May 2019, Parshat Achrei Mot

Dear Friends,

This week I, along with world Jewry and the global community, was devastated to see that a Jewish house of worship in America was terrorised by the scourge of anti-Semitic hatred for the second time in six months and endured a Synagogue shooting.

I watched and listened with horror at the news unfolded of the innocent congregant, Mrs Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was slaughtered in the Chabad House of Poway in San Diego, as well as the injured congregants and Rabbi who afterwards spoke to the media.

I was particularly moved by Rabbi Yisrael Goldstein’s opinion editorial in the New York Times (click here for the article) following his serious injuries in which he noted that: “I do not know G-d’s plan. All I can do is try to find meaning in what has happened. And to use this borrowed time to make my life matter more.”

While we in Australia have often felt safe, we are all too aware of the dangers that lurk against houses of worship of all religions, both here and across the world, with recent examples in Sri Lanka and Christchurch, demonstrating the sad state of the world that we are currently living in.

We have to remain vigilant, not just from a security perspective, but also to ensure that baseless hatred does pervade our minds and our networks. Hannah Kaye, the daughter of Lori ob’m, quoted from Nelson Mandela in her eulogy for her mother: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

This week’s Parsha, Achrei Mot, discusses the aftermath of the death of the sons of Aharon, the High Preist. Interestingly, the Torah takes a two-week break to discuss the aftermath of the deaths, because although they passed away in Parshat Shemini, two weeks ago, their passing is not addressed until now.

The Torah is teaching us a valuable lesson through this pause.

During a person’s lifetime, it is often easy to get lost in the details of day to day life and the mundane or routine. We can only see the full kaleidoscope, the entire picture, with clarity if we take a moment to pause and reflect. Often, we discover the beautiful life of the deceased and understand the full magnitude of their impact on our lives only after some time has passed.

As we join this week in mourning the loss of Lori ob’m, we must remind ourselves to emulate her example of goodness, kindness and unconditional love. We must pause and ask ourselves whether we are doing the most that we can do to help others and empower unconditional love in the face of senseless hatred which seems to emanate from so many places.

We need to continue to bring light into the world because even a little bit of light has the power to dispel darkness.

I personally spent three years in Yeshivah with two of Rabbi Goldstein’s sons, Yehoshua (Shuie) and Mendy and consider them personal friends. When I was living in Paris and studying in Yeshivah, I spent a lot of time in the second arrondissement with Shuie and Mendy. I have many fond memories of both sons and it disturbed me to see them on television standing around their father, Rabbi Goldstein, with his serious injuries.

The members of the Goldstein family that I have the pleasure to personally know, are the nicest and warmest people that one could meet. This genuine sense of love and warmth is obvious to anyone who has seen their father before the media and the way his congregants have rallied around him.

We must emulate the examples set by Lori, Rabbi Goldstein and the brave congregants of Chabad of Poway to bring more unconditional love into this world.

Wishing you and your families a reflective Shabbat.

Rabbi Gabi