Rabbi

Welcome to the page of Rabbi Chaim, where you can learn more about him, his wife Dina and their wonderful family. You can also read all of his weekly messages.

Cremorne Synagogue
Cremorne Synagogue

ABOUT OUR RABBI

Rabbi Chaim Koncepolski was born in Sydney and moved to Israel with his family when he was 8 years old. After returning to Sydney for a short time around age 12, he completed his education at a Yeshiva in Israel, where his two older brothers were studying. When he was 20 he travelled to Brazil, where his brother was located, to be a shaliach at the Yeshiva. In his second year there he completed his Rabbinic ordination, and the following year he assisted with strengthening smaller Jewish communities in Brazil. With a strong passion for music, he was hired as cantor for a number of synagogues around the world for high holidays including Brazil, Florida, Russia and Central Synagogue Sydney. He is competent in Hebrew, Yiddish, Portuguese and English.

Rabbi Koncepolski’s wife Dina, the daughter of a rabbi, was born in Manchester, England, where she studied in an orthodox primary and high school. She then spent two years in Montreal studying at a seminary, while also volunteering in the local community and high school. This was followed by two years as a shaliach, one in Liverpool, England, working on community programs, the other in Israel, where she was a madricha. Dina was in New York for three years, working for one year with a friendship circle, which provided support for children with special needs. Rabbi Koncepolski went to New York to study where he met Dina and they married in January 2009.

Following further study, Rabbi Koncepolski and Dina took up a position in Jerusalem, where Chaim’s role was to inspire and support young Jewish men from English-speaking countries around the world, who felt alienated and had turned away from Judaism. Chaim supported them and encouraged them to regain trust in teachers, authority and Judaism, and to regain a positive self-image.

Rabbi Koncepolski and Dina have five children, Yitzchak, Zalman, Chava, Toba and Mendy.

WEEKLY MESSAGE

"Ruminate Marinate"

16 April 2021

Dina and I wish long life and healthy years to Kevin Jochelson and his family on the passing of his step grandfather in South Africa this week.

On a happy note we wish a hearty Mazal Tov to Rod and Carolyn Hyman on the Bar Mitzvah of their grandson, Will Holland, this past Shabbat.

We also wish a big Mazal Tov to Itamar Francis and to his parents Keren and Gilad on Itamar’s Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat.

Itamar has a beautiful and angelic voice. We have been enjoying his singing at services over the past year and we look forward to hearing him sing his Haftorah and a few other bits during the Shabbat day service.

Over the past week I participated in the daily Shiva services for Zeldi Farbenblum together with David and Gillian Farbenblum, Michael and Sue Farbenblum, their families and many other members of our community. They deeply appreciated the support and love they received.

Marking and experiencing the entire week of Shiva was very uplifting for the family and for those who attended.

I have a personal rule I call: ‘Ruminate Marinate’. Whether I am preparing a speech, a Shiur or trying to connect with something, there is no better way of doing it than ruminating over it and marinating in it. In a situation of grief the Shiva week is a gift that provides consolation and inspiration to the mourners and to those present.

The daily stories told about Zeldi as well as the personal reflections from the family were transformative and we are all better and more inspired for being part of it.

May Zeldi’s Neshama have an Aliya, and an elevated pleasant journey.

We wish long life and healthy years to the Farbenblum family.

Shabbat Shalom!

Chaim and Dina

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Commemorating Zeldi Farbenblum

9 April 2021

Dina and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Zeldi Farbenblum this morning.
It is ironic that she passed away on Yom Hashoa!
Zeldi was a survivor of the Shoa and she was the ultimate survivor. She fought every day of her life to live fully. She persevered and overcame challenge after challenge to live almost 95 very full years.
Zeldi was blessed to live with clarity till the very end. When I visited her just a few weeks ago she spoke with a clear mind about her love for her family.
Her children David and Michael, together with Gillian and Sue and their families, absolutely adored her for the wonderful attitude to life she exemplified.
Her memory lives on vividly in her family and in all those who were blessed to know her.
Zeldi’s efforts, and those of her husband Harry, who founded the wonderful Cremorne community, will live on as we all continue to benefit from it.
We wish comfort, strength and a long and healthy life to David and Gillian Farbenblum and their daughters Bassina, Debbie, Shelly and their families, and to Michael and Sue Farbenblum and their children Josh, Steven and Eliza.
May Zeldi’s memory be a blessing.

We will welcome the Farbenblum families to Shul this Friday evening during the service (starting 6pm).

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Pesach Anecdote from Rabbi Y Meir Lau

2 April 2021

When he was Chief Rabbi of Israel  (1993-2003) and headed the Supreme Beth Din in Israel, a Russian immigrant walked in and wanted to confirm his Jewish status. He brought two witnesses with him. The first witness said that he was at this immigrant’s Bris in Russia 42 years earlier. The second witness was a Chasid and he shared the following: This immigrant’s mother had a prominent role in a local hospital and as such would receive a ration of two cigarettes a day. Cigarettes were a rare commodity at the time. She would smoke one and put one aside. Every year a month before Pesach she would come to me with 365 cigarettes, give them to me and ask me to get her matzahs in return. I would sell it, buy flour and bake the matzahs for her. Rabbi Lau was very impressed and asked if she is still alive and whether he can talk to her. He said she was and arranged the phone call. She confirmed the story and Rabbi Lau told her: ‘I think about Pesach a few days a year, you live Pesach the whole year round!

We have a few days left for Pesach, let us utilise, celebrate and enjoy it!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Same’ach

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Exciting News + Chag Sameach

26 March 2021

Dina and I wish a huge Mazal Tov to Anna and Jonathan Mitchell on the birth of a baby boy this past Monday. We wish them only Nachas from him!
We extend a hearty Mazal Tov to Anna’s mother Maureen and Jonathan’s parents Tony and Robin.
——-
One of the great gifts of Jewish life is the connection between ideas and actions. Ideas alone dissipate. Act them out and they feel more real and last forever.
Many practices of Jewish life are essentially acting out an idea.
Avoiding Chametz (leaven) on Pesach is a very rigorous practice. Very nuanced and all encompassing, but when you reflect on its message, even the details come to life.
We all love humble people. Humble people are extremely loveable friends, parents, rabbis, and colleagues. Humble people don’t get overly offended, or angry. They avoid fights and excessive attention. They are sensitive towards others but not themselves. They are ego-free. But how do we become them? It is not an easy thing to achieve because the ego creeps in everywhere. We get entangled with it at times innocently. Avoiding Chametz, which is inflated dough, represents the mindful labour of diminishing our ego, keeping our ego in check and not inflated. When we eat Matzah we take it into our system.
This is why the Chametz actions are so detailed, because the exercise it represents is detailed, but also incredibly rewarding and it earns you the greatest title you can earn as a Jew – being a Mensch.

Dina and I wish you a very happy, meaningful and Kosher Pesach and we are looking forward to celebrating our new bundle of Joy with you on Friday evening, and Monday evening with the Bris.

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Establishing Bounderies

19 March 2021

Many Jews who don’t consider themselves observant and don’t keep Kosher, still maintain the practice of not eating pork, shrimp and various other ‘non Jewish’ foods.

They also teach their children to do the same. This is a positive practice. Judasim/Jewish practice is not all or nothing, so avoiding these foods despite eating other non Kosher food has value.

What reason do you give your children or yourself for avoiding these foods? What if your child wants to experiment with some bacon on their Pizza? Do you tell them to have a go and see if they like it, or see how they feel? Or do you say; ‘We are Jewish and we don’t this!.”

If you say the former, you are missing an important educational opportunity to teach your child that it is ok to want something and not have it. It is ok to not fulfil every desire. We don’t avoid pork because we don’t like it, we avoid it because Hashem said so.

We have a unique relationship with Hashem and we do this for Him. Children get it and it gives them clarity. It helps them create boundaries and gives them confidence in their decision making process. Some things we just don’t do even if we really feel like doing them. Sometimes the desire may be for pork, other times for being rude to their parents, or later in life for doing something dishonest in business.

We just don’t do it.  It is ok to say no.

That’s why we first start teaching children at school the book of Vayikra which deals with sacrifices and opens with the words ” and Hashem spoke to Moshe” in order to inspire the children to sacrifice for what is right and to acknowledge that we do it because of Hashem’s calling to us through Moses.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Chaim & Dina

This week in the Community

12 March 2021

Dina and I wish long life to Sam Zweig and to his daughters Tami, Sharoni and their families for their wife and mother Rachel’s first Yahrtzeit this week.

Rachel is still fresh in our hearts. She was a warm, friendly and gracious woman. She is certainly looking down, shlepping nachas from her family.

We wish them only Simchas!

On a happy note we wish a big Mazal Tov to Ilana Heller and Rob Gertskis on their Aufruf this Shabbos. We extend Mazal Tov to Ilana’s parents Gillian and Steven and to Rob’s Mother Rita and the extended family.

May they build a beautiful and loving home together!

Finally, a Happy 7th Birthday to Shani Yedid, Rochel Lazarus’s daughter. May she continue to bring much Nachas to her parents, family and everyone at Cremorne!

Rochel will be bringing a birthday cake for her on Shabbat day!

——

We at Cremorne Synagogue are proud to be participating in Yesh Tikva’s Sixth Annual Infertility Awareness Shabbat along with over 100 other synagogues in North America, Australia, and Israel in partnership with Australia Jewish Fertility Network who does tremendous work in supporting couples who struggle with infertility. This shabbat aims to give infertility a “voice” and to spread awareness in the Jewish community. Too often, infertility is a silent struggle, such that we may not even be aware when our friends, family members or neighbours are suffering. The goal of this campaign is to increase sensitivity towards our fellow Jews who dream of becoming parents.

Sensitivity and awareness is a big blessing.

In the link below you can get some tips and ideas of how to be more aware and support people around you in this regard.

https://yeshtikva.org/supporting-others/what-to-not-to-say/

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Honoring Rabbi Shmuel Cohen

5 March 2021

Tomorrow, Friday @ 6pm we are hosting a memorable service in honour of Rabbi Shmuel Cohen. The service will be led by his past Bar Mitzvah students.

We will be serving Sushi and Scotch after the service. Everyone is welcome!

Rabbi Shmuel had a unique ability to teach the Bar Mitzvah students how to lead the entire Friday night service on their own. This is a great gift he has given them and a great legacy that will remain forever. I would like to invite young adults from our community and beyond, whether you learnt with Rabbi & Rebbetzin Cohen or not, to join us for the evening and come and catch up with old friends and members of Cremorne. Please remember to register if you intend being present.

In this week’s reading we are instructed not to count people’s bodies when carrying out a census but rather to collect coins from them and count those.

The reason is in order to teach us not to look at people as a number, but rather as a piece of Hashem with infinite potential.

That is certainly how Rabbi Shmuel saw his students. He didn’t put any limit on their ability to learn and grow. May we aspire to have this unconditional love for all people!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Mitzvot of Purim

26 February 2021

Dina and I wish a big Mazal Tov to Simon and Joanne Travers on the Barmitzvah of their twin boys Jeremy and Aiden this Shabbat.

It has been an exciting journey preparing them for this day and we wish them only continued Nachas from them!

Jeremy and Aiden will help us lead the services during the Friday night instrumental service followed by whisky and Hamantashen.

——

Whether you are young or old, this is one of the most highly anticipated weeks on the Jewish calendar. This week we celebrate the holiday of Purim! Purim begins Thursday night, February 25th, at sundown, and families around the globe will gather in synagogues or other venues for the reading of the Megillah – the Book of Esther. Then Friday morning everyone returns to hear the Megillah read once again.

The holiday of Purim is a very special time; children of ALL ages dress up and go from home to home, spreading cheer and distributing gifts of food and delicacies to friends and neighbours. The mitzvot of the day include mishloach manot – everyone is required to provide at least one person with two food items – and there is a specific Purim obligation to help those who are needy (matanot l’evyonim). These acts of gift-giving and charity are meant to foster brotherhood and unity. Purim is a time when even the dourest amongst us manages to crack a smile.

There is also a Mitzvah to have a Purim meal some time during the day.

Dina and I wish you all a very happy Purim and we look forward to celebrating with you.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Teruma - Giving

19 February 2021

An individual consulted with his Rabbi: ‘Rabbi, I give charity to various causes but I don’t feel good about it. I give for selfish reasons, it makes me feel good, I am recognised in public, I like the fame and the satisfaction of being a benefactor. Maybe I should stop and reassess my motives’.

The rabbi responded: your intentions may be tainted but the beneficiary’s intentions are pure. Meaning, the poor person or the institution that receives your donation benefits from it equally, whether your intentions are pure or not. The purity of your intentions matter only for your own personal development.

This story illustrates what our focus should be when we give to charity, or when we do anything that benefits someone else. The focus should be, ‘is my giving helping someone or something?’ If it is, it doesn’t really matter how I feel inside because I’m not doing it for myself, I’m doing it to help someone’. The purity of my intentions shouldn’t stop me from giving.

This can be applied to our relationship with Hashem. When we deliberate over a Mitzvah like prayer, Tefilin, Kosher etc ideally we should love what we are doing and find it uplifting and meaningful. However, part of the human condition is that there are many moments where we are not interested (It happens to me!). What do you do then?

This is an opportunity to do it for G-d, purely because it makes Him happy. This is true giving and this can make us happy too.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Judging Jewishly

12 February 2021
Dina and I wish a huge Mazal Tov to Malka and Mike Swerdlin on the Bar Mitzvah of their oldest grandson Ollie Bloch in Israel.
Due to current circumstances they couldn’t travel to be there in person so they will celebrate locally. Mike will be honoured with the Haftorah reading and they are dedicating a Kiddush after the service. All are welcome!

The bulk of this week’s Torah portion deals with Civil disputes and the Mitzva upon both litigants to have their disputes resolved according to Jewish law before expert judges with high moral character.

Litigants don’t have to adhere to a particular Beth Din unless they were elected by the community. Otherwise each litigant can choose the Halachik Judge they prefer, and those two judges chose a third judge to form a group of three.

This Mitzva is considered very central to the Jewish faith, however, if one of the litigants doesn’t agree to have it resolved through Jewish Law then the other litigant is permitted to take the dispute to a civil court.

A Jewish judge should possess the following seven attributes: wisdom, humility, the fear of God, a loathing for money, a love for truth; he must be a person who is beloved by people at large, and must have a good reputation.

In summation, this is a joint responsibility.

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Commemorating Rabbi Shmuel Cohen

5 February 2021

This week began with the sad news of the passing of our dear Rabbi Shmuel Cohen who together with his wife Rivka served the Cremorne community with the utmost dedication and love for 22 years. The outpouring of love for Rabbi Shmuel was not limited to the Cremorne community. All across the Sydney community and throughout the world, in person and online, there was a flood of messages demonstrating how much Rabbi Shmuel meant to people. He achieved this admiration through the deep impact he had on people’s lives, their educational development and their Jewish identity. Rabbi Shmuel excelled at imparting a love of learning, and through his limitless patience he elevated his students to high levels of knowledge and excitement for Yiddishkeit.

King Solomn said “And the living should take to heart” (Kohelet 7,2), we must learn from the life of this beloved Rabbi how sincerity, humility, patience, and love for people make a person very beloved and admired by people near and far.

May Rabbi Shmuel Ben Yitzhak memory live on, and his commitment to truth and good values inspire us to follow in his ways.

Dina and I  together with the entire Cremorne community wish Rivkah and her family a long and healthy life.

‘May Hashem comfort you, among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem’.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Tu Bishvat

29 January 2021

Dina and I wish a hearty Mazal Tov to Shalva and Alon Beran on the birth of a beautiful baby boy, little brother to Elora!

We extend a Mazal Tov to the grandparents Shoshana and Aron Shamberg and to Roger and Nomi Beran. May they have tremendous Nachat from him!

The festival of Tu Bishvat commemorated today, is celebrated by eating the seven fruits of the land of Israel. Fruit is a symbol of natural pleasure. Having a ritual with fruit represents harnessing our pleasures and making sure they are not uncontained.

Unbridled pleasures take the depth and satisfaction out of the experience and leave us chasing for more. When you put some constraint on your pleasures, it makes them meaningful and satisfactory.

This is why the Shabbat, which is a day of constraint, is described as a day of pleasure and a gift of love from Hashem to us. It takes away the quantity of life engagement but it adds quality. Engaging with life relentlessly can make life’s experiences more shallow. Holding back, enables us to have true appreciation so that everything tastes so much better!

Wishing you a pleasurable Shabbos!

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Why "Come" to Pharaoh and not "Go" to Pharaoh

22 January 2021

Dina & I would like to wish a heavy hearted farewell to the Tobys – Jonathan, Jodi, Rafaeli and Ashriel. We have been lucky to have them living nearby for a couple of years now in which time they have become strong members and friends of our community. We wish them the best of luck for their future, and look forward to welcoming them back again whenever they are visiting Sydney.

The Tobys will be sponsoring a covid safe farewell kiddush this Shabbat following the service. Everyone is invited to join!

When I teach teenagers I notice that the confidence level of the students plays a big role in their progress. A confident student is more focussed, assertive, memorises quicker and retains the information for longer. Their level of confidence, or lack thereof, is often not due to their own making. It is affected by their upbringing and their nature among other things, but either way, it is a major factor in one’s development as a person.

Self doubt is common. We often doubt whether we can learn or practise something new, whether we can handle our personal challenges, the struggles with our children, our job, our relationships. This is why role modelling is so important, it instills confidence. If we’re lucky we get it from our parents and teachers in our formative years.

Information from books is nice and important (even in the Torah), but it doesn’t impress most people. People need to see it acted out by a human being, especially someone they respect in order for it to make an impression and for them to believe it can be done.

When Hashem sent Moses to pharaoh, he didn’t tell him to GO to Pharaoh, he said COME to Pharaoh, come with me, we’ll do it together. This is a lesson about how to teach, parent, or inspire. You don’t send your children or students on a task, you ask them to join you and show them that it can be done.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Types of Nations

15 January 2021

Please consider supporting the Minyanim over the holiday period.

I welcome my friend Rabbi Dovy Rappaport -Rabbi at Kehilat Kadima- and his wife Rivkah and family to Cremorne for Shabbat. Rabbi Dovy will share a few words during the Friday night service.

There are four words used in the Torah for nation. 1. Ooma (אומה) 2. Am (עם) 3. Leh’om (לאום). 4. Goy גוי)).

Even though the word Goy is commonly used to refer to a Gentile, it is used in the Torah multiple times to refer to the Jewish nation, like in Exodus 19, 6 – ‘Goy Kadosh’ – Holy nation, or in Deuteronomy 4,6 ‘Goy Gadol’ – great nation. The other three terms are also used to refer to the Jewish nation.

These four words are not just synonyms, they each refer to a different type of nation, or different aspects of a nation.

‘Ooma’ has the root ‘Ima’ meaning mother. This refers to a nation that has a common ancestor and family tradition and that is what binds them together.

Leh’om relates to land, referring to a group that shares a common connection to a land.

Goy might refer to the word body or tribe.

Am (as in Am Yisrael) relates to the word ‘Im’ (עם) which means with, referring to strong interconnectedness between the people of your nation, not based on ancestry, land or family but based on a deep commonality.

Am, is the most common word used for the Jewish people, because what makes us a nation is the commonality that we were all chosen by Hashem to be his (at the Exodus), to be in a relationship with him and that connection can never be severed. Human choices are strong as long as we keep to them. Hashem’s choices are eternal just like he is eternal.

I thank Rabbi Ben Elton for helping me with some of the content in this message.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Commemorating the Rambam

8 January 2021

This past Monday, the 20th of Tevet, was the Yahrzeit of the Rambam also known as Maimonidies.

The name Rambam is an acronym for his name Rabbi Moshe the Son of Maimon (the Spaniard). Originally from Cordoba Spain he later lived in Egypt. The Rambam is one of the greatest scholars of Jewish history and his teachings and insights recorded in the books he wrote cover almost every topic under the sun.

He was also an expert gastroenterologist (a few medical treatises on preventative medicine have survived till today) and his advice on health and diet rings similar to the natural healthy diets advised today. He taught that keeping the body healthy is part of the service of G-d, and spoke strongly about diet and exercise.

He taught that the basis for positive emotions is knowledge, and that knowledge produces love. Your love towards Hashem, as mandated in the Shema prayer, will be according to the depth of your knowledge of Hashem. Little knowledge cannot produce a positive connection.

I have a daily learning session in his book Mishne Torah.

In honor of the Rambam’s Yahrzeit, explore some of the Rambam’s teachings. There are many fascinating topics to connect with. The section Called ‘The foundations of Torah’ at the beginning of his work ‘Mishne Torah’ is fascinating (Chabad.org has it with translation and commentary). There he discusses angels, prophesy, belief in G-d, the intelligence of galaxies, the elements, and much more.

Take advantage of this and gain a depth of knowledge in all areas of your life.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Happy Gregorian New Year!

1 January 2021

This Thursday night/Friday marks the new year on the Gregorian calendar.

Many people think that this counting is meaningless and is nothing more than a change of numbers in people’s heads. It is not a religious or spiritual calendar and therefore it is insignificant.

This is not entirely true.

The Gregorian calendar follows the cycle of the sun. Every 365 days the sun returns to the same spot in relation to earth.

The Jewish calendar follows the cycle of the moon which is 354 days. 11 days short shorter than the sun.

The reason the Jewish calendar follows the moon is because the moon represents renewal; even if things look dark, light will follow. The moon waxes and wanes, even though it is within sight, it doesn’t alway radiate light.

The sun always radiates light, representing the consistent cycles of nature.

Nature is important and we even adjust the Jewish calendar every few years to make sure it aligns with the solar calendar and the seasons.

Jewish spirituality is intertwined with nature, but the patterns of nature are not set in stone, because nature is being renewed every moment by Hashem and therefore even a bad pattern of nature can change for the better at any given moment.

It has been a challenging year in many ways but that can all change in an instant.

In the words of the Midrash: ‘Hashem’s salvation can happen in the blink of an eye’.

May the upcoming year be a year of good health joy and prosperity!

Shabbat Shalom

Best wishes from Dina and me

Rabbi's returned from holidays!

24 December 2020

Please consider supporting the Minyanim over the next few weeks. Many people are away and your attendance will be very helpful!

Dina and I wish a hearty Mazal Tov to Gillian and Steven Heller on the engagement of their daughter Monique to Michael Sherman.

We wish them a life of joy filled with Hashem’s blessings.

 

This Friday is a fast day and a day of reflection called ‘Asara Betevet‘, the tenth day of Tevet. It is the day the armies of the Babylonian Emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem in the year 425 BCE. Thirty months later—on 9 Tammuz 3338—the city walls were breached, and on 9 Av of that year the Holy Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia for 70 years.

The fast is observed from dawn to nightfall. We fast into Shabbat and make Kiddush and have the break-fast/Shabbat meal at 8:37 pm.

 

This traditional fast day is also a personal day for my family because it is the Yahrtzeit of my niece Rivakh Koncepolski who tragically passed away last year.

We wish my brother and sister in law Mendi, Dobi and family a long and healthy life and strength and comfort over this time.

 

The Mincha service tomorrow has a Torah + Haftarah reading so it will take an extra ten minutes. Please come on time to avoid delay.

 

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and a pleasant holiday period.

 

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Rabbi with Family on Holiday!

18 December 2020

Rabbi Chaim, Dina and family are on a short holiday and we wish them a fun and relaxed time away and look forward to their return next week.

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Happy Chanukah!

11 December 2020

We look forward to the joyous festivities over Chanukah.

Here are a couple of laws and customs around the Chanukah festival:

The complete Halel (thanksgiving prayer) is recited every day of Chanukah right after the Amidah.

There is a short paragraph of gratitude called ‘Al Hanisim’ which contains a soundbite of the Chanuakah story and an expression of gratitude for the victory of the few Jews vs the many Greeks that restored Jewish sovereignty over our land. It is recited during the ‘Birkat Hamazon’ (grace after meals)  and the Amidah on Chanukah.

On Friday, the Chanukah candles must be lit before the Shabbat candles. The Chanukah candles shouldn’t be lit before 6:31 pm.

Every night of Chanukah, the Chanukah candles should remain lit until at least 30 minutes after nightfall. In order to do this, it is best to use beeswax candles or olive oil and wicks.

The Menorah should be placed either at the window or inside the house adjacent to the door post of the main passageway, opposite the Mezuzah so that when you walk through you are surrounded with Mitzvahs.

Customs:

Make your meals during Chanukah festive.

Eat foods that are cooked with oil to remember and reflect on the miracle.

There is a custom to eat cheese on Chanukah as it was used by Judith to get the enemy (thirsty and then) drunk.

Increase in giving Charity during Chanukah to enable the less fortunate to experience increased joy.

Play dreidel during Chanukah. Avoid gambling large sums of money.

We avoid confessional prayer (Tachanun) during the 8 days of the festival.

If you need a Chanukiah let me know.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Same’ach!

Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Rabbi's Message

4 December 2020

Something very interesting has happened over the past few decades. Even though much of reality has become less tangible and more virtual, people are leaning more in the opposite direction by defining what is real based on what they can see or feel physically. So, for example, faith and G-D are things that some people find challenging because they can’t see G-D or feel him physically.
There are many things we value that are not tangible like like love, art, music, and wisdom. Keeping intangible things going is often a battle.
I’ve had couples tell me that they have fallen out of love. The truth is that everyone has moments that they fall out of love, because it’s not possible to love someone effortlessly and endlessly, love needs to be worked on and nurtured. It is a battle at times.
It is the same with faith. It is a battle. It takes work and effort. If the things we believed in were fully exposed right in front of us, it wouldn’t require belief and it wouldn’t require effort.
That’s what you mean when you tell your child or anyone else you care for ‘I have faith in you’, meaning, even though I can’t see it or prove it, I believe that  you will achieve it!
In Portion Vayishlach, Jacob battled with the attacking angel, beat him and had his name changed from Jacob to Israel.
Israel means, to wrestle with G-D. That’s what faith is – to not give up on fighting for meaning and for living purposefully according to the divine design.

In honour of Rabbi Sack’s Shloshim I’ll conclude with one of his brilliant sayings: “Faith is not certainty, but the courage to live with uncertainty”.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Chaim and Dina

Rabbi's Message

27 November 2020

Dina and I wish a big Mazal Tov to Matthew and Alinta Zwi on the birth of their princess – Ayla.

We wish them much Nachat from her!

We also wish Mazal Tov to Matthew’s parents, David and Rene Zwi. May they continue to Shep Nachas from all of their children and grand-children.

There is an amusing Medrash that tells that when Jacob lay his head down to rest on a stone pillow on the temple mount, the local stones started fighting, each wanting to be the one that Jacob, who was a holy man, would rest his head on.

To resolve the stone politics, Hashem performed a miracle and all the stones turned into a single stone, thereby all being placed under Jacob’s head together.

Once the stones were fused into a single object, they were no longer upset if Jacob’s head would not rest directly on them because they were now part of the same stone.

There is a wonderful message in this amusing story.

If you feel like you are on a separate team than someone else, you will feel jealous of their achievements, because you want your team or your agenda to win. However, if you look at life the true way, which is, we are all on the same team, we are all here to make the world a kinder and more harmonious place, albeit in our own unique way, then anyone else’s achievements are also our own.

The ‘two team’ approach can affect even our most personal relationships. Husbands and wives, parents and children often try to ‘win’ and have their way.

A subtle shift in attitude will create a major shift in your happiness and success.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Chaim & Dina

Passing of Rabbi Sacks

20 November 2020

By now, you would have heard about the upsetting news of the passing of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He was such an inspiration to so many people and provided thought provoking insights on a weekly basis.

This Shabbat, I will dedicate my sermons and messages to Rabbi Sacks.

I will share some of his insights and my reflections on how he stood out to me personally.

I hope you can join me in memorialising him and learning from his great wisdom.

For my weekly message, I will suspend my own thoughts and share a text from an animated video Rabbi Sacks shared one year ago. May his memory be a blessing and inspiration to all.

 

BY RABBI JONATHAN SACKS – Things Judaism taught me about life.

Never try to be clever. Always try to be wise.

Respect others, even if they disrespect you.

Never seek publicity for what you do. If you deserve it, you will receive it.

If you don’t, you will be attacked. In any case, goodness never needs to draw attention to itself.

When you do good to others, it is yourself, your conscience and your self-respect, that will be the beneficiary.

The greatest gift of giving is the opportunity to give.

In life, never take shortcuts. There is no success without effort, no achievement without hard work.

Keep your distance from those who seek honour.

Be respectful, but none of us is called on to be a looking glass for those in love with themselves.

In everything you do, be mindful that God sees all we do. There is no cheating God.

When we try to deceive others usually the only person we succeed in deceiving is ourself.

Be very slow indeed to judge others. If they are wrong, God will judge them. If we are wrong, God will judge us.

Greater by far than the love we receive is the love we give.

It was once said of a great religious leader, that he was a man who took God so seriously that he never felt the need to take himself seriously at all. And that is worth aspiring to.

Use your time well. Life is short, too short to waste on television, computer games and unnecessary emails;

too short to waste on idle gossip, or envying others for what they have,

too short for anger and indignation; too short to waste on criticising others.

“Teach us to number our days”, says the Psalm, “that we may get a heart of wisdom”.

But any day on which you have done some good to someone has not been wasted.

You will find much in life to distress you. People can be careless, cruel, thoughtless, offensive, arrogant, harsh, destructive, insensitive, and rude.

But that is their problem, not yours. Your problem is how to respond.

“No one”, a wise lady once said, “can make you feel inferior without your permission”. The same applies to other negative emotions.

Don’t react. Don’t respond. Don’t feel angry, or if you do, pause for as long as it takes for the anger to dissipate, and then carry on with the rest of life.

Don’t hand others a victory over your own emotional state. Forgive, or if you can’t forgive, just ignore.

If you’ve tried and failed, don’t feel bad.

God forgives our failures as soon as we acknowledge them as failures – and that spares us from the self-deception of trying to see them as success.

No one worth admiring ever succeeded without many failures on the way.

The great poets wrote bad poems; the great artists painted undistinguished canvases; not every symphony by Mozart is a masterpiece.

If you lack the courage to fail, then you lack the courage to succeed.

Always seek out the friendship of those who are strong where you are weak.

None of us has all the virtues. Even a Moses needed an Aaron.

The work of a team, a partnership, a collaboration with others who have different gifts or different ways of looking at things, is always greater than any one individual can achieve alone.

Create moments of silence in your soul if you want to hear the voice of God.

If something is wrong, don’t blame others. Ask, how can I help to put it right?

Always remember that you create the atmosphere that surrounds you.

If you want others to smile, you must smile. If you want others to give, you must give. If you want others to respect you, you must show your respect for them.

How the world treats us is a mirror of how we treat the world.

Be patient. Sometimes the world is slower than you are.

Wait for it to catch up with you, because if you are on the right path, eventually it will.

Never have your ear so close to the ground that you can’t hear what an upright person is saying.

Never worry when people say that you are being too idealistic.

It is only idealistic people who change the world, and do you really want, in the course of your life, to leave the world unchanged?

Be straight, be honest, and always do what you say you are going to do. There really is no other way to live.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Chaim & Dina

Teaching a subject vs teaching a student

13 November 2020

“Avraham was proud of Yitzchak and Yitzchak was proud of Avraham” – Toldot, first verse.

Many schools and parents put tremendous effort into building skills and increasing knowledge, and if their children or students graduate, open a business, make a respectable living, they take pride in their accomplishments. But, what about focusing on building their character as an educational goal? Teaching them to acquire skills like, bravery, decisiveness, resilience, optimism, humility, being driven, being authentic, being reliable and supportive. Do schools give enough or any classes on character building? Is it a focus?

Education is not teaching a subject, it is teaching a student, you’re dealing with human beings, and human beings by nature have their dark places, their twists of character, their rough edges, their fears and insecurities. You can be an instructor and teach a subject and stay very clean, but if you teach a student, you have to meet them in their dark places, and if you’re not prepared to meet them in their dark places then that cannot be called education. If you want your child or student to do good in the world, to be a good friend, a good spouse, a good father or mother, you must focus on character building as a fundamental goal in their upbringing.
In addition to the above, it is no secret that there is a surge in mental health problems among youth like never before. Prioritising our children’s strength of character, will go a long way in giving them emotional resilience and stamina to cope better with these challenges.
Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Chaim & Dina

Rabbi's Message

6 November 2020

An insightful child ask his father who was one of the great leaders of his time, why did Abraham get to see G-D (as told in Vayeira). What about me? I would like such an appearance by Hashem as well. Why do we only read about such things but don’t experience it ourselves.

His father responded: when a person of 99 years old obeys a very difficult command and agrees to circumcise himself, as Abraham did, he becomes worthy of a personal encounter with Hashem.

To have Hashem show up at your door may require something of that magnitude but every time a person does something uncomfortable for Hashem, you will experience a closeness and a spark of Hashem’s presence.

Spiritually speaking, I personally still feel quite far from Abraham’s level and I’m assuming most of you do too, but through small acts of self sacrifice we can all get some glimpses here and there and maybe that’s all is expected of us.

Rabbi Chaim & Dina

The Unknown Unknowns

30 October 2020

The Unknown Unknowns

Corona has shown us, that we live under conditions of great vulnerability and uncertainty.

What can you do to prepare yourself for uncertainty? Many people prepare themselves by risk management and by mathematical models of risk. But these won’t protect you because of what some call the ‘Unknown Unknowns‘. You can try to prepare yourself for something that has happened to you once, incase that exact thing happens again. But what if it reappears in a different way? What about things that come your way that never happened before? Could any of us have imagined one year ago that our lives would be the way they are right now? Limited or no travel, limited or no socializing, forced limited attendances at Simchas, Shuls, Funerals, etc!

It is simply impossible to predict or imagine what might come your way at any given moment.

So what can you do?

The simple answer is: develop your character, so that whatever fate Hashem throws at you, you are not fazed. You have the tools, the emotional stamina and perspective to confront it and not become frazzled or lose hope.

One of the main ways to build your character is by embracing uncertainty, by taking steps to go out of your comfort zone, a place where things feel very secure and cozy.

For the past seven or eight months, we have been forced to recluse to our safe spaces to protect our health. Now I believe is time for us to go out and be part of community again. We are very lucky in NSW that the risk factor for Corona has been relatively low, and now things are starting to open up again.

The government now allows groups of 30 at restaurants, 500 at outdoor concerts and up to 300 at places of worship.

So it is now time for us to embrace this low risk and once again be active participants in our Community and Shul life and enjoy the meaningful times we enjoyed before Covid came our way.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

Rabbi Chaim & Dina

Rabbi's Message

28 February 2020

This Thursday night/Friday is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av, in Hebrew it’s called – Tu B’Av.
This day has been called the Jewish Valentines Day because it was set aside since Talmudic times, and even before, as a national matchmaking day.
The Talmud equates the greatness of this day with Yom Kippur.
Tu B’Av is considered a day of good luck and spiritual strength because the moon shines full (as it does on every 15th of the Jewish month), however, in this month it comes right after the sad day of Tisha B’Av and therefore it is the light that comes after the darkness. The happiness & joy experienced after sadness is a lot stronger.

Much of of life’s greatest experiences and successes are set up in this way.

First comes a temporary downfall or a seeming failure or breakdown, but when we persevere through it, we come out a lot stronger. It’s almost like the downfall brought about the success, just like a seed needs to first rot in the ground in order to produce growth.

This is life’s greatest secret, to allow our emotions to flow and even experience temporary difficulty in order for infinitely greater happiness and success to follow.

Have a peaceful Shabbos!

Rabbi Chaim & Dina