Archive for August, 2020

From The Rabbi – Parshat Ki Teitzei 5780

With only a few short weeks to the High Holidays, we are certainly moving into gear and preparing ourselves for the Yamim Norayim (days of awe). The current month of Elul is a unique time of introspection and spiritual stock taking.

With the uncertainty of what is happening now with Covid, the current plan of our congregation is to celebrate the Yom Tovim (festivals) as normal, albeit in accordance with strict Covid health guidelines. This may result in a limit to the number of people who may be able to attend services. Please see information in this regard on the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation website:

Please see information below, in the President’s Message, regarding upcoming BHC events over the next few weeks.

“When you go out to war on your enemies, and G‑d will place him in your hands…” are the opening words of this week’s Torah reading of Ki Teitzei.

Why does the verse begin with the plural “enemies” then turn mid-sentence into a singular “him”?

Among the lessons the Torah is conveying to us by this strange grammatical inconsistency, is the following Powerful idea.

Throughout our long and challenging history we have been subject to the tyranny of many enemies, among them, the Egyptians, the Amalekites, the Babylonians, the Romans, the Nazis, the Soviets… we’ve had no shortage of enemies. Generally speaking, they can be divided into two groups: spiritual enemies and physical enemies.

The classic prototype of a spiritual enemy were the ancient Syrian-Greeks, who tried to forcefully Hellenize the Jews, which resulted in the festival of Chanukah, and Haman, who secured a royal decree to slaughter every Jewish man, woman and child on the face of the earth, was the prototype of our physical enemy.

Yet the two enemies of Israel are intrinsically one. Time and again, Jewish history tells the story of how the weakening of our spiritual identity invariably leads to physical decline. An enemy of the Jewish soul is an enemy of the Jewish body, just as an enemy of the Jewish body is obviously an enemy of the Jewish soul.

This is the lesson implicit in the opening verse of our parshah: Our first line of defense in the war for Jewish survival is the realization that our plural “enemies” are, in truth, a singular “him.” That the physical and spiritual fate of our people are inexorably intertwined. That we must regard each physical attack against a Jew as an attack against the eternal spirit of Israel, and treat every spiritual danger as a threat to our physical survival.

In the very same verse, the Torah provides us with the key to our survival. “When you go to war on your enemies…” the word “on” in this line, al in the Hebrew is like its English equivalent, means “against.” In the simple meaning of the verse, going to war “on your enemies” means going to war against your enemies. But the word can also be understood in the sense of “above”: don’t go to war against them, go to war above them.

When we begin to doubt our own goodness, we are doomed to lose ground We have seen this so often in our experience as a people that we really shouldn’t need a grammatical twist of a Torah verse to inform us of it. When we went to war above our enemies, confident of our moral and spiritual superiority and unapologetic of the righteousness of our cause, we always triumphed in the end, no matter how outnumbered we might have been in quantity of men and arms. But when we begin to question and doubt our own goodness and validity, we are doomed to lose ground, even when, on the physical plane, we hold the military and strategic advantage.

A lesson as simple as it is profound: When you go out to war on your enemies, G‑d will place him in your hands.

Shabbat Shalom,

בברכת כתיבה וחתימה טובה, לשנה טובה ומתוקה​​​​​​​​​​​​​
May you to be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet new year.

Levi and Dvorah Jaffe

From The Rabbi – Parshat Shoftim 5780

This morning we ushered in the Holy and introspective month or Elul with the blowing of the Shofar, following our early morning Rosh Chodesh Shacharit service, during which we formally named the newest member of our community, Marnie – Miriam Segal, first-born daughter of Shannah and Gary Segal. It was certainly a wonderful way to start the month and a blessing to the family and all those who attended the service.

Kol Hakavod to the many younger members of our congregation and community who attended the special forum last Sunday, to discuss ideas on how to enhance the services of our congregation and attract more members and participants to engage more actively in our various programs and events. We look forward to the positive outcomes of the forum and increased invigorated material and spiritual growth within our community.

In the lead-up to the High Holidays, please see information on the Brisbane Synagogue website regarding services and events. Over the coming weeks we will include information in this regard in this newsletter.

There is currently much discussion in the media regarding politicians and elections, and we find an interesting insight in this regard in this week’s Parsha (Torah portion) about the Torah perspective on political leadership. The text says that “When a king takes the throne of his kingdom, he must write for himself a copy of the Torah….and study from it all the days of his life” so that he will be G‑d-fearing and never break Torah law. An additional reason for this commandnent is so that he will “not begin to feel superior to his brethren, so that his heart be not haughty over his brothers”. It waw crucial for The Jewish King to excercise humility before manand G-d.

There is a fascinating story in relation to the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth the Second, which expresses the idea of true humilty in leadership, as mentioned above. It happened on January 27 2005, on the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Punctuality, said Louis XVIII of France, is the politeness of kings. Royalty arrives on time and leaves on time. So it is with the Queen, but not on this occasion. When the time came for her to leave, she stayed. And stayed. One of her attendants said he had never known her to linger so long after her scheduled departure time.

She was meeting a group of Holocaust survivors. She gave each survivor – it was a large group – her focused, unhurried attention. She stood with each until they had finished telling their personal story. One after another, the survivors were coming to me in a kind of trance, saying, “Sixty years ago I did not know whether I would be alive tomorrow, and here I am today talking to the Queen.” It brought a kind of blessed closure into deeply lacerated lives. Sixty years earlier they had been treated, in Germany, Austria, Poland, in fact in most of Europe, as subhuman, yet now the Queen was treating them as if each were a visiting Head of State. That was humility: not holding yourself low but holding others high. And where you find humility, there you find greatness.

It is a lesson for each of us. R. Shlomo of Karlin said, Der grester yetser hora is az mir fargest az mi is ein ben melekh, “The greatest source of sin is to forget we are children of the king.” In a few short weeks, we will be reciting in our High Holiday prayers, “Avinu malkenu”, “Our father, our king.” It follows that we are all members of a royal family and must act as if we are. And the true mark of royalty is humility.

As succinctly taught to us in Pirkey Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), real honor is not the honor we receive but the honor we give.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,

בברכת כתיבה וחתימה טובה, לשנה טובה ומתוקה​​​​​​​​​​​​​
May you to be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet new year.

Levi and Dvorah Jaffe