Rabbi’s greetings for the New Year

My dear friends,
dear congregants,
guests and visitors,

Chayim and I send you heartfelt greetings for a blessed Shanah Tovah u’Metukah, a year of goodness and sweet experiences!

How deeply embedded in our hearts are the many fine memories of the services we observed together, the simches we celebrated, the joys and sorrows we shared, the hospitality you provided us, the personal stories you entrusted to us and the hopes and dreams we prayed would be realised in the past year!

Bet David enshrines kedushah, something very holy, in the way everyone is welcomed, and is embraced. The feeling of kehilah (community) permeates every gathering. The values of Torah are found in the many ways you and your families live as Jews and contribute to our shared aim to repair the world (Tikkun Olam).

May 5780 bring more of those simches and less sorrow, more beauty and more fullfilled dreams.

May you go from strength to strength with blessing!

L‘shanah tovah tikatevu—

For a good New Year
Rabbi Adrian and Chayim Schell

 

A final thought for 5779

For the last Shabbat in 5779, our Torah comes with one of the readings I love most in the entire year. In parashat Nitzavim we find the following directive: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life.”

But, what does it mean to choose life? It’s not as if we need to be told to live.  Rather, God is telling us that by choosing to follow God’s ways, we are choosing a good life. A blessed life. But this brings us to the age-old question “Why do the wicked prosper?” Why do we see evil people enjoying success in this world while good people struggle?

One of the classic answers is that while evil people may seem to be living it up in this world, they will suffer in the next, while the righteous will receive their reward in the world to come. Earthly pleasures are finite, but spiritual pleasures are infinite. The problem with this answer is that many of us haven’t got the patience to wait for the world to come and see if this is really true. Our struggles are now, and we want relief now.

But maybe the answer isn’t some logical discourse, but a shift in perspective.  A wonderful teaching by our sages says: “Good life is defined not by what you get, but by what you give.” When you look at life this way, the question disappears. It becomes almost irrelevant. No matter how little I have, there is always something I can do—some way I can reach out. By the same token, a life defined by how much you get can never satisfy. No matter how much you have, you always want more and more.

In order to be able to “choose life,” we need to be able to see it—to recognise it as life. This is what the Torah’s command gives us. It’s not really a directive. The point isn’t to tell us what to do, but to show us—to help us hold on to the perspective, to help us see how much more there is to life than we often see at the first moment.

For this Shabbat and these High Holy Days, it is my hope that we will find ways to see so that we can choose the right path for us, our families and society.

Shabbat Shalom and a good start into the New Year

Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Rabbi Shuchat)

 

Indifference to our world is intolerable, unethical and it breaches our morality

Chaverim,

In this week’s column I’d like to share with you an excerpt from my sermon I delivered last Friday. The sermon was about the powerful dictum of Parashat KiTeitzei, wich asks us not to remain indifferent — “Lo tuchal le’hitalem“.

Lo tuchal le’hitalem – you shall not remain indifferent – it is an in-your-face moral and ethical requirement, taking us further into our humanity, reminding us that however practical Judaism is, however much a religion of doing, the doing is based on our shared humanity, our striving to reach a fuller and richer knowledge of our Source. Judaism is not only about what one does and doesn’t do. It is more than what       rituals one keeps, or at what time one separates Shabbat from the rest of the week. It isn’t lived only on a spiritual plane nor exclusively in the material world but it is rooted in the ethical and the moral.

Of course, I mention this imperative of the Torah in the light of the political discussions we have in South Africa currently. The despicable acts towards women, the xenophobic attacks, the general outlook on the value of a human life that seems to become less and less of value to many – all this needs our attention.  We cannot pretend not to see what is happening. We cannot hide ourselves or be indifferent to our surroundings, however inconvenient it might be and we have to respond to them – because it is a essentially Jewish requirement.

Lo tuchal lehitalem- you shall not hide yourself; you shall not be indifferent.  We are not permitted to look the other way, to continue with our lives as routinely as before. Hiding the truth from ourselves and not acting to help others is a direct prohibition..

May we all, in the final days of this current Jewish year find ways to bring holiness into this—our—world, by stepping out of our comfort zone and into actions of meaning.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Adrian M Schell 

 

Please help us – so that we can help others

You shall not deduct interest from loans to your countryman, whether in money or food or anything else that can be deducted as interest. “ (Deuteronomy 23:20)

Chaverim,

The Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, prescribes a great act of tzedakah. The idea that we ought to assist our brethren in reduced circumstances with timely, interest-free loans so that they may maintain themselves through their own work, without resorting to the acceptance of alms, is surely a utopian ideal. Economies don’t generally operate without the taking of interest. But the laws of the Torah were designed to protect the hungry from starvation and the disenfranchised from being reduced to utter want. Judaism demands that we move against the weakness of our natures and strive to lift ourselves above our baser impulses. Our tradition’s singular commitment to justice tempered with mercy has been the backbone of the well-being of so many for generations.

There are only  three more weeks left before the High Holy Days and it is good practice at this time of the year to look out for the well being of our fellow Jews, neighbours and ourselves. Perhaps it is our liturgy that reminds us how fragile life is and how easily one can loose literally everything in life—but hopefully not the support of one’s congregation.

Therefore, I appeal to you to help us at Bet David, so that we can help others. We have at Bet David a Discretionary Fund which is handled by me, and I promise you that the money from this fund is only used to help individuals when they need us, following the aims and ideals of our tradition and the Torah.

Not to forget Kehillah, our sisterhood who has helped so many over the years that it is beyond words and counting. This is often done behind the scenes and has brought immense relief to individuals and families. Everyone who has helped in the past has contributed to their outstanding work.

And finally, Bet David itself also needs your financial support. The infrastructure that we offer is more than a house of worship. Thanks to your support, Bet David offers assistance and help to those in need and at times of great difficulties.

Please consider a donation to Bet David before the High Holy Days. Any contribution will make a difference. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

– Rabbi Adrian M Schell 

Yizkor: Let my cry come before You.

As a deer yearns for streams of water,

so I yearn for You, O God.

My whole being thirsts for God,

for the living God. Psalm 42:2

 Hear my prayer.

Let my cry come before You.

Do not hide from me in my time of sorrow. Turn Your ear to me.

When I cry, answer me soon. Psalm 102:2–3

 My God,

my soul is downcast.

Therefore I think of You. Psalm 42:7

 

Dear friends,

The above beautiful prayer is taken from the Yizkor service section in our new High Holy Day Machzor for Yom Kippur (page 549).

Celebrating a new year includes also remembering those who walked this path before us. Those who came together in joy and in sadness, who were in awe, fear, and in tears, and in love, happiness and full of hope.

When we bow down our heads in remembrance this year on Yom Kippur, we will know that they are with us, and that as long we remember them, they will be part of us and our lives.

May the coming Shabbat and High Holy Days comfort those who have lost a loved one only recently or at this season in years past.

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

The Yizkor service will take place on Yom Kippur (19.9.) at 17:00. The  dedication of new leaves for the tree will take place at 16:45.