Archive for March, 2023

From The Rabbi – Parshat Vayikra 5783

During my RI (Religious Instruction) class yesterday at a local State School, while discussing the topic of Ten Plagues, one bright young student asked the following great question which had never occurred to me when previously discussing this story namely, why did the Jewish people not simply escape from Egypt during the plague of darkness, as being that the plagues did not affect the Jews, they could have simply walked out.

My off-the-cuff response was, that the purpose of the plagues was not only to secure the release of the Jewish people from Egypt but to release the ‘Egypt’ from within the Jews, and to impress on Pharaoh and the Egyptians that Hashem is in control and that the Egyptians come to a conscious decision to free the Jewish people from their slavery and that each of the Ten Plagues, including and especially the last one, played an essential role in achieving these goals.

The last remaining Plague, after Darkness, was the Death of the Firstborns, which required a certain level of self-sacrifice on behalf of the people namely, to take a sheep, which was worshiped as the deity of the ancient Egyptians, and to slaughter it as an offering and to sprinkle its blood on the doorpost’s of their homes.

Interestingly, the third book of the Torah, Vayikra – Leviticus, which we commence this week, also discusses the topic of sacrifices, which does not sit well with many, as it contains negative connotations, like giving up something precious or losing out on something big. Nobody is getting in line to be the “sacrificial lamb”, as it has a negative vibe to the modern ear.

Today, we take a more enlightened approach. “I need space.” “I can’t ruin my own life for my kids’ sake — I need my own opportunities for self-expression and personal gratification.” All valid needs and worthy goals. But too often we seem to carry it a little too far. Why should a woman who has decided that she wants to be the best mother for her children that she possibly can be made to feel inadequate if she gives up her career or even puts it on hold? If she derives genuine gratification from seeing her children well nurtured, independent, moral and proudly Jewish, is that a less worthy use of her time than serving some company’s success?

If we spent more time thinking about others and extending ourselves, whether to our own families or the wider community, we might very well be a lot healthier emotionally.

Judaism teaches that sacrifice and selflessness are character traits to respect, admire and hopefully emulate. The festival of Pesach – Passover, and the book of Vayikra – Leviticus, beckons us to consider being less obsessed with ourselves and our own satisfaction and  more about what we are needed for in this world. Please G‑d, we will be able to keep our social and family balances on an even keel.

May the sacrifices we make and the caring and giving we do for others bring us the blessing of real nachas and ultimate personal satisfaction too.

Wishing  you and your family a meaningful Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,   

Rabbi Levi & Dvorah Jaffe

Thank you Rabbi Yossi Goldman for extracts of the above message

From The Rabbi – Parshat Vayakhel / Pekudei

Last Friday evening, to honor the memory of Chaim Topol z”l, who famously played Tevya, the Milkman, in the well- known musical, Fiddler on the Roof, we sang Lecha Dodi to the tune of “If I was a Rich Man”, which brought back fond memories of the time when the late Topol was in Brisbane in 2005, as part of an Australian Tour, acting in the musical and he humbly came over to our beautiful Synagogue to study a page of Talmud with our son Mendel, who had just commenced his Talmudic studies. He was so warm, friendly and engaging, and signed a note to Mendel, referring to him as “my Chevruta” – study partner.

At the time, we were fascinated as to why the musical was so hugely successful in Brisbane, filling QPAC for three straight weeks and, after speaking with several Jewish and non-Jewish people who attended, we came to the realization that the theme of the show resonates with all cultures, who are concerned with the preservation of their Traditions.

There are many powerful themes contained in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ though perhaps the most profound message is the reminder that while there have been dark days in our history, there is an incredible amount of light. While Fiddler is not a religious production per se, it does convey how it is specifically our traditions, and all the meaningful practices of our faith, which truly provide solace, comfort, optimism, hope and the belief that ultimately we will prevail. In the darkest of times, it was our traditions which pulled us through.

So dust off your own fiddle, and start playing the music of our faith by embracing its traditions. It worked then and it still works today.

This Shabbat we will conclude the book of Shmot – Exodus, with the tradional declaration of Chazak Chazak Venitchazek – Be Strong Be Strong, Let’s Strengthen Ourselves, and we will read the last of of the four special Haftarah readings, in the lead up to Pesach – Passover, which emphasizes the importance of the incoming month of Nissan, commencing next Thursday, as the first of months, and the month of Redemption.

Wishing  you and your family a meaningful Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov   

Rabbi Levi & Dvorah Jaffe

Thank you Rabbi Mendel Lew for extracts of the above message