In this week’s reading we encounter a ‘zealot’, what you might call a ‘passionate enthusiast’, an individual by the name of Pinchas who saw an unjust behaviour which had no clear Jewish law how to respond to. He took the matter into his own hands and acted bravely to eradicate it, and for this he was rewarded. (see portion Pinchas)
In addition to the obvious lesson about standing up for what’s right even when others don’t, there is an equally important lesson here.
Having zeal or enthusiasm to fix a problem could be very dangerous too, it all depends where it is coming from.
For example; We all get passionate about our children’s development, about the skills they’re acquiring, we only want the best of the best for them. Sometimes we get too passionate and drown them in our expectations or we get angry with them. Our passion toward something has to come from a place of calm, it has to be thought out and deliberate. Ask yourself; Is my passion justified or am I just frustrated? Am I overenthusiastic about everything? Could it be a form of selfishness that we are imposing on others?
Pinchas was a calm and peaceful man, he did what he did because it was the right thing, not because he had an anger problem or because he had a bad night’s sleep.
Impulsive excitement could be damaging, but thought out enthusiasm is a powerful force for good.
This Sunday is the fast of the 17 of Tammuz. This is the start of the Three week mourning period which concludes with Tisha B’av – the 9th day of Av.
Don’t forget to vote for Dina as the local hero for the Chatswood Westfield program!
We are in the midst of the soccer world cup. Even people who don’t usually follow soccer enjoy following this competition which is the greatest stage for the sport. Winning the world cup is the dream of every soccer player and it brings great pride to the winning country.
Soccer is a beautiful game and during my two and half years in Brazil I developed a passion for the game.
One memory I have from that time is when Ronaldinho was asked whether he watches the matches when Brazil play, and his answer was no! He doesn’t like watching soccer, he would check the results but has no interest in watching the games. Obviously he enjoys playing it. He was the best in the world for quite some time!
At first I couldn’t make sense of it, but then I realised that he enjoys making the difference in a match but doesn’t enjoy watching something he can’t do anything about. He is driven when he is involved but not to watch from the side lines.
A player on the field cannot walk away from the game when it’s not going the way they like it, they have to keep on fighting for the team because they are “IN IT”. Fans on the other hand are not as involved, they can, and often do walk away when the team is losing.
Life is not a game but there’s is a lot we can learn from sport.
Do you see yourself as a player on the field, or a fan? To you fight and persist for important matters, or do you walk away when it is no longer exciting?
Is there room for “positive irrationality” in our lives?
Whenever you meet someone who thinks or feels different to you, you are likely to feel that some of the things they want are irrational to you.
Often in a marriage spouses get annoyed at each other thinking; ‘why does he/she like doing that?! Or ‘why does he/she care to have in that specific way?!
These frustrating situations can either tear you apart, or become a tremendous opportunity to bond with your spouse. When you do something for someone else just because THEY like it, it will bring you closer together in a way that nothing else will, precisely because you did it purely for them (providing you did it willingly).
This is the purpose of the ‘irrational’ Mitzvahs in the Torah like the Red Heifer that appears in this week’s reading.
Hashem provided them for this reason so we can do something for him that in our world doesn’t make sense but in Hashem’s world it does, we can reject it because of the irrationality, or we can do it purely because for Hashem it is meaningful and real.
Things that seem irrational to you, might be the best glue for your relationship!
Dina and I wish blessings of comfort and good health to Bessie Stein on the passing of her Husband Ellie who was a regular at our Shul for three decades.
We also wish a long and healthy life to Ellie’s daughter Gillian Heller, her husband Steven, and to her sisters Debbie and Sharon and their families.
We will be welcoming them to Shul this Friday evening.
This week we read about a massive argument that broke out in the Jewish community. This argument didn’t just ‘break out’ as much as it was instigated and skillfully led by a very ‘clever’ man named Korach – Moses first cousin.
If you examine the global community today, you will find that there is a lot divisiveness and strong disagreements particularly around leadership and political issues. It seems very difficult to have a civil discussion about important issues without offending someone or causing unpleasant feelings. People seem to get easily upset when they hear a contrary view.
What is the way to resolve this and make a more pleasant climate?
Perhaps the solution is to focus on things that we can actually change as individuals. Having an opinion on a major global issue that we don’t have the power to change can put us on edge, feeling vulnerable if we are challenged.
There is a famous saying:
“Men like to solve the ‘big issues’ like the global trade and peace between countries and the like, and woman like to solve ‘smaller issues’ like making sure the family doesn’t starve and that they have clothes to wear…”
Perhaps our perception of big and small is distorted, we get very hyped up about matters that are out of our control but don’t consider too important matters that we can actually solve, and solve quickly; like being a better person, reducing anger, fear, being more generous and giving, being more forgiving, improving our relationship with Hashem and the like, things that may seem small but which make us bigger people.
Dina and I wish you a peaceful (pun intended) Shabbat!
You probably heard this week that the National Argentinian football team cancelled a scheduled game vs the Israeli national team that was to be played in Israel.
For Israel this game was considered an opportunity to host, and play against Lionel Messi who is a legend of the game and is considered one of the greatest to ever play football. For Argentina, this was an opportunity to pocket some 6-7 million dollars during a financially difficult period, as well as to gain a ‘spiritual blessing’ for the World Cup that begins in just a few weeks time. Apparently, the two world cups in which Argentina did well were preceded by a visit to the holy land, so they believe it provided them with good luck.
The reason for this cancellation was threats made to the Argentinian players by BDS activists and others.
This cancellation and concession to these threats has potentially created a dangerous precedent for BDS to continue intimidating others from associating with Israel.
Interestingly, the central theme of this weeks Torah portion is about the Jewish nation overtaken by a terrible fear about entering Israel for the first time and conquering the land.
The 12 spies intimidated everyone by saying; “It is a scary and complicated land… a lot of people are dying there…”
The nation was terribly frightened.
I will talk about the nature of fear on Shabbat morning in Shul.
Let us examine how much we allow unfounded fear to dictate our own behaviour, do we act out of fear of others or do we Pursue what is right for us?
Conceding to fear shouldn’t be an option.
Dina & I wish you Shabbat Shalom!
I have already received some challenging questions for this week’s “Stump the Rabbi” session that will replace my sermon this upcoming Shabbat morning (at about 11am). I will give preference to the questions submitted in advance. If you haven’t thought of a question yet, you can still send one in before Shabbat. The earlier the better! Remember that I’m happy to respond anonymously. We will do this session once a month.
After an enjoyable and revitalising trip to Israel, we are glad to be back with this beautiful community and this great country. Australia is a phenomenal place, and the benefits we have here enable us to live a life of calm, coupled with a beautiful landscape.
In that vein, Dina and I wish you Happy Australia Day!
Our son Yitzchak will be celebrating his 6th birthday this weekend. We will be celebrating on Saturday at Shul with a guitar cake (I wonder where he got that idea from:).
Happy birthday Yitzchak!
I want to bring to your attention to some events coming up over the next two weeks:
1) The Friday night social evening with a musical service is coming up next week (3rd). Go ahead and register (on Shul website) for an unforgettable evening.
2) Rabbi Shmuel and Rivkah Cohen who served as Rabbi and Rebbetzin of the Shul for 20 years will be visiting from Israel and we will enjoy a Shabbat lunch with them on the 11th of Feb. Registration on Shul website.
Every week we will explore something new that touches on real life dilemmas such as, The power of positive thinking, Nature vs nurture and other fascinating topics. Please contact me for more details!
Dina and I wish you Shabbat Shalom!
While planning our yearly Hanukkah party, we suspected we might have a smaller crowd than usual due to the holiday period. However this past Wednesday a great crowd of over 100 people came and enjoyed a lively Chanukah event.
I thank the social committee chaired by Ben Hoch for working hard in arranging this great event. I also thank those who gave from their time to bake, set up, and shop for the event.
There is a certain tendency to indulge in the past and detach it from the present; “Things used to be better,” “times used to be better,” people use to be more like this… or more like that…nowadays it’s not the same…
“Kids these days” and so on. This attitude tears us away from the present, and we escape to the past to a mixture of reality and fantasy.
There is a similar attitude with our festivals, that they are interesting events that happened a long time ago, but they wouldn’t happen today. But if this is true, and the events of a festival are not reoccurring, then the Festival is irrelevant to a modern life. Just like anything outdated, it would ultimately vanish.
The Jewish attitude is that a festival and its’ message are current and relevant, and we must find a way to make it personal.
A humorous WhatsApp message drives this point home: “Imagine your mobile-phone battery had only 10% left and it lasted for eight days..” now do you understand the miracle of Chanukah??? 🙂
Modern day Israel is an ongoing Chanukah miracle. It is a tiny country continuously threatened by by its neighbours and it not only survives, but it thrives! It barely has any natural resources, but it built a thriving and innovative economy. This is not a natural phenomenon.
The question is whether we believe a small amount of something can outdo its natural expectation, it may be a small slot of time available for us to dedicate towards something important, or when we stand out as a minority in a group and we expect to be respected.
It may not be natural, but miracles do happen!
Dina and I wish you a happy Chanukah and a happy new year!
The year is coming to a close, the streets are quieter and there is a relaxed atmosphere in the air. Parents (or grandparents) with young children will be challenged with keeping them busy, I hope you can turn the challenge into enjoying the precious extra time with them in good spirits.
The theme of this upcoming weekend is gratitude. The Cremorne family is dedicating a Kiddush in honour of our immediate past president Garry and Maedinah Hyman as well as to our current president John Gallo and Jane Wolfers. Whenever we begin doing something challenging that we have seen others doing for many years, we often think to ourselves: "How did they manage all this time...?" " I didn't realise how difficult it was for them..." "...how much sacrifice and dedication it involved...". The reason we have this epiphany is because it is very hard to appreciate how challenging something is without having done it ourselves. Only when WE give it a try, we learn about all the details, about the theories that work or don't work and the creativity that is necessary to make things succeed. This Shabbat will be our opportunity to involve ourselves and appreciate the sacrifice made by Garry and Maedinah over the past four years in managing our Shul. Let us also appreciate the leap made by John and Jane in taking on this central role. Come and say Le'chaim, enjoy a special Kiddush and give positive feedback that will surely go a long way! Dina and I wish you a restful Shabbos! Rabbi Chaim and Dina Koncelpolski