9 Av 5776, Devarim

This weekend in Shul we farewell our dear Shlicha, Naama who has dedicated a year of her life to instilling her passion for Judaism and Israel within our Maroubra community. She will be delivering a talk in Shul on Shabbat day and there will be a special Kiddush in her honour. Please join us in saying ‘Todah’ to her for everything that she has done for us.

With Tisha B’av this year falling out on Shabbat, the fast day – along with all of its restrictions – are pushed off until Sunday. What this means is that I cannot run my favourite race of the year – the City2Surf!

But on a serious note, we have a great program taking place here in Shul starting at 7pm on Saturday night. We will recite Maariv and then sit on the ground and softly (and sadly) sing Megillat Eicha (Book of Lamentations) which describes our grief over the destruction of Jerusalem some two and a half thousand years ago. After this, survivor and long-standing Shule member Yvonne Engelman will share of her personal story about persecution and survival as a 14 year old girl at Auschwitz. Please join us for what will be a moving and meaningful evening.

Here is a thought to assist us in overcoming the despair that often accompanies our daily challenges.

Rabbi Akivah was once walking in Jerusalem with a group of fellow sages soon after the second Temple was destroyed. They passed the Temple Mount and saw foxes roaming freely among the rubble. All the sages immediately cried at the site of the desecration, but Rabbi Akiva laughed!

When confronted about his seemingly inappropriate reaction, he explained: “We were given two sets of prophecies. Now that the prophecy of the destruction of the Temple has come true, surely the prophecies regarding the rebuilding of the Temple will come true, too.”

While this Talmudic story may appear strange, it is actually conveying a powerful message. You see, Rabbi Akivah was able to see what his peers could not. He saw the destruction as an event in a sequence, as part of a bigger picture. He realised that this event of destruction would actually allow something much greater and more eternal to take place – the construction of the third, eternal Temple. He was therefore able to celebrate the destruction since he could envision an even more beautiful reality. And in his mind’s eye, this Temple was already being rebuilt which made this whole scene a cause for joy!

Our own lives may often appear like a construction site strewn with tools and nails. We all face seemingly insurmountable challenges that seek to overwhelm us and crush us under their weight. The challenge for us is to remember that redemption exists even within the exile. The possibility for regrowth and rebirth lies within the challenge itself. We must never give up hope! Rather, we must try to look beyond our immediate situation and embrace our ability to build a better future.

As we gather to mourn the destruction over the weekend, we will acknowledge the beauty that has been lost, yet at the same time realise that we are standing on the threshold of a new reality.

This coming Tuesday, Chana Raizel and I will be witnessing this new reality! Travelling to Israel in celebration of a family wedding, we look forward to witnessing the incredible growth, rebuilding and innovation that is taking place everywhere in our ancient homeland. Coming out of these days of mourning over ancient Jerusalem will make this trip even more meaningful for us and we hope and pray that Jerusalem will always remain united and a source of blessing and peace for everyone who enters her walls.

I particularly look forward to praying at the Western Wall where I will recite prayers for our community as a whole. If anyone has any particular prayers that they would like me to deliver or recite, please email them to me before I leave.

May we only know of joyous times in our personal, communal and national lives.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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