Our view of the Galile

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One Opinion- Yitro 2017 / 5777

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

February 17th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 17 21st Shevat 5777
Parshat Yitro
One Opinion
Two Jews, Three opinions. It’s the old joke. It seems we can’t ever seem to agree on anything. We are a divisive people. We are opinionated. No, opinionated is the wrong word. We are ideologues. We are vehement and vocal about the things that we believe. It can be about politics, Israel, the Rabbi of your shul or which is the best shwarma or sushi store to eat at. Not only do we have an opinion but generally speaking we believe our opinion is really the only one that is right. We’re experts. We know better. What does the other guy know anyways? More often than not we really do not even believe that anyone else is really even qualified to have another opinion. Many will get outraged that others might have the chutzpa to even express a dissenting opinion. We see things pretty black and white. Except of course when we see things grey or colored, but then everyone else should see it that way as well. We act as if the opinion we are sharing is as if God Himself told us so on Sinai. And even if we are the only ones that remember it. It doesn’t make a difference. After all, we probably had a better transmission and connection than anyone else. And that’s the Jews. At least in my opinion.

Now what makes this even more fascinating is that we at the same time are the only people in the world that have a mitzva and a tradition of studying Torah and the word of God. Every single Jew for the past three millennia since the Torah was given have a mitzva to study, explain, understand and delve in the words of our law. The ironic thing is though, that there are tens of thousands of opinions, commentaries, debates and arguments over what the law is, what the explanation of the words of the text are, how it is meant to be derived and even how it should be practiced. Meaning that ultimately every Jew is obligated and meant to study the entire plethora of opinions, knowledge and debates of what the word of Hashem really is and was. The greatest Rabbis and Talmudists know that the only way that we can truly understand anything in how to practice and live Judaism is by understanding all of the varied and differing opinions. The practical law will ultimately follow the majority. But the study of the practical law, without the background and sources that led up to its conclusion is like buying chulent out of can (god forbid-painful for me to even write that) as opposed to a fresh crock-potted cooked overnight fresh meat, potatos, beans and barley chulent that has been simmering, stewing and percolating until Shabbos lunch. It’s no good and a cheap sinful imitation-if you didn’t get the metaphor. In my opinion, of course J.

So on one hand we each have our own opinions. On the other hand Jewish tradition is that the law and practice of Judaism can only be achieved with the constant, truly lifetime study of all of the other opinions. To make this even more fascinating. The Talmud tells us rather cryptically that many of the debates in the Talmud and about the words of the Torah are “Eilu V’Eilu Divrei Elokim Chayim”`These and these are both the words of the Living God. Meaning they’re both right. Shammai and Hillel and sages that have debated points in our Torah for the sake of heaven are both right. They are both the words of Hashem. They were all revealed on Sinai. There is only one way that we practice. We are obligated to follow the rulings of the recognized leaders and the majority of their opinions which has been based upon the knowledge and rulings and same criterion of the previous generation. But all of the opinions are truth. In the words of the Ritva the great 13th century sage
When Moshe went up to heaven Hashem showed him each topic with 49 ways to permit it and 49 ways to forbid it. When Moshe requested from Hashem to explain, he was told that it is given to the scholars of each generation to determine and the ruling will follow their decision.”

Rabbi Tzadok HaKohein of Lublin explains this on an even deeper level. So hold on to your hats or sheitels here. We are told that Hashem created the universe and the Torah was his blueprint. He also notes that the universe is in a perpetual state of creation. It is fluid, it is expanding, it is changing. The reason for this he suggests is because the Torah itself- the word of the “Living God” which is the DNA- so to speak, of the world is also in constant flux. Each day a Jew studies and is mechadesh- he innovates, he brings to light a new understanding of the Torah he is transforming the world with it. Our sages tell us that any Torah scholar that rules properly in Halacha is a partner with God in Creation. That is not just a metaphor, suggests Reb Tzadok. We are literally changing and creating new realities in the world.

There is an amazing story that really brings this concept to light.  Rav Yechiel Michel Gordon zt"l of Lomza related that an individual in Volozhin suffered from a certain form of lung disease. The person intended to leave the city and move to a place with better air. The individual's father appeared to him in a dream and told him that his specific form of lung disease was the subject of a debate between the R”MA- Reb Moshe Isserlis perhaps the most basic halachic decisor for the Ashkenazic world from the 16th century. and the Sha'agas Aryeh the Rav in Volozhin in the 18th century.. The Rema held that if this particular form of lung disease occurs in a cow, then the animal is considered not Kosher, as it is incapable of living for another year. The Sha'agas Aryeh, however, had ruled that an animal with this disease was nonetheless kosher. The father therefore warned his son to remain in Volozhin. His rationale was that in Volozhin, the Sha'agas Aryeh's town, the ruling- and therefore the Will of Hashem - followed the ruling of the Sha'agas Aryeh. The disease would not threaten this person's life as long as he remained there. Were he, however, to leave Volozhin, he would fall under the ruling of the Rema and would be at mortal risk. See what I’m saying here? The realities of the world, and even the specific way that things will play out in specific locales all follow the constant readjusting and power of Torah being formulated.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Parsha that tells us of the giving of the Torah, I find it fascinating that the beginning of the portion seems to be out of chronological order, as it is talking about court cases and debates on how to determine the law and establishment of the legal system, which would seem to follow the giving of the Torah and the law. The Torah is seemingly setting up the giving of the law with the corollary that qualifies it, that there will still be debate, there will still be different opinions. The Torah is not static. It is as living and breathing as the world itself. 

The Torah tells us that when we came to Sinai
Shemos (19:2) “And they came to the wilderness of Sinai vayachanu-and they -camped in the Wilderness. Vayichan- And Israel camped there opposite the mountain.

Rashi there noting the seeming inconsistency in the singular and plural tense, where the verse begins and they camped and then uses the singular vayichan and he camped states.

Vayichan Sham YisraelLike one man with one heart, however all other encampments had complaints and arguments.

Arguments, debates and disagreements are natural to the Jewish people. More than that. They absolutely are an essential part of who we are and our critical part in expressing our partnership with Hashem in Creation. Each one of has a unique role to play in that. It is the reason we were created. Yet at Sinai for the first and only time we realized and appreciated that all of the other and differing opinions were all part of that one glorious revelation. They were all true. They were all the word of Hashem. The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel notes that when the verse tells us that the Jewish people saw the sounds emanating from Hashem and the mountain, which seemingly is impossible; for how can one see sound. He explains thus that

[Shemos 20:16]." And the entire nation saw the sounds: "And the entire nation saw the voices, how they changed as they were internalized by every individual”

Each Jew perhaps for the first time appreciated the incredible music of the Torah. It is one song and each Jew has his own solo. The highs, the lows, the baritones, the bass, the treble and the precussions and horns. But we saw the whole orchestra and how it is played by each and every one of us. We saw it in one another. We saw their instrument and their chorus. Some of those tones can contradict and muffle out others. At different times during the song and the performance some may be heard more loudly and be the lead and some might be quiet background music. Yet each piece has its own role and part to play. That is the moment when we saw that Yisrael, V’Oryasa, ViKudsha Brich Hu Chad Hu- The Children of Israel, the Torah and Hashem are all one.

The Zohar tells us on the verse that says “Who is like you nation of Israel-one nation on the land.” That the angels in heaven are all capable of each singing out the praises of the oneness of God in heaven. But here amongst “the hills of diversity, of conflict, of contradictions” only Israel is the nation of “one”- that can declare and bring to light the oneness of Hashem. The unifying aspect of His creation in this world. So in light of all of the above perhaps it would do us all well to change that opening phrase and idea of this E-Mail, or at least bring it to its truest conclusions. Two Jews, Three opinions, but all of us are like one man with one heart that are all expressing the love and the Creation of our One God.

Have unifying and Torahdike Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://youtu.be/aii3fDdZnrM -Benny Friedman Ivri Anochi cool new video

https://youtu.be/kjLygOK7V3I  Very strange Ten Commandments rap

https://youtu.be/fCV8j3VSsXs  - Funny albeit a bit heretical Ten Commandments-the Jews and Moses


“Tsvey kluge kenen nit shtimen.”- Two smart people can't agree.

answer below at end of Email
Q.  Rabbi Akiva is connected to:
A. The War of Varus
B. The Kitos War
C. The Bar Kochba Rebellion
D. The Great Revolt

Lessons, lessons, lessons, that’s what we get each week from really taking a harder look at Rashi’s timeless commentary on the simple explanation of the text of the Torah. This week the Torah tells us how Moshe tells his father-in-law Yisro about everything that had happened them and how Hashem had saved them. Yisro’s response, the Torah tells us seemingly is one of joy.
Shemos (18:9) Vayichad Yisro- and Yisro rejoiced.
Yet Rashi seemingly noting that the typical word for rejoicing in the Torah is samach brings an alternate midrashic explanation.
His flesh became chidudin- chidudin prickly (gooseflesh) he was troubled over the destruction of Egypt. This what people say ‘A convert up to ten generations do not disgrace and Armaean in his presence.”
The Gaon of Vilna notes a fascinating mathematical calculation on the ten generations number noting that the law is that Mamzer-illegitimate child born out of wedlock or an incestuous relationship cannot marry for 10 generations with a regular Jew. The reasons is he suggests is because there remains the taint of the sin in the DNA literally throughout the generations until it becomes less than 1/960; the amount given in halacha for a beryia – a complete being like an insect to become nullified in a kosher cooked item (a non-complete one as most non-kosher items is 1:60). This being the case the 1st generation is ½ the 2nd generation is ¼ that remains, the third is 1/8th the 4th would be 1/16th the 5th generation would be 1/32nd the 6th would be 1/64 the 7th would be 1/128th the 8th would be 1/256 the 9th would be 1/512 and by the 10th generation where there is only 1/ 1024 left it would be already nullified and would be permitted to be married into the nation.
The Rav of Ponovizh noted during the war years that we see from this that the connection one has to one’s nation and people is something that is in the genes. It is physical and hereditary. Thus despite whatever disdain Yitro would have for the Egyptians who persecuted the Jewish people and despite the fact that he rejected paganism and idolatry and joined the Jewish people there is a natural connection that his flesh literally crawled when he heard of their downfall. If this is the case, the Rav said, so when we hear about the tragedies, the troubles, the murder and pogroms against our own people and if we don’t literally feel it in our bones, this is not merely a failing in our empathy for our fellow Jew. There is something missing in our basic human nature. This can only be as a result of our sins and callousness that has deadened us to this basic human emotion. Wow! See what you can learn out of one Rashi.
Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman The Ponovezher Rav (1886 -1969) Born in Kuhl, Lithuania at the age of 14 he went to the Telshe Yeshiva, where he learned until he was twenty (or 21) under Harav Shimon Shkop and became close to Harav Eliezer Gordon, the yeshivah’s founder. In 1908, Reb Yosef Shlomo went to learn mussar from Reb Yosef Yoizel, the Alter of Novardok. While there, Harav Yechiel Michel Epstein, the Aruch Hashulchan, taught him the necessary skills for Rabbanut, after which he spent three years in Radin under the Chafetz Chaim.
He married the daughter of Harav Leib Rubin, the Rav of Vidzh. In 1911, Reb Leib was offered the Rabbanut of Wilkomir; his position in Vidzh passed to his son-in-law, who also opened a yeshivah there.
After Rav Kahaneman’s impressive eulogy at the levayah of Reb Itzele Rabinowitz of Ponevezh in 1919, the community offered him the position of Rav. He became Rav of Ponevezh (at age 33) and opened a yeshivah there which attracted many of Lithuania’s best talmidim. Rav Kahaneman guided his flock with wisdom and fatherly love. He was appointed as the Jewish representative to the Lithuanian parliament.
After 20 years, when the Nazis conquered Lithuania, Rav Kahaneman was on a mission abroad when World War II broke out and was unable to return to be with his family and his students. In 1940 he settled in Eretẓ Israel and from there directed efforts, in vain, toward the rescue of Lithuanian Jewry from the Nazis. Most of his family perished in the Holocaust. Thereafter, he devoted himself to reestablishing in Ereẓ Israel a network of Torah institutions. In 1943 he established Batei Avot, an orphanage for refugee children.fled to Eretz Yisrael, (1940), then under the British Mandate, and became a leader of chareidi Jewry.
Although broken and distraught over the fate of Europe’s Jews, he decided that he had been spared to bemekadesh Shem Shamayim-sanctify the name of Hashem. In 1941, Rav Kahaneman set the cornerstone for the new Ponevezher Yeshivah on a hill overlooking Bnei Brak.
Despite general skepticism, Rav Kahaneman, with his powers of persuasion, collected enough money to build what became the largest yeshivah yet in Eretz Yisrael and one of the largest in the world.The Ponevezher Rav’s ambitions were not limited to his yeshivah. He founded and supported dozens of other institutions, especially for the “yaldei Tehran,” orphans rescued from the Holocaust and brought to Israel (Batei Avot orphanages).Reb Yosef Shlomo was niftar on 20 Elul 5729/1969, at the age of 83. He was buried in the Ponevezher beit hachaim on the outskirts of Bnei Brak.


Baalei Teshuva or BT’s – The return to the Land of Israel is just part of the fulfillment of the prophecies that we merit to live and see that foretold of the advent of the Messianic Era. The final prophecy in the book of prophets tells of the return of the hearts of the children and the parents to the ways of Torah. That incredible prophecy is certainly as well one of the most amazing phenomena we are witnessing today as well. According to a 2008 study-which is certainly outdated over 200,000 Jewish adults in Israel consider themselves Baalei Teshuva- Jews that have returned to the faiths of our ancestors. Even more fascinating that 22% of the chareidim interviewed consider themselves BT’s. The reasons given for the changes they saw fit to make in their lives almost half of them state it’s because of exposure to religion that they never studied or heard before and the attendance of Torah classes and religious events and experiences from the myriad of  organizations and classes that are all over the country. 25% state it is as a result of the influence of family members and communities, while the rest state it was personal events or situations that led to their exploration of the traditional Jewish observant roots. The outreach work that is returning thousands of Jews to our heritage crosses all segments of the Jewish landscape. There is Chariedi outreach organizations that go around throughout the country and offer classes, study partners and seminars. The religious Zionist movement as well as its outreach arm, generally around holiday times offering community events, Seders and other opportunities as well as outreach in the army and other areas. The sefardic world through Shas has schools systems and Rabbis that interact and reach out to their generally traditional community although not necessarily observant. And the Chasidic world as well move and live in various communities where they offer outreach and all types of chesed to Israelis from across the spectrum, most notable is certainly Chabad and Breslav that reach Jews truly on the fringes and welcome them with love, warmth and joy in the most non-judgmental and non-intimidating ways, returning thousands to the faith of their fathers. It is truly amazing to be part of this phenomena and witness this incredible fulfillment of that ancient prophecy-one that Ben Gurion and many of the early Zionists never dreamed would ever occur- as they thought the “old Jew” and Ghetto European practices would become a relic of the past. Lesson being never bet against the eternity of Torah and the prophecies of old.
There was once a man. He was very poor and his life was in shambles -- his wife left him, took all the money, kids, car, and even his dog. He didn't know what to do. So, he went to his Rabbi, and asked, "Rabbi, my life is in ruins. My wife left me, took all the money, kids, car, and even my poor little dog. PLEASE help me." The wise Rabbi replied, "open up the Bible to any page and point to a sentence on that page. Whatever it says, you do." So, skeptically, the man went home, took out his dusty Bible from the attic and opened up to a page and pointed to a word. A few months later, the same man, now rich with a new wife, and new dog walks into the Rabbi's study and says, "Rabbi, thanks for the advice. You changed my life!" The Rabbi asked, "what did I do that helped so much?" So, the man answered, "Well, remember when you told me a couple of months ago to take my Bible, open up to any page, and point?" "Yes," replied the Rabbi, "what did you point to?" So the man replied, "chapter 11"

Sam and Joe are taking a walk, when they come upon a church. A sign says "CONVERT AND RECEIVE A THOUSAND DOLLARS". Sam says "You stay here. I'm going in to convert. "Some time later, he comes back out. Joe says, "Well, did you get the thousand dollars?” Sam says, "What's the matter? It that all you people think about?"

A old Jew was refused service in a restaurant. "We don't serve Jews here," said the waiter. "Don't let that bother you," replied the old man. "I don't eat Jews!"

A rabbi and his two friends, a priest and a minister, played poker for small stakes once a week. The only problem was that they lived in a very conservative blue-law town. The sheriff raided their game and took all three before the local judge. After listening to the sheriff's story, the judge sternly inquired of the priest: "Were you gambling, Father?" The priest looked toward heaven, whispered, "Oh, Lord, forgive me!" and then said aloud: "No, your honor, I was not gambling." "Were you gambling, Reverend?" the judge asked the minister. The minister repeated the priest's actions and said, "No, your honor, I was not." Turning to the third clergyman, the judge asked: "Were you gambling, Rabbi?" The rabbi eyed him cooly and replied "With whom?"

Answer is D – The great Wars against the Romans certainly surrounded perhaps to the development and leadership of Rabbi Akiva. To calculate his age though one has to do a bit of math. He was certainly alive during the great revolt and the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and if he didn’t become religious until the age of 40 then he must have been at least that during the year 70 CE when it was destroyed as our sages tell us the famous story that he was laughing while others were crying for he saw the fulfillment of the prophecy as being the harbinger of the redemption that must come as well. On the other hand he was barbarically executed on Erev Yom Kippur by the Romans during the Bar Kochva revolt which was in the year 132-136 CE. We are also told that he was 120 years old when he was killed. Which would mean he was born in the year 16 CE or so making him 54 by the destruction. So he was certainly a sage during the Kitos wars which were revolts throughout the Middle East against the Romans, and he was not alive during the Varus wars which were at the end of the Chasmonaim period after the death of Herod against the Romans. But the correct answer is certainly the Bar Kochva revolt, as Bar Kochva was his student and Rabbi Akiva declared him to be Mashiach and was an “armor bearer” in his battles and sent his students to join his army. Sadly Bar Kochva failed in his mission.  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trick or Tree- Beshalach /Tu B'Shvat 2017/5777

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

February 10th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 16 14th Shevat 5777
Parshat Beshalach / Tu B’Shvat

Trick or Tree

It was my least favorite topic in Tour guide school. To me a tree is a tree. There are trees that have delicious fruit that I can eat and trees that are there to just decorate the plate, so to speak. Like that green leafy stuff that they put on the plates with chopped liver in a nice ball in the middle. I think they call it lettuce, cabbage, parsley or something like that. It’s pretty, but does they name really matter? And yet scientists seem to have nothing better to do than to develop courses of study like botany or dendrology-bet you didn’t even know it was called that huh? See of how little importance it is. Well in tour guiding school we had to learn this stuff. They knew that people would be in our cars or minibuses on tours and feel the need to get their money’s worth by asking their tour guide endless questions about things they really don’t care much about and are really not even interested in. But we’re paying good money for this guide and you bet your shekel’s bottom he is going to talk to the entire time, even if it is about trees…
When I first started tour guiding even, even before I finished my course…shhhhh…don’t tell anybody it’s technically illegal, but the masses were impatient, what could I do? How could I say no? And I had to pay for this course somehow or another. Besides you really can’t pass the tests by just taking the course and without any experience guiding. Anyways when I started guiding people would inevitably ask me The Question. “What type of tree is that?” So the standard answer that I would give, which generally worked was obviously it was an avocado. Why an avocado? I don’t know. I barely know what an avocado is. I think it’s the green mushy thing that I pick out of my sushi. But I figured neither did anyone else. It was working fine until one day some really smart kid asked me why there were oranges growing on the avocado tree. Uh Oh… Thank god I was a very experienced Rabbi for a very long time and well trained in making up wise things as I go along and stating them with quite a bit off confidence. Many times even quoting ancient sources from great Rabbis to support my penetrating insight is. So I very quickly explained that it was part of the genius of Israel; that we could make anything happen and grow in this country. Even oranges on avocado trees. He nodded, truly inspired by the brilliance of our people and country and the tour guides infallible integrity was intact. The parents didn’t notice my little tree trick because they were playing on their smartphones. Whewwww…. Saved.
This Shabbos is Tu B’Shvat; The New Year for trees. Since those years when I first started guiding, I have become a bit more knowledgeable about those tall leafy things that adorn our beautiful country. But a good tour guide is not there to just talk about trees and know which one is which. Any dendrologist can do that. My job is to make it interesting, inspiring, and connect those who are coming to Israel with the incredible holiness and meaning everything here has to offer. So we talk about the tzadik connection of palm trees, the profound significance of almond/shkeidiya trees have, the connection between sabras and Israelis and of course all the different hints and secrets of the pomegranate trees. But it’s Tu B’Shvat so we have to go deeper.
What does it mean to be the New Year of trees? What is Tu B’Shvat all about? The holiday as celebrated today really starts around the time of the great Kabbalist of Tzfat, the ARI”ZL. The Talmud and early sources do not mention it at all. The Mishna in Rosh Hashana states that there are four New Years.
The New Year for the establishment of Kings and for holidays is Nissan. The new Year for the tithes of cattle is the first of Elul (or Tishrei according to Rebbi Elazar and Rebbi Shimon), the New Year for Shemitta Yovel and vegetable tithes is Rosh Hashana, and then the Mishna states
“The first of Shevat is the New Year for tree like the words of Beit Shamai, Beit Hillel says it is the 15th.”
Rashi explains that the law is that tithes cannot be taken off from one’s year crop for a previous year’s crop. The cut-off point that divides the crops is either Rosh Chodesh or TU-(the 15th) of Shvat according to Beith Hillel and Shammai. The reason for Shvat being the cutoff point is because the majority of the winter rains have fallen and thus the sap begins to rise signifying new growth.
Yet there is something much deeper in the words of the Mishna. For the Mishna describes this New Year as the New Year of the Tree-singular. Unlike the other items mentioned in the Mishna such as holidays, kings, vegetables and the like. What tree are we talking about? Rabbi Tzadok HaKohein of Lublin notes rather cryptically that this is referring to “The Tree”, you know, the famous one; The Tree of Knowledge where it all started from. Tu B’Shvat, he suggests is the day that we atone and rectify that original sin of Adam and Chava who ate from the tree and thereby caused the “earth to be cursed”. We therefore eat all types of fruits and make blessings upon them in order to inject them with holiness.
But why TU B’Shvat? And what is the significance of the dispute between Hillel and Shamai over the 1st or the 15th of the month? So Reb Shmuel Engel suggests a fascinating idea. He notes that the 1/3 is halachically the tipping point when something becomes recognized and viable. When a fetus is 3 months old it is considered to have reached the stage of hukar ubber (no not the car service app) the fetus is recognizable. Similarly in the laws of Shemita produce 1/3 growth defines which year it is part of. Even in the laws of Shabbos food is considered minimally cooked already at the point of 1/3. That being the case he suggests that the Teshuva that we do during the High Holidays comes to fruition in the month of Shvat 4 month or 1/3 of the year later. There are though two types of teshuva that we do. On Rosh Hashana we repent out of yirah/ fear of Hashem. Sukkos however in the Torah refers to the mitzva of taking the lulav as
“And you shall take on the First day”- by which the Midrash explains that although it is on the 15th of the month rather than the 1st it is called the First because it is the “First of the accounting of sins”
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explains this by noting that when one repents out of fear then he can achieve atonement for his sins. However on Sukkot the days of joy that follow the High Holidays we repent out of love for Hashem. When one repents out of love then his previous sins not only get forgiven but in fact they become merits for him. Thus on Sukkos Hashem calculates our sins for he then turns them all into merits on our behalf.
This being the case Rav Engel suggest is the dispute between Shamai and Hillel. For Shamai represents strict and harsh judgement. It was Shamai that could not convert the individual who came to him on the condition he teach him the entire Torah on one foot. For if the concept is fear and judgement then one has to learn all of the Torah. Hillel on the other hand- or foot J, had no problem. He taught him that he should not doing anything hateful to his friend that he wouldn’t want done to him. That is love. His friend can even be interpreted as Hashem. If one has love for Hashem and for others than he can transform any wrong doing into a merit. This is therefore their dispute in regards to the holiday of the New Year for the Tree- the original Tree, the original sin. Shamai says that the day of the recognition of the atonement is 4 months or 1/3 of the year after the original Rosh Hashana when Adam sinned and did teshuva out of fear and awe of Hashem. It is why the Mishna says like the words of Beit Shamai- referring to the previous positions of Shamai that favor an outlook of strict judgement and service of Hashem through yirah.  Hillel on the other hand sees love and kindness and the holiday of Sukkot as the starting point for teshuva, he thus learns that the day of its fruition is on Tu Bshvat.
Pretty deep, no? The day of the fruition of teshuva of love. The blossoming of that joy that we experienced when we took those four species on Sukkos in our Sukka. Under the stars, beneath the freshly cut tree branches that serve as our schach in the shade of Hashem. The winter is not the most romantic or loving time of year. It’s cold, it’s wet It’s rainy and dark. It’s like Adam HaRishon after the first sin of the tree. But from that sin Teshuva was born. We were given a second chance. We have the opportunity to return to Eden. To turn that cursed dark dirty earth into holy trees infused with blessing and the fruits of Hashem. The sap is rising, the flowers are starting grow on the almonds already. Hashkediya Porachat. It is time for the eternal Chag Ha’Ilanot.
Have fruitful Shabbos and delicious Tu BShvat,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://youtu.be/hyfnXUQz9z8    -worst Tu Bshvat rap ever

https://youtu.be/6bxYvcByTg0    Ilan Bama Avarechicha- Tree with what shall I bless you medley

https://youtu.be/B90edi_4AWI Sheweky Ilan Ilan song

https://youtu.be/2uj7tEHiFZ8 - And my favorite version from Abie Rottenberg


“A yung baimeleh baigt zikh; an alter brecht zikh”- A young tree bends; an old tree breaks

answer below at end of Email
Q.   The burial place of two women whose names are “Etio” is located in:
a. The Beit Jamal Monastery
b. The Protestant cemetery on Mt. Zion
c. The Tombs of the Kings
d. Beit Shearim

We daven every day. Much of our daily prayers come from verses in the Torah. Yet as we know there is so much depth to the words that we use in our prayers that we barely have time to focus on, as we are rushed and have to get going, to much more important things in life than talk to the Master and Creator of the World and the King of all Kings right? Yeah… I know the feeling. Yet when we arrive at the Torah portions that include parts of our prayers it is worthwhile to really pay attention to those Rashi’s for those insights that he gives are really ones that can enhance our daily prayers to Hashem as we get a deeper insight into some of the words and verses.
In this week’s Torah portion we have the song the Jews sang at the sea that we recite each morning before the blessings of Shema. The concluding verses say
Shemos (15:19) Ki Va Sus-when the horse Pharaoh with his chariots and horsemen  came in the sea
Rashi on the words Ki Va- writes two words K’aasher Ba- As Pharaoh came.
What is Rashi trying to say? What is the difference between when he came or as he came? Rashi is not merely translating he is highlighting this for us. And it is so easy to miss his point.
Rabbeinu Bachaya explains this Rashi that this is a continuation and a recap of the beginning of the song. The song started off Az Yashir Moshe- then Moshe and the children of Israel. The song is concluding and explaining that this actually took place as Pharaoh and his horsemen entered the sea. This insight he explains is an entirely different perspective of the story. The Jews didn’t sing the song when they arrived on the other end and saw the Egyptians dead on the shore. Rather, this is the song they sung as they were crossing while the Egyptians were coming in after them. Can you imagine the fear and the pounding of the Egyptian hooves coming in as they were crossing the split sea. Yet the Jewish people had faith. They continued singing and then their enemies were washed away. It is the song of the sea literally, the song that was sung while still in the sea. That is the song of faith that we sing each day, right before we announce Shema Yisrael. Pretty amazing. Now go to work.

Rabbeinu Bachaya ben Asher- (1255 - 1340) A student of the Rashba Rabbeinu Bachaya one of the most basic Rishonim and commentaries on the Torah was one of the greatest commentaries and sages in Spain. His work on the Torah begins with a verse in Mishlei and continues to explain questions on the text and he uses midrash and Kabalistic sources very similar to the style of Nachaminides in his commentary. He served as a a darshan ("preacher") in his native city of Zaragoza, sharing this position with several others, and he received a small salary, which was scarcely enough to support him and his family; but neither his struggle for daily bread nor the reverses that he suffered (to which he referred in the introduction to his commentary on the Torah) diminished his zeal for in Torah study in general, and in Biblical exegesis in particular. His other famous Mussar and philosophy work the Kad Hakemach contains 60 chapters which discusses the following subjects: belief and faith in God; the divine attributes and the nature of providence; the duty of loving God, and of walking before God in simplicity and humility of heart; the fear of God; Jewish prayer; benevolence, and the love of mankind; peace; the administration of justice, and the sacredness of the oath; the duty of respecting the property and honor of one's fellow man; the Jewish holidays, and halakha.


Hikers – Israel has one of the greatest network of hikes in the entire world with more than 9000 km (5500 miles) of marked trails for hiking, biking or jeep driving, and sometimes even for horse or camel rides. The trails cover most of the country including the West Bank. Israel has many different hiking options, from very short hikes that can take less than an hour to multi-day hikes that can take up to many weeks. The longest hike Shvil Haaretz or Israel trail runs 950 kilometers from Kibbutz Dan, near the border with Lebanon in the Upper Galilee in the far north of Israel, to Eilat in the far south of the country. Split into manageable daily stages, there are places to stop and stay along the way. The Yam lYam Hike (Sea to Sea) is one of the most popular hiking trails in Israel literally crossing the country from west to east, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, crossing some of Israel’s most beautiful scenery in the Western Galilee and Upper Galilee regions. The Sea to Sea hike is walked by thousands of Israelis and tourists every year, and takes between three to five days depending on how fast you walk, along marked scenic trails. It starts by Nahariya through the upper Galile and Meron and Tzfat and ends by the banks of the Kinneret.
Almost all Israelis are hikers. The vacation times during the year are packed with hikers of all ages. The truth is there is a mitzva and kiyum of walking the land to its length and breadth and showing that it is all our land as part of the mitzva of settling the land. The tradition goes back to Avraham Avinu. When we walk and hike we imagine how much Moshe Rabbeinu wished he would have been able to do what we are doing. The beauty of Israel is that there is so many different climates, topographies and natural phenomena. We have volcanoes, waterfalls, lush hills and valleys and beautiful deserts and wilderness. There are of course Israelis that do this as a full time occupation for month on end, and then you have the beginners and tourists from all over the world that come to experience the beauty of Israel. The most important thing, of course, is a good map and lots of water. Dehydration can come very quick and it is not fun and dangerous. A tour guide is also not a bad thing to bring along as well.

How do trees access the internet? They log on.
What did the tree do when the bank closed? It started its own branch.
What type of tree fits in your hand? A palm tree.
Where do saplings go to learn? Elementree school.
What is an Oaks Favorite school subject? Treegonometree.
What is every single tree’s least favorite month? SepTIMMMBERRR!
What must trees drink responsibly? Root beer.
Why do trees hate tests? Because they get stumped by the questions.
Q: What did the tree wear to the pool party? A: Swimming trunks!
Q: What did the little tree say to the big tree? A: Leaf me alone!
 What did one tree say to the other tree? Eitz nice to see you.

Answer is D – I lucked out on this one. I have no idea who is buried in bait jamal monastery, or in the protestant cemetery on Mt Zion and I’m no even interested enough to google it. The cemetery of the Kings is north of Shaar Shechem not the safest place to visit and according to traditions Kalba Savua the father in law of Rabbi Akiva is buried there and according the Ari”Zl  Nakdimon Ben Gurion is buried there although some archeologists believe that it was the Jewish queen Helene is buried there. The correct answer though and I know this  because I go there all the time, is Beit Shearim. Beit Shearim, located in the lower Galile, the burial place of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasai was the central burial place in Israel after the destruction of the Temple and the Bar Kochva revolt. There the Etio women are buried an aunt and niece.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Donkeys, Dogs, and Rabbis (not rabies) - Bo 2017 / 5777

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

February 3rd 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 15 7th Shevat 5777
Parshat Bo

Donkeys, Dogs, and Rabbis (not rabies)
vYou don't want to start up with Rabbis, certainly not in a religious debate. Our sages tell us that the 
words of our sages can be like fire. You don't mess with fire. It can burn. So when you see two sages arguing or dueling it's best to just sit down and watch the show. There are lessons to be learned so just soak it in and live and learn.
It was in the early days of the British mandate pre-state of Israel. The battle between the old yishuv simple, holy traditional Jews who had lived in the old city of Jerusalem for generations versus the new "modern" secular Zionists that had come to Palestine to build a new country, a new Jew and a new nation. At the helm of the Zionist party was no less of a figure than the Rav of Yaffo, Rav Avraham Ha'Kohein Kook who was known for his love of every Jew regardless of observance level as well as his broad knowledge of Jewish law and philosophy and who saw in the new movement the "beginning of the redemption". On the other side was Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld- the "guardian of Jerusalem" also a man renowned for his love of his fellow Jew but also one who carried the burden of maintaining the sanctity of Jerusalem and preserving the holiness of the city and the yishuv from the forces that sought to transform its 3000 year special nature. The unplanned showdown of these two holy leaders took place by a once in lifetime mitzvah meal that a simple Jew was having to fulfill the commandment of this week's Torah portion of Peter Chamor; the redemption of the first born donkey.
In this most fascinating and mysterious mitzvah the donkey, the only un-kosher animal requiring redemption, has to be redeemed by giving a sheep to the Kohein. If for some odd reason one does not wish to redeem his donkey, the law than states that he must decapitate the donkey as it is prohibited to be used. Rav Kook, being a Kohein was given the honor of receiving the redemption, while Rav Sonnenfeld as the local Rav in Jerusalem was the officiating Rabbi. The fun was about to begin.
Rav Kook, who eventually went on to become the first chief Rabbi of Palestine, always the orator got up to speak at the meal and to explain what he saw as the lesson of this mitzvah. The donkey, he explained, is a symbol of lowliness and degradation (and continues to be so even today in many cultures). It is impure, non-kosher and the word in Hebrew -Chamor is also the term for physicality and the baseness of man. Yet our sages tell us that it merited to achieve holiness in this particular mitzvah, because it assisted the Jewish people in their redemption, as the text tells us that the Jews used donkeys to carry out the booty of Egypt. If that is the case, Rav Kook suggested, we can than derive that whoever assists the Jewish people in their return from Exile to Eretz Yisrael, regardless of their observance and their connection to tradition can also achieve holiness by merely assisting and facilitating the redemption…I'm sure you, as well as everyone there gets his point. Round 1-Zionists 1 point.
Rav Yosef Chaim then got up with the disclaimer that he had not planned to speak. However, he said, since the Rav from Yaffo only started his lecture and did not conclude the lesson; he felt that it behooved him to conclude it for him. Uh Oh… Rav Yosef Chaim then continued and said
"Yes, it is true that even a simple, base and impure donkey has the potential to achieve holiness. Yet the halacha than continues that if it is not redeemed for a sheep-ergo it remains a donkey, it does not upgrade itself after or during that encounter with holiness but chooses to remain that same old impure donkey- than its holiness is removed; the connection to holiness, the neck that could have uplifted it from its status is disconnected forever and all that is left is one dead donkey."
And the Rabbi hits it out of the park. Game over.
It is interesting to note that this battle between secular and religious Jews has been going on in our opinionated people's spotted history for eternity. No less a figure than the great Rabbi Akiva before become the knowledgeable and great leader who's mantra was loving your neighbor as yourself described his hatred of Rabbi in vociferous terms.
"If I saw a scholar I was filled with such hatred I wished I could bite him like a donkey. His students said "Rebbe, at least say that you would bite like a dog" He responded and said that a donkey bites and breaks bones whereas a dog doesn't."
Ouch, Ouch!
It's interesting that these two animals that Rabbi Akiva differentiates between, the dog and the donkey, are both mentioned as helping the redemption. The dog, the Torah tells us remained quiet and did not bark as the final plague takes place. This act gave credit that it was Hashem alone that redeemed the Jewish people and killed the first born of the Egyptians and not the Angel of Death (which seemingly they would sense and naturally bark for). In addition they were quiet as the Jews entered the Egyptians homes and took the booty that the Egyptians had promised them upon leaving as opposed to their natural instinct to bark and prevent intruders. So both the donkey and the dog assisted the redemption. The donkey however was rewarded with his opportunity for greatness and the chance to achieve and transform itself into the holiness of the first born. The dog, our sages tell us, merited was to keep the flesh of the non-kosher meat from an animal that died would be discarded and given to a dog. What is the difference? Why does the donkey achieve the potential for greatness whereas the dog just a good steak?
 Once again we turn to the writings of Rav Kook (they deserve a rebuttal) who suggests that the dogs just remained silent; they broke their natural tendency and held themselves back from barking. Their participation was passive. The donkeys on the other hand were active. They schlepped and carried much more than they could in order to assist the redemption. They pushed themselves for greatness and they thus merited the chance to achieve the ultimate greatness; a chance to be holy.
Rabbi Akiva's hatred for the scholars was not one of a dog that just bites and scares off the competition. Rabbi Akiva hated the scholars because he saw in them the ability for an uneducated person, impure person like himself to achieve greatness like a donkey. He wanted his piece of flesh. He wanted to break bones. (Also interesting that the word he uses is Etzem which is the same word used to describe the moment of redemption- B'Etzem Hayom- in the middle, essence or core of the day we left Egypt. It's also interesting to note that the sheep that we ate for the Paschal lamb we were prohibited from breaking an etzem-bone. The sheep doesn’t have to break bones- the donkey breaks bones to achieve-ponder… drink a l'chaim… it will make sense J). But Rabbi Akiva didn't bite. He studied. He raised himself he took his donkey and made it into a sheep. The Sheep. The one that led a nation in the service of the Almighty, your shepherd. Ro'einu. He taught his students to love their Re'eacha- their friends and in doing so their Divine shepherd.
We are told that when Moshiach comes he can come on a cloud or if we do not merit he will arrive on a donkey. Their description of that generation that doesn't merit achieving the clouds is that "the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog". Our redemption is a foregone conclusion. The question is only how will we look, how will we merit it. Will we be like dogs that sit back passively, not barking, but also not elevating ourselves to merit the clouds and participate in the redemption in the merit of our deeds. Are we satisfying ourselves with the steaks thrown our way? If so than the donkey who lifted himself up to carry Moshiach will redeem us, to remind and teach us the greatness we can achieve. Or will we merit it by transforming ourselves into that pure sheep; ridding ourselves of the idolatry and impurities that plague us and threaten our nation, as our ancestors did when they merited the miracles of our original Exodus. We can achieve the clouds. The redemption is just a ride away. We just have to choose that mode of transport. Let's all fly together.
Have an unbelievably great Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



https://youtu.be/fNsjvW-T7_c   -incredible inspirational story

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztsEf2PdwpA    The Ten Plagues on the Big screen!


“A hunt on tsain varft zikh oich oif a bain..”- A dog without teeth also attacks a bone.

answer below at end of Email
Q.  One of the ancient aqueducts to Jerusalem originated from:
a. Solomon’s pools
b. Wadi El Qelt
c. Rosh Ha’ayin
d. Mei Naftoah

Rashi makes a statement. He clarifies a text, a word, a phrase. WE can read it and move on or we can apply it and see incredible insights and inspirational ideas in other places. The key is when Rashi uses a phrase that suggests he is doing more than just sharing with you an insight here. He tells you that he is teaching you a rule.
In this week’s Torah portion the by the plague of the first Born the Torah tells us
Shemot (12:25) And Hashem smote all the First- Borns in the Land of Egypt.
Rashi on that verse tell us “Anywhere that it says And Hashem- it refers to Him and His heavenly court
The Nezer HaKodesh notes that Rashi is teaching us a rule here. A rule that can be applicable in other places. The reason why Hashem will sometimes include His court is because when it comes to punishment for any action one is only culpable and responsible for doing a bad thing. If one plans to do a sin but for some reason it doesn’t work out then he is not punished for that. Therefore Hashem can give that over to his court to carry out. On the other hand when it comes to good actions, there Hashem rewards even for intent to do good. However Hashem is the only one that can know what is in the mind of people. Therefore He himself alone carries out the reward. He suggests that this is alluded to in the famous verse in Job
Iyov (1:21) God gives and God takes
Hashem alone is the one that gives reward- for only He knows what the thoughts of man are and how he should be rewarded for his good intentions. However when it comes to punishment, Hashem taking from us there the verse says “and” Hashem takes and as Rashi teaches us here that whenever it says and Hashem it means Hashem and His Beit Din- his heavenly court. Because for punishments even the court can punish as one is only liable for his bad actions and not intentions.
Amazing, isn’t it? A simple Rashi that teaches us a rule in reading the text and if we apply it in other places we see a profound and inspiring insight.

Rabbi Moshe Rosen- The Nezer HaKodesh (1871 - 1957) Born in Lithuania, this great Rabbi and author was one of the primary founding Rabbis in early pre-war America. He received his semicha ordination from Rav Yitzchak Elchonon Spector the Rav of Kovna and great Jewish leader of Europe. He became a Rav in Chadivan where he led his community faithfully throughout WWI, the famed Chazon Ish was a member of his community. During the war years he assited many Jewish refugees. In 1928 he moved to America wher he served as a Rabbi in New York for many years and became the president of the Agudath Harabanim organization that was ultimately taken over by Rabbi Moshe Feinstien. He was niftar on th 17th of Tishrei and is buried in New York


Artists – In a country with so much heart, so much soul, so much holiness you know there are bound to be people that are moved by the beauty and divine nature of Eretz Yisrael to capture it and express their own hearts and souls for posterity. And so yes we have artists in Israel. Perhaps the most artists can be found in the city of Tzfat. That is after-all the city that our sages tell us corresponds to the element of wind, air, Ruach. In fact there are those that say that Tzefat stands for Tziyur, Piyut and Tefilla- Art, poetry and prayer all which are very pervasive in there. But the truth is there is nary a city in Israel that doesn’t have an artist quarter. What makes the art here so unique besides the fact that it is really the home of Judaica art, is the diversity of it all. There is clay art, glass art, paintings that are modern, that are spiritual and mystical, that represent our history. There are artists from all over the diaspora from France, Middle Eastern countries, Ethiopian and North and South America. Yet each piece as different as it may seem all connect that one Jewish soul. All sing out the glory of our Creator that can only be appreciated here in Israel. It is not easy being an artist in Israel. It is certainly a very hard market to break into and to make your mark in. Yet as an artist one time told me it is even harder to be an artist and not express that gift and emotion that Hashem has given you.


A man walks into shul with a dog. The shammas (ritual custodian) comes up to him and says, "Pardon me sir, but this is a House of Worship, you can't bring your dog in here!"
"What do you mean?" says the man. "This is a Jewish dog. Look."
The shammas looks carefully and sees that in the same way that a St. Bernard carries a brandy barrel around its neck this dog has a tallis bag (prayer shawl) around its neck.
"Rover," says the man, "kipah!"
"Woof!" says the dog, stands on his hind legs, opens the tallis bag, takes out a kipah and puts it on his head.
"Rover," says the man, "tallis!"
"Woof!" says the dog, stands on his hind legs, opens the tallis bag, takes out a tallis and puts it around his neck.
"Rover," says the man, "daven!"
"Woof!" says the dog, stands on his hind legs, opens the tallis bag, takes out a prayer book and starts to pray.
"That's fantastic," says the shammas, "absolutely incredible! You should take him to Hollywood. Get him on television, get him in the movies, he could make you millions!!
"You talk to him," says the man, "he wants to be a doctor."

Morty visits Dr. Saul, the veterinarian, and says, "My dog, has a problem."
Dr. Saul says, "So tell me about the dogand the problem."
"It's a Jewish dog. His name is Irving and he can talk," says Morty.
"He can talk?" the doubting doctor asks.
"Watch this!" Morty points to the dog and commands: "Irving, Fetch!"
Irving, the dog, begins to walk toward the door, then turns around and says, "So why are you talking to me like that? You always order me around like I'm nothing. And you only call me when you want something. And then you make me sleep on the floor, with my arthritis. You give me this fahkahkta food with all the salt and fat, and you tell me it's a special diet. It tastes like dreck! YOU should eat it yourself! And do you ever take me for a decent walk? NO, it's out of the house, a short pish, and right back home. Maybe if I could stretch out a little, the sciatica wouldn't kill me so much! I should roll over and play dead for real for all you care!"
Dr. Saul is amazed, "This is remarkable! What could be the problem?"
Morty says, "He has a hearing problem! I said 'Fetch', not 'Kvetch'
Jewish woman wants to take her dog to Israel, so she goes to the travel agent to find out how. He says, "It's easy. You go to the airline, they give you a kennel, you put your dog in it, when you get off at Tel Aviv go to the luggage rack, and there's your dog.

So she does, gets off at Tel Aviv, goes to the luggage rack, no dog. She goes to the lost and found, says, "Where's my dog?" They look all over the airport for it, and find the dog in another terminal. Only the dog is dead.
"Oh, my Gosh, they say, we killed this woman's dog. What are we going to do?"
Then one says, "Wait a minute, it's a cockerspaniel. They're common dogs.
There's a pet shop across the street from the airport. We'll get the same size, shape, color, sex. She'll never know the difference."
They bring the woman the other dog and she says, "That's not my dog." Laughingly and making light of it they say, "What do you mean that's not your dog?"
And she says, "My dog's dead. I was taking it to Israel to bury it."
Answer is A – Although they are called Solomon’s pools the construction of this major aqueduct system to bring water to Yerushalayim was likely built during the Chasmonaim period of the second Temple. As the needs for water grew in the city alternate sites and ways to bring water from outside of the city were developed. Yerushalayim has only the Gichon spring. The southern hills of Yerushalayim and the road to Chevron are higher than Jerusalem and therefore a system where water could be brought downhill through the aqueduct system was developed. This was expanded upon when Herod built the major Beit Hamikdash and Temple Mount and later on in the times of the Romans. Solomon’s pools have actually been a source of water in Yerushalayim until 1967. Not bad for 2000 year old construction!