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From the President
JUSTICE STEPHEN ROTHMAN AM

PRESIDENT
e: admin@greatsynagogue.org.au

Dear Friends,

SHABBAT SHALOM!

This Shabbat is the Australia Day Communal Lunch with Special Guest, Dave Sharma MP, Member for the Federal seat of Wentworth, who has, understandably, shown himself to be a great friend of the Jewish community in Australia and of the State of Israel.  Anyone who can do as good a job as he did as Australian Ambassador to Israel is a welcome talent in Government.  I am looking forward to an interesting and enlightening address (and some good food!).  Offerings have been made to sponsor the lunch by Johanna Nicholls, Anna & Stephen Marks and Francine Lazarus.  And Caroline and David Lewis have contributed to the communal lunch in honour of Caroline’s mother’s forthcoming 95th birthday and safe return to London (although we’ll all be sorry to see her go).

We (and the rest of Australia) also celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the immigration to Australia of Steve & Sharon Schach, who are celebrating by also contributing to the communal lunch in honour of the occasion.

It is also important on Australia Day to remember the plight suffered by our First People, as a result of colonisation.  There is much debate about celebrating Australia Day, within our First Peoples and the remainder of the community.  Perhaps, Dave Sharma can take on board the appropriateness in Israel of commemorating Yom Hashoah, then, a week later, Yom Hazikaron immediately before Yom Ha’atzma’ut.  Such a course may be a useful precedent, which works extremely well in Israel and could be adapted for here, without interfering with the end of the “silly season”.

This week we celebrate the Birthday of Leonard Bank; the Wedding Anniversaries of Rodney & Debra Marks (36th) and Adam & Kim Pisk (3rd).

For all those celebrating a Simcha, we pray that you have many more years of good health, happiness, peace and prosperity and enjoy your celebrations; we wish everyone Mazal tov and hope that you enjoy many more S’machot!  We thank all who have donated for offerings this Shabbat!

For those enquiring about donations for those who are in need as a result of the Bushfires, the Jewish Board of Deputies is coordinating a response, which, thus far has been excellent, but never enough!  To make a donation click on the following link: givenow.com.au/standup-bushfire-appeal.

Don’t forget that there are services for Shacharit each weekday morning and Minchah each weekday at 1:45pm. 

We have so many activities that we have decided it will be easier to inform you and for you to read, if we separate the messages and issues for Shabbat and this week, from the other events of which we wish to inform you.

We will once more host the ANNUAL JEWISH COMMUNITY LAW SERVICE, to be held on Wednesday, 12 February 2020, followed by a reception to both of which all are welcome.  Please diarise the date, as we need more communal members, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, to attend. 

And Purim is in early March and there will be a number of activities in which you are invited to participate and the information for which is on the website and will be in the Events Bulletin.

To all those in our community who are suffering some minor or major illness, we wish you a Refu’ah Shaleima – 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.

Warmest Regards,

Justice Stephen Rothman AM

President


 

From the Rabbi
RABBI DR BENJAMIN ELTON

e: rabbielton@greatsynagogue.org.au

Va'era 5780

We are delighted to welcome Dave Sharma MP as the guest speaker at our communal lunch this week to celebrate Australia Day. Dave is a new MP but an experienced public servant and a great friend to the Jewish community and Israel. We value our good relationships with politicians from all parties and we are very happy that Dave is making his first visit here as a Member of Parliament. January 26 is not only an important date in the history of Australia in general; it is also marked as the beginning of the Jewish community, when those bedraggled Jewish convicts staggered off the ships that made up the First Fleet. I will be discussing their story in my sermon on Shabbat.

Parashat Vaera contains the first seven of the Ten Plagues that struck Egypt. Each one of these plagues had a specific meaning, based on the principle of mida keneged mida, that a person is repaid precisely according to their deeds. For example, in order to disrupt family life, Pharaoh prevented Israelite women going to the mikvah, and so God turned all the water in Egypt into blood, so that now the Egyptians could not bathe. The Israelites were forced to clean the filthy streets, risking picking up all sorts of nasty parasites, and so God afflicted the Egyptians with lice. The Egyptians had sent the Israelites to cultivate their crops for them, so those crops were now cut down by hail and eaten by locusts.

The suffering that Pharaoh and the Egyptians had inflicted on the Israelites rebounded upon them precisely. This places the plagues in a different perspective. They were not just punishment, they were education. The Egyptians learned what they had done wrong, and felt the distress they had forced upon the Israelites. The Egyptians were not just laid low physically, they were also raised up in thought and ethics. They ended the period of the plagues as more advanced moral beings.

This is perhaps one answer to the perennial and difficult question as to why God hardened Pharaoh’s  heart. It was not simply to cause more pain, although it was only right that Pharaoh’s punishment should be as extensive as his crimes warranted. Rather, it was to make sure that Pharaoh and his people learned all that they needed to before the Israelites left and God turned His attention away from them.

One of the most difficult thought processes to go through when we are suffering is to ask ‘what is this supposed to teach me?’, ‘or what can I learn from this?’ I do not believe that all suffering is deserved or has a purpose, but at the same time there is a Rabbinic tradition that those suffering should look to their deeds. That is not something we should urge on other people, but it is worth considering for ourselves. At the very least, there is no experience, however hard, that cannot offer some wisdom, especially when we look back.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thu, 23 January 2020 26 Tevet 5780