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Sukkot

Sukkot is this Sunday evening!!
It is one of my favorite festivals since my childhood in Israel, its the holiday of the open tent.
We marry under a chuppah that is open on all sides to remind us of the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim ( welcoming our guests).
We are encouraged to open our door to a stranger, but my question is: how easy is it to actually open your heart to another person, a stranger perhaps, or how difficult would it be to open your mind to a foreign idea?

Our patriarch Abraham and our Matriarch Sarah show us amazing example of hospitality when they welcome the three angels to their house (without knowing who they are). It explores the exoteric idea, I would like to explore the esoteric idea behind the story. If we are to grow in life/ in this world, if one gives this principal some thought, we would soon realize that in order for us to progress (and after all we are progressive Jews) we will need to open ourselves up, in order for this to take place.
One can look to G-d or nature if you prefer, to find answers – just observe how flowers open themselves up to sunlight – and if they did not, if they refused to open themselves up, what would become of such flowers?

When new or strange ideas are put to humanity, humanity usually, more often then not reacts with inhumanity to such strange thoughts. Today is also a mini celebration for me, as we celebrate being a “progressive Jews,” this because we as a community have the right, and are actually encouraged to “think” about things, things that may well be strange at first. But if our hearts and minds are sufficiently open to such strange or simply new ideas, then we have a very real opportunity for growth – with a new idea or understanding of things, we can very well end up seeing things from a different, or higher perspective, then the one we are used to.
Perhaps we see that someone close or indeed a stranger did something that really annoyed us, but when we opened ourselves up, even for just a little while to another possibility, we may well understand that they only did so out of genuine care or concern for us – for our wellbeing. If we do not open our hearts and minds up to new or strange ideas (and here I do not suggest that we simply or blindly accept such ideas) but only that we open ourselves up long enough to give a moments genuine consideration to them. Perhaps then with G-d’s blessings, we will be opening ourselves up, just like the flowers, long enough to let in the light. I am only suggesting that we be open, that our hearts and minds are not closed on all sides, that just like our Sukkas, our hearts and minds are open to a possibility, a higher possibility, no matter how strange such a possibility may seem or appear to us at first sight.

From the example of our Matriarch and Patriarch lets strive to be better hosts, and be mindful to keep our tent doors open whether those doors are the doors of our home or the doors of our congregation.
May we all be rewarded by G-d with many blessings for making the stranger feel at home among us.
Join us this coming sunday at our open Sukkah !
Chag Sameach!

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner and we know that the commandment of this festival is to listen to the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn. Aside from sacrifice, this is the only specific action mandated for this day in the Torah.

It says in the Un’taneh Tokef prayer that “the great shofar will be sounded, and a still small voice will be heard”.

Each human being needs to open his or her’s heart to hear this “small voice”

that comprises the pain and love of the entire world.

Each and every human being…

In Talmud, we learn about a person that hears the sound of the shofar, when he walks near the synagogue “… if one should happen to pass by a synagogue…, and should hear the cornet (on the New Year) …” (Tractate Rosh Hashana 3,7)

The meaning is that his heart is open, he is ready to “hear,” but not with the congregation, not within the community. This situation resonates with so many people, many people are ready and willing  to learn the meaning and spirit of our tradition, but  they want to do it “from the side” as they are afraid to cross the doorstep of the synagogue, because they see it  as a complex of certain stereotypes and formal rites.

During the festive meal for the Rosh Hashanah will all gather at the table to eat delicious food that prepared with love and care, we unlikely to have a walnut nut because in Hebrew gematria word Walnut is equal to the word Sin,

 there is no place for it at the table during the days of we when we pray for forgiveness and repentance.

My mom, Rabbi Elena Rubinshtein, discovered that our “poor walnut” was not deservedly expelled, because when someone was calculating the gematria of the words Walnut אגוז and Sin חטא, they did not count the last letter Aleph in the word Sin.

 And this is how the stereotype was born – Walnut = Sin (אגוז = חטא)

But in fact, the gematria of the word Walnut is Good (אגוז = טוב = 8)

The symbol of sin can be turned into a symbol of all the good that exists in the world.

We were all created to learn, to correct mistakes, to care, to love, not to be indifferent, not to pass “by”- that is the essence of the creation!

May we be able to learn and understand that every “sin” can be turned to the good.

Shana Tova Ve Metukah!

Official Opening

8 September 2019 saw an amazing dream come true with the official opening of Beit Luria, the 11th Progressive Synagogue in South Africa and the first in Gauteng in almost 50 years.

 It is also the first Progressive Shul opened by female rabbi.  Rabbi Julia Margolis persevered against all odds – with the assistance of a few friends including Steve Lurie,  Honorary Life President of the South African Union of Progressive Judaism, and Leonard Singer, also a past member of the SAUPJ – built up a congregation which then applied successfully to the SAUPJ for affiliation as the 11th Progressive Shul. 

Today we also saw the handing over of a Torah scroll donated by Rabbi Hillel Cohn of San Bernardino in California, USA. 

 It was an emotional event and especially so for Rabbi Julia Margolis in fulfilling her dream, and for those who completed the journey with her.

Rabbi Julia Margolis and the management of Beit Luria look forward to a new journey together with SAUPJ and the World Union of Progressive Judaism, to advance and promote the traditions and values of Progressive Judaism within our community and by extension our country and the worldwide movement.