Thursday, May 9, 2013

Is Judaism Just Too Hard?



Question of the Week:


I am from a somewhat traditional Jewish family, and yet the festival of Shavuos is completely unknown to us. We always had Seder on Pesach and fasted on Yom Kippur, but we never did anything to celebrate the giving of the Torah. I would have thought that would be an important event to commemorate. So why is Shavuos the forgotten festival?




The reason why Shavuos is the least celebrated Jewish festival is a startling one. It is the least demanding. The easier the festival, the less it is observed.


The most difficult festival to observe is Yom Kippur, on which we abstain from food and drink altogether and pray all day. And yet, this rather grueling holyday is the most widely observed. The easiest festival to observe is Shavuos. All that is expected of us is to have a day of rest and eat lots of cheesecake. How hard can that be? And this pleasurable festival is the most neglected.


There's a surprising lesson there. We value things that require effort. If something comes too easy, it is taken lightly. But if it's demanding, it is more compelling. A tough diet will be taken seriously. A difficult work project will be given more attention. We invest ourselves where we feel what we are doing actually matters. When we are given serious responsibilities we step up to the role.


You would expect the opposite to be true. Indeed, there have been well meaning voices in Jewish history that have suggested that the best way to stem the tide of assimilation is by easing the laws of Judaism to make it more appealing. It makes sense. Lower the bar, lighten the burden, and people will be more willing to stay Jewish. But the result was the opposite. The Jewish movements that demanded less from their constituents have more often than not been a gateway out of Judaism rather than a way in. Quite simply, if Judaism asks nothing of me, then that's what Judaism will get.


We don't need to dilute Judaism to make it attractive. We just need to make it accessible. Jewish souls are thirsting for a Judaism that will ask something of them, demand their allegiance to a higher cause, stretch their minds to think deeper, challenge them to live with a sense of purpose and mission.


Perhaps this is one reason why the kabbalists introduced the custom of staying awake all night on Shavuos. Just eating cheesecake was too easy. Let's ask ourselves to give something up on Shavuos to show that it really matters to us. Fluffy Judaism is a tranquilliser. A demanding Judaism keeps us wide awake. 


Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss


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Shavuos All Night Learning at Nefesh

Tuesday May 14, 9pm to 5am


One night a year we conquer sleep and study Torah. This is it. Come for some or come for all, we have a compelling line-up of speakers and topics:


9pm-9:45pm A Soul on Fire - tales of the Baal Shem Tov with Rev Amzalak


9:45pm -10:30pm In the Footsteps of a Moabite Princess - a virtual trip from Jordan to Bethlehem with Shlomo Ben-Haiem, JNF National Education Shaliah


10:30pm-11pm Nelson Mandela Teaches Rabin about Chabad  stories of the unexpected  with Chazan Isser Feiglin


11pm-11:45pm Scholarship and Stupidity- refuting academic attacks on tradition - matrilineal descent, authorship of the Zohar and more with Rabbi Moss


11:45pm break for cheesecake


12am Organ Transplants and the New Legislation in Israel with Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, Sydney Beth Din


1am Hot Topic - Is Kosher Slaughter Humane? with Rabbi Aaron Groner, Shochet (ritual slaughterer)


2am Smelling Spices at Havdola - a Talmudic Study with Rabbi Berel Light


3am Open Mike without a Mike Community Members Speak (almost full)


4am- 5am Pre-Dawn Kabbalah Study When a Curse is a Blessing

dr grossman  

SERVICES AT NEFESH ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday Night Candlelighting 4:49pm

Mincha 5:00pm

Shabbos Service 6:00pm followed by Kiddush


Shabbos Day

Shiur 9:00am

Morning Service 10am -12:20pm- Followed by Kiddush in honour of the Call-Up and wedding of Daniel Barukh and Sheina Mill - Mazal Tov!


L'Chaim sponsored in honour of the 70th birthdays of Allen and Morris Rosenberg- Mazal Tov!


Mincha 4:45pm followed by Seudah Shlishis 

Pirkei Avos 6

Shabbos ends 5:45pm





Erev Shavuos Tuesday May 14- Candlelighting 4:46pm | Mincha 5pm Maariv 5:40pm | All night learning program commences 9pm



Shachris 10am, Ten Commandments 11am followed by Ice cream party for kids

Mincha 4:55pm | Maariv 5:40pm | Light Candles after 5:42pm


Thursday May 16- Shachris 10am | Yizkor 11:30am | Mincha 4:55pm | Yom Tov Ends 5:42pm


Shachris Mon, Tues & Fri 7am


Chassidus Shiur  Monday 8-8:45am


Latest Shema 9:13am

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