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Good Shabbos Sydenham

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 interesting reading material over Shabbos.

The Money or the Box?

By Rabbi Yossy Goldman

What? Is the Rabbi turning TV Quiz show host? Has he become a gambling man?

Believe it or not, this Rabbi is talking about what all good traditional Rabbis talk about - the Parsha. Have no fear; the Bible isn’t going to Vegas. The Money or the Box really does relate to the 10th Plague G-d visited upon Egypt prior to the Exodus.

The final, devastating Plague of the First-Born saw the Israelite first-born spared. Therefore, they are eternally indebted to G-d for their very lives. So ever since then, the firstborn of Israel “belong to G-d.” And that’s why this Parsha gives us the Mitzvah of Pidyon HaBen, the Redemption of the First-born.

In a tradition that is practiced to this day, when the first-born is a male, the father together with a Kohen - who as minister in the Temple would serve as the Almighty’s agent - perform a redemption ceremony after the child has passed his first month of life. This is known as Pidyon Haben.

(The reason the Pidyon Haben is not nearly as well known as the Bris is because it is the exception rather than the rule. It only applies to first-born males and only when the delivery is natural - not by caesarian section - and if either father or mother are of Kohen or Levite families they are exempt from the procedure.)

In this quaint and curious ceremony, a fascinating dialogue takes place between father and Kohen. The child is brought in and the father makes the following declaration to the Kohen.

 “My Israelite wife has borne me this firstborn son.”

Whereupon the Kohen asks the million-dollar question,

 “Which would you rather have – your first-born son or the five silver shekels you are obligated to give me for his redemption?”

The gathered crowd waits in suspense to hear the father’s response. What will he choose? To keep the five silver shekels and give the hassles of newborns, daybreak nappie changes and future school fees to the Kohen, or will he keep his child and hand over the shekels? Thankfully, Jewish fathers have always made the correct choice, albeit sometimes with a little gentle prodding from their wives.

Now I ask you, is this not ridiculous? ‘The money or the Kid? This is a serious question? I mean, which normal father is going to willingly give away his child to save a few bucks? What is the point of this discussion? Why engage in ancient, obsolete ceremonies that have no relevance?

The answer is that it is very relevant. The Money or the Child means much more than just here and now at the ceremony on Day 31 of this boy’s life. The Kohen is asking the father a very serious question indeed. “Throughout your child’s life, what will be most important to you, what will be uppermost in your mind? Will it be money, materialism, and acquiring more status symbols than your friends or will it be your children and your family life? Where will your priorities lie? Will you slave away building up your business and become an absentee dad? And you, Mom, will you while away the days drinking cappuccino and doing your nails or will you be personally involved in raising your children, teaching, and nurturing them?

That is the Kohen’s question. And based on experience, every father should think very carefully before he will answer that question, hopefully in the affirmative.

So, the next time you’re invited to attend a Pidyon Haben ceremony and you hear that seemingly preposterous question being asked, ‘do you prefer the money or the child?’ don’t laugh, don’t snicker. Don’t grimace and don’t even giggle. Be dead serious. Because a Jewish father is about to decide the future for his family and indeed for our people. Let’s hope he makes the right choice.

The Geometry of Freedom

By Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe

History tells us of many revolutions that began with sublime ideals and visions of liberty, only to be followed by deep disappointment and even greater tyranny and oppression.

The French revolution began in a magnificent blaze of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" and rapidly evolved into the Reign of Terror and the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars that so devastated Europe. In the end, the French exchanged bondage of neglect under the Bourbon Monarchs for bondage of abuse under the revolution. True freedom remained as elusive as ever.

The Russian people had suffered under the autocratic rule of the Romanov Kings for centuries. When they rose up in revolution in 1917, they and the world were filled with hope for a life of freedom and a new, more just and equitable society. This hope was slaughtered in the cellars and torture chambers of the Soviet secret police and frozen in the slave camps of the Gulag. The slavery to the Romanovs was paradise compared to the bondage, absolute lack of freedom, and the slaughter of millions in the new soviet state.

Attaining freedom is not merely about leaving a yoke of bondage behind; it is about a clear vision of a new paradigm for a better world. Otherwise, the revolution will be a true revolution — it will revolve a full 360 degrees and the same ingrained patterns will reassert themselves, and sometimes even worse. A true revolution needs to be one of 180 degrees — a whole new direction.

We see this theme articulated throughout the Passover story. At the burning bush, G‑d tells Moses to instruct Pharaoh "Shalach ami vey'avduni" — "Let my people go, that they may serve Me." Just letting the people go is not going to accomplish anything in the long run, if they're not going to something — to something that's the alternative, indeed the antithesis, to Egypt. Most significantly, the encounter at the burning bush takes place at Mt. Sinai where the Jews would be given the Torah — a truly revolutionary document that would, through the agency of the Jewish people, transform and empower all of humanity.

During the wanderings of the Children of Israel through the desert, we find that every time there were those who shirked their duty, they raised the cry "Let us go back to Egypt." Did they want to suffer again as slaves? Surely not. I think that what the Torah is telling us is that abandoning the new vision and mission leads back to Egypt. Perhaps a new Egypt, but a slavery just the same.

All that is true of nations and world history is true of what the Talmud calls the "small world" of each individual person. Passover is not a commemoration. Passover is reliving and experiencing the liberating power of G‑dliness in our lives.

The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means "constraints." We suffer under the constraints of the habits we maintain simply because we had them yesterday. We are slaves to ingrained pathways of our lives and our world, because we are too busy dusting the covers of our Book of Life to read its pages.

On Passover, and especially at the seder, we put all else aside to concentrate on receiving the power of freedom that flows from G‑d to each one of us. But for this experience to have a lasting effect, we need to remember that not only do we have to leave the old habits ("let my people go"), we need a vision and program of the new ("that they may serve Me"). Otherwise, we end up not far from where we started from.

The Hebrew term vey'avduni — "that they may serve Me" — actually means "That they may transform themselves thorough Me." When we look to the Torah — the receiving of which is the sole purpose of the Exodus — we discover that the freedom to realize the potential of every aspect of our being lies within its Mitzvot. Every area of life stands ready to yield purpose, meaning and fulfillment if we are willing to dare to be truly free. "Truly free" is not freedom from the bondage of whichever pharaoh, king or czar happens to be oppressing us at the moment, but freedom from the bondage of all self-imposed limits on our capacity to truly realize our G‑dly potential.

Door to Holiness

By Rabbi Moshe Bryski

So what's with the blood on the doors?

The Torah tells us of the final steps leading up to the liberation of Israel from slavery in ancient Egypt. On that fateful night, G‑d dealt the final blow to the Egyptians by smiting the firstborn of each of their households while sparing the firstborn of the Israelite households — precipitating total Egyptian surrender.

"They [the Israelites] shall take some of its blood [of the Paschal sacrifice] and place it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses.... When I see the blood I shall pass over you; there shall not be a plague of destruction upon you when I strike in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:7-13).

A simple question: Did G‑d really need a sign on the door in order to know which home was inhabited by Israelites and which not?

Well, the suggestion goes, perhaps G‑d didn't need any extra demarcation, but you know, with it being such a busy night and all, perhaps the Malach Hamavet (Angel of Death) needed that extra marker while making his sweep through the neighbourhood.

But let's be real about this. This is not some scene out of a Hollywood movie where the wrong guy is taken out at the wrong time. Surely the real Angel of Death doesn't use painted street addresses to locate his mark.

So again, what's with the placing of the sacrificial blood on the door? And for that matter, why the door? Why not the window, the stoop or the rooftop?

Let us take a moment here to analyze the concept — the symbolism — of a door. The door creates privacy, in addition to providing shelter and protection. The door is what separates the public person from the private person, the external self from the internal self. In the privacy of one's home is where all of the facades and inhibitions tend to fall away, allowing the best (and sometimes the worst) of what a person has to offer to come to the surface.

By way of example, some people can be very patient on the outside — all smiles and cheerful when in public, and yet, when they come home, it's moody-broody time; no patience for the kids, no tolerance for the spouse, not a smile anywhere in sight. On the other hand, some people can be very quiet, withdrawn, reserved and uptight when in public, but barrels of fun and laughter when within the confines of their own homes. The door is where that transition — from the superficial "you" to the real "you" — tends to take place.

Our Judaism asks of us: What sort of doors do you have? What transpires on the inside of those doors? Is there a spirit of sanctity and holiness on the other side of that threshold? Are there Jewish books on the shelves? Are there kosher products in the cupboard and in the fridge? Are the Shabbat and Jewish holidays celebrated therein with joy, meaning and depth? Are words of Torah shared? Are prayers recited? Only you and the Almighty truly know the answers to those questions.

There is a great deal of discussion about how Jews ought not shy away from behaving as Jews on the outside (as well there should be), but sometimes it behooves us to address the issue of not being lax with our Judaism on the inside — where it really counts.

The Talmud tells us that "there was a great custom in Jerusalem" that whenever a family sat down to a meal, they would tack a cloth on to the door of their home. This served as a sign to all strangers and passersby that it was mealtime and that anyone who was hungry or so desired was welcome to walk on in and partake with them.

What is posted on our proverbial doors? Do we have a symbolic "welcome mat" at the door, or is it more like a "do not disturb" sign? Do we welcome the opportunity to be hospitable and benevolent to those in need of comfort, friendship or sustenance? Or do we (figuratively speaking) slam those doors in the faces of rabbis or needy individuals who seek entry to the sincerity of our hearts?

One of the most beautiful and enduring of all biblical precepts is that of the mezuzah, which is posted on the right doorpost of a Jewish home. The mezuzah testifies that this home is truly a Jewish home; a home where holiness, modesty, decency and goodness are a way of life — even (if not especially) behind closed doors. The mezuzah represents G‑d's presence in the home as well as His protection over all who reside therein. It is not merely a nice Jewish ornament. Indeed, if we only appreciate the mezuzah for its facade — its external appearance — rather than its internal spiritual meaning and we're not too overly concerned about whether the scroll contained therein has been scribed in accordance with the Torah's instructions in that regard, then we're missing what it is that a Jewish door is all about. A Jewish door is where the facade is supposed to end and where truth and authenticity are supposed to begin. It's not what the mezuzah case looks like that's most important; it's what's inside that really matters. What is the true essence of the matter?

So, what was the significance of the Israelites' marking their doorposts with the blood of the Passover sacrifice? It was not an address or a door marker. It was their testimony that they were truly ready to leave Egypt. They were devoted — inside and out — to G‑d and to Moses, indeed to the point of self-sacrifice. And that was why their homes were truly untouchable by the Angel of Death. For the blood on the doorpost was there — not for G‑d's benefit or for His messenger's benefit — but for the benefit of the Israelites who finally understood what it was that separates Jew from Egyptian. It's all in the door.

Yud Shevat

Seventy-one years ago—Shevat 10 on the Jewish calendar—upon the passing of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement passed on to his illustrious son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. In the decades that followed, the Rebbe revolutionized, inspired and guided the post-Holocaust transformation of the Jewish people that continues to this day.

This day, so relevant to every Jew in our generation, is surely a day for reflection, learning, prayer, positive resolutions and acts of loving-kindness.

Please enjoy some selected food for thoughts on this most auspicious occasion. See www.chabad.org.

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Live & Laugh

Commandment

A Hebrew schoolteacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five- and six-year-olds.

After explaining the commandment to “honour” thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?”

Without missing a beat one little boy, the oldest of a family, answered, “Thou shall not kill.”

The Pope and the Rabbi

The Pope met with his Cardinals to discuss a proposal from P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Israel.

"Your Holiness," said one of his Cardinals, “Mr. Netanyahu wants to challenge you to a game of golf to show the friendship and ecumenical spirit shared by the Jewish and Catholic faiths.”

The Pope thought this was a good idea, but he had never held a golf club in his hand. 

“Don’t we have a Cardinal to represent me?" he asked.

"None that play very well," a Cardinal replied. "But, there’s a man named Jack Nicklaus, an American golfer who is a devout Catholic. We can offer to make him a Cardinal. Then ask him to play Mr Netanyahu as your personal representative. In addition to showing our spirit of cooperation, we’ll also win the match.” 

Everyone agreed it was a good idea.

The call was made. Of course, Nicklaus was honoured and agreed to play. 

The day after the match, Nicklaus reported to the Vatican to inform the Pope of the result. “I have some good news and some bad news, your Holiness," said Nicklaus. 

“Tell me the good news first, Cardinal Nicklaus,” said the Pope. 

“Well, your Holiness, I don’t like to brag, but even though I’ve played some pretty terrific rounds of golf in my life, this was the best I have ever played, by far. I must have been inspired from above. My drives were long and true, my irons were accurate and purposeful, and my putting was perfect. With all due respect, my play was truly miraculous.”

“There’s bad news?" asked the Pope.

“Yes, I lost by three strokes to Rabbi Tiger Woodstein.

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You can download any of the Good Shabbos Sydenham by clicking on the link below:

Parshas Chukas-Balak 4 July 2020 / 12 Tammuz 5780

Parshas Korach 27 June 2020 / 5 Tammuz 5780

Parshas Shelach 20 June 2020 / 28 Sivan 5780

Parshas Beha'Alosecha 13 June 2020 / 21 Sivan 5780

Parshas Naso 6 June 2020 / 12 Sivan 5780

Good Yom Tov Shavuot 29 May 2020 / 6 Sivan 5780

Parshas Bamidbar 23 May 2020 / 29 Iyar 5780

Parshas Behat-Bechukosai 16 May 2020 / 22 Iyar 5780

Parshas Emor 9 May 2020 / 15 Iyar 5780

Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim  2 May 2020 / 8 Iyar 5780

Parshas Tazria-Metzora  25 April 2020 / 1 Iyar 5780

Parshas Shemini  18 April 2020 / 24 Nissan 5780

Parshas 2nd Days Pesach  15/16 April 2020 / 21/22 Nissan 5780

Parshas 1st Days Pesach  9/10 April 2020 / 15/16 Nissan 5780

Parshas Tzav  4 April 2020 / 10 Nissan 5780

Parshas Vayikra  28 March 2020 / 3 Nissan 5780

Parshas Vayakhel-Pikudei  21 March 2020 / 25 Adar 5780

Parshas Ki Sasa/Parah  14 March 2020 / 18 Adar 5780

Parshas Yeyzaveh/Zachor  7 March 2020 / 11 Adar 5780

Parshas Terumah  29 February 2020 / 4 Adar 5780

Parshas Mishpatim  22 February 2020 / 27 Shevat 5780

Parshas Yisro  15 February 2020 / 20 Shevat 5780

Parshas Beshalach  7 February 2020 / 13 Shevat 5780

Parshas Bo  1 February 2020 / 6 Shevat 5780

Parshas Vaeira 25 January 2020 / 28 Teves 5780

Parshas Shemos 18 January 2020 / 21 Teves 5780

Parshas Vayechi 11 January 2020 / 14 Teves 5780

Parshas Vayigash 4 January 2020 / 7 Teves 5780

Parshas Mikeitz 28 December 2019 / 30 Kislev 5780

Parshas Vayeishev 21 December 2019 / 23 Kislev 5780

Parshas Vayishlach 14 December 2019 / 16 Kislev 5780

Parshas Veyetzei 7 December 2019 / 9 Kislev 5780

Parshas Toldos 30 November 2019 / 2 Kislev 5780

Parshas Chayei Sara 23 November 2019 / 25 Mar Cheshvan 5780

Parshas Vayera 16 November 2019 / 18 Mar Cheshvan 5780

Parshas Lech Lecha 9 November 2019 / 11 Mar Cheshvan 5780

Parshas Noach 2 November 2019 / 4 Mar Cheshvan 5780

Parshas Bereishit 26 October 2019 / 27 Tishrei 5780

Parshas Chol Hamoed Succos 19 October 2019 / 20 Tishrei 5780

Parshas Haázinu 12 October 2019 / 13 Tishrei 5780

Parshas Vayeilach 5 October 2019 / 6 Tishrei 5780

Parshas Nitzavim 28 September 2019 / 28 Elul 5779

Parshas Ki Tavo 21 September 2019 / 21 Elul 5779

Parshas Ki Teitzei 14 September 2019 / 14 Elul 5779

Parshas Shoftim 7 September 2019 / 7 Elul 5779

Parshas Reéh 31 August 2019 / 30 Menachem Av 5779

Parshas Eikev 24 August 2019 / 23 Menachem Av 5779

Parshas Va'eschanan17 August 2019 / 16 Menachem Av 5779

Parshas Devarim 10 August 2019 / 9 Menachem Av 5779

Parshas Matos - Massai 3 August 2019 / 2 Menachem Av 5779

Parshas Pinchas 27 July 2019 / 24 Tamuz 5779

Parshas Balak 20 July 2019 / 17 Tamuz 5779

Parshas Chukas 13 July 2019 / 10 Tamuz 5779

Parshas Korach 6 July 2019 / 3 Tamuz 5779

Parshas Sh'lach 29 June 2019 / 26 Sivan 5779

Parshas Beha'aloscha 22 June 2019 / 19 Sivan 5779

Parshas Nasso 15 June 2019 / 12 Sivan 5779

Parshas Bamidbar / Good Yom Tov Shavous 8 June 2019 / 5 Sivan 5779

Parshas Bechukosai 1 June 2019 / 27 Iyar 5779

Parshas Behar 25 May 2019 / 20 Iyar 5779

Parshas Emor 18 May 2019 / 13 Iyar 5779

Parshas Kedoshim 11 May 2019 / 6 Iyar 5779

Parshas Acharei  4 May 2019 / 29 Nissan 5779

Good Yom Tov Pesach 26 April 2019 / 21 Nissan 5779

Good Yom Tov Pesach 20 April 2019 / 15 Nissan 5779

Parshas Metzorah 13 April 2019 / 8 Nissan 5779

Parshas Tazria 6 April 2019 / 1 Nissan 5779

Parshas Shmini 30 March 2019 / 23 Adar2 5779

Parshas Tzav 23 March 2019 / 11 Adar2 5779

Parshas Vayikra 16 March 2019 / 9 Adar2 5779

Parshas Pikudei 9 March 2019 / 2 Adar2 5779

Parshas Vayakel 2 March 2019 / 25 Adar1 5779

Parshas Ki Sisa 23 February 2019 / 18 Adar1 5779

Parshas Tetzaveh 16 February 2019 / 11 Adar1 5779

Parshas Terumah 9 February 2019 / 4 Adar1 5779

Parshas Mishpatim 2 February 2019 / 27 Shevat 5779

Parshas Yisro 26 January 2019 / 20 Shevat 5779

Parshas Beshalach 19 January 2019 / 13 Shevat 5779

Parshas Bo 12 January 2019 / 6 Shevat 5779

Parshas Shemos 5 January 2019 / 28 Teves 5779

Parshas Vayechi 22 December 2018 / 14 Teves 5779

Parshas Vayigash 15 December 2018 / 7 Teves 5779

Parshas Miketz 8 December 2018 / 30 Kislev 5779

Parshas Vayeishev 1 December 2018 / 23 Kislev 5779

Parshas Vayishlach 24 November 2018 / 16 Kislev 5779

Parshas Vayeitzei 17 November 2018 / 9 Kislev 5779

Parshas Todos 10 November 2018 / 2 Kislev 5779

Parshas Chayei Sarah 3 November 2018 / 25 Mar Chesvan 5779

Parshas Vayeira 27 October 2018 / 18 Mar Chesvan 5779

Parshas Lech Lecha 20 October 2018 / 11 Mar Chesvan 5779

Parshas Noah 13 October 2018 / 4 Mar Chesvan 5779

Parshas Bereishis 6 October 2018 / 27 Tishrei 5779

Good Yom Tov Sydenham Shmini Atzeret 1 October 2018  22 Tishrei 5779

Chol Hamoed Succost 29 September 2018  20 Tishrei 5779

Good Yom Tov Sydenham Succos 24/25 September 2018  15/16 Tishrei 5779

Parshas Ha'azinu 22 September 2018 / 13 Tishrei 5779

Parshas Vayelech 15 September 2018 / 6 Tishrei 5779

Good YomTov Sydenham Rosh Hashana10 September 2018 / 1 Tishrei 5779

Parshas Nitzavim 8 September 2018 / 28 Elul 5778

Parshas Ki Teitzei 25 August 2018 / 14 Elul 5778

Parshas Shoftim 18 August 2018 / 7 Elul 5778

Parshas Re'eh 11August 2018 / 30 Menachem Av 5778

Parshas Eikev 4 August 2018 / 23 Menachem Av 5778

Parshas Va'eschanan 28 July 2018 / 16 Menachem Av 5778

Parshas Davrim 21 July 2018 / 9 Menachem Av 5778

Parshas Matos / Masei  13 July 2018 / 2 Menachem Av 5778

Parshas Pinchas  7 July 2018 / 24 Tamuz 5778

Parshas Balak  30 June 2018 / 17 Tamuz 5778

Parshas Chukas  23June 2018 / 10 Tamuz 5778

Parshas Korach  16 June 2018 / 3 Tamuz 5778

Parshas Sh'lach  09 June 2018 / 26 Sivan 5778

Parshas Beha'alosecha 02 June 2018 / 19 Sivan 5778

Parshas Naso 26 May 2018 / 12 Sivan 5778

Shavuos 20 May 2018 / 6 Sivan 5778

Parshas Bamidbar 19 May 2018 / 5 Sivan 5778

Parshas Behar-Bechukosai 12 May 2018 / 27 Iyar 5778

Parshas Emor 5 May 2018 / 20 Iyar 5778

Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim 28 April 2018 / 13 Iyar 5778

Sat, 23 January 2021 10 Shevat 5781