Issue #1 | 27/09/2018

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

Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot

Courtesy of Chabad.org

G‑d agrees to Moses’ request that His presence only dwell amongst the Jews. Moses requests to be shown G‑d’s glory. G‑d agrees, but informs Moses that he will only be shown G‑d’s “back,” not G‑d’s “face.”

G‑d tells Moses to carve new tablets upon which G‑d will engrave the Ten Commandments. Moses takes the new tablets up to Mt. Sinai, where G‑d reveals His glory to Moses while proclaiming His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy.

G‑d seals a covenant with Moses, assuring him again that His presence will only dwell with the Jews. G‑d informs the Jewish people that He will drive the Canaanites from before them. He instructs them to destroy all vestiges of idolatry from the land, not to make molten gods, to refrain from making any covenants with its current inhabitants, to sanctify male firstborn humans and cattle, and not to cook meat together with milk.

The Jews are commanded to observe the three festivals — including the holiday of Sukkot, “the festival of the ingathering, at the turn of the year.” All males are commanded to make pilgrimage to “be seen by G‑d” during these three festivals.

The maftir, from the Book of Numbers, discusses the public offerings brought in the Templeon this day of Sukkot.

Special Announcement

I am Melanie Morningstar, a 2nd year Masters student at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney. I am making, as my final project, a 10-minute proof-of-concept for a 4 part x 1 hour television series to be produced in 2019. A proof-of-concept is a slice of the story that is shown to funders and investors what the final production will look like. I have had very strong feedback from Screen Australia and Create NSW, and know that this series will have a huge international market as well as a terrific domestic audience.

This is a true story. There are a few facts we know about Esther for sure – she was Jewish, she was transported to NSW, she was in a life-long relationship with Lieutenant George Johnston, and she had a baby in goal awaiting transportation.

But who was she really? She was invisible at the time, so very little is known about her early life. Was she 15 or 20? Was she unmarried or married? Was she literate or illiterate? Was she in a pragmatic relationship with Johnston or was it loving? Was she wrongly accused or was she a thief? The list of contradictions goes on and on. There are two versions to her story, historians cannot agree.

There are so many unanswered questions, we are going to tell both sides, thus creating a third version.

Esther, through a series of extraordinary circumstances, becomes the First Lady of the colony of New South Wales, thus becoming the first Jewish First Lady of the British Empire. Her son, Robert will become the first Australian in the Royal British Navy, which makes him the first Jewish Australian to serve in the British military.

This is a complex story and as a result I need specialist editors. I have launched a kickstarter.com campaign to raise completion funds for the proof of concept. If you click on the link below, or go to kickstarter.com and search for ESTHER AND GEORGE you will find the project. If you could financially contribute to the making of this production, we will be one step further to getting this amazing story to the world.

You will also be helping me graduate!

ESTHER AND GEORGE

 

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

The Easy Mitzvah

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Courtesy of Chabad.org)

How [does one fulfill] the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah? One should eat, drink, and live in the sukkah, both day and night, as one lives in one’s house on the other days of the year: for seven days a person should make his home his temporary dwelling, and his sukkah his permanent dwelling

Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 639:1

G‑d says… “I have one easy mitzvah, and sukkah is its name”

Talmud, Avodah Zarah 3a

“In sukkot you shall dwell for seven days,” instructs the Torah, “…in order that your generations shall know that I made the children of Israel dwell in sukkot when I took them out of the land of Egypt.”

Our sages, noting the Torah’s use of the verb “to dwell” in the above verses, define the mitzvah of sukkah as a commandment that, for the duration of the festival of Sukkot (Tishrei 15 to 21), the sukkah is to become our primary dwelling place. Everything ordinarily done in the home should be done in the sukkah.

So every autumn, just as the weather is turning inhospitable, we move outdoors. For a full week, we exchange our regular home for a home which leaves us at the mercy of the elements, demonstrating our trust in G‑d’s providence and protection, as our ancestors did when “following Me in the wilderness, in an uncultivated land.”

Dwelling in the sukkah for seven days is a beautiful and inspiring experience; however, one would hardly describe it as “easy.” Yet this is the mitzvah singled out by the Talmud as G‑d’s “easy mitzvah”!

The Commanding Connection

“Mitzvah,” the Torah’s word for the divine precepts which guide and govern every aspect of our lives from the moment of birth to one’s last living breath, has a dual meaning: the word means both “commandment” and “connection.”

In commanding us the mitzvot, G‑d created the means through which we may establish a connection with Him. The hand that distributes charity, the mind that ponders the wisdom of Torah, the heart that soars in prayer, the throat that swallows the matzah eaten on the first night of Passover — all become instruments of the divine will. There are mitzvot for each limb, organ and faculty of man, and mitzvot governing every area of life, so that no part of us remains uninvolved in our relationship with the Creator.

Therein lies the uniqueness of the mitzvah of sukkah. While other mitzvot each address a certain aspect of our persona, the mitzvah of sukkah provides a medium by which the totality of man is engaged in the fulfillment of G‑d’s will. All of the person enters into and lives in the sukkah. “sukkah is the only mitzvah into which a person enters with his muddy boots,” goes the Chassidic saying. For the seven days of Sukkot, the sukkah is our home–the environment for our every endeavor and activity.

Man and Turf

The specialty of the sukkah as an all-embracing medium of connection with G‑d is best understood in light of the significance of the “home” to the human being.

Our sages point out how deeply rooted is man’s desire for a home. The desire for a home is much more than the need for shelter and security—the satisfaction of these needs alone, without a plot of land to call one’s own, does not satisfy the craving for a home. The Talmud goes so far as to say that “One who does not possess a homestead is not a man.” The need for a home is intrinsic to the soul of man and a defining aspect of the human state.

Thus, a person’s identification with his home is not confined to the hours he spends within its walls. Also when he is at work, visiting with friends or taking a stroll in the park, it is as the owner of this particular home that he works, visits or strolls. Since his very humanity is incomplete without it, it is part and parcel of everything he does.

For the seven days that we make the sukkah our home, it comes to form an integral part of our identity. Everything we do, including what we do outside of the sukkah, is included in the “connection” with G‑d achieved by this mitzvah.

Easy as Life

Now we might understand why the mitzvah of sukkah is G‑d’s “easy” mitzvah.

A person can approach the fulfillment of G‑d’s commandments in one of two ways:

a) As a duty. Such an individual sees the purpose of his life in the realization of his own personal ambitions. At the same time, he recognizes that G‑d is the master of the universe and is the one who created him, granted him life, and continues to sustain him in every moment of his existence. So he feels duty-bound to obey G‑d’s commandments.

b) As the purpose of his existence. This individual understands that “I was not created, but to serve my Creator.” He recognizes this as his true “I” and as the ultimate fulfillment and realization of who and what he is.

If we assume the first approach, regarding the observance of a mitzvah as a duty, there will be both “difficult” and “easy” mitzvot. We might fulfill them all, perhaps even willingly and joyfully, but some will be more pleasant and inspiring, others more tedious and toilsome. The expenditure of time, effort or money that a mitzvah requires will also affect the degree of difficulty we experience in its fulfillment.

But when we see the fulfillment of the divine will as the very stuff of our life, the concept of a difficult mitzvah is nonexistent. All mitzvot are “easy,” for they do not constitute an imposition on our life—they are our life. Indeed, there will be no division between the mitzvah and “non-mitzvah” areas of our life. When we live to implement G‑d’s purpose in creation, our entire life—including those activities which are not explicit mitzvah acts—becomes a single, seamless quest to connect to our Creator and serve His will.

If all mitzvot could be observed in either of the above ways, there is one mitzvah whose terms of observance call for nothing less than the second approach. The mitzvah of sukkah does not tell us to do something; it tells us to be something—a sukkah-dweller. The way to observe this mitzvah is to make the sukkah our home—our environment, our roots, our very identity—for seven days of each year of our life.

And when we apply the model of the mitzvah of sukkah to our observance of all of G‑d’s commandments, they, too, assume the all-embracing quality of the sukkah. They, too, become as “easy” as life.

Shabbos Chuckle

Moishe Goldberg had a hairdresser at the same intersection for years. It was called “Moishe’s Hair Salon.” But out of nowhere, a new hair salon opened up for business right across the street from Moishe. The new hair dresser was called “Chris’s Hair Salon.”

Chris put up a big bold sign that read: “WE GIVE TEN DOLLAR HAIR CUTS!”

Not to be outdone, Moishe put up his own sign: “WE FIX TEN DOLLAR HAIR CUTS!”

Many thanks to Brian, Paul, Ivan and Offer for helping to get the lights in front of the Shul back up and running!
September 27th, 2018
View Archive Next Newsletter