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From the President


Dear Friends,


What a week we’ve had!  For reasons that will be obvious if you read this message, last week, the message was written early and didn’t include a recount of the Law Service.  The Service was excellent!  Well attended by non-lawyers and by judges, although I think we need to do more to bring the service to the attention of many at the bar and solicitors and the community as a whole.  I am most grateful to those barristers and solicitors who did attend. And the attendance was good, but could have been better.

Nevertheless, the Service went extremely well.  Rev Weinberger was in fine voice (when is he well and not in good voice?) and the Sermon, by all feedback, was even better received than usual. And that’s setting a high bar!  My thanks to Rabbi Elton, Rev Weinberger, the Choir and all the volunteers who made it happen.  I want to mention especially our top-hatted Gubbai, Prof Steve Schach, who looked the part and did an excellent job.  I was reminded, when I saw him in the top-hat, of Izzy Goodman in his hey-day.  

Importantly and particularly, I want to make special mention of the staff.   We’ve had some unfortunate (and fortunate) mishaps.  The fortunate “mishap” was the maternity leave of Rebecca Seidman, starting February.  We wish her all the best. Then, her replacement became ill and had to return to the US for medical treatment; and another staff member became unavailable.  We wish him a Refu’ah Shaleima and a speedy return from the US!

So Linny and the crew (Ilana, Stephany, Judith and Rebecca) handled the organisation of the Service with great gusto and managed to back-up Rabbi and Josh in an excellently organised Service.  Thank you to each of them.  And special thanks go to Rebecca for returning from maternity leave, for a number of half-days to help out. 

Unfortunately, someone sent us a computer virus and corrupted our mail and some files.  Some of the other chores were put aside and some issues arose for some members at the next Shabbat.  For that I apologise.  We have now mostly overcome the issue, but hope you understand also that the temporary staff we have filling the gap at the moment are not as familiar with our processes.

This week we have a Special Pre-Purim Tot Shabbat, which Hinda is again organising and taking. So bring your children and grandchildren and join the fun!

We celebrate a number of birthdays this week and in particular, we celebrate Louise Rosenberg’s 104th Birthday, for which we have a special Kiddush sponsored by the Women’s Auxiliary.  Other birthdays being celebrated are those of: David Bell (87th), Barbara Stern (86th) and Garry Browne AM (60th). 

We are also celebrating the Bar Mitzvah anniversaries of: Garry Browne AM; Sam Browne; and David Bell, to whom we extend a hearty Mazal Tov!

To all those celebrating Simchas, we extend prayers for the blessings of good health, happiness, peace and prosperity over many more years.

Purim is upon us – 28 February (eve) and 1 March.  Our new Young Leadership Committee, which is a welcome development and to whom we wish much success, has had a big hand in organising activities. There are a number of activities and services.  You can hear the Megillah in the morning (our regular weekday Shacharit at 6:45am) or in the afternoon/evening! We still have our regular weekday Minchah at 1:45pm, but also a Second Minchah at 5:30pm (where you can again hear the Megillah) followed by Ma’ariv and an Eats & Crafts Evening for the Youth, in particular, in aid of the Monte! Check the calendar and the Activities in the website – just follow the link!

As you should all now know, we celebrate our 140th year, commencing in a couple of weeks, and there will be many worthwhile activities to welcome the next 140 years.

We are commencing with a very Special Service on 3 March, to which you all should have received an invitation this week. There will be dignitaries for the Special Service at 11:30am, including the Premier, The Hon Gladys Berejiklian MP and the Ambassador of the State of Israel. For the following Gala Reception, after the regular Shabbat morning service and the Special Service, the Governor is our Special Honoured guest. Dame Marie Bashir, a great friend of the Synagogue and the community, to whom we extend our condolences on the passing of Sir Nicholas, is also attending the Special Service and Reception.

We expect a large crowd and the replies already confirm that expectation.  We suggest you reply to the invitation that has been sent to you individually, as soon as possible.  Also, the celebration is for the whole community, and you can and should bring your friends and relatives, but reply early or you’ll miss out!

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



This week we hold another Tot Shabbat for 1-4 year olds, with Hinda Young. Bring along your Tots, children or grandchildren, for singing, dancing, praying and Kiddush.

I hope you have received your invitation for the 140th Anniversary Service and Gala Reception on 3 March. We will be welcoming the Governor, the Premier, the Lord Mayor, the Israeli Ambassador, Dame Marie Bashir and others. It is going to be an extraordinary event, and we are expecting large numbers. Come along and be part of this historic occasion. To make an offering in honour of the 140th, please contact the shule office, and your name will be recorded in the Order of Service.

One of the materials used for the construction of the Tabernacle, as described at the beginning of our parasha, was tachash skins. We don’t exactly know what these were. Sometimes the translation ‘sealskins’ is used, leading people to ask how the Israelites found seals in the desert. Of course, that’s a silly question, because none of the materials used for the Tabernacle were sourced in the desert; they were either taken from Egypt or bought from merchants travelling across the wilderness and doing business with the Israelites. If the tachash was a type of seal, it was more precisely a dugong, found in large numbers in the Red Sea, and of course also in Australia. That is why the Latin name for the dugong is halicore tabernaculi, named after the Tabernacle.

The commentators make many suggestions about the identity of the tachash. Abraham Ibn Ezra (1092-1167) proposed the skins came from an ox, while Gersonides (1288-1344) considered that the animal was a type of goat. Rav Saadia Gaon (882-942) thought tachash referred to the colour of the skins, a very deep black. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) connected the word tachash to the term for ‘fast’, suggesting the tachash was an animal known for its speed. Outside our tradition, Martin Luther (no friend of the Jews), thought the tachash was a badger, and you will find ‘badger skins’ in some Protestant translations.

My favourite suggestion comes from Rabbi Yehudah, and restated by Rashi, that the tachash was a desert animal, with a single horn and a coat containing six different hues. In other words, the tachash was a multicoloured unicorn! That’s a long way from a badger! This extraordinary proposition is balanced by Rabbi Nechamia who said that the tachash only existed for the sake of providing skins for the sanctuary, and once it had fulfilled its function, it disappeared from the world.

A final, and I think, compelling idea, connects the word tachash to the Egyptian verb T-H-S, which describes the production of leather, in which it was stretched across a frame and cured with oil. As with Rav Saadia Gaon’s proposal, the implication is that the word referred to the method of production, rather than the origin of the skin.

Where does this lead us? Certainly to no final conclusion. But it does demonstrate the interest and enjoyment to be had from trying to understand our Torah, even a small detail like the type of leather used in the Tabernacle.


Shabbat shalom!


Sun, 18 February 2018 3 Adar 5778