I hope that you are having a wonderful week and looking forward to a great long weekend ahead! One of the highlights of this week is that it has rained in earnest, and I am hopeful that Hashem will bless us with a wet winter and that we will see the fulfilment of the verse (Yishayahu/Isaiah 12:3) “And you shall draw water with joy from the fountains of the salvation.” (If that seems familiar, it’s because we say it every Saturday night as part of Havdalah.) Related to the rain this week, I have been presented with a fascinating question regarding how to thank Hashem appropriately – more on that later.
My family and I will be away this Shabbat (we are taking a break over the long weekend) and as always I have mixed feelings. Shabbat together with you all really is the highlight of the week – but on the other hand I recognise within myself the real need for some down-time. I’ll miss you all, but leave you in the capable hands of Rabbi Levi Silman (Friday night Drasha) Rabbi Dani Brett (Shabbat day Shiur) and Menachem Altman and Joseph Melzer (Seudah Shlishit Dvar Torah). Enjoy and see you soon!
We’ll be celebrating Lag BaOmer next week, and Morasha will join Marais Road Shul, Ohr Somayach, Gardens Shul and Chabad Sea Point in a wonderful party next Thursday at the Hellenic Club. Details on the posters, but I am looking forward to it, and it will be a real blast. Kudos to Marais Road for leading the partnership, and it’s nice to celebrate together during the Sefira period in which we mourn the deaths of Rebbi Akiva’s students for not showing such love and connection.
On a similar note, I had a wonderful experience last night in studying with around 30 other serious Gemora students as we began learning Gemora Moed Kattan. This is Rabbi Dani Brett’s wonderful initiative to encourage Rabbis and others with a grounding in Torah study to be engaged and sustained in their study of Gemora by learning 5 Amudim (single sided pages) each week. The added bonus is that we are doing this together as a group and will be supporting and encouraging one another. A challenge I experience in the community Rabbinate is that it is so clear to me what I should be teaching that I tend to focus my own learning around that – and this was a welcome and needed reminder that I must also invest time in what I should be learning. Last night felt a little like being back in Yeshiva, and whilst most of the learning will take place in disparate groups around Cape Town, every once in a while we’ll be getting together again. If you would like to join in this learning, please do let me know.
Another city-wide learning programme that Rabbi Brett is launching soon is daily study of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. Although I will continue to invest my study of halacha in the Dirshu Mishna Brura programme, which we learn between Mincha and Maariv each day, and have a weekly review on a Sunday night, Rabbi Altman is planning to start a WhatsApp list through which he’ll be sending 2-3 halachot each day from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. It will be accessible and practical, and we’ll let you know more details as soon as we launch it.
Speaking of learning and teaching, Aviva began her course on “The Book of Ruth” this week to rave reviews. Even if you missed the first session, you can join for the next 3, just sign up with The Academy. She’ll follow that with a series on “The Book of Eicha” so within a couple of months you can master 2 of the 5 Megillot with the Rebbetzin.
I will be releasing our plans for Shavuot in the next couple of weeks, we are looking at a really exciting learning programme this year.
Finally, I was presented with a great question this week: I have had cards printed for the Shul (in fact, for all of the Shuls) with the bracha that we say when it rains during a drought. Although the commentators point out that it has not been said for several centuries in the Ashkenazi world, that is simply because they did not experience droughts. In Cape Town today, such a bracha is warranted each time it rains.
However, Philip Scher asked: Do we say this bracha when it rains in Cape Town, or when it rains in the catchment areas? Back in the day you lived on your farm, and when it rained on your farm, you had water. In modern cities there can be a distance between where the rain is valuable, and where the drought is experienced. (It is possible that this question was also relevant in the past, in cities and towns dependent on rivers and wells, but I’m not sure.) So when do we say the bracha – when the rain is experienced (in Cape Town), or when we hear about it falling at the catchment areas?
Gavriel Labe mentioned another factor: Many people have a jojo tank on their property, and when it does rain they can gather hundreds of litres of grey water. Perhaps that itself will justify the bracha? And if it does, is it just for people who have such water storage, or for everyone? I asked Dayan Yoel Smith this morning and he will get back to me. I’ll update you when I have an answer!
Aviva, Shalva, Tzuriya, Azriel and I wish you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Sam Thurgood