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    Kaddesh – Acharei Mot

    May 1st, 2016

    kadeshThere is a link which most people don’t notice between the seder and the first sidra after Pesach. Both are centered on holiness.

    The sidra of Acharei Mot describes the desecration of the sanctuary caused by the acts of the two sons of Aaron. God had told the leaders and people of Israel to sanctify (kaddesh) the sanctuary but Aaron’s sons thought they knew better. The same requirement, kaddesh, opens the procedures on seder night.

    The duty in both cases is kaddesh, to make something holy. The difference is that one kaddesh – the one that deals with the sanctuary – applies to space, while the other – dealing with seder night – is concerned with time.

    The twin areas of Judaism’s concern are places and occasions. Special places are set apart from the rest of the physical world. Special occasions are removed from the run of days, week and months.

    But that’s not the end of our concern. The Ramban says, in the interpretation of the Chassidim, “See the holy in everything mundane”. Nothing in God’s world is incapable of bearing the banner of holiness.

    We must start with holy places and holy moments, but everything else can become holy if only we will it.


    Nadav & Avihu – Acharei Mot

    May 1st, 2016

    Nadav Avihu Nadab AbihuThe rabbis have a range of interpretations of the “strange fire” which Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, brought to the altar, earning them summary punishment from God.

    Maybe one of their worst sins was to be untrue to their names.

    The older son, Nadav, has a name that means “volunteer”. From the root n-d-v, “to impel”, also found in the name Amminadav, it suggests a person whose every instinct is to offer his services.

    A Nadav, however, does not do the first thing that comes into his head. He first asks himself whether his intention will be pleasing to God. Had Aaron’s son Nadav sought God’s approval, history would have been different.

    The other son was Avihu, which combines the Hebrew for “father” and “he”. We can read the name in two ways, “His father is He (God)”, or “He (God) is his father”. Like Nadav, he was ruled by instinct. He wanted to do the right thing by God, but he failed to assure himself that his proposed course of action was one which his heavenly Father was likely to approve.


    136 x 3 – Acharei Mot

    May 1st, 2016

    408“With this shall Aaron come into the sanctuary” (Lev. 16:3). Zot, “this”, has the numerical value of 408.

    The g’matria experts note that each of tzom, “a fast”, kol, “a voice (of prayer)” and mamon, “money” (a gift) adds up to 136. 136 x 3 = 408.

    What one must bring to the service of God is self-discipline, prayer and offerings of one’s time, talents and means.


    Back to Europe

    May 1st, 2016

    european union flagWorld attention has reverted to Europe, not just because of the migrant crisis and terrorism, but because resurgent antisemitism is gravely threatening Europe’s Jews.

    The European Union makes nice noises about inhumanity being a menace but still criticises Israel and by extension the Jewish people.

    But fair’s fair, and since the EU are so negative towards us they are bound by logic, decency and conscience to balance it with something positive. I suggest they endorse Phyllis Bottome’s words in “The Moral Storm”, 1938:

    “To be a Jew is to belong to an old race that has enriched every country it has lived in. It is to be strong with a strength that has outlived persecutions. It is to be wise against ignorance, honest against piracy, harmless against evil, industrious against idleness, kind against cruelty!

    “It is to belong to a race that has given Europe its religion; its moral law; and much of its science – perhaps even more of its genius – in art, literature and music.

    “I do not say that there are no bad Jews – usurers, cowards, corrupt and unjust persons – but such people are also to be found among Christians. I only say to you this is to be a good Jew.”

    Without those Jews and their contribution to civilisation, Europe would revert to primitiveness and decay. Without what the Jews have pioneered and developed, Europe would have to close down its schools, universities, hospitals, laboratories, libraries and opera houses. Its commerce and media too. And its technology and modernity.

    Europeans won’t stop being antisemites overnight. Nor become philosemites. What’s the difference? Someone said that a philosemite is an antisemite who loves Jews.

    The question is not emotional, whether they hate Jews or love them. It is pragmatic: is Europe better off being Judenrein?

    In its own interests, Europe really should say it’s better to be fair to the remarkably creative contribution that Jews have made and make.


    ANZAC Day address 2016, Mount Scopus

    April 26th, 2016

    Address by Rabbi Raymond Apple at the 2016 ANZAC Day commemoration at the Jewish graves, Commonwealth War Cemetery, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem.

    Mt ScopusThe First World War ended more than a lifetime ago.

    Australians and New Zealanders who fell in combat are buried in many places including here.

    Those buried here are especially remembered every year on Anzac Day.

    This year that tradition is harder than usual, because it is Pesach.

    We are pulled in two directions, chag and anti-chag.

    The chag calls us to celebrate the great, memorable achievements of civilisation over the past century.

    The anti-chag reminds us of the world’s great, memorable failures.

    Especially the distinct lack of success of the United Nations’ pious declaration in 1945 that it would save the world from the scourge of war.

    Everywhere there are conventional battles; the cruel conflicts that tear nations asunder; the terrors of noon and night; the wars of words; the outlaws who can’t or won’t be reined in.

    The anti-chag philosophy doesn’t know how to hold back the hatreds, how to eliminate the enmities, how to counter the cruelties.

    It only sees countless bodies mounting up and lives being maimed or destroyed.

    What about the chag philosophy – does it have an answer?

    It does.

    It simply says, “See the face of a brother before you. Let him sit under his own vine or fig tree with no-one to make him afraid!”