ISRAELI RESPONSE TO OBAMA this Sunday at Nefesh - see below
Question of the Week:
I often hear rabbis complain that the Jewish people is shrinking due to intermarriage and assimilation. But it is you rabbis who are the major obstacle to Judaism growing! If you would make conversion a bit easier, many more non-Jews would join us. Why do you stubbornly insist on a long and difficult conversion process, when you are closing the door to many potential converts?
I would like to nominate you to be the next Secretary General of the UN. You have come up with a brilliant formula that could greatly benefit the world.
You argue that the Jewish people would grow if only it were easier to become Jewish. Let's apply that logic to some other world issues, and most of our problems could easily be solved.
- Poverty could be reduced immediately. Simply lower the poverty line.
- There would be many more millionaires around if you didn't need so much money to be one.
- The crime rates would drop dramatically if we just legalise criminal activity.
- If we dropped the life-expectancy age from 70 down to 50, people would on average live much longer.
Either Judaism is truth, or it is not. If it is truth, then truth can't be saved by diluting it. And if it isn't, why bother saving it at all?
The road to conversion is a challenging one. Jewish law doesn't make it easy to convert, because becoming a Jew is a serious commitment. If someone is not ready for that commitment, then they shouldn't convert.
But bending the laws to allow quickie conversions makes a joke of the whole thing. If a law can be bent, then what significance does it have in the first place? To paraphrase Marx (Groucho that is): "I would never join a club that changed the rules to let me in."
SHAVUOS ALL-NIGHTER AT NEFESH ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Celebrate the giving of the Torah at our all night learning program. Come for part or come for the whole night, there will be coffee and cake and plenty of inspiration
First night Shavuos, Tuesday June 7 at Nefesh, 54 Roscoe St Bondi Beach
9pm - 9:45pm Tales of Another World with R' Aaron Amzalak
10pm - 10:45pm Hair! - a mystical study of locks, tresses, curls and manes with Rabbi Moss
11pm - 11:45pm Souls that Were Never Lost
the surprise resurgence of Jewish identity in Europe today
with international guest speaker Zev Nagel
Former speechwriter for Ambassador Dan Gillerman at the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN, Zev was recently appointed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee as one of the Ralph I. Goldman Fellows in International Jewish Service. As a Fellow, Zev will serve in multiple locations around the world, and is currently in the midst of his first placement in Budapest, Hungary.
1am - 2:30am Guided Talmudic study - hands on grappling with a text
2:30am - 4am Ask the rabbi - you won't believe what comes up at this time of night
4am - 5am Short speeches from community members (more volunteers needed)
Meet the Artist Saturday June 18
NEFESH SERVICES - 54 Roscoe St Bondi Beach
4:50pm Mincha followed by shiur
6:30pm - 7:15pm Shabbos Service followed by Kiddush sponsored by Lynette Masters in honour of her parents Margaret and Bede both turning 80 this year - Mazel tov!
9am Class on Weekly Parsha 10am -12:15pm Morning Service with kids program followed by Kiddush sponsored by Sassoon, Adee and Moshe Hai Moses in honour of the first Yorzheit of their wife and mother Matilda Moses z"l - long life
Mincha 4:35pm followed by Seudah Shlishis sposnored by the Barukh and Caustill families in honour of the Yorzheit of Mrs Esther Malka bat Yakov Caustill z"l - long life
Shabbos ends 5:36pm
8am Shachris followed by beginners Talmud and breakfast
LAG BAOMER BONFIRE - TRIVIA NIGHT - GUEST SPEAKER FROM ISRAEL see below
Question of the Week:
I was watching a news report the other day about Madonna (now known as Esther). She was discussing how Kabbalah has changed her life, the new views she has and the insight she has gained from learning with her Rabbi. She apparently even keeps a kosher home. My question is - what are your thoughts on the masses learning Kabbalah? Is it a good thing? Or is it a fad?
I'm not sure how authentic the "Kabbalah" being studied by Madonna is, but I would imagine there are much worse things she could be doing with her time. If indeed it has made her a better person, good for her.
The renewed interest in Kabbalah is a good thing. The Kabbalists always said that although in earlier generations Kabbalah was a restricted area of study, a time will come when these teachings will become available to everyone. Its blend of profound thought and down to earth spirituality is much needed today.
The question is not so much who can study Kabbalah, but who can teach it. Some modern exponents of the Kabbalah claim that it is a separate religion, distinct from Judaism. This claim is not only untrue, it is self-destructive, and one should beware of such teachers.
The Kabbalists call Jewish mysticism the Pardes, meaning "The Garden". If you see a beautiful flower in a garden, you may have the urge to pick it and take it home to enjoy its beauty. But a flower won't last long out of its natural habitat. Once it is disconnected from its life-force it will very quickly wither and die.
Taking Kabbalah out of its Jewish context is like picking a flower from a garden. It looks beautiful and smells nice for a while, but soon it starts to wither, rot and stink. Kabbalah is a living, breathing spirituality that is nourished by the rich soil of Jewish wisdom and practice. But those who are calling it a separate religion, for the obvious reason of gaining a wider audience, are turning something deep and holy into just another passing fad. It looks good, creates a stir, but won't last.
While one can taste the teachings of Kabbalah even without being particularly observant of Judaism, you can't detach it from its source. Kabbalah is the soul of Judaism. A body without a soul is lifeless. A soul without a body is groundless. Judaism without its mystical side can become dry and unattractive. But Kabbalah without the grounding of practical Judaism is an uprooted flower.
We are a searching generation. We've tried empty materialism and it has failed to sustain us. We have experimented with spiritual escapism and it has left us floating towards nowhere. It is time to taste the fruits of The Garden, the deepest mystical insights grounded in the fertile soil of tradition. That's real Kabbalah.
6:30pm - 7:15pm Shabbos Service followed by Kiddush sponsored by Naomi Bentley in honour of her becoming an aunty - Mazel tov!
9am Class on Weekly Parsha 10am -12:15pm Morning Service with kids program followed by Kiddush sponsored by Nissim Chai Nissim in honour of the Yorzheit of his father, Yaakov ben Nissim Chai z"l - long life
Mincha 4:40pm followed by Seudah Shlishis and Maariv
Shabbos ends 5:39pm
8am Shachris followed by beginners Talmud and breakfast sponsored by Rev Amzalak in honour of the Yorzheit of his mother-in-law Bracha bas Moshe Stark - long life
Monday and Thursday
7am Shachris followed by Chassidus
This email sponsored by:
"KeepTheGlass.com - Keep your Chuppah glass forever!"
It is my bar mitzvah this week. I was told this means I am becoming a man. My mother doesn't think so. So who's right?
You turn thirteen, and nothing seems to happen. On the outside, you are the same little guy that you were way back when you were twelve and three quarters. But inside, in your soul, a massive shift has occurred.
From the moment you turn thirteen, two inner voices start to make themselves heard. One is the voice of goodness, your inner drive to do that which is right and moral and good. The other is the voice of evil, the darker side of your personality that urges you to do whatever you want, no matter whom it hurts and no matter what rules you break.
Both of these speak in your voice. They are not external influences, they are you, in your head. And they will fight to control your life, for the rest of your life. People who don't know this can become very confused. One minute they feel good and want to do what's right, the next minute an ugly urge surfaces and they behave badly. "What's wrong with me?" they think. "Who am I, a pure angel or a rotten little devil?" The answer is: Both. You have a side that is pure and selfless, and another side that is vulgar and selfish. You have to choose which side to follow, and take responsibility for your choice. This battle begins at Bar Mitzvah.
In the years ahead you will be tested many times. You will be approached by people who you think are your friends, offering to do things that you know are wrong. Your inner voice of evil will say, "Go on, everyone does it, it's no big deal, there's nothing wrong." But a deeper voice, sometimes harder to hear over the noise around you, will say, "No. You have to do what's right, no matter what anyone else will think of you."
You will have help in your battle with the inner devil. The Torah will always be there to guide you, inspire you and teach you right and wrong. This is why a Bar Mitzvah boy is called to the Torah - to plug in to your source of inspiration before embarking on your mission. When you make the blessings over the Torah, everyone will respond Amen! This symbolizes the support and encouragement you will receive from your family and community as you face the challenges that will come your way.
Being mature means taking responsibility and not blaming outside forces for your failings. Some people never grow up. But you, on the day of your Bar Mitzvah are taking the first step in becoming a man.
I have been looking into the Seven Noahide Laws. I understand these are the biblical commands to all humanity - the children of Noah - and they provide the basis for ethical living. But looking at the list, there seems to be an odd one out:
1.Do not worship idols - agreed, we have to believe in G-d
2.Do not curse G-d - have respect for Him, I can dig that
3.Do not murder - obvious
4.Do not steal - ok
5.Do not commit adultery - fine
6.Set up courts of justice - needed to ensure the other laws are kept, but:
7.Do not eat the limb of a living animal - what?????????????
Why of all things, include that one? While I have no intention of tearing off any animal limbs, I can't see how that would be in the top seven most important things for all humanity to observe...
Thank you for any help in enlightening this Noahide!
What is the true test of a moral person? How do you know that someone is really good in practice, and not just preaching?
One test is to observe the way they treat subordinates. Someone who can show concern for those who are lower and more helpless than themselves is a person who is truly good.
And so in formulating laws for all mankind, the Torah gives seven commands that should be seen as seven categories of ethical behaviour. The prohibition to steal includes all dishonest and unethical business practices. The outlawing of adultery encompasses all inappropriate relationships. And the ban on eating the limb of a live animal is a general law which commands us to be kind to animals.
These are not arbitrary categories of law. They cover the full gamut of moral obligation toward our fellow beings -respect for G-d who is above us, respect for human beings who are equal to us, and respect for the animal kingdom beneath us.
There is a clear hierarchy here. We are not on par with G-d, and animals are not equal to humans. The myth of equality is only necessary to protect the weak in a world devoid of morality. But moral beings with a clear code of ethics can recognise the innate inequality of nature without exploiting it. Being higher means being more responsible. Nature is here to serve us, but we are here to serve G-d, and that means treating all His creatures, equal or not, with respect.