Tag: High Holy Days

Rabbi’s greetings for the New Year

My dear friends,
dear congregants,
guests and visitors,

Chayim and I send you heartfelt greetings for a blessed Shanah Tovah u’Metukah, a year of goodness and sweet experiences!

How deeply embedded in our hearts are the many fine memories of the services we observed together, the simches we celebrated, the joys and sorrows we shared, the hospitality you provided us, the personal stories you entrusted to us and the hopes and dreams we prayed would be realised in the past year!

Bet David enshrines kedushah, something very holy, in the way everyone is welcomed, and is embraced. The feeling of kehilah (community) permeates every gathering. The values of Torah are found in the many ways you and your families live as Jews and contribute to our shared aim to repair the world (Tikkun Olam).

May 5780 bring more of those simches and less sorrow, more beauty and more fullfilled dreams.

May you go from strength to strength with blessing!

L‘shanah tovah tikatevu—

For a good New Year
Rabbi Adrian and Chayim Schell


A final thought for 5779

For the last Shabbat in 5779, our Torah comes with one of the readings I love most in the entire year. In parashat Nitzavim we find the following directive: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life.”

But, what does it mean to choose life? It’s not as if we need to be told to live.  Rather, God is telling us that by choosing to follow God’s ways, we are choosing a good life. A blessed life. But this brings us to the age-old question “Why do the wicked prosper?” Why do we see evil people enjoying success in this world while good people struggle?

One of the classic answers is that while evil people may seem to be living it up in this world, they will suffer in the next, while the righteous will receive their reward in the world to come. Earthly pleasures are finite, but spiritual pleasures are infinite. The problem with this answer is that many of us haven’t got the patience to wait for the world to come and see if this is really true. Our struggles are now, and we want relief now.

But maybe the answer isn’t some logical discourse, but a shift in perspective.  A wonderful teaching by our sages says: “Good life is defined not by what you get, but by what you give.” When you look at life this way, the question disappears. It becomes almost irrelevant. No matter how little I have, there is always something I can do—some way I can reach out. By the same token, a life defined by how much you get can never satisfy. No matter how much you have, you always want more and more.

In order to be able to “choose life,” we need to be able to see it—to recognise it as life. This is what the Torah’s command gives us. It’s not really a directive. The point isn’t to tell us what to do, but to show us—to help us hold on to the perspective, to help us see how much more there is to life than we often see at the first moment.

For this Shabbat and these High Holy Days, it is my hope that we will find ways to see so that we can choose the right path for us, our families and society.

Shabbat Shalom and a good start into the New Year

Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Rabbi Shuchat)


Indifference to our world is intolerable, unethical and it breaches our morality


In this week’s column I’d like to share with you an excerpt from my sermon I delivered last Friday. The sermon was about the powerful dictum of Parashat KiTeitzei, wich asks us not to remain indifferent — “Lo tuchal le’hitalem“.

Lo tuchal le’hitalem – you shall not remain indifferent – it is an in-your-face moral and ethical requirement, taking us further into our humanity, reminding us that however practical Judaism is, however much a religion of doing, the doing is based on our shared humanity, our striving to reach a fuller and richer knowledge of our Source. Judaism is not only about what one does and doesn’t do. It is more than what       rituals one keeps, or at what time one separates Shabbat from the rest of the week. It isn’t lived only on a spiritual plane nor exclusively in the material world but it is rooted in the ethical and the moral.

Of course, I mention this imperative of the Torah in the light of the political discussions we have in South Africa currently. The despicable acts towards women, the xenophobic attacks, the general outlook on the value of a human life that seems to become less and less of value to many – all this needs our attention.  We cannot pretend not to see what is happening. We cannot hide ourselves or be indifferent to our surroundings, however inconvenient it might be and we have to respond to them – because it is a essentially Jewish requirement.

Lo tuchal lehitalem- you shall not hide yourself; you shall not be indifferent.  We are not permitted to look the other way, to continue with our lives as routinely as before. Hiding the truth from ourselves and not acting to help others is a direct prohibition..

May we all, in the final days of this current Jewish year find ways to bring holiness into this—our—world, by stepping out of our comfort zone and into actions of meaning.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Adrian M Schell 


Please help us – so that we can help others

You shall not deduct interest from loans to your countryman, whether in money or food or anything else that can be deducted as interest. ” (Deuteronomy 23:20)


The Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, prescribes a great act of tzedakah. The idea that we ought to assist our brethren in reduced circumstances with timely, interest-free loans so that they may maintain themselves through their own work, without resorting to the acceptance of alms, is surely a utopian ideal. Economies don’t generally operate without the taking of interest. But the laws of the Torah were designed to protect the hungry from starvation and the disenfranchised from being reduced to utter want. Judaism demands that we move against the weakness of our natures and strive to lift ourselves above our baser impulses. Our tradition’s singular commitment to justice tempered with mercy has been the backbone of the well-being of so many for generations.

There are only  three more weeks left before the High Holy Days and it is good practice at this time of the year to look out for the well being of our fellow Jews, neighbours and ourselves. Perhaps it is our liturgy that reminds us how fragile life is and how easily one can loose literally everything in life—but hopefully not the support of one’s congregation.

Therefore, I appeal to you to help us at Bet David, so that we can help others. We have at Bet David a Discretionary Fund which is handled by me, and I promise you that the money from this fund is only used to help individuals when they need us, following the aims and ideals of our tradition and the Torah.

Not to forget Kehillah, our sisterhood who has helped so many over the years that it is beyond words and counting. This is often done behind the scenes and has brought immense relief to individuals and families. Everyone who has helped in the past has contributed to their outstanding work.

And finally, Bet David itself also needs your financial support. The infrastructure that we offer is more than a house of worship. Thanks to your support, Bet David offers assistance and help to those in need and at times of great difficulties.

Please consider a donation to Bet David before the High Holy Days. Any contribution will make a difference. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

– Rabbi Adrian M Schell 

Yizkor: Let my cry come before You.

As a deer yearns for streams of water,

so I yearn for You, O God.

My whole being thirsts for God,

for the living God. Psalm 42:2

 Hear my prayer.

Let my cry come before You.

Do not hide from me in my time of sorrow. Turn Your ear to me.

When I cry, answer me soon. Psalm 102:2–3

 My God,

my soul is downcast.

Therefore I think of You. Psalm 42:7


Dear friends,

The above beautiful prayer is taken from the Yizkor service section in our new High Holy Day Machzor for Yom Kippur (page 549).

Celebrating a new year includes also remembering those who walked this path before us. Those who came together in joy and in sadness, who were in awe, fear, and in tears, and in love, happiness and full of hope.

When we bow down our heads in remembrance this year on Yom Kippur, we will know that they are with us, and that as long we remember them, they will be part of us and our lives.

May the coming Shabbat and High Holy Days comfort those who have lost a loved one only recently or at this season in years past.

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

The Yizkor service will take place on Yom Kippur (19.9.) at 17:00. The  dedication of new leaves for the tree will take place at 16:45.


Mishkan ha Nefesh: A dwelling place for our souls


This is not the first time, I have mentioned it, but I think it is still exciting news. Together with our sister congregations in South Africa we will embark on a new spiritual journey, introducing a new prayer book for the High Holy Days: Mishkan HaNefesh. The new Machzor will be a valuable tool for innovation in our Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur experiences. The language in the books is modern and accessible, with gender neutral wording and all Hebrew prayers available in transliteration.  There are inspired alternative options, a variety of study commentaries throughout the book, Torah reading options, and some magnificent new prayer alternatives. We are going to use the new Machzorim for the first time on Rosh HaShanah 2018.

Why do we need a new machzor? Why should we switch to Mishkan HaNefesh?

Our current Machzor, Gates of Repentance, has served Bet David well for many years. When it was first published in 1978, it represented exciting and progressive liturgical innovation. However, time has changed and we have changed. The fact that it does not include transliteration is a stumbling block for many in our communities. So too, many of today’s Jews feel disconnected from prayer and from theological and ideological concepts that do not seem consistent with a contemporary sensibility. Like Mishkan Tfilah, our Shabbat prayer book, Mishkan HaNefesh makes strides towards a multi-vocality that creates a space for all to inhabit, offering a multiplicity of different approaches. Through updated translations, elucidating essays, rich commentary, and a beautiful selection of poetry, Mishkan HaNefesh provides an environment for those of all backgrounds to find meaning in the High Holy Days.

Mishkan HaNefesh gives both the prayer leader and the community a wealth of resources for finding new and old meaning for the High Holy Days and to match the requirements for today‘s services. Mishkan HaNefesh breathes new life into High Holy Day services and forms a meaningful bridge to our Shabbat liturgy we love at Bet David.

How do you get your copy?

The new two volume Machzor can be bought from the offices from March 2018 on, but we are happy to offer you a pre-order option to save your copies already now, with a early bird discount. The regular set (one set includes the Machzorim for RoshHaShanah and Yom Kippur) price is R700. If you order your set(s) before 31 December and pay it by the end of 2017, we can offer you a special pre-order price of R600 per set. The other option we can offer you is to order now and pay them off in several installments for the regular price. Please use the order form (Mishkan HaNefesh Information Letter).

With your support, we will be able to make this important change in the worship life of our congregation. If you have questions regarding the new Machzor, please don‘t hesitate to contact me or any members of the ManCom.

 Rabbi Adrian M Schell


Approaching the High Holy Days: The one key, you like to start with.

Do you have also a bunch of unmarked keys at home which you know that the each key must fit somewhere? Perhaps to an old box or door, perhaps to a lock, to your car, a gate, a diary, a neighbour’s house, or to a cupboard. You haven’t had the time to check every key and to mark them, but you know that they are too important to just ignore or even  throw over board.

Elul, the current Jewish month, is the month where we traditional occupy ourselves with a spiritual introspection. We are looking for our shortcomings, where we missed the bar we set for ourselves, and where we transgressed the boundaries our Jewish tradition has drawn up for us. We are doing so, in order to make T’shuva; the going back to the point where we erred and to use this new gained knowledge to follow the right direction in the future.

Part of this process, and perhaps the most painful one, is to acknowledge that we have been wrong, to admit our failures – not to others, but to ourselves. To open the door to our soul and to make reality test whether our actions, thoughts and deeds of the past, are really what we hope them to be—or if we have created a myth around them— is not easy and not always pleasant. We all know that…and if we do find the courage to start the process, we are often faced with another question: how? Where do we start? And, how can this become a meaningful journey for us?

Our Jewish liturgy is like the bunch of keys I mentioned in the beginning. Many of the prayers, poems and wisdoms we encounter in our prayer books are keys to our inner selves. The right word hopefully triggers something in us that helps us to understand what we have done and how we perhaps could have done it differently. Once discovered, we can use them again and again to monitor our lives and actions.

Yes, some of the prayers we read are heavy, especially during the High Holy Days. Some seem to be outdated and more than once we are willing to throw them over board. But, please wait before you do so! As much as not every key opens the first door we approach, so too every prayer doesn’t reveal  its value immediately. Sometimes, we need to be already on the journey, as some doors already need to be open, and others locked again. In other words, T’shuva does not happen over night, and even the whole month of Elul plus the 10 days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur might be not enough. But, we can start, we can find one prayer, one moment, one word that will lead us in a new direction, at this time. And in a next step, we continue from there.

I am sure that honest, small steps are much more meaningful than a spiritual sprint. And so, I invite you to open your siddur, your high holy day machzor, and to find the one prayer, the one key, you like to start with.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Adrian M Schell