Archive for February, 2018

From The Rabbi – Parshat Tetzaveh / Zachor 5778

Next week is Purim!

Interestingly, the name of G-d is not mentioned at all in Megillat Esther and, if one so chooses, it is possible to see the whole Purim story as a mere chain of coincidences totally devoid of Divine Providence.

That simply isn’t the case! The story of Purim became a reality because the Jewish People understood that it their deliverance from the danger that loomed over them would come about through the intervention ofHashem.

On Purim, we may hide behind a mask and fancy dress, but our spiritual essence is still within our core being. Just like G-d who has “hidden His face” behind the forces of history, we are blessed that He is still looking after us and gently guiding us until this very day.

This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Zachor. The Torah reading includes an important section, which is read from an additional Torah, outlining the commandment to remember how the wicked nation of Amalek attacked our People as we left Egypt. In the first terrorist attack of recorded history, Amalek exploited the shaky confidence of the Israelites, attacking them from behind, undermining the nascent self-confidence of the newly liberated slaves and their fragile reliance on G-d, causing them to wonder “Is G-d with us or not?”

Amalek thus sowed doubt in the cosmic fabric of human psyche. In fact the numerical value of the Hebrew word ‘Amalek‘ is the same as the word ‘Safek‘ meaning doubt. So it is no accident that Amalek represents doubt and uncertainty, and this is what we are reminded to obliterate from under the heavens.

Haman, the villain of the Purim story, was a direct descendant of Amalek; hence the connection to Purim. It’s a special mitzvah to hear this reading in Shul – so please join us tomorrow in Shul for this special reading!

Please see Purim information below, including Purim Megillah reading at the Brisbane Synagogue, followed by Hamantachen and our annual fancy-dress competition in the Memorial Hall. The festivities will continue on Purim day at Sinai College and a Purim Cruise on the Brisbane River.

In addition to hearing the Megillah, there are three other important mitzvot to perform on Purim.

The first is Matanot L’evyonim – we give gifts or money to at least two poor people. (If you wish for us to anonymously pass it on to people-in-need, you may kindly drop your gift in the Tzedakah basket that we will pass around on Purim for this purpose – it will be our pleasure to do so). This Mitzvah may be performed via internet donation too.

The second is Mishloach Manot, whereby we give a gift of at least two varieties of ready-to-eat foods to (at a minimum) one person. Please note that many have the custom to give to a greater number. These two mitzvot listed above were devised to generate a powerful bond between all Jews. When there is love and unity among us, our enemies cannot harm us! And finally, the third part-taking in a Seudah, or festive meal.

Shabbat Shalom and happy Purim

Rabbi Levi and Dvorah Jaffe

From The Rabbi – Parshat Terumah 5778

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim Besimcha – ‘When the month of Adar enters we increase in Joy!’

This week we commence the most detailed subject in all of the Torah, a topic spanning over 4 weeks, namely the Mishkan (Tabernacle), a relatively small structure, which accompanied the Jewish people, during their 40-year sojourn in the desert.

It seems rather strange that this small structure takes up hundreds of verses, while the creation of the entire universe, with all of its incredible details and complexities, is all done and dusted over a mere thirty or forty verses.

Our sages poignantly point out the valuable message being conveyed by the extent of coverage this topic generates in the Torah. The whole idea of the Mishkan was not about G-d building a home for us, rather about our building a home for G-d. This has been, and continues to be, our ongoing mission, to actively participate and contribute our resources, time, effort,and finances to create an abode for Hashem in our material world.

There has been much media coverage this past week about the moral conduct expected of those who are placed in ministerial positions. The Torah enjoins us all to view ourselves as integral components of the Divine plan in creation, to build within ourselves a sanctuary for Hashem, and fulfill our personal and collective mission in the world.

As we commence the next few weeks of detailed study of the construction of the Mishkan, I avail myself of this opportunity to commend the many wonderful members of our community, who are “Torem” (give so much of themselves) for our congregation and community, enriching their own lives, and making their valuable contribution to Jewish continuity.

On that note, if you are able to assist next Sunday at the Brisbane Synangogue Memorial Hall to prepare Hamantaschen, please contact Janine Arenson on

With just over a week until Purim, please see Purim information below, including Purim Megillah reading at the Brisbane Synagogue, followed by Hamantachen and our annual fancy-dress competition in the Memorial Hall. The festivities will continue on Purim day at Sinai College and a Purim Cruise on the Brisbane River.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov

Rabbi Levi and Dvorah Jaffe


Chazzan (Cantor) Moshe Kraus – Who’s Life was spared by singing for a nazi officer in Bergen Belsen

This past week someone forwarded to me a video clip about Chazan Moshe Kraus, which moved me deeply, to the extent that I felt compelled to make contact with him and called him at his Ottawa home this morning.

I was amazed to discover from 95 year-old Reb Moshe that 50 years ago, he was offered a contract to become Chazzan at the Brisbane Synagogue, but decided to take up a position in Mexico instead.

A book about his life was recently produced and below is an article about the book.

The Life of Moshele der Zinger: How My Singing Saved My Life
By Cantor Moshe S. Kraus
Baico Publishing Inc.
245 pages

In the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, he was known as Moshele der Zinger (Moshele the Singer).The diminutive young man with the golden voice used his talents to entertain, sustain and give solace to his fellow prisoners as they faced deprivation and death.

But as he recounts in his autobiography, Cantor Moshe Kraus’s prodigious talents saved his own life on more than one occasion.

That’s why Moshele der Zinger is subtitled How My Singing Saved My Life. It’s a rich account of the remarkable life of Cantor Kraus, 95, and his more than 70 years as a renowned chazzan.

Full disclaimer: I have known Moshe and Rivka Kraus since 1998. I travelled to Germany with Cantor Kraus to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, and I wrote the foreword to the book.

So I am far from an objective reviewer. But I’ve been lucky enough over the years to hear Cantor Kraus tell some of these stories in person and can state unequivocally that the book – shaped with the help of writer/editor Lynne Cohen – truly captures his voice and his unique style of storytelling.

It includes a collection of Chasidic tales – some humorous, some poignant – which Cantor Kraus learned from his late father.

Cantor Kraus was born in Uzhhorod, in what was then Czechoslovakia but is now Ukraine. The oldest of nine children in a close-knit Chasidic family, he was recognized at a young age as a wunderkind, a child singing sensation.

By the age of 13, he had sung at concerts and Shabbat services throughout Eastern Europe. At 18, he became city cantor of Sighet, Romania, which was a thriving Jewish community with five large synagogues before most of its Jews were wiped out in the Holocaust.

It was also the home of the late Holocaust survivor and human rights activist Elie Wiesel, who sang in Cantor Kraus’ choir and referred to him as his “rebbe” for the rest of his life.

Cantor Kraus soon became the chief cantor of Budapest. But in 1943, he was deported to the Bor labour camp in what was then Yugoslavia, and to Bergen-Belsen the following year.

More than 600,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust, including Cantor Kraus’ parents, five of his eight siblings, 20 aunts and uncles and almost 100 cousins.

Although his experiences at Bor and Bergen-Belsen comprise only one chapter in a book that includes countless humorous anecdotes, this portion of Cantor Kraus’ life is essential to understanding his physical and mental resilience, religious faith and luck, as well as the singing talent that indeed saved his life.

As a teenager, Cantor Kraus had loved the singing of the German Jewish tenor Yosef Schmidt, and later studied with Schmidt’s teacher.

At Bergen-Belsen, he was asked to sing for the camp commander, Josef Kramer, known as the Beast of Belsen, who made a game of shooting prisoners. When he requested music in German, Cantor Kraus was able to sing the repertoire of Yosef Schmidt so beautifully that Kramer made sure he was never among the 1,000 prisoners Cantor Kraus says were chosen to die every day.

When he was liberated on April 15, 1945, Cantor Kraus was infested with lice and weighed less than 80 pounds.

Although Cantor Kraus remains a relentlessly positive person, he is still haunted by his Holocaust experiences.

“I just can’t believe it still hurts after all these years,” he writes. “There is no answer as to why. If somebody gives you an answer, tell him he’s a liar. There is no answer.”

After liberation, Cantor Kraus worked for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and later moved to Israel to become the first chief cantor of the Israeli army.

It was there that he met the 16-year-old Rivka, to whom he proposed a half-hour after they met. She called him a meshuggener, Yiddish for crazy person. But he persisted, and they became engaged a year later.

In addition to a solo career that took him around the world, Cantor Kraus was head cantor in Antwerp, Johannesburg and Mexico City. The cantor and Rivka settled in Ottawa in the 1970s, where he worked at Congregation Beth Shalom until his retirement in 1980.

Although he’s been fêted by the rich and powerful and honoured by world leaders, his memoirs make it clear that Cantor Kraus’ life continues to be defined by faith, gratitude and the sanctity of prayer.

“My highlight was every tefillah,” he told Kinneret Globerman for an Ottawa Jewish Bulletin article in 2006. “Every davening I gave my best. I always knew I was standing before God.”

“I didn’t daven to entertain people. I davened for God.” .

Shabbat and Festival Times


Fri Jan 3rd: Light Candles 6.29pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 4th 7.27pm

Fri Jan 10th: Light Candles 6.30pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 11th 7.27pm

Fri Jan 17th: Light Candles 6.29pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 18th 7.26pm

Fri Jan 24th: Light Candles 6.28pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 25th 7.23pm

Fri Jan 31st: Light Candles 6.25pm

Shabbat ends: Sat 1st 7.20pm