Karmiel

Karmiel
Our view of the Galile

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Blessing on your Head- Shemini 2017/5777

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

April 21st 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 26 25th Nissan 5777
Parshat Shemini
A Blessing on your Head
 
In Seattle I never had this problem. Most of my congregation were Kohanim. In fact there was even a time when it was the opposite problem. There were no plain old Israelites, like me to receive the priestly blessing on one of the holidays (my associate Rabbi at the time, Rabbi Fredman-himself a Kohen was running the service, while I was away for the holiday), and the question was do they still give the special blessing even when there was no one standing in the congregation. The answer incidentally is yes, as they bless and have in mind the other Jews in the fields. But we always had a Kohen in the West Seattle TLC. Here in Karmiel though we’re not always so lucky. We’ve had our regular Kohanim over the years, but many have come and gone. Quite a few have actually moved to Jerusalem. Maybe they want to be close to the action as soon as Mashiach comes. I told them that if and when he does come hopefully soon, we get first dibs on them arranging us a little Temple sacrifice action.
But it was a little depressing the first days of the holiday without the priestly blessing from the Kohen. In some ways it’s not as bad as it would have been in the States. Because after-all there they only do the blessing on holidays, while here we do it every single day by morning services. In fact it was one of the jarring things about my trips back to the States that davening and my day does not nearly feel as complete and blessed as it does when I’m in Israel, without that special daily boost from the Kohein. So even though we missed it on the first day, I knew that ultimately we would get the blessing on one of the upcoming days. Sure enough the last days of the chag the Kohen showed up and we got blessed. I felt uplifted. Holiday blessings feel more holy than the weekday ones. Even in Israel we sing in between each one of the three verses. It feels like the Temple. I close my eyes and imagine myself back there…back in the Yerushalayim, on our special mountain, seeing Hashem in his magnificent home. Receiving His blessing. Forever.
This week, the Torah portion begins with the eighth and the inaugural day of the Tabernacle the first of the month of Nissan. It was a busy day. A lot happened. It was the day the Jewish people had been waiting for since we had sinned with Golden calf a little less than year. There was a huge fundraising campaign, building campaign, each Jew contributed not only money, but by bringing whatever skills they had to help work. The Kohanim had all been dedicated and purified, the vessels all anointed. The work was done, the service was about to begin. Aharon the High Priest got up and blessed the nation. Rashi, tells us this was the priestly blessing. Our sages tell us in fact it was the first time this blessing was given.
Yevarechecha Hashem V’Yishmerecha- May Hashem watch over you and protect you
Ya’eir Hashem Panav Elecha Vi’Chunecha- May Hashem shine his countenance upon you and show you grace
Yisah Hashem Panav Elecha V’Yaseim Lecha Shalom- May Hashem uplift you with His countenance and grant you peace.
This is the blessing that the Torah will later tell us that the Kohen is meant to give the people. It is the traditional blessing parents give their children, in our home each Friday night. On major holidays in Israel, like this past Pesach tens of thousands of people gather to the Kotel to receive this blessing from the hundreds of Kohanim that attend the service. It is truly awesome. The Talmud tells us that when the Kohen gives this blessing Hashem’s Divine spirit rests between the Kohen’s hands and He personally brings the blessing to the people. The Zohar and the more mystical commentaries see in this blessing the pathway to bringing down all different Divine blessings that one can experience. The Midrash in Shir Hashirim describes the blessing perhaps the best referring to a verse in Song of Songs
Shir Hashirim (3:7-8) Behold the bed of Solomon; sixty mighty men are around it, of the mighty men of Israel. They all hold the sword, skilled in warfare; each one with his sword on his thigh because of fear at night-Rav Bibi in the name of Rebbi Elazar the son of Rebbi Yosi explains this verse as a reference to the blessing of Kohanim.
60 mighty men- are the 60 letters of the blessing
From the mighty of Israel- for they make Israel strong
They hold swords- matters that are blessed with strength
Skilled in war- for they fight against all the troubles that are in the world
Each one with his sword on his thigh- that even if a man sees in a dream a sword cutting into his thigh what should he do- go to synagogue recite the Shema, pray and hear the blessing of the Kohen and respond Amen and nothing bad will harm him.
Now you can see why I feel pretty attached to this bracha and why when I was in the States I felt I was missing my daily vitamins to make it through the day.
It all started in this week’s portion. It all starts with that first dedication of the Mishkan. What is however sometimes overlooked though, is that this blessing given by Aharon didn’t seem to work for his own two children who were killed just a few minutes later when they brought in a foreign fire to the incense that they weren’t commanded. Wow… Here it is that incredible blessing which becomes the trailblazer for all other blessings. Which Aharon seemingly recited on his own at that highest moment and that Hashem chooses to utilize for all future blessings and yet it was literally the harbinger of catastrophe and tragedy. What is the lesson in this? In addition what is the whole concept of this blessing that on the one hand seems to come from Hashem, but yet on the other hand can only be given via the Kohen?
In Hebrew to understand a word one has to go to its source, its root word. Unlike other languages where words are just arbitrary terms to refer to something, in Lashon Hakodesh- the Holy Tongue the word identifies the essense of word. The root of bracha- blessing is berech which one’s knee. In Bereshit when Eliezer, the servant of Avraham goes to find a mate for Yitzchak, the pasuk tells us
(24:7)“Vayavrech et ha’gamalim- He made the camels kneel ( by the water, at the time when the people went out to draw water)
In fact the word pool is also breicha, because one has to kneel to draw water from it. In the Talmud in regards to agriculture the process of replanting a tree’s branches by bending them back down into the ground so that they will grow a new tree, this is called Havracha. Again the same ‘root’ word- excuse the pun.. What is a blessing? A blessing is the redirection and reconnection of something to its source of growth, its’ source of nourishment. The Kohen is the one that does this job. He is the one that redirects us to our source of blessing. He does this and the commandment and blessing describes the mechanics of the process with one word. Love.
 “Blessed are You Hashem our God , King of the World who has sanctified us with His commandments and He commanded us to bless His nation Israel with love.”
The love in fact is that if a Kohen bears ill will against the people he is obligated to remove it before blessing the people and is forbidden to bless until then. If the people bear a grudge, even a rightful one against him, they must reconcile. The only way he can reconnect us with the roots that we receive during this blessing is if it full of love. Without love it’s like trying to plant something in poisoned earth. In fact there are only two sins that prevent a Kohen from blessing the people; murder and idolatry. The first prevents the connection between the Kohen and the nation the other between the Kohen and Hashem. He need to be the full conduit without any interference. When that connection is made heaven meets earth, all bad forces disappear, we are reunited with our source. Aharon initiates this blessing at the perfect moment. The Mishkan is built Hashem has forgiven us and we will always have a place to connect. The Kohen will be the one who places, the countenance of Hashem upon us. Just like when someone places the roots back into the earth. It’s perfect. It becomes the eternal process. It is the blessing that we give to our children. As we try to direct and return them to their source.
Yet for two of Aharon’s children it doesn’t work. They received the connection as well. Yet it seems they only got the first part of the blessing. Half of the mighty warriors. The first but not the second half. As readers of the second part of my weekly E-Mail know, I like Rashi. Reading his insight precisely leads to a greater appreciation of the text. Rashi on this blessing notes that Aharon blessed the people the priestly blessing Yevarecha, Yae’r and Yisah- And Hashem should bless you, and should shine upon you and should uplift you. Now seemingly, this was extraneous. We know what the priestly blessing is. Yet perhaps Rashi is telling us that Aharon really only was able to affect the first part of the blessing. The Ramban explains that each sentence has two parts to it the blessing and the almost opposite protection for the blessing. The replanting and the sprouting of the roots.
The first sentence is that Hashem should bless us. Too much blessing can be dangerous. It can lead to jealousy, to arrogance to a lack of appreciation of where it comes from. We can become drunk with overabundance. So Hashem adds the second part and He should guard you; Guard and protect us from the pitfalls of the blessing. The second sentence Hashem should shine his presence upon us, also can lead to a negative situation. One who feels and has Divine inspiration, can feel holier than thou, can be shining so bright that people can’t connect with him. Can feel he is above everyone else. We therefore receive that blessing that Hashem should show us grace. He should always make sure that we never get disconnected from everyone else. That when our roots grow up into a tree we should be part of a beautiful forest that sings the praise of Creation together to our Creator.  Finally the last blessing that Hashem should lift us up as well is wrought with the greatest sense of displacement that one can feel. I am soaring in the heavens and have nothing to do with the earth. What do I need this world for? Why should I be so dirty buried under the with my roots deep blow when all I want to do is soar and stretch out to the heavens that are uplifting me. So Hashem blesses us with Shalom. With completion, with peace, with serenity, with the upper realms and lower world all being connected and unified. With the harmony necessary to flourish and prosper.
Nadav and Avihu got the first part of the blessings, but they didn’t get the second part. In fact all of the dangers and factors I mentioned are found by our sages as being the sins that led to their deaths. They were jealous of Moshe and Aharon and thought they were greater than them, they felt they were to holy to get married, they drank too much wine of blessing. Their souls literally flew out of this world because they were too “holy” to remain here. The first part of the blessing rested upon them, but not the second. It is interesting and again precise to note that in America when the blessing is recited by the chazzan, who leads the service (and in Israel as well, when there is no Kohen) we say an introduction
Our God and the God of our Fathers bless us with the three-fold blessing of the Torah that is written by Moshe Your servant, and that is from the mouths of Aharon and his children, the Kohanim as it said...”
We are very precise about the bracha that we want. We want the one that is written in the Torah. The full blessing. The one that not only connects us to that love of Hashem, but allows us to bring that back into the world with us and shine it out to the rest of the world. In Eretz Yisrael, the only place on earth, the only soil that is truly ripe and ready for our plants to flourish we need and get that blessing every single day. The rest of you, have it much more challenging. But don’t worry. Spring is here. The crops are starting to grow, the trees are blooming and we are counting each day until we can bring the new wheat to Yerushalayim. God willing this year we’ll all be there to get the priestly blessing together.
Have a blessed Shabbos and a Chodesh Iyar Tov!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
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RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK

“Ver shemt zikh fun zeineh mishpocheh, oif dem iz kain brocheh.”- Whoever is ashamed of his family will have no blessings.

RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVi0NNZIEu4   - Birkat Kohanim by the Western Wall this past Pesach

https://youtu.be/u57jx8dyFgE  – Pretty Funny- my friend SYR’s Im Hashem Lo Yivne Bayit in English by some group in Indiana….OY…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r81POtmNtBI Ilan Gold Jewish comedian at the UN pretty funny

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q A settlement associated with Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi is:
a. Beit Keshet
b. Kefar Hanasi
c. Mesuot Yitzhak
d. Be’erot Yitzhak

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ILLUMINATING RASHI OF THE WEEK
Rashi does point out “no duh” questions. A “no duh” question is one which is obvious. Like when I tell my children that they have to wash before the eat bread… They of course say “no duh…” exasperatedly, of course with the accompanying rolling of the eyes. Like, I know this already. What the word “like has to do with the previous sentence, I have no idea. But that’s what they say. Like, “No Duh”. Anyways If Rashi is telling us something that we think might be obvious, think about it for a second, he’s trying to point something out to us.
This week the first Rashi of the parsha begins
And it was on the eighth day- Rashi says, profoundly of course, the eighth of the miluim-innauguration of the Mishkan.
No of course our knee-jerk reaction would be to say “no-duh”. I mean the entire chapter and verses that preceded this Parsha are talking about the 7 days of the inauguration. The Kohanim stay in the Mishkan, they bring sacrifices, they are anointed. Obviously this is the eighth day of the miluim. What is his chidush? What else was it the eighth day of circumcision, for those who answered that “Who know Eight” question correctly by the Seder?”
Now if you thought about this for a second the truth is you would find this a very strange name for the day. The truth is as Rashi continues to say, this is the first of Nissan, It is also the day when 10 “crowns” special divinely royal occurences took place. Including the creation of the world, the day the Mishkan was erected and established, the priestly blessing first recited among a few of them. So why in fact does the Torah call the day the eighth day? Why doesn’t it instead refer to it as the first of Nissan as it generally does, giving the month a day when something significant happened?
The Sefat Emet notes that although all of the crowns that came down are huuuuge and important, yet all of that pales in face of the truly momentous thing that took place. It was the eighth day of the inauguration. For seven days the Jews and the Kohanim and Moshe all prepared themselves. They prepared the world. They were miluim- they filled up the void and set the platform for which all of these crowns could land. Our work is so much more significant than the crowns coming down. They don’t and can’t come down without our seven days of preparation first. They can only come down because this is the eighth day. That’s what Rashi wants us to notice. Now you can’t say “No Duh” to that!
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter-Sefat Emet (1847-1905) – The Sefas Emes, created the largest Chasidic following in Poland prior to WWII. Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter was the son of R' Avraham Mordechai zt"l, the eldest son of the Chidushei Harim of Gur. He was born on erev rosh chodesh Iyar 1847 and as a boy of only two, he was orphaned of his mother. When he was about nine years old, his father too was passed away and he was brought up by his holy grandfather who treated him as a son, The Sefat Emet slept the bare minimum and ate very little throughout his youth, but when he became weak in his later years he admitted. "I feel that my body is weak probably due to my minimal sleep and food when I was young. I don't regret the missing sleep because a minimization of sleep is one of the ways with which Torah is acquired but I do regret not having eaten properly for now I am suffering the consequences."
 After his bar mitzva he married the granddaughter of R' Boruch Taam, and continued living in Gur with his grandfather. After his grandfather passed young Yehuda Leib was appointed av beit din. He refused however to act as rebbe and travelled together with the chassidim to R' Chanoch Henoch of Alexander until the latter's passing 4 years later.
On Shavuos, when he saw the massive crowd which had gathered around him, he agreed to join the chassidim in "giving ourselves chizuk" but still did not say divrei Torah in public until Succos the following year. Even then he refused to sit in his grandfather’s seat at the head of the table and sat in the middle of the table-which remains the custom of Ger until today. Finally, when he started giving forth his pearls of Torah wisdom, the world was astounded. These divrei Torah were printed in his famous sefer Sefat Emet al hatorah. His seforim on Shas were also printed many times.
During the Russo-Japanese War, many of his young followers were drafted into the Russian Army and sent to the battlefields in Manchuria. The Rebbe was very worried over these devotees and would constantly write to them. During the entire period of the war the Rebbe would sleep on the floor, rather than in his own bed and would cry bitter tears each night on the fate of his students. Unlike the custom of many of the Rebbes, the Sfas Emes refused to take money from his Chasidim that wished to support him and instead sufficed himself from the income his wife’s store would bring in. In fact he encouraged all of his chasidim to learn a trade rather than to make a living off of their Torah study or even seeking rabbinic positions.
 On Sunday 24th Teves  (1905) a rare illness poisoned his body and at dawn of the 5th of Shevat he returned his pure soul to its Maker. At his funeral there were 10’s of Chasidim that attended and mourned. Today Gerrer Chasidim is alive and well carrying out his legacy and the largest Chasidic group in Israel numbering 15 thousand families.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TYPES OF JEWS IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Avreichim/ Kollel Guys – Perhaps one of the most significant changes in the State of Israel, one that Ben Gurion and the early secular Zionists never dreamed of was the explosion of Jews studying Torah full time. They had thought that the old concept of the “shtetl yid” who would get up early and study and learn would disappear and give way to the new, “enlightened”, modern Jewish fighter, farmer, politician. BG was wrong. Torah study as a full-time occupation in Israel is growing by leaps and bounds. This is not only true in the Hariedi world, but in the religious Zionist world as well. In the Chariedi world there are over 110,000 men ages 18-67 learning Torah full-time of them are about 75,000 married men and 35 thousand single young men. In the Dati Le-Umi world there are over 12.000 more students studying full time in over 75 institutions around the country. Altogether in Israel there are over 1600 Yeshivas and Kollels where people study from morning through night our three thousand year old tour and that number is increasing each year, as the population is. What is perhaps most remarkable about this number is to think that in 1948 in Israel when the State was declared there were 62 yeshivos and a few hundred students in all of Israel.
The majority of the Chariedi Kollel Rabbis, in fact about 76% of them have exemptions from army service. They could go to work and get a “real job” without any worries about serving in the army- so this not merely a ploy to get out. They are there because this is what their life service is all about. Studying, teaching, learning and keeping our people and nation alive in the holiest of ways. Many of them live sadly in tremendous poverty. Meat or in some homes even chicken is a delicacy saved for Shabbos or chagim. They live in small apartments, may with lots of kids. They truly live a life of the frugality that our sages describe of “bread and salt they shall eat and water they drink”, yet many of them wouldn’t trade their portions and what they consider their fortunes, for the world. When one sees the joy and ecstasy in the beit midrash of their learning, their new understanding in the millennia old text, you can start to fathom why it is they do what they do. On Simchat Torah watch how they hold the Torah scroll close and sing Ashrainu Ma Tov Chelkaynu- How lucky we are. I believe that it is for these heroes that the State of Israel was truly divinely meant to be built. To restore the glory of Torah study to the Jewish people after the holocaust and to lay the framework for the Messianic world when the world will fill with the wisdom of Hashem.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  TERRIBLE BLESSING JOKES OF THE WEEK

The Goldberg family was having Friday night dinner at their grandmother’s house – Bubbie Adella. Seated around the table little Moishie Goldberg dug into the food immediately.
"Moishe!” his mother exclaimed. “You have to wait until we make the blessing."
"No I don't," the little boy replied.
"Of course you do," his mother insisted, "we always say a blessing before eating at our house."
"That's at our house," Moishe explained, "but this is Bubbie's house and she knows how to cook."

One day there was a knock on the Pope's office door.
When he answered it, the salesman said, "Hello, my management team would like to discuss a proposal with you." After taking a seat in his office, the salesman said, "I am with Kentucky Fried Chicken. We would like to offer you a contract to the church if you can change the Lord's blessing from 'Give us this day our daily bread' to 'daily chicken'."
The Pope said, "I'm sorry we just cannot do that." The salesman went back to his office where he discussed the outcome of the meeting.
He returned to the Pope's office a week later with the same proposal, only he had upped the bid to 4 million. The Pope gently declined, again.
The next week he came again and offered the Pope an offering of 10 million.
The Pope said, "Let me think it over."
The Pope then called a meeting with the elders of the church and said, "Well gentlemen, I have good news and bad news. Kentucky Fried Chicken has generously offered us 10 million dollars to change the Lord's Prayer from 'daily bread' to 'daily chicken'. The bad new is that we will lose the Wonder Bread Contract.

A priest and a rabbi operated a church and a synagogue across the street from each other. Since their schedules intertwined, they decided to go in together to buy a car.
After the purchase, they drove it home and parked it on the street between them.
A few minutes later, the rabbi looked out and saw the priest sprinkling water on their new car.
It didn't need a wash, so he hurried out and asked the priest what he was doing.
"I'm blessing it," the priest replied.
The rabbi considered this for a moment, then went back inside the synagogue.
He reappeared a moment later with a hacksaw, walked over to the back of the car and cut off two inches of the tailpipe.

A couple invited some people to dinner. At the table, the mother turned to her six-year-old daughter and asked her to say the blessing.
"I wouldn't know what to say," she replied.
"Just say what you hear Mommy say," the mother said.
The little girl bowed her head and prayed, "Dear Lord, why on Earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

**************
Answer is A – Yeah no clue about this one either. I knew that it wasn’t Masuot Yitzhak the yishuv in the Gush which was named after Rav Hetzog. And of course I knew that Ben Zvi was the second and longest serving president of Israel. But I had no clue of the story of his son being killed outside of the kibbutz by an arab ambush there in the war of independence and that he dedicated a national heritage site for him there by this small kibbutz near Nazareth. Now I do… Which is one of the reasons why I have this section in your weekly E-Mail.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Imaginary Worlds- Tzav/ HaGadol/ Passover-5777 / 2017

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

April 7th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 25 4th Nissan 5777
Parshat Tzav-HaGadol/ Pesach Edition
Imaginary Worlds
 
It would have been nice to wake up to an imaginary world this morning. I lay in bed thinking about it. In this world, our house would have been cleaned already for Pesach. I would have had a check next to the hundred things my wife had on my list for me to do. All our shopping would have been done. The dishes are all tovieled  (that’s the act of sticking new dishes and utensils in the Mikva before using them) and put away. The Chametz dishes are gone. The car is clean. I can even smell our Kosher for Passover Shabbat meal starting to cook in our already Kosher for Passover kitchen- is there anybody that has the guts to have a non-kosher for Pesach home our chulent this week. If so invite me over for some real chulent J. The Table is even set for the Seder. I can just sit down and open up my Haggadah and start preparing for the Seder.
“EPHRAAAYIIIIM!!! WHERE ARE YOOOOUUU?? IT’S EREV PESACH, LET’S GO!”
Back to reality….sigh…
Yeah there is no imaginary world. Right? I don’t know, take a little bit of the world we are living in today. How much of it is real. Everyone I know has imaginary “friends” that “like” or “unlike” things about them in a virtual world. The entire world is connected all day and night to these little electronic devices that beep them things that are happening all around the world. We communicate via little things that we type into these little devices and the things that we write on them literally run the entire world. Hundreds of millions of dollars exchange hands via the few words that we type. Well not what I type, but other people, I exchange a few shekels and E-Mails sponsor donations. Relations can be made and broken via  a few texts. The President of the United States can and might even practically declare World War or Peace with the 140 allotted characters of a “tweet”. A “tweet” can bring down world markets, can get the entire world media sending off tweets of their own, can literally change regimes. And in the real world nothing has changed. Just a few taps on a screen. What makes this a real world?
I hate to sound like an old fogey, I’m not, despite what my kids think. But there was a time when we had to write letters to communicate with people. When we had to switch tapes or CD’s to listen to music. When friends were people who we were there for, who we spent time with who we enjoyed each others company and space with. Going to work meant actually doing precisely that not just sitting in front of a screen and tapping away. We carried around money to pay for things, if we didn’t have any we didn’t buy it. We thought twice about wasting film when we took pictures. And when we developed them and got them back it was really exciting to see them. We would think about who to send them out to, who to share them with. It was a different world. It felt more real.
Now the truth is to be fair, my grandparents probably would tell me about entirely different world. One where you didn’t drive everywhere. One where work meant manual labor. Where there was not even time for a notion called entertainment, or energy for that matter. It was a time when a chocolate bar was a luxury for a birthday present. Friends were people that you ran with, jumped and rode with and even worked with. World leaders were people that had earned that right and were respected, authority was respected. People had a different sense of respect for themselves, for the way they presented themselves, the clothing they wore, the way that they spoke. The things that a decent person wouldn’t talk about because it was inappropriate. I was a 70’s-80’s child and it was an entirely different world then what my grandparents less than year prior had experienced in their world. If someone would have described my world to them they would have thought it ridiculous. Imaginary. The same way that I think anyone of my generation if they actually stopped and though about it would think about today’s world. What will tomorrow’s look like?
Virtual friends, disposable houses, driverless cars, no more shopping stores- as everything is drone-delivered to your house, ordered online by just opening your fridge and talking into some headset. There will no longer be any written media or books, they will have gone the way of 8 Track tapes and record players. There will be no more news outlets as we will automatically be updated regularly of what we want to know as it happens. Food will cook itself or 3D bake itself, even chulent. There pretty much won’t be any sickness as all organs will be able to be reproduced, probably by popping a pill or two. The state of marriage or relationships or entertainment I don’t even want to think about. But we are not on a pretty trajectory. Sounds crazy and imaginary? I’m not sure. One thing is certain. It will be a very different world than what we are living in.
Why do I ponder all this now? Because we are getting ready for Pesach and it will be a night to imagine ourselves in two different worlds. Not just imagine but actually feel, understand and even experience and taste each of those worlds. Literally taste them. The first world with the Matzah and Marror and the second world with the Matza and wine and reclining. The world of slavery and the world of freedom. The world that literally changed for us over night pretty much. That will change for us in our seder night.  That’s what Pesach is all about. In fact it’s why it’s called Pesach. To skip-over, which you have to admit is probably the strangest name for a holiday. Seemingly it’s a minor detail that Hashem skipped over the house of the Egyptian and saved our first-borns. But the truth is that in that moment, the entire world changed. The world skipped from a world before the Jewish nation as the first-born connectors to our Father in Heaven, to a world that would be led and guided by our nation. It would be a world that would forever have us as their conscience, as their soul, as their compass and as their light. One skip of a door-post and it changed. There would now be a voice in the world that would decry slavery and the subjugation of another human being. There would now be a people that would charged with pushing mankind to make a better world, to recognize its Creator, that would shatter the pagan and hedonistic idols and lifestyles and lead the world to its ultimate created purpose. That’s what we do on Pesach. It’s what we remember happened and can and will happen once again. In a hop, skip and a jump. With one tweet, for those that are skeptical.
The world is moving so fast, changing for better and for worse so fast. Pesach is the night for us all to get on the train, to get in our rightful conductor’s seat and start riding it in the right direction. It is amazing when you think about what we do to prepare our house for this holiday. Less than a month ago, on Purim our house was full of nosh, snacks, cakes and Hamantash. Our kids hid their little nosh things all over the house. If someone would tell us that in one month, there wouldn’t be a crumb left in our house. That it would be spotless eat off the floor clean. That we would go a week straight eating three meals a day, big meals without one bit of Chametz, that our fridges and our cabinets would be stocked with all types of strange potato starchy food and weird condiments if any, we would think them insane. But yet we did it and do it every year. We transform our entire house and lives for one week. Even the most secular Jews, at least here in Israel, overwhelmingly participate in some way in this Passover world-changing and certainly lifestyle changing activity. Its wild, it’s amazing. It’s almost imaginary. Now imagine if every Jew did this. Imagine if every Jew lived in Israel, where we are supposed to live. Imagine if we were all heading to Jerusalem to eat our Pesach Sacrifice BBQ and visit our Beit Hamikdash. How unreal does that seem. More or less unreal than you think our world might’ve looked to your grandparents? Or how our grandchildren’s world might look to us?
Yes it might seem imaginary, but on Pessach we realize and remember how imaginary and unreal the world of a destroyed Egypt, a humbled Pharaoh and how a nation, persecuted for centuries, of slaves were within one night redeemed, became fabulously wealthy and stood at the foot of Sinai and witnessed and heard Hashem speak to us. How in one night a people that were on the 49th level of impurity, of assimilation, of idol-worshippers, were able to find the strength to turn it all around. How we slaughtered the sheep, that symbol of the lives before and put that blood on our doorposts, declaring we are the first-borns of God.
This Shabbos is Shabbos HaGadol. It is the day and the Shabbos is that is bigger than any other. When something is big it stands above everything else around it. Picture all the Shabboses of the year in a line, or on a calendar. This one stands above the rest. This one is in bold letters. BIG BOLD CAPPED LETTERS. Its different, it’s a new world it’s a world and a Shabbos that we recognize has the power to change the entire world, just as we’ve changed and cleaned our house. Just as we are getting ready to make our Seder, to sit with our family, to tell our seder and to skip between worlds. Not between imaginary worlds but to the realest world. The world that Hashem has been waiting for since the Beginning to see us realize. It will be the ultimate and only real world.
Have a huuuuuge Shabbos Ha’Gadol and Chag Kasher V’Samayach
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK

“Zingen ken ich nit, ober a maiven bin ich”.- I can’t sing, but I’m an expert on it

choice RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/eliyahu-hanavi   In honor of Pesach my latest composition hot off the press..ELIYAHO…YAHOO… HANAVEEEE * warning this song is addictive and you will sing it by your seder

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9Ng9-MZoxgShlomo Katz Eliyahu Hanavi also an amazing version

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8c-iuwpkD0   -My absolutely favorite Pesach song from Rav Nachman Seltzer and Shira Chadasha choir! Chasal Siddur Pesach, beautiful

https://youtu.be/5kgbRusmqjs  Awesomely cool Korban Pesach reenactment of Temple institute. Wow! Can’t wait to do it..

https://youtu.be/rO7MdSIk_uc - Annual Technion Pesach story in one minute cool!


RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK                                      
answer below at end of Email
Q The remains of a 19th century winery were discovered in Tel-Aviv in:
A. The Tel-Aviv Port
B. Neve Tzedek
C. The Train Station Compound
D. Sarona

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ILLUMINATING RASHI OF THE WEEK

You know that famous story or line about that man that asks his Rabbi why God didn’t answer his prayers. The Rabbi tells him that Hashem did answer. “No” is also an answer. Well this week we learn another lesson from Rashi, about another unlikely answer. It’s one that Rashi teaches us numerous times in the Torah. “I don’t know” is also an answer.
At the end of this week’s Torah portion a week before the month of Nissan when the Tabernacle/ Mishkan was erected, Hashem commands Moshe to gather all the Jews together and sanctify and dedicate Aharon and his children and make them Kohanim. For most of us that’s pretty much all we can absorb and care about in the reading. But as we know Rashi is a details person. Each word counts. He notices that as the Torah describes the ceremony with Moshe pouring anointment oil all over them, the Torah says
Vayikra (8:11) And he sprinkles from it (the oil) 7 times upon the Altar
OK, no big deal. Right? Wrong.
Rashi says- “I don’t know where Moshe was commanded about these sprinkles”
I promise you if Rashi had not said anything I wouldn’t have noticed anything. There was no reason for him to go out of his way to tell me that he doesn’t know something. To spend time, money and ink on letting us know that he didn’t know this one. But Rashi, the ultimate teacher is teaching us something in this as well. “I don’t know” is also an answer. It’s important to point out something troubling you and the text when you don’t know something as well.
The Rama of Pano notes that this text is in fact one of the most important texts in the Torah for it testifies to the fact that there was an oral tradition as well as the written law. For Moshe a few verses back (8:5) states that “This is what Hashem has commanded to be done.” And since it does not say this commandment anywhere, this verse becomes the ultimate proof that there was an oral command that wasn’t recorded in the written Torah which we have through tradition.
It is precisely that which Rashi is noting for us. Hey, there’s no command for this? I don’t know any at least… So what does it mean that this was commanded? It must be there is an oral tradition.” See what one simple humble “I don’t know” can lead to. One of the thirteen primary principles of faith.
An important lesson for us to have the week before the night of questions from our children and family. We don’t necessarily have to have an explanation for everything that is asked of us. But we need an answer. And “I don’t know” is a perfectly legitimate one. Even ask Rashi.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah( The RaMA) of Pano  (1548-1620) – Rabbi Menachem Azariah was one of the outstanding rabbis and poskim of his time but he is even more well-known as one of the leading Kabbalists. During the lifetime of Rabbi Menachem Azariah, which was about three hundred years after the Zohar appeared, Kabbalah was studied and taught by a school of Kabbalists in Safed in the Holy Land, It was no small accomplishment to be an outstanding personality at a time when such great names became famous in Jewish life.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah's teacher was Rabbi Ezra de Fano, the Chief Rabbi of Mantua, who had gained fame as a great Kabbalist. Like his teacher, Rabbi Menachem Azariah became a devoted follower of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (the Ramak), whose teachings and writings had blazed a new path in the study of the Kabbalah. Later on, Rabbi Menachem Azariah studied Kabbalah under Rabbi Israel Saruck, who came to Italy to teach the Ari's system of Kabbalah and he became an ardent follower of the Ari. He considered the Ari's system to be a further development of Rabbi Moshe Cordevero's system. He wrote an important work called Asarah Maamaroth ("Ten Statements") based on the Ari's Kabbalah. This work was published in Venice in 1597.
Altogether, including the ten of Asarah Maamaroth, we know of twenty-four Kabbalistic treatises authored by Rabbi Menachem Azariah. The following deserve special mention: Yonas Illem, Maayan Ganim, Kanfei Yonah.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah was not only a great Kabbalist but also a great Talmudist and posek. For a time, he was the head of the yeshivah in the Italian city of Reggio and many scholarly young men flocked to study under him. Later he was elected Rabbi in the famous Jewish community of Mantua. He received letters from near and far soliciting his opinions on legal matters. His Responsa were later pub­lished. He also wrote Alfasi Zuta ("Small Alfas"), an abridged form of the great Tal­mudic compendium, the Alfas, by Rabbi Isaac from Fez (the Rif).
Despite his preoccupation with his studies, his teaching and his writing, Rabbi Menachem Azariah de Fano was a man of extraordinary humility and he was most generous with his wealth. Beside the large sums he spent to publish the writings of the great masters of the Kabbalah, when he was a young man of twenty-six years of age, Rabbi Joseph Karo entrusted him with the printing and editing of his work, the Kesef Mishneh, a commentary on the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam). The Kesef Mishneh was first printed in Venice in 5334 (1574). Rabbi Joseph Karo sent it to him to have it printed in Mantua.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah was a man of noble character, of unusual modesty and charitableness. He never sought honor and did not get involved in any heated controversy with anyone who disagreed with his views. He took a keen interest in communal affairs and rendered valuable service to various Jewish communities in Italy, where his authority was widely recognized. He instituted certain regulations in regard to the daily prayers, especially insofar as the nusach is concerned, and it was he who intro­duced the custom of early rising for selichos. This custom started in Venice and later spread to other communi­ties, including those following the Ashkenazic order.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah died on the 4th day of Menachem Av, in the year 1620), at the age of seventy-two.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TYPES OF JEWS IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK

Protesters – Two identifiable features of Jews. 1) We have opinions and 2) we don’t keep them to ourselves. There was never any question that this was going to be a country with freedom of speech, the right to civilly express your opinion and to gather and to protest and strike. And there are almost no Israelis that can claim to have never been in one type of protest or another. It’s a way of life, here. From the beginning there were protests in this country. Whether we should be democratic, religious, socialist. Whether there should be one, two or even three states here. Whether we should take reparation from the Germans, And of course the famous Shabbos protests in Jerusalem. There has not been any issue in this country that hasn’t elicited some form of organized protest.
In the past few months alone, I can count at least ten different protests and strikes that have wreaked havoc on this country. From most recent and vocal crazy bored yeshiva people protesting the army draft, to disabled people protesting lack of services, to farmers that their crops are not being supported and taxes are too high, to defend the right of soldiers to kill terrorists, to pray egalitarian by the Western Wall, Ethiopians aren’t getting enough support, Communities in the West Bank shouldn’t be knocked down, synagogues shouldn’t be. The courts strike, the train strike, the airport and airlines strike, the garbage trucks strike….I am not exaggerating here all of this in the past few months. And I’m sure I’m missing a bunch.
Now most protests are peaceful, they’re just a hassle. If you’re an American you’re not used to this, you get frustrated and angry at this change in your life, your schedule, your plans. If you’re angry about protesters just organize a protest against them J. Israelis are used to this already. It’s why most of them don’t really make plans. It’s also a great excuse to not being on time for something. “Sorry I was held up at the protest”. It really works and is totally acceptable. The truth is is though as much as I wished these protests would get a life and stop already and everyone would just get along. And as much as I disagree with the majority of the things that people are protesting...It's nice to know that the innate spirit and sense of Jewish outrage and perceived injustice is alive and well no matter how misdirected or distorted that may be... The greatest enemy is complacency in my book. And if there is a soul screaming to get up and make a fuss then there is a Jewish soul that is still alive and seeking the truest tikkun Olam and that is a good thing.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  REALLY TERRIBLE PESACH JOKES OF THE WEEK

(Only for those old timers like me that remember Manishevitz, Concord Grape and Malaga days)
Pharaoh told Moses the Jews were free to leave Egypt. So the Jews packed their carts with their belongings and tried to leave. The problem was, with all the dead Egyptians, the funeral homes could not handle the
demand. The end result was streets littered with coffins. With the streets impassable, the Jews couldn't get there carts out of their driveways. They complained to Moses. "We can't get out of Egypt unless you
do something about these blocked streets". Moses in turn, called out to G-d. "Lord, please do something about this coffin problem." Understand with all the commotion it was hard for G-d to hear what Moses was saying.He thought Moses said 'Coughin" and responded by turning all the wine into cough syrup. And that is why, to this day, we drink Passover wine that resembles cough syrup.
At Passover, we read the story of Moses and how God brought 9 plagues onto the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. And we read that because the Pharaoh was stubborn and still wouldn’t let the Jews leave Egypt, God had to unleash Plague number 10, despite his previous warning. This was the death of the first-born of every Egyptian family. Only then, after this greatest of terrors, did the Pharaoh release the Jews from slavery and let them leave Egypt to journey to the Promised Land.
But in the face of such convincing evidence that something really bad would happen, why didn’t the Pharaoh release the Jews after the first nine plagues? It took years of research by leading Israeli scholars studying the Dead Sea Scrolls to find the answer. “The Pharaoh was still in deNile”.

Did you know that the horseradish root goes back in time as far as the matzoh does? The horseradish root also crossed the Red Sea with the fleeing Israelites. The Israelites were slaves at the time and only had access to a few vegetables. The hard and woody horseradish was one of them and was a household staple.
Nearly all the fleeing Israelites took horseradish with them. Moshe and Sadie, however, while gathering up their scant belongings, found to their dismay that they had run out of horseradish. Sadie immediately sent Moshe into the field to dig up a large horseradish root to take with them. However, because it was dark and everyone was running around in panic, Moshe dug up a ginger root by mistake.
After forty years in the desert, the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land – all, that is, except Moshe and Sadie. It took them forty-one years to arrive. When asked where they had been, Sadie, now grown old, shrugged her shoulders and replied, "Moshe insisted on taking an alternate root."

And a Seder Song for you to sing
These are a few of our Passover Things
(sung to the tune of "These are a few of my favourite things")
Cleaning and cooking and so many dishes
Out with the chametz, no pasta, no knishes
Fish that's gefillted, horseradish that stings
These are a few of our Passover things.
Matzoh and karpas and chopped up charoset
Shankbones and kiddish and yiddish neuroses
Tante who kvetches and uncle who sings
These are a few of our Passover things.
Motzi and maror and trouble with Pharoahs
Famines and locusts and slaves with wheelbarrows
Matzoh balls floating and eggshell that cling
These are a few of our Passover things.
When the plagues strike
When the lice bite
When we're feeling sad
We simply remember our Passover things
And then we don't feel so bad

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Answer is D – I would’ve skipped this one had this been on my exam. (This exam was from winter of 2015). You’re allowed to skip like 5 questions out of 50 I believe. If pressed  I probably would have guessed the right answer. As the train and the port were not really wine places and were at end of 19th century and early 1900’s. Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood outside of the walls of Yaffo was late 19th century, however it was also not really agricultural just a nice neighborhood. Which leaves Sarona, the German Templar neighborhood which was agricultural. But like I said I would have skipped this one, so it’s certainly alright if you got this one wrong.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Sacrifice Story- Vayikra 2017/5777

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

March 31st 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 24 4th Nissan 5777
Parshat Vayikra
A Sacrifice Story
 
It was really a simple request. I don’t know why he couldn’t listen to me. But perhaps knowing my customer I should have known; my wife certainly knew he couldn’t be trusted. But it made for a great story and that’s what it is all about anyways, isn’t it? But let’s rewind.
It was Erev Shabbos. To be precise it was about an hour to Shabbos, when I heard the knock on the door. We were living in Des Moines Iowa at the time. I was starting my career as a Kiruv Kollel Rabbi. I opened the door and the smell hit me before I even saw who it was. It was not pleasant at all, to be polite. The man at the door was someone that I had met in Shul a few times. It seems he was a former shochet (ritual slaughterer) who had worked in Postville a few hours away. He was short, dressed in dirty, smelly jeans and a T- Shirt, oily wrangled hair and he smelled really bad. I asked him what I could help him with and he told me that he needed a place to stay for Shabbos. It seemed I figured out that he had been living in his car for the past few days…weeks? Never one to turn down a needy Jew, and being that we had a pretty big house out in Iowa ( 5000 square feet for $106K- this was Iowa after all), I told him it would be my pleasure. Then he threw out one last request, a request you only get in Iowa-probably one you only get if your name is Ephraim Schwartz.
“Do you think it would be alright as well, if my sheep and two chickens would be able to stay by you as well? I saw that you have a fenced in dog-run on the side of your house”
It seems that they had been living with him in his beat-up Cadillac. I then finally identified that odor that I was smelling… that he reeked of. Well I certainly was not one to allow the abuse of animals by keeping them in a car, and I figured my kids would probably get a kick out of it as well, and hey it was only for Shabbos so why not? At least I thought it was only for Shabbos…
After a rather entertaining Shabbos with this guy, let’s call him Yankel, where he showed us his rock collection. Hmmmm…. He also talked to himself a lot….double Hmmmm…. He asked if he could stay a bit longer as he had some job interviews…by Wendy’s ….Triple Hmmmm… and he needed a place until he could close on his own place. It would only be another day or two. Or three…four? The following Shabbos he was still there. The sheep was grazing. The chickens would get fed corn every day. This was Iowa there was no shortage of corn. The kids were getting a kick out of it. I felt like a real Iowan. After another week, my wife was getting a bit nervous. The smell was wafting upstairs already. The soap and shampoo and towels we had left for him seemed to be unused. Her grandparents had come to visit and it was time for him to go, I was told in no uncertain terms. We were heading out of town for Pesach and we certainly were not leaving him in our home. So I sat down with him to have the conversation.
I explained to him that we were leaving and that we were sorry but he would probably have to leave the next day. I offered to help him find another place, but he said he would be fine. A bit later he came over to me and asked me another one of those only in Iowa and only to Ephraim Schwartz type of questions.
Do you think it would be alright if I shechted/slaughtered the animals before I left. I just want to have something to eat for the holiday?”
I don’t know why I think these things are cool. My wife and mother really don’t either. But I do. I told him I have no problem with it, what he chooses to do with his animals is his choice. The only thing I requested is that my wife and kids, and certainly not her grandparents see what he is doing and everything is cleaned up afterwards and is gone. I was savvy enough to know that slaughtering chickens and goats was not something my wife would appreciate my kids being witness to. I certainly was not interested in traumatizing them into god-forbid becoming vegetarians. Where would I eat chulent after I was old and retired if my kids swore off meat? See I do understand things.
Anyways the next morning I woke up and saw the goats, chickens and Cadillac still there. I was on my way to shul and figured I would have to take care of it when I got home. It was a simple request, as I said. Right? Yankel had obviously slept in a bit. I came home about an hour later and as I approached my house I heard fire engines. Uh Oh. I pulled up to my house and I saw a sight that I would never forget. Yankel was standing there in the dog-run. There was goat roasting on a fire. Yankel was standing over a chicken with his knife waving in the air like the angel of Death and the other bird was flapping around. Two fireman were approaching, as it seems someone had called them about a fire in my side-yard. Worst of all I looked at the window in my house and my wife’s grandmother was sitting there trying desperately to keep my kids, who were waiting for car-pool, from gawking at this horrifying sight. Uh Oh…
I spoke to the firefighters and explained that this was an enclosed fire and a BBQ and there was nothing to worry about. They left, but before I could go over to Yankel another car with sirens pulled up. It was the Protection of Animals Association people. It seems that my neighbors who were also looking out their windows with horror had been busy on the phone. I spoke to the animal people and told them that this was a certified butcher and these were livestock he was slaughtering and it was all under control. They left and I realized that I had better talk to my neighbors quickly before more phone calls are made.
So I knocked on their door and I will never forget the looks on their face as they opened it up a crack and spoke to me through it. I apologized and told them that I am sorry for disturbing them, and that all of this was a misunderstanding and there was this guy staying in my house who was a butcher who without my knowledge was doing this but it would be cleaned up and take care of. It didn’t seem that they had appeared to be too convinced. For they then asked me.
It’s alright Rabbi, We are just curious, are you planning on offering a lot of sacrifices here?”
Boom. They don’t have many Jews in Iowa it seems and these poor people thought this was kind standard behavior of us “Rabbis”. I explained to them that this wasn’t sacrifices. It was just a hungry guy that wanted something to eat. That was a Christian concept as well. They didn’t seem too convinced. But what could I do? I made my way over to Yankel, who by then had finished his “work”. He apologized, cleaned up and was gone. A few months later corn-stalks grew up in our dog-run. It seems the chickens had pecked the kernels into the ground. It was a nice memorial to the sacrifices offered at Hotel Schwartz. The final epilogue of the story is about a year later someone in shul asked me if I saw the newspapers as it seems my “friend” Yankel was highlighted in a recent article. It seems he was arrested for stabbing someone 17 times in the chest. Apparently he had some Messianic delusions and voices telling him to do it. Maybe they really were sacrifices that were offered at my house. Needless to say, it was quite a long time before my random Shabbos invitation privileges were reinstated. OK maybe not too long… It seems my holy rebbetzin can’t avoid the opportunity for a good story as much as her husband.
This week we begin the third book of the Torah that begins to discuss almost for its entirety the laws of korbanot- sacrifces. The truth is that it is not only this book but every one of the books of the Torah includes commands about sacrifices. From Cain and Abel in Bereshit through the commands of the sacrifices when we come into the land of Israel in Devarim the Torah is just full of sacrifices. Of the 613 mitzvos, that we have Over 350 of them are related to sacrifices and the service and laws regarding the Temple. It’s a big deal in Judaism. Every one of our daily prayers includes supplications for a returning of the Temple where we could bring them. As much as we like to think about Judaism and Torah as being a religion or system of belief that is about loving your friend and neighbor, and being a light unto the nation in our moral and ethical behavior and study of Torah, any even periphery reading of the majority of the Torah will reveal that our faith is at least about and obsessed with the notion and mitzva of sacrifices. At the same time though, I believe that for most of us, even those of us that are not hillbilly neighbors in Iowa, there is probably no mitzva that we have more difficulty really wrapping our brain around.
In previous years we have discussed different ideas about this mitzva. We mentioned that sacrifices are our way of getting close to Hashem. We spoke about the some of the different symbolism in the different offerings. Maimonides seems to view sacrifices as a Divine response to idolatry in his work the guide to the perplexed, whereas Nachmanides sees it as a spiritual secret connecting the physical worlds and our physical selves to the Almighty and the eternal. Other commentaries suggest the entire concept is just a chok- one of those unexplainable commandments that we follow and obey merely for the sole reason that Hashem commanded us to. Far be it for me to interject my own opinion into these debates and insights. I can however just dream and think about the outcome and the days when Jewish life was occupied and –excuse the pun- consumed with korbanot.
The life while the temple was standing and ideally as well when it will return to its proper place and service was full of Jews from all over Israel and the Jewish world. Any event that happened in my life would require a visit to the Beit Hamikdash- the house of Hashem. A birth, a sin, a holiday, purification after a death, a sickness, new crops whatever was going on I had to connect it to Hashem. I had to visit the Temple. I would see and participate in the slaughter of an animal, an offering being brought to the Kohen, on the altar. I would see blood being sprinkled, for some sacrifices I would also enjoy part of the sacrifice and have a good steak. It would be a moment that would be eternal. It was a story I would never forget, as I’m sure my former neighbors in Iowa have never forgotten. I can’t think of anything in this world that would have a greater impact on me then regularly going through this process. No inspiring torah lecture, no uplifting prayer service or even Saturday night musical kumzitz with even Shlomo Carlebach would have as much impact and be as life changing and awe-inspiring then the process of bringing sacrifices to the Temple.
The truth is it’s intimidating to even think about such a life with such and overwhelming awareness of the significance of every one of our actions and how the hand of Hashem plays into absolutely everything that takes place in our lives. Sure we know that all intellectually, but experientially is something else entirely. It’s so much easier to live our lives, even tragically our observant religious lives, doing mitzvos, going to , shul, making blessings, keeping kosher and even learning Torah as things and mitzvos and good deeds that we do but not as defining the essence of our existence. Our existence is our jobs, our family, our community, our friends and our neighbors. It is the politics of the world, the struggles that we undergo, the simchas and achievements we celebrate and the day to day grind of the world. We pay our respects to God, we acknowledge Him all the time, but does it enrapture our lives? That’s really what we lack without the sacrifices, that sense and those experiences that would always define what life was really about. Our sages established prayers three times a day in place of those sacrifices. When I tell my tourists to imagine a world without a synagogue, without prayers they can’t imagine what Jewish life would look and be like. I’ll pause for a second for you to contemplate that…. No shul, No community gathering place, no place Shabbat services, no kiddush chulent in shul, no holiday prayers, not shacharis, mincha or maariv three times a day…. What would it look like?
The answer is that while the Temple was standing and we had sacrifices, there was no need for any of this. Our Shuls are a pathetic band-aid on the awareness of what life felt like when we had the Beit Hamikdash, when every act we did had Hashem’s presence and Temple korban bringing significance. That’s the way it was supposed to be. That’s the majority of the mitzvos in the Torah and arguably the most discussed topic in the entire Torah, for that’s what Jewish life is really all about.
We have entered the month of Nissan. The Book of Vayikra and the sacrifices always envelope the holiday of Pesach. Pesach is that one holiday when we are meant not only to observe rituals…a lot of rituals. It’s the holiday when we are supposed to experience something.
“Every Person is obligated to view himself as if he left Egypt”
We actually start off as slaves, and are meant to create the feeling for ourselves, and we end off with the euphoria of being freed. We transcend time, space, our Seder table. We have left Iowa, Boro Park, Lakewood, Detroit and even Karmiel and Jerusalem of today and are sitting in the Temple eating our Pesach Lamb. We can get there. We can skip over everything that is holding us back as Hashem passed over each house. It’s the beginning game and the end game. We’re almost there. “Are you going to be offering a lot of sacrifices here, Rabbi?” Yes, yes, yes…
Have a pleasurable Shabbos and an amazing Chodesh Tov!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK

“Hob nit kain moireh ven du host nit kain ander braireh.-Don’t be scared when you have no other choice 

RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

https://youtu.be/GzL3PmHxtMU    It’s beginning to look a lot like Pesach funny and cute!

https://youtu.be/6LeGjoYcDF0 -Stuff women say Pesach time


https://youtu.be/U_72gadkeXY?list=PLtLLdnWnTrTLzDLhWPS-WrCIrWCXsSHh2  Moshe Rabbeinu interview in Hebrew..funnyJ


RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK                                      
answer below at end of Email
Q.  An agricultural settlement established by members of the Old Yishuv is:
A. Motza
B. Zichron Ya’acov
C. Ruhama
C. Rishon Le’Tzion

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ILLUMINATING RASHI OF THE WEEK
There are a myriad of drashot-derivations that we have from words in the Torah. We know and understand that the Chumash that we study is only the written law. There is an oral law that was given as well at Sinai and the text of the Torah serves a the source for which the entire oral Torah can be derived. That’s what the Talmud does for the most part. Finds the sources in the Torah for the nuances and different aspect of how to fulfill the law according to the Torah SheBaal Peh- the oral tradition. Rashi does not bring down every drasha and every law in his commentary on the Torah. When he does it is to teach us that this law gives us a new fundamental insight in the pshat- the simple readin and understanding of the Torah.
In this week’s portion The Torah tells us that when a man brings a sacrifice
 Vayikra (1:3) He should be bring it (or him) close according to his will before Hashem
Rashi notes that
 This teaches us that he we force him, how is this possible does not the Torah say according to his will? We force him until he says he wills it.”
The reason for Rashi bringing down this drasha is because the verse already says that the owner should bring it to the Ohel Moed. It repeats this a second time to teach that the animal must be brought regardless. Yet, this concept is obviously problematic and dangerous. How do you force someone until he says he wants to do something? What type of free-will is that?
Now Maimonides explains this law particularly as it applies to the laws of divorce mentioned in the Talmud. There the law is that get- divorce document  that permits a Jewish married woman to remarry when she gets divorced, must been given willfully. Yet the Talmud tells us that if the man refuses to give the get the court has permission to literally hang him up on a tree until he becomes amenable and willfully gives his get. The Rambam asks, how is this possible? What type of willful divorce is this? His answer sheds light onto the essence of a Jew and with that the fundamental concept of sacrifices.
He writes in hi work Yad Chazaka Laws of Gerushin/divorce (2:20)
The idea of forcing only applies when one is forced or pressured to do something that he is not obligated to do the Torah-e.g. to give a gift to his friend or buy something from him. But that which his bad thoughts forces him to violate a commandment or not observe a mitzva, and we pressure him not to violate or to fulfill it is not called by force. Rather the opposite- he is overcoming his evil inclination that is dominating him and not allowing him to fulfill it. For every Jewish person has a true desire to fulfill all of the commandments and to not sin, however his yetzer hara doesn’t’ allow him to and is coercing him to do bad. However if we pressure him that he not submit and hit him until his physical desires are weakened and his body then calls out “I want” this reveals the realization of his inner desire and he is fulfilling it from his truest will.”
Wow, talk about insight into the nature of the Jew. If this is the case perhaps Rashi and the Torah chose to reveal that concept here more-so than anywhere else. For the entire function of these sacrifices is for a person to separate the physical aspect of oneself that drew him to sin and the purest essence that only wants to fulfill the ratzon of Hashem. We slaughter the animal and bring it close to show the person, the Adam that atonement is possible because it was never his true essence that sinned. It was the animal side of him that dominated him. He has the power to overcome it. He wants to overcome it. That is his real will. And even if he is screaming no. It’s not him. It’s like the baaaiing or mooooing of the cows. His neshoma will eventually scream out rotzeh ani- I want.
Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon- The Rambam/Maimonides (1135-1204) – If one did not know that Maimonides was the name of a man, one would assume it was the name of a university. The writings and achievements of this twelfth­century Jewish sage seem to cover an impossibly large number of activities. The Rambam was the first person to write a systematic code of all Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah; he produced one of the great philosophic statements of Judaism, The Guide to the Perplexed; published a commentary on the entire Mishna; served as physician to the sultan of Egypt; wrote numerous books on medicine; and, in his "spare time," served as leader of Cairo's Jewish community.
Not that the Rambam had much free time as from morning to night he would be in the Kings palace serving the masses and only in the evening and nights after returning home would he have time to meet people answer questions and deal with his community and the world issues. And yet he still managed to become perhaps one of the most influential Jews and sages of all times. Born in Spain he fled the country from the Arabs there to Morocco, Israel and ultimately to Egypt where he lived until his death, as he was not allowed to leave the service of the Saladin the sultan of Egypt. Yet from that place in Egypt his word carried throughout the Jew world. His letters to the Jews of Yemen and to another country that had suffered persecution became classics in understanding and giving faith and hope to a down trodden persecuted people. His works and influence in Egypt saved the city which was under the influence of the Karaites a break off heretical fringe group of Jews that threatened the spirituality and future of our people, almost entirely ridding them from the city. There is almost no serious student of Torah today that does not study his works, this is despite the great opposition many of them faced during his lifetime when many of them were excommunicated and even burnt in the streets of France.
On his grave in the city of Tiberias, where he had ordered he be taken to and buried upon his passing, it is inscribed that “From Moshe until Moshe there has not been another Moshe that has come”. The Rambam, it is said chose to be buried in Tiverya for our sages tell us that when Mashiach comes the reestablishment of the Sanhedrin, which ended in that city, will occur once again. The Rambam wishing to be part of that. May we see that day soon.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TYPES OF JEWS IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Makolet guys –Despite the modernization of the State of Israel and the take-over of the food industry to a large part by the big supermarket chains, the makolet industry still seems to be thriving and for the average Israeli family it certainly is a way of life. After-all you can’t send your three your old to SuperSol to pick up groceries, but the makolet guy however is happy to greet her give her a candy and send her home with your stuff. You can’t pay Osher Ad on credit, but Avi down the block in his little mom and pop makolet grocery is more than happy to extend you as long as you need. In fact he has a book full of half the people in the neighborhood that he does that for. Now don’t get me wrong he probably still won’t bag your stuff for you, the supermarkets won’t either, Israelis work under the assumption that you are fully capable of doing that yourself. He also won’t offer you discounts or coupons. He may not even remain open for you a few minutes longer than he’s supposed to. He is after-all the classic Israeli institution that was developed under socialist ideals. He’s doing you a favor by selling to you. He won’t thank you and wish you a nice day. He thinks you should thank him. But yet there are plenty of Israelis that will only shop in the makolet. It gives them something to complain about as well. The guy knows who they are and to Israelis that is more important than anything else. It’s all about who you know and who knows you. What does this have to do with buying some cottage cheese, I’m not sure. But I’m still new here. But shopping and meeting makolet people while you are here is certainly part of the Israeli experience.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  PESACH CLEANING JOKES OF THE WEEK

Abe goes to see his boss and says, "we're doing some heavy house-cleaning at home tomorrow for Pesach and my wife needs me to help with the attic and the garage, moving and hauling stuff."
"We're short-handed, Abe," the boss replies. "I just can't give you the day off."
"Thanks, boss." says Abe, "I knew I could count on you!"

Benjamin is offered a high powered job as Head of Finance at Utah Life Assurance Inc. He and his Sarah sell their house in New York and move to Utah. But Benjamin is unaware that it had been a difficult decision for the ULA President to offer him the job.
Even after Benjamin starts work, the ULA directors continue to put pressure on the President behind Benjamin’s back. "We’re all Mormons on the board and we’ve never had someone Jewish on the board before. We find this very difficult to accept."  But they also know that Benjamin is proving to be the best. He’s a financial genius, a financial guru.
After much careful thought, the President decides on a course of action and calls Benjamin to his office. "I’m afraid I’ve run into some opposition to your appointment. If you want to keep your $400,000 a year position, you’ll have to convert.  Please let me know by tomorrow what you decide."
Benjamin has no choice. However difficult it might be to convert, it’s easier than losing his great new job. So he goes home and tells Sarah, "It’s simple, from this Sunday we’ll be going to church with our children."
Over the months that follow, Sarah doesn’t stop nagging. "It’s so difficult for me…I miss shul…shabbes….lighting the candles…kiddush…festivals etc. You know Benjamin, money isn’t everything."
The more she nags him, the worse Benjamin’s conscience bothers him, until finally he’s had enough. He goes back to the ULA President. "I can’t go on like this, sir, my troubles are eating me up inside. Money isn’t everything to me. Neither I nor Sarah can sleep at night.  It’s too much for us. I made the wrong decision. We were born Jews and we want to die Jews. If you want me to quit, I’ll go without making a fuss."
The president looks at him in amazement and says, "Listen Benjamin, I had no idea it was so tough for you. I thought switching religions would be simple. But you are doing an excellent job here and I don’t want to loose you. Stay here and you can be as Jewish as you want - I’ll take care of the directors."
Benjamin goes home to Sarah feeling absolutely great. "Our troubles are over at last, darling," he says to her, "I’ve spoken to the President and he’s letting me keep my job and he said we can go back to being Jewish immediately."
Sarah looks at him with anger in her eyes. "Tell me, are you stupid or what?"
Benjamin is shocked. "But I thought that was what you wanted all along, to be Jewish once more. Don’t you want to go back to being Jewish?"
Sarah looks very upset and replies, "Of course I do, but now, just 2 weeks before Pesach?"
A bio-research institute in Israel is developing plans for cloning sheep. "When the Holy Temple is rebuilt, there will suddenly be a tremendous demand for blemish-free lambs to use for the different sacrifices on the festivals, the Korban Hagigah, the Korban Shelamim, and of course, on Passover, the Korban Pesach (Passover sacrifice)", explained its director. "We will be able to meet that demand by cloning. Each lamb thus produced will be known as a... Korban Copy".

All year round:
Wake up, go to the bathroom, go to the kitchen make a cup of coffee
Before Pesach:
Wake up go to the bathroom, got to the kitchen to prepare cup of coffee, go to the shower to get the cup and spoon (moved there for cleaning purposes),return to the kitchen to get coffee, remember that the coffee and sugar is on by the sink outside on the porch, go and bring it and return to the kitchen for hot water and milk, remember that you left the spoon in the sugar by the sink on the porch, stir the coffee with your finger, go to the medicine cabinet by shower to get cream for the burn on your finger, return to drink your cold coffee in the stairwell of your building…

Family Whatsapp group
Mom: Time to start cleaning for Pesach cleaning
Dad left group…

If the woman had to build the Sukka and the man had to clean for Pesach they would both start Erev Pesach. But since the woman needs to be the one to clean for Pesach. So they both start erev Sukkos.

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Answer is A – This was a tricky one, I got it right though. I believe the trick in this question is that it is established by people already in Israel rather than Olim of the early Aliya. Ruchama in the Negev was established by Russian Olim and the secular Hashomer. Rishon as well was run by Biluim initially until the Baron got involved. Zichron as well was founded by 1st Aliya olim from Romania and later funded by the Baron they were religious and technically speaking Aliya Rishona is still considered part of the old Yishuv as they were religious as opposed to the other Aliyot. Yet I imagine the more correct answer was Motza right outside of Yerushalayim, which really moved people that were already here and part of the old yishuv to these farms.