August 2019, Parshat Va’etchanan

Dear Friends,

This past week I had the pleasure of representing the Ark Centre at the inaugural Speed Networking Event for Jewish Care’s Yesod Program. The Yesod Program was established to provide young people in the Jewish Community with an opportunity to gain a solid understanding of the responsibilities of not-for-profit board duties.

Over the course of 10 months, participants are provided with training from the Australian Institute of Company Directors, keynote speakers, workshops and the opportunity to gain firsthand board experience by sitting on Jewish Care’s boards and sub-committees.

The event that I attended provided a chance for Yesod participants to hear from 9 different community organisations that could all benefit from participation at a board level from young and vibrant passionate Jewish community members. As part of this event I spoke about ARK Centre, who we are and what we stand for, as well as the different hurdles that young people face in joining community organisations.

I spoke about the many people I have engaged with who have noted that they feel disconnected from their communal Jewish organisations. I explained how it is important that community organisations include a diverse range of ages of both men and women in order to best reflect a holistic and all-encompassing view of what people in Victoria’s Jewish community are seeking. I left the event inspired that there seems to be a positive wave of change in progress and I welcome any of you to approach me with any ideas, comments or suggestions you may have in relation to this.

I was also heartened to see the large number of you who attended our Tisha B’av program this past Saturday night. I understand that on a cold, wet and rainy evening it took lots of will-power to come out and show up to Shule and I am grateful for this. I also thank all our debaters and I am sure the conversations started Saturday night will continue.

Which brings me to this week’s Parsha, Va’Etchanan which resumes with Moshe’s final speech to the Jewish people before they enter into the land of Israel without him. The 10 Commandments are included in this week’s Parsha as part of Moshe’s review of the people of Israel’s history as well as the Shema prayer.

Both the Shema and 10 Commandments are integral to Judaism. The Shema is our declaration of belief and faith in G-d and the Commandments provide a blueprint for a meaningful and moral society. Both of these are core to our belief system and our understanding of the world.

While many of the Commandments seem obvious, such as don’t kill and don’t steal, they also represent the worst kind of human behaviour. If such behaviours are allowed or a blind eye is turned which permits them to be undertaken without adequate punishment, then the very moral fibre of society is frayed and the values that underpin all meaningful human relationships and interactions are unravelled.

And it is the Shema prayer that helps to bring home the practical application of moral behaviour. When we submit ourselves to G-d’s law and we express our faith and trust that the moral code set out for us to live a meaningful live is just, relevant and applicable we create a successful society.

For me, it is clear that the further expansion of these principles include taking an active interest in your community and the wider world around you so that you can continue to give back effectively in whatever way you can.

I look forward to hearing from you about ways you think we can continue to encourage further community participation!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Gabi