Archive for November, 2021

From The Rabbi – Parshat Vayeshev 5782

This week, we begin what is arguably the most exciting story in the Torah, which was produced into a Broadway musical, ‘Josef and the Technicolor Coat’.

As with all stories in the Torah, there is much to be gleaned in terms of the lessons and inspiration we may draw into our lives. Interestingly, from all the characters into the Torah, Yosef (Josef) is the only one referred to as ‘Hatzaddik’ – the righteous one. Surely there are many Biblical characters who were Tzaddikim – Righteous people. Why does only Yosef receive the title as ‘Yosef Hatzaddik’. He was not a man who spent his life in the four walls of the Yeshivah – study hall or the Synagogue. In such an environment it is easy to remain holy and to engage in spiritual pursuits. Rather Yosef spent much of his life among immoral people, he languished for more than a decade in an Egyptians prison, and for the remainder of his life he served as viceroy to King Pharaoh, associating with the highest echelons of Egyptian society. Yet, through all of this, he never lost his Jewish dignity and pride, and always remained true to his heritage and traditions, raising his children with these very same cherished values.

Under what circumstance are we able to discern the true character of an individual? Specifically when they are placed in challenging situations and they are able to remain strongly committed to the values and traditions of their faith.

Many years ago, when visiting a prominent Brisbane businessman, in relation to soliciting support for Sinai College, the man related how impressed and moved he is by one of his observant Jewish business partners, who would terminate all business dealings on a Friday afternoon, in order to go home and prepare for Shabbat, regardless of how many millions of dollars may have been at stake through any particular deal which may have been on the table. Such individuals are the Yosef’s of our time, who are able to demonstrate such spiritual fortitude in the face of such material temptation and challenge.

It is encouraging to witness the Australian Government passing legislation which lends stronger support for religious freedoms in our country, which is very much in line with the message of Chanukah, which commences this Sunday evening, namely the prevailing of light of darkness and freedom over oppression.

May we merit the ultimate transformation of all darkness to light with the lighting of the Menorah in the third Bet Hamikdash – Temple, and the complete redemption.

Shabbat Shalom, and happy Chanukah

Levi and Dvorah Jaffe

From The Rabbi – Parshat Vayishlach 5782

Have you ever wondered where the name Israel comes from? It has its origins in the Torah portion of this week, during a mysterious meeting between Yaakov (Jacob) and a ‘man’ with whom he wrestled through the night.

There are many commentaries and discussions about this unusual story and the enigmatic ‘man’ who, when requested by Yaakov for a blessing, he bestows upon Yaakov the name Yisrael – ‘Ísrael’, “because you have fought with (an Angel of) G-d and with Man and you have prevailed over them”, representing the ability to overcome adversity.

As opposed to the name Yaakov, meaning heal, he was now named Yisrael, which contains the letters of the Hebrew word Rosh, meaning ‘head’, symbolizing leadership and control of one’s emotions. It is interesting to note that, although the name was changed to Yisrael, and the Jewish people subsequently became known as Bnei Yisrael – the children of Israel, the name Yaakov – Jacob is till used in reference to instances when Jacob or the Jewish people are experiencing adversity, or when they are engaged in the more mundane or challenging aspects of life.

The book of Bereshit – Genesis, in general, contains many foundational concepts of Jewish philosophy and life, and the stories of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs in particular serve as guiding lights and ‘sign posts’ for us all for the manner in which we conduct our lives and deal with our families, communities and the outside world.

As we discussed at great length at our recent course on Outsmarting Antisemitism, the story of Yaakov’s re-engagement with his hostile brother, serves as a paradigm in dealing with

Shabbat Shalom, and may we share good health and good news

Levi and Dvorah Jaffe