Issue #5 | 25/10/2018

By the Grace of G-d
Newtown Shul is the only synagogue in Sydney’s Inner West.  Newtown Shul’s activities are possible because of your kind generosity and we thank you for it.

Please consider becoming a member.

Should you wish to donate to Newtown Shul, you can always do so using the bank account details below. Please make sure to send an email to newtown@shul.org.au with a copy of the transaction confirmation.

Account Name: Newtown Synagogue INC, BSB: 032036,
Account No: 960034
Parshah in a Nutshell

Parshah Vayeira

Courtesy of Chabad.org

G‑d reveals Himself to Abraham three days after the first Jew’s circumcision at age ninety-nine; but Abraham rushes off to prepare a meal for three guests who appear in the desert heat. One of the three—who are angels disguised as men—announces that, in exactly one year, the barren Sarah will give birth to a son. Sarah laughs.

Abraham pleads with G‑d to spare the wicked city of Sodom. Two of the three disguised angels arrive in the doomed city, where Abraham’s nephew Lot extends his hospitality to them and protects them from the evil intentions of a Sodomite mob. The two guests reveal that they have come to overturn the place, and to save Lot and his family. Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt when she disobeys the command not to look back at the burning city as they flee.

While taking shelter in a cave, Lot’s two daughters (believing that they and their father are the only ones left alive in the world) get their father drunk, lie with him and become pregnant. The two sons born from this incident father the nations of Moab and Ammon.

Abraham moves to Gerar, where the Philistine king Abimelech takes Sarah—who is presented as Abraham’s sister—to his palace. In a dream, G‑d warns Abimelech that he will die unless he returns the woman to her husband. Abraham explains that he feared he would be killed over the beautiful Sarah.

G‑d remembers His promise to Sarah, and gives her and Abraham a son, who is named Isaac (Yitzchak, meaning “will laugh”). Isaac is circumcised at the age of eight days; Abraham is one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety, at their child’s birth.

Hagar and Ishmael are banished from Abraham’s home and wander in the desert; G‑d hears the cry of the dying lad, and saves his life by showing his mother a well. Abimelech makes a treaty with Abraham at Beersheba, where Abraham gives him seven sheep as a sign of their truce.

G‑d tests Abraham’s devotion by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah(the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Isaac is bound and placed on the altar, and Abraham raises the knife to slaughter his son. A voice from heaven calls to stop him; a ram, caught in the undergrowth by its horns, is offered in Isaac’s place. Abraham receives the news of the birth of a daughter, Rebecca, to his nephew Bethuel.

Special Announcement

ESTHER AND GEORGE is the extraordinary and mostly unknown, story of the 15-year-old Jewish convict Esther. She came across on the First Fleet where she met her future husband George, and became First Lady of the British Empire. We want to celebrate her life, explore her contradictions and find the gaps in our knowledge. Melanie Morningstar is a multiple award-winning producer. Her most recent 2018 work FATHER was screened at 12 international film festivals. Esther and George is ambitious storytelling. We want to reveal Australia’s less familiar history in a different and exciting way, using new visual techniques to recreate the period of time. Esther was convicted (some say falsely) in London of stealing lace and was sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia She meets Lieutenant George Johnston who led the coup against Governor Bligh, and subsequently led the Rum Rebellion in 1808. They have seven children together. This is the story of the adventures they have along the way. We intend producing a four-hour television series in 2019. This 10-minute short is to show backers to gain further sponsorship. The Esther and George short is mostly completed. The campaign money is needed to hire a compositor. A compositor is responsible for constructing the final image of the video. They will take the 2D and 3D elements (both CGI and Visual Effects) to produce a high quality finished production. By getting involved in this project, you are ensuring these stories get told.

Click here to fund/sponsor ESTHER AND GEORGE – A SHORT FILM

Newtown Shul Weekly Friday Night Dinner

The Shabbat Dinner is the traditional focal point of every Jew’s week. We at Newtown Shul, extend a warm welcome to all people to join us for a traditional Friday Night Dinner.

The Shabbat Dinner is held in the hall beside the Synagogue immediately after the 6:30pm Shabbat service.

The Shabbat Dinner is a joint project of Newtown Synagogue and Young Adult Chabad and operates by virtue of the generosity of donors and volunteers.

All of the food served at the dinner is prepared ‘by the people for the people’ with love.

There is a suggested donation of $20 per person. To make a tax-deductible donation for the Shabbat dinners, please click here.

Weekly Insight

An Impromptu Intervention

By Eli Block (Courtesy of Chabad.org)

When the car flips, or flames leap from a crumbling home, there are those ordinary people who do extraordinary things. What is the process? What propels these men and woman to defy the natural instinct for self-preservation and save a stranger? Is there a pause of deliberation where one consciously overrides personal risk in favour of another’s life? Or is it instinctive, an internal flip of the switch that sends one to act first and reflect later?

A team of Yale researches collected 51 statements by some of these situational heroes.

“I’m thankful I was able to act and not think about it.”
“I just did what I felt like I needed to do. You don’t think about someone making that big a deal out of it.”
“…I think it was just instinct. Kind of like my tendency….”

They then asked 300 volunteers to assess these statements. Unsurprisingly, faced with these testimonies, the volunteers described the bravery as “intuitive,” and not “carefully reasoned.”

Abraham was kindness incarnate. The Midrash colourfully describes the Divine attribute of kindness pouting, “as long as Abraham treads the earth, I have no work to do.” Abraham’s tendency was gentle, not combative; warm and respectful, not abrasive. So when a conflict arose between the shepherds of Abraham and his nephew Lot, Abraham assumed a conciliatory stance and offered Lot his choice of the land.

Which makes his protestation of Sodom and Gomorrah’s impending destruction so remarkable. G‑d comes to Abraham to reveal his designs for Sodom; what follows is man’s first rebuke of G‑d.

…And Abraham was still standing before the L‑rd. And Abraham approached and said, “Will You sweep away the righteous with the wickedFar be it from YouWill the Judge of all the earth not do justice?”

That Abraham should be the first mortal to challenge the very moral arbiter of the universe is arresting. Abraham loved G‑d and was prepared to undergo great personal harm in pursuit of spreading awareness of Him. How did Abraham override his soft, obedient nature to stand up to the G‑d he would die for?

Read those introductory phrases closely, “Abraham was still standing before the L‑rd. And Abraham approached….” Why does Abraham “approach” if he was “still standing before” G‑d? What transpires in the space between those verses? Rashi, the classic commentator, offers that Abraham did not close a geographic gap, but an internal one. He trespassed his own proclivity for peaceful reconciliation into the foreign land of confrontation. Faced with the possibly unjust destruction of an entire city, Abraham discarded his natural composition and “approached—to speak harshly.”

Abraham, then, wrote the primordial script for heroic intervention.

It happens in one transformative moment. The heroes of the Yale study do not pause to weigh the predicament of another against their own natural interests and habits. Just as Abraham did not consider the repercussions of railing against the all-powerful Being whom he served.

On a less dramatic but no less meaningful scale, we are all presented with injustices that challenge our moral mettle. Almost twenty percent of the population has a disability, which translates into almost everyone knowing a friend, family member, or acquaintance with a disability. It is almost inevitable that this individual will confront some sort of barrier in his or her daily routine—this can be infrastructure that inhibits mobility and access, or attitudinal discrimination spurred by harmful stereotypes.

And then it happens as you are sitting in a meeting, or taking a walk, or with a friend for coffee, or at your family gathering—and there’s no smouldering car or city about to be decimated, but a fellow man or woman being treated as less than that. But your superior is your superior, and the system was designed by powerful people, and the owner of the shop is none of your business. You are on Abraham’s stage; he has already written the script. Discard your calculation and “approach” with the innate knowledge that every one of us deserves respect and dignity.

Shabbos Chuckle

“I had the strangest dream last night,” a man was telling his psychiatrist. “I saw my mother, but when she turned around to look at me, I noticed that she had your face. And you can imagine, I found this very disturbing. In fact, I woke up immediately, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I just lay there in bed waiting for morning to come, and then I got up, drank a Coke, and came right over here for my appointment. I thought you could help me explain the meaning of this strange dream.”

The psychiatrist was silent for a full minute before responding: “A Coke? That’s a breakfast?!”

Kristallnacht Commemoration

October 25th, 2018
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