Our view of the Galile

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wow Moments- Balak 2015/5775

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

July 3rd  2015 -Volume 5, Issue 34 16th Tamuz 5775
Parshat Balak

Wow Moments

Perhaps my most favorite part of being a tour guide is what I call the "Wow Moment". It is that few minutes when you take your tourists to a place and they are kind of scratching their head, and you know they are asking themselves "Why did he shlep us all the way over here?" I mean it's pretty and all that jazz and perhaps even historical, but was it really worth the extra drive..? Climb…? Hike...? And then you turn the corner and are overlooking a glorious view, or you pull out your Tanach and describe for them that where they are standing is where this story took place, or you ask them to close their eyes and envision something special and meaningful and all of a sudden a change comes over their faces. "Wow!!" "Awesome" "That's incredible" "Amazing". Those are the moments we live for. Our mission has been accomplished. The hike and trek to get out here was worth it. It is a moment you know they will carry with them back to the States. You may even get a tip. Truth is you don't even need one (don't quote me on this- we always like oneJ). The look on their faces is more than enough.

In many ways being an outreach Rabbi was very much the same thing. Watching new students eyes and faces transform before you as you shared with them their first Torah insight, their first real connection to their heritage, their first taste of Shabbos...of chulent JJ, there's nothing better than that. You can actually see how you have opened with a key the hidden treasure that is their soul and it blossoms right before your very eyes. It is a "Wow Moment" of the holiest kind. It is those that I treasure for a lifetime and I thank Hashem for giving me the privilege to be part of and to witness.

We have all read stories, heard inspirational ideas and have had people tell us about incredible visits that they have had to all types of fabulous places. Yet, none of the above has the same impact as the power of sight. Seeing something that is moving connects ones soul with what one sees in the deepest of ways. The images embeds into ones soul and can connect to ones memory in the deepest of ways. It is perhaps for that reason that the Torah warns us V'Lo Sasuru Acharie Li'Vavchem V'acharei Einechem- don't "tour/stray" with your heart and your eyes. The heart is open and looking to connect, the eyes are the receptacles that transplant their images on the soul of a man. One of our great sages once said that he felt this was the most challenging of all mitzvos; Our natural desire is to "tour" with our eyes, to explore the world, to "check it out". Yet as Rashi teaches us seeing can lead directly to the heart coveting, to rest of the body engaging in activity that ultimately will bring man to the depths. The eyes are the windows to our souls for better and for worse.

This week's Torah portion introduces us to what our sages considered to be the "Rebbe" of the bad eye. The Mishna in Avot urges us to be from the Students of Avraham whose traits consist of having a "good eye", as opposed to the students of Bil'am of the eye that sought out bad. The Parsha seems to be full of Bil'am, who is employed by Balak the king of Moav, touring around to see the Jewish nation so that he may place that eye upon them and curse them. This is despite the Almighty's explicit repeated command not to attempt to do so. This is despite the incredible Divine irony of Bil'am’s donkey being able to see the angel that threatens to destroy him with a sword which Bil'am can't see initially. Even when Bil'am comes to different positions and outlooks points on the Jewish people and breaks out in blessing rather than the curses he had hoped to unleash upon our nation, he persists on trying to find a better spot, another sacrifice another opportunity to use his eyes as a tool to wreak destruction upon our people.
If one follows the verses though the third time around Bil'am seemingly finally gets it.

And when Balaam saw that it pleased HaShem to bless Israel, he went not, as at the other times, to meet with enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling tribe by tribe; and the spirit of G-d came upon him.

And he took up his parable, and said:
"The saying of Balaam the son of Beor, and the saying of the man whose eye is opened; The saying of him who hears the words of G-d, who sees the vision of the Almighty, fallen down, yet with opened eyes:
 How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel!

The ultimate "Wow moment" took place for Bil'am. For the first time he states his eyes had been opened. He saw the Jewish people as they really were. Not this fearsome tribe that Balak and the world media were presenting him with. They were a nation whose tents were holy. The Midrash brought by Rashi suggests that Bil'am saw that the Jewish tents were set up with the openings not facing one another "So that one would not see into his neighbors tent". Unlike many of us who prefer tinted windows on our cars so that no one else can see into our car. (As our children fight with one another, or as we yell at them for fighting, or so that we can hide our latest purchases from prying eyes-which is generally what our children our fighting about). The Midrash’s terminology is that they were structured such so that we would not look into another person's tent rather than the vice-vers- others checkin' us out.. What's his is his, no one wanted to covet, begrudge or give a "bad eye" to his neighbor. Each Jew would, as my mother used to scold us (and to fulfill her prophesy I do to my own children as well), "keep their eyes on their own plate". We knew that our eyes were the windows to our souls and we wanted our windows to be faced inwards rather than upon another.

 Bil'am saw that and he said "Wow!"- Ma Tovu-how wondrous and goodly are your tents. His blinded eye that always saw the negative, whose heart could never seem to connect to anything but the curse that he saw was opened. With a little practice and warming up of Hashem putting the right words in his mouth a few times and with that incredible paradigm shifting moment he was able to find the blessing within himself albeit for a minute for the nation that was just moments before his mortal enemy.
It is interesting to note that it is that blessing that Bil'am said at that moment that become the custom of the Jewish people to say as they arrive in shul each morning. Think for a second how bizzare that must be. We have no shortage of poets, lyricists and beautiful texts that we could start off our morning with. Yet from all of that, we chose Bil'am's personal blessing. Bil'am who after that one moment, returned again to his diabolical plot and in fact ended up advising Balak to have the Moabite daughters seduce the Jewish people. This in turn brought down the wrath of God and 24,000 Jews were killed in the ensuing plague-more than any battle, plague or Divine punishment that happened in the 40 years in the wilderness.  Yet is it is Bil'ams prayer that becomes the text of choice to start off our morning. Why?

The answer is because there is no more powerful way to start off our morning, our day, our lives, than with that sense of Wow! How special is our tents, our places of worship, our fellow Jews and our nation. If even Bil'am that archenemy of our people who intended to destroy us, yet when he actually beheld us was so overcome with the beauty and specialness of our nation, than how much more so should our wow be when we see our fellow Jews each morning, when we take our first breath and steps in Hashem's glorious world. We start our morning with that Wow because it is meant to engage our good eye to give us the vision we need to activate our hearts and love for life, for our brothers and sisters and for Hashem our Father in heaven.

This week we begin the three week period of mourning for the destruction our Temple. Our sages tell us that when the temple was destroyed the Divine presence had already departed from it. It was sticks and stones that the Babylonians and Romans destroyed. What caused the divine presence to depart? It was because we had let it go. We were no longer awed by the Temple and the almost unfathomable-to-us-today notion that Hashem had a house that He resided in where we would be able to come and "see" his countenance and glory. It was a nice building of which we had many. Jews also lost their awe and wow of one another. We were a nation divided that coveted, begrudged and even hated, fought and eventually even killed one another. Our good eye was closed and Bil'am's evil eye was rampant. So Hashem took it away. The building destroyed, the fires burnt, our blood flowed. And we, finally, with tears in our eyes, said sadly,"…Wow… what have we lost…what have we done…when can we come back...?

As we contemplate over the next few weeks let us think about that wow that we lost and start to focus on the wows that will bring us back. If we could only see the good in one another, the beauty of our Torah, the joy of our mitzvos, than Hashem will surely return us to our home as He comes back to dwell amongst us. May we very soon share in that biggest "wow  moment" of all.

Have a awe-inspiring Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


New Yackov Shwekey video “I can be”

  A modern day Bilam?

8th day new video “Just like you”
While in the states I picked up a great book with yiidsh quotes and wisdom and I have always wanted to teach my kids Yiddish so here we go each week another great proverb in yiddish maybe you guys will learn it too!!

Der miesteh leben iz besser fun shensten toit.”-  The ugliest life is better than the nicest death

The speed of light is greater than the speed of sound. Which is the reason why many people look smart until they open up their mouths"— Albert Einstien
"The average woman would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think."-Anonymous       
(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
Water Systems from the Iron Age can be found
A.    Hatzor
B.     Gezer
C.     Hurbat Kayafa
D.    Tel Kasilya
Conversation between Bilam and his donkey after the donkey smashed him a few times into the wall to avoid the angels sword that Bilam couldn’t see and Bilam repeatedly hits it, according to the Midrash-.
Donkey- Why are you hittingme that I deserved to beaten this way
Bilam- You made a fool out of me, If only I had a sword I would kill you now.
Donkey- Apparently you can’t destroy me without a sword and yet you are on the way to wipe out the entire of nation of Israel with words?
The Princes of Moav overheard this and started to laugh. They said to Bilam why do you ride this donkey if he doesn’t listen to you..
Bilam responded- Its not my donkey I borrowed it
Donkey-nayyyy- I’m yours
Bilam- she doesn’t usually carry people and that’s why she’s behaving that way
Donkey-nayyyy- You always ride me by day and by night
Bilam was very embarrassed. Our sages would read this and begin to cry- woe is to us from the day of judgement If Bilam the wisest man of all of the nations couldn’t even answer his donkey reproof, what profound shame will we experience on the Day of Judgement when the Almighty Himself will recall all our failures.
Learn about different customs of our many people – If one wanted to experience all of the Jewish Diaspora life and appreciate the different customs that thousands of years of exile have developed in our people one would need to travel all over the world. (Our read Avi and Avi in the Mishpacha magazine-one of my favorite columns) Alternatively you could just come to Israel and see it all here, since the beginning of the ingathering of our exiles. Just here in Karmiel we have a Ethipoian shul, a Yemenite Shul, one for the Indian community and Russian community, We have Chasidim, Litvaks, Bresalvers, Chabad and yes even our very own American Young Israel shul. Each community has its own cuisines, traditions, celebrations. In Israel you can taste them all, pray with them all and celebrate with them all. It’s a pretty amazing thing. Can’t wait till the rest of Klal Yisrael comes home.

Q: What do you call a donkey with one leg ? A: A wonkey donkey 
Q: What do you call a donkey with one leg and a bad eye ? A: A winkey wonkey donkey
 There was a young man named Yankel who bought a donkey from old farmer Farouk for $100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. When Farouk drove up the next day he says, 'I am sorry but I have some bad news - the donkey is on my truck but he be dead.'
Yankel replies, 'Well then, just give me my money back.'
'Can't do that,' burrs the farmer, 'I went out and spent it already.'
Yankel sighs, 'OK just unload the donkey anyway.'
Farouk then asks, 'What are you gonna do with a dead donkey an' that?' I'll raffle him off,' laughs Yankel.
The farmer exclaimed, 'Aargh, you can't raffle off a dead donkey.'
But Yankel with a big smile on his face tells Farouk, 'Sure I can. Watch. Just don't tell anyone the donkey is dead.'
A month later the farmer Farouk met up with Yankel and asks, 'Whatever happened to that dead donkey?'
Yankel answers, 'I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at $2.00 each and made a huge profit.'
Totally amazed the farmer Farouk enquires, 'Didn't anyone complain that you had stolen their money because you lied about the donkey being dead?'
'The only one who found out about the donkey being dead was the raffle winner,' chuckled Yankel, 'so when he came to claim his prize I gave him his $2.00 back plus $200.00 extra, which is double the going value of a dead donkey, so he thought I was a great fellow.'
Answer is A: Three important things to know in order to answer this question. The first is when was the Iron Age, The Second is which of these sites are from that period and the third is do they have water systems that can be seen. So here we go.  The Iron age, which follows the bronze age is pretty much the period of our forefathers through the first temple. Guess what all four cities are from that period of time. Chatzor and Gezer where major cities in the time of Shlomo and Kasilya was a philistine city (by the Israel museum in Tel Aviv) and Kayafa is near Beit Shemesh. Except that the last two don’t have water systems that have been uncovered as I recall. Gezer, I’ve never been to but I believe it actually has the largest water system ever found in the world. Hatzor has one too, though. Hmmm, this is tricky. Well since I never saw the one in Gezer and I knew about the one in Chatzor that was my guess. I was right! Because the one in Gezer was built in the Bronze Age. This was a very tricky question if you ask me about information and distinctions I can’t imagine any one would ever want to know about.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Old School/ New Tricks- Chukas 2015/5775

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

June 25th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 33 8th Tamuz 5775
Parshat Chukas

Old School/New Tricks
(This Weeks Insight was written about 9 years ago, although it’s message is just as timely if not even more so. I have added the epilogue to it though which is interesting and perhaps telling as well. Make of it what you want- It was a busy week touring this week so once in a while I can recycle tooJ)

I never liked school. Too be honest, I don’t they think liked me much either. They certainly never told me so and I was anything but the model student. The impressions I had of the educational systems only got more re-enforced as I got older. Didn’t like High School, didn’t like college much either. But I passed and finished and even did quite well (3.9 GPA thank you very much) hating it the whole time. Don’t get me wrong I made many friends, had lots of fun and all of my schooling was in private schools venue which had great facilities. No it wasn’t the environment. It was the teachers, the classes, the lessons, the tests and most of all the endless amount of tiresome, boring homework. It was us against them and they usually won. So to get back I became a teacher.

Now I certainly never really took a job in a “traditional” teaching environment. Kinda like a soldier who doesn’t wanna go back to the war zone anymore. Also I didn’t really believe that the whole system could be changed. So why bother? Anyways that is the way I assumed school had to be. You go, you hate it, finally finish and then send your kids and hope you never have to go back. Sort of like a dentist, except for 15 years and without the benefit of Novocain.  

So I became an outreach Rabbi, studying with adults and college students who actually wanted to be there. With individuals who had chosen to re-explore their Jewish roots. This was despite the negative experience that an overwhelmingly amount of them described their Hebrew, Sunday and even Jewish Day School experience had been. I mean think about it, most of the synagogues offer these learning opportunities after a full day of school, or on days off so already you're starting with some resentment from the average, fun loving adolescent. And quite frankly the role of the educator is to cram as much information into those limited time frames as possible. It’s not to make it fun. This would never be a good way to motivate a client in business and its not one that has proven to be successful in inspiring and motivating children to love learning as well; despite the hollow forced speeches  they are trained to make  by their graduation ceremonies

But we keep doing it. Maybe because it worked in the old days, maybe because we can’t come up with a better system, or maybe because we are just to scared of change from doing things the way it's always been done. What is the Torah’s perspective on teaching? Is there a traditional approach, is there precedent for change? Let’s take a look at this week's Parsha, at certainly our greatest Teacher and take some tips… or maybe not.

One thing that is beautiful about the Torah, that makes it unique among historical and religious texts of all societies, is that our leaders and great men and women are never whitewashed. We are always presented with their failings, shortfalls, mistakes and even sins. Many times the literal reading may even be significantly harsher than the Talmud and Midrash actually suggest it may have been. In this weeks portion we read about what is certainly considered the greatest mistake of Moshe's career. In fact this seemingly rather minor error that he makes becomes the reason why he is told that he will not be able to fulfill his life-long dream and the culmination of his journey. He will die in the desert and never step foot in the Holy Land .

For many of us I’m sure this has been a difficult portion to understand. Particularly because the Torah is not explicitly clear about the offense. We are told that the Jewish people are complaining once again. This time about lack of water (lesson 1: when your teaching Jews always make sure there is enough food, a little something to drink never hurt as well). God’s command to Moshe and Aharon is to take the staff and speak to the rock, which will miraculously produce the water. This solution should sound familiar as about 40 years earlier in the beginning of their wandering during the last water crisis, Hashem had told Moshe to produce water from the rock too. However that time it was through striking of the rock. Moshe this time strikes the rock as well, producing water and rebuking the Jewish people quite harshly. For that act God calls out

“Because you did not believe in me to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel therefore you will not bring this congregation to the land I have given them.”

  The verse and harshness of the punishment seems hard to understand. Does it really make a difference if he performed the miracle through hitting or speaking to the rock? Why is this considered a lack of faith in Hashem, and why are the consequences so severe? After all this was really Moshe’s lifelong dream.

The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni answers the question with the following parable: When a teacher is teaching young students, he may sometimes be justified in using corporal punishment. However, with older students, this is never appropriate. So, too, Hashem said to Moshe:

 "When the stone was young, you were right to hit it, but now the stone is older and you should have talked to it.”

What the Medrash and other commentaries seem to be suggesting is that God was trying to send a lesson to the Jewish Nation. In their earlier younger days perhaps the only way they could understand or relate to God was through the recognition of his power and his force. But ultimately as this great nation is standing at the entrance gates to their next level of growth, the settlement and conquering of the Holy Land, they were meant to be taught and understand that God can be recognized through a more positive motivation; Through the power of the words of Moshe, the power of inspiration and prayer, the power of love. Moshe, a teacher of the old school couldn’t lead this people in to the land of Israel. Perhaps as a result of his humility, perhaps as a result, as the verse suggests, of his lack of faith that the word of God alone would be sufficient to inspire this stubborn and un-motivated people he has been bearing for so long. Regardless, it couldn’t be he that would bring them in and be their teacher any longer. It would take someone else that could and would raise them to a higher level. The people needed a different system of learning.

Truth be told, although as I told you I did not have much faith (or even hope) in the educational systems of today my opinion has been dramatically changed. Even a hardened Rabbi can change his mind. The reason for this has been because I have been privileged to have my children attend a new school that has dramatically changed the mold.(THIS WAS 8 YEARS AGO WHEN THE SCHWARTZES STILL LIVED IN AMERICA) My son, as well as most of the children in this brand new school, actually enjoy school. They come home and ask to learn and review the exciting things they have learnt. They beg their teachers for more advanced studies (he as well as many others in his 3rd grade class are already up to a fifth grade level. And no they are not geeks or super smart. They are just as rambunctious as I was…O.K…. maybe not that much).And perhaps most importantly they are visibly developing a love for learning and for personal growth in all areas. Now I’m sure your thinking well how do I sign up? What’s the catch? What’s the secret?

The secret is they have thought out of the box. They have focused on the most negative aspects of education and done away with them. There is no homework in this school, although kids regularly ask their parents to learn with them. There are no tests or report cards even. Instead the kids and their parents receive various personalized assessments according to their level that focuses on each child’s personal strengths and weaknesses and their learning needs. The primary focus of the school and its staff is to make the learning in any subject fun, interesting and challenging. The kids become partners in their education rather than captive prisoners or patients being force-fed their rations and doctor’s prescription. Is this different? Yes. But perhaps it's time to think about doing things different. We are parenting differently, our business models are being done differently, maybe it's time we focused more on inspiring the next generation rather than indoctrinating them.

The wisest of all men King Solomon advises "Chanoch L'naar Al Pi Darcho Gam Ki Yazkin Lo Yosur Mimeno -Educate a child according to his way; even when he is old he will not turn from it.” The Torah Day School of our community lives and inspires by that model. It is my hope that they continue to flourish as they raise our most precious jewels to greater and greater heights in their love and dedication to the sanctification of God’s name and the love for learning. Thank you for an incredible year.

EPILOGUE- At the time I wrote this E-Mail there was a tremendous amount of backlash from the old school in the community we lived in as well as from other community members. I think I even had to write some type of apology. Which is really not a big deal for me. One of the lessons I learned in school that my teachers didn’t teach me but I figured out for myself was that it’s easier to apologize than to ask permission. My kids really had a great experience in that school. They tinkered and played with a lot of the initial ideas a bit adding some tests some homework. The principal was under a lot of pressure and in the end, after we moved he left the school. The school has gone through some more metamorphosis over the years from what I understand and they have had quite a few administrative changes as well. It’s not the same. It’s not the ideal that they had planned it to be. Although many of the original principles it was founded on are still there. I still liked the original plan. But change is not something that happens radically. Who knows maybe when Mashiach comes-hopefully soon- he can help us create a better system. Our teachers and Principals are all working hard and are underpaid and do their hardest to insure our children have the best education and the love for Torah and knowledge as is possible within the standardized systems we have. They deserve all the credit and appreciation we can give them. But as every Jewish parent knows when it comes to our kids… We can always…we need to always do better.

Have a spectacular Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Why Moses hit the Rock- sort of funny at the end but cute
In honor of the Red Heifer in this weeks Parsha check out this one born recently near Lakewood

Beautiful new song by a young man with quite a nice voice Hu Shayashiv

While in the states I picked up a great book with yiidsh quotes and wisdom and I have always wanted to teach my kids Yiddish so here we go each week another great proverb in yiddish maybe you guys will learn it too!!

A yung baimeleh baigt zikh; an alter brecht zikh.”-  A young tree bends an old one breaks*
(How do you understand the depth of this one-discuss…)

We spend the first twelve months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk, and the next twelve years telling them to sit down and shut up."— Phyllis Diller
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."— John Dryden, 
"Education: the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent."— John Maynard Keynes
(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
The “matmon” hidden find of Nachal Mishmar contained mostly vessels made of
A.    stone
B.     ceramic
C.     Iron
D.    Copper
The Midrash mentions a parable to explain why The Mitzva of the Red Heifer mentioned in this weeks Torah portion is taken with female cow as opposed to most other offerings that call for a Bull. The Midrash says the story of a young boy who was the maid in the palace’s son who made a mess in the palace. The King cried out “ where is the mother of this boy let her come clean up the mess of her son. Similarly the Jews sinned with the golden calf So Hashem told the “Mother” cow to come rectify that sin. Besides the obvious important message that Mothers should clean up and not fathers that is implicit in this Midrash J Reb Eliezer Hakalir the great poet composed a whole poem on the connections between the sin of the calf and the Red Heifer. I just list some of the more fascinating ones (you can see the rest on the Poem recited in many synagogues Before the month of Nisan when we read this Parsha.
By exchanging Hashems Glory for a calf the Jews forfeited atonement let it’s mother serve as atonement
Their faces reddened. Let them be granted atonement through its red-faced mother
 For the Golden calf’s sake they assembled around a Kohen who thereby incurred heavenly wrath Let its mother be given to a Kohen atoning for the Kohen sin
As the calf’s dust was mixed with water so shall the cows dust be mixed with water.
As three thousand Jews fell so three different species (cedar, hyssop and red wool) shall perish in the fire of the heifer
As the sin of the Golden calf is preserved for all ages so is the water of the heifer.
Interact with Jewish Soldiers from a Jewish army – Can’t do that anywhere else in the world. A photo album of your trip to Israel is not complete without a good Chayal or Chayelet Picture. Every Tour guide knows that it is his or her responsibility to make that happen. But the really good tour guides try to do a little more. How about buying some Pizzas for our boys in green or some cold sodas as they put their lives on the line to protect us and our country. Many soldiers are more than happy to speak with Americans and practice their angleesh on you. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Tell them that they are in your prayers ask them for their Hebrew names and put it in your siddur when you go back to the States and have them in mind. This will mean a lot to them and even more to you. But most of all to our Father in Heaven who loves nothing more than when His children are all together.


What does one call a red cow? Either Cowmunist or Cowmrade
The World explained with Cows
Socialism -- If you have 2 cows, you give one to your neighbor.
Communism -- If you have 2 cows, you give them to the government; and the government gives you some milk.
Fascism -- If you have 2 cows, you keep the cows but give the milk to the government, who then sells you the milk at a high price.
Nazism -- If you have 2 cows, the government shoots you and keeps the cows.
New Dealism -- (FDR Version) If you have 2 cows, you shoot one, milk the other one; then pour the milk down the drain.
Capitalism -- (Reaganomics) If you have 2 cows, you sell one and buy a bull; you then sell all the excess milk to the government who in turn ships it to fascist and communist governments.
Anarchism -- If you have 2 cows, your neighbor on your left takes one cow, and the one on the right takes the other; while your backyard neighbor takes the milk, the bucket and the stool.
Utopianism -- If you have 2 cows, Mother Nature zaps the cows, turning their udders into eternal milk-shake dispensers.
Radical Feminism -- If you have 2 cows, you declare an amazonian state free of bull oppression and sit around waiting for the cows to procreate on their own.
What does a cow do after writing a book? Has it cowpywrighted
What happens when a cow stops shaving? Grows a Moostache
Who is a cows favorite cowmposer? Some like Mootzart, others like Tchaicowfski
Answer is D: This is one of the questions where either you know it or you don’t know guessing, hints or clues from the question. I didn’t. I remembered the story of the hoard that was found in the 60’s that was connected to the Chalcolithic Temple in Ein Gedi. I remember because it was an annoying few hour hike up the not fun side of Nachal David to see some silly pagan Temple that was like a bunch of rocks in a circle and I promised I would never bring a tourist here to see it. Unless they were really bad tippers J. But what the vessels were made of? I don’t know and don’t really care. I would’ve guessed stone because I just remembered it was the like Stone age time. But…. Rabbi Google told me it was copper which of course made me hit myself on my head because calcolithic is of course the copper era…duhhhh. They still could’ve been trying to trick me but. I should’ve been able to guess better.

Friday, June 19, 2015

This Land is My Land- Korach 2015/5775

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

June 20th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 32 -2nd Tamuz 5775
Parshat Korach
This Land is my Land

I enjoy it when people send me their comments about my weekly blog. I look forward to them. Someone’s reading what I wrote. Cool! I know that there are over 1600 people that receive this each week. But really it’s looooong. Too long, if you ask me. Who has time for this? Certainly not my kids when I read it by my Shabbos table each week. SO I never know who’s reading it or not. Certainly I hope more than are offering to sponsor it each week J. So when I get your comments, or feedback it inspires me to stay up late Thursday night after an exhausting day of touring, or to beg off from helping my wife get ready for Shabbos because “ my audience is waiting for my E-Mail”. Thanks you for that excuse JJ.

Now even more than the regular feedback I get, I like even more when someone actually addresses something I wrote, even more so when they have in issue with what I wrote. And they didn’t’ even unsubscribe. Really cool! It means that you actualy do more than just skip down to the jokes, or the Youtube clips. I appreciate those comments so much I decided to dedicate this week’s Email to one of them and share it with you. Of course it will tie into the Parsha. But you usually skip past that part. Y’know as soon as I write the sentence “This Week’s Parsha” is your weekly cue to head down to the jokes.
So here’s the letter from my dear friend R.
“Hello Rabbi Schwartz, I just read your Dvar Torah from last week. As always, my family enjoys your weekly DT and your amusing sense of humor.”  This is always  a good way to start of letter to me. Not only complimenting my DT but my humor as well. Also avoid any criticism of my grammar and spelling or lack thereof.
However, within this weeks remarks, you wrote:  Thank God it’s not America or something similar.”  OK so the exact quote, not that I disagree with the context and your inference, merely for clarity purpose was “What does it take to be a good tourist in Israel. The first thing is to realize that you're not in America. I usually say thank God after that sentence. And you should too.”

R. Continues- “Perhaps you meant to say something very positive about Israel but this remark came across as a pejorative and denigrating comment about the country in which you were born and the country that if it did not exist, Israel would not exist.  With all its faults, it is still one of , if not THE greatest countries on earth.”

R. I feel your pain. I hear your patriotism. I’ll address them. But before I do. I must take umbrage as well. Israel existed long before 1948 and even before 1776 as ancient as that may seem to most Americans. If you don’t believe me come I’ll take you on a tour. Israel has existed and even the State of Israel would exist with or without the great US of A- where I was born and which I truly love and appreciate and which has done a tremendous amount for this country since it’s founding. Some presidents and State Departments more and some less. OK maybe not State Departments…oops did I just do that again… But our continued existence is certainly not dependent and has never been dependent on the grace of any country, rather it is the Grace of God. Hashem, who promised this place to us and wants all of us here. Here in what is really THE GREATEST COUNTRY on earth. How painful it is to hear a fellow Jew say otherwise.

R. concludes “I am only writing this, because, when you visited her, you also made some “off the cuff” remarks that seemingly “dissed” the American Shabbos experience as well.  I know you love the State of Israel and I understand your desire to share that love with others. But I would think it is probably safe to say that there may have been other times your remarks have been somewhat disparaging of the US. I wish you continued success in all that you do and look forward to reading more of your Divrei Torah.”

Thank you R. I look forward to your comments as well and visiting again if you’ll have me back J. Again just for clarities sake for our readers who are eagerly reading our communication. When I visited I mentioned something that I have said quite often and share with my tourists and audiences and possibly even said in one of these weekly missives. What I said was that after I returned to America a few years after making Aliya I felt that Shabbos in the States wasn’t the real deal. There were people that were Shabbos Observant, that went to Shul, that even ate chulent. But it just felt artificial to me. What I described it like was Splenda. In Israel You really feel it in the air, the streets, in one prayers. It’s the place were most meant to observe the Shabbos. The country becomes transformed and it really feels palatable. That was my comment and I stand by it. Does this disparage the United States of America. I don’t think so. America isn’t a place where Shabbos is supposed to be felt in the air. It would be like saying that Chinese food, in America isn’t the real chop suey, Or that California wines are not as good as a real French Bordeaux and their beers aren’t German Lagers. Spirituality and God in America exist and are even good. Bur for a Jew who’s soul knows better, only Eretz Yisrael is the real deal.

Notice how I used the words Eretz Yisrael. The Land Of Israel. Say it a few times and close your eyes while you do and you will feel your heart start to stir and your soul start to long. You know I’m right. I didn’t say the State of Israel, though. And to be honest, I admit, in many ways I believe that the United States, my birthplace and a country that I do feel very connected with has a lot over the State of Israel. In fact when I used to bring groups here all the time we would visit Rabbi Wein, the former head of the OU and a Rabbi and Jewish leader and historian for many years in the America. My tourists would ask him what they could do for Israel and he would give the same response every year. The one thing Israel needs more than anything else, he would say, is a Western mind-set. A western mindset on every issues almost. Whether its security- the US wouldn’t let anyone throw missiles on them repeatedly (note the last gulf war around 80,000 civilian non-combatants-meaning innocent men, women and children were killed. You know what the US said at the time “Shock and Awe!- I’m just saying..). Whether it’s on concepts of transparency in government, ethics. Concepts of pluralism, respect for diversity, ethics of working, education, customer service. There are a myriad of things that the State of Israel could improve upon and needs an “American” mindset on. So if you want to help Israel, he concluded. Move here. We need you.

In my statements and in my E-Mails I rarely address the State of Israel- which don’t get me wrong I love and appreciate as well, despite its not yet recognized full potential and glaring failings.  I talk about Eretz Yisrael. I also don’t speak about America, in general as well. I speak about Jews in America. Jews sense of connection to America- as “the greatest country on Earth. Jews disconnect with the soul of our people, with our history, our Divine mandate and the place where we are meant to see it all fulfilled. It’s that for which I write about. It’s that about which I hope to inspire…or at least provoke.

Which of course brings us to this week’s portion- cue to exit now and skip to jokes. This week the Torah goes to great lengths to tell us the story of Korach and his congregation that make a mistake of picking a fight with the wrong prophets; Moshe and Aharon. Korach claims that the entire nation is holy so why is it that Moshe chose someone else to lead my family. He starts a fight with various claims that eventually lead to heresy in the Torah being revealed to Moshe. The Midrash describes two cases that he utilizes to prove that the Jewish people do not even need a class of leaders. A garment that is entirely made out of the blue Techelet, should not need any strings upon it as it made out of the entirely blue string that reminds one of Hashem. The other case he mentions is a house that is full of Torah scrolls should not require a Mezuza as it is full of Hashem’s name. In a nutshell what Korach is arguing is that we do not need a Kohen class or perhaps even a Levi class or a leader or a prophet. We’re all created equal and we all heard Hashem on Sinai. Holiness is in all of us. This is quite a spiritual argument. One may disagree but he certainly seems to be someone who wants to see the holiness in each Jew and connect to Hashem.  

What is quite perplexing is that Korach’s compatriots in his fight are perhaps two of the biggest trouble makers in Jewish history; Datan and Aviram. It is they that snitched on Moshe, it is they that went to go pick up the Manna on Shabbos, by the splitting of the Sea they also tried to instigate the people to return to Egypt. These are not good people to have on your team. These two lay the claim squarely not only at Moshe’s feet but even disparage the holy notion of Israel. “It’s enough you have taken us out of land flowing with milk and honey (Egypt!), to have us die in this wilderness... You have not brought us to a land of Milk and Honey nor given us a field or vineyard.” They conclude that even if their eyes will be poked out they would not make go up to the land- they would not make Aliya. How painful is it to hear a Jew say those words. How tragic is it when a Jew calls another country. Any other country a land of Milk and Honey. It is these guys that Moshe prays to Hashem to kill in a way that the world will know forever. With Korach Moshe tries to get him to see the error of his ways. But these two clowns Moshe demands everyone leave the house of these wicked people. What is Korach doing hanging around with these guys? What can he possibly have in common with them?

The answer I believe is that in the same way that Korach didn’t understand why there was a necessity and that part of the Divine plan was for there to be an intermediary of a Kohen, a Levi, a prophet and a Moshe between Hashem and the people. Someone who can connect us as we remain down here to Hashem up above. The argument that we do not need a particular country to have that special connection as well is that natural progression as well. America- I mean Egypt is also “flowing with milk and honey”. There’s Yeshivos here in the wilderness, in the Diaspora. Synagogues that are much nicer than those supposed vineyards and fields that have yet to be realized in Israel. Hashem, Judaism and living meaningful Jewish lives can happen anywhere without any special Rabbi, intermediary or place. That was the mistake. That was the common denominator.

Judaism was never meant to be a religion. It was designed and is meant to be a mission. It is not about my personal spiritual fulfillment or my connection with Hashem even. It was and is about bringing the world to its fulfillment, creating a home for Hashem here on this earth and raising this world up to him. There is spirituality and physicality, or as the works of Kabalah and Chasidut describe the notion of raising up the sparks of holiness that are hidden amongst the hiddenness of the world. We are made up of a human earthy physical nature and a Divine soul that was sent here to raise the world up. The Kohen, the Prophet, the Levi and particularly Moshe are all meant to be the bridge between Hashem and us. We bring them our fruits, our offerings. They bring us Hashem’s word assist us with our atonement. We remain in the physical world but we lift it up through them. Similarly Eretz Yisrael is the place that serves as the bridge to shine Hashem’s light out to the rest of the world. The land is like our Kohen. We are meant to live in it practice Mitzvos here, create a functioning physical society, with Kings, Courts, Farmers, Computers Hi-Tech, even Rabbis, lawyers and tour guides. But all who live a life that has a Shabbos that testifies to our Creator. That observes the Shemitta year, that gives its tithes to the poor, that wear Teffilin and that keep Kosher. In a nutshell that live a life that proclaims out Hashem’s name in everything that we do. In the land that was we were meant to do it in.

Korach doesn’t see that slippery road. And in the end as the Midrash notes he joined Datan and Aviram who said they would not “go up” and instead they went straight down- in a great lesson in watch what you say. They become swallowed up by the earth, because having destroyed the bridge to heaven the only thing that remains is the gateway to Gehenom.

We enter the month of Tamuz. The summer is here. Many have vacation and time that they can spend with their family. When I lived in the States I would take my summers and travel all over. Camping out in the hills of Montana and Oregon. Rafting in the West Viriginia, Disney World, Blue Ridge Mountains, Wisconsin Dells, Minneapolis, The Big Apple, New England and even down South. From California to New York Island, the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. But as much as I loved it and was enthralled by the beauty of my former home. I realized unlike Woody Guthrie  in his song, this land is not the land that was made for you and me..
Hoping all of the Jewish people realize it soon as well.
Have a authentically awesome Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


This Land is Mine the Jewish version with Andy Williams cool!

Awesome new song! Arrangements by my favorite arranger Yitz Berry J

And another cool song and video Shwekey classic Eis Rikod!

While in the states I picked up a great book with yiddsh quotes and wisdom and I have always wanted to teach my kids Yiddish so here we go each week another great proverb in yiddish maybe you guys will learn it too!!

A falsheh matba’ieh farliert men nit..”-  One never loses a counterfeit coin.

“"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."- George Bernard Shaw .”.

" 'My country, right or wrong', is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a 
desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober'.- G. K. Chesterton

"When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home."- Sir Winston Churchill

(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
The study of Archeology
A.    The digging of old civilizations
B.     Excavation of ancient artifacts
C.     The study of the societal remains and physical artifacts of ancient cultures
D.    The study of the past solely through the examination of earthenware

Staying on the theme of Torah punishments and the Midrashic descriptions. This week the Midrash describes Korach, Dasan and Aviram being swallowed up by the earth with their tents and their entire families. The Midrash notes that although their children may not have done anything wrong. Yet when it comes to Machlokes/Fighting than the inevitable result is that will seep down and impact ones children and family as well. The midrash notes that all they had were swallowed up as well It says even if they possesions in other places they were also swallowed up. Even their clothing at the laundromat. Another Midrash suggests any document that had their names on it automatically was erased. Again the consequence of fighting is that there will be no memory left of you. The Verse tells us that Moshe prayed that Korach should be swallowed up alive. The Midrash quotes a story of on of the great Talmudic sages Rabba Bar Channa who Eliyahu Hanavi (Disguised as an arab) showed him where they were buried. He saw two holes coming up from ground and he stuck in some cotton on a piece of wood that came out singed. When he listened he heard them saying the words. “Moshe Emes VToraso Emes. Moshe is True and his Torah is true “. The AriZl Sais this is the reason why Moshe requested that they should be swallowed alive so that they would be able to repent even after being swallowed. He notes te words Tzadik KaTamar Yifrach the Righteous will sprout out like a date palm the last letter of each word TzadiK KatamaR YifraCH spell out Korach who will arise when Mashiach come as a date palm having done Teshuva.
Pray your deepest Prayers. –Hashem is here, Hashem is there Hashem is truly everywhere the song goes. But everywhere else, the joke goes, it’s a long distance call here in Israel it’s a local call. I had the privilege this week of having a tourist that came to Israel for the sole purpose of praying. This is the country where they feel most connected to Hashem. You are in the Kings Palace over here. You just don’t get that sense anywhere else. Whether it’s to find your Bashert, prayers for fertility, health, parnasah and salvations. Or merely, or perhaps most significantly to ask Hashem to help you feel closer to Him, more god-fearing, more righteous. This is the country to do it in. Every religion has their special place to pray. But we are the only ones that have an entire country, whose entire existence and creation was to serve as the place where man could best connect with his Creator. Isn’t that cool?

Signs you are in America
a pizza can get to your house faster than an ambulance.
-- there are handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.
-- Sick people must walk to the back of the drugstore to get their prescriptions, while healthy people can buy cigarettes in the front.
-- Banks leave both vault doors open, but pens are chained to the counters.
-- Expensive cars sit in the driveways and useless junk fills garages.
-- people use voice mail to screen calls and call waiting to catch every call they might miss.
-- Drive-Up ATM machines feature Braille lettering

True Story-On a recent trip to Washington, D.C.my friend overheard a patriotic father pointing out a well-known building to his son.
"You see that triangular-shaped octagon over there? That's the Pentagon.

Another true story- An American tourist last summer asks me quite innocently: "It's the 4th of July tomorrow. How do you guys celebrate it here?" OYYY.. I love America..

Answer is C: There’s not to many places you can drive in this country that archeological digs are not taking place. Thousands of years of almost every major civilization in history lived here. Universities from all over the world send their archeological teams here and this is the country where doctorates are made in early studies. Archeology does have digging and excavating and does examine pottery but the best answer is the Answer C. This is a pretty easy question. Shame if you got it wrong.