July 2021 – Parshat Devarim

Dear Friends,

It has been a week of ups and downs. Like most Australians I celebrated the stunning Wimbledon win by Australian tennis player Ash Barty and reveled in Dylan Alcott’s tennis success. Australia, the sporting nation, continues to shine on the international stage and the pride that our successful sporting stars brings us sustains our national obsession with sport.

As a kid, I was always a massive tennis fan, but my personal idols were Pat Rafter and Llyeton Hewitt (I’m showing my age!) I stayed up late watching our newly minted tennis stars and toasted their success with the entire nation.

However, despite these national celebrations, we are currently in the 9 days, one of the most solemn mourning periods in the Jewish calendar, commemorating the siege of Jerusalem resulting in the destruction of the Temple. During this period, we restrict ourselves to feel the solemnity and sadness of the time period we are in. We do not listen to music, eat meat, or drink wine, we don’t bathe for pleasure or wear new or freshly laundered clothes amongst other restrictions. These activities are associated with happiness and times of joy, and our mourning period culminates in the saddest day of the Jewish year, the fast of Tisha B’av which takes place this Sunday.

This year, the sadness of the nine days and Tisha B’av has been amplified in my immediate family with the passing this past Wednesday of my dear Uncle Tony- Dovid ben Reuven v’Chana in Sydney from cancer. My uncle was not elderly, a spritely man in his sixties married to my dear Aunt Susan, may she be blessed with a long life. Tony was one of those wonderful dependable people that I had the blessing of knowing. Together with my aunt Susan he lived in Sydney but was always present over the years to attend key events in my life.

Together with my aunt and cousins, Uncle Tony flew to my wedding in Bangkok, Thailand as well as my inauguration as the rabbi of ARK Centre. Most recently he was in Melbourne in January 2020 to celebrate the engagement party of my sister Lele, but unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, we had not seen him over the past year while he had been ill. Despite his sickness, he was always checking in on me and the family, cracking his witty puns and jokes and offering his assistance in whatever way he could.

They say you never really appreciate a person was until they are gone, but growing up I knew how lucky I was to have an uncle like Tony, one that was decent, hardworking and caring. An uncle that would always go the extra mile for family, who unquestioningly supported his wife and kids and always showed up to provide assistance, often without being asked. I love my uncle and ask that each of you do a Mitzvah so that his soul should have an Aliyah. I also want to wish my Aunt Susan and my cousins Simon, Jonathan and Matthew a long life, may G-d comfort you during this sad time.

As we enter the Shabbat before the saddest day of the year, I wish that each of you should have comfort in the family you have around you. Make sure to thank G-d for the people in your life that are there for you. Wishing you an easy fast.

Oif Simchas and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Gabi