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Great to be back!

Great to be back!

Great to be back at the American Club after a gap of several years

Great to be back as a UHC community after the long summer break

Great to welcome all the newcomers to the UHC, celebrating Shabbat with us for the first time – would you all stand up if this is your first UHC Friday night?

Great (for me) to be back in Singapore after a long time spent away


Noam is ten months old today

He’s doing well. Crawling, starting to stand

And his latest trick: learning to scream!


Shelly sent me a video this week – it’s about 30 seconds long

And he is screaming his head off, and laughing riotously at the pure pleasure of screaming

He does it so joyfully!


Is anyone here a screamer? Will any of you admit to it?


With Noam – it’s amazing to see how he is finding his voice

Now he keeps the whole department in the hospital awake with his shouting and his screaming

I asked Shelly – do you still have friends?

And she said – yeah they all love him!

I’ll see them soon and I really hope that’s true

There is a remarkable camaraderie across the children’s oncology department

People celebrate birthday’s together

Jews wish Muslims “hag sameach” for their holidays – I’ve seen it over Eid and Ramadan these past few months

And the Muslims share gifts with everybody, they share food from their festive meals

It’s amazing to see

So perhaps they do appreciate a 10-month old screaming baby – let’s see!


Tonight when you look into the sky on your way home

You should see the new moon of Elul

It means that we are entering the final month of the year

The one that takes us to Rosh Hashanah and the Jewish New Year


Elul is seen as a time to search one’s heart and draw close to God

In preparation for the High Holydays

Rosh Hashanah – the Day of Judgement and the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur


It’s a time to start blowing the shofar

To awaken our spirits, to wake ourselves up spiritually

To inspire ourselves to begin the soul-searching process of teshuva – repentance and return.

And as I started by saying – it’s great to be back!


It’s also the time to find our voices

To be like Moses in this week’s Torah portion

In the book of words – the book of Deuteronomy – the book of Devarim

When the one who said he didn’t know how to speak, Moses of the uncircumcised lips, he who was tongue-tied,

Moses now suddenly pours out words like water, giving his last tips, repeating his advice to the Israelites


Impelling them to find their voices on entering the land of Israel

To climb mountains and

To shout out blessings on the top of Mount Gerizim

To cry curses on the top of Mount Ebal

To stand in awe at the holy places and natural highs of our universe

And to acknowledge the role of our Creator in everything that we do


For me, watching Noam grow, seeing how he encounters things for the first time

Is continually a mind-blowing and awesome experience.


For those of you who are stuck in a rut,

Who feel they are entering the same new year for the thirtieth of fiftieth or umpteenth time

Find your voice this Elul, and make next year different

Climb your own mountains this year, and shout and scream at the top of them

Stop looking at your phone, get out of your box,

Do whatever it is you need to do, but get out of that rut


We have one life, and for our plans and achievements

Life is short and can take unexpected turns, as I have learnt this year only too well


This community has helped me and my family so much

Shelly and I and one day Noam are so grateful to so many of you

And we would like to find a way to manage and to extend this relationship


This week’s Torah portion begins by reminding us that in life you have a choice

To be a blessing or to be a curse

It’s a theme that we repeat on Yom Kippur

When we are reminded – that God puts towards us life and death, blessing and curse, and exhorts us to choose life!


We learn from our students and we learn from our children

To see their vitality and yearning for life

In his ten months so far, Noam has taught and continues to teach me a lot

Probably more than I ever learnt at school or university or from all the people around me


So this weekend, this Shabbat, may you all learn from him too

Go home and enjoy a scream!

Enjoy the simple pleasure of letting go and making a sound and finding your voice!

We could all have a go now but I don’t want to upset the American Club

Cary and others have worked hard that we can come back here and enjoy the facilities


That’s the problem of living on a small island and not a vast and empty mountain

You don’t always have the space you need to scream and shout

But find somewhere to have a little scream nonetheless


Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav – called this hitbodedut – a self-secluding practice of Jewish meditation.


If one is absolutely unable to speak to God, then Rebbe Nachman advised saying one word with as much strength as possible. He taught that saying that word over and over again will eventually lead to a breakthrough; God will have compassion on the person and they will eventually be able to express themselves.


Rebbe Nachman told his leading disciple, Reb Noson, that hitbodedut should be practiced in a simple, straightforward manner, as if he were conversing with a close friend.[8] He also advised:

"It is very good to pour out your thoughts before God like a child pleading before his father. God calls us His children, as it is written (Deuteronomy 14:1), "You are children to God." Therefore, it is good to express your thoughts and troubles to God like a child complaining and pestering his father."


And as you do, think about the new month of Elul and the tasks ahead


Work out where your apologies lie and begin to make them

& the changes you want to make to your lives

That the new year be a new year, and not the last year all over again.


I wish you all a Shabbat shalom and a chodesh tov

All my best wishes for the month of Elul.


I look forward to being back here for a BM in two weeks

And then again for the High Holydays

As we celebrate together a new year at Rosh Hashanah

And support each other throughout the challenges of Yom Kippur.


Chodesh tov!

Shabbat shalom!

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