Noach – Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan

23/10/2017 11:28:33

Oct23

This week we read about the Tower of Babel. A generation that preceded any form of Judaism joined together to build a building. What was the sin of this building? Rav Hirsch explains that the intention of this generation was to start a united cause to create something larger than themselves, larger than life. By uniting all of mankind together for this cause they would create a new force. The individual as an individual is weak and eventually will die. By becoming part of a world community, they will have joined something immortal that will outlive us all. The people in this generation wanted to create out of individuals a force that was larger than life. The system would guide them and lead them. It would in fact discourage people to think and make decisions; the system itself became an “Idol Worship”.

 

The Talmud tells us people who were part of the system would be hammering away at their building and would sometimes fall off the building and die. No one paid any attention. They were so caught up with the fervor of building a great world system the individual didn’t make a difference, It was the cause that counted.

 

We have seen throughout history how people got swept away with the masses only to lose sight of their own standards of decency and their own moral ground. To the Egyptians building those pyramids was more important than the millions of people that suffered under its bricks and mortar.

 

The early Christians killed millions for the sake of a united brotherhood of love. The Nazis were able to create incomprehensible inertia that killed 11,000,000 people to better the world. Individuals didn’t matter. It happened with Communism. It can happen again. The Tower of Babel can happen all over again if we lose our ability to think!

 

G-d divided them into different languages and they couldn’t communicate so they separated. And the cause was no more.

I think there is a message here, a hole that we can all fall into. Even amongst our own there are systems that we surrender to that with all good intentions can actually become destructive. As long as we are all thinking and contemplating the ratzon Hashem,the “Will of G-D” we will build only good.

 

Wishing you all a good and restful Shabbos

WE WANT YOUR KIDS KICKING AND SCREAMING

02/12/2016 10:24:18

Dec2

 

What are the sweetest words that you wish to hear a young child say? “I want to go to Shul!”

A child who loves Shul and is kicking and screaming that they want their daddy and mommy to take them to services, is a child who is on the track to be a Jacob — the patriarch of the Jewish people.

Let me tell you a bit about Jacob. Not about him as an adult; not even as a child; rather, as a fetus.

The Torah tells us that when Rebecca was pregnant with her twins Jacob and Esau, she felt like a battle was going on inside. Rashi explains that whenever she walked by a House of Worship to Hashem she would feel a kick and excitement, and whenever she went by the house of idolatry she felt an excited kick as well.

‘Am I carrying a schizophrenic?’ She wondered. She went to consult a sage, who told her: You have two nations inside you. Those two nations? Jacob and Esau. In Jacob, she carried the father of the 12 tribes and the Jewish people. In Esau, she held the father of Rome, and by extension — the father of the West and Christianity.

Jacob was kicking when walking by a Shul. That fetus ended up as Jacob.

Here at Linksfield Shul we can do little about fetuses,but we take this message very strongly. We know the importance of getting the kiddies over into the Shul from the youngest age with enthusiasm and excitement. We need to ensure that we have the Jacobs of the future who will marry Jews, raise Jewish families (with 12 tribes…), and serve the Jewish people with honor and pride.

The Jacobs and Rachels of the tomorrow are there in your home, in the home of your married children, in the home of your brother or sister. Those little kids need to be at Shul. Every kid belongs in Shul.

We are fully partnered with you to make them want to come. We hired our world class youth couple Rabbi Greg and Hannah to aim for the stars. We have an awesome team of Maddies who are consistently taking on new goals and reinventing themselves. We are currently working on amazing initiatives for the coming year. We are about to launch our building campaign for the most stunning Youth Centre in town. We are working on growing and broadening our team.

We are one-track minded: We need to get your children/grandchildren/nieces and nephews into Shul. We need those kiddies to carry the tradition forward. We need to fight assimilation from the youngest age. Not one kid of our community can be lost to the Jewish people in the future. We are that committed.

We need your help: Please do your part to make them want to be here. Make Judaism awesome. Make it alive. Make it the best hour of the week. Do whatever it takes.

Jewish continuity is a serious matter, and we encourage you to carry the burden with us. It cannot be any other way.

May we all be blessed with Nachas from our children and grandchildren!

ROSH HASHANAH PLANS OF ANOTHER KIND

15/09/2016 07:29:14

Sep15

 

“So what are your plans for Rosh Hashanah this year?”

“Actually we’re going to Sarah this year. I mean, like, um, well, usually we go to my mother in law, but she is visiting my sister in law down in Durban, and at the last minute we had to make arrangements which was totally overwhelming, you know…”

“That is too sweet, you know, but actually what I meant was…”

“Sorry to interrupt, but you can’t imagine what a megillah this has been. I mean, you can imagine how embarrassing it was to call Sarah and ask for an invite. OMG I can’t believe that woman could just go down to Durban just like that… What are we – chopped liver?”

Well she is her own person…”

“Own person? She has to take all of us into consideration! And besides the meal there is also the extra murals that she usually takes Jack to in the afternoons, and now I’m left with no driver. How am I supposed to deal with all this at once?”

"What I meant to ask was not about your meal plans, rather…”

“Oh, you were asking about which Shul we’re going to this year. Well, actually, this year we moved over Shuls. You know, the Chazan in the other Shul was nothing to write home about, and the rabbi’s sermons were too whiny and un-motivating. This new Shul _____________ they say is just such a pleasant experience. The Brochos are too wonderful, and the choir is delightful and well-practiced. You should see the matching Yarmis and shoes. So cute… And they even (after six calls and emails from me) accommodated my NEED to sit next to my cousin’s cousin Rachel, with my classmate from nursery school, Nancy, sitting right behind me… They had to play musical chairs by reallocating seats to fourteen people so that I can have my team around me. It was worth it!”

“So nice… But I wasn’t asking about your choice of Shul… I was asking in a more personal way…”

“You mean what outfit I’m wearing? Well, as you know Shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a BIG DEAL. Everyone is looking at everyone, and it’s really important to look classy and dignified without sticking out too much. I don’t want to be conversation material for people’s Rosh Hashanah dinner conversation…”

“HELLO!!! I am asking about your spiritual, emotional, moral, personal growth and meaningful plans for Rosh Hashanah! It’s a very important and opportune time of that year. What are your plans?”

“You’re kidding me, right? I mean with meal arrangements, taxi-driving my kids around town, signing up for new membership and choosing my outfit while dressing up my husband and kids, who has time to think about anything else?”

THIS ROSH HASHANAH LET US GET OUR PRIORITIES RIGHT. LET’S REFLECT, FOCUS, PRIORITISE, GROW, MEDITATE, CONNECT AND SPIRITUALIZE OURSELVES. It’s a once a year chance. Let’s get it right!

 

IF ONLY G-D WOULD STOP BY AND INTRODUCE HIMSELF

02/09/2016 08:21:10

Sep2

“If only I would experience a revelation of the Divine then I would’ve bought into Judaism hook, line and sinker. Now that I never had an audience with the Almighty, do you expect me to be committed to the whole deal…”

Have you expressed this thought before? Have you offered your ears for someone else’s — lack-of-Sinai-style-revelation — excuse for standing on the side-lines of wholehearted investment into their heritage?

I know that I have. I’ve said it. I’ve heard it. I hear it all the time.

If only…

So let’s play out the scenario:

You are called to a lovely mountain in the middle of a desert. As millions of your family and friends stand around this mountain, you all experience a mass revelation of the Divine. G-d Himself comes to talk to you and even offers a bio on Himself. “I am the L-rd your G-d who has delivered you from Egypt!” No room for confusion. It’s ‘that’ G-d. Heaven is 100% real.

That should settle all matters of atheism, idolatry, and ethics for a long long time, don’t you think?

Um… problem, people.

You all know the story: 40 days later and the Jews are dancing around a calf made of gold, declaring “This is your god, oh Israel!”

Huh? What happened to the foolproof method? Doesn’t divine revelation mute all options of mutiny against G-d? Idolatry just six weeks after Sinai? Slap in the face to the revelation excuse!

Or how about the fact that throughout the First Temple era there was rampant idolatry in Israel? The Second Temple period didn’t fare better, with widespread secularism and Hellenization across the Jewish community. This is the TEMPLE ERA with mad miracles occurring all the time in front of the eyes of the Jewish community!

Revelation isn’t that electrifying after all. Inspiration has a short shelf life and expires very quickly indeed.

YOU HAVE TO EARN AND WORK ON YOURSELF TO BE READY AND DESERVING OF REVELATION!

Unearned revelation backfires. If you don’t make yourself worthy and ready for an experience then it can destroy more than build.

Think of the terrible legacy of lottery winners versus earned money. Earned money usually keeps the person humble, sincere and cautious. Winners usually splurge, lose their minds and end up broke. Same with inherited money; it rarely lasts. You got to earn your stripes.

Where are we going with this?

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are times of revelation. There is electricity in the air. Even the most uninspired Jew finds him or herself a tiny bit moved over this time period.

Alas, it rarely lasts for more than the three day period. How could it? It has not been worked for and earned!

This is where the month of Elul (beginning this Shabbos) enters the discussion. Elul is a ‘normal’ month. No Yom Tov, no major holidays, no mass revelation. And yet it offers the greatest opportunity: to start working towards the revelation. To prepare ourselves. To dig a cup in our heart which will allow the energetic flow of the High Holidays to be contained in us rather than spill right off our back.

Elul is our opportunity to get into the zone. To activate the process on our side of the relationship, so that when Hashem activates His side we will be receptacles for His blessings and love.

To summarise it all that into one sentence:

Ani Ledodi — I am for my beloved. And only after that: VeDodi Li — and my beloved is to me!

Chodesh Tov! Shana Tova!

#Elul #RoshHashanah #AniLedodi

PRESS ‘LIKE’ IF YOU ARE FOR UNITY!

11/08/2016 08:43:29

Aug11

#UNITEDNATION #ONEPEOPLE #UNITYABOVEALL
We are not born with opinions. Yet, not too long after birth we go on opinionating overdrive. Whether we inherit, develop, fantasize or develop them on our own, we let our opinions go wild about everything and anything. Especially regarding one another.
I know exactly why you should do X, and that you acted idiotic when choosing Y. I can solve your troubled relationship, and I have a thesis on why you struggle with it in the first place.
We are too opinionated. That’s my opinion.
This Saturday evening, ‘Tisha B’Av’, we will commemorate the destruction of the Two Temples.
You might’ve heard this before, but it is worth repeating:
The 1st Temple which was destroyed as punishment for the cardinal sins – idolatry, adultery, and murder – led to a total of a 70-year exile. The second Temple however, which was decimated due to factionalism and baseless hatred between Jews, gave us an exile that has lasted 1946 years! PG may it end now!
For 1946 years we have been talking about unity. And for 1946 years we haven’t activated the magic formula.
The magic formula: That we are all part of one whole. That we all come from Hashem, and that He is within us. That we are one. Yes, we argue about ideas and ideologies, but it never should become personal. We are one! Judge ideas, not people. One team.
You’d think that these 3 weeks, dedicated to the memory of the Temples and the lesson of unity… would hit home!
You’d think that the 7 weeks of mourning during the counting of the Omer, where we remember the students of Rabbi Akiva and how they didn’t respect one another, causing their untimely demise… would hit home!
You’d think that the week of the Sukkos where we bind 4 types of vegetation to commemorate unity… would hit home!
You’d think that the myriads of times each day in prayer that we mention the blessing of peace, including the very last blessing of the Amida… would finally hit home!
And yet, for too many of us the penny hasn’t dropped! WE ARE ONE! We are sent down here to this world by the same Hashem with a joint mission of world perfection, each with our own flavour, and unique colour in the tapestry!
How many years will it take for us to accept that Hashem is waiting for a united nation?
How long until we realize that being united is the single most important human endeavour?
It’s been long enough!
We must commit ourselves to raise families where unity and peace reign supreme. Where gossip is abhorrent. Where grudges are a disgrace. Where judgement of the other is off limits.
Homes where love is #1. Where tolerance is sacrosanct. Where judging others favourably is the mandate. Where we celebrate our own uniqueness while creating space for the uniqueness and flavour of others.
1946 years is over 700,000 days of exile! ENOUGH!
I LIKE Unity.
 
 

DROP CYNICISM FOR ONE DAY!

10/08/2016 14:51:33

Aug10

You can spot a sad soul from a mile away. Sadness projects itself on the face and posture of its carrier. The eyes, lips, shoulders, and gait tell a story of dejection impossible to miss.

Fear, on the other hand, is not as obvious. Yes, it can sometimes force the body to declare “I’m afraid!” But all too often it chooses to hide behind a more sophisticated packaging, making it almost impossible to find the bee in the honey.

Cynicism is one of fear’s best false walls. Cynics come across as non-threatening and are often the life of a party and the popular humorists on the screen. They get us to laugh, cry and internalize their messages, unaware of the poison that we’re swallowing with the syrup.

“The country is corrupt anyway! Your vote has no value!” (Basically a weak disguise for fear of the future. This causes an erosion in the fibre of democracy, which risks devolving into a noose of totalitarianism.)

“Marriage is about two people tackling problems which – had they never married – would’ve never been created in the first place!” (A lame excuse for avoiding or postponing the Adventure/Action/Drama/Thriller/Sci-Fi/Comedy/Romance of marriage.)

“Teenagers are impossible. Talking to the wall is more pleasurable.” (Wishful thinking that one can abdicate parental responsibility during their child’s adolescence while expecting a healthy adult to miraculously metamorphosize out of this child who they stepped away from.)

Cynicism isn’t a new invention. Fear is as old as humanity. 
This week in Shul we will conclude the fourth book of the Torah Bamidbar – Numbers. One can argue that from all the books of the Torah this is most drama-intense of them all. Over and over the Jews challenge their leader and their G-d.

Bamidbar concludes almost 40 years later than when it began. In the beginning of the book we had numerous stories of, “We will never make it to the land! We will die in the desert! You always wanted us dead anyway!”

What happened? Their cynicism was sadly transformed into prophecy. Each year on Tisha B’av about 15,000 Jews would die, until the whole adult generation (600,000 of them) who joined the cynicism during sin of the Spies, had passed on.

Here’s the point: Our attitudes create the future. Optimists and pessimists aren’t merely arguing about the future; they are creating the future!

Our thoughts, words, and actions are super powerful. Lots of research has been done on the impact of words on people, animals, plants and even inanimate water. Loving words create healthy relationships with our fellow human beings. They create bonds with animals. They cause beautiful plants to grow. And they manipulate the colour and structure of water drops.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well.

So let’s say goodbye to false facades of fear. Let’s embrace optimism and activism. This is G-d’s world. This is His garden. This ain’t no jungle. Goodness is more powerful than evil. Evil can only succeed when goodness stops believing in itself and its ability. Let’s not give evil that pleasure.

Go vote!

Put on Tefillin!

Put a smile on your face!

Do an act of kindness!

Do something to chase fear out of your life.

Rabbi's blog

05/07/2016 12:39:49

Jul5

I stood between two great mountains.

Which one was I going to climb?

I took out my binoculars to analyse the climb and climbers of the Two Mountains.

I could see fun on the first mountain. Climbers were geared up to the hilt. I could see the frolic as they gracefully sprang from one mini-peak to another. The energy I saw through a magnifying glass was seductive, carefree and chilled. The pleasure of self-indulgence was painted on their faces. What a crowd.

And the mountain? Magnificent. Majestic. It wasn’t a steep or complicated ascent and I could see myself reaching the peak and taking in the awesome wind and view. With hard work, focus on the goal, and adequate rest and food I’d make it. Everyone called it the Good Life Mountain (GLM). And boy, did it look good. It even had its own magazine celebrating the climbers of the GLM. Maybe I’d even get my own write up in the ‘GLM 400 under 40’ magazine if I made it in good time. What a vibe.

I didn’t wait to see what the other mountain had to offer. Just hearing its name was enough to scare me away. Life of Goodness Mountain (LGM). Blah… I set my eyes on the GLM. I will have a good life when I get to the summit, and I’ll have a good time getting there! What a dream.

Until it turned into a nightmare. No matter how much I tried I could never catch up. There was always the guy who was ahead, who was having so much more fun than I, and who surrounded himself with the ‘Really-Good-Life-Crowd’. I tried so hard to be playful, to add my flavour to the crème de la crème of climbers. Alas, no good deed went unpunished, and no non-good deed was cool enough. 
What a let-down.

Didn’t I have any value to add in the game of clones? Why couldn’t I chill my way up to the clouds? I had put my best foot forward to fit in a shoe that was made without me in mind, and I could not get my foot in. Instead, I found my foot in my mouth one too many times, as I valiantly attempted yet again to be a man amongst men. Did I fail by being too selfish or not selfish enough?

By the time I reached the summit I was feeling sorrier for myself than I’ve felt before. I was falling into a full on depression. ‘Does anyone have an anti-depressant?’ I called out.

‘Get in line!’ came the response from a bouncer, trying to make a sense of order in the chaos of clones who had reached the summit of GLM, only to find themselves in an inner abyss. The line for the drug circled the summit round and round, and I waited amongst those who I never thought I’d meet on this line. What a shock.

I had many questions:

Weren’t they happy all along? Didn’t their selfishness carry them into utopia?

Why is the summit of the selfishness mountain a lonely depressing space?

Does selfishness lead to indulgence, or does indulgence lead to selfishness? And why did this duo lead to doom? Was it inevitable?

I thought about Korach, the larger than life character in this week’s Parsha. He created a rebellion against Moshe, leading to a full-blown crisis. Why? He wanted power. He wanted the Good Life. Although he was one of the wealthiest people to have ever lived, he lusted for more power. His selfishness led him and hundreds of others into a literal abyss when the earth miraculously swallowed them up.

Hey, what about that other mountain? Is it different? Are its climbers different? Does it demand its own set of gear? What about the summit? Does it also have a long line of depressives? Is Moshe on that mountain?

Time to get my dose. Gross! Did I climb all this for this?

I took out my binoculars and turned towards the Life of Goodness Mountain.

I know that it’s never too late to climb the other mountain. And, yes, I’ve learned lots of lessons from the GLM climb. I just wish that I’d researched the other climb and climbers before the epic disappointment.

I didn’t have to learn from my mistakes. I could’ve learned from the mistakes of others.

I hope that you will learn from mine.

Rabbi Avtzon

Tue, 19 June 2018 6 Tammuz 5778