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Question of the Week:
Someone asked me why we wave the Lulav in six directions - right, left, forward, up, down, backward. I didn't really know how to answer. Is there a simple way to explain this?
The four species that we bless on Sukkos correspond to the four letters in G-d's Hebrew name. Waving them in all six directions signifies our faith that G-d is everywhere. Specifically, we are saying that on every level, at every stage of life, in all that happens to us, G-d is there.
Right and left represent Chesed and Gevurah, the power of love and the power of discipline. G-d, like a parent, can be loving and can also be strict. Sometimes G-d's light shines on us and we feel close to Him, other times He seems distant, we feel left in the dark and have to find our own way through. Whether we receive G-d's closeness and love, or whether He gives us space to grow on our own, it is all coming from G-d. He knows exactly what we need, and that's what we get.
Up and down symbolize the highs and lows of life. When we feel we are on top of the world, we need to remember that G-d enabled us to get there. When we feel down in the dumps, we need to have faith that G-d is with us there. There is no success without help, and there is no failure without hope.
Forward and backward stand for the future and the past. We don't know what tomorrow holds, but we have faith that G-d will guide us through whatever lies ahead. And as for the past, all that has happened to us is a part of the plan. All our past experiences, even those that we would rather forget, made us who we are today. We are where we are now because that is exactly where G-d wants us to be. Our entire past was a lead up to this moment. G-d brought you here for a reason.
So the four species are waved around, to recognise that G-d is everywhere, in the good and the bad, in the ups and the downs, in the uncertain future and the turbulent past. And in the middle of all that is you. You are doing the waving. Because G-d will be there for you in all you do, if only you let Him in.
I am teaching a high school class about threats to Judaism in the modern world. What do you see as the biggest threat to Jewish survival - assimilation or anti-Semitism?
The biggest threat to Jewish survival is confused Jewish identity. Sadly, today in many Jewish schools and families, Jewish identity is built through teaching Holocaust awareness and a fear of marrying out. The Jewish community's preoccupation with assimilation and anti-Semitism is not the solution, it is the problem.
A pessimistic and negative presentation of being Jewish turns off young Jews more than anything else. When we obsess about anti-Semitism we paint ourselves as perpetual victims. When we over-emphasise the threat of assimilation, it makes us feel like an endangered species. The Jews are alongside the hump-back whale and the giant panda in the list of helpless and pitiful communities disappearing from the planet. Is it so surprising that young Jews are opting out of Judaism? Who wants to be a victim?
We have to stop defining ourselves by the way others perceive us. Assimilation is when non-Jews love us so much they want to marry us. Anti-Semitism is when non-Jews hate us so much they want to kill us. They both just happen to us; but what do we think of ourselves?
We need a clear and positive reason to stay Jewish. Failing that, why should Judaism survive? Is there a good argument for not assimilating into the welcoming societies surrounding us? Is there a compelling reason to stay proudly Jewish in the face of anti-Semitism?
I think there is.
Judaism is the most powerful idea that the world has ever seen. Jews should survive because we have a message that the world needs to hear.
The Jewish way of life is a revolutionary force that can transform ordinary lives into lives of meaning. A family that keeps Shabbos is always reminded of what is really important - that there is more to life than accumulating wealth. The Kosher laws teach us that we are not mere animals that must feed our every urge and desire, and that eating itself can be holy. A Mezuzah on the door tells the world that this home is built for a higher purpose.
Judaism teaches lessons that the world urgently needs to learn - that every individual person is created in the image of G-d, and is therefore unique and valuable; that morality is not relative but absolute; that humans are partners with G-d in creation, with a mission to create heaven on earth.
These bold Jewish ideas are more relevant now than ever. But bold Jewish ideas need bold Jewish people to perpetuate them. The world can only be elevated if individuals first elevate themselves. We can only make the world into a divine home if we start with our own home. This is Judaism's formula to change the world for better. This is why we must stay Jewish.
The biggest threat to Judaism is not external pressure but rather internal confusion. When we lose sight of our mission, we lose the strength and stamina to survive. The Jewish feeling we need to develop in ourselves and our children is not fear of anti-Semitism, or guilt about assimilation. It is a humble pride in the greatness of the Jewish mission and confident resolve to fulfil it. When we are clear about our identity, no threat in the world can shake us.
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SERVICES AT NEFESH ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Shabbos Service 6:00pm followed by Kiddush in honour of birthdays of late Ellen and Ralph Schuftan, sponsored by their children and grandchildren - Judi, Anthony, Jordan, Rafael and Ethan
Class - The Spiritual Parsha 9am
Morning Service 10am -12:20pm followed by Kiddush in honour of the barmitzvah of Sender Dyce - Mazal Tov!
Mincha 5:25pm followed by Seudah Shlishis and Maariv
Shabbos ends 6:28pm
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday Shachris 7am
NEFESH HIGH HOLYDAYS SERVICES
Services start and end at different times at Swiss Grand and at Roscoe St Shul
For Swiss Grand, please use entrance on Campbell Parade. We are in the Reef Room on street level just inside the entrance. Please do not walk through hotel lobby
Kids program is in the room opposite the services. Only children booked into the Kids program are authorized to join. We cannot take any responsibility for children not booked in.
Every year on the night of Rosh Hashana, I like to share with my family a new thought about why we dip apple in honey. I am starting to run out of novel interpretations. Even Rabbi Google didn't help. Can you tell me one I haven't heard before?
Honey is a miraculous substance. It can do the impossible. Just try this experiment with your family at the Rosh Hashana table:
Dunk a slice of apple into a bowl of honey
Lift the apple out of the honey
Hold the apple over the bowl and allow a shaft of honey to drip back down into the bowl
While it is oozing downwards, quickly lift the apple until the shaft breaks
Watch carefully. The honey on the apple starts to fall a little, and then climbs back upwards towards the apple, defying the laws of gravity
The upward climbing honey gives us a moving message for the new year. Even if you have fallen, you can always climb back up. Even if you have become disconnected, you can reconnect. You may have become estranged from your people and from your G-d. You may have lost your way in life and fallen to a very low place. But you can always pick yourself back up. No force in the world can stop a Jew coming home.
The honey may fall downwards, but at a certain point it turns around. In fact, it is the falling down that causes the bouncing up. The further you have strayed from Judaism, the more rebound energy you have built up for your return.
A Jewish soul wants to be Jewish. Materialistic distractions can only hold us back for so long. Our inner pull towards G-d is stronger than the pull of gravity towards the earth. Honey always bounces back. So can we.
Good Shabbos, may you be written and sealed for a good and sweet new year,
Shabbos Service 6:00pm followed by Kiddush sponsored anonymously in honour of past members of the Machzika Hatorah community.
Class - The Spiritual Parsha 9am
Morning Service 10am -12:20pm followed by Kiddush sponsored by Rev Amzalak in honour of the yahrzeit of his late mother Fanny bat R' Yitzchak - Long Life, and Nicola Rosenberg in honour of her birthday - Mazal Tov!
Mincha 5:25pm followed by Seudah Shlishis and Maariv
Why are religious Jews scared of dogs? Whenever I walk mine past a frum family, all the kids hide behind their mother's skirt in terror. And teh mother looks pretty scared too. Is there some curse on dogs?
I know exactly how your dog feels. I often get a similar reaction from Jews. While many observant Jews are scared of dogs, many unobservant Jews are terrified of rabbis. There's something in common between dogs and rabbis that make us both objects of trepidation. And it's not the facial hair.
People fear the unfamiliar.
Most religious homes do not have pets. Perhaps because families with many kids are less likely to seek non-human companionship, perhaps because it can be tricky to care for animals on Shabbos, or perhaps it's just a cultural thing, but other than the odd goldfish, pets are less common in observant communities.
So those who are unaccustomed to canine company are often scared of dogs. People are scared of rabbis for the same reason. Both dogs and rabbis are loved by those who know them, and instill fear into those who don't.
But that's where the similarity ends. The underlying causes of these two fears are very different, almost opposite. The fear of dogs (cynophobia) comes from the fear of being bitten. Fear of rabbis (rabbinophobia) comes from the fear of being inspired.
What many Jews fear the most is that if they learn a little bit about Judaism they might like it. And if they like it they might want more. And if they want more they may have to live more Jewishly. This means change - and change, even for the better, is scary.
The cure for cynophobia is to play with a few dogs and see that there is no basis for your fear. But the cure for rabbinophobia is to look into Judaism and to actually let your greatest fear come true - you will like it, and you'll want more.