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From the President



Dear Friends,


I am sure you will all be pleased to hear that there is so much work underway at our Shul. The installation of a wheelchair lift will be ready in a few weeks with access available from the Castlereagh Street entry and with that we have taken the opportunity to make enhancements to the office, upgrade our internet access and so much more.

The LeDor Vador CD will be launched next month both as a CD and online, Great Women and Women of Worth are in full planning mode for 2021 and we have new plans for exhibitions that showcase our historic collections.

Further, under David Newman’s guidance, we are examining and enhancing much of our heritage building so that we are well placed for the next 140 years. With your help, your great-grandchildren will be well served by The Great Synagogue!

We are most grateful to our wonderful office staff again for all their tireless work on all of the above.

Please make sure that you join us for our special CSG Friday night service on 4 December at which we will honour and thank the men and women who work and volunteer for the Communal Security Group (CSG). We all benefit significantly from their dedication to the community and it is fitting that we gather in large numbers to thank them. I look forward to welcoming you next Shabbat to that service.

There are lots of special events to celebrate this Shabbat:

Birthdays for:

Shelley Cohen, Asher Lazar, Adrian Lewis, Noah Samuel, Steve Schach, Max Einfeld and Marilyn Wine.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Anniversaries for:

Asher Lazar, Adrian Lewis, Adam Rosenblum and Noah Samuel (his 2nd).

Wedding Anniversaries for:

Nathan Wise & Monica Levy on their 16th Anniversary

Mazal Tov to all and Shabbat Shalom!

Kindest regards,

David Lewis



From the Rabbi


Vayetzei 5781

On Sunday Hinda, Lizzie and I will be heading off to Tasmania for a few days, and I leave you in Rabbi Phil’s capable hands. I am contactable in emergencies. I will be back in time for the CSG Friday night service on 4 December, and I hope that the choral service, kiddush and chance to thank CSG for all they do will be well-attended, so too the Chanukah Friday night service and lighting of the Falk Menorah on 11 December.

Camels are a regular feature of the stories of the Patriarchs and their wives and children; for example when Jacob went home with his family back to Isaac and Rebecca he loaded everyone, and everything he owned, onto camels. The appearance of camels has caused some scepticism about the bible because there is no archaeological evidence of camels in the Land of Israel before the tenth century BCE, the time of David and Solomon, and not the time of Abraham, about a thousand years earlier. So what are camels doing in Genesis, or the Torah at all?

Joshua Berman, a leading Orthodox bible scholar, has tackled this question. He points out that while there is no evidence that camels were domesticated in the Land of Israel before 1000 BCE, there is data that they were domesticated in areas around Canaan: Syria, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Lo and behold, the camels in the Genesis stories come from outside Canaan. Pharaoh gave Abraham a gift of camels, when they were known, but still rare, in Egypt, and therefore a very special gift.

When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife he took ten of these camels to give to the girl’s family. The story mentions camels eighteen times, making the point that these were very impressive, especially coming from Canaan. As we read this week, Jacob brought camels back from Mesopotamia; no one in the Torah rides a camel that originated in Canaan, because they weren’t bred there. For example, when Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt they rode donkeys, not camels. More subtly, when Joseph sent them back to collect Jacob he also gave them donkeys, because they didn’t know how to ride camels.

Why does it matter if Genesis gets the details about camels correct? First of all, it is important that we can have confidence is the authenticity of our most sacred book. In terms of our relationship with the text itself, once we understand more about the history, and therefore the social significance of camels three thousand years ago, we understand what the Torah is trying to tell us. We know how generous Pharaoh was being to Abraham, and how much Abraham was trying to impress his daughter in law’s family. We also get a taste of Jacob as an outsider after so many years away. His family all ride donkeys but he thinks nothing about hopping on a camel. He has become a stranger to his old ways, how will he readjust when he goes home.

The Torah is so deep that we can learn something from every detail; we just need to know how to look, and if objections make us think about the text again, that can only be a good thing.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sun, 29 November 2020 13 Kislev 5781