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From The Rabbi – Parshat Chukat/ Balak 5780

A non-Jewish professor once asked the Holy Rebbe of Ruzhin why the ananei ha’kavod (clouds of glory), which protected the Jewish people during their forty-year sojourn in the desert, departed when Aaron passed away.

It’s known that bodies give off heat, explained the Ruzhiner. When people gather, if they share an emotional connection, their body heat will mix. If they’re not emotionally connected, however, their heat will rise but remain separate. We know that Aaron “loved and pursued peace,” so the clouds were not an arbitrary miracle, but an actual outcome of his influence. Once he passed, the clouds, generated by the heat of the love he created, disappeared.

Over the past few months we’ve experienced the painful reality of how social closeness can rapidly spread disease. At the same time, we’ve also lost out on much-needed healthy social interaction.

What now?

This Shabbat, the 12th of Tammuz, marks the anniversary of the release of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe from communist imprisonment in 1927, where he was incarcerated for spreading and strengthening Yiddishkeit (Judaism). On the very first anniversary of his release, he disseminated a letter in which he beseeched every single Jew to strengthen his or her commitment to Torah, and particularly to learning Torah in public.

Following his miraculous release, the previous Rebbe eventually made his miraculous way through the jaws of Nazi Europe to the safe shores of the USA, from where he expanded his activities and positive influence throughout the world, including Australia. In fact, in the late 1930’s an emissary of the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Azriel Zelig Slonim visited Brisbane, where he was instrumental in building a Mikveh here in a private home. This was most probably the first Mikveh in Queensland.

This Shabbat we also read about Bilam’s bracha (blessing) to the Jews—“How good are your tents Jacob, your dwellings Israel.” His blessing is twofold. He was impressed that the Jewish nation pitched their tents so that the doors faced away from each other and they couldn’t see into one another’s homes. And according to the Midrash the doors Bilam is referring to are the doors  of our Synaogues and houses of study. He prophesied that these doors would never close, i.e. Jews would always have places to pray and to study.

This Shabbat is therefore an opportune time for us to reconsider our social lives, particularly as we draw closer to our return, please G-d, next Shabbat to our beautiful beloved Synagogue. Are our social interactions, in person or on social-media, healthy? Are we generating cyber clouds of closeness and holiness, or are we spreading unholy disease by gossiping or giving people an inappropriate window into the privacy of our homes?

Zoom has helped us connect for Torah learning, prayers, social events, and other useful purposes. But the heat our electronic devices produce will never compare to the closeness we’re capable of generating when meeting in person. Of course, many of us are still restricted to social distancing and, due to popular demand, we will continue to conduct our pre-Shabbat zoom sessions on Friday afternoons at 2pm.

These past few months have demonstrated the deep desire among many of our members and friends to connect with each other, and it has been personally gratifying to witness the excitement and anticipation of so many who are eagerly awaiting our return to Shul. Whenever and wherever possible, let’s aim for the ideal: praying and studying Torah in person. When doing so (safely, and with the necessary guidelines), we will generate the warmth and closeness which genuine communal activity affords.

This coming Thursday we begin the ‘Three Weeks’, a period of mourning in the Jewish Calendar, over the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash (Temple), and the exile of our people from the Holy Land of Israel. Please see below information regarding various customs observed during the ‘Three Weeks’.

There has been much discussion in the media lately regarding domestic violence and sexual harassment at home and in the work place. Unfortunately the Jewish community is not immune to this sad state of affairs. Please see article below in this regard.

We look forward to gather together once again, albeit with limited numbers, next Shabbat, as the Shul finally re-opens for services, under special guidelines, which you will find on the Brisbane Synagogue website: www.brishc.com

We again extend a huge Yashar Koach (thank you) to the many dedicated board members and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to clean up the Synagogue, the Hall and Kitchen, so that we will come back to an even more beautiful and clean building next Shabbat.

Although it would appear that we here in Qld are thankfully emerging from the Covid 19, many have been adversely effected by this whole ordeal. Please see information below regarding our Communal Social Services organisations, Jcare and the Jewish Help in Need Society, which we encourage you contact if you require any assistance or support.

Wishing you and your family much continued good health and happiness.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

Levi and Dvorah Jaffe

From The Rabbi – Parshat Korach 5780

This past week I received an interesting question from a member of our congregation in relation to the postponing of the Hakamat Matzevah (Stone Setting), of his late father due to the Corona Virus, and whether this delay may perhaps be unsettling for the soul of the deceased.

This question reminded me of a story told about the two famous Chassidic brothers, Reb Zushe and Reb Elimelech, who were once incarcerated for practicing their religion and, due to the unhygienic conditions in the jail cell, they realized that according to Jewish law, they were unable to pray. After a few moments of sad reflection, Reb Zusha suddenly began to smile and even broke out in dance, as he turned to his brother and said “Under the current circumstances, as Jewish law dictates that we may not pray, by NOT praying, we are in fact fulfilling a Mitzvah and therefore we should rejoice in the opportunity to fulfill a Mitzvah even in this lowly environment.”

During these extraordinarily challenging times, due to health concerns, we are not yet able to gather together in the same manner that we have been accustomed to prior to Covid 19. As these restrictions have been implemented due to safety concerns and the preservation of human life, which is among the most important Mitzvot in the Torah, as demonstrated by the fact that Jewish law demands that we may desecrate the Shabbat in order to save a life, even if the life is only preserved for a short while. The delay of the above consecration is therefore certainly not unsettling, but rather uplifting for the soul of the deceased, as it is a Mitzvah to postpone such an event under such circumstances. May we share Simchot in good health.

This week we read of the dramatic saga of Korach, a relative of Moshe (Moses), who openly and brazenly challenged the leadership of Moshe and Aaron, causing him and his family, and many others with them, to be swallowed into the ground alive.

Which begs the question: Why, would we name a Parsha (Torah portion) after such a person, ‘Korach’, after a man who led a mutiny against Moses and Aaron? In Jewish tradition we avoid naming our children after undesirable characters such as Pharaoh or Haman, why then do we name one of the Torah’s own sections after an unrepentant sinner like Korach.

Among the suggested answers to this question is that there is one area where Korach can indeed be a good role model. What was Korach’s burning desire in life? It was to be a kohen gadol, high priest. He coveted Aaron’s position of honor. Being a high priest meant much more than just fame, fortune, glory and privilege. Many sacred responsibilities came with the job. It was no easy task to be a kohen gadol. There were numerous restrictions: where he could go, what kind of activities he could be involved in, whom he could marry, etc. Yet Korach was absolutely single-minded in his aspiration to become the high priest.

This is something we can all learn from Korach, the yearning to serve G‑d in the holiest capacity, the craving to be a kohen gadol. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each one of us longed for a life of sanctity, and aspired to deeply enhance their relationship with their spiritual selves. Spiritual aspirations never go unrewarded.

Over the past few weeks, it has been for me personally uplifting and gratifying to receive calls and messages from so many of our members and friends, who are eagerly looking forward to our return to Shul and, while we have been fortunate and blessed to be able to communicate via Zoom and various other technological mediums, there is a sincere desire among many to once again pray together with a Minyan, read from the Torah, recite the Kaddish, and enjoy the physical company of each other. We are all excited that, please G-d, in a couple of weeks on July 10, our beautiful Shul will re-open for services, under special guidelines, which you will find on the Brisbane Synagogue website: www.brishc.com

We extend a huge Yashar Koach (thank you) to the many dedicated board members and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to clean up the Synagogue, the Rabbi’s office and the Hall and Kitchen, so that we will come back to an even more beautiful and clean building in a couple of week’s time.

Wishing you and your families much continued good health and happiness.

Shabbat Shalom

Levi and Dvorah Jaffe

Shabbat and Festival Times

 

Fri July 3rd: Light Candles 4.48pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 4th 5.44pm

Thurs July 9th: Fast 17th Tamuz                5.20am-5.34pm

Fri July 10th: Light Candles 4.51pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 11th 5.46pm

Fri July 17th: Light Candles 4.54pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 18th 5.49pm

Fri July 24th: Light Candles 4.57pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 25th 5.53pm

Wed July 29th: Tisha B’Av fast 5.18pm

Thurs July 30th: Tisha B’Av fast ends 5.44pm

Fri July 31st: Light Candles 5.01pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 1st 5.56pm

Fri August 7th: Light Candles 5.05pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 8th 5.59pm

Fri August 14th: Light Candles 5.08pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 15th 6.02pm

Fri August 21st: Light Candles 5.12pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 22nd 6.05pm

Fri August 28th: Light Candles 5.15pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 29th 6.08pm