowingly. G-d in His wisdom gave us an Elul, a Rosh Hashana and a Yom Kippurim because we all make mistakes. Every single one of us .Everyone that is, except for four who never sinned. Our sages tell who they were. King David’s father Yishai, his son Chilav, Moshe Rabeinu’s father Amram and Benjamin. Everyone else, and I mean everyone else besides these four, has something to repent for. Sometimes it is for something significant, and sometimes it is for something miniscule, but it is always there.
Now here is the biggest paradox in our whole discussion on doing Teshuva. Teshuva is simply recognizing what it is we have done wrong, regretting it if we can, and then desisting from ever doing it again. Oh Yes! If it was something between you and G-d, confess it and if between you and your fellow man , sort it out between you and them. Now here is the paradox: - the worse you actually are is simply an indication of how good you could really be. The further you fall, the higher you have the potential to climb. However no one ever told us just how great we can be.I saw in a sociology text book recently that 95% of us could not even identify a photograph of the back of our own hand if it would be mixed with photos of others. We are even worse off when it comes to knowing our spiritual potential.
The Gemara in Chagiga teaches us the story of Rabbi Elisha Ben Avuyah, known as Acher, “the other”. Once so great, and then so corrupt, that his previous Rabbinic colleagues could not even bring themselves to even mention his given name. One day in defiance of Jewish law he rode a horse on Shabbat. Walking next to him was his long time student Rabbi Meir, who still maintained a relationship with his Rebbe. Upon reaching the Sabbath boundary, the T’chum Shabbat Acher said to him, “Go back you cannot go any further. Rabbi Meir replied “You too go back Rebbe”, back to the ways of Torah in other words do teshuva. Acher replied to him in what must surely be one of the saddest episodes in all of the Talmud, I can’t for I have heard from Heaven itself that everyone else can return, except for Acher, except for me. Even would I choose to return, and ultimately do teshuva, my repentance it seems, would not be acceptable. I have gone too far. How sad and what makes it even sadder it was simply not true. Rabbi J B Soloveitchik of blessed memory explained that everyone can do teshuva, everyone can surely repent. But the communication from heaven to Acher was so clear, everyone but you Acher. And that was true. Acher can’t repent but you see, you are not Acher. Acher does not exist. You are the great Rabbi Elisha ben Avuyah. Of course sincere repentance is acceptable to G-d. No matter whom you may have been then. How comforting!
The worse you were is just an indication of just how good you could really be, if only you would stop, regret and where appropriate confess to G-d or sort out your fellow man.
Rabbi David Shaw
If Rosh Hashana is the Day of Judgement and Yom Kippur, ten days later, is the Day of Atonement, it would seem that the order of the days is out of sequence. Surely forgiveness should be sought and would be preferable before the trial rather than being judged and only then pursuing some absolution for what one has done?
In truth, there are two different elements that we seek forgiveness for. The Gemara, our oral law, explains that while King David sinned twice, he was forgiven, while his predecessor King Saul sinned but once and was not. It seems a little unfair to say the least. However, our sages explain that in reality, King David’s sins were sins of passion. It was what he did that required him to redress his actions and seek pardon. With King Saul it was not so much what he did that was so bad. It was rather for who he was. It was not for his behaviour, but rather for his character.
It is way more difficult to sort out who we are than what we do. It is the who that we are that will determine at the end of the day what we do.
Rosh Hashana is the day we make G-d King. First our king and then hopefully the King of the Universe, to who we channel all we do. We go to the very roots of our being and allow Hashem to define our role in His world. Strange as it seems, we don’t mention sin or wrongdoing on Rosh Hashana at all. Our total focus on these days is on making our lives more G-d -centric. We implode our very foundations and place ourselves firmly in G-d’s hands.
We reengineer who we are.
On Yom Kippur on the other hand, we repent and here we do do Teshuva and make right all the wrongs we did or did not do, over the course of the past year, sin by sin.
We still have a little time to reflect on what we could do, what we should do, to emerge from these days, with a cleaner slate and a clearer vision.
Shana Tova Umetuka!
Rabbi David Shaw
I don’t know why, but I had the most random thoughts while flying back from Cape Town the other night. Everyone was having a good shloff all around me, there was no one to chat with. My wife had tucked the nosh just out of my reach and I surely did not want to disturb her just for a biscuit or two. I found myself saying over a poem my late father had taught me from when I was really a very little fellow. I am not such a poetry kind of guy but this was one that stuck in my mind and I had not thought about in ages. Here it is …
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of the message the battle was lost.
For want of the battle the kingdom was lost.
All for the want of a horseshoe nail.
My father would say this poem to me when I would maybe be a tad tardy about some task or chore that I had to do. It seems so small, so insignificant but even the most insignificant action or non-action can have devastating consequences. Try sending an email and put the dot on the wrong place! Like the NASA technicians who some years ago forgot to bolt back a $290 million satellite onto its stand with screws that cost under $10 for the lot and lost the satellite when it toppled over and crashed in the hanger where it had just been built.
We are in Elul with less than a month to go to Rosh Hashana. It is often the littlest of details in our lives; the ”horseshoe nails in our relationships”, that if only we would attend to them there and then, when they are still little, no problem would follow. Ever thought to yourself, I will refuel just a little further down the track and then land up getting stuck in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Or have you ever delayed attending to a tiny wound and landed up with a major medical issue. Or a cough? Or a sin against your family of even a friend? It’s all the same. A simple nail is easy enough to repair. Only as the causality expands and expands does is become so exacerbated that it could literally lead to a war with everything lost. We have some time to the Yemei Hadin, the High Holidays. Take stock and see how we are able to fix whatever needs to be fixed while the issues are still relatively small.
May we all merit a favourable judgement, for us, our families and indeed of all Israel!
Shana Tova Umetukah!
Rabbi David Shaw
Message: The Zohar which explains the Ten Commandments in Parshat Yitro comments on the words “(I) took you out of the land of Egypt” that is the “Yovail” – Jubilee Year.
“as we are taught that through the strength of the Yovail Israel went out of Egypt. Therefore the exodus from Egypt is mentioned fifty times. There are fifty days to the receiving of the Torah. Fifty years to the freedom of slaves from servitude.
It is interesting to note that the Zohar ties up the exodus from Egypt, which was a great kindness to the Jewish people, with the mitzvah of the Yovel. In the Yovel year, all slave owners had to send away their slaves. This was not an easy mitzvah to keep, because a rich man would have gotten used to the luxury of slaves to serve him. Also the slave owner could have a formidable business through his slaves and the merit of the exodus, because G-d forced the Jewish people and we must follow suite in our own lives.
The Haftorah of the week is dedicated to this mitzvah and it is an indictment against Israel who freed their slaves and then immediately re-enslaved them.
In the book of Jeremiah the Prophet (CR.34) we read, “and all the princes and all the people who come into the covenant heeded to send each man his servant and each man his man servant free, not to work with them anymore and the head and sent them away. They went back afterwards and returned the servants and maidservants which they set free and kept them as servants and maids. And word of G-d was to Jeremiah from G-d saying.
So says Hashem G-d of Israel, I made a covenant with your father when I took them out of Egypt from the house and bondage saying.
The words and consequences are powerful. It teaches us that our observance of the mitzvoth have a direct influence on our lives.
I saw the most phenomenal piece of Torah in the writings of Rabbi Moshe Donnenbaum, a Rav, and Rosh Kehillah in Melbourne. In the 1800th century there was a huge macholoket (dispute) which ripped the Jewish world in two. Even the Vilna Gaon was unable to bring peace to the two camps. This dispute was between the followers of two giants and was clearly lasheim shamayayim (for the sake of heaven). Many of their followers stoked the flames of this dispute.
Many years later, long after the two protagonists, Rabbi Yonason Eibshitz and Rabbi Yaacov Emdin passed away, Rabbi Yonason Eibshitz appeared to one of the great sages of that generation in a dream. The Rabbi reported that both he and Rabbi Yaacov Emdin were enjoying each other’s company in Gan Eden while the stirrers of the dispute were still suffering in Gehenom. How could that be? It is well known that Gehenom lasts for a maximum of twelve months. Rabbi Donnenbaum explained that there are some exceptions to this rule. Regarding Machloket mongers, those who promote and ferment machlocket, their punishment or indeed their cleansing process for such a heinous sin, can extend well beyond the twelve months. So bad is this sin, one should literally ensure never ever to be involved. We see in the Parasha the way heaven dealt with Korach and his cohort of 250 for promoting through there speech and actions enmity within the camp of Israel.
I think it was Ronald Reagan, while president of the USA who said Peace is not absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.
Rabbi David Shaw