Times: Shabbat starts tonight with candle lighting at 4:59pm, and continues on Saturday night into … Shavuot which starts on Saturday night, light candles after 5:58pm. Shavuot second day begins Sunday night, light candles after 5:58pm. Shavuot ends on Monday night at 5:57pm. The weekly Torah portion (on Shabbat) is Bamidbar.

Mincha in the CBD: Whisky and Kugel Fridays is on today at 1pm using the SMS system to confirm numbers. Mincha (Tue-Thu) continues next week at 1.00pm with the SMS reminder.

Study: The Wednesday shiur & lunch continues this week at Billing Bureau, following 1.00pm mincha.

Thought of the Week with thanks to Gaby Silver. It has been a tumultuous week in Israel. The highs of the US Embassy moving to Jerusalem in woefully belated recognition of bleedingly obvious – that it is the State’s capital city – have mixed with trepidation over the events unfolding at the Gaza border. The media din is deafening, and the exchange of fire over social media is quite possibly more intense than at the front line, albeit less deadly. One clip that I watched pitted a BBC current affairs show host against a representative from the Israeli High Commission in the UK. The lady pointed out with highly questionable, self-righteous indignation that over 50 Palestinians had been killed in the confrontations, yet no Israelis had died and apoplectically questioned “Is this proportional?!”. The audacity of this question blew my mind. Must we apologise for the lack of loss of Jewish life? Had the Jewish Nation sacrificed 50 or so more of its sons and daughters, would this sanctimonious person have been satisfied that the IDF’s response to confirmed members of a terrorist organisation attempting to infiltrate the country with the explicitly stated aim of massacring civilians was “proportional”? Does more Jewish blood need to soak the tortured earth so that the world can grunt their begrudging approval that Israel’s actions are acceptable to them?

This week’s Torah reading – Parashat Bamidbar – opens with a census of the Jewish people. The classic question is asked: why does an omnipotent, omniscient G-d, described by Rambam as “the Knower, the Knowledge and the Known” needs Moshe and Aharon to tell Him how many Jews there are? Our sages respond that it is in order to demonstrate that each and every Jew is precious in G-d’s eyes.

We must stand firm in our confidence that this remains as true today as it did millennia ago at the foot of Mt Sinai. As we prepare to receive the Torah anew, let us do so with pride in the knowledge G-d treasures every single Jewish soul and we should never apologise for any one of them remaining here on this planet to serve Him.

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