Our view of the Galile

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chanuki-yearnings- Mikeitz Chanuka edition 2014/5775

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

December 19th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 9 -29h  of Kislev 5775
Parshat Miketz/ Chanuka

 I have always thought it to be a strange holiday. I would probably say it is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented one as well. In America, Chanukah has served Jews as being the Jewish response to the other team’s mid-winter holiday. “A festival of Lights-Instead of one day of presents we have eight crazy nights” to quote an unfortunately ignorant put-on-your-yamaka-its- time-for-Hanukah assimilated American Jew. They light their tree, we light our Menorah, They drink eggnog, and we eat latkas and doughnuts. They’ve got reindeers, sleighs and chubby guys in red suits sliding down chimneys and we have dreidels, Chocalate Gelt, Greeks and Maccabees. Not a great response and frankly I wouldn’t mind a little eggnog.

 Here in Israel, there is no other team to compete with. Yet it is still a confusing holiday to figure out. For most Israelis, tragically, Maccabee has a greater association with basketball or with healthcare than it does with Chanukah. (It is the name of the Basketball league and also the large health care provider). For many Israelis it is a holiday that celebrates Jewish military prowess and the guts it took for us to stand up to the world power of that time. Although clearly that was never the intent of the establishment of the holiday and in truth Jews historically have never celebrated military victories, viewing them as necessary evils to maintain our survival and miracles of God, rather than expressions of Jewish might.

 I have also read articles written by secular Israelis how Chanukah is a celebration of the victory against religious coercion. Again, a very strange conclusion to come to, being that the Greeks/Hellenistic Jews were really quite pluralistic; they were open to all religions and cultures. The battle of the Maccabees, quite the opposite, was for the right to have an exclusive religious Jewish practice in Israel and the Temple. Not something necessarily the average secularist would seem to find cause to celebrate.

  And perhaps best of all The Coalition of the Environment and Jewish Life’s “Light Among Nations” projects sees in the miracle of Chanukah and its energy efficient oil that lasts eight days, an opportunity to replace each of your light bulbs with a more energy efficient one. You may even win the Green Menorah award. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

  At the other extreme you have the Yeshiva/Chareidi World that sees in Chanukah (and in general all Jewish holidays to a certain degree) a celebration of the power and dedication to Torah and the service of Hashem which brings miracles to rescue the Jewish people. The Menorah of course symbolizes Torah and Light. And the pure oil, a symbol of the uncontaminated-by-foreign-culture holy foundation which the Temple and Jewish service must be dedicated with. It is a message I was raised on in my Yeshiva upbringing and it somewhat works for me. Yet this year here in Eretz Yisrael, as a resident and Oleh, I feel I must find something different. Something new…yet something old. An idea from those days- for this time.
As I went to buy oil to light with, I asked the person in the store if he had any Shemen Zayit for my menorah. He gave me a strange cutesy Israeli look when I asked him that question though-although he clearly knew what I was referring to- and corrected me in that perfect Israeli way.

 “Ein Lanu La’Menorah- Lazeh atah tzarich Koehin Babeit Hamikdash. Yesh Lanu Rak L’Chanukiya.” We don’t have any oil for the Menorah… for that you will have to see a Koehin at the HolyTemple. We only sell oil for a Chanukiyah.”

What the curly locked gentleman was pointing out to me- besides of course that he was smarter than me and more fluent in common Hebrew terminologies- no duh…- was that the term Menorah is really a reference to the seven branched candelabra that was specifically used in the Beit Hamikdash. Chanukiyah- our eight branched “menorah” (9 counting the Shamash) is not the same thing. In fact the Talmud teaches us that it is prohibited to create a Menorah, or any Temple vessel for that matter, as they may not be used outside of the Temple and its service. In fact our 8 branched Chanukiyah is really only a more modern innovation. Halacha only mandates lighting the oil or a candle. It can be done on soda cans, bullet casings, or even on top of ice cream sundaes. In earlier times a Chanukiyah was not even used.

As I went to light my Menorah that evening (I can’t get into the habit of calling it that yet). It struck me for the first time… I wasn’t lighting the same thing as the Temple. My Menorah was a cheap spiritual imitation of the original. Here I stand in Israel not too far from the original temple, yet I’m still not there yet. I began to long for the “real” light. I think I began to finally understand what Chanukah was supposed to inspire us to feel.

 This week's Torah portion, and the Torah portions that always surround the Holiday of Chanukah contain the story of Yosef in Egypt. It is perhaps one of the most powerful and memorable stories in the Torah. Brothers’ fight, Yosef gets sold down to Egypt, the first Jew to really be entirely engulfed in a foreign society. Yosef, as the Jews in the times of the Maccabees, as Jews in almost every era of our history was faced with the greatest challenge that has threatened our people. The threat of assimilation. The forgetting of where we came from. Of our fathers home. Of what it used to be like and how we were meant to be.

 Of all our forefathers Yosef is the one who cries the most. He cries when he first sees his brothers. He cries when he they don’t recognize him. He cries as he interviews Binyamin and when he is reunited with his father. The Midrash says that just as Yosef appeased his brothers through tears, so too, will God redeem the Jewish nation through tears. What are the tears of Yosef? The tears of Yosef are those that recognize how long it’s been since I’ve been home. The tears of Yosef are the tears that question if we have become too Egyptian to even be recognizable to our own people…. to our family… to our Father. Have we become so happy with our 8 branch Chanukiyot that we have forgotten that there is a 7 branch Menorah that we are still meant to be yearning to light?

  I look into the lights of my candles and I think about those days; the battles that were fought not far from my house, to insure that we didn’t become “strangers” in our own land. I think of all my confusing Chanukahs of past and how it seems so clear over here that we’re almost back again. I imagine the joy and rejoicing of what that small group of Maccabees who were brave enough to turn away from doing what everyone else was and who looked inward and backward to where the Jewish people needed to be and took that leap, when they finally saw those candles lit once again. And then I sing my Maoz Tzur- the song that concludes and has more meaning and clarity than ever.

Bare Your holy arm
and hasten the End for salvation -
Avenge the vengeance of Your servants' blood
from the wicked nation.
For the triumph is too long delayed for us,
and there is no end to days of evil,
Repel Edom in the nethermost shadow
and establish for us the seven shepherds.
 Hakeim Lonu Roeh Shivah- Return us to that Menorah that has only 7 which symbolizes all of our forefathers. Chanukah need not be confusing. We are told that the light of our Menorahs are the same light that was in the Mikdash, the Temple. Gaze into it. Long for it. Celebrate its return and pray to see it once again soon. It’s simple enough. May we celebrate it together soon.

Have an fantabulous Shabbos and stupendous Chanukah,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Christians explain Chanuka-funny

Mattisyahu chanuka video "miracle"

Eating doughnuts the right way!


"Most Texans think Hanukkah is some sort of duck call. " Richard Lewis

"In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it "Christmas" and went to church; the Jews called it "Hanukka" and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy Hanukka!" or (to the atheists) "Look out for the wall!" "Dave Barry

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  In which battle was the following command given: “corporals retreat, commanders stay and provide cover” (tura’im yisogu, mefakdim yisha’aru lehapot)?
A.    Kastel
B.     Ammunition Hill
C.     Tel Hai
D.    San Simon
The verse says that when Yosef's brothers returned to Egypt Yosef asked them "How is your father, the elder of whom you told me about. Are they still alive? - the midrash suggests that Yosef was not only asking about Yaakov his father but also "the elder" their grandfather Yitzchak. The brothers answered though, just about Yaakov "our father is still alive". From their lack of response Yosef understood that their grandfather had passed away. From here the Midrash derives that one should not respond to a question directly that would entail sharing sad news, rather one should be silent or give and indirect response.
The Medrash shares a story to convey this idea. Rebbe Chiya Bar Abba met a man coming from his home in Babylonia and inquired how his father was.
The man replied "Your mother instructed me to find out how you were"
"I asked you about my father," said Rebbe Chiya, "and you answered me about my mother".
"I am able to respond about the welfare of the living-but not of the dead" said the man.

Feel Jewish holidays in the air and the streets – Aren't you sick of trees, santa and jingle bells? In Israel you get to feel the Jewish experience of a holiday. Chanuka lights in each window, chanuka songs playing on the radio and street corners, the smell of doughnuts coming from local bakeries..much better then roasted chestnuts and eggnog, trust me. The truth is all Jewish holidays in Israel one has that experience. Whether it is Sukkot all over and the Lulav/Etrog market places, Purim costumes, Passover Matza factories and vessel koshering and Chametz burning sites and even Lag Ba'Omer bonfires that cover the country. We live in a Jewish country- our home,  and this is how and where we should be spending our holidays. As each of the city buses say during these season Chag Samayach!

For those that can't resist the temptation of doughnuts remember that doughnuts are just recycled challa rolls.

Chanuka is the only time of year when an Israeli with white powder under his nose will get told "btayavon" (with a hearty appetite) by a police officer

סופגניה… שתי דקות של אושר ושנתיים בחדר כושר :)

Q. Why did the baker stop making doughnuts?
A. He was fed up with the hole business
 And last but not least the famous classic..
As the plane settled down at Ben Gurion airport, the voice of the Captain came on:
"Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened until this plane is at a complete standstill and the seat belt signs have been turned off."
"To those of you standing in the aisles, we wish you a Happy Chanukah."
"To those who have remained in their seats, we wish you a Merry Christmas."


Answer is B:  The battle of the Kastel on the road to Jerusalem were some of the most intense and heroic. This key point and former roman and crusader fortress called Belovouir overlooking that protected the road to Jerusalem and which the arabs used as point from which to attack Jewish convoys and travlers to Jerusalem. Operation Nachshon was convened to conquer the hills and free Jerusalem of its siege. The castel was taken by forces of the Palmach and Abed Al Khadr Husseini the head of the arab fighting legion was killed trying to take it back. The arabs furious about their loss retook the fortress and the officers of the Palmach that made the decision to retreat sent the young officers and trainees back first while they stayed to cover them all of them eventually falling in that battle. But we came back and took it back again and the castel remained in our hands. Cool place to visit as well.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Right Question The Light Question- Vayeishev 2014/5775

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

December 12th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 8 -20th  of Kislev 5775
Parshat Vayeishev
The Right Question The Light Question
So there I was, home for Pesach vacation from Yeshiva in Israel, a young 20 year old Ephraim Schwartz. The thing I missed the most about the States while in Israel was of course my parent's car and then of course my Seven Eleven coffee and slurpees and Jays potato chips, oh yeah and my parents too. Ummm… and siblings? Well, anyways there I was driving around in my parents car right before the holiday and right around the corner from my parents house (Church and Balfour, for you Detroiters). I see a police cars standing at the corner staking out the stop sign and waiting to catch people that would run it. Not me of course. So I come up to the Sign, stop and then continue around the corner home and whadaya know? The police car puts on its lights and sirens right behind me and tells me to pull over. I pull into my parents driver, quite perturbed and as I get out of my car I see the lady officer come out of hers. Grrrr…I did not like lady cops. They never went for me. They brought back memories of my third grade teacher who always was out to get me.
"What seems to be the problem Office?" I asked with the sweetest most innocent smile I could muster.
"You ran that stop sign" she said not smiling and with a heavy Russian accent. Uh Oh Russian and a woman I was not going to come out of this alright.
"I did not run the Stop sign" I responded " you were sitting right there, Why would I run a stop sign in front of you?" I asked trying to impress her with my incredible Talmudic logic.
                                                                                                               "Maybe you didn't see me" she said.
"You were sitting right there! And besides I am wearing new glasses and I am actually just coming from the optometrist." I said in my "so-there" type of voice that never wins you any points with officers of the law and usually in general as well.
But then she turned to me and in what sort of shook me out of my comfort zone as she asked.
"Are you Jewish?"
"Huhhh…Ummm, yeah…" I mean I was wearing my Yarmulke quite proudly and was wondering where this conversation was going.
"Have you ever been to Israel" she asked
"Actually I just came back" I said even more perplexed
"Will you be going back there?"
"YES…" I said proudly as I prepared myself for a discussion of the Arab- Israeli political discussion and how as a Jew I feared nothing and how this was our promised land and no one should be able to keep us away. I was ready to get a ticket for being a Jew and someone who loved Israel. Like the Maccabees before me I was prepared to put myself up on that altar. But then she threw me for another loop.
"Would you be able to bring a package back there for me to my family?"
And there you have it. A good old MOT (Member of the Tribe), just trying to get some mail to the holy land.
"Sure" I smiled and said. We began to schmooze and it seems that she had family that had just moved to Israel and the few packages she sent never got there. So she decided to stakeout some nice Jewish boy in the "hood". And she found one. Aren't we a resourceful people?
I thought of this story this week as I read another story about and a beautiful insight from the Sanzer Rebbe. It seems that there was once a non- and perhaps even anti-chasid (called Mitnaged) that was a Yeshiva student that heard about the Rebbe's great knowledge and erudition and he decided to engage the Rebbe in that ancient yeshiva-guy tradition and sport of  some good old fashioned Talmudic jousting. When he came to the Rebbe though, the Rebbe began to tell him about some of his needy families that he needed the Mitnaged's assistance with in raising money for; families that couldn't put food on their table, widows and orphans that required some clothes and shelter. The mitnaged, thinking that he had the Rebbe and who felt he was merely trying to avoid a "real" discussion told the Rebbe that he had not come for the Rebbe's blessing, nor to assist the Rebbe he was there to "talk in learning" with him, obviously a much higher calling.
The Rebbe though responded in of course the typical Jewish way, by not answering the individuals request but instead by telling him a Torah insight that pretty much answers it for itself.
The Rebbe said, if it is learning you want to discuss, perhaps you can answer me this question that has been bothering me for many years but only now I am beginning to understand. This week's Torah portion shares with us the story of our forefather Yosef who had been sent out by his father Yaakov to find his brothers shepherding in Shechem. Along the way as he gets lost he bumps into a ' man' and the man asks him what he is seeking. Yosef gives the famous answer 'I seek my brothers, please tell me where they are shepherding.' (famous as they were made into a beautiful song you can listen to below on my VIDEO CLIPS OF THE WEEK). The 'man' tells him in his ominous words 'they have traveled from there,' which of course can be understood simply but as well as can be understood by our sages as telling Yosef that they have traveled from their 'brotherhood' with him that he was so desperately seeking. Words that Yosef just wouldn't accept and whose fatal warning he couldn't allow himself to heed; a message of their nefarious plot to kill him and eventually to sell him as a slave to Egypt.
Rashi, quotes our sages and tells us that the mysterious man who had come to give Yosef that warning was none other than the great angel Gavriel/Gabriel, seemingly sent by Hashem. The Rebbe, turned to the Mitnaged and asked him the following question. How did our sages know that this angel was the angel Gavriel? Why, in last week's Torah portion we are also told of a mysterious 'man' that meets Yaakov in the middle of the night and begins to wrestle with him. When Yaakov, who wins this battle albeit with an injury to his foot, asks the 'man' to bless him he reveals to him that he is in fact an angel and must return to heaven and refuses to tell Yaakov his name and instead tells Yaakov that he would from hereon in be called Yisrael because 'you have striven with the Divine and man and have won'. Over there Rashi tells us that the mysterious man/angel was none other than the protector angel of Esau or the Satan. Why and how over here, do our sages know and suggest it was a good angel and there a bad one.
"Ummmm…" said the dumbfounded Mitnaged, quite wisely is you ask me…
"I'll tell you", said the Rebbe "when one meets a Jew and the first thing he asks him is ' what are you seeking?' What can I help you with?What can I do for you? That can only be a good angel; that is in fact the greatest angel. On the other hand an angel that comes to wrangle and wrestle with you, that when you ask for help or ask for a blessing says that’s not what I'm here for, sorry I have to go…. That, my dear friend is an angel of Esau."
This week we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah. It is a holiday that celebrates how a little bit of our light can shine away all of the darkness. In a world of hedonism that failed to see God and that worshipped their own human bodies and flesh a group of Maccabees got up and said that our job is bring the light of Hashem back into the world. We will fight and even be willing to sacrifice our lives, not for our Jewish independence or for religious freedom as some historical redactors would like to portray the story, but rather because as Jews we have a responsibility to do whatever we can change and transform the world into a holy place; a place that can see the light of Hashem that shines through in everyone. One that can fan that flame to its ultimate glory. We light our menorah to commemorate that miracle of Hashem that tells us that all we have to do is light that spark and that He will continue to give it power to burn eternally (6 days being the physical world, 7 days being the physical and spiritual world and 8 days transcending even this world for eternity-just figured I'd throw in a little kabbalistic thought for those of you that hung in here so long  and haven’t scrolled down to the jokes yet J).
The light of Torah is not meant as something to wrangle with people about. It's not meant to establish one's scholarly status with, it's not even something of which who's study is meant to just leave us a satisfied with an inner sense of fulfillment and spiritual meaning. It's a light that is meant to teach us how to interact with the world and to share with them the beauty of a God-filled existence is. A world in which we ask what we can do for you, rather than what we can get from you. A world where the ancient tradition of Chanuka was to give charity to Torah institutions rather than to receive gifts under a tree or bush. Even the custom of playing Draydel was meant to remind us no matter which way the top spins there are miracles that we are meant to reveal in the world.  We may be splitting the pot, gaining, losing or just staying the same financially as that draydel spins but ultimately it is all a miracle. It's all from Hashem. And we can never stop spinning. Our game is always on.
Have an fantabulous Shabbos and stupendous Chanukah,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Cool song and video fromt his weeks Parsha es Achai Ani mivakeish (I am seeking my brother)

Chanuka video Ari Goldwag great song

Aish.com Lights video alos pretty cool!

"Never wrestle with a pig, you'll both get dirty and the pig likes it" George Bernard Shaw

"Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly" Anonymous

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.   The peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed in:
A.    1993
B.     1994
C.     1995
D.    1996
Yaakov saw in Yosef a continuatuion of himself. Not only were their facial features similar but the midrash tell us that their life histories were marked by a striking resemblance her are just a few…
"It is to teach us that all that happened to this one happened to this one-
This one was born circumcised and so was this one
This one's mother was barren as was this one's,
This one's mother had two children as did this one's
This one had the birthright as did this one
This one's mother had difficulty in birth as did this one
This one's brother hated him as did this one's
This one's brother tried to kill him as did this one's
This one was a shepherd as was this one
This one was hated as was this one
This one was blessed with wealth as was this one
This one left Israel, married a woman from outside Israel and had children there as did this one,
This one had angels accompany him as did this one
This one became great through dreams as did this one
They both went down to Egypt, had famines, brought blessing, died and were embalmed in Egypt
Both of their bones were carried with the Jewish people from Egypt to be buried in Israel.
Believe it or not I left out a few… let's see if you can think of any

Eat doughnuts on Chanukah –  In America we always ate latkas/potato pancakes. Here in Israel though the custom is to eat heavily fried doughnuts. The main thing, I guess, is to show those Greeks that used to glorify the human body that we really don't care that much about ours and we eat lots of greasy fattening food to prove it…oh yeah and something to do with oil lasting eight days. Actually many of the doughnuts here can do the same thing if you stick a wick in them and watch them burn. But jokes aside they really have the most delicious doughnuts all over this country. Although I do miss my Krispy Kreme now and again… Jelly doughnuts are of course the traditional way to go, but chocolate, vanilla cream and caramel are all great and easily found alternatives as well. Listen truth is for all of those that remember me back in the States you know I am a Latka man and purist at that-no sour cream for me. But when in Israel do as the natives and bite into your jelly doughnut and enjoy.

Barack Obama walks into the bank to cash a check.
 "Good morning, Ma'am," he greets the cashier, "could you please cash this check for me?"

"It would be my pleasure, sir. Could you please show me your ID?"

"Truthfully, I did not bring my ID with me as I didn't think there was any need to. I am President

Barack Obama, the president of the United States of America!"

"Yes, sir, I know who you are, but with all the regulations, monitoring of the banks because of impostors and forgers, etc, I must insist on seeing ID."

"Just ask anyone here at the bank who I am and they will tell you. Everybody knows who I am."

"I am sorry Mr. President but these are the bank rules and I must follow them."

"I am urging you please to cash this check."

"Ok, this is what we can do Mr. President: One day Tiger Woods came into the bank without ID.
To prove he was Tiger Woods he pulled out his putting iron and made a beautiful shot across the bank into a cup. With that shot we knew him to be Tiger Woods and cashed his check. Another time, Andre Agassi came in without ID. He pulled out his tennis racquet and made a fabulous shot, making the tennis ball land in my cup. With that spectacular shot we cashed his check. So, Mr. President, what can you do to prove that it is you, and only you, as the president of the United States?"

Obama stands there thinking and finally says, "Honestly, there is nothing that comes to my mind. I can't think of a single thing I'm good at."

"Will that be large or small bills, Mr. President?"

Answer is B:  Out of all of our neighbors Jordan, the former "guardians" of Jerusalem and the West Bank until we came back home and relieved them of it in 1967 have probably been our least worst enemy in the area that have not really tried to kill us that much. In fact before the Yom Kippur War it is well known that King Hussein cam in specifically to warn Prime minister Golda that they Egypt and Syria were going to becoming for us. We share many things with the Jordanians- the Jordan river for one thing, a mutual dislike of the Palestinians and they're self created miserable existence and failure to create any type of life for themselves. Jordan in fact wiped out thousands of them in Black September 1970. Our official peace agreement was reached in 1994 with Jordan with Rabin and Hussein signing by Arava crossing and Bill "shalom chaver" Clinton smiling away. 1993 incidentally was first Oslo creating Palestinian authority conceptually with Palestinians and 1995 the second dividing the West Bank into regions and 1996 is when they first started violating it with suicide attacks…

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bernie, Baruch, Shimon and Levi-Vayishlach 2014/5775

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

December 5th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 7 -13th  of Kislev 5775
Parshat Vayishlach
Bernie, Baruch, Shimon and Levi
Those of you out there my age or older might remember Bernie. It was 30 years ago this Chanukah when Bernie, a nice young Jewish boy (his mother was Jewish although she converted and became a Lutheran when she married his father), took a ride on the crime-ridden subways of New York of the 80's. Having been accosted by three black teens before (that's what they were called back then), of which two of them escaped and the third which he helped catch ended up getting a slap on the wrist and spending less time in the police station than Bernie did, he decided to get himself a gun. So there he was on the subway when whadaya know four young teens accost him and ask him for money in that friendly New-York-subway-at-night type of way as they were armed with 
screwdrivers. Who knows what else they could have been carrying.

Bernie, who was a pretty geeky-looking guy, glasses and all and funny haircut, decided enough was enough. He yanked out his gun and pow- pow- pow- pow, four scary black guys on the ground, not so threatening anymore. Bernie, after checking to make sure no one else was harmed on the train fled the scene and eventually turned himself in. He was acquitted on charges of assault and attempted murder by a mostly white jury, of which six had admitted to being victims of crime in New York; it seems that it was difficult to find jury members that weren't. He did serve some time for illegally carrying an illegal weapon, about 8 months or so. And in the 90's he lost a civil suit to the number of 43 million dollars (the African American, by then adult, who was paralyzed by the shots had gotten himself some good Jewish legal representation). But after declaring bankruptcy, still hasn't paid a nickle.

 The other three teens were all arrested subsequently for other crimes. Canty was arrested multiple times for assault, robbery and resisting arrest as well as spending time in drug rehab although he never did time. Allen was arrested twice for robbery and after serving three years was released in 1995. And best of all, Ramseur was arrested for the "assault" of a pregnant 18 year old girl, for which he served 25 years in jail. He was released in 2010, although fascinatingly enough, he was found dead in a hotel room of an overdose the following year 27 years to the day after the subway assault. Hashem works in wonderful mysterious ways.

Bernie Goetz the quiet nerdy engineer, who now incidentally runs a squirrel rescue in the city and advocates for legalization of marijuana, was the headline king of that year in New York; The Subway vigilante. Many attribute that he was the beginning of the tide changing in New York and the eventual Giuliani era that cleaned up the city. For us yeshiva students back there who had gotten beaten up and mugged a few times he was our hero. The man that would do what the cops wouldn't or couldn't. protect our city.

I'm not a yeshiva student anymore. But I think of Bernie more and more since moving here to Israel. Not that I'm thinking of taking justice into my own hands or anything…don't worry. I've been to hundreds of shooting ranges here with tourists and have yet to even pick up a gun. But the truth is after all of the terror attacks going on here from these animals on the street, I wouldn't mind having Bernie sitting next to me on the light rail in Jerusalem, or shopping next to me in the supermarket, or in shul davening next to me…I didn't think I would ever have to say that last one…

 I also think about Baruch Goldstien, the Jewish 'vigilante' who massacred 29 Arabs on Purim in Chevron in 1994 while they were in middle of their prayers. I remember the horror of most Jews at what was perhaps one of the only times in our recent history where a Jew took matters into his own hands. Yes, they said he perhaps went a bit mad after being an emergency medical doctor that daily had to face the constant stream of terror victims that he personally treated. But Jews don't do that type of thing. We don't take lives of innocent people or even people that may be guilty by association. Gosh we don't even take the lives of terrorists that have Jewish blood on their hands. I don't remember one Rabbi, that was worth anything at the time that didn't condemn the act. It's just not the way we were raised. But yet, maybe, just maybe if there were a few vigilantes amongst us our enemies might think twice about stabbing or running over innocent people or shooting missiles at our schools, hospitals and shuls. Maybe if more people carried weapons and would shoot to kill anyone that pulled a knife, threw a stone at their car, or even threatened their safety, maybe then our enemies would think twice before carrying out their horrific attacks. On the other hand we are surrounded all over the place by soldiers and police carrying guns and it still keeps coming. What's the right thing to do? The Jewish thing to do?  

I spoke this past week with a soldier who is part of a counter-terrorism unit who told me that he remembers the day that when an Israeli soldier got on the bus an Arab would get up and give him his seat. He remembers that when a group of Jews were walking down the block the Arabs would cross the street when they saw them coming. He felt safe then. I don't want this to be a country where either Jew or Arab has to feel fear or cross streets because of intimidation. I don't think any Jew really does. But I think most would rather that vision of Israel than of us having to cross the streets and be frightened to go shopping, to shul, on a train or to visit some of our holiest sites. It has always amazed me that the one place in Israel where there is no freedom of religion to pray is on the Temple Mount. Not that I feel we should go there, many Rabbis feel it is better not to as we are in a state of impurity. But it is illegal for a Jew to pray there. He can visit but God forbid should he talk to God there… A law against Jewish prayer to the one true God in the Jewish state of Israel…you tell me is something wrong with that picture. Would a vigilante change that? Would a few vigilante acts only seek to incite more? Is vigilantism Jewish? Looking in the Torah portion for answers certainly is so let's start with this week's portion.

This week's portion shares with us the horrific story of Dina, which the Torah goes out of its way to describe as the daughter of Leah that was born to Yaakov who was kidnapped and assaulted by Shechem, who the Torah goes out of its way to tell us was the son of Chamor the Hivite the prince of the land. Clearly the Torah wants us to know that this was not just a mere reckless teenager abusing some poor peasant girl but an affront of the highest level to the core of the Jewish people. What would your response be? What would the Israeli armies be? Should we be proportionate? Would we ask the UN to intercede? Should we negotiate some type of settlement? Sadly this is not just an ancient question but one that has plagued and challenged us through all our history. The Torah however shares with us the two approaches. The one of Yaakov which seems to be the more rational and level-headed one, which initially the Torah tells us begins with his silence and after with his meeting with the perpetrators to come to some resolution. The second approach is the outrage as expressed by the children of Yaakov, who the Torah repeatedly describes as being the children of Yaakov but as well the brothers of Dina. Their outrage leads to the shrewd military response when after the meeting, which seemingly Yaakov was in attendance; a "peaceful resolution" was achieved. The agreement was that the city of Shechem would circumcise themselves and begin to engage in meaningful commerce and perhaps even restitution that would from here on guarantee peaceful relations between the two nations. Shimon and Levi using the post-circumcision weakness, sneak into the city and pretty much "Rambo" the entire place killing 
all the males and taking all women and children captive. Bada Boom bada bing.

Who was right? Were negotiations the right way to go or vigilantism? The Torah doesn't tell us. It shares with us the post massacre conversation that seems to define the viewpoints of both sides. Yaakov is upset and "condemns" this act of violence on practical terms. The world will hate us and will avenge against us and we are a small people and family. According to Nachmanides and other commentaries Yaakov sincerely felt that it was possible to come to some resolution and perhaps even to draw these "animals" into some form of civilized life perhaps even the fact that they were willing to circumcise themselves was proof of their commitment and possible outreach potential.
 Shimon and Levi who seem to have the final word in the Torah respond unequivocally to Yaakov though with four piercing words "shall our sister become a harlot?" This glaring condemnation can be understood many ways. According to Maimonides they felt that the entire city was culpable for the death penalty for not taking their biblically mandated stand to establish a court system that prosecutes such evils. According to Nachmanides they city was a wicked city deserving of death however the brothers acted out of a vengeful act and it was not their place to do so. Perhaps as some suggest and Yaakov implies it wasn't the time or the political climate to do this act. Yet the words of the brothers still resonate. Is our sister's honor meant to be put up on the table of political corrected-ness as a harlot being 'sold' to make the world happy? As the ancient Midrashic translator Yonatan Ben Uziel puts it best.

"Shall generations to come of Jews read each year in their synagogues that gentiles took our daughter and defiled her? Isn't it better for them to read how gentiles and idolaters were killed for the honor of the daughter of Yaakov"

The Torah doesn't tell us who was right in this argument. On his deathbed though Yaakov curses the wrath of Shimon and Levi and he takes measures that somehow reflect what even he feels to be the proper path which is that these two tribes should be split up amongst the Jewish people not having one large portion of land. The tribe of Levi would be the wandering spiritual priests of the Jewish people and the tribe of Shimon would be teachers and scribes. In the words of the Netziv of Volozhin in the early 19th century, throughout our history we require zealots and vigilantes like this, however very few of them and certainly not all in one place.

 It's interesting that the tribe of Shimon later on had a child, Zimri, who later on in Bamidbar is killed by Pinchas a descendant of Levi, for taking a non-Jewish woman  (who is refered to as their "sister") in front of 'his brothers". Perhaps the zealousness of Shimon came back to haunt the family. Levi, on the other hand's zealousness is praised later on as the tribe that stands up for Hashem after the Golden Calf debacle and kills their own siblings for desecrating Hashem's name. In fact as we approach the holiday of Chanukah, the entire story is truly a story about how vigilantes called the Hashmonaim or Maccabees stood and did battle not only against the Greeks but against their own brothers who had become Hellenized and pacifiers of the Greeks.; certainly going against world opinion and political corrected-ness at that time. After all, so they want to worship idols on the temple mount, why make a fuss? Ironically, or perhaps sardonically enough, though the children of those same zealots from the tribe of Levi eventually themselves became Hellenists again very shortly afterwards and even invited in the UN of the time, Rome to settle their differences eventually leading to the destruction of the Temple. Hmmm…

This is supposed to be an E-Mail with insights and inspiration. Yet I am feeling somewhat uninspired. It seems hopeless. It's an old Jewish battle and argument and neither way seems to end with any light or direction. But perhaps that is the way we are meant to feel. The next portion in the Torah immediately after the story of Shechem is the command and revelation that Yaakov receives from Hashem to return to Beit El, to build that altar that he had promised to build so long ago. To begin the process of the return of the Jewish people to our worship, to our home, to build the house of Hashem that will serve as a light to all of the nations. Maybe that's the answer. Maybe that's the solution. It is certainly the only thing we can hope for.  

Have an absolutely magnificient Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Hate those people that block the crosswalk…?

my old stomping ground of west seattle cool!

and of course the best line ever…dirty harry

(Let's see who can name where they're from..i just pulled them off the internet of course JJ)
1)      When your life flashes before your eyes as you die, see if you can spot the bad decision that led you to me."
2)      "Fortunately for you I never kill anyone who doesn't request it.  Unfortunately for you I'm going to strike you with this hammer until you do."
3)      "What did you have for breakfast this morning?" *pause for reply*  "Not much of a last meal."
4)      "My friends here have a wager on whether your body will fall forwards or backwards when you die." *draws a long blade* "I've got a large bet on 'both'."
5)      "Maybe in your next life you will be luckier"
6)      "Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have messed with? That’s me"
7)      "Forgiveness is between them and God. It’s my job to arrange the meeting"
8)      "Sounds like you’ve had a hard life. Good thing it’s over." 
9)      "Say hello to my little friend (As he pulls out a M-16)"
And last but not least the classic

"I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk? "— Dirty Harry
(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  Which of the following is related to the Monument of the Fourteen (yad leyad)?
A. The Yehi’am Convoy
B. The Helicopter Disaster
C. The Night of the Bridges
D. The Mountain Brigade
This week we are told about the passing of Rachel and her burial on the side of the road by Beit Lechem. In his explanation to his son Yosef the Midrash tells us that Yaakov explained that in the future when the Jews will be exiled by the Babylonian King Nevuchadnezzar they will pass by Rachel's tomb and she will entreat Hashem for mercy for her children and Hashem will answer her prayer.
The following is Rachel's prayer as brought in the Medrash
"Master of the Universe, it is well-known to you that Your servant Yaakov loved me and served my father seven years on my behalf. At the end of the seven years, when the time of the marriage arrived, my father decided to give him my sister instead of me. I knew it but found myself in a very difficult situation. I sent my future husband a message revealing to him certain signs by which he would be able to distinguish between me and my sister. My father's plan would then have failed. But later I changed my mind because I had pity on my sister who would be exposed to public shame. When my sister was dressed for the wedding I revealed to her the secret signs which I had sent to Yaakov , and even hid myself in the couples room and answered Yaakov's questions  so that he would not discover the deceit by her voice.
I am only human. Nevertheless, I was not jealous of her and did not expose her to disgrace. You are the Eternal Living God; why should You be jealous of meaningless idols and allow Your sons as a result to be exiled, slain by the sword, and abused by the enemy?"
Rachel's prayer evoked Hashem's mercy and He answered her (Jeremiah 31:15-16) "Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your good deeds shall be rewarded, says Hashem, shall return again from the land of their enemy!"
Can't argue with a Jewish mother…

Taste some delicious wine – San Fernando valley or the French hillsides have nothing on our country. Israel is packed with award winning wineries all over the country. In fact I've seen so many wine awards in the various wineries that I have visited that I have kind of lost faith in the meaning of the award. I almost believe it is like the best ______in camp award that they come up with something to give every camper at the end of the summer. But the truth is these are all internationally acclaimed awards. The Golan, The Upper and lower Galile, the Jerusalem and Hebron hills, the Carmel mountain range anywhere you can think of there is a winery worth visiting and tasting. Many of them have fees for full tours of their winery  which includes tastings but many of  the smaller boutiquey ones will be happy to have you visit them and have you taste some of their wines. Anywhere else you drink wine you can enjoy it but it is only on Israeli made wine that you make a special after blessing that thanks Hashem for the land of Israel and its fruit of the vine! L'Chaim!

"My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance. We'll see about that."
" The Secretary of State is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying, "Yesterday 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed." "OH NO!" the
President exclaims. "That's terrible!" His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands. Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a Brazilian?" 


Answer is C:  There are no shortages of monuments in Israel sadly enough for all of our fallen soldiers and tragedies that took place over the 66 years of our countries nationhood. The fallen 14 soldier's monument is located here in the North by Nachal Achziv and it relates to the "night of the Bridges" in June of 1946 when in response to the British White Papers that limited Jewish immigration to the Holy Land all three Jewish military forces, The Hagana, Irgun and Lehi, coordinated attacks on British bridges that entered Israel from Jordan, Lebanon Syria And Gaza 11 in total and blew them up, sending the message that if we can't come into Israel neither will you be able to. In all the places it went off without a hitch except for here where they were detected and came under fire 13 soldiers were killed when the bomb went off early and were incinerated the 14th Yechiam Weiss (for whom the village of Yechiam nearby is named after and thus the trick in the question) was killed in the bullet fire. Their remains were all brought here although unidentified and were buried in one large Kever Achim "brother's grave.