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Keeping Shabbat in Antarctica

Sunset Antarctica

The Jewish day starts at night and finishes the next night. The question is, when exactly does the night begin? Does one day end at sunset and lead into the next, or does the new day begin only once the stars have come out – or perhaps at some point in between?

The Jewish Sabbath commences Friday at sunset and finishes Saturday at nightfall making roughly a twenty-five hour cycle. The Sabbath begins at sunset which is the earliest time we can recognize one day to have finished and the next day to have begun. The Sabbath ends, when the stars have come out because this is the latest point that we can say one day has ended and a new day has begun.

Before I left to Antarctica, I was concerned when would there be a sunset. It is often thought that during the summer in Antarctica, the sun does not set and during the winter the sun does not rise. This however is only true at the actual south pole and perhaps only for a short period of time. Outside of this, during the summer, the sun will dip below the horizon be it for a few minutes or hours etc. It may not get completely dark, but by the sun setting a new day is marked.

Some of The Rabbis of long ago, talk about lands where the sun does not set or rise for a period of time. They knew that such places existed and they debated over when the Sabbath would be observed. There are various opinions of what to do in these circumstances and a Rabbi should be consulted as what to do.

For me it was not an issue. Where we were Friday night there was a sunset. It was around 10.30pm and Shabbat was over at around 11.30pm. Because the boat was moving, I checked with the captain who was able to give the correct times depending on our given location at the moment.

One challenge was not being able to camp in Antarctica. There were thirty camping spots available and more than sixty people who wanted them. The camping spots were raffled off. I won a place and held on to it in hope that the camping excursion would not be on Friday or Saturday night. It ended up on Friday, so I gave away my place. The actual camping would not be an issue; the problem would be getting on to the boat on Saturday morning. According to Halacha it is permissible to be on a ship over Shabbat, but not to get on or off.

Perhaps on my next trip to Antarctica I’ll be able to camp.

Antarctica Iceberg

 

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Keeping Kosher in Antarctica

Antarctica Kosher

Words cannot do justice for what Antarctica looks like. Even photographic images and film can only give an idea. The magnitude and magnificence of a world of, ice, rock, and snow, some of it can be captured in an image. But what of the wind that bites into you regardless of how many layers you may be wearing – as you stand on the deck late at night while the ship breaks through pack ice. You hear the ‘crunch, crunch, crunch,’ and deep down you know you are secretly thinking, what if?

Antarctica is not a place where humans belong. G-d did not intend for us to be there and it is virtually impossible to survive for any lengthy period of time without product and support form off the continent. Perhaps this is a good thing? Antarctica is an incredibly fragile place and it would not take long for man to destroy it. Thankfully, today as people visit, there are many protocols and practices in place to preserve Antarctica’s ecosystem.

Rabbi in AntarcticaI feel blessed to have had the opportunity to experience the grandeur of Antarctica with over hundred fascinating people. I was part of a group of mostly Australian Entrepreneurs who gathered together to converse in, ‘how to get to the future first.’ Together, we brain stormed ideas of what the future would look like and what we collectively, and individually, could, and would do about it.

For me, one of my concerns prior to the trip was how I would keep kosher on the boat. I was sure there would be plenty of good food, but how much of it would I be able to eat. I brought along some energy bars, instant soups, oatmeal, as well as a box of matzo, just in case.

I figured I’d be able to sort something out with the chef when I got on the cruise. Nowadays, anyone working with sophisticated western tourists are usually inundated with all the diets and eating disorders we have: vegetarian, vegan, ovo- lacto-pesco phsycotarian, gluten free, Raw, paleo, low carb, diabetic, and in my case kosher. The challenge I find though with using the term kosher, is that I have come across countless interpretations of its meaning. The most common being, ‘kosher food is food blessed by a rabbi.’ Now I wish it was this simple. I being a rabbi, would never have a problem with food anywhere in the world and could happily order anything on the menu and bless it myself. However, kosher is far more complicated than this.

I don’t want to get into a long discourse now about what is, and what is not Kosher, instead, I prefer to speak about how I kept kosher on a boat in Antarctica. For starters, it was a lot easier then I had thought it would be. When I got on the boat and spoke with the head waiter Narandra, he seemed already versed in many aspects of kosher. He began showing me the kosher certifying symbols on many of the food products. Turns out, the company gets almost all their food in a container shipped from Miami. Anyone familiar with American kosher food products will know that a large percentage of available product is certified kosher. Things like peanut butter, jams, bolted milk, cereals, biscuits, and so on, are often kosher. Thus it was easy for me to find things to eat. Even the ice cream which was served every night was kosher. And strange as it were, and as cold as I was for some reason I still enjoyed eating the ice cream.

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Visit of The Chief Rabbi Mirvis to Australia. What happened to Adelaide?

Adelaide Hebrew Congregation

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was appointed to the role of Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth following the retirement of Lord Jonathan Sacks in September 2013. We learn from a recent  ‘Australian Jewish News’ that Chief Rabbi Mirvis is currently making his first trip to Australia for 12 days, with visits to Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Then he travels to New Zealand to visit Auckland and Wellington.

In Perth he is speaking at Perth Hebrew Congregation on his vision for the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

In Sydney he is speaking at Central Synagogue, South Head Synagogue, the Jewish Learning Centre in North Bondi and at North Shore Synagogue and at various schools (Masada, Moriah, Mt Sinai and Kesser Torah Colleges), delivering an address for the 65thanniversary of Bnei Akiva and another at a public meeting at National Council of Jewish Women of Australia’s Fanny Reading House.

In Canberra he will attend the inauguration of the ACT Jewish community’s new Rabbi Alon Meltzer.

In Melbourne he visits Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, St Kilda Synagogue, Blake Street Hebrew Congregation, Mizrachi and Central Shule, as well as speaking at Mount Scopus Memorial College, Leibler Yavneh College and Bnei Akiva.

After travelling to New Zealand he will visit Wellington and Auckland to attend Rabbi Netanel Friedler’s inauguration at Auckland Hebrew Congregation on 1st December.

Original Adelaide synagogue consecrated 1850 on right and 1870 on leftAdelaide Hebrew Congregation is older than ALL of the above-mentioned Australian and New Zealand congregations of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth included in the list above. We were formed in 1848 by settlers arriving from England in the earliest ships arriving in South Australia. The customs and rituals, many of them written in detail and adopted by our congregation were based on those of Duke’s Place Synagogue in London from which many of the settlers and merchants came. These traditions are Ashkenazi, from Poland, and include various London shul rituals AHC has maintained for over 166 years. Our parade rituals honouring Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereishit, our pledges to charity at an aliya to the Torah, the prayer for the Queen and many other rituals and customs of our synagogue continue, probably unchanged, intriguing visitors, to this day.

At the time we moved to our new location in Glenside, the congregation’s previous Adelaide synagogue building, which was used for over 140 years, was the oldest continuously used synagogue in the southern hemisphere.

Our first qualified minister (and a Shakespearean scholar), Reverend Abraham Tobias Boas, served 50 years and was finally ordained as a Rabbi at his retirement, during a previous tour by a Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth; the Chief Rabbi noted that Rabbi Boas was the longest serving Jewish minister in the Commonwealth. Other past AHC Rabbis, including Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn and then Rabbi Baruch Davis (who now serves at Chigwell and Hainault synagogue in Essex) maintained our strong links with these traditions.

Although we are a tiny community, we are proud of our heritage and look forward to learning of the new vision of the Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth for all the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

We remain, like a diamond in the sand, on some distant shore, waiting to be discovered again.

(This is a guest post by a member of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation)

You can read about Chief Rabbi Mirvis here: http://www.chiefrabbi.org/

 

 

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Parshas Vayera: Don’t Look Back

Parshas Vayera: Don’t Look Back

Change is hard.  Most of us are comfortable in our lives and our lifestyles.  It is no wonder that we find it hard to leave things behind.  A cruel boss, a toxic friendship, and a bad habit are all things we need to cut out of our lives but find hard to.  But even on a simpler level, we find it difficult to walk away.  How many times has a conversation with a group of friends turned to gossip or another subject that makes you uncomfortable, but you found yourself unable to turn around and walk away?

Change is really important for progress, advancement, and growth.  But that doesn’t make it easy to let go of the past.  Usually, when we make a change, whether it is breaking off a bad relationship or walking away from a conversation, we find it hard to sever our ties completely, even though that is the best thing to do.

In this week’s parsha, Sodom and Gemorrah are destroyed.  Of the two cities, the only people to survive are Lot and his family.  As they fled, they were given but one instruction: Don’t look back; you can never look back.  Nevertheless, Lot’s wife gave in to temptation and turned around to look back. As a result, she was turned into a pillar of salt.

How often are we turned into pillars of salt?  How often do we decide to make a change, only to turn back and end up feeling uncertain, rooted to the spot in a pillar of indecision?  This is not the way to make a change.

When we make a change, we must do so wholeheartedly.  We have to decide the best course of action, the right thing to do, and then pursue it with our whole selves.  We must flee Sodom without ever looking back.

This week, think about something in your life that needs to change.  What action can you take to make it happen?  Then take it! And, most importantly, keep your eyes on the prize, on your destination, and never look back.

Shabbat shalom!

Read more on Parshas Vayera: Giving Your Best to Your Guests

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Parshas Lech Lecha: Everything in Life is a Test

Parshas Lech Lecha: Everything in Life is a Test

There once was a very wealthy, charitable, and highly respected man who would travel once a year to see his rebbe and get his blessing.  Every year on that Shabbos, everyone would treat him with the utmost respect and he would always get the most honored aliyah in the Shabbat service.  However, he was not just treated with respect because he was such a giving man; he was also treated with respect because people were a bit afraid of him, for he had the reputation of having a very bad temper.

One year, he went to his rebbe and said, “Rebbe, I have a problem and I need help. I have a problem with anger, and I cannot control my temper.” “There is no problem,” his rebbe replied. “But Rebbe,” he asked, “isn’t it considered very bad under Torah law to be angry? And I am always getting angry.” “It is not a problem,” his rebbe said again.  So, confused though he was, the man left his audience with the rebbe and trusted in his words.

After he left, the rebbe called in the gabbai of the shul and told him that instead of his usual honor, this man should receive the “honor” of tying the cover on the Torah scroll, something that children usually did. The gabbai was afraid and knew that the man would be very angry, so he thought he had better warn him.  He called him in and told him what the rebbe had said was to happen during the Shabbat service.

During the Shabbat service, everyone in the shul gasped when this prestigious man was passed over during the aliyot.  They all looked at him, expecting him to be furious, and were surprised to see him smiling serenely.  And when he was given the “honor” of tying up the Torah, everyone looked to him again, expecting him to be insulted, but he did his job with a smile.  Everyone was very surprised.

After the service, the rebbe came over and asked him how it was he managed not to get angry over this slight. “Well, Rebbe,” the man replied, “I knew you were just testing me!” “Ah,” said the rebbe, “so you see that your anger is not a problem, for everything in life is just a test!”

In this week’s parsha, we see some of the many tests given by G-d to Avraham.  The tests begin with him being told to leave his home, family, and friends, and to go into the unknown with no destination named, not an easy feat for an old man! And when he finally does arrive in Canaan, he is beset by famine.  The Egyptians capture his wife, Sarah, and then Avraham has to go to war against several kings. And the list continues on.  Yet, Avraham never wavered in his steadfast obedience to Hashem. He did not lose heart. He was not depressed. He did everything cheerfully.

So, too, is every difficulty in our lives a test.  We do not have to be a righteous tzaddik or a wealthy patron for G-d to care about us.  Just as a parent loves his/her poor child as much as his/her wealthy one, G-d loves each and every one of us, no matter what our faults may be.  And just as we challenge our own children to broaden their horizons and we give them opportunities to show how they have grown, we too are given tests by Hashem, in order to help us demonstrate our growth.  So this week, if temptation or difficulty comes your way, rise to the challenge. Meet it head-on, with a smile. Remember, it’s only a test!

Shabbat shalom!

Read more on Parshas Lech Lecha: Far From Family

Read more on Parshas Lech Lecha: The Journey Without, The Journey Within

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The Shabbos Project Adelaide: Havdallah Concert

The Shabbos Project Adelaide: Havdallah Concert

The Shabbos Project in Adelaide capped off a great and inspirational weekend of activities with a havdallah ceremony and impressive concert by Rabbi Heilbrunn of Melbourne and the AHC’s own Rabbi Ben.  First was the communal havdallah ceremony, which was followed by singing by Rabbi Heilbrunn, whose operatic cantorial style reverberated throughout the hall.  Local Matthew generously joined in on the piano in accompaniment.  Then Rabbi Ben sang some traditional yiddish songs, which the older members of the congregation especially appreciated.  There was a break for refreshments prepared by Rebbetzin Rachel and her cheder girls.  Then the Jewish Adelaide Zionist Youth (JAZY) organization did a performance with group participation to show some of the adults the fun they are missing out on by not being young enough to join anymore!  Finally, a sing-along and kumzitz topped off the night… although, of course, some members lingered to schmooze afterwards!  All in all, it was an amazing and inspirational night.  Many members of the Adelaide Jewish community are already asking if we will do it again next year! So put it in your travel plans and we’ll see you then!

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The Shabbos Project Adelaide

The Shabbos Project Adelaide

The Adelaide Shabbos Project was an amazing success! After watching this video:

Rebbetzin Rachel was inspired to bring the Shabbos Project to Adelaide, South Australia.

With the help of the whole community, the Shabbos Project in Adelaide was a huge success!

Learning a new way to braid challah

Learning a new way to braid challah at the Adelaide Shabbos Project Great Big Challah Bake

Thursday night was a challah bake that brought together three spiritual leaders and women from all walks of life, from Israelis to first-time challah bakers. (Read more here!)

Friday night the ladies of the community joined with WIZO South Australia in a communal candle lighting ceremony.  This was followed by a kabbalat Shabbat service led by visiting Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn of Melbourne, whose booming voice led Adventuring Akiva to clap and dance in the aisles.

After the service was a communal dinner with preparation led by a long-time community stalwart.  With nearly 40 people in attendance, the Adelaide Jewish community was well-represented.  Ages ranged from under one to the 80s!  Food included a first course of dips and salmon mousse, a main of half a dozen salads and chicken, and dessert of sorbet and berries.  Rebbetzin Rachel introduced our visiting rabbi with some stirring words about Jewish unity and how to use technology to keep Torah better.  Rabbi Heilbrunn then gave an inspirational sermon about the importance and the power of Shabbat.

Saturday morning saw a popular service led by Rabbi Heilbrunn, followed by a community kiddush.  Then there was a delicious lunch of homemade hummus and tehini, spinach salad with heirloom tomatoes and balsamic vinegar pearls, tropical barbeque salmon, lasagna, and a selection of homemade sorbets, held at the rabbi’s house.

Congregants at the AHC enjoying refreshments during the havdallah concert

Congregants at the AHC enjoying refreshments during the havdallah concert

Finally, the Shabbos Project ended with maariv services and a havdallah ceremony.  Then there were mini-concerts given by Rabbi Heilbrunn and Rabbi Ben, a performance by the Jewish Adelaide Zionist Youth (JAZY), a sing-along and kumzitz, and refreshments prepared by Rebbetzin Rachel and the cheder girls.

All in all, the Shabbos Project Adelaide was a big success!  Visitors came all the way from Melbourne to participate and Jews from all walks of life, from the strictly observant to the strictly secular, came together in a display of Jewish unity.  Adelaide Jews are already asking Rebbetzin Rachel to begin organizing for next year!

Kol hakavod, Adelaide and the Shabbos Project!

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