18 Adar 5776 27 February 2016
31 National Ct, Forrest ACT 2603 PO Box 3105, Manuka ACT 2603 02 6295 1052 [email protected]
Thursday 25 February 2:00pm: Grumps R Us 7:45pm: Pressing Problems
Friday 26 February 6:00pm: Progressive Service 6:15pm: Orthodox Service 7:28pm: Candle lighting
Saturday 27 February 9:30am: Orthodox Service 8:27pm: Havdalah
Sunday 28 February 8:30am: Shacharit 9:30am: Youth Programs
Monday 29 February 7:45pm: Jewish Journeys with Eldad Beck
Tuesday 1 March 7:30pm: Talmud Class
Thursday 3 March 2:00pm: Grumps R Us 7:45pm: Pressing Problems
Friday 4 March 6:00pm: Progressive Service 6:15pm: Orthodox Service 7:19pm: Candle lighting
The Rabbi’s Sermon Rabbi Meltzer will be speaking on the topic of
‘A Golden Calf in 2016’ He will be looking at some of the serious problems that we, the Jewish people, face today, and how lessons of how to move forward can come directly from the story of the Golden Calf.
From the Rabbi’s Desk The opening of this week’s Parasha, Ki Tisa, begins with the mitzvah of the census, a process by which Jewish males between 20 and 60 would donate a half shekel to the Mishkan Fund. This process was two-fold; it was designed to count those who would be soldiers in the army, and it was designed to create an equal capital campaign appeal. Previously we have already seen the open giving campaign, where people would give as much as they wanted to a project of national importance, some gave a lot, and some gave a little. The chiefs of the Jewish people, the Nasi of each tribe, actually waited back and said they would make up the difference. The Jewish people contributed so much, that in the end all that was left for the tribes were 12 special stones that would form the breastplate of the Cohen Gadol, the High Priest. This campaign of the half shekel, was an equaliser, it provided an opportunity for each and every household to contribute equally – rich or poor, everyone gave half a shekel. I have been thinking a lot about capital campaigns these past few weeks as we begin to launch our own. You learn that some like their names on buildings, some want to give anonymously, some are happy to give after a meeting, others want grand parties and further people want to intimately get to know you and the project. Those are the ones who give as their hearts desired. But I think there is also importance to think about an area where everyone can give equally and create camaraderie for and because of a given project.
Thank you to all our wonderful volunteers
It is interesting times ahead as we begin to contemplate exactly what our own Campaign will include, and what the result will be. What I do know for certain is that we are moving in the right direction, and our community which gains its strength from so many different areas, are looking towards a bright future. Rabbi Alon Meltzer [email protected]
Council Shabbat Saturday 5 March 2016 Join the National Council of Jewish Women Canberra Chapter for their Annual Council Shabbat. Orthodox Services begin at 9:30, Progressive at 10:00. A Communal Kiddush will follow with a Drasha from Jo Dixon, and a Sermon from Rabbi Meltzer.
Save the Date - Purim Wednesday 23 March: Megillah at 7:00pm
Thursday 24 March: Morning Service & Megillah at 7:00am Purim Party & Spiel ''Star Wars - The Farce Awakens' at 4:30pm. Further details will be sent in a special communal email.
who provide Security and Kiddush at the Centre. We are always looking for more volunteers. Please email [email protected]
Community Current Calendar You may like to download our most current Community Calendar and place on your fridge by clicking here.
HaMerkaz What's Going On To keep up-to-date with events, please visit our new webpage by clicking here.
Raoul Wallenberg - 'To me there is no other choice' 22 February - 18 March 2016 Presented by the Swedish Institute & the Embassy of Sweden in Canberra with the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. An exhibition about moral courage, tolerance and personal responsibility. 9 am to 5 pm weekdays, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Main Foyer, R G Casey Building John McEwen Crescent, Barton.
The first edition of HaMerkaz for 2016 will be published just after Purim. Submissions from community members describing your experiences as being part of the Jewish Community in Canberra will be most welcome. Submissions could be just a few paragraphs or a longer essay. All photos which are to accompany the article should be supplied as a hi-resolution jpeg and be above 680kb in size. Low quality images may not be included. Email: [email protected]
and copy [email protected]
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs If your child will be celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah during 2016, please be in touch with Rabbi Meltzer as soon as possible at [email protected]
JMAG Orit Shapiro is coordinating a new social group for Jewish Middle Aged Group (40-60). Aimed at those who might not have family or as much of a support network, who would like to socialise and meet some new people. Please contact Orit on: [email protected]
or by mobile: 0420 878 772.
Eldad Beck at Jewish Journeys Monday 29 February, 7:45pm Join the ACTJC, ACT Zionist Council, and Israeli Embassy for a special evening within the ‘Jewish Journeys’ classes. We will welcome and hear from Eldad Beck, acclaimed Israeli journalist. Please head to www.actjc.org.au/eldad if you would like to RSVP for this very special evening.
Social Groups Grumps R Us Every Thursday at 2:00pm. On the first Thursday of the month we have lunch is at a nearby restaurant.
ACTJC Playgroup Meets fortnightly at 10am (currently on Wednesdays). Contact: Gemma Kayser & Sally Liebowitz via the office email: [email protected]
Ladies Who Lunch First Wednesday of each month, between 11:30am- 12noon at California Café, Southlands Shopping Centre, Mawson.
Jewish Community Singing Group The group meets fortnightly 7:30-9pm on a Wednesday night. Contact Kim Rubenstein for more info. Next meeting: 2 March.
Tot Shabbat for 5 yrs & under Next Dates: 5 March & 2 April 2016 The next Tot Shabbat program will be held on Saturday 5 March at the Centre. The ACTJC and the ACT Jewish Playgroup provides singing, learning and playing for children. Finishing with kiddush and snacks.
Australian Jewish Choral Festival 27-28 March 2016 (Easter long weekend) The 3rd Australian Jewish Choral Festival (AJCF 3) will be held at Emanuel School in Randwick, 20 Stanley Street (on the corner of Avoca and Stanley Sts). Registration is now open! Be sure to take advantage of the Early Bird Price before 15 February. For full details, please go to http://jewish-arts.org.au/ festival_details.
Lifecycles Navigating the Siddur
Jewish Journeys Commenced Monday 8 February: This class will be stimulating and engaging, and is intended to those looking to build a foundation of Jewish knowledge. Click here to register for this course.
Pressing Problems Commenced Thursday 11 February: we will explore in depth the responsum literature from throughout history – using the source to guide us through the issues, hopefully finding the answer along the way. Click here to register for this course.
Cook Jewish Be Jewish Commenced Sunday 7 February: On the first Sunday of every month, we will explore different recipes and foods of Jewish cultures from around the world. Click here to register for this course.
Commenced Sunday 21 February: On the third Sunday of every month, we will have a workshop exploring the siddur. Click here to register for this course.
Topical Talmud Commenced on Tuesday 9 February: On the second Tuesday of the month, we will have an indepth discussion of a particular topic, looking at associated Talmudic pieces, and other rabbinic literature. Click here to register for this course.
Jewish Philosophy Commenced Thursday 11 August: We explore three important Jewish philosophical works. Click here to register for this course.
Talmud Shiur Tuesdays at 7:30pm. The shiur is studying Masechet Shabbat. Date of re-commencement to be advised.
Saturday 27 February to Friday 4 March
Birthdays The ACTJC wishes the following people a ‘Happy Birthday’:
Daniel Berger-Alexander Ian Bull Rachelle Sakkar Kelly Daniel Rosauer Debra Hurwitz _________
Australian Jewish Historical Society Wednesday 30 March. 7.45 pm, at the Jewish Centre The Australian Jewish Historical Society, ACT Branch will present "Rewriting History: Present day Hungary", a talk by Naomi Robertson. The evening will also include the AJHS, ACT AGM (which will be brief). We would love you to be a candidate for the AJHS, ACT Committee. We are looking for your new ideas. Please consider joining us.
Anniversaries Michael Platow & Diana Grace _________
The Closeness of God The more I study the Torah, the more conscious I become of the immense mystery of Exodus 33. This is the chapter set in the middle of the Golden Calf narrative, between chapter 32 describing the sin and its consequences, and chapter 34, God’s revelation to Moses of the “Thirteen attributes of Mercy”, the second set of tablets and the renewal of the covenant. It is, I believe, this mystery that frames the shape of Jewish spirituality. What makes chapter 33 perplexing is, first, that it is not clear what it is about. What was Moses doing? In the previous chapter he had already prayed twice for the people to be forgiven. In chapter 34 he prays for forgiveness again. What then was he trying to achieve in chapter 33? Second, Moses’ requests are strange. He says, “Show me now Your ways” and “Show me now Your glory” (33:13, 33:18). These seem more requests for metaphysical understanding or mystical experience than for forgiveness. They have to do with Moses as an individual, not with the people on whose behalf he was praying. This was a moment of national crisis. God was angry. The people were traumatised. The whole nation was in disarray. This was not the time for Moses to ask for a seminar in theology. Third, more than once the narrative seems to be going backward in time. In verse 4, for example, it says “No man put on his ornaments”, then in the next verse God says, “Now, then, remove your ornaments.” In verse 14, God says, “My presence will go with you.” In verse 15, Moses says, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not make us leave this place.” In both cases, time seems to be reversed: the second sentence is responded to by the one before. The Torah is clearly drawing our attention to something, but what? Add to this the mystery of the calf itself – was it or was it not an idol? The text states that the people said, “This, Israel, is your God who brought you out of Egypt” (32:4). But it also says that they sought the calf
Yahrzeits Vernon Kronenberg's wife on 18 Adar _________
Sheleima We wish all those who are unwell a Refuah Sheleima, a speedy recover. Please contact the Rabbi or Arava if you or someone you know is unwell.
because they did not know what had happened toMoses. Were they seeking a replacement for him or God? What was their sin? Surrounding it all is the larger mystery of the precise sequence of events involved in the long passages about the Mishkan, before and after the Golden Calf. What was the relationship between the Sanctuary and the Calf? At the heart of the mystery is the odd and troubling detail of verses 7-11. This tells us that Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp. What has this to do with the subject at hand, namely the relationship between God and the people after the Golden Calf? In any case, it was surely the worst possible thing for Moses to do at that time under those circumstances. God had just announced that “I will not go in your midst” (33:3). At this, the people were deeply distressed. They “went into mourning” (33:4). For Moses, then, to leave the camp must have been doubly demoralising. At times of collective distress, a leader has to be close to the people, not distant. There are many ways of reading this cryptic text, but it seems to me the most powerful and simple interpretation is this. Moses was making his most audacious prayer, so audacious that the Torah does not state it directly and explicitly. We have to reconstruct it from anomalies and clues within the text itself. The previous chapter implied that the people panicked because of the absence of Moses, their leader. God himself implied as much when he said to Moses, “Go down, becauseyour people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt” (32:7). The suggestion is that Moses’ absence or distance was the cause of the sin. He should have stayed closer to the people. Moses took the point. He did go down. He did punish the guilty. He did pray for God to forgive the people. That was the theme of chapter 32. But in chapter 33, having restored order to the people, Moses now began on an entirely new line of approach. He was, in effect, saying to God: what the people need is not for me to be close to them. I am just a human, here today, gone tomorrow. But You are eternal. You are their God. They need You to be close to them. It was as if Moses was saying, “Until now, they have experienced You as a terrifying, elemental force, delivering plague after plague to the Egyptians, bringing the world’s greatest empire to its knees, dividing the sea, overturning the very order of nature itself. At Mount Sinai, merely hearing Your voice, they were so overwhelmed that they said, if we continue to hear the voice, ‘we will die’ (Ex. 20:16).” The people needed, said Moses, to experience not the greatness of God but the closeness of God, not God heard in thunder and lightning at the top of the mountain but as a perpetual Presence in the valley below. That is why Moses removed his tent and pitched it outside the camp, as if to say to God: it is not my presence the people need in their midst, but Yours. That is why Moses sought to understand the very nature of God Himself. Is it possible for God to be close to where people are? Can transcendence become immanence? Can the God who is vaster than the universe live within the universe in a predictable, comprehensible way, not just in the form of miraculous intervention? To this, God replied in a highly structured way. First, He said, you cannot understand My ways. “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy” (33:19). There is an element of divine justice that must always elude human comprehension. We cannot fully enter into the mind of another human being, how much less so the mind of the Creator himself. Second, “You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live” (33:20). Humans can at best “See My back.” Even when God intervenes in history, we can see this only in retrospect, looking back. Steven Hawking was wrong. Even if we decode every scientific mystery, we still will not know the mind of God. However, third, you can see My “glory”. That is what Moses asked for once he realised that he could never know God’s “ways” or see His “face”. That is what God caused to pass by as Moses stood “in a cleft of the rock” (v. 22). We do not know at this stage, exactly what is meant by God’s glory, but we discover this at the very end of the book of Exodus. Chapters 35-40 describe how the Israelites built the Mishkan. When it is finished and assembled we read this: Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan. (Ex. 40:34-35) We now understand the entire drama set in motion by the making of the Golden Calf. Moses pleaded with God to come closer to the people, so that they would encounter Him not only at unrepeatable moments in the form of miracles but regularly, on a daily basis, and not only as a force that threatens to obliterate all it touches but as a Presence that can be sensed in the heart of the camp. That is why God commanded Moses to instruct the people to build the Mishkan. It is what He meant when He said: “Let them make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell (ve-shakhanti) among them” (Ex. 25:8). It is from this verb that we get the word Mishkan, “Tabernacle” and the post-biblical word Shekhinah, meaning the Divine presence. Ashakhen is a neighbour, one who lives next door. Applied to God it means “the Presence that is close.” If this is so – it is, for example, the way Judah Halevi understood the text– then the entire institution of the Mishkan was a Divine response to the sin of the Golden Calf, and an acceptance by God of Moses’ plea that He come close to the people. We cannot see God’s face; we cannot understand God’s ways; but we can encounter God’s glory whenever we build a home, on earth, for His presence. That is the ongoing miracle of Jewish spirituality. No one before the birth of Judaism ever envisaged God in such abstract and aweinspiring ways: God is more distant than the furthest star and more eternal than time itself. Yet no religion has ever felt God to be closer. In Tanakh the prophets argue with God. In the book of Psalms King David speaks to Him in terms of utmost intimacy. In the Talmud God listens to the debates between the sages and accepts their rulings even when they go against a heavenly voice. God’s relationship with Israel, said the prophets, is like that between a parent and a child, or between a husband and a wife. In The Song of Songs it is like that between two infatuated lovers. The Zohar, key text of Jewish mysticism, uses the most daring language of passion, as does Yedid nefesh, the poem attributed to the sixteenth century Tzefat kabbalist R. Elazar Azikri. That is one of the striking differences between the synagogues and the cathedrals of the Middle Ages. In a cathedral you sense the vastness of God and the smallness of humankind. But in the Altneushul in Prague or the synagogues of the Ari and R. Joseph Karo in Tzefat, you sense the closeness of God and the potential greatness of humankind. Many nations worship God, but Jews are the only people to count themselves His close relatives (“My child, my firstborn, Israel” Ex. 4:22). Between the lines of Exodus 33, if we listen attentively enough, we sense the emergence of one of the most distinctive and paradoxical features of Jewish spirituality. No religion has ever held God higher, but none has ever felt Him closer. That is what Moses sought and achieved in Exodus 33 in his most daring conversation with God.