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From the Vice President



In the absence of Justice Stephen Rothman, Hello and SHABBAT SHALOM!

Firstly, we offer a BIG Aussie Welcome to Rabbi Phil Kaplan and his new bride, Abra! They will be in Shul on Shabbat - maybe a little jet-lagged - so be sure to say Hi and Welcome! Rabbi Phil will deliver the sermon during the Service on Shabbat, 27th July and on the same day, at the monthly Communal Lunch, we'll formally welcome Rabbi Phil & Abra who will open up for a Q&A.

This morning was the baby naming of Camilla Anne Leibman who was given the Hebrew name of Chana. Her big sister Ava is very proud and excited, as are her parents, Ilana and Daniel Leibman and her grandparents, Ian and Libby Tischmann. We wish Mazaltov to all the family!

Last Friday night, the Young Great held a successful Bastille Day Shabbat dinner attracting 26 young adults for a delicious meal and social networking. Thanks go to organisers, Craig Shulman, Julia Glass, Ezra Wexler, Eli Levi and Eliza Chalmers.

Stay connected with What’s On in and around the Shul. Join us for any or all of the upcoming events and activities:

28 July, 4:30pm-6:30pm

Don’t forget to register for 'Pink Hope’. The Great Synagogue are joining to host an evening of 'Understanding the Risk of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer in the Jewish Community'. The event will feature a genetics expert, personal stories and a Q & A session held in Rose Bay. Location details on registration.

31 July, 1:00pm-2:00pm

Come along to Young Great's Lunchtime Career Talk with career coach, Greg Weiss, targeted at young professionals. A light lunch will be served.

1 August, 12:25pm-1:25pm

The next 'Lunch & Learning' will be one of the first opportunities at The Great to learn from Rabbi Phil. He will deliver a shiur.

4 August 3:00pm-5:00pm

This year's annual Falk Lecture 2019 will be given by Rabbi Elton on the topic of Telz: The Yeshiva of Rabbi Falk.  Join us for the lecture at followed by refreshments. Sponsored by the family of Rabbi Falk.

I’d personally like to congratulate Rabbi Ben Elton on his outstanding sermon last Shabbat which drew many nods, comments and reactions, and which was published in J-Wire. Here is a link if you missed it but a very powerful statement for everyone in all communities to read.

Wishing our President and those others going away, a safe journey, happy travels and speedy return.

See you in Shul.

Warmest wishes

Caroline Lewis


From the Rabbi


Balak 5779

This week we welcome Rabbi Phil and Abra Kaplan to Australia and to the Synagogue. Next week is their Induction Shabbat, but this week is a chance to meet them informally. Last Shabbat the Young Great dinner was a tremendous success and I want to thank the committee and the office staff for their amazing efforts. To have a committee of volunteers produce an event and attract twenty six paying participants in their 20s and 30s is a major milestone for The Great Synagogue, and new partnerships are going to attract more people to more events in the future.

The most famous drop of wisdom from the Marvel Comics is the line from Spiderman, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. This is also a major theme of Parashat Balak. The narrative takes us away from the Israelite camp and to the surrounding nations. It tells how Balak, King of Moav, hired the gentile sorcerer and prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam agreed, but whenever he tried to curse the People, he found he was blessing them instead. His words included some of the most famous and beautiful descriptions of the Jewish People, ‘how goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel’.

The Rabbis had very strong views about Balaam, and I want to draw attention to two of them, and how they interact. First, the Midrash records that Balaam was not inferior to Moses either in wisdom or in the gift of prophecy. A second tradition tells us that when we read anything in the biblical text about Balaam we should interpret it to his discredit. That is a change from normal practice, in which we try to give biblical characters the benefit of the doubt. But with Balaam it is different; we have to understand that he was as rotten as they come.

I think these two rabbinic teachings have to be understood together. Balaam possessed as much natural ability as Moses. He could have been as great and as good as Moses, but he chose a different path, and became the very opposite of Moses. However he ended up, he only had himself to blame. And, of course, he only harmed himself in the end, because the Israelites got the blessings they deserved and not the curses he intended for them. Balaam had great power but exercised no responsibility.

Each one of us has abilities and strengths. We may have been blessed with them from birth or we may have cultivated them, or both. But now we have to decide what to do with them, and that choice is exclusively ours. I hope we all choose to take the path of Moses and of responsibility.

Shabbat shalom!

Mon, 22 July 2019 19 Tammuz 5779