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A Monkey Stole My Talit

A Monkey Stole My Talit

20170507_171041A mother orang-utan and her baby shuffled slowly towards me. I took a few steps back. Mama reached out her hand and I gave her a banana.  We weren’t supposed to feed the wildlife, but it seemed like everyone was doing it.

I plucked off a leach that was half way up my leg and tossed it into the stream and then headed back for the campsite.

Salamat Pagi.” My cook said. He handed me a cup of tea.

Terimakasi,” I replied.  It was day five in a Sumatran jungle and I had picked up a few Indonesian words.  I needed to learn how to say, “Way to much sugar in the tea.”

Dan, my trekking partner, approached. “I go this for you.” He handed me a plastic bag containing my talit and siddur. “A monkey grabbed it from the shelter.”

I looked up. A large grey, monkey glared back.

“I chased him up the tree and he dropped the bag.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I should have packed it away when I finished praying.”

“I’ll pack it for you,” Dan said. “I’m heading to the shelter.”

As I sipped the tea I watched several monkeys battle with a couple of komodo dragons over some scraps of food.  The monkeys outnumbered the dragons ten to one and were clearly wining.

A girl came over and squatted on a rock next to me.  Her clothes were clean compared to mine, and she had nowhere near as many mosquito bites covering her arms and legs as I did.

We chatted about our travels. She was American and had been on the road for almost five months which included a trip to Israel. I did not want to ask her straight out if she was Jewish, in a country of nearly two hundred million Muslims I myself would be weary to say I was Jewish.

After a few more questions I worked out she had been on birthright and was obviously Jewish. When she realised I was Jewish, her face lit up. “Was that your talit that fell out of the tree?”

I laughed.


“Unless it has been raining talatot this morning, it was probably


“I saw a guy pick it up off the ground. He said it wasn’t his.” She laughed.  “Will you be in the jungle for Shabbat.”

I wiped the sweat from my forehead. “It’s been almost a week in this place. I would still like to see some snakes, but I’ve had it with the mosquitoes, leaches, mud, and rain. If you are going to be here for Shabbat remember to light Shabbat candles.”20170507_084956

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Does The Islamic World Hate The Jews and is Israel Stupid?

Dear Friends,

Usually, I don’t get involved with writing about political situations but with everything going on I thought I should share a few thoughts…

One of the most frustrating things in life is trying to reason logic with someone who is emotionally attached to something, some person, or some idea. The more you try to convince the person, the more you both become angry. Like an individual involved in a cult, in an abusive relationship, or a failing business – you can talk yourself blue in the face and it will get you nowhere.

Israel Landscape

Israel Landscape

Anti-Semitism is not logical. The perpetrator may try to use some warped logic to justify their means but it still stems from an emotional hatred. During The Black Death between 1348 and 1350, there were many violent attacks on Jewish communities throughout Europe. As the plague swept across Europe, killing off more than half the population, the Jews were the scapegoats. They were accused of poisoning the wells which caused the disease. To give you one example, 900 Jews were burnt alive in Strasbourg on February 14, 1349. The plague had not yet affected the city, and killing off the Jews was seen as a pre-emptive move to prevent the plague from coming.

It seems a couple of hundred years later, people were still convinced that the Jews were at fault for the plague. The 16th century German religious reformer, Martin Luther wrote: “they are often accused of poisoning wells, stealing children and mutilating them.”  How many Jews have been killed in pogroms because of blood libels, which falsely accused Jews for using Christian blood in their passover Matzah, when the Christians themselves had killed a child and blamed the Jews.

Jews have been blamed for killing Jesus, starting both world wars and losing them, the rise and fall of communism, 9-11, America’s financial success and financial problems, and just about anything that happens in the Middle East.

There is a story of two old ladies sitting on a park bench having an argument. One points to a gray thing moving along the ground and says: “Look at the size of that pigeon.” The other lady counters, “that’s no pigeon, that’s a giant rat!” They argue for a while until the thing flies up into the air and at which point lady number two remarks: “Wow that is the first time I’ve ever seen a flying rat!”  -   If you want to believe something is a rat, then no matter what happens in life you will keep your belief. Anti-semites have their beliefs about Jews and if they want to hold on to them, then no matter what good Israel does, the negative beliefs will remain. For some, they are so steeped in blame and hatred that even when blatantly good stares them in the face they will see bad.


Praying at the Western Wall

What scares me, is how far some people can go in order to hold on to a corrupt belief. It seems even when Jews do a nice simple thing to help out in their community the world’s anti-Semites have a way of darkening it. Here is what Major Robert H. Williams, in ‘FECP and the Minority Machine’, page 10, has to say about Jews doing good:“B’nai B’rith, the secret Jewish fraternity, was organized in 1843, awakening world Jewish aspirations, or Zionism, and its name, meaning “Sons of the Covenant,” suggests that the 12 men who organized the fraternity aimed at bringing about the fulfillment of “the Covenant,” or the supposed Messianic promise of ruler-ship over all peoples. To rule all peoples, it is first necessary to bring them together in a world federation or world government – which is the avowed aim of both Communists and Zionists.” 

Here is what I know about B’nai B’rith’s inception: The twelve men who headed the organisation were appalled by the deplorable condition of immigrant Jews to the United States.  The newcomers to the country were often living in utmost poverty, and these twelve men wanted to help. They set up an organisation which initially was about ”Visiting and attending the sick” and “protecting and assisting the widow and the orphan.”

My grandfather was president at one point of B’nai B’rith Montreal Canada. Their biggest project at the time was sending thousands of food baskets to impoverished families. I was part of B’nai B’rith Youth movement and we never conspired to inject the world with communist views. We spent our free time packing food baskets, cheering up elderly people and creating a better community environment.

The Jewish people have undergone two thousand years of persecution and expulsion from almost every country they lived in. One website  has a list of 109 locations, from which Jews have been expelled since AD250.

Throughout history there have been innumerable pogroms across Europe and the Middle East. Jewish communities were decimated, the people murdered, raped, and their homes and businesses ransacked. Those who survive often did so by fleeing with whatever they carried in their pockets.

Significant pogroms in the Russian Empire included the Odessa pogroms, Warsaw pogrom (1881), Kishinev pogrom (1903), Kiev Pogrom (1905), and Białystok pogrom (1906), and, after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Lwów pogrom (1918) and Kiev Pogroms (1919). This does not include the countless smaller pogroms that took place on a regular basis.

The UN has passed resolutions condemning just about everything Israel has ever done. During the Gulf War while 39 Scud missiles landed on Israel threatening biological warfare, America asked Israel not to get involved. NOT GET INVOLVED? If your family was being threatened to be killed and someone asked you not to get involved I hope you would never listen to that someone again…yet we do.

Where was the world when 6 million of our brothers and sisters were murdered by the Nazis? An estimated 67% of the Jewish European population which included up to 90% in some countries. This is Genocide. The Palestinians and the world claim “genocide” while the Palestinian population has grown in leaps and bounds. Do you want to reason with a people who deny the holocaust having happened yet say they wished it did happen, and given the opportunity would make it happen? Does any of this seem logical?

So yes we Jews are stupid if we think the world cares; granted there are some Christians and individuals who love us, thank you. Most have demonstrated for the last 2,000 years that they don’t really give a hoot, and that their dislike for the Jewish people will remain regardless.

Thus said, I don’t believe the Islamic world particularly hate us. I believe they hate everyone who is not exactly like themselves – Christians, Buddhist, Hindus, and even Shiite, Sunni, western Culture, America, anything really. If Israel was gone tomorrow, they would have a civil war amongst themselves. All it takes is an artist to draw a cartoon, or an idiot, to make some pathetic movie depicting the Prophet, and the Islamic world will be up in arms, rioting, protesting and killing.

There will never be peace in the Middle East – Iraq and Iran in the Gulf war, the Egyptian political instability, The Syrian Civil War, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Hamas, Fatah, PLO and Jihad all fighting each other. They like to fight, full stop. It is part of their culture.

We Jews on the other hand don’t like fighting. We want to live in peace and only fight to protect ourselves. If Israel laid down its weapons, tomorrow there would be no Israel. If Hamas on the other hand laid down their weapons there would be peace. But Hamas then would lose its identity which is something they are not prepared to do.

If you meet anyone who wants to talk logic, perhaps start with this. “Can I ask you a simple question; Do you think Israel has the capabilities to blow Gaza off the map. To kill everyone there, and turn it into a pile of rubble?” The answer is “yes.”

“Now do you think Hamas, Iran, Jihad and all the other crazy groups have the capability to blow Israel to pieces?” The answer is “no.”

Now let me ask you another question. “Do you think that, if Hamas or Iran could blow Israel off the map would they?” The answer is “yes,” as they have expressed the intent openly many times.

Thus, when Israel kills a Palestinian child, it is a mistake. There is no malicious intent. Israel gains nothing by killing an innocent civilian. If they wanted to, they could kill them all. Hamas on the other hand specifically targets civilians, with 1,500 killed in buses and cafes in the past Intifada, and constantly by lobbing rockets into civilian populations. They are happy to blow themselves up in martyrdom, so why would they care to take a few of their own with them?

But this is all silly logic for intelligent people to reason with… to negotiate with… ‘insanity is trying to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ So we are insane as well.

If we care about world opinion we are doomed…because there are two types of people in the world: those who like us unconditionally, and those who unconditionally condemn and hate us. So who are we trying to appease. The world has condemned everything Israel does. During the Sydney 2000 Olympics Countries build fences to protect their athletes from terrorists along with armed security just in case. But when Israel puts up a fence to protect its civilians from terrorists who say and demonstrate their intent on causing harm, the world screams. So let them scream.

I remember one of my first self-defence lectures I went to when I was 14 years old. The instructor said: “Better to be tried by 12 (a jury) than to be carried by 6 (in a coffin).”

Let the UN, pass more resolutions, let the Arabs in every city around the globe protest, let the media broadcast its lies, let the Arab world kill themselves while the world ignores it, let America and every other country in the world condemn, and let the Chamberlains of the world wave a pathetic piece of paper signed by Hitler…but don’t let a single other Israeli civilian die by a terrorist or allow a young Israeli soldier to be killed unnecessarily.

Yes we trade one soldier for a thousand terrorists because life to us is valuable. And it should be too valuable to waste on politics. Too valuable to fire rubber bullets in the face of live ammunition. Too valuable to risk ground force when air strikes would do.

The sooner we wake up to the fact that logic and the plight of the Jews do not mix, the better off we will be. As frustrating and infuriating as it may be, many in the world are emotionally attached to their beliefs and no amount of reasoning will ever work.

Israel exists on miracles. Thirty-nine scuds can land on it without injuring a single person and Israel can take out an Egyptian air force without the loss of a life.

When King David went to battle, half the army would pray while the other half fought. Both sides employed tactics to the best of their abilities. For those of us not actively fighting for the protection of Israel we must pray with all our hearts to our Father in heaven that He protect them and us. And for those who are fighting, they must fight using everything available to them by air, land, and water. We receive miracles but we are not allowed to rely on them, yet at the same time we must recognise that our survival and victory balances on miracles.

May we see the coming of the final redemption as the prophet Isaiah says, ‘They will beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up the sword against other nations, and they will no longer train for war.’


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Camping on Shabbat a Book on, How to: Build an Eruv, Bake Bread, go to the Toilet, and More

Camping on Shabbat

A Practical Guide to Camping Over Shabbat.

Camping on Shabbat requires extra preparation and effort, but is not that difficult once you get the hang of it – and Shabbat can be a highly rewarding experience when spent in nature. This book will show you how to properly prepare so as to avoid any compromise on Shabbat observance, and enjoy the experience with full peace of mind.
Some of what you will find in this book:

> How to plan your sleeping, eating, washing, and toilet areas
> The basics of building an Eruv around a campsite
> Methods of baking bread in the outdoors
…And much more!

Available for purchase here


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Adventuring Akiva Walks 2km to Celebrate His Second Birthday

Congratulations to Akiva for raising $180 for Clown Doctors and for actually walking 2.5 km. This is a fantastic accomplishment for a boy who has just turned two.

Walk Stats:

11:05 Start
11.46 Akiva says ‘up’ (meaning pick me up) I give him some food and he’s happy.
12:04 Break
12:12 walk
12:25 Finnish

Akiva's Birthday Cake

Akiva’s Birthday Cake

Two year old walks for Clown Doctors

Two year old walks for Clown Doctors

Akiva Walking

Akiva Walking

Akiva on his walk

Akiva on his walk


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Franz Kempf Donates Art to State Library of South Australia, Thinking on Paper

Franz KempfLast week we were blessed to have attended an art gallery opening at the State Library of South Australia. Franz Kempf graciously donated a number of works which the library is selling to raise money.

We are honoured to have such an acclaimed artist in our community. Franz asked me if I would speak at the opening, which I did, and I thought some of you may appreciate reading the speech.

There is one thing I did not mention in the speech though, and it is the number one thing that comes to mind whenever I think about Franz. Virtually, every Sabbath morning Franzis at the Synagogue, and more often than not, he is the first one there. It’s not always easy for him to come. He is obviously very busy finding time to create art, selling art, and setting up exhibitions, though he still makes the effort. Please G-d we hope to count him in the minyan for many more years to come.

Now for the speech…I’ve adapted it slightly….

Ladies and gentleman, honoured guests, Franz – I am grateful to be here today to celebrate with you this wonderful collection of art. After Franz asked me to share a few words, I sat down at the computer and I Googled, ‘What to say at an art gallery opening. The first thing that came up, was a blog article titled, ”7 things never to say at an art gallery’ which included:

How much just for the frame?

My nephew does similar work. He’s two.

Do you have this in medium?

I also realised that it has been some time since I’ve last been to an art opening and thought I should brush up on proper etiquette.  So I Googled, ‘Art gallery opening etiquette,’ and the first entry was, ‘Behavioural Blunders for Everyone.’ It had an in-depth list…

Don’t bring your pets

Don’t touch the art

Don’t get drunk or better yet, arrive drunk!

One of the things I like about Franz is he always has a joke. As a Rabbi, I’m pretty good at Jewish jokes, so I thought I should have a few Art jokes if I am going to an art opening. So I sat down at the computer again, and Googled, ‘Art Jokes’

Art Teacher: “The picture of the horse is good, but where is the wagon?”
Student: “The horse will draw it!”  (I didn’t find this one funny either!)

Question: How many visitors to an Art Gallery does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Two. One to do it and one to say “Huh! My four-year old could’ve done that!”

When it comes to appreciating art, we usually first have a relationship with the art and then if we are fortunate we get to meet the artist if they are around. However, for the most part we try to understand the artist by the work they’ve created. It was six months after I met Franz until I knew he was an artist, and yet a further six months until I saw any of his work. I got to know Franz first as a person; when I see Franz on a Saturdaymorning, impeccably dressed, holding hands with his wife Tamar, always with a smile, followed by a good word and something interesting to share, this is the most beautiful art.

What an artist can create is only a glimpse and a hint of who the artist is. But the more one knows of the artist the more we can appreciate and understand what they have created. Otherwise we are left speculating.

There are two aspects when it comes to art, 1) is what the artist is trying to tell us, 2) is what we think the artist is trying to tell us.…

            A little old lady was among a group at an art exhibition in a newly opened gallery.
Suddenly one contemporary painting caught her eye. What on earth, she inquired of the artist standing nearby, is that? He smiled condescendingly. That, my dear lady, is supposedto be a mother and her child. Well, then snapped the little old lady, Why isn’t it?

Each of us translates art differently; the way we see it depends on our way of life. We see things not by the way they are, rather by the way we are. The beauty in art is always in the eyes of the beholder. Art appreciation is unique for each individual yet there is still that universal force that brings us all together.

            My Grandmother, may she rest in peace, loved Claude Monet work. Every week I used to send her cards while she was alive and more often than not I would find cards depicting Monet work.  I understand why Grandma liked Monet. Anyone can look at a Monet and feel pleasant inside. Most of Monet’s works are bright and cheerful scenes that have a definite character and structure. The names subscribed to the paintings clearly illustrate what’s going on in them, and we can comfortably let ourself get lost in them.

Franz’s work is very different. Aside from perhaps some of his landscapes, his art is not designed to give us warm fuzzy feeling inside. Franz who takes the stance as a humanist, and spiritualist, wants the viewer to think, to question and as is the case with much spiritual based art, for the reader to interpret it in whichever way they choose.

There are a number of themes that run throughout Franz work, most of it is rarely literal or descriptive. The images tend to be more of a metaphor, where for the large part it is up to the viewer to decide what they want. Unlike the joke with the painting of the mother and her child, with Franz’s work you can choose to see only a mother, only a daughter, or neither of them.

The art we see here at this exhibition, is a collection of sketches. As Franz has expressed to me, sometimes the sketch is an end in itself, whilst at times it is like taking a note to capture an idea. Sometimes those ideas turn into paintings, as some of these sketches have. It is also possible that more of these sketches you are looking at will one day transform into paintings, and take on a new life of their own.

One of the most famous artists of all time Is Leonardo Da Vinci. Leonardo painted the ‘Mona Lisa’ which today is arguably the most viewed painting around. Leonardo, later in his life, is said to have regretted “never having completed a single work.”  He also said, “art is never finished, only abandoned.”

A work of art is constantly evolving, be it theatre, music and in our case drawings. As an individual, and or, as a society evolves their attitudes, feelings and beliefs change. And this is reflected back into the art of the time.

I’d like to conclude with a quote from Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our Fathers which is a collection of wisdom from Jewish sages two thousand years ago.

“He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: It is not upon you to complete the task, but you are not free to idle from it.

            A person’s job here in the world is never complete even when they take their last breath. So long as we are alive we must continue to contribute in making the world a better place, each person in his or her own unique way by expressing the gifts G-d has bestowed upon them.

Franz: We wish you and bless you may you go from strength to strength and continue to inspire, interest, and intrigue us for many more years to come.

Thank you.

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Adelaide Fringe Review and a Very un-Jewish Show: Come Heckle Christ

(I apologies to my frum readers about this post)

As you may know, the Adelaide Fringe festival is in full swing. There are hundreds of performers and shows to choose from . It truly is a remarkable and fun festival that brings a lot of business and life to Adelaide.

For those who know me, I have a background in circus, magic, and ventriloquism which I practiced throughout my high school years. I did many shows within Jewish communities around the world. Purim, Lag B’omer, Sukkot, and Chanukah you could probably find me juggling some fire torches somewhere entertaining a Jewish crowd.

On my first trip around Europe when I was seventeen years old, I traveled with a magic and juggling kit performing wherever I could.

I’ve often said that, If I were not a Rabbi I’d probably have become a performer traveling the world to places like the Adelaide Fringe festival and doing, some sort of comedy, juggling, magic, martial art performance.

I therefore have a lot of appreciation for the hundreds of performers who have worked hard and put together their  acts now showing in Adelaide. There are so many shows going on that it was hard for me to choose which ones to see. I like comedians but not the ones who use loads of foul language and talk about trash. Danny Bhoy who Rachel and I went to see last year, is my favorite comedian. If he swears in his show, it’s maybe only once or twice, and his comedy is clean.

Last night I went to see a Canadian comedian who did a 60 minute show. He was alright. I liked his presentation. He used foul language moderately, and most of his content was ‘kosher.’ On my way out of the venue I was surprised to see  several police officers, along with half dozen people holding sighs promoting salvation. The picketers were shouting things along the line, of, ‘Jesus loves you,’ ‘you can be saved,’ and ‘damnation will come.’ Along were also plenty of media personal with their big cameras waiting to see what would happen. It was almost as interesting as the show I had just seen except this one was free!

I guess I’ve not been keeping up with the Adelaide news (as not much really happens here) but anyway, a Melbourne comic; Josh Ladgrov, was doingt a show titled: ‘Come Heckle Christ.’ Ladgrove with his long brown hair and trimmed beard looks remarkably like what the West has decided Jesus looked like. He was doing a show, where dressesd as Jesus, he lets people ask him questions.

Not surprisingly this show has created lots of controversy. Some say it should be fine as a form of freedome of speech, while others claim it is poor taste to allow such a show as part of the Adelaide Fringe festival.

The reviews on the show seem to say that it is mostly in good taste and that there is no real negative portrayal, and besides it is the crowd that determines what is asked.

On the flip side, almost every performer at the fringe is jealous  of Ladgrove, because all his shows are sold out….No duh…thanks to all the publicity the people trying to remove the show gave him, everyone now wants to see it. The fringe guide has some 900 shows listed in it, and aside from a few fringe academics most people would not have even known the show to have existed, including myself.

I am happy though that no Christians decided to burn down any buildings or lynch people because of this and that the demonstrations have all been peaceful with mostly people holding picketing signs and or candles.

Though this does give me an idea…Maybe I can do a show next year, ‘Come Heckle Mosses!’



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