From the Rabbi

Devar Torah

Last week’s communal Shabbat lunch was delightful. Sixty people sat down, for delicious food, warm friendship, a few words from a guest Limmud speaker and singing led by Chazzan Weinberger. A visitor told me later that his impression of the shule was beauty and majesty, combined with warmth and sweetness, which is exactly what we are aiming for! The staff and the Women’s Auxiliary did an excellent job, and there was great lay involvement, including John Lenn leading Birkat Hamazon and David Newman reading Torah at the Mincha that followed lunch.

I hope you will join us for the next lunch on 15 July, when we will also be celebrating members of our congregation who have been honoured in the Order of Australia, including our Rabbinic Fellow, Rabbi Mendel Kastel, who received the OAM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Mazal tov Rabbi Kastel!

A very important initiative this year has been the Jewish Enrichment Program, run for pre Bar and Bat Mitzvah students by Michael Sassoon at Reddam, Rose Bay Public School and Bellevue Hill Public School (incidentally, facilitated by R Kastel). The students recently had the opportunity to ‘taste’ their learning at Pita Mix on a fun excursion. They could ask questions to the manager and kosher supervisor about running a kosher restaurant. The feedback from both parents and students has been very positive.

In their regular learning, students  make use of technology at the forefront of education, enabling them to experience a virtual tour of synagogues from around the world and compare them to our own. The sounds of delight from students reported by their teacher is something in which we can all take pride.

I have always found parashat Shelach Lecha one of the saddest in the Torah. The Israelites were about to enter the Land of Israel and end their wanderings, but a failure of faith prompted them to ask for spies to be sent to the Land. They came back with a negative report, the people were discouraged, and they were punished with decades in the wilderness, instead of a swift arrival in their own country.

The ‘evil report’ of the spies was not that the land was bad. They confirmed that it flowed with milk and honey. But, they argued that the Israelites were too weak to conquer it, that the Land would devour them because the existing inhabitants were too strong to overcome. It is striking that the spies did not suggest that the prize wasn’t great, only that it was unattainable. They did not sap the Israelites’ admiration for the Land, only their optimism and ambition.

Sometimes we have dreams or aspirations, but we somehow convince ourselves that they are impossible, so we stop trying. That is a terrible mistake. It means that we end up wandering aimlessly, sometimes for decades. If we have a goal, whether it is learning a new skill, getting fit or anything else, we should know, that once we put aside pessimism and start to work towards achieving it, we will astonish ourselves with what we accomplish, just as when it came to the test, the Israelites were successful and entered the Promised Land.

Shabbat Shalom!