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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!

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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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The Shabbos Project: The Great Big Challah Bake!

The Shabbos Project: The Great Big Challah Bake!

In Adelaide, South Australia, I decided to organize our own challah bake in solidarity with Jews all over the world who were participating in their Shabbos Project challah bakes.  We may be a small community, but this was a great chance to have some unity!  Jewish women from all walks of life showed up to bake challah. It was an amazing event! Just check out some of the photos below!

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Parshas Noach: Shabbat – A Lifeboat for All of Us

Parshas Noach: Shabbat – A Lifeboat for All of Us

This weekend we will be participating in The Shabbos Project.  This is a grassroots attempt to get Jews worldwide to experience the magic of the Sabbath, just once.  Last year, it happened in South Africa, where almost every single Jew participated – even if they were not at all religious! That’s because you don’t have to be “religious” to participate in Shabbat.  Shabbat is not some sort of punishment, it is a gift, given by G-d to all Jews, religious or not.  There are some special aspects of Shabbat that have actually been studied and advocated for by scientists!  You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that having the whole family sit down for dinner together once a week is proven to be good for family unity, or that putting down phones, computers, and all other screens for a 24 hour period is great for improving relationships with your children and spouse.

In this week’s parsha, Noach was faced with a world of decadence and decay – sadly, not that much different from what we experience today.  We open our email and find obscene spam, we turn on the television and see scenes of murder, and we turn on the radio and hear foul language.  Shabbat is our chance to turn off all the garbage and focus on what is good and meaningful in our lives – our real-life, face-to-face relationships.  Just as Noach had to build an ark and G-d had to wash away the garbage that the world had become, so too we can build ourselves an ark in time and each and every week wash away the mundane so we have space to illuminate the spiritual.

This week, we have many opportunities to connect to this precious gift of Shabbat in a community setting.  Unlike Noach, we don’t have to go it alone on our arks. We can keep ittogether!  Women can join the Rebbetzin for a challah bake on Thursday night, one of the special mitzvot for ladies.  And everyone is welcome to join in the community celebrations of Shabbat over the weekend: community candle lighting on Friday night, followed by kabbalat Shabbat services and a delicious dinner at the Shul; Saturday morning services led by visiting Rabbi Heilbrunn from Melbourne, followed by a Kiddush and then community lunch at the Rabbi’s house; and finally, a havdallah ceremony, concert, JAZY performance, and kumzitz sing-along at the Shul.  Let’s build our ark and keep it – TOGETHER!

Shabbat shalom!

(To indicate participation in the Shabbos Project, please feel free to tag photos and videos of your involvement with #shabbosproject and #keepingittogether !)

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Rosh Hashanah and the Circle of Life

Rosh Hashanah and the Circle of Life

As I sit here writing, the smell of sweet challah fills the room. Yes, the holiday season is here – let the baking begin!  Round challahs, circular pies, and sweet spherical apples abound in my kitchen this time of year.

Undoubtedly the sweets are one of the parts of Rosh Hashanah we all look forward to most.  After all, most of us have a sweet tooth – even if we don’t like to admit it!  The New Year just wouldn’t be as tasty without sweet raisin challahs, honey on apples, simmering tsimmes, and delicious desserts.

The symbolism of honeyed foods during our New Year’s celebration is obvious in the way we wish one another a sweet new year.  But our celebration of symbols goes much deeper than taste. We also have the visuals to consider.

So, why are our challahs round?  The simple answer is the same reason we eat round foods like lentils and eggs when we are mourning: to symbolize the circle of life.  Circles and cycles are a crucial part of our Jewish faith.

The secular world tends to view birth as the start and death as the end, full stop.  Similarly, each year is viewed as its own entity that begins at January 1st and ends at December 31st.  Judaism is different.  We view life as a cycle that simply goes around.  We don’t look at death as an ending so much as a new beginning – before we were born we were spiritual beings with no physical presence and after we die we return to that state.  Similarly, we do not view each New Year as the end of an old year so much as the return to the beginning of a new one.  It is a circle.

This is epitomized in our reading of the Torah.  As soon as we finish the Torah we immediately begin again.  The Torah is not just a novel that has a beginning and an end.  Once we read it we don’t put it down and say “Oh, that was a great read.”  No! We immediately start again.  The Torah is circular (even the shape of a scroll is round!), so that the end is just the start of beginning again.  Think about it – a bar mitzvah boy does not wait for Bereishit to start his reading of the Torah – a bar mitzvah boy begins reading the Torah right away, as soon as he becomes bar mitzvah.  The Torah is a circle and can be begun at any time!

The round challah at Rosh Hashanah symbolizes this life cycle.  Just as the seasons go round and round with no definite beginning and end, so too does Jewish life.  Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of another season and the round challah reminds us that we would like to continue to go round and round until we once again arrive at Rosh Hashanah again.

We would like very much to thank the Adelaide Jewish community who has been so lovely to us during this past year.  We are looking forward to celebrating the cycle of Jewish life with you again in 5775.

Chag sameach and shana tova!

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Israel Wine Bottle Challenge

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“Israel Needs Your Help”

Around the world anti-Semites are boycotting Israeli products. In Israel, rocket sirens disrupt work, negatively affecting businesses. Along the borders, soldiers continue to risk their life’s to fight terror and keep our land safe from those who wish to destroy us. Israel will survive this ordeal as it has with Gods help time and time again. Israel will be victorious. Israel will defeat her enemies. You ask, ‘what can you do?’ because you want to help. You can instantly make the path smother for those who fight and struggle.

Do you part to help.

THE CHALLENGE
1. Purchase a bottle of Israeli wine to use on Rosh Hashana.
2. Post a photo of the bottle, or you and the bottle together.
3. Nominate 3-5 people to take the challenge.

You have until September 24, 2014 to post a photo of the Israeli bottle of wine you are committing to drink on the Jewish New Year

Or else….

If you don’t buy a bottle of Israeli wine, you must give $18 to Tzedakah to one of the three following charities. We chose these charities because they are not as well known as some of the larger ones. The listed three charities are doing amazing work and every small contribution makes a noticeable difference.

LEKET Feed a Hungry Child

Serving as the country’s National Food Bank and largest food rescue network, Leket Israel works to alleviate the problem of nutritional insecurity amongst the growing numbers of Israel’s poor. In 2013, with the help of over 50,000 volunteers, Leket Israel rescued and distributed 25 million lbs of produce andperishable goods, 1 million prepared meals, and 1.1 million (8,000/school day) volunteer prepared sandwiches to underprivileged children. Food, that would have otherwise gone to waste, was redistributed to hundreds of nonprofit partners caring for the needy. Leket Israel offers nutrition education, capacity building, and food safety projects to further assist our partners.

ISRAEL FREE LOAN Assist an Israeli Business

Communities throughout the country have been under rocket attack. Most prevalent, this has hit home for small businesses in the south, which have been under constant fire, causing businesses to work only part-time or close for the time being. These small businesses serve as the sole source of livelihood for the families who own them. The donations we receive from you will enable us to respond quickly and help them. In addition, every donation to IFLA is leveraged, as it is recycled and results in a growing “helping value” over time.

YASHAR LACHAYAL Help a Soldier

Yashar LaChayal brings soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces what they need when they need it. Yashar LaChayal has developed relationships with IDF commanders around the country, and therefore they are quick to contact our representatives when their units or individual soldiers are in need of assistance. But we do not wait to hear from them! Yashar LaChayal representatives are on the move, visiting IDF bases throughout Israel, on the borders and in remote locations, to see what the actual needs of our soldiers are. Once we determine what is lacking, we set out to fill the gap.

CLICK HERE FOR FACEBOOK EVENT

 

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