I had the pleasure to be David Yehuda’s guest for the Progressively Jewish Podcast last week, where we had a conversation about Pesach, Slavery and my first months in London.
A priest frantically phones the rabbi down the street and whispers into the phone: “Rabbi, I think Jesus just walked into my church. What should I do?” And the rabbi replies: “Look busy!”
At this time of the year it is time for all of us to ‘get busy,’ – it is time for us to look within and search for our true selves. The weeks before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are considered as the weeks when we should do this soul search. It is the time of year when we look inwardly, reviewing our past deeds and misdeeds. We come, searching for solace and for peace, for answers to, often, unanswerable questions or perhaps even to hear what the questions might be. Maybe we are seeking to be challenged by God, to find new reasons to continue our struggle with God, or perhaps just to say ‘thank you’ to God. Whatever our reasons, whatever our questions, spoken and unspoken, known and unknown, they are valid, and the presence of every one of you, shows how important they are.
So, let us get busy. Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
With gratitude and happiness, I am excited to announce my appointment by The Wimbledon Shul, to become their new rabbi, moving to London, UK after the High Holy Days this year. I am feeling blessed beyond words for this incredible chance to open the next chapter in my rabbinic journey and Chayim’s and my life.
The Wimbledon Shul is the largest Reform Congregation in the South of London, reaching out to Jewish families in the South of England beyond the district borders. The congregation is proud of its cheder, its religious life and the adult learning opportunities and its open and welcoming community.I am looking forward to walking with the congregation on their path in making The Wimbledon Shul a Jewish home for everyone, providing space for families, singles, seniors and students, people who identify as LGBTIQ+ and Allies and those who feel comfortable in a traditional Jewish setting.
I am grateful to the wonderful team and leadership of The Wimbledon Shul for putting so much trust and hope into me, allowing me to take on this outstanding opportunity to lead the congregation into its future.
To my Bet David family: Six years ago, I arrived in Johannesburg to be your new Rabbi. In these past years, we learned and prayed, laughed and celebrated, sang and danced, marched and mourned together. I am the rabbi I am today because you let me into your lives. You opened up your hearts and taught me how to comfort. You opened up your minds and taught me the power of teaching Torah. You opened up your hands and showed me the value of helping those in need. You elevated your spirit and taught me what it means to live with spiritual intention. Your love for your family and friends helped me understand the power and importance of community.
The funny thing about rabbinic transition timelines is that it forces a slow goodbye, but that’s actually a good thing. I’ll be here until the end of the High Holy Days and want to take that time to personally tell each of you how much you have meant to me and how much I have learned from you.
And to my new Wimbledon family: I am looking forward to meeting all of you and to enter with you this new chapter. And to all of you: Stay tuned for blog posts and more as I prepare for and celebrate the big move! Can’t wait to share the journey with you all! Please feel free to reach out, by email (email@example.com) or via Facebook (facebook.com/RabbiAdrianSchell)
Once a year, I travel back to Germany to see my family and friends, but also to see for myself how things are, back in Europe. Things have changed since I moved to South Africa, nearly five years ago. Of course Chayim tells me of his impressions, I read the news, see what friends write in their blogs and posts on Facebook, but I want—I need to feel it by myself.
Our Torah portion is titled “Sh’lach lecha”, which can be translated as “Send for yourself” scouts. It is, as God is telling Moses and the Israelites that reports and promises are not enough, that they need to feel the land.
It is my hope that I find Germany still in the way I left it, a stronghold against anti-Semitism and a place that was able to welcome refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria, despite the reports of a growing right wing movement. I hope that Europe still remembers the achievements that came with the unification, despite the polemics, thrown into the world as part of the recent election campaign and the Brexit.
It is my hope that I will be able to see the beauty and the possibilities, as Joshuah bin Nun did in our Torah reading, and that I will not be overwhelmed by the negativities as the ten scouts.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom and see you again in July.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
Shabbat Sh’lach Lecha Numbers 13:1-15:41
Reading: Num 13:16-14:9
Plaut p. 979/990; Hertz p. 623/633
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24
Plaut p. 998; Hertz p. 635
Shabbat Korach Numbers 16:1-18:32
Reading: Num 18:1-18:10
Plaut p. 1008; Hertz p. 645
Haftarah: 1 Sam. 11:14-12:22
Plaut p. 1019; Hertz p. 649
11 August 2019
Our Parashat Matot Masei, which brings the Children of Israel to the plains of Moab on the border of the Land of Israel, deals with the nexus between two of the founding stories of Judaism. The story of peoplehood frames the Jewish People as a family and a tribe bound together by a shared history and destiny in mutual responsibility. The story of nationhood views the People of Israel as a community that is associated with a specific land, Zion, from which it was exiled and to which it ever seeks to return.
In the second half of our Torah portion, the tribes are informed of the borders of their future dwelling, while the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Menashe chose to remain beyond those borders; on the east of the Jordan river. Thus, we see that even before the Jews entered the land, life beyond Israel’s borders was already a reality accepted and validated by the Torah. However, such a “proto-diaspora,” was not freed from its own obligations to the rest of the Tribes of Israel.
Indeed, in the first half, Moses challenges the two and half tribes: “Shall your brothers go to war while you dwell here?” (Numbers 32:6). However, the tribes assure Moses that they will join their sisters and brothers to conquer the Land of Kana’an, only returning when all of the people are settled.
Thus, the roots of Diaspora Judaism are long and deep; so too are the expectations of the Jewish People from Jews beyond Israel’s borders to contribute to the unity and wellbeing of the people within the Land of Israel, while Israel itself is the beating heart for all, keeping all Jews connected—close by or far away. This obligation has taken many forms in different times and contexts over centuries. This is highlighted in this very moment while we discuss the egalitarian extension of the Western Wall Plaza and the conversion bill.
On the one hand, multiple missions of solidarity especially from the Progressive Diaspora Communities, millions of Rand, Euros and Dollars of financial assistance and broad mobilisation on social media have all embodied our commitment to Israel. On the other hand the on-going diminishing and out-casting of the non-orthodox communities in Israel have left severe marks on our Jewish souls.
Progressive Jews in South Africa, and all over the world have continually shown their unbroken solidarity with Israel. The security and well-being of our sisters and brothers in Israel are without a question part of our “DNA“, and no group or organisation in Israel or outside of Israel has the right to challenge or even cut this bond we have.
Patrizia (in the picture right) is one of my former chanichot at Netzer. She visited Israel for the first time when we had an exchange programme with Noar Telem (Netzer Israel) in 2014. Last year she made Aliyah after her Netzer-Shnat year, and today she serves as a lone soldier in the IDF. I could not be prouder of her, because she lives the values and ideals we teach in Netzer and the Progressive movement. And it is for her and all other Progressive Jews that we stand and fight for a more pluralistic Jewish Israel. Patrizia, as any other Jew, deserves a Jewish home and place that reflects their, our, values and traditions, too. Moses, in our Torah reading, challenges the diaspora to stand on the side of Israel. Today, we challenge Israel to stand on our side.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Josh Gottesman/Gidi Grinstein)