A glimpse of the messianic time

Dear Congregants and Friends,

      One of the most important teaching of the torah is v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha, love your neighbour as yourself.  There are no ifs, ands or buts.  We are commanded to love all members of the fabulous human family. In the creation account of the Book of Genesis, God creates us betzelem elohim, in God’s image.  That means that all of us, no matter our race, religion, gender, gender identity, nationality, economic status, disability, or sexual orientation are reflections of the Divine Being who created us all. Therefore, when we act with love and compassion towards one another, we become holy. However, holiness is not enough. Being holy means we become aware of our task, to fix this broken world. The biblical prophets urge us on with their words, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”

    The past weeks have shown that we are far from reaching a just world and that each  and every one of us is asked to not remain silent when violence against women is crippling our country, when people are still being judged and treated differently just because of their skin colour, and when members of the LGBT* community are discriminated because of their sexual orientation and/or identity.

Our rabbis teach that we can see a glimpse of the messianic time, a world in balance, each Shabbat. Why? Perhaps, then is when we know that it is worth fighting for.

Let us do that

Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Waiting for V-Day

(c) UK Ministry of Information Second World War Press Agency Print Collection
(c) Ministry of Information Second World War Press Agency Print Collection

Tomorrow, 8 May, marks the 75 anniversary of so called V-E-Day (Victory in Europe Day), Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. For Jews all over Europe this day meant a final liberation from state organized terror and murder, but not from the suffering and finding ways to cope with enduring persecution and wounds.

Seventy five years later, there is still no “new normal”, no final stroke, only the reminder to not allow anti-Semitism or any form of baseless hate to rise up again, so that they can’t show their ugly faces and deprive humans from their dignity or even worse take human lives again. The world is still waiting for a V-Day, when we all can celebrate the defeat of anti-Semitism. Until then, 8 May is a memorial day, reminding us to stand against all forms of discrimination and suppression. 

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

What in God’s Name is God’s Name?

This is one of the more profound theological questions. To be able to name something or someone is to have a specific relationship to it or them, even a form of control. One can call out not just “Hey, You!” but “Hey, David!” or whatever, and expect some form of response. By using a name one potentially opens a dialogue. It is, therefore, no coincidence that most prayers begin with “Baruch Atah – Something.” “Blessed are You…”and then a Name.

The problem is: The Name. What is the name, what can we use to address God, what does it mean?

In Exodus 3:14, God has refused to answer Moses directly, saying simply, “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh”, “I am Who I Am”—or even “I Will Be whom I Will Be”. So, no name for God, or……..?

We have the Four-Letter Name, the ‘Tetragrammaton’ which is used in many places in the Torah for God’s name. Traditionally, one reads “Adonai” instead of the consonants ‘YHVH’ – but this is only a tradition because we have to say something. The fact is that No-one actually knows. Which makes it theology, not physics.

At the outset of this parashah (Ex. 6:3) God simply tells Moses, “I am the same God who appeared under a different name to your ancestors”. That’s a bit of a relief, because we can learn from here that God has not only one name and that there are many ways to encounter God. And it opens up a range of other possibilities when God appears but is described as something or someone else; it leaves the gender issue open; it allowed the rabbis to determine whether different names indicated different qualities—such as justice or mercy. It allows modern theologians to discuss whether ‘God’ and ‘Allah’ are the same, it allows archaeologists to place bits of inscription with ‘Shaddai’, and it allows translators to find alternative words like ‘Lord’ or ‘The Eternal’ or ‘The Creator’, and so on.  But being honest, No-One knows, God’s name remains a secret from us. 

In the end, I suppose what is important is that we pray, that we say ‚Baruch Atah‘, Blessed are you – that we open a dialogue regularly—and that God knows who God is, and will listen, and may respond.

–  Rabbi Adrian M Schell

(Source: Rabbi W Rothschild on Vaera)

Have no fear – be Strong!

The Torah portion Va’yechi is the concluding parasha of the first book of Torah, B’reishit. It ends the narrative of the founding mothers and fathers of our folk and faith, and also concludes the complex and compelling story of Joseph. As such, it has many aspects of endings, including Jacob’s death-bed blessings given to his sons and grandsons plus explicit instructions regarding his burial. The parasha also contains a poignant exchange between Joseph and his brothers which echoes old duplicities but results in peace among them. Finally, the parasha tells of Joseph’s death and his final request, “When God has taken notice of you (i.e. the people of Israel), you shall carry my bones from here.”, fore-shadowing the events that will unfold in the next book of the Torah.

Despite all these endings, how this parasha begins is truly unique. All other por-tions in a Torah scroll start at the beginning of a line of text, and/or after an open space that indicates the start of a new block of text. Vayechi, meaning “and he lived”, starts right in the middle of a line. There is no clear indication where the previous portion ended and this one begins. The very structure of the Torah text impresses upon us the unavoidable continuity that characterises our lives. Past events influence future happenings. Present conditions cast new light on previ-ous circumstances. Future considerations determine present actions.

This Torah portion is a perfect match for the beginning of a new (secular) year that comes with so many uncertainties. The rise of anti-Semitism world wide, the horrible fires in Australia, and the possibility of a war in the Near East are only three of the many horrors that have cast their shadows on our future.


“Have no fear!” is Joseph’s answer to his brothers, when they are in fear of their future. Friends, we don’t know what 2020 will bring. We are somewhere in the middle of something, not able to see what is coming next. However fear cannot be our answer. Instead, I invite you to take the following words to your heart, which we recite when we end a book of the Torah, as we do this Shabbat:

Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazeik
Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen one another

Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Rabbi Jack Luxemburg)

Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen one another

Heaven and earth touched each other

This week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei, describes the first part of the journey of the biblical Jacob. Fleeing the wrath of his brother, whose birthright he purchased and whose blessing he stole, Jacob is “heading for the exits (Vayetzei).” As the now iconic story unfolds, Jacob stops for the night and has his famous dream of a ladder with angels going up and down between heaven and earth. God appears to Jacob in the midst of his dream and repeats the covenantal promise to Jacob as promised to Abraham
before.

It is remarkable that this didn’t happen in a safe environment, in a tent, or a regular place of worship. It happened in the ‘nowhere‘, a place where
literally heaven and earth touched each other.

Last Shabbat, we went out to have Shabbat together in the Botanical
Gardens, and while I doubt that this was a moment comparable to Jacob‘s, it was still special and it brought together family, friends and  people we had never met before. It was a wonderful way to confirm our covenant with the Eternal and to open ourselves to new ways and new encounters.

I hope we have more of those special services in the future.

Shabbat Shalom –

Rabbi Adrian M Schell