The Chief Rabbi’s New Year’s message 2023

Are you a customer or partner?

As you page through this magazine, you’ll be struck by the hard work and dedication of your rabbi and shul committee and administrators; how they are running your community with professionalism, compassion, and energy. As you do so, you may feel like a consumer of a great product. (You may even have some complaints?)

It’s tempting to view your shul as a service provider, and you, the member, as its paying customer. Membership fees are paid for the many wonderful services received – a wise, understanding rabbi and rebbetzin who are there for us when we need them, in good times and challenging times, giving us spiritual guidance and support; a nice brocha on Shabbos morning, and a warm, welcoming place to have our simchas; maybe a chazan and a choir that make the services enjoyable to listen to.

This mindset of a customer works for goods and services purchased in the commercial marketplace. But a shul is different. I would like to suggest a completely different paradigm – become a partner.

Being a partner means not passively consuming benefits – it means taking an active role to make your shul thrive. A partner is personally invested in the outcome. A partner feels responsible to solve problems, to look for opportunities.

One of Judaism’s most radical ideas is that we are called on to be “G-d’s partners in creation”. G-d doesn’t want us to be passive bystanders. He wants us to come forward and create a better world as His partners. He doesn’t want us to be passive recipients of His goodness and kindness. He wants us to be active partners through our mitzvahs, our Torah learning, our davening, our good deeds.

We are all Hashem’s partners, which makes us each other’s partners. Helping to build and sustain a great shul is part of our role as G-d’s partners in creating a better world. Start by reading this magazine, as a partner not a customer. Don’t sit back passively assessing your shul’s performance. Read with an eye on how you can get involved – to make a real difference. As a partner you will do anything to make your shul a thriving place of emotional and spiritual connection, energy and inspiration – a truly vibrant community.

It’s not just the rabbi and rebbetzin who should visit the sick, or share comfort at a shiva house, or be involved with Torah learning and building community. We shouldn’t watch the chazan and choir like spectators at a concert. Lean in to the davening. Pray with intent and feel the presence of Hashem. Join the chesed activities of your shul – whether it’s making meals or visiting the sick or reaching out to fellow congregants with messages of love and support. These mitzvahs are for all of us to do.

To be a partner also means contributing financially. People are sometimes uncomfortable talking about money. But shuls cannot function without funding. The Torah guides us to give 10% of our earnings to tzedaka – to provide for the needy, and fund worthy causes and vital communal institutions, especially our shuls. (I have written an important essay about the vision, values and practicalities of this great mitzvah. The essay will be available in booklet form at your shul over Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Look out for it.)

A thriving South African Jewish community depends on thriving shuls. We are blessed to have outstanding rabbis and rebbetzins, shul committees and staff, chazans and choirs. Don’t be their customers. Become their partners, and together we will create a brighter future.

May Hashem bless the precious HERMANUS HEBREW CONGREGATION AND SHUL and inscribe all its wonderful people, together with our entire community, with a good and sweet year,

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

The Chief Rabbi’s new year’s message, with all the details about tzedaka and the 10% principle, will be available in shul, and to download after Yom Tov at

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