Rabbi Milecki's Message: Change Comes From Within!

21/04/17 14:40:08


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Dear [first_name],

Well over twenty years ago, I established the electronic South Head News as a vehicle for me to communicate with my congregants. In doing so, South Head became the first shule in Australia to use the Web as a tool of Rabbinic communication with its members, trailblazing the way for many others. Under my directorship, South Head eNews has undergone many incarnations since then - but common to them all has been my desire to communicate with you and inspire you. I have meticulously avoided allowing South Head eNews to be used for anything but inspiring congregants and friends and informing you of our activities.

It is my intention to continue directing and using South Head eNews as it was always intended. Should you notice my absence from an edition of eNews, or should it contain material that does not fit the mission statement above, please know that it has not come from me.

At any time, should you wish to communicate with me, please do not reply to this email. To ensure that I receive your email please write to rabbi@me.com.

We celebrated a wonderful Pesach at South Head, with good attendances and a warm atmosphere.

As usual I tried to inspire congregants to the best of my ability, and from the positive feedback that I have received believe I was largely successful.

Over the next few weeks I will endeavour to share with you the highlights of some of my sermons. For today here is a short synopsis of my drasha on 7th day Pesach.

Walking out of the Apple Store on 5th Avenue and 59th Street, just across the road from Central Park, a Jew sees the famous Hebrew Union sausage stand. Surprisingly it is manned by a Buddhist Monk.

Seeing the sign advertising sausage rolls for $5, he orders one, giving the monk a $50 note. It doesn’t take a minute before he has the steaming roll in his hand, smiling broadly as he takes his first bite. Enjoying his sausage he waits by the stand. And waits and waits.

Finally, noticing him still standing there, the monk asks him if he would like anything else. “Change, please,” says the Jew. 

“You want change?” asks the monk. “Change, my friend, must come from within!”

As the Jews prepared to leave Egypt they witnessed many miracles: the Nile turned to blood, there was a plague of frogs, and of course the firstborn Egyptians were struck down. Yet both these and the other miracles performed in Egypt, great as they were, were no more than an expansion of the nature they already knew. The Nile flowed at it always had but with a different colour; there were always frogs, now there were many more; people die, but this time there was an epidemic of simultaneous deaths. 

The splitting of the Red Sea was an order of magnitude beyond the Egyptian experience. Water became solid. Sea became dry land. As Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinszaltz explains, it was as if G-d was saying to humanity, “You think your world is real? It’s no more real than than the props in a movie. The solid-looking house, the waterfall, the bridge - are nothing more than cardboard facades to be moved around at will.”

The splitting of the Red Sea forever changed our sense of certainty about the world. Everything around us was only as real as G-d - the Director - wanted it to be.

Consider this: Just before crossing the sea, the Jews, trapped between the Egyptians behind them and the sea in front of them, believed that they would die an awful death. Immediately after, they realise that there is no reality to either the Egyptians or the sea, except by the Will of G-d.

After experiencing this enormous change of consciousness, you would have expected them to forever look at the world differently, to fear nothing at all other than G-d, the master-puppeteer .

Yet the very next day, when they arrived in Mara and were faced with a lack of fresh water, instead of turning to G-d in prayer, they began complaining!

G-d sweetened the water - and again they complained.

G-d sent them the Manna - and they complained again.

A nation of kvetchers, like you have never seen! 

What do we take from this?

Often you will hear people say, “if G-d would only show us today the miracles He showed our ancestors in the past, we would all be good!”

But would we?

The Gulf War of 1991 had the whole world on edge. The general feeling was that we were witnessing the precursor to a world-wide conflagration. Radio stations commenced their announcements with Gulf time, instead of the normal Eastern Standard Time. Fear gripped everyone - with one exception. The Lubavitcher Rebbe. He boldly prophesied that Israel would be the safest country in the world. He encouraged UIA, UJA, and many other groups to visit Israel in the midst of the war, saying that the “Eyes of G-d are upon it”. And so it was. 39 scuds fell on Israel without the loss of a single life due to a direct scud hit. One scud fell on Kuwait with the loss of more than ninety American lives.  The Rebbe also predicted that it would end before Purim - and indeed it did. On Purim Eve. It was the happiest Purim Israel ever experienced. A miracle in our times!

But fast-forward a week, a month, or a year. Did people change their behaviour in recognition of G-d’s open intercession in nature? Or did they revert to the way they always were?

The Lesson: Generosity, Kindness, Miracles - from without - do not make you a better person. Even, sadly, when demonstrated by G-d Himself. The ONLY thing that makes you a better person are the changes that you make in yourself.

As the Buddhist monk said, “Change, my friend, comes from within!”

During the fifties the Rebbe hosted a group of university students who were interested in understanding more about Judaism and Chassidism. Many questions were asked, and answered. Towards the end of the session, one of the students put up his hand, asking the Rebbe whether it would be OK for him to ask a “cheeky’ question. The Rebbe, of course, responded in the affirmative. 

“They say,” began the student, “that the Rebbe can perform miracles. Could you perform a miracle?”

“Not only can a Rebbe perform miracles,” responded the Rebbe to the surprised group. “Each and everyone of you can perform a miracle!” 

The Rebbe continued, “When you go home today, think of something - a mitzvah, a good deed - that you imagined that you could never, ever do. Then break your nature, and commit yourself to resolutely and absolutely doing it anyway. That would be the truest and most enduring miracle of all! No external miracle that a Rebbe can perform comes even close.”

Change, my friends, comes from within!

With best wishes for a Good Shabbos on behalf of the Rebbetzin and all of us at South Head,

Rabbi Benzion Milecki OAM.

President's Message
Shabbat Mevorchim and the ANZACs

Over the past 5 months we have enjoyed lunches with guest speakers on Shabbos Mevorchim, sponsored by Kevin Bermeister in memory of his late mother, Linda. Kevin has decided to suspend this project until further notice; we thank him for his support.

This Shabbos Mevorchim will be special in its own way. We are honoured to have Charles Aronson, one of our congregants, recite the Ode of Remembrance and speak about Jewish involvement in the Australian military. Charles recently stepped down after 5 years as president of NAJEX, the NSW Association of Ex Servicemen & Women. Some biographical notes on Charles taken from the Najex website are shown below.

We will have a special Kiddush in the Herbert Hall following the service. Jenny Yehudah is sponsoring a cholent and there will be made-in-house Anzac biscuits, ice cream for the kids and some Australiana decorations.

Another of our congregants, John Temple, provides additional background information for Anzac Day (mostly from Mark Dapin’s latest book, Jewish Anzacs: Jews in the Australian Military):

The 2014-18 Centenary of Anzac Commemoration includes the anniversaries of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli and other major battles including the Light Horse victory at Beersheba. Our own Prime Minister will be representing Australia at this commemoration in October.

Many Australians have learned about the sacrifice of fellow Australians in these wars. The Australian Jewish community should be proud of the extraordinary contribution made by the relatively small Jewish community. By the end of World War 2, more than 7000 Australian Jews had served in the defence forces. At least 340 were killed and buried in military cemeteries in France and Jerusalem among other places. Three Jews were awarded the Victoria Cross.

It should not be forgotten the contribution made by Sir John Monash whose exceptional leadership of the Australian and allied forces led to the victory on the western front during WW1. He was proud and open about being Jewish.

In recent times the Jewish contribution was highlighted with the death of Greg Sher (nephew of Harold Milner) in Afghanistan in 2009. 

Charles Aronson served in the Australian Army Reserve as a Platoon Commander and also as Intelligence Officer for 17th Battalion and 2nd Division (Eastern Command).

Charles has been President of Masada College, Treasurer of the NSW Jewish Communal Appeal, North Shore Chairman of both JCA and UIA, and on the Boards of both the Institute for Jewish Communal Development and the Shalom Institute.

Professionally, Charles was a dealer in antiques, fine arts and Oriental carpets and was President of the Antique Dealers’ Association of New South Wales from 1979 to 1987 and from 1995 until 1999. He was Vice-President of the Australian Antique Dealers’ Association in 1997 and National President of the Australian Antique Dealers’ Association from 2000 to 2006.

He was appointed to the Australian Bureau of Customs Panel for the Verification of Antiques, in 1977 and has been its Chairman since 1979. He was also Director of Fine Arts Education for the Australian Auctioneers & Valuers’ Association, leading the structuring of its professional courses.

After retiring from business in 2006, Charles was appointed Director of Marketing and Development at the Sydney Jewish Museum and is now a Board Member of the Museum and also Chairman of the NSW Jewish War Memorial Trust.


Safe Skies
Dr. Chaim Shine

It was a sight to behold – thousands of people crushed together, captured by the Rebbe’s personality and listening to every word that came out of his mouth. Between the Rebbe’s discourses, they would raise their cups, and the Rebbe would say l’chaim! Despite the large crowd, one could tell that every person felt as if the Rebbe was talking just to him. When we left, my uncle was very excited; he said, “You know what, let’s keep in touch and come back here another time." Read More

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