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Posted 17 tammuz 5780 / 9 july 2020


What’s Nu @ Sydenham Shul?

At the Forefront of Jewish Life

Your Family Shul Where Everyone is Welcome

By Rabbi Yossy Goldman

Dear Friends,

Rabbi’s Blog

Today was the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, the shortest and easiest of the year in SA, and one of the longest in the Northern Hemisphere. A number of calamities befell our people on this day in history – the breaking of the Two Tablets by Moshe when he came down the mountain and witnessed the sin of the Golden Calf, the cessation of the Daily Offering in the Temple, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Romans which led to the destruction of the Second Temple three weeks later, on Tisha B’Av. This begins the period of semi-mourning known as the Three Weeks, when no weddings take place, no festivities with music, we refrain from haircutting and shaving, etc. (that’s why I had a haircut yesterday and immediately lost about 5 kilos!). We always pray that these days of sadness be transformed to days of gladness and joy with Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Temple. Amen!

Interestingly, in this week’s Parsha there is a verse “Vayehi achrei hamageifoh - and it came to pass after the plague.” It is a reference to the plague which took the lives of 24,000 Jews towards the end of Moshe’s life until Pinchas stepped up and courageously acted against the most brazen perpetrators of immorality and thanks to his zealous action the plague stopped. I saw a copy of a New York Yiddish newspaper with that verse as its headline. It seems they were proclaiming the end of Covid in their own religious enclave where some experts are suggesting that they may have been affected so heavily that they have reached “herd immunity.” I do see that Shuls there have reopened and even Bar Mitzvahs and weddings seem to be going back to “normal” or semi-normal.

Not so here in Gauteng though! We are in the eye of the storm; and are going through a profoundly serious surge of this pandemic and more and more people we know are testing positive! My family doctor told me yesterday that in his practice alone he has some 80 Covid positive patients, and four have died! PLEASE, I beg of you, do not be complacent. We should be more careful now than ever before! Thank you. May everyone have a Refuah Shleimah, a complete and speedy recovery!

So many people have been singing the praises of Hatzolah, bless them, now more than ever! They have just started a helpful and informative What’s App group and they are keeping us up to date with everything we need to know regarding the pandemic. Here’s a useful link for you to star getting it:

SydShul News

You may be aware that there is a Global Siyum HaRambam taking place tonight. Tens of thousands of Jews study the works of the Rambam – Maimonides daily. There are 3 Cycles. Studying 3 Chapters of Mishne Torah daily, or studying one Chapter daily, or studying his Sefer Hamitzvos daily. This year, all 3 cycles are concluding their cycle TODAY! In light of this, there has been a worldwide initiative to invite as many Jews as possible to join in one of these daily Torah study programmes.

Here at SydShul, Rabbi Stern and I have pleasure in offering you the following simple and easy option to unite with Jews around the world in the study of the Rambam, one of the greatest Jewish teachers of all time!

“Give Us 2 Minutes and We'll Give You the Whole Torah!” How exactly? Maimonides wrote a book which lists all the 613 Mitzvahs of the Torah. It's known as Rambam's Sefer Hamitzvos. We have created a new WhatsApp Group just for this initiative. Each day we will post an audio of a few of the 613 Mitzvahs. The podcast will be no longer than two minutes. Following the daily cycle studied internationally, we will have covered all 613 in just under one year!

We begin tomorrow! So far, we have been overwhelmed by your amazing response! We only announced this yesterday and already have some 300 participants from SydShul! So sign up quickly by clicking on the link below. Only we can post on this group, and we'll only post once a day. Click here to join: Hope to have you on board!

This past Monday we had another huge winner for our Zoom event. Over a thousand people watched Dr Bernd Wollschlaeger’s talk entitled “My Father was a Nazi. I Fought in the IDF!” As I said, being the son of a Holocaust survivor, I was initially somewhat uneasy about this event. But Dr Bernd, or Dov ben Avraham, spoke so eloquently, honestly, genuinely, and humbly, that he won me over. Quite brave to do what he did! Stay tuned for next week’s big event!

And tomorrow afternoon’s Pre-Kabbalat Shabbat event on Zoom will feature Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum, Director of Chabad of Irvine, the “South African Shul” in California. Our guest singer is the young singing sensation, Shmuly Brill. That’s tomorrow at 4:15 pm. We plan on ending at around 5 pm so there is ample time to prepare for Shabbos candle-lighting which is at 5:13 pm. Thank you to our very kind sponsors, the Black Family in memory of Chaya bat Sheftel and our old friends from Israel whose visit we missed this year, Josh and Betty Wineberg, in memory of Moshe ben Chaim, Betty’s late brother who passed away last year while they were in the Kruger Park. May both neshamas have an Aliyah.

Thank you to all who have been sponsoring our Zoom events. It’s a mitzvah! I trust you are getting good value for money! If you’d like to sponsor a Shul Zoom event please contact Rabbi Stern at

People from other Shuls and even people around the world have become big fans of ours and all our exciting Zoom events, even from Israel where there are so many teachers. Please, get connected! If you still have not yet joined our special What’s App group called SydShul Corona Care, here’s the link:

And if you missed Rochel on SABC TV last Sunday, here’s a link. She comes on at about…08:25.

And now to tell you of our new experiment. Instead of publishing GOOD SHABBOS SYDENHAM as a separate entity, we will now incorporate its content here in this very What’s Nu. So, don’t go away until you’ve gone to the very end. I suggest you print it for some good Shabbos reading at your leisure. And, please G-d, when Shul reopens, we will publish it again. Feel free to give us your personal opinions.

Sydnamics Magazine – Your favourite Rosh Hashanah read and Sydenham Shul’s official magazine “Sydnamics,” has established itself as an informative and well-read publication featuring articles of worth as well as a pictorial roundup of “the year that was.” This high-quality publication is eagerly anticipated by all congregants and is an ideal opportunity for you and your company to be associated with a Congregation that for many years has been at the forefront of the Jewish Community. Family Greetings are only R180. All communications to Jonty Cohen at Thank you.

Again, we thank all those who have responded positively to our Gaboim’s letter outlining our campaign to recover monies owing the Shul by debtors and offering a once-off opportunity to settle one’s debts in a very favourable manner, i.e. with a new ONE - TIME ‘PAY WHAT YOU CAN’ - PAYMENT PLAN. It can be done by cash, debit order, credit card, or by discussing a payment plan.Please log on to the following interactive site: For any other queries, or if you have not received a statement please email Thank you!

Social Announcements

Mazel Tov to Cassi-Lee Gewer and Evan Rubin on their engagement, and to the parents Larry and Melissa Gewer and Gavin and Janine Rubin, and grandparents Bernie and Rose Gewer, Rhoda Rubin, and Mike and Mary Cohen. Enjoy!

Mazel Tov to Gabi Katz and Josh Falkson on their engagement and to the proud grandmother, Grace Katz. Hope you have a ‘normal’ wedding!

Mazel Tov to Reuven and Ada Lewus on the birth of their second great granddaughter in Israel. Much nachas.

Mazel Tov to Stacey and Daniel Lifshitz on the birth of a daughter, and to the grandparents Roslyn and Ian Edelman and Ingrid and Mervyn Lifshitz. Lots of nachas in good health.

We wish a Refuah Shleimah to Hilton Fox, Maish Franks, Percy Suntup, Fay Kilov, Josh Marcus, Elan Sawitzky, Alan Leibowitz, Sandra Gordon, Roz Basserabie, Jeff Jacobs, Rhona Scheftz, Arthur Hurwitz, Michael Levitan, Sholem Treger, and Shaun Karpelowsky. Complete and speedy recoveries to all, please G-d.

Sincere Condolences to Stan Klaff and his brother Jack in London on the passing of their 100-year-old mom, Rosa Klaff. Long life and good health.

Sincere Condolences to Merle Beder and family on the passing of her father, John Osrin. Long life and only simchas please G-d.

Sincere Condolences to the Yawitch and Diamond families on the passing of Alan Yawitch. We wish you all long life and only happy occasions in future.

Sincere Condolences to Nadine Lewis on the passing of her mom, Elba Lewis, and to niece Rochelle Grossman. Long life to the whole family.

NB: Social announcements should kindly be addressed to Jonty Cohen on by Thursday mornings latest to be included in this What’s Nu emailing.


Remember, Rabbi Stern is giving daily learning at 10:30 am as well as continuing with his Wednesday night Gemorra Shiur. My own Sunday morning Mishna and Tuesday evening Gemorra Shiurim continue with excellent numbers participating, and I am enjoying my Thursday afternoon series on Pirkei Avot called Ethics from Sinai. By popular demand, I continued with another 6-week series on Pirkei Avot. We have completed two separate series’ having done Chapter 6 today. We will do another 6-week series starting again next Thursday. No prior knowledge necessary. You may join at any time. Thursdays 4:45 pm until 5:20 pm. All welcome, ladies and gentlemen, and mature boys and girls too.

You are welcome to call the Shul office on our new lockdown number, 064 326 6984, which number has been redirected and is now managed offsite. You may send emails to

Should you require advice or assistance from Rabbi Goldman you may contact him at or Rabbi Stern at

All account matters should be addressed to Jonty Cohen on Jonty has the Shul’s credit card machine and anyone who would be so kind as to want to pay their Shul fees or make a donation via credit card should please contact him. This will be deeply appreciated as our Treasury is seriously struggling to balance the budget. Please use the phone number 064 326 6984 or email One may also make payments online, including SnapScan, at Go to the bottom of the Home Page.

Until our Shuls do re-open, please G-d, remember that the Shul at Sandringham Gardens continues to operate faithfully for daily Minynim. The residents are ready and able to say Kaddish in a Minyan for your loved ones. Go to to submit names if you have a Yahrtzeit coming up and they will gladly do it on your behalf.

Here is a link to a new publication which I think is excellent. This week’s Parsha in Perspective features a map of Israel with the way the land was distributed to all the 12 Tribes of Israel. Click here.

Looking to share accommodation? Owner of lovely, big 3 bedroomed house in Sydenham is looking for someone to share the house with. Rent will include: Water, Electricity, Domestic, Wi-Fi. Choice of 2 bedrooms, full bathroom-bath, and shower. Shomer Shabbos owner. Lilach Kaplan. 064 650 7754.


This week’s Parsha is Pinchas. Aaron’s grandson Pinchas is rewarded for his act of zealotry in killing the Simeonite prince Zimri and the Midianite princess who was his paramour: G‑d grants him a covenant of peace and the priesthood.

A census of the people counts 601,730 men between the ages of twenty and sixty. Moses is instructed on how the Land is to be divided by lottery among the tribes and families of Israel. The five daughters of Tzelafchad petition Moses that they be granted the portion of the land belonging to their father, who died without sons; G‑d accepts their claim and incorporates it into the Torah’s laws of inheritance.

Moses is shown the Promised Land but is told that he will not merit to enter it. He asks Hashem to appoint a worthy successor, so the people not be like “sheep without a shepherd.” G-d empowers Joshua to succeed him and lead the people into the Land of Israel.

The Parshah concludes with a detailed list of the daily offerings, and the additional offerings brought on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and all the festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret.



Parshas Pinchas

Candle-lighting 5:13 pm

Pirkei Avot: Chapter 6

Shabbos ends 6:05 pm

Rochel and I wish you all a Good Shabbos. We can’t wait to (hopefully…please G-d) see ya soon in person!

Here’s my Quotation of the Week: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Stay safe, sane, sanitised, and spiritual!

Zei gezunt!

Still missing you madly! Hope to be together back in Shul ASAP!

L’hitraot! Warm regards,


Posted 17 Tammuz 5780 / 9 July 2020


What’s Your Bottom Line?

By Rabbi Yossy Goldman

This is the Parsha of Pinchas the Zealous. The courageous young priest stood up against idolatry and immorality and, in the end, saved Israel from a devastating plague.

While Pinchas’ radical response made him a hero worthy of having a Torah section named after him, we wouldn’t necessarily suggest to our children that they emulate his behavior. Those were extraordinary times. Today, violence dare not become our norm. So, Pinchas - hero though he may be - cannot become our role model. At least not when it comes to the details of what he did.

Nevertheless, Pinchas does give us something very important to consider. What is it that would arouse our righteous indignation? What, in Jewish life today, would get us emotionally worked up? What would it take to galvanize us into action in defense of that which we consider sacred and inviolate? Is there something that would incense us? Anything?

I am reminded of a famous saying attributed to the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson. He said, “A Jew is neither willing nor able to allow himself to become divorced from G-d.” In other words, once a Jew becomes consciously aware that what he is contemplating doing will cause him to be alienated from G-d and that which is holy; he simply will not - and cannot - do it. Even if he is not remotely “religious,” it is something which comes from his inner essence, his spiritual DNA. It is in his very being.

How many true stories we all know that validate this principle. One that springs to mind is of a Jewish actor during the Holocaust. In those days especially, the stage was not the place where one would find “nice Jewish boys,” at least not nice, Jewish, religious boys. When the Nazis invaded the town, they desecrated the synagogues and - painful as it is to write these words - they unraveled the Torah scrolls and rolled them out in the gutter. To add insult to injury, they ordered this fellow, the actor, to urinate on the Torah. He was not at all religious. He probably hadn’t looked into a Torah in many years. Yet, he could not bring himself to commit such sacrilege. He refused. The savage beasts killed him on the spot. He gave his life al Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying the name of G-d and he went down in history as a holy martyr.

For the Jewish actor, that was his bottom line. What is ours? Religiously, is it Shabbos, Yom Kippur, Intermarriage? Marrying out on Yom Kippur with a pork chop reception? Morally, is it Insider Trading, Fraud, Murder? Nationally, is it Annexation, Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv? Where do we draw the line?

Our politically correct rules of etiquette promote such unparalleled tolerance that people’s democratic right to do anything they may wish has become the defining principle of our generation. The Ten Commandments are obsolete. “Thou shalt not violate my democratic right” is the first and last commandment.

Of course, in any democratic country people may choose their own lifestyles as they wish. But when there is absolutely nothing that arouses our passion, nothing that raises our blood pressure, nothing that sparks any kind of protest, then we have become an insipid, innocuous, characterless society.

The story of Pinchas and his brave stand for G-d, Torah, and morality give us cause to consider and an important point to ponder. You don’t have to be a zealot to have a bottom line. What is my bottom line? What would I get passionate about? Is there anything in Jewish life that inspires me, excites me, or incenses me enough to take a stand?

You are invited to think about it and share your feelings. I would be happy to see your response.


Don’t Psychoanalyse!

By Rabbi Shimon Posner

On the plane back to America, I was sitting next to a psychologist who mentioned to me how important it is for them never to psychoanalyze family members. One of the reasons: it’s not fair. Of course, Jews were psychoanalyzing way before Sigmund invited people to lie on his couch—we just had no name for it.

For the non-professional, a greater danger is pseudo-analysis. “Oh, she always does that, she’s so compulsive.” “There he goes again with his bipolar.” Worse: “The reason she always helps is because she’s eager to please—it’s her low self-esteem.” “You know why he gives so much tzedakah? He needs to see his name on a building. Typical megalomaniac!”

Says who? Is it that simple to know everything going on in someone else’s head? Are you always that accurate with what’s happening in your own head? Secondly, what difference does it make? A good act with bad intentions beats a bad act with good intentions—and the pavement is a lot smoother.

Granted, giving it your best and things not succeeding the way you like is aggravating and unrewarding. We know that. And all G‑d asks is that you do your best; the results are in His hands, we accept that. And that no action is ever wasted, good always accumulates, and whether results are immediately recognized or not is immaterial in the long run—and, from a G‑dly, timeless (beyond quantum physics) perspective, redundant. We believe that. But that is not what we’re talking about.

Look at it this way: Guy A helps old lady cross street because: the TV crew is filming, she has a big will, she has a wealthy nephew, etc. Guy B doesn’t help old lady cross street because: the TV crew is filming, she has a big will, she has a wealthy nephew, and how dare you think he’s so shallow! See, bottom line is, the lady needs help; your yin-yang harmony don’t do much. As the Kabbalah puts it: Love and awe are what make a mitzvah soar. A mitzvah without love and awe is a bird without wings. Love and awe without a mitzvah is wings without a bird.

Okay, so action is it. But can intentions be improved, sublimated, sanctified? Well, now you’re getting serious. But if you’re not just doing it, then you’re seriously not getting it.

The Parshah? When Pinchas acted decisively, he was ridiculed because his grandfather, a pantheistic priest, had done similarly: a plus-c’est-change chip off the old block in different circumstance.

No, G‑d announced at the beginning of the Parshah, he did good; I alone know the inner workings of man. Judge him primarily by what he does. And unless you’re in the business, your couch is for people to sit on—and if you’re blessed with it, for overflow company to sleep on.


The Extremist

The extremist makes us feel uncomfortable, because he makes hypocrites of us all.

By Rabbi Yanki Tauber

He's the person we love to hate. And hate to love.

The extremist is someone about whom we say things like, "I wish I had the courage to do that" (if the position being taken to the extreme is our own), and, "It just goes to show where that kind of thinking can lead you" (if it's not). We also say things like, "I'm one hundred percent against that kind of thing, but..." or "Someone has to do it, but..."

We say to ourselves, "If you truly believe in something, well, then you have to go all the way with it." But we also say, "There must be boundaries. Without boundaries, the greatest good becomes evil."

The extremist makes us feel uncomfortable, because he makes hypocrites of us all: if we all acted on what we believed in, we'd all be extremists. The extremist also puts our minds at ease: at least someone is doing it. He makes us question our most deeply-held convictions: "I think he's doing the right thing; so why are his actions abhorrent to me?" And: "I totally disagree with what he's doing, so why do I admire him so?"

The extremist scares us because he says: "There is me and there is my G‑d. There is nothing else." "Nothing else?!" we cry. "Did not G‑d create a world, too?" But we also have a deep need for the extremist. We need truth in our lives. And can anything be true unless someone, somewhere, has carried it to its ultimate conclusions?

Chassidic master Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk once asked: The latter part of the book of Numbers consists of five Torah readings: Chukat, Balak, Pinchas, Mattot and Massei. Chukat and Balak are sometimes read together. The same is the case with Mattot and Massei. But the Torah section of Pinchas, which is smack in the middle of these readings, is always read alone. Why?

Replied the Kotzker: Pinchas was an extremist. An extremist always stands alone


Live & Laugh

Five Mothers

Four Catholic mothers and a Jewish woman were having coffee.

The first Catholic woman tells her friends, “My son is a priest. When he walks into a room, everyone calls him Father.”

The second Catholic mother chirps, “My son is a Bishop. When he walks into a room people call him Your Grace.”

The third Catholic mom says, “My son is a Cardinal. When he enters a room, everyone says Your Eminence.”

The fourth Catholic woman declares, “My son is the Pope. When he walks into a room people call him Your Holiness.”

They all turn to the Jewish woman, and give her a subtle, “Well?”

She replies, “I have a son. He’s argumentative, confrontational, self-centred, narcissistic, impulsive, impossible and irrational. When he walks into a room, people say, Oh My G-d!”

Meeting ID: 813 028 4050

Password: sydshul



Tue, 14 July 2020 22 Tammuz 5780