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Moorabbin Hebrew Congregation
Weekly Musings September 2003
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Weekly Musings September 2003

Friday, September 5, 2003

Cops n Robbers. Cowboys & Indians. Goodies vs. Baddies. (Notice I didnt reference White-hats /Black-hats because guess which team Im on)
If we had a pick-up team of Bad Guys who have played off against us throughout the course of Jewish history, the starting line-up would all be representing Amalek.
Haman (of Purim fame), Hitler ymach shemoi (may his name be blotted out) (parenthetically, my sister, as a child, wanted to know why Hitler has a Jewish name), and every dictator/despot to have earned a wax statue in our national rouges-galley are all said to have descended from the Biblical tribe of Amalek.
Amalek, in Jewish Philosophy, represent rebellion against Hashem. Not Atheism, Agnosticism or any similar perplexism, Amalek know G-d, recognise Him as Creator, and defy His wishes.
 
This week we read about Amalek attacking us as we escaped Egypt, interrupting our journey to Israel and totally extinguishing any confidence that we might have entertained in our own invulnerability. No wonder we are commanded, Zachor- remember what they did.
We have almost no other mandated rememberings. Plenty Thou Shalts & Shalt Not Mitzvos, a number of things to say and even a few that we have to believe. However, practically the only similar decree is Remember the Shabbos day to keep it Holy.
I dont get it, out of the whole Judaism to choose from, these are the two tenets that weve got to keep front and centre of our consciousness? Why these two, what do they bring to the party and what do they have to do with each other?
 
Though they seems so dissimilar, one could accept that (i) Keeping Shabbos and (ii) Remembering Amalek and rejecting what they stand for, are in some ways the flip side of the same awareness.
Shabbos is our constant reminder that there is a G-d. That He created the world and is constantly involved in running it. Evoking the memory of Amalek and then rejecting them is to express our unshakeable conviction that everything is G-dliness and nothing exists peripheral to Him.
 
Deeper; Even someone representing the Shabbos, devoted to Judaism and holy as they come should keep in mind that Amalek lurks, tempting him and waiting for him to slip up. Never get complacent, youre not invulnerable.
Flip this; even someone drowning in the dregs and Amaleked up to his neck should know that the Call of Holiness beckons and, with determination, we're just one step away from the intimacy of Shabbos.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Reckon Australians can curse? A look through this weeks Torah reading should carry a warning CAUTION: THE FOLLOWING VERSES ARE BLOODCURDLING, CHILLING AND DOWNRIGHT SCARY. The Tochacha- (rebuke); line following line of intimidating curses directed at the Jewish people, which will be visited on us by Hashem in the event of wrongdoing.
What kind of religion is it anyway? Does G-d really want us serving from fear, trembling and terrified of incurring His displeasure? If Hashem is good, does good and seeks only good for His people, why the emphasis on punishments?
 
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi was Rebbe to hundreds of thousands of loyal Chassidim, the Halachik decisor of town, a world famous author and lecturer and, on top of this list of public-duties; it was he who read the Torah every Saturday in Synagogue.
One year, Parshas Ki Savo, this weeks section, he couldnt assume his regular stint at the Bima and his place was taken by a stand-in.
His oldest son Dovber, later to become famous in his own right as the Mitteler Rebbe, was so overcome by Shock and Awe (to use a contemporary phrasing) from the spine-tingling descriptions on suffering and privations, that he was taken physically ill and forced to bed for some considerable time.
Though a considerable testimony to his spiritual sensitivity, his reaction surprised many of his friends, surely this was not the first time Dovber would have been present for the Tochacha?
When my father reads explained Dovber upon discharge from his sick-bed, it sounds like blessings.
 
And for mine, this is the rationale for the Tochacha, and while were on the topic, perhaps for every example of perceived cruelty on G-ds part, its all Blessing. Just sometimes those brochos assume such dimensions that they cant be expressed obviously and viscerally. They have to be hidden, as it were, in a guise of cursing and severity.
People of heightened spiritual sensitivity can see through the veil, the rest of us take it on trust, weather the bumps, suffer sometimes but never lose faith that there is a reason, that even suffering has purpose, and we just beg G-d to let us live to understand and see His kindness revealed.

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