Our view of the Galile

Friday, January 20, 2017

Chow Up- Shemot 2017 / 5777

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

January 20th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 13 22nd Tevet 5777
Parshat Shemot
Chow Up!
He spoke of watermelons and I have forever been inspired. For many years as a Kollel student in Yeshivas Bais Yisrael in Brooklyn, I had the privilege of attending the great Mussar Lectures of Rav Avigdor Miller. One of his primary themes was recognizing the incredible wonders of the universe in the every day things we take for granted. Watermelons were one of his favorite topics. It is one of my favorite desserts. It was a match made in heaven.
Let’s start with the watermelon seeds, a great roasted Israeli delicacy. I’m sure you know that when you bite into a juicy watermelon they are extremely slippery and they fly out of your hand or mouth. This is unlike orange seeds which are not. The reason according to the Department of Agriculture report (so I’m told) because the watermelon seeds are palatable and therefore need protection so they will fall on the ground and be re-planted, whereas orange seeds are bitter and will naturally be discarded by the eater. The watermelon vines thus know that its eaters might eat them and creates a special mucus around the seed to make it slippery. The orange tree obviously knows that its eaters don’t like bitter things so it doesn’t have to. It also implies that these trees and vines know that the future of their species depends on the protection these seeds.
Next, the fruit itself has an enticing, red, luscious, look. In fact almost all fruits have very delectable colors. Being made for the consumption of human beings it must know that we have an appreciation for colorful food and makes sure it stands out just perfectly. Fascinatingly enough, its outer non-edible shell and even its inedible rind is green a different color, the color of unripe fruits, so that we know not to eat that part. As anyone knows, that unripe fruits and melons can cause stomach cramps. The green protects it from animals eating it, as it blends in with the color of its vines, until it becomes ripe when we can partake in it.
The texture of its taste is also incredible. It is soft and yet has a little bit of crunch, it is juicy but not liquidy. Science and technology, with all their wisdom, still cannot create anything even close to the texture of a watermelon, an apple or an orange. Yet a tree with some sunlight, water and soil, and with the all the programming instructions and raw materials contained in the small factory of a seed, produces daily these miraculous little products that are perfect for sustaining and delighting humanity. How do you like “dem” apples J?
This week’s Torah portion in a very subtle way shares with us an incredible insight into not only in how we can become Rabbi Milllers, but even how we can become like Moshe. We begin the book of Shemos this week and we are told the story of Moshe Rabeinu. Raised as an Egyptian in the house of Pharaoh, he was put on trial and escaped the death penalty for murdering an Egyptian. He fled to Midian and became a shepherd in the home of a former Idolatrous Priest Yisro. He certainly would seem to be an unlikely figure to be the great Jewish leader that would bring about the redemption and to be God’s personal spokesperson for all times. Yet, the Torah tells us about the transformative moment when Moshe the Egyptian shepherd becomes Moshe the Leader.
An angel of G-d appeared to him in a blaze of fire from amidst “the bush”. Moshe saw the event and behold, “the bush” was burning in fire and yet “The bush” was not consumed. Moshe said, ‘I will turn from my course and see the marvelous sight — why does “The bush” not burn?’ Hashem saw that Moshe turned from his path to see the sight and He called out to him from amidst “the bush and said, ‘Moshe Moshe… ‘”
This narrative, from the moment that Moshe notices the burning bush until Hashem speaks to him from its midst, seems overstated. After Moshe sees the amazing sight, why does the Torah mention that Moshe says “I will go look at the amazing sight?” Further, why does the Torah preface Hashem’s charge to Moshe with the words “Hashem saw that Moshe turned from his path to see the sight, and He called out to him from amidst the bush?” It seems that only after Hashem openly acknowledges Moshe’s interest in the spectacle does he call out, “Moshe, Moshe,” thus beginning the process of redemption.
The answer, Rabbi Miller would suggest was that it was precisely this criterion and test that clinched Moshe for the job, He turned from his path to see. The Kotzker Rebbe suggests that the bush was always there burning and not being consumed, as is the implication of the text referring to the bush as “The bush”. Yet until Moshe nobody ever did more then maybe slow down their camels, clogging up the camel freeway, look out their turbans and say “Hey, check out that cool bush burning”. They didn’t see the obvious miracles. They didn’t recognize that there must have been a message, a Hand, and a Greater Power that was involved in this World. They refused to get off their path and open themselves up to the True one. Moshe did and it was his defining moment. When Hashem saw the intellectual curiosity and willingness to examine and re-examine his path, his world and his ways, he began to speak for the first time with Moshe. He knew he had the perfect man to lead and transform a nation from 210 years of brain-less, mind numbing, and order-following slaves, into one that would be bold and holy enough to challenge all of the world’s conventions and lead them to the path of truth.
We don’t have bushes burning today to wake us up. We already received the Torah, we left Egypt, and we have the knowledge. But, are we somehow living in the fast lane and missing the inspiration that surrounds us? What are you thinking about when you’re eating a watermelon? Are you chowing down instead of chowing up? Has that been something that has brought you closer to the loving masterful Creator that placed it there on your plate? If not, than are we any different than those who missed out on the Bush. Creation is remarkable. It bespeaks a designed universe created for us. Hashem wants us to appreciate the love of his universe in the same way a mother, wife or chef would want their children, husband, or dining connoisseurs to appreciate the delicious meal that she worked so hard to cook, prepare and present the day they came home from culinary school. Can you imagine having that appreciation each day of your life? I don’t have to imagine it. The image and lectures of Rabbi Miller will always be with me. I have enclosed a youtube video below of him. May his life continue to be an inspiration.
 Have a fantabulous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

This week's Insight and Inspiration has been sponsored by my parents Abe and Esther Schwartz in honor and as a merit for my father's parents and aunt whose yahrtzeit is this week Moshe David ben Hersh and Zelda and Itka Sarah bas Yisrael Mordechai all of them holocaust survivors. My Bubby Zeldy raised her sister raised my father on their own and remained committed after all that they had been through to raising him with Torah values even in the most financially challenging of times. She was a tremendous Baalas Tzedaka that dedicated her spare moments to raising funds for needy families and to a large degree it is in her merit that all of her descendants live lives and have families that remain true to the life of Torah that she inspired. May their memories be blessed.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx_NgHIBRt4  Rabbi Avigdor Miller on Apples…Amazing!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRkpblJzAb8 Hasneh Boe’eir Ba’ish by Aharon Razel the Burning Bush

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUZsmxUxfBk&t=554s  VerPlanck- a pretty funny clip from a yeshivish TV sitcom- The Shidduch and Red Heifer

https://youtu.be/87XlDRjmPME Rare footage of Chafetz Chaim


“A mentsh zol leben shoin nor fun neigerikeit vegen”- A man should stay alive if only out of curiosity.

answer below at end of Email
Q.  One of the leaders who led the Return to Zion immediately following Cyrus’ Declaration was:
a. Ezra
b. Nehemiah
c. Gedaliahu Ben Ahikam
d. Zerubbabel
We’ve pointed out many times that Rashi’s role is not to quote Midrash and quite the opposite actually is true. If the Midrash contradicts the simple understanding of the verse Rashi will generally not mention it unless it explains the simple meaning of the text. So whenever Rashi mentions a Midrash that seems to contradict the simple phsat it behooves us to explore what we may have missed in the text.
Take this week’s portion of Shemot for example, when Hashem commands Moshe to go down to Egypt He tells him that he need not fear the death sentence that was given to him by Pharaoh for having killed the Egyptian there.
Shemot (4:19) For all of the men that seek your death have died.
This seems simple enough. The men be they Pharaoh or the ones that Rashi tells us earlier had snitched on Moshe had died namely Dathan and Aviram. Yet Rashi leaves the simple pshat and tells us that
They were alive. Rather they lost all of their possessions and a poor man is considered like a dead man.
This is certainly an interesting idea, but where does Rashi get it from and why does he not explain the pshat the way it states it? The truth is we know that later on Dathan and Aviram are still alive. So obviously they are not dead. Yet again that doesn’t necessarily justify Rashi explaining that this is Dathan and Aviram in the first place. AS the text doesn’t name the people who Moshe intervened in saving. The Chafetz Chaim however sees that Rashi is obviously using this explanation because it is the only one that fits the actual text for the verse says “the men who seek your death”  If they were dead already the verse should have said that sought your death –past tense. It must be, the Chafetz Chaim says, that they are still alive.
The Skulener Rebbe notes how it is amazing that the entire redemption and the delay of the 60 years until Moshe could take them out rested on the potential for Jews such as these who would snitch on Moshe. Even Jews who had benefitted where Moshe was defending them against the Egyptian and they should have been grateful Yet their warped moral indignation of Moshe having neutralizing an Egyptian terrorist who was trying to kill a Jew which seemingly was in violation of  international law- or at least how it applies to Jews-wouldn’t allow them to be quiet. They demanded an investigation, a commission and ultimately a sentence to be passed against Moshe. The redemption couldn’t come until these types of Jews lost their power… OK maybe he didn’t say it exactly like that… But you get the point. J

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan- The Chafetz Chaim (1838 –1933) Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan is commonly known as the “Chafetz Chaim,” the name of his famous work on guarding one’s tongue. Born in Zhetel, Poland on February 6, 1838, he was taught untill age 10 by his parents and then moved to Vilna to further his Jewish studies. Refusing the pulpit rabbinate, the Chafetz Chaim settled in Radin (Poland) and subsisted on a small grocery store which his wife managed and he did the “bookkeeping”-watching every penny to make sure that no one was cheated. He spent his days learning Torah and disseminating his knowledge to the common people.
As his reputation grew, students from all over Europe flocked to him and by 1869 his house became known as the Radin Yeshiva. In addition to his Yeshiva, the Chafetz Chaim was very active in Jewish causes. He traveled extensively (even in his 90s!) to encourage the observance of Mitzvos amongst Jews. One of the founders of Agudas Yisrael, the religious Jewish organization of Europe and later the world, the Chafetz Chaim was very involved in Jewish affairs and helped many yeshivos survive the financial problems of the interwar period. Exemplifying the verses in Psalms 34:13-14, “Who is the man who desires life…? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit,” the Chafetz Chaim passed away in 1933 at the ripe age of 95.
The Chafetz Chaim’s greatest legacy is the 21 sefarim (holy books) which he published. His first work, Sefer Chafetz Chaim (1873), is the first attempt to to organize and clarify the laws regrding evil talk and gossip. He later wrote other works, including Shmirat HaLashon, which emphasized the importance of guarding one’s tongue by quoting our Sages. The Mishnah Brurah (1894-1907), his commentary on the Daily Laws of a Jew (his first series in the Shulchan Aruch), is found in many Jewish homes and is accepted universally to decide Halacha.
Firmly believing that he was living right before the time of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the Chafetz Chaim wrote a work that stressed the learning of laws concerning sacrifices, the Holy Temple, and related topics. He also published seforim to strengthen certain aspects of Jewish life including kashrus, family purity, and Torah study.


Birthright Students – They’re all over the place in this country. You can’t miss the buses with the big blue and white posters that say Taglit- Birthright. Since the start of this program in 1999, that provides free 10 day trips to Israel for “young adults” ages 18-26 over a half a million young men and women have come to Israel. The Birthright program was conceived from what I understand by the Bronfman family and Michael Steinberg and other significant North American philanthropist who when faced with the results of a recent study that the majority of young Jewish adults were not likely to contribute to Jewish causes. All the edifices and organizations that they had built and were meant to be monuments and legacies to their family names would disappear. The JCC’s, the Federations, the Museums and charitable organizations were at risk. SO they did a study which revealed that Jews that had gone to Israel at least once in their life were 85% more likely to contribute to Jewish causes and the thus Birthright was conceived. Birthright is a nondenominational organization. Students can choose whether they want a Orthodox, Reform, Conservative run group-although no religious proselytization is permitted. There are nature Birthright trips, extreme ones, alternative lifestyle one and even for people with disabilities. The majority of the trips have the same 80% required places and things to do. Meet with soldiers, Tel Aviv, Bedouin tent, Har Herzl military cemetery, Dead Sea, Yad Vashem, Masada and of course the Kotel. The remaining parts are left to the individual groups to organize. The Orthodox run ones of course provide a real authentic Shabbat experience.

Birthright has had a tremendous impact on Israel with over 75,000 Israelis participating in some form either as soldiers, security and escorts for the students. Over 250 million dollars is estimated annually is brought into Israel in tourism dollars, hotels, entrance fees, plane and the like; a tremendous boon to our economy. As well according to studies students that come on a birthright trip are over 50% more likely to marry a Jewish partner and 1out of four meet their spouse on a birthright trip. As well for many students the 10 day trip is not enough. There have been many programs like return and learn and Birtright Next that bring the students back again for a more serious learning and experiential period of time. I have led quite a few of the post-birthright trips and they really are amazing.


Q: When do you go at red and stop at green? A: When you're eating a watermelon.
 Q: Why do watermelons have fancy weddings? A: Because they cantaloupe.
Q: What do you call fruit that is a serious criminal? A: a waterfelon.
Q. How did the watermelon feel when it went out with broccoli? Melon-choly

There was a farmer who grew watermelons. He was doing pretty well, but he was disturbed by some local kids who would sneak into his watermelon patch at night and eat his watermelons. After some careful thought, he came up with a clever idea that he thought would scare the kids away for sure. He made up a sign and posted it in the field. The next day, the kids show up and they saw the sign which read,
 "Warning! One of the watermelons in this field has been injected with cyanide."
 The kids ran off, made up their own sign and posted it next to the farmer's sign. When the farmer returned, he surveyed the field. He noticed that no watermelons are missing, but the sign next to his read,
 "Now there are two!" 

Answer is D – See the key word in the question is immediately. Everyone is familiar with Ezra and Nechemia, however the Talmud tells us that Ezra did not immediately come up after Cyrus declared the right of the Jews to return and set up their country once again 70 years as prophesized after the Babylonian Exile and destruction of the Temple. According to the Book of Ezra close about 42,000 thousand Jews went up mostly Kohanim Levi’im and others that would serve in the Temple that was meant to be rebuilt. The rest of the people that came were mostly shleppers. Ezra didn’t come up immediately because he was still learning by his Rebbe Baruch Ben Neria the student of Jeremia. Nechemia as well waited as he was still serving in the palace. The correct answer is Zerubavel the grandson of Yehoyachin the former King and of Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol. The numbers weren’t stacked well as there were close to 24,000 men and only 12,000 women and children. Talk about a Shiduch crisis. The Jews married out therefore unitl Ezra came about 80 years later and broke them all up. Gedalia Ben Achikam never left Israel after the destruction he was appointed governer and assassinated by Jews. We fast to commemorate that day that was really the final blow to the Jews post-Churban the day after Rosh Hashana.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Oh Say Can't You See- Vayechi 5777/2017

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

January 12th 2017!! -Volume 7 Issue 12 15th Tevet  5777
Parshat Vayechi
Oh Say Can’t You See

So how do you feel about the situation in America today? Are you scared? Are you hopeful? Nervous? Optimistic? All of the above? Then you’re probably like most Americans…confused. I find it very telling that the platform for the current president was to “Make America Great Again”. Was it great before? I don’t know let’s take a look at the last few decades of American presidential slogans.
2008- “Change We Need”- Barack Obama- Ummm. That worked out pretty good.
2004- “Let America be America Again:”- John Kerry- Ahhhh sooo that’s where Trump got it from
2000- “A Reformer with Results “George W Bush- and he even spelled the word reformer right.
George Bush Sr. campaigned on a “Kinder Gentler America” and then killed about 35,000 people in Iraq. Mondale in 1984 said “America Needs Change” which seems to be ongoing theme. Ronald Reagan’s question of “Are we were better off than we were four years ago?” usurped Jimmy Carter’s claim that “It’s Not Just Peanuts”, and the first president since Ephraim Schwartz came into the world Gerald Ford campaigned under the slogan “Making us Proud Again”….Hmmmm it seems like we haven’t been happy for a long time in this country. Maybe that’s the one thing that hasn’t changed.
What were the good old days that people are longing for, tell me? If presidential slogans are any sign of the sentiments of the spirit of the times then let’s look back at perhaps those good old day slogans that people are nostalgic about. Was it Hoovers “Chicken in every pot” promise?  Harding’s “Cox and Cocktails” campaign-whatever that means. In 1896 William McKinley inspired the masses with his profound “Good Money Never Made Time Hard” campaign. I think Trump was originally gonna use that one. Maybe people are longing for the election of 1884 when James Blaine’s campaign slogan was “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha”, while his opponent Grover Cleveland countered with the truly prolific “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine”. And people think Trump is a baby….He’s merely making America great again like it used to be when all these other great men led our nation. Our nation…our nation…?
Do you feel America is our nation? Do you care a lot about it? Enough to put signs on your lawns? To argue and fight for the future of this country with anyone that disagrees with you. You were born in America. They took in our hungry, our homeless, our weary and war-torn. They let us into their schools, their universities, Hollywood. We became doctors, lawyers, musicians- or rock stars (those are very different things) Supreme court justices, vice-presidential candidates and hey today from what I understand the White House may even be having a full time Kosher kitchen for all the religious Kosher eating Jews in the higher echelons of the incoming administration. We have religious freedoms, the likes of which we didn’t’ have in many of our other long bitter places of exile…. Exile? Are we in Exile?
Europe was Exile, Babylonia was Exile. Spain was Exile. This is America. Ohhhho Say Can You See? (continue humming –you know you’re feeling patriotic right now) But really, is America really different? One thing Jews have learned throughout our history is that no place ever turns out to be different. But c’mon, it’s the 21st century. We live in a civilized world. Uh huh…Than why are we longing for the old one?  
I just want you to hold on to those words ‘Oh Say Can You See’ for a second. You see as we examine this week’s Torah portion those words should have profound import. The parsha we read this week, Vayechi, is unique in the entire Torah. Unlike other Torah portions that begin with a break of space in between its start and the next parsha, either a line or a new paragraph, Vayechi immediately follows the conclusion of Vayigash, with the space of just one letter. I noticed that when I was Bar Mitzva’d and read and it wasn’t obvious where to end. Maybe it was a forewarning for me that I would be the type of guy that would never know where or when to end his Torah drashot… Rashi notes this anomaly and quotes our sages as saying
Why is this parsha “closed”? Because once our forefather Yaakov passed away, the eyes and hearts of the Israel became closed from the troubles/suffering of the enslavement, for the Egyptians began to enslave them.”
Their eyes were closed from the troubles and suffering. Ohoy, Vay, couldn’t see by the dawn’s early light…. It seems was their anthem. But many of the commentaries note that something is wrong with this Rashi. For the suffering and the slavery didn’t really start after the death of Yaakov, in fact Rashi later tells us that it didn’t start until the passing of the last of Yaakov’s children Levi. In fact it really didn’t escalate until the last 80 years that they were in Egypt, when the new pharaoh came and “didn’t know Yosef”, in the next book. So why is this parsha closed now? And why particularly here in the beginning of this parsha is it closed, when even according to what Rashi says, Yaakov doesn’t die until the very end of the parsha.
Perhaps one may suggest, that the Torah in “closing” this parsha called Vayechi-And he lived, not so ironically for the parsha that talks about his death, is connecting it very closely to the words that last week’s Torah portion concludes with that immediately precede it. The Torah tells us that the brothers of Yosef had all been set up nicely by Yosef. They settled in Goshen, they were the ministers of the sheep of Pharaoh, nice cushy government jobs provided by their brother; their man in the White House. The parsha concludes with these words
And Israel settled in Egypt, in the land of Goshen; they took holdings, and they were fruitful and they multiplied there.
Rashi on the words ‘and they took holdings’ elaborates- ‘and they bought houses and estates and formed landholdings.’
Listen, what are we gonna be shepherds forever? We got into the Real Estate business. We became moguls. We settled the land. We became more Egyptian than the Egyptians. We had our little paradise there in Boro Park… I mean Goshen. Kosher pizza, shwarma, wedding halls, Yeshivot, Egypt was our new home. Israel was becoming a distant memory. I mean it’s dangerous there in the Middle East, remember that whole fight and kidnapping of Dina in Shechem. Egypt is civilized. It’s the new world. This after-all the 15th Century BC. The Torah begins the idyllic era in great malchus shel chesed- kingdom of graciousness of Egypt with the national anthem that we didn’t realize we should have been singing.
Oho Say can’t we see… our eyes and hearts have been closed… for the suhhh uffering… and troubles of Egypt are coming…For this was not going to be the land of the free…it would be the home…of the…. slaves…
If one looks carefully at Rashi he doesn’t say that the suffering started. It didn’t. But with Yaakov’s death, our eyes and hearts became closed to seeing that this was not meant to be our home. We were in Exile. The troubles of the enslavement of the Egyptian began with our self-delusional assimilation into their society and the belief that we had made it. We were where we belonged. The word Vayechi- and we lived, is the word that is closed. We thought we were living the life. But we know how the story ended. How it always always ends. There is no life when we are not home. There is no life when the shechina is not where it’s meant to be. It’s all just another step, another wandering place, another respite in our long bitter Exile.
Maybe it’s time to start focusing our efforts on Making Israel Great Again. Maybe we should be putting even half as much energy into our own spiritual campaigns, as we put into a country that is merely a temporary resting place for us that really hasn’t been great in seemingly a long time, and that will only really be great if and when we get out of there and raise the entire world up with the light of Hashem from His holy palace in Yerushalayim. We don’t need an embassy there as much as we need a Temple there. That’s where our focus needs to be. I speak not only to my brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, I speak to myself and all of those privileged to live here in Israel as well. This is not the Israel we are praying for. It hasn’t arrived yet. We are still in Exile despite at least living in our own land. We too have not arrived. Od Lo Avda Tikvateinu- our hope has not yet been fulfilled and has never been to be merely a free nation in our land. Rather it is to be Hashem’s nation in His Land. That is our true anthem. That is the day that we still long to see.

 Have a fantabulous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

https://youtu.be/19EVMHFbGwI   -Ani Yisrael by my great friend Gershon Veroba from his awesome new CD cool video

https://youtu.be/BCh-yxlcEY8 Gad Elbaz & Nissim Black great new video and song L’Chaim

https://youtu.be/ieBhINqUAyQ Pretty funny Avraham Fried Jewish Siri with Mendy Pellin


“A nogid a nar iz oich a har” -A foolish rich man is still a lord.

answer below at end of Email
Q. According to Josephus Flavius during the Great Revolt a massacre did not occur in:
a. Tiberias
b. Migdal
c. Yodefat
d. Jerusalem

There are many interpretations and explanations that are given for various verses in the Torah. The genius of Rashi is that he chose the one that best explains the simple understanding of the pshat. If Rashi gives more than one explanation then it is because each one on its own doesn’t fully explain the problem in understanding the text. So pay attention when there is more than one explanation brought down by Rashi it can truly reveal pearls.
In this week’s Torah portion there is a great example of this. When Yaakov makes his request of Yosef to bury him, he tells him
Bereshit (47:29-30) “Please do not bury me in Egypt, and I will ie down with my fathers and you shall transport me out of Egypt and bury me in their grave”
Rashi in explaining Yaakov’s request not to be buried in Egypt notes three things
1)      It’s land will be turned into lice (during the 10 plagues)
2)      The dead of the lands outside of Israel will only be resurrected with the pain of rolling through tunnels (to come to the land of Israel where they will be resurrected.
3)      So that the Egyptians shall not make a deity out of him.
The Klei Yakar explains that the three reasons given by Rashi are all necessary to understand the pshat. For if the land of Egypt was going to be turned to lice, seemingly Yaakov could have been spared that pain, for we have a tradition that Yaakov and our holy people who’s bodies have become totally purified don’t even have any deterioration of their bodies after death, so for sure lice wouldn’t have power over them. It is therefore that Rashi tells us that they would make him into a deity. For having seen that the land is turned to lice and Yaakov’s grave remains untouched they would deify him. Yet both of these reasons are not sufficient to explain why Yaakov asked Yosef to bury him in Israel, as he did. Seemingly anywhere that’s not Egypt that wouldn’t be struck with plagues would be enough? Rashi therefore tells us that Yaakov also did not want to suffer the dead-man tunnel resurrection roll, that would take place outside of Israel. Yet this in itself was not alone a reason as well. For he wanted Yosef to know and be sure that if he couldn’t for whatever reason bury him in Israel to take care of this problem, but at least he should make sure that he should not bury him in Egypt because of the lice and his fear of them deifying him.
Now that’s how you learn a Rashi!

Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Luntschitz (1550 –1619) Rabbi Ephraim son of Aaron was born in the city of Luntschitz in what is today central Poland around the year 1550. He studied under the famed Maharshal (Rabbi Shlomo Luriah) and became Rabbi of the city of Lvov where he served for 25 years.
From an early age he was recognized as a star orator and was renowned for his fiery sermons. In 1601, Rabbi Ephraim became deathly ill. During the course of his illness he added the name Shlomo to his name and thereafter signed his name Shlomo Ephraim. He also vowed that if he survived his illness he would compose a commentary to the Pentateuch.
Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim survived his illness and the very next year wrote and published his commentary, named Kli Yakar. The commentary became immediately popular throughout the Jewish world and was his most famous publication, to the point, as with many other great Rabbis, that he is now known simply as the Kli Yakar. More than 400 years later, the Kli Yakar remains popular and is printed alongside the commentary of Rashi and others in many Chumashim.
The year after the Kli Yakar’s publication, he was appointed Chief Rabbi of the great city of Prague, where he also served as Rosh Yeshiva and the Head of the Beit Din. Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim passed away in 1619. His son and other descendants followed in his footsteps, also holding the esteemed position of Chief Rabbi of Prague. Amongst his most famous students was Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller, also known as Tosfot Yom Tov.

Cowboys – Yeah we have our Texas here in Israel as well. Up in the Golan Heights a few miles from the mess that’s going on in Syria is where our buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play. OK so we don’t really have buffalo over there, although we did try introducing some in the Hula valley. Not many antelope either.  But we have cow. Thousands of them up in the Golan Heights probably one of the only places where you’ll see cows roaming around tanks. Israeli cowboys, there are about a 100 of them or so just in the Golan, have to deal with cows wandering into old Syrian minefields, avoiding army firing ranges or them ending up in some army base.Israeli cowboys face their unique set of challenges. For starters, they operate on a relatively small patch of land mostly made up of nature reserves and military grounds, so everything they do has to be coordinated with authorities. In summer, their primary role is that of firefighters, putting out blazes caused by negligent hikers and military maneuvers. They've had to euthanize cows that had limbs blown off by stepping on mines, and in last spring's cattle drive one cowboy had to physically block a gap in a military base's busted fence to prevent cows from roaming inside. The cowboys are mostly in charge of the cows that are raised for beef in this country. 95% of the country’s meat comes from import as there is not a lot of grazing land that is not used for planting and agriculture a much larger industry in Israel. The largest grazing land is in the Golan, yet the majority of cattle farmers are located in the Galil area although one can find cowboys all over the country.
If a cowboy rides into town on Friday and three days later leaves on Friday, how does he do it? The horse's
name is Friday!

So Shaindy from Boro Park went out West and was all ready for her first horseback ride. She said to the cowboy, "Can you get me a nice gentle pony?"
 "Shore," said the cowboy. "What kind of a saddle do you want, English or western?"
"What's the difference?" asked the lady.
"The western saddle has a horn on it," said the cowboy.
"If the traffic is so thick here in the mountains that I need a horn on my saddle, I don't believe I want
to ride." Said Shaindy…

Shaindy’s next stop was to the cowshed where she saw a whole herd of cows out in the barn.
“Wow, you have a lot of flies buzzing round your horses and cows. Do you ever shoo them?”
Cowboy answered her “No we just let them go barefoot.”

Back in the cowboy days, a westbound wagon train was lost and low on food. No other humans had been seen for days and then they saw an old Jewish cowboy sitting beneath a tree. The leader rushed to him and said, "We're lost and running out of food. Is there someplace ahead where we can get food?
"Vell," the old Jewish cowboy said, "I vouldn't go up dat hill und down da other side. Somevun told me you'll run into a big bacon tree."
"A bacon tree?" asked the wagon train leader.
"Yah, ah bacon tree. Trust me. For nuttin vud I lie."
The leader goes back and tells his people that if nothing else, they might be able to find food on the other side of the next ridge. "So why did he say not to go there?" some pioneers asked "Oh, you know the Jewish -- they don't eat bacon."
So the wagon train goes up the hill and down the other side. Suddenly, Indians attack and massacre everyone except the leader, who manages to escape back to the old Jewish cowboy, who's enjoying a "glassel tea." The near-dead man starts shouting. "You fool. You sent us to our deaths! We followed your instructions, but there was no bacon tree. Just hundreds of Indians, who killed everyone."
The old Jewish cowboy holds up his hand and says "Oy! vait a minute." He then gets out an English-Yiddish dictionary, and begins thumbing through it. "Gevalt, I made myself ah big mistake. It vuz not a bacon tree. It vuz a ham bush."

One Sunday a cowboy went to Shul. When he entered, he saw that he and the Rabbi were the only ones present. The Rabbi asked the cowboy if he wanted him to go ahead and give his weekly Drasha/ sermon. The cowboy said, "Im not too smart, but if I went to feed my cattle and only one showed up, Id feed him." So the Rabbi began his sermon. One hour passed, then two hours, then two-and-a-half hours. The Rabbi finally finished and came down to ask the cowboy how he liked the speech. The cowboy answered slowly, "Well, Im not very smart, but if I went to feed my cattle and only one showed up, I sure wouldnt feed him all the hay..." 
Answer is A – Back in the period of the end of the second Temple the North was where the radicals lived. It was kind of like the Gush and Chevron area is today. The rebellion against Rome started in the North. Migdal was destroyed, Yodefat was where Josephus was based and was also destroyed although his fighters all pulled a Masada by his urging and commited suicide and then he chickened out and joined the Romans. Jerusalem obviously was a slaughter which leaves Tiverya as being the correct answer and which Josephus tells us was spared by the Romans because they did not join the revolt.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Great Speech- Vayigash- 5777/2017

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

January 6th 2017!! -Volume 7 Issue 11 8th Tevet  5777
Parshat Vayigash
Great Speech

I am a speaker. I talk for a living. I always liked to talk, much to many of my teacher’s consternation. The Rabbis in the shul where I davened in the back of weren’t big fans of me either, particularly when I thought that my classmates or fellow congregants would find what I had to tell them to be far more important interesting and certainly funny than whatever messages they were trying to convey from the front of the classroom or the pulpit. I kind of still think I do. Except now it’s the guys in the back of my shul, my classrooms or the hanging at the back of my tours that don’t seem to understand to appreciate how life-changing what I’m telling will be. But at least I have you guys that are reading my E-Mail that are there for me. Don’t you feel blessed?
Upon moving to Israel, I found it challenging initially to have to give weekly sermons in Hebrew. I spoke Hebrew, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a big difference between communicating in Hebrew- Like please pass the chulent, or how much does that shwarma cost, or where is the bathroom and giving a speech in a language that is not your mother tongue. The nuances count, the varying phrases, the slangs those are the instruments, the tools, the apparatuses, the mechanisms in the toolbox, the kit, the cornucopia of the palaver of gifted orator. See what I did there? I don’t even know what a lot of those words mean but they sound good together. They flow. They convey an idea and give me a chance to think about what I’m going to say, as I had a busy week and had no time to prepare my drasha. I didn’t have that in Hebrew. So I learned. I have a few great Hebrew lecturers that I enjoyed listening to. And I would listen to a few of their classes a week and slowly but surely I picked it up. Now I can really say a lot of words that mean pretty much the same thing over and over and sound intelligent until I figure out what ife-changing message I want to say. Or at least what joke I want to share.
But jokes aside I have always been fascinated by oratory. Recently I googled the greatest speeches of all time. Whadaya know Kerry’s recent one didn’t make it to the list. Must have been the Israeli’s faults and the settlements that prevented him from getting that distinction. It was an interesting list. There were the obvious ones of course. Lincoln’s Gettysburgh ‘Fourscore and seven years’ King’s “I had a dream” Churchills “We shall fight on the beaches” and Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death”. There were some that I was surprised I had even heard of Ghandi’s “quit India”, Socrates “ A life unexamined not worth living” speech and FDR’s “Day that will live in infamy”. And there were some that I really didn’t care about much Pericle’s funeral oratory, Chief Josephs surrender address and Lou Gherig’s farewell to baseball. I was kind of surprised that they left out “You can’t handle the truth” by my good friend Jack Nicholson and I am your father by Darth Vader- but what do I know. The most famous one of course on the few lists I perused was of course the “sermon on the mount”- and they weren’t referring to Hashem’s to the Jewish people on Sinai… I wasn’t a fan of that one either. Wasn’t a fan of much what that renegade Rabbi had to say, to be honest, but anyways…
One speech however that didn’t show up on any list which in mine opinion was pretty amazing and certainly should have been added to the list is the longest speech in the entire Torah, given in this week’s Torah portion. And I’m not just saying that because it’s my Bar Mitzva Parsha-although maybe the fact that my BM parsha had the longest speech in the Torah is quite appropriate for me.
The parsha begins with Yehudah approaching Yosef. This was the brother he didn’t recognize that was now the viceroy of Egypt. This was the man before the fate of his brother Binyamin’s life would now hang as he was caught in Yosef’s frame-up with the planted ‘stolen’ goblet. If Yehudah did not succeed in persuading Yosef, the ruler of Egypt, then not only would this leave his father brokenhearted with this last child of his beloved Rachel also being taken from him. But Yehudah had guaranteed and put not only his own guarantee to Yaakov that he would return him on the line, but he promised that if he would not succeed he would lose his life in the eternal world as well. There was a lot on the line. Everything was on the line. The entire future of the children of Israel stood on whether Yehudah could convince, inspire or cajole Yosef into allowing the obviously guilty of high-crimes and misdemeanors Binyamin to be granted a pardon. He was caught red-handed. He had repaid the kindness they had been shown with treachery. It was the impossible speech. And yet it worked.
What did he say? What turned the tide? It’s interesting if one reads the 225 word speech that extends of 16 pesukim/verses, that there doesn’t seem to be much that is new. He shmears him up a bit and tells him that he respects him like my Pharaoh. He spends an inordinate amount of time and ink reviewing the entire story how they came down and were asked about their father and brother. We tried not to convince you that it would be difficult on our Dad and you didn’t give us much choice. Our father was not a fan of the idea, after all he had already lost one son. If we return without my brother my father would be devastated and die and we would be responsible for having brought him down to his grave in sorrow. So far this speech doesn’t seem particularly convincing to Yosef. Would it to you? If I were Yosef I would have said, well it’s your problem. Why should I feel bad that you will feel guilty about bringing your father to his grave.
Yehuda continues and then makes it even more clear his problem. He explains how ultimately it was he who convinced and guaranteed that he would bring him back promising that I would be sinning against him for eternity. He therefore offers himself up in place of Binyamin. That seemingly doesn’t work as well for Yosef. In fact just at the end of last week’s portion they had all offered to be servants and Yosef said only the guilty Binyamin would be held. So why would this make any difference? Seemingly this speech is not going so well.
Yet finally Yehuda pulls out the final card. When he makes this statement the game is over. Yosef can’t control himself. He stops him and sends everyone out and reveals himself. For 22 years Yosef had not ever told anyone his secret. For the past year he has been playing this game with his brothers. He has been longing for his father, his home, his family. He has never broken. But what Yehuda says next changes it all. The house of cards falls.
Bereshit (44:34) “How can I go up to my father and the boy is not with me, lest I will see the evil that will befall my father
That’s it the next verse said when Yosef hears that he could no longer endure it. What is it about that statement that makes it all happen? The Shemen HaTov ( a great work written by Rabbi Bernard Weinberger who was the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Williamsburgh- who incidentally I took classes from in public speaking and sermons in my Rabbinic training program from the Young Israel-thank you Rabbi Lerner J) suggests that what touched Yosef was when he saw that Yehuda put everything that he personally had at stake to the side. His entire eternity, his olam haba, his own feelings of guilt and he said how can I see the pain that my father will have. That was what turned Yosef’s heart. When a Jew puts their own feelings aside and are able to entirely focus on the pain of another, there is nothing that can stand before that emotion. In truth the Sfat Emet suggests that Yosef perhaps wanted to wait a bit longer before revealing himself. If the brothers would have had a little bit more time to worry, pray , reflect than perhaps the entire sin of selling their brother Yosef down to Egypt would have been entirely atoned for. He even explains that it is for this reason after Yosef reveals himself to his brothers that the Torah tells us he cried on the shoulders of Binyamin and Binyamin cries on his shoulders. Rashi notes that they were each crying about the Temples that would be destroyed and the Mishkan in Shilo that would be destroyed that were in each other’s portion. They were crying over that because it was only because had Yosef held out a little bit longer perhaps they would not have had to have been destroyed. The atonement would have been over. But he couldn’t hold himself back. He saw Yehuda crying over Yaakov’s pain and he himself thus cried over Binyamins future pain and Binyamin cried over his. Perhaps the exile and destruction would be avoided if we could each cry and hurt over each other’s pain. What a speech. What a story.
We live in an era of soundbites, of speechwriters of lots of fake rhetoric that is all about how one can get their own agenda, their own platform and their own mission accomplished. It has left the masses so cynical of the packaged same old-same old that we have reached a point where there is almost no faith in anything that anyone says anymore. Anything we read and even anything we watch or see. We have become deadened and information overloaded. We need a good speech. The world needs a real speech. One that is spoken by someone who can put aside all of their personal aspirations and be focused entirely on the tremendous pain that is out there. The suffering the world has without the light of Hashem. It’s not about us. It’s not even what it is that we say or how we say it. It’s what we feel. If we truly feel enough to daven for it. To cry for the other, to plead on their behalf. That is what will bring the Geula- the redemption. That is the speech from us that Hashem is waiting to hear.

 Have an inspirational Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FRwSQmlBHc  -Ani Yosef by Rabbi Mordechai Dubin and a childrens depiction

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRhX7Jvm3xc   Eli Shwebel Ani yosef

https://youtu.be/e2SAtnKFyHQ  Amazing story about Israeli soldiers!


“Verter zol men vegn un nit tseyln.”  -Words should be weighed, not counted..

answer below at end of Email
Q.   An amphitheater was discovered in:
A. Caesarea
B. Jerusalem
C. Tsippori
D. Beit Shearim

If Rashi seems too simple, you have to stop and ask yourself what is he trying to tell me. What am I missing? Rashi is certainly explaining the simple pshat- but at the same time he is explaining something you may have difficulty seeing unless he underlines it and tells you it. In the end of this week’s Torah portion the Torah tells us that people came to Yosef who was in charge of the food and they brought him money the verse says
Beresishit (47:14) And Yosef gathered all the money that was found in Egypt and the land of Canaan with the grain that they were buying and Yosef brought it to the house of Pharaoh
The verse seems simple enough yet Rashi for some reason felt it necessary to clarify and comment.
The grain that they were buying-they would give him the money
What does Rashi want with this comment? What’s bothering him? Who would I think they would be giving the money to? The Minchas Yitzchak, Dayan Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss, suggests an interesting powerful insight. He suggests that the people not only brought money to buy the grain but as well they gave him, Yosef, personally money. You know, a little under the table, some bakshish as is traditional in the Middle East when you want and need to get something done. Yet Yosef turns that money over to Pharaoh as well. Despite the fact that the money was given, as Rashi says and points out- to him” for his personal use which by right he could have kept. Yet Yosef went above and beyond because he understood that government official and particularly a Jewish one has to always be above any repute or suspicion. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of our politicians today learned from him?

Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (1902 –1989), known as the Minchat Yitzchak (the name of the responsa he authored), was born in Galicia in 1902. He headed of the court of Jewish law, the Beit Din, in Grosswardein, Romania before WWII, and after miraculously surviving the war he assumed the same position in Manchester, England.
In the aftermath of the Holocaust he worked diligently on aiding the many women whose husbands disappeared, and presumably perished, during the war; finding halachic "loopholes" which allowed them to remarry according to Jewish law.
He authored a nine-volume set of responsa. In this widely-used work, he addresses many modern-day halachic issues which resulted from the technological explosion, as well as many medical ethics issues.
In 1979, he assumed the position of Av Beit Din (Head of Court) in the Edah Hachareidit, one of the most prominent rabbinical bodies in Israel, filling the seat of leadership that was left upon the passing of the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum who had appointed him to the Beis Din and urged him to move to Israel. He served in this capacity for the remainder of his life.
He passed away on the 11th of Sivan. An estimated 30,000 people attended his funeral.


Bar/Bat Mitzva people – Sure you can have your Bar mitzva in America or where ever else you might live, but c’mon we all know as the Ramban/Nachmanides tells us, that the function of all of the mitzvos are really only meant to be performed in Israel. Sure you have to keep them even in the diaspora, as well, but Hashem gave them to us in order to live and create a Torah observant society in Israel that would shine out to the rest of the world from our holy land. So what better place to have a Bar Mitzva. In recent years the Bar Mitzva in Israel has become an entire industry. Every Monday and Thursday when we read the Torah the Kotel is packed with young boys getting escorted to the Kotel with music, fanafare, shofar blowing for their rite of passage into Jewish adulthood. The last few years this has started in Tzfat as well for people who don’t want to shlep to Jerusalem. Wherever you travel around the country you can find tour buses with big signs on them that say something like Michael Greenblatgoldbergowitzes Bar Mitzva or Samantha Rosenstienbaumenthal Bat Mitzva trip. Most of those are usually our Conservative or Reform brothers and sisters who admirably enough want to give their children perhaps the most important and significant lesson that they may ever get in all of their years of schooling; our connection to Eretz Yisrael and its supreme significance to their Jewish identity. I was privileged for many years to offer students that were coming on Birthright trips to Israel an opportunity to have their Bnai Mitzva here for those that have never had one before. Generally we would do this on the top of Masada, which was always a powerful inspiring moment, being that we were standing on the mountain top where the Romans 2000 years prior had thought they had wiped us off the face of the earth. I would of course inform that they for those that were Jewish ( I had to make this disclaimer of course) they were all already Bnai Mitzvahed already. As every Jew upon reaching the age of 12 for girls and 13 for boys become Bnai Mitzva-obligated in all the commandments automatically. However for many of them they have never celebrated or embraced or even tragically been aware of our special heritage and their unique role in it. We therefore would offer them the chance to celebrate and commit themselves to their place amongst the Jewish people. They would do this by taking a Jewish name-their identity card for themselves, or for those that had one to explore it and discuss what inspires them about being part of the Jewish people. We would throw candies, the boys would be given a Kiddush cup, the girls Shabbat candles. It was truly inspiring and amazing with singing and dancing and life changing for many of them. I have also had the privilege and am proud of the many in the Orthodox and even chareidi world that are giving up on the big meaningless and expensive parties in America for the childrens Bnai Mitzva celebrations and instead bringing their families to Israel for a much more meaningful experience. Particularly when they hire a great tour guide to arrange it for them J.
An atheist complained to a Christian friend, “You Christians have special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. Jews celebrate their national holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur. But we atheists have no recognized national holidays, It’s unfair discrimination.”  His friend replied, “Why don’t you celebrate April first?”

Three boys in the schoolyard were bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, “My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he then calls it a poem, they give him $50.00.”  
The second boy says, “That’s nothing, My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100.00.” 
The third boy says, “I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon, and it takes eight people to collect all the money!”

A teacher asked the children in her Sunday School class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and give all the money to the church, would I get into heaven?”
 “No!” The children all answered.
 “If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I then get into heaven?”  
Again, the answer was “NO!”
 “Well,” she continued, “then how can I get into heaven? In the back of the room, a five year-old boy shouted, “You gotta be dead!”

Yankel was coming out of Shul one day, and the Rabbi was standing at the door as he always did to shake hands. He grabbed my Yankel by the hand and pulled him aside. 
Then the Rabbi said to him, “You need to join the army of the Hashem!” 
Yankel replied, “I’m already in the army of the Hashem, Rabbi.” 
The Rabbi questioned him, “How come I don’t see you except at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?”
 He whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.”

So my son was watching me write my weekly sermon. “How do you know what to say?”  He asked me
“Why,Hashem tells me.” I humbly responded

“Oh, then why do you keep crossing things out….?”

Answer is A – Theater was a big thing for the Romans. When you have a big empire of lots of murdering, drunk restless barbarians its important to keep them entertained at all times, if you want to keep the peace. They did not have cable TV back then. The next best thing was theater. An amphitheater as opposed to a theater was a full circle theater with seats all around, kind of like our stadiums today. In amphitheaters they would have gladiator fights, executions of criminals, fights against wild and exotic animals, y’know late night TV. The Talmud tells us repeatedly that one should not go to theaters where there would be plays and entertainment, which pretty much tells us that people went-which is why they were warning us not to go. Interestingly enough when it came to executions though there were Rabbis that felt it was important and perhaps even a mitzva to go. One reason to go would be because the fate of the prisoner would often be determined by the jeering crowds and people would be able to cheer to save some of the prisoners. (Personally I think that this would not be a bad idea to implement here in Israel- a much better system than the pathetic court system which seems to sympathize with terrorists and punish Jews-but I digress). Another reason to go would be to identify the executed prisoner in order to permit the wife to remarry. In Israel we have two fully excavated amphitheater which is in Beit Guvrin and Beit Shean. But those are not one of the choices-although maybe they were trying to fool you with the Beit Shearim. There are two more that have been identified in Israel one is in Shechem which despite any UN resolutions is Israel and always has been and should be and of course in Caesarea.