With gratitude and happiness, I am excited to announce my appointment by The Wimbledon Shul, to become their new rabbi, moving to London, UK after the High Holy Days this year. I am feeling blessed beyond words for this incredible chance to open the next chapter in my rabbinic journey and Chayim’s and my life.
The Wimbledon Shul is the largest Reform Congregation in the South of London, reaching out to Jewish families in the South of England beyond the district borders. The congregation is proud of its cheder, its religious life and the adult learning opportunities and its open and welcoming community.I am looking forward to walking with the congregation on their path in making The Wimbledon Shul a Jewish home for everyone, providing space for families, singles, seniors and students, people who identify as LGBTIQ+ and Allies and those who feel comfortable in a traditional Jewish setting.
I am grateful to the wonderful team and leadership of The Wimbledon Shul for putting so much trust and hope into me, allowing me to take on this outstanding opportunity to lead the congregation into its future.
To my Bet David family: Six years ago, I arrived in Johannesburg to be your new Rabbi. In these past years, we learned and prayed, laughed and celebrated, sang and danced, marched and mourned together. I am the rabbi I am today because you let me into your lives. You opened up your hearts and taught me how to comfort. You opened up your minds and taught me the power of teaching Torah. You opened up your hands and showed me the value of helping those in need. You elevated your spirit and taught me what it means to live with spiritual intention. Your love for your family and friends helped me understand the power and importance of community.
The funny thing about rabbinic transition timelines is that it forces a slow goodbye, but that’s actually a good thing. I’ll be here until the end of the High Holy Days and want to take that time to personally tell each of you how much you have meant to me and how much I have learned from you.
And to my new Wimbledon family: I am looking forward to meeting all of you and to enter with you this new chapter. And to all of you: Stay tuned for blog posts and more as I prepare for and celebrate the big move! Can’t wait to share the journey with you all! Please feel free to reach out, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via Facebook (facebook.com/RabbiAdrianSchell)
One of the most important teaching of the torah is v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha, love your neighbour as yourself. There are no ifs, ands or buts. We are commanded to love all members of the fabulous human family. In the creation account of the Book of Genesis, God creates us betzelem elohim, in God’s image. That means that all of us, no matter our race, religion, gender, gender identity, nationality, economic status, disability, or sexual orientation are reflections of the Divine Being who created us all. Therefore, when we act with love and compassion towards one another, we become holy. However, holiness is not enough. Being holy means we become aware of our task, to fix this broken world. The biblical prophets urge us on with their words, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”
The past weeks have shown that we are far from reaching a just world and that each and every one of us is asked to not remain silent when violence against women is crippling our country, when people are still being judged and treated differently just because of their skin colour, and when members of the LGBT* community are discriminated because of their sexual orientation and/or identity.
Our rabbis teach that we can see a glimpse of the messianic time, a world in balance, each Shabbat. Why? Perhaps, then is when we know that it is worth fighting for.
Today, Friday (22 May/28 Iyyar) we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, one of several Jewish holidays commemorating events of war in the modern State of Israel. This one recalls Israel’s regaining of the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967. Despite these modern memorial days, it seems safe to say that we Jews generally don’t think of ourselves as military people. Yet the coming together with our annual reading of the opening portion of the Book of Numbers, beginning with a census of all Israelite men, might give us pause to question our assumption.
Our parasha begins with God’s instruction to Moses to count the people: “s’u et-rosh kol-adat B’nai Yisrael,”-“take a census of the whole Israelite company”. The commentators notice the way God describes the head count: s’u et rosh, “lift the head.” Nachmanides (a rabbi from the thirteenth century) points out that the phrase can be positive or negative. Joseph uses the same phrase positively back in Genesis when interpreting the dream of the imprisoned cupbearer: “in three days’ time, Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your post.” But Joseph also uses the phrase negatively a few verses later while interpreting the baker’s dream: “in three days’ time, Pharaoh will lift your headfrom your body and hang you on a pole”
Imagine the scene, though, Moses and Aaron lifting each young man’s head, gently touching the chin of each soldier-to-be, looking them in the eye, thus acknowledging the humanity of each one, and recognising the real “risks” of war. Will this young man’s head be lifted up to greatness or fall in battle?
S’u et-rosh, “Lift up the head” of each one, says God to Moses, as if to say, touch them, look them in the eyes, write down their family names, because even though you are counting them, these men are not just numbers.
A wise man once taught that if you look deeply into the eyes of another, you will find there the Presence of God. Would we really be able to send people into battle if we spent the moments before looking deep into the eyes of our soldiers?
As we shall see in the weeks to come, despite its stories of fighting, rebellion and violence, the Book of Numbers also delivers the message that God would rather encourage the people Israel toward a gentler way of being, and to realise that the price we have paid in any war was more than just a soldier. She or he was a human being, created in the image of God.
Together with the learners of our Cheder, we will open the Shavuot Festival with a joyful Service Thursday evening at 18h30. Please join in and support our cheder learners.
Prof. Steven Friedman opens our night of learning with a Shiur about the intention of the Torah: “What the Torah Was Really Meant to Do”. TheShiur will follow the service at 19h30.
At 20h30 we will join thenational night of learning (Tikkun Leil Shavuot) of the SAUPJ (programme see below).
Please note that we use two Zoom sessions on Shavuot evening, the first is for the service and the shiur with Prof. Friedman (http://tiny.cc/BD-Shavuot-1) and the second for the SAUPJ learning night (http://tiny.cc/BD-Shavuot-3). We will also stream all sessions and the service on Facebook and YouTube.
Thursday 28 May * Erev Shavuot Service (18h30) and Shiur with Prof Friedman (19h30)
Brett Kopin, Rabbinic student, Ziegler School, Los Angeles.
“Tattooed Torah Movie”: the story of an Animated movie made recently, following a legendary book by Marvell Ginsburg, which is a powerful resource for Holocaust education for children.
Panel: Rabbi Emma Gottlieb, Temple Israel, CPT.Rabbi Julia Margolis, Beit Luria, JHB.Andrea Kuti, Rabbinic Student, Aleph.
“Kol BaTorah – Isha” – The feminist voice of Torah:Following the prominent Feminist Jewish thinker Judith Plaskow who defines the Feminist revolution in Judaism as Standing again at Sinai, we will hear from panelist their views, in this festival of receiving the Torah, how do they view its feminine aspects and how they bring it about in their professional life.
Panel: Rabbi Greg Alexander, Temple Israel, CPT.Rabbi Adrian M. Schell, Bet David, JHB, Sofia Zway, Rabbinic student H.U.C, Los Angeles.
“Days are coming” – Gaze into the near future for Jewish communities. The panelist will reflect on the transformation we’ve been experiencing, trying to extract lessons we can apply and insights for our conduct.
Sofia Zway, Rabbinic Student, H.U.C. Los Angeles.
The Book of Ruth – How it is the simple acts of Human grace which make the most difference. Sofi Zwai is a South African, graduate of our movement, studying toward a Rabbinic ordination at the HUC.
Tomorrow, 8 May, marks the 75 anniversary of so called V-E-Day (Victory in Europe Day), Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. For Jews all over Europe this day meant a final liberation from state organized terror and murder, but not from the suffering and finding ways to cope with enduring persecution and wounds.
Seventy five years later, there is still no “new normal”, no final stroke, only the reminder to not allow anti-Semitism or any form of baseless hate to rise up again, so that they can’t show their ugly faces and deprive humans from their dignity or even worse take human lives again. The world is still waiting for a V-Day, when we all can celebrate the defeat of anti-Semitism. Until then, 8 May is a memorial day, reminding us to stand against all forms of discrimination and suppression.
The first of the three weeks of the national lockdown has nearly finished, and we hope this finds you all well and healthy.
We understand that the circumstances have imposed challenges and hardships on many of you and observing the news nationally and internationally, we believe that we are only at the beginning of a longer journey until we will reach the end of this pandemic. Rabbi Schell has uploaded a series of daily video messages on our YouTube channel, trying to answer some of the questions you might ask yourself in light of this crisis: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfFI7bvb1yKllEMFutUri4A/.
Clayton Donnelly, one of our congregants, who lives in Israel, hosts a webinar on coping with the crisis by regaining one’s strength this coming Sunday (5 April at 11h00). Please see the flyer attached hereto for details.
Pesach is only one week away. Together with our sister congregations in South Africa, we have prepared for you several documents and handouts to prepare and celebrate a meaningful Pesach at home. Please see our website http://betdavid.org.za/pesach-in-johannesburg/ for the service schedule and materials – we will keep the page updated. Please find Rabbi Schell’s guide for Pesach 2020 hereand a letter by the SAAPR-Rabbis to all congregants with additional thoughts and ideas for your Pesach here.
The SAAPR (SA Association of Progressive Rabbis) finished the second draft of the new progressive Pesach Haggadah for South Africa. We invite you to open it virtually on your computers and use it for your sederim: https://bit.ly/2wNRDlM . For our Bet David Pesach seder, we will use a shortened version of the Haggadah, Download from here.
Diane, our cheder teacher, has prepared a Chocolate Pesach Seder Haggadah (please send an email to get your copy). If you like to join with your children our ZOOM children’s seder on Sunday, 12 April @ 11h00, please register with Diane (email@example.com).
Last, but not least, we invite all of you to join us again for our Shabbat services. All our services are being streamed on Youtube and on Facebook. For YouTube click here: http://tiny.cc/BD-YouTube and to follow on Facebook here: http://tiny.cc/BD-Facebook
Friday 03 April * Kabbalat Shabbat Service (18h00)
Saturday 04 April * Shabbat morning service (09h30)
Sunday 05 April Strengths Based Discussion Talk with Clayton Donnelly (11h00) Zoom Chat: http://tiny.cc/rxoamz
Based on the famous four questions we ask during the Pesach seder, Ma nishtanah ha-laylah hazeh mikol ha-leilot? – Why is this night of Passover different from all other nights of the year?, we, your rabbis, have asked ourselves in the past few weeks, if and how our Pesach seder will be different this year, compared to all the sederim we had in the past.
With the lockdown in South Africa, we can say, it will be different, very different, but not less meaningful for us and you. Perhaps, because we are able to look at Pesach from a very different perspective this year, we might even find new meaning in the words and rituals that guided so many generations before us in times of joy and challenges.
With the guidelines below, we want to help you to celebrate Pesach in your homes. We invite you to hold your own Pesach seder at home or to join one of us for the sederim we stream from our homes to yours.
Prepare for Pesach:
This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Eternal throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. …. You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time. In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. No leaven shall be found in your houses for seven days. For whoever eats what is leavened, that person— whether a stranger or a citizen of the country—shall be cut off from the community of Israel. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread. —Exodus 12:14–20
The above verses from the Torah establish the holiday of Passover and command that we should eat matzah and refrain from eating chametz, leavened bread, for seven days. The Rabbis define chametz as five grains—wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats—that are exposed to water for more than eighteen minutes.
In a regular year, the entire household is thoroughly cleaned from any products that may contain chametz and often all dishes, pots, and utensils are switched to sets reserved for Passover use. While we usually recommend that all food products containing chametz are used up before the holiday or given to charity, we do not do so this year. Please do not throw any food away. If you have enough food at home for the coming days and weeks, do not go shopping only because you need “Kosher le Pesach” products. We consider that staying at home and by that, potentially saving lives, is of a higher priority.
Depending on how you decide to observe the Kosher for Passover rules, we suggest the following steps to prepare Pesach at home:
Put bread into your freezer or any other place you can store it for the week of Pesach
Oats, Rusks and such should be stored away with other products, not Kosher for Passover and not needed during the 7 days, into one cupboard of your kitchen and sealed (clear tape helps to not open the cupboard accidently.
Even though you might follow the traditional Ashkenazi custom of not eating kitniyot (corn, rice, beans and lentils) on Pesach, we recommend making an exception for this year. Kitniyot are acceptable food, also during Pesach.
Have a Pesach-Putz, meaning a cleaning for Pesach. The key is that spring cleaning is not Passover cleaning. You only need to remove actual edible chametz residue, not dust, and only from places where you could have conceivably put chametz in the first place.
If you use your regular dishes and cutlery, just rinse them an additional time before you use them during Peach. Please don’t use plastic – not because of corona, but because of the environment.
Print your Pesach hagadah (sent to you by email)
What supplies do I need?
Here’s what you’ll need for the Seder:
One is obligated to avoid chametz throughout Passover, but the obligation to eat matzah is limited to fulfilling the rituals of the first/second night seder alone. If you’re alone, three matzahs for the seder will cover you just fine. You should factor in an additional two matzahs per additional participant, as well as some extra for snacking during the meal. You can also make your own Matzah:
Every individual needs to drink four cups of wine or grape juice. If you have small shot glasses at home, a single bottle should just be enough for the seder.
Maror(bitter herbs, typically romaine lettuce and grated horseradish)
Each person needs to have two portions of maror (one eaten alone and one as part of the korech sandwich), each one at least a teaspoon. Preparing two teaspoons per person will have you covered.
Vegetable for dipping (karpas)
Many use celery, radish, or parsley as karpas, but you can also use carrots, onions or potatoes.
Zeroa or “shank bone” The zeroa is not eaten at the Seder. Some use a forearm of a lamb, or else a neck bone, leg of a chicken or an actual shank-bone. Whichever you use, it should be well-roasted. Not only vegetarians have started to substitute it with red beet
Charoset There are many recipes available in the internet, but here is one link to give you an idea:
One hardboiled egg per Seder plate is fine. Some have the custom for all participants to eat an egg during the meal. If this is the case, prepare one for every participant.
A newer addition to seder plates, originated by Suzannah Heschel, the orange represents our need to be inclusive of all who feel marginalised within the Jewish community. One orange per Seder plate is fine. Some have the custom for all participants to eat one orange during the meal. If this is the case, have one for every participant.
The seder plate shows the symbols talked about in the story of Passover as told in the Haggadah. If you don’t have a Seder Plate at home, use a regular plate.
There are two explanations for this: matzah is the food of poor slaves or there was no time for our bread to rise in our hurried escape from Egypt. Three matzot are covered with a cloth and placed under or next to the seder plate.
We dip the greens in salt water. This represents the tears of the Israelites, whose sons were taken from them by the Pharaoh. You may need minimum one bowl so all can easily dip.
Cup of Elijah
A large cup filled with wine is placed in the centre of the table for Elijah.
Cup of Miriam
A modern custom is to fill a cup with water and place it next to the cup of Elijah. Miriam, the prophetess, has many connections to water. She watched over her baby brother Moses as he floated in a reed basket in the Nile and led the women in song after the miracle of the splitting of the sea. A well is said to have followed the Israelites as they travelled through the desert because of Miriam’s faith.
Reclining while eating was a sign of freedom in the ancient world. The Haggadah tells us to recline when we drink the four cups of wine, eat matzah, the Hillel sandwich and the afikomen. Pillows make reclining easier!
Afikomen is the Greek word for dessert. Near the beginning of the seder, the middle of the three matzot is broken and only one part is returned to the plate. The other half is designated as the afikomen, the last thing to be eaten at the meal. There is the tradition of hiding the afikomen during the meal and to ask children to search for it. It is a wonderful tradition, whether that takes the form of a real hiding of the afikomen or an internet wordsearch or a Where’s Waldo?-style picture or a Wikipedia hunt.
In emulation of the ancient priests, ritual hand washing is performed twice during the evening. This may be done at the kitchen sink or with a bowl and pitcher placed near the table.
Eating Chametz during Pesach
We understand that the circumstances may not allow each and everyone to prepare for Pesach as one would do in a regular year. And while we recommend to not eat chametz in the week of Passover, it might be unavoidable to each and every one of you.
While we want to underline that the situation of today is in no way comparable to the curse that our mothers and fathers had to endure during the Shoah, we included the following prayer which can be recited before eating chametz, written or at least dictated by Rabbi Aharon Bernard Davids, leader of the Dutch community of Rotterdam in Holland, for their communities who had been interned first in the Westerbork Holland transit camp and then sent to Bergen Belsen concentration camp:
Before eating Chametz say the following with intent & devotion:
Our Father in Heaven, it is revealed and known to You that it is our desire to fulfil Your will and to celebrate the festival of Passover by eating Matzah and by observing the prohibition of Chametz. But, on this our hearts are pained, that the captivity which prevents us, and we find ourselves in danger of our lives.
We are hereby prepared and ready to fulfil Your commandment “And you shall live by them” and not die by them, and to be careful with the warning of “Guard yourself and guard your life very much.” Therefore, our prayer to You is that You keep us alive, and sustain us, and redeem us speedily, so that we may observe Your laws and fulfil Your will and serve You with a full heart. Amen.
Let all who are hungry come and eat
Last but not least: No seder is complete without honouring the holiday’s essential command: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”. We understand that we cannot open our doors this year, as we did in the past years, however, we encourage everyone to donate to organisations that are doing vital and lifesaving work amid the crisis – only a fingertip away. Please consider the feeding scheme of your Shul, the local Chevrah Kadisha, Keren be Kavod in Israel, or the initiative of President Ramaphosa:
For today I’d like to share with you a text, my colleague Rabbi Steven Moskovitz wrote. It echos in a wonderful Jewish way the words of President Ramaphosa from last night’s address, where the President – once again – asked all of us to stay at home. It might not be you, who will benefit from this the most, but you might safe your neighbours life.
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go …, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/3720.Anne_Frank
Good – https://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/2017/06/good.html
Grant, O God, that we lie down in peace, and raise us up, our Guardian, to life renewed. Spread over us the shelter of Your peace. Guide us with Your good counsel; for Your Name’s sake, be our help. Shield and shelter us beneath the shadow of Your wings. Defend us against enemies, illness, war, famine and sorrow. Distance us from wrongdoing. For You, God, watch over us and deliver us. For You, God, are gracious and merciful. Guard our going and coming, to life and to peace evermore.