10/25/2012

Shabbat Lech Lecha

Candles October 26th at 5:40 pm
Havdala October 27th 6:43 pm

Avraham migrated from the Persian Gulf to the Land of Israel via Kurdistan. He passed through different cultures, regimes and climates. What he went through was very similar to the journeys many of our parents have made and the motives were similar too.

He left the country of his birth because his beliefs and values were different to those around him. He travelled in search of better economic opportunities and the right to live the way he wanted to. Yet even when he arrived at his destination he was surrounded by people who worshipped other gods and had very different values to his. Whereas he was able to withstand these influences and succeed while remaining faithful to his tradition, Lot, his nephew, failed. To use our modern terminology, he assimilated.

It was Avraham’s and Sarah’s determination to preserve their religious values that was the secret of their survival. There’s an old Jewish proverb that goes “change your location and you change your fortune.” That was true of Avraham. But in his case fortune did not mean forgetting his roots. Changing where we live gives us new opportunities. But if we are so influenced by our new society that we fail to hold on to our traditions, we lose our souls in pursuit of our bank balances.

10/11/2012

Shabbat Bereishit

Begins Friday 12th at 6:00 PM and ends 13th at 6:55 pm
Shabbat Mevarchin 
(Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan Next Tuesday and Wednesday)

Shabbat service starts at 9:30 am and ends at 11:45 am

Another year has gone by. We have experienced the most demanding month in the Jewish calendar, of conflicting emotions, tension, self-analysis, fasting and pain followed by pleasure and joy. It has been a roller coaster and very difficult to balance the Jewish and the secular demands.

I am struck by how many people come to synagogue for the long boring and difficult days but then disappear for the shorter more enjoyable and happy ones (although for Simchat Torah we had a really good crowd). But in general, why is it that only the big and heavy occasions attract the crowds? Wouldn’t it make sense that people come for shorter, easier occasions? Take Shabbat for example when most of our congregation is made up of people who come for an hour and a half and then have a drink, eat and chat.

Is it a matter of routine? To come regularly for a short time is a matter of establishing a routine that lasts throughout the year. And we know that regular routines whether in exercise, diet or study achieve much more than occasional overdoses or bursts of activity. When I suggested to one young man he might think of coming three times in the year instead of once he seemed surprised and shocked at the very idea. I wonder if intentionally people come only once precisely to suffer and so feel justified in never coming back if the experience was such a boring or painful or meaningless one. Getting into a routine is the name of the game and giving an hour and half to God and the community once a week surely is not such a terrible burden and there’s the rest of the day for other things.