Around the globe, Jews are preparing for the upcoming Yom Kippur and Sukkot holy days. Israel National News spoke with Rabbi Mendel Popack, who heads the Chabad House in Cape Town, South Africa, to focus on what is happening there.
"We have several events planned this year," said Rabbi Popack. "Tomorrow morning 150 Jews are gathering in our courtyard to perform the traditional kaparot (atonement) ceremony, which involves swinging a live chicken above one's head and saying the kaparot prayer." (The idea being that any harsh decrees that the person deserved be transferred to the animal, in the merit of this mitzvah of charity.)
Pre Rosh Hashanah Shofar Factory
"During Sukkot (the Feast of the Tabernacles), we are planning a Sukkah Hop, an event for families where each family goes to three different sukkot. There will be crafts, building of mini-sukkot, and live music. That takes place on Sunday of Chol Hamoed Sukkot (Sept. 26)."
Torah Study At Chabad Center Cape Town
"On Monday night of Chol Hamoed Sukkot, we are holding a 'Pizza in the Hut' evening for young adults. The hut is, of course, the sukkah. There will be a band playing in the synagogue next door to the sukkah and a lot of happiness. That is the atmosphere that we endeavor to create during this holy day. Our mission is to inspire the youngsters so that they can hold onto that feeling and remember it for years to come."
Rabbi Popack began operating the Chabad House of Cape Town 35 years ago. Today, there are eight Chabad Rabbis in Cape Town. Rabbi Popack feels that his work has borne much fruit. "When I walk down the street, I meet people who thirty years ago went to Gan Israel, our camp, and now their children are going to the same camp."
"Someone stopped me on the street the other day and asked me, 'Are you Mr. Matzah? When I was eight years old you made matzah for us and I still remember it." These are some of the things that the Jews in Cape Town remember from their Yiddishkeit, and for some, this is their connection to Judaism."
Rabbi Mendel Popack at Challah Baking for the Holiday
Earlier this summer, Israel National News
published a video on how Chabad of Cape Town 'Won the World Cup'.
Although far from Israel, Rabbi Popack still tries to remain connected to the Holy Land. "My wife was born in Israel," he said. "We are connected to Israel through Kfar Chabad - we get matzah and books from there. I was in Israel a few months ago. I used the time that I was there to rejuvenate. I spent the whole time in Jerusalem."
Rabbi Popack recounts the words of Torah he gave to his congregation this Rosh Hashanah:
"It's customary to eat apple and honey on Rosh Hashanah. Why apple and honey? Apple is a naturally sweet fruit. Honey comes from a bee, which is non-kosher, and also stings, which is negative, but the sweetness that comes from the negative is a lot sweeter than the naturally sweet. What we ask from G-d is that things should be sweet. But should there be challenges, or any things that threaten our happiness, they should become sweeter in the end, sweeter even than the natural. This is what teshuva (return to G-d) is all about. It is not repentance, it is return. Returning means we are coming back to what we were originally. But connecting to G-d is connecting to something greater and even more special."
For more information about Chabad of Cape Town, visit: http://www.chabad.co.za/