Emor: Time for new bridges

The point of being Jewish is to have a relationship with God. Yet, a relationship implies a certain give and take, and there is precious little in the Torah that talks about what we have that God could possibly need. What can we give to God?

In our parashah (Lev 22:32) we read: „You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people-I Adonai who sanctify you.“ Translation issues become important here. The text says v’nikdashti, „and I will be made holy“ amidst the Children of Israel. In other words, „You will make Me holy just as I, Adonai, have made you holy.“ Here, for a moment, there is a relationship. We do something for God in response to what God has done for us.

However, having a relationship with God is a feathery thing. One never really knows what God is thinking and how we can truly bear witness to God’s will in the world. Yet, through prayer we are reminded of all that is Holy in our world and in ourselves, and through this we form a bridge of connection. We become partners with God in the perfection of this world. It is then that we can truly make God holy. By repairing the brokenness in ourselves, by repairing the brokenness of our world, we repair the brokenness that has resided within God since the first moment of creation and in this way we can indeed make the Holy One, whole once again.

Chaverim, the past few weeks were marked by the general election and the campaigns of the different parties here in South Africa. Nature of the matter is that lines were drawn and camps were formed. As much as this is part of any democratic elections, I also saw that new rifts were created in our society, that people felt hurt by the one or the other statement and that unnecessary fears were instilled in some of us. Therefore, we all should come together now and start bringing the people back together; every time after an election is the time to find real solutions, compromises and shared visions. Now is the time to repair the brokenness in our society — independent from any party programme and election—let’s bring back some holiness to our world.

Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source R’ JR Rapport)

Kedoshim: When the world  seems to lose its own compass


Once again we are mourning and raging after an anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue over the weekend. I have been and remain determined not to give any anti-Semite the victory they want in any way. Whenever they want to push us out of society, whenever they want us to be too afraid to gather in our places, or to live our lives as Jews out in the open, whenever they want us to feel that we do not belong, we say that is they who do not belong. It is they who are doing wrong and evil. Our place is wherever we chose to live, in South Africa, in Germany, in Australia … and in Israel. Every time an anti-Semite shows his or her face, we and ten or a hundred or a thousand of our friends and allies come to counter them.

Last week and the upcoming week are dedicated to the memory of those of our people who perished in the Shoah, and who fought in the many wars to establish and protect the modern state of Israel. We restore the dignity of those who have been  dehumanised by the Nazis and we honour those who stood up to protect our Jewish values and heritage. BUT, most important, we keep the promise given to them, to never forget.

Our Torah portion for this week opens with the following, beautiful words: „You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy (Lev. 19.2)“. What follows is not only a set of ritual obligations or ceremonies, but mainly a codex of ethical guidelines. Being holy means to be conscious of what we do and how we do things.  This is even more important in times when the world  seems to lose its own compass,  when terror,  fundamentalism and  populism is shaping  the reality in which we are living.

Friends, this must not be our future—you—we have it in our hands to counter this: it is our obligation to bring holiness into our world and to create a future that is less frightening. Please vote on Wednesday, strengthen our democracy by making your voice heard, and continue to stand with us when evil shows its ugly face.

Our Torah portion mentions love several times. So, let love be our answer.
May this Shabbat be filled with love, for you, our people and the whole world.

Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Yom HaShoah Ceremony @ West Park Cemetery 2 May 2019


Beginning with the second night of Pesach we count the Omer until we arrive in our calendar at Shavuot. To help you with the counting, we have prepared a leaflet for you with a calendar, the blessings and the numbers (download link below and available in the Shul).

Traditionally the Omer is counted in the evening, after sunset.

Chag Sameach



Mark the Omer time in a significant way

Many of us know that Passover takes place during the Hebrew month of Nisan. In contrast, most of us do not know that the month of Nisan also includes another observance which begins on the second day of Passover. In ancient times, as set forth in the Book of Leviticus, our ancestors would start bringing a ceremonial measure of barley, called an “omer” to the Temple on each of the 49 days between the 15th of Nisan and Erev Shavuot (the 6th of Sivan). The number 49 has special significance in Jewish tradition because it constitutes a week of weeks (7×7), a significant number in the story of creation and in the beliefs of the Jewish mystics.  According to the rabbis of the Talmud, these 49 days also represent the length of the journey from Exodus from Egypt to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

According to Jewish tradition, the “Counting of the Omer [Hebrew: Sefirat HaOmer ]” represents a spiritual journey from slavery to freedom and from chaos to the giving of the law. In the absence of the Jerusalem Temple, many Jewish communities have sought to imbue the counting of the Omer with daily spiritual significance. We at Bet David have adopted the Kehillah feeding scheme as a way to mark this time in a significant way.

I believe that education is one of the major ways to empower all parts of our society and to fulfil the dream of Nelson Mandela of a better South Africa. However, we have seen that many families still struggle on a daily basis to put food on the table because education is expensive and, too often, after paying the school fees there isn’t enough money left for a decent meal for those learners.

Several years ago, a former student of our own Mitzvah school started a feeding scheme in Alex, in an attempt to combat this situation. By providing one full, hot meal a day for more than 200 children, she managed to take away some of the burden those families have to carry every day.

With each parcel donated, we bring a little bit of healing (Tikkun) into our world.  Please support Kehillah also this year generously. May we, on our journey from Pesach to Shavuot, bring some additional light into the world.

Chag Pesach Seamach – Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Bet David Kehillah’s Omer Project

Counting of the Omer begins on Sunday, 21 April for 50 days in support of Kehillah’s Feeding Schemes. Place your name and those of your loved ones on the list to donate one day’s food parcel for only R100 to Kehillah. Sign up on the sheet on the notice board in the Bet David Gallery, or call the shul office.  Please EFT to Bet David Sisterhood, Nedbank Sandton Account 1970476214, branch 197005.

Thank you for your great support!




Metzorah: Only one month to go, and election day is here.

25 years after the first democratic election. Many things have changed since then, and still much more needs to change, bringing more healing and more equality to our country.

Therefore, it is no wonder that campaigning has returned to South Africa, as many politicians and parties have very different ideas on how to solve the problems we are facing. As a result, it is inevitable that there will be debates about race, empowerment of different classes and the status of foreigners in South Africa. Once again, political leaders will try to explain to us who is in and who is out. All too often, they will try to score points by being harsh towards one group in our society and soft to others. In my humble opinion, this has nothing to do with the colour of our skin, our backgrounds, reconciliation, or real interest in problem solving — this is unfortunately only politics. At times, when listening to these politicians who are fighting about your votes, it seems to me that they try more to convince you who is more acceptable to be a part of „our“ group and who is not, rather than seeking to find ways to include everyone in our society.

In this week’s Torah Portion, we appear to get a similar kind of situation where the Torah lays down a legal system and laws for who is considered clean and unclean. And, by virtue of a person’s uncleanliness, who needed to be removed or kept separate from the camp for a period of time.

At first glance we can therefore assume that it is about exclusion, searching out the unclean and excluding them from society. However, I would suggest that it is the opposite. This part of the Torah reminds us of the importance of finding ways to include all, so that when a person was removed from the camp for what ever reason, the law provided a way back, based on open and trans-parent principals. Ultimately, these people would be returned and re-admitted into the camp and into society, because a healthy society needs all of its members to flourish. My hope and my wish for this year’s election campaign is, that our politicians follow the example of the Torah and strife for inclusion rather than to polarise and divide this society more than it already is.

Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Adrian M Schell