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From the President
JUSTICE STEPHEN ROTHMAN AM

PRESIDENT
e: admin@greatsynagogue.org.au

Dear Friends,

SHABBAT SHALOM and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sandra and I have been away on holidays and visited Cuba. It was fascinating.  And there was a whole 2 weeks without phone calls and emails!  But some of the communal controversy occurring in Sydney was everpresent.

During the trip we met a number of fellow Jews, a large number from the USA and a couple from Curacao.  His family immigrated to the island in 1653, having originated in Spain, travelled to Amsterdam, before arriving in Curacao.  And they maintained their Jewish identity over all of those years.  The North Americans that I met are almost universally Progressive. 

In my absence, Rabbi’s sermon on the current controversies in the community has been hailed by all who heard it.  I am very proud of the position taken by The Great and by Rabbi on these issues, on more of which you will hear in the coming weeks.

Having returned, I wish every one of you a happy, healthy, peaceful, prosperous and successful year ahead!

This week, we celebrate the Wedding Anniversaries of Graham & Wendy Barnett and Adam & Kim Pisk; and the Birthdays of Lionel Green, Sonia Wigoder and Helen Bloom.

We wish Mazal Tov to all those celebrating Simchas, and we extend, on their behalf, prayers for the blessings of good health, happiness, peace and prosperity over many more years.

We thank all who have made donations/offerings this week for the mentioned celebrations and for other reasons.

 

To all those commemorating a Yahrzeit, or who have recently suffered a loss, we wish you a long and good life, full of Simchas.

 

Warmest Regards,

Justice Stephen Rothman AM


 

From the Rabbi
RABBI DR BENJAMIN ELTON

e: rabbi@greatsynagogue.org.au

Beshallach 5779

I hope to see lots of little ones in shule this shabbat for a special, fruity Tot Shabbat, to celebrate Tu Bishvat. And of course the young family picnic is coming up on 27 January (10.30 am in the playground near the Paddington Gate entrance to Centennial Park). Next Shabbat sees a communal lunch in honour of Australia Day, with guest speaker Rick Emory McGary. You can see his amazing biography on the flyer, and he will be discussing his own story. It will be a fascinating way to start the year.

Life in Egypt was harsh in many ways, but one aspect that was easier under slavery than it was after the Exodus was the provision of food and water. The Torah never says that the Egyptians starved the Israelites, which makes sense because they wanted them to be an effective slave labour force, and that would not be possible if they were severely underfed. That changed when the Israelites left Egypt and went into the wilderness. Although the ‘midbar’ was not a desert, in the sense of endless sand without a shrub or animal in sight, like areas of the Sahara or the Great Sandy Desert, it was not a place where nutrition and hydration could easily be found.

That sets the scene for the great running sore of the years in the wilderness; endless complaints about a lack of food and water. In Beshallach, the people travelled three days from the Red Sea without finding fresh water, a situation that became life threatening. They complained and God told Moses to throw a stick into impure water, and it became drinkable. Later they complained about lack of food, and God sent quails and then manna.

The order of the complaints makes sense. A human can last about three weeks without food, but only three or four days without water. The Israelites first needed to secure a reliable water supply, and then they could address the problem of lack of food.

The difference in our need for water and for food guided how the Rabbis developed their metaphors around those two important commodities. Although Torah is sometimes compared to bread, the much more common image for Torah is water, as in the expression ‘there is no water other than Torah’. Indeed, this metaphor is so powerful that it has a practical ramification. Just as the Israelites could not last for more than three days without water, so we cannot last for longer than three days without Torah. That is why the Torah is read on Shabbat, Monday and Thursday every week.

If we read the Torah-water metaphor back into the story of the complaint in Beshallach, it takes on a whole new aspect. The People were not just whinging about water; they wanted Torah, inspiration, guidance and wisdom. They could not last for any length of time in a wilderness environment unless they were uplifted by Moses their leader. Perhaps the complaints were really just ways to engage with him, to draw more Torah from him and from God to sustain them during their wanderings.

Shabbat shalom!

Mon, 21 January 2019 15 Shevat 5779