Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 24th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 1 -30th of Tishrei 5775
It was a random call. I was building my Sukkah, getting ready for the chag in the few spare moments I had in between my tours, but hey you gotta answer the phone because ya never know. "Hi", the sweet voice on the line said. "I was referred to you as someone who does tours around Israel." I like calls that start off that way J. "Sure" I said "what can I help you with?"
"Well I'm here with some friends of mine and we were wondering, if you take people to tzadikim",
"All the time", I said. Now I had already began to develop a client profile in my mind. These were probably a few girls or young women obviously Orthodox yeshiva oriented. Probably have been back in the States after their "year" in seminary who probably have not yet found their bashert/soulmate yet, and most likely have saved up some money to come to Israel and visit some of the graves of some of our holy righteous people/tzadikim where they could pray in a meaningful way for their hearts desires. I've done those kind of tours. Many have even found their bashert. (Funny aside anecdote; Once on one of these types of trips the girl in the car afterwards starts having a conversation with her mother back in the States about her future Mother-in-Law. Man! I thought and told her, I know these prayers work but that was pretty fast. She explained through peals of laughter that she was actually engaged before the trip already and was just coming to pray for her upcoming wedding…But yes she had gotten engaged not long after praying here in Israel.)
Anyways although I had read these clients right, it became very clear a few minutes into the conversation as she began giving me the names of the places and people she wanted visit that I had had a misunderstanding. Because as far as I knew all the tzadikim that they had mentioned were actually all still alive and well.
"Oh" I said "you mean you want to visit live tzadikim. I didn't understand", I apologized. "I'm sorry I don't do those types of tours." Now don't get me wrong. I have the greatest respect and awe for many of the great righteous people that I truly believe it is in whose merit, Torah study, kind deeds, and prayers that Hasem sustains the world and continues to shine favor and mercy on us. I also have tremendous faith that their blessings and prayers on our behalf do have the power to bring mercy and beneficence down from heaven. I just don't do those types of tours. Personally, it's because I respect them so much and the value of their Torah that I don't want to trouble them with photo ops with young bar mitzvah boys and tourists all the time. In addition I hate waiting on long lines particularly on hot sweaty days in small waiting rooms. I do however know some great tour guides that specialize in this type of tour. They are great in jumping over poor widows, orphans, homeless and sickly people that are looking blessing, comfort and salvation and sneaking their well- paying tourists into the "backdoor" so that they can get their quicky bracha and traditional picture without having to wait. It's just not my thing. Now dead Tzadikim are something else. I'm fine with that . I just don't really do the live ones.
So we cleared up the misunderstanding. I think she kind of felt the way I do by the time we finished our conversation. She decided to opt for the dead tzadikim tour. Truth is, I was booked anyways but I happily gave her instructions on how and where to go and of course concluded our conversation with my personal blessing and best wishes to her and her friends. As far as I know she's not engaged yet. But if she does get engaged soon, you're all free to E-Mail me for a blessing as well J.
This week's Torah portion begins with the well-known story of the first Tzadik of the world.And Noach was and Ish Tzadik- a righteous man, Tamim Haya B'dorosuv- He was complete/perfect in his generation. Like all good tzadikim,( particularly Jewish ones-although Noach was actually pre-Jews and Jewish), right away your commentaries and sages start to note and question and critique. Maybe he was only righteous in his generation where there pretty much wasn't any competition because pretty much everyone was pretty bad. But had he lived in a better generation like Abraham's then as the guys in the back of the shul would say "Ehh" he wouldn’t be anything special. As the saying goes you can't please everyone all the time. But the truth of the matter is as many of the commentaries note this is the first time in the first 1500 years of the history of the world and in the Torah that someone is called a Tzadik. And as the great Gaon of Vilna notes if you truly want to understand a Hebrew word and concept one needs to go back to the beginning when it is first mentioned. So what is a Tzadik? How would you define someone who is righteous?
It's interesting that the word Tzadik is the same root as two other words that are seemingly opposite concepts. The first is Tzedaka which generally we translate as charity. The second word is Tzedek which is translated as justice. It would seem that these two concepts are polar opposites. Justice is when I get something I deserve and charity is something I either give or receive when it is undeserved. The truth though our sages tell us is that the two concepts are really the same. For in truth why does one person have and another not? Is it fair? He should have the big fancy house and car and I should be driving my jalopy and another living in squalor. The answer is that all that we have is undeserved. We have done nothing to receive or earn our lives, our health and our wealth. It is all from above. It is all from the our Father in heaven. Our job in this world is to recognize that since we are the recipients of His kindness we are meant to share and give that light and love with others that do not have it. This is justice. This is charity. This is what being a Tzadik truly means. One who can share and teach a world that our lives are truly blessings and that we are here to become God-like by in turn becoming givers to the world in connecting them with that basic principle of life. It is fascinating that we find many places where Hashem as well is referred to as a Tzadik; for He is the source of all righteous-ness. Being a Tzadik means connecting to that which is right. Righteous, man!
One last interesting idea about a Tzadik that I understood on one of my many tours down to the Dead Sea area, where not too many Tzadikim live, not too many people either. But there are a lot of Palm trees there. And it is a fascinating thing about plam trees. You see unlike other trees, palm trees grow in the worst possible conditions such as the Dead Sea, where there are tons of them. Palm trees grow with barely any water or rainfall. They can withstand extreme heat, terrible soil and in fact I was told that the saltier and worse the sand they grow in is the sweeter the dates are. King David in his psalm about the day of Shabbos writes that a Tzadik flourishes like a date palm. The Tzadik is someone who can grow in the worst conditions. The two biblical figures that are referred to as Tzadikim are Noach and Joseph. Noach lived in the absolute worst place and time. A world filled with licentiousness, thievery, corruption and just plain evil. It is there that he became a Tzadik. Similarly Joseph who grew up far away from the yeshivas and religious community of his brother and father, but rather in the home of Pharaoh in Egypt of all places, what our sages refer to as the source of all Tumah/impurity and idolatry. There he becomes Yosef Ha'Tzadik. A tzadik doesn't neccesarily have to grow and flourish only in Bnai Brak, Lakewood Boro Park or Jerusalem. A Tzadik is someone who can flourish like a Tamar/ a date palm in the places where he can most impact the world and continue to grow, thrive and inspire.
This Shabbos Jews around the world have chosen to dedicate to sharing perhaps our most special gift from Hashem; the gift of Shabbos. Shabbos, the day that we recite this Psalm of King David, we recognize that V'Ameich Kulam Tzadikim- Hashem's nation are all truly righteous. Tens of thousands of Jews across the world will turn off their phones, their computers their "social" media and celebrate Shabbos as a day when we refrain from all acts of creative activity in order to bask in a world that has a Creator. Many Jews and organizations that observe a traditional Shabbos regularly will be sharing this Shabbos with many of our brothers and sisters who have yet to appreciate the beauty of this special day. It is a weekend that we can all become Tzadikim. But it was never meant to be "just one Shabbos". It was meant to be a world full of Shabbos. Shabbos is the day which we are told brings all the blessing to the world. You may not have a Tzadik that lives next to you or a tour guide that can take you to, one either dead or alive, but we all have Shabbos with which to receive that ultimate blessing from our Father who is the source of it all. May this Shabbos be the beginning of many more blessed ones to come.
Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"The Pure Tzadkim do not decry wickedness rather they increase righteousness, they do not decry heresy rather they increase faith, they do not decry ignorance rather they increase wisdom ." Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohein Kook
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Q. During which period were ossuaries (gluskemaot) used for burial in the Land of Israel?
a. First and Second Temple
b. Chalcolithic and Second Temple
c. Bronze and Hellenistic
d. Second Temple and Crusader
New feature!-last year we did Gematria which is the Remez portion of Torah this year we start Drash enjoy!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MEDRASH OF THE WEEK
When Hashem commanded Noach "two of each you shall bring in the ark" all creatures came in pairs.
Sheker/Falsehood also wanted to come in. Noach said to him "You can't come in without mate"
As he was searching for a mate he met Tragedy
"From where are you coming from?" asked Tragedy
"I come from Noach's ark I wanted to enter but was refused because I have no mate. Do you want to be my mate?"
"Gladly," replied Tragedy "but what do I get in return?"
"Whatever I aquire you may take"
"A deal" said Tragedy
So Sheker/falsehood and Tragedy entered the ark together in an eternal partnership that whatever Falsehood acquires Tragedy takes it away.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
(New year figure we'll offer a new feature-Let me know what you think)
Visiting graves of Tzadikim – Yes there is a whole tourist market for this. Jewish tradition tells us that dating back to the time of the first Jewish visitors/tourist to this country our ancestors Joshua and Caleb who spied out the land before we moved here stopped off in Hebron to pray by the graves of our forefathers. And Jews have been coming since. However just to clarify this fascinating practice many of our sages explain that we as Jews (as opposed to other religions) believe that we only pray to Hashem, not his "son" or prophets or cows and not even to his righteous tzadikim. We have a direct line and we do not require any intermediaries. Rather graves of the righteous are a place to go to pray to Hashem because being within the proximity of the tzadik who is buried there is meant to inspire our prayers and in the merit of us connecting with that tzadik who served Hashem our power of prayer becomes strengthened. In addition we can beseech the soul of the Tzadik to implore before Hashem for his children in addition to our own prayers. Throughout Israel there are many graves of many of our greatest sages, as well as our Patriarchs, Matriarchs and many of our biblical figures many of the traditions of their burial places go back hundreds and in some cases over a thousand years. Many of the graves are painted blue and I am told that the reason for this is to remind us as the blue string on our tzitzit fringes do to adjust our eyes and hearts to heaven as the tzadik who guides us did rather than to mistakenly pray to the tzadik. Spending a whole day visiting graves is not for everyone, but a trip to Israel should certainly include a trip to some of these holy places as well.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
The official Shabbat project and how it looked last year in South Africa where it first started!
An interesting and cute take on what can happen this Shabbos…
Hey Even Paula Abdul is into it
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOP NINE LIST OF THE WEEK
TOP NINE Noach Facebook Updates
"I can't believe my wife, she only packed one bottle of
8. "Note to self: never put unicorns in the same cage as lions"
7. "Looking for a shidduch for my son Ham, tough kid to setup with a name like that"
6. Noah was tagged in the album "Animal House"
5. "Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oy Veh!"
4. Shuffleboard upper deck, who's in?
3. Noah likes rainbows
2. "New Expression: 'Save it for a Sunny Day'"
1. "Anyone find Earth on Google Earth?"
Answer is B: This was a pretty tricky question as the copper (chalcolite) period and the second temple are ae a few thousand years apart. But yet it is during those periods where we find people doing a two part burial. First in the ground and a cave and then after a year the bones would be gathered and placed in a box made of clay or stone or whatever and put in a family plot plot. The gemara talks about this and discusses whether it is a happy occasion or mourning. There are some that suggest as well that this is one of the sources for the recitation of Kaddish for a year or the placing of a tombstone at that point as tradition has it that after a year the soul is elevated and has finished its atonement.