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From The President

David P Lewis

e: president@greatsynagogue.org.au

Law Service – Wednesday 8 February
This week we are preparing for our annual Law Service to mark the commencement of the Law Term.

As I have noted previously, this service has taken place at The Great Synagogue every year since 1956. We are honoured every year by the presence of the Chief Justice and many distinguished judges and lawyers. This year we welcome the new Chief Justice of NSW, The Hon Andrew Bell.

I have been asked why we have a Law Service and not services recognising other professions or groups. Members might not be aware that many other faiths also have a Law Service and the Chief Justice attends all of these as well.

There is no reason why we cannot commence other similar events so if you have a group you would like to honour, prepare a brief and with your help we would be delighted to host many more such events.

The Law Service is clearly a relationship building event and it is to the great credit of the Legal Profession that they engage with many faiths thereby honouring the Australian Constitution where it states in S.116: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth”.

A large number of Judges, Barristers and Solicitors have confirmed their attendance and we look forward to welcoming our many friends in the profession to The Great. The service commences at 5.30pm.

The Order of Australia Shabbat 25 February
Our next communal lunch will be held on 25 February and we will be honouring our most recent member to receive an OAM, Uri Windt. We wish him Mazal Tov and have invited all Order of Australia recipients to attend. Uri will be our guest speaker at the lunch.

Live @ The Great – Bach to Bosa & Beyond – Tues 28 Feb & Wed 1 Mar
The Live @ The Great series has been so successful, all due to the ingenuity of our own Vlad Fanshil. So much so that the next performance will be held on TWO nights: Tuesday 28 Feb and Wednesday 1 March. The first concert is now sold out so if you would like to enjoy this one please book for the 1st of March concert. 

WOW Weekend – Sunday 12 March 2023 – International Women’s Day
Another reminder that the very successful WOW (Women of Worth) weekend function will be held on International Women’s Day, Sunday 12 March 2023. Bookings are essential. Full details should be available by Friday on The Great website.

To all those in our community who are suffering an illness, we wish you a Refu’ah Shleima — a complete and speedy recovery; and to all those commemorating a Yahrzeit, or who have recently suffered a loss, we wish you a long and good life, full of Simchas.

 

From The Rabbi

Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton

e: admin@greatsynagogue.org.au

 

Shabbat Beshallach 5783

I was delighted to see so many people in Shule and at the lunch last Shabbat. We now have lots more events to look forward to, including Herringfest this Shabbat, the Law Service on 8 February and the next communal lunch on 25 February, in honour of our Order of Australia recipients.

Shakespeare said that ‘the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones’. This week I read a story which bears that out. In 1919, timber and iron millionaire Wellington R. Burt of Michigan died, leaving a will that specified that apart from small allowances, his estate was not to be distributed until twenty one years after the death of the last of his grandchildren to be born in his lifetime. The will was finally paid out in 2010, after his final act of spite towards his family had been completed.

We find something entirely contrary at the beginning of Beshalach about the bones of Joseph. Although he died in Egypt and was given an initial burial there, Joseph made the Israelites promise that they would take his bones with them to Canaan when they left. Despite all the urgency and activity of the Exodus, when the time came, Moses made sure he got hold of the bones so they could be brought with.

As it had been many years since Joseph died, the Midrash records that Moses could not locate the grave and had to find Serach, Joseph’s last surviving niece, who knew where he was buried. The Egyptians had placed Joseph in a metal coffin and sunk it to the bottom of the Nile. Guided by Serach, Moses went to the Nile, and called out:

‘Joseph, Joseph, the time has come for the oath that God swore to our father Abraham, that He will redeem His children. Give honour to the Lord, the God of Israel, and do not delay your redemption, because we are delayed on your account. If you show yourself, it will be well; and if not, then we are free from your oath’. Joseph’s coffin immediately rose to the surface and Moses took it.

This was a great act of chesed shel emet, true kindness, which is the term used for looking after the dead and seeing to their wishes, because they cannot thank us. However, there is another aspect of the story, and that is from Joseph’s perspective. The Torah says that Joseph ‘had exacted an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will be sure to take notice of you: then you shall carry up my bones from here with you’. In other words, the oath that the Israelites made to Joseph was also a source of reassurance and comfort that they would be redeemed.

We read a few weeks ago that Jacob was determined not to be buried in Egypt. He wanted to be taken to Canaan and the Cave of Machpela as soon as possible after his death. If there was something so problematic about being buried in Egypt, and Joseph would be buried in Canaan eventually anyway, why didn’t he make the same request as his father to be buried in Canaan as soon as he died?

I think Joseph wanted his body to remain in Egypt so that the oath he made the Israelites swear would be a reminder in dark days that there would be a better future. His bones continued to benefit his people even after his death, and even though he might have preferred to have been buried in Canaan straight away. Joseph’s good was not interred with his bones, but through his bones it lived after him.

 

Wed, 8 February 2023 17 Shevat 5783