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From the President
JUSTICE STEPHEN ROTHMAN AM

PRESIDENT
e: admin@greatsynagogue.org.au

Dear Friends,

SHABBAT SHALOM and KEEP WELL! 

This week we are celebrating a number of occasions, but one of them is the 40th Birthday of Rabbi Elton.  He turns 40, Please God, this Shabbat, 11 July.  We all wish him good health until at least 120, after which we will give him some well-earned sick leave, but only if he really needs it!  The same is wished for our hard-working staff member, Ezra Wexler, who is also celebrating a birthday.

We had a good attendance last Shabbat, with services becoming more “normal”.  The Choir was on hand, as it will be this week, but it will be located towards the front of the Women’s Gallery, facing the Bimah.  Last week it was at the very back, which did not work as well as we had hoped.  These are part of the trials to ensure less risk to all, including the Choir members.

We are still, necessarily, taking health steps, including temperature checks and names on entry and sanitizer is available.  Everything is sanitized before and after services.

You all would have received the survey about High Holiday Services and I hope you have completed it.  The response was good and I’m grateful to all who have replied.  If you haven’t already, please do. I’d like to thank Lauren Ryder for compiling the survey in such a user-friendly form.  We need to know your views, in order to facilitate for you the best and most meaningful celebration of Rosh Hashanah and the most useful and meaningful Yom Kippur.  The link is here.

As I told you last week, this may be an exceptional year.  But even if restrictions ease, there will be some differences for the High Holidays, about which you will be informed. At the moment, there is a temporary Bimah in front of the Centre Block, so the Davening and Torah Reading is not singing directly at the Rabbonim.  I find it much more inclusive of the congregation, but I find it low (compared to the usual Bimah height) and it would be even more inclusive if it were farther back.

This week, we celebrate the Birthdays, as mentioned, of Ezra Wexler and Rabbi Elton and of Charlotte New; and the Bar Mitzvah Anniversaries of Robert Lenn and Michael Falk.

Additional offerings have been made in honour of Rabbi’s Birthday, and wishing him a happy 40th birthday, by the President and Board of Management; John & Barbara Goodman; Sari Browne OAM & Wesley Browne OAM; Zara Young OAM & Sydney Young; Lesley & Sam Borenstein; Garry, Robyn, Joshua, Ari and Sam Browne; Brigitte Zeitler; Stephen & Susie Kopp; Steve & Sharon Schach; Ros Fischl OAM & Alex Fischl and family; Peter Engel; and Rabbi Phil & Abra Kaplan.

We extend a hearty Mazal Tov to everyone celebrating a Simcha, and we pray that the entire congregation and community will be blessed with good health, happiness, peace and prosperity over many more years.  We also send our best wishes to our friends in Victoria and throughout the world and pray that this current ordeal will soon pass.

To all those commemorating a Yahrzeit, or who have recently suffered a loss, we wish you a long and good life, full of Simchas. And for all those who are unwell, we wish you a Refu’ah Shaleima!

 

Warmest Regards,

Justice Stephen Rothman AM

President


 

From the Rabbi
RABBI DR BENJAMIN ELTON

e: rabbielton@greatsynagogue.org.au

Pinchas 5780

Last Shabbat we enjoyed a very encouraging turnout at Shule, and I hope that will continue to grow over the next few weeks. We are all looking at the developing situation in Melbourne and we will remain quick on our feet if any action needs to be taken. The increase in cases in Victoria reminds us that we are by no means on the other side of this crisis. However long it lasts, and whatever it requires of us, the Shule will be here to support you in whatever way we can, and we want to hear from you if there is anything we can do to help.

At the end of last week’s parasha Pinchas, Aaron’s grandson, killed Zimri, Prince of the Tribe of Shimon, and the Midianite woman he was cavorting with. This ended a plague that was afflicting the Israelites. In this parasha, which is named after him, Pinchas receives his reward. God gave him a ‘covenant of peace’ and a ‘covenant of priesthood’. Even though Pinchas was Aaron’s grandson, when the priesthood was originally awarded to Aaron and his sons, Pinchas was excluded. The Priesthood was given when Aaron and his sons were anointed, and to their descendants who would be born subsequently. Poor Pinchas fell between stools. He was already born, but he was not anointed, and therefore he and his descendants were excluded from the priesthood. However, once he saved the People by despatching Zimri and his inamorata, Pinchas too became a priest.

Sometimes, the Torah takes a roundabout way to reach its chosen destination. For example, Joseph needed to end up in Egypt, and the whole incident of the pit and the sale was simply God’s way of bringing that about. Here too, I suggest that Pinchas was always intended to receive the priesthood, but it was important for an intermediate step to be taken first. Even though eventually all of the family of Aaron would become priests, it was first necessary to make a statement about privileges and the way they are earned.

Being born into a family is not enough. It is often a good start. If there are strong aptitudes that run in a family, such as sporting ability, intelligence or a good voice, then it is likely that a member of that family will also enjoy them. It wasn’t a coincidence that four of the best chazzanim of the twentieth century were brothers: Moshe, David, Jacob and Simcha Kussevitsky. In addition to genetic inheritance there is also influence or connections. George W Bush was raised in a political household, and eventually followed his father as President of the United States.

However, the number of unfortunate and failed individuals that come out of famous or wealthy homes shows that who you are born to, is not enough. Each person has to make their claim to success in their own right. On this basis, I think that Pinchas was deliberately excluded from the priesthood, in the knowledge that he would win it for himself, to teach us that we have to earn whatever we enjoy. Pinchas deserved his reward for his own efforts, not because of his family, and the same is asked from all of us.

Shabbat Shalom!

Mon, 13 July 2020 21 Tammuz 5780