Our view of the Galile

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Camping is for Goyim- Sukkot 2017 / 5778

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

October 4th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 47 14th of Tishrei 5778!
Camping is for Goyim

I like camping. I’m an outdoorsy type of guy. My wife not so much…. In her opinion camping is for Goyim/ Gentiles. It’s not a Jewish thing. She’s more of the spa, nice hotel wake up late and have room service breakfast in bed type of Lakewood girl. Don’t get me wrong I can do that also. See for Shalom Bayis I’m always ready to make compromisesJ. But my true peace and serenity is a few days out in the wilderness, sleeping under the stars, grilling up some dinner, sitting around a campfire roasting some hot dogs or some S’mores and relishing a cold brewski. Now when we lived in the States, our house was always full of guests thank God, It’s one of the pleasures of working in Jewish outreach. Our doors were wide open and we always had visitors. When the summer rolled around though, my wife insisted that we needed to get away and spend just “quality family bonding time”. You know, share special moments when everyone gets to know each other a lot better and become reminded why we don’t do this too often and prefer a house full of guests. So each year we would pack up our min van with our tenting gear, sleeping bags, three coolers that plug into the car that would be overfull with meat, and lots and lots of food. The kids would have to squeeze into the ashtray, as the food was certainly more important and we felt as parents this would help them get even closer to each other. And then we would hit the road, Jack.

Now in the States there are some really great campgrounds. We were KOA members and they even have these Yogi Bear campgrounds as well. Each site has its own electric and water, nice showers- OK, Aliza, decent showers, they would have activities, Candy Bingo at night, Yogi and his lil buddy Boo Boo would come out and visit everyone. Some had pools, Lakes, slides, and even boating. At night it was quiet time at about 10:00. We could sit out and gaze at the stars and marvel in awe at the beauty of Hashem’s universe.  We were one with nature. Our tent expanded over the years. In the beginning we first had a two person one, then we got a four person one, we ultimately got ourselves the mother of all tents with four bedrooms. Having lived in a bunch of different States we saw a lot of the US of A. When we lived in New York, we went up to Rhode Island, and Vermont and Connecticut. From Virginia we saw the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, the Smoky Mountains the Carolinas and Florida. When we were in Iowa we went to Minneapolis, Kansas, the Rocky Mountains, and Wisconsin. And out in the Pacific NW we headed down through Oregon and California coast to San Diego. We hit Montana, Yellowstone and the Canadian Rockies. We never made it to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, But we moved to the really Zion instead and we have Mitzpeh Ramon Craters and that’s more than enough for me.
When we first made Aliya, I was really itching to take my kids camping in this country as well. Hey we toured around and camped out in “their” country, imagine how much more meaningful it would be in Hashem’s Promised Land, right? Wrong. My kids first had off on Yom Ha’Atazmaut and I figured that would be a great day to start this adventure. After all everybody goes out and celebrates the land, campfires, tents. The great outdoors, that Hashem miraculously gave us. It can’t get much better than that.

The problem is that for some reason it didn’t hit me, that it is the day that everybody goes out and celebrates the land…makes campfires…tents… and this is Israel. I don’t know how I missed this. We arrived at the campground, I though the banks of the Kinneret would be super cool and fun, nice and rustic and there were a bunch of sites there. As I pulled into the entrance, I was pretty excited particularly when the guy at the entrance told me that it only cost 20 shek. Not bad, I thought, in the States it was at least $20 dollars. When I asked him where our site was, he smiled and told me that wherever I wanted would be fine. Hmmmm… However as I passed through the gate and looked around, I realized that was certainly not the case. It was packed. There were no sites, no water, no electric, random tents were set up all over the place, one on top of the other. Music was blasting. It wasn’t even Israeli music. Although one might argue that Israelis are really the only ones that play Pink Floyd in the 2000’s and think it’s still cool. Ouch. So we set up our tent in a little corner somewhere. I tried to make the best of it.
We put together the grill. Roasted some meat and waited patiently for “quiet time”. It never came. Israelis don’t do quiet time. Rather it turned into Hashish and even louder and more annoying music time. The mosquitos that seemingly are also Israeli and like to get on your nerves decided to start making their entrance at that point. Maybe it was the incense and smoke that were getting them high as well, or the music that was driving them mad, but they didn’t let up. It was the most miserable night of my life. Maybe this is not the country to do camping. Maybe after wandering 40 years in the wilderness the Jewish people had enough. They like houses, not tents. I now stay in hotels. My wife tried not to smile too much when we came home weary eyed, bloated and scratching the next morning. I appreciated that.
Which brings us to this time of year, when we all leave the comforts of our house and head on out for a week. There is no religion like ours that has such an incredible and strange mitzva like Sukka. We are commanded to leave our house, eat, sleep, and pretty much spend as much time as you can in a little wooden booth and with no real roof on your head. The Torah tells us the reason for this mitzva is because we are meant to remember our sojourn in wilderness.
Vayikra (23:42) “In order that your generations will know that in Sukkos-booths I caused the Children of Israel when I took them from the land of Egypt; I am Hashem your God.”
Rashi on this verse explains our verse-seemingly not as he would usually according to the simple understanding which would be the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer that we are commemorating the booths that we camped in. Rather he explains the verse according to Rabbi Akiva who understands the reference to booths in the Torah to be referring to the Clouds of Glory that were protected and ensconced in when we were in the wilderness. Perhaps Rashi, like my wife, felt that camping is for Goyim and it is certainly not something worthy of commemorating within of itself.
But yet, we still find that the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer is that the tenting experience is worthy of us celebrating this holiday. In fact according to his opinion, we are obligated to remember this as we sit in our Sukkaa, as the Torah specifically tells us that we are doing this in order “that our generations will know”. But why? Isn’t camping for goyim? Perhaps and even more interesting question is if remembering this is so significant than why on the last day of the holiday, seemingly the peak of it all, Shemini Atzeret/ Simchat Torah, do we not sit in the Sukka? {Even in America where some do, it’s only because they are in doubt whether it is the 7th day of Sukkos or not.}What is this holiday and mitzva all about?
The Tur Shulchan Aruch tells us something very interesting about the three Jewish pilgramage holidays and how they correspond to our forefathers.
Tur (OC 417) Pesach is for Avraham as it says “knead and bake cakes” and it was Passover (when the angels came to visit him). Yitzchak is Shavuot for the Shofar that was blown by the receiving of the Torah came from the ram that was by his binding. Sukkot is for Yackov -for when he left the house of Lavan it says- and for his animal he made Sukkot/ booths.
The Zohar tells us that not only does Sukkot correspond to Yackov, but the last day of Shmini Atzeret when the King is alone with his nation, and is seemingly viewed as holiday within itself, as all the guests come to rejoice with Him, Yaakov is the head of the rejoicing as it says
Devarim (33:29) “Fortunate are you Israel, who is like you”
And it says
Isaiah (49:3) “And He said you are my servant Israel with whom I am glorified with.”
The Chasam Sofer notes that Yakov really has two names; Yaakov and Yisrael. Yacko corresponds to heel when we are not perfect. In fact our only benefit is that when we are compared to Esau, we look pretty good. Yisrael on the other hand is when we have won the “Angel of Esau”. When we are at our high point. He notes that when Yackov battled and won the angel, the angel blessed him that he should no longer be called Yakov, rather only Yisrael. Yet when Hashem gave Yackov his name Yisrael and affirmed that new name He said “Shimcha Yakov- Your name is Yackov- Meaning that we should also have the name Yackov. We should have both things going for us. We are special when our merit or saving factor is how we compare to Esau, the competition. And we should also have the benefit of being Yisrael when we rise above it all and become truly righteous. Easu didn’t want us to have the benefit of being “chosen” when we weren’t worthy of it on our own merits. He therefore only called us Yisrael and said we shouldn’t be called Yaakov. Hashem felt differently.
With that understanding the Shevilei Pinchas suggests we can understand the entire process of the holidays of the month of Tishrei. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur begins where we are judged together with the whole world.
 “All the nations pass before you in judgement. Which for war, which for peace, which for famine and which for plenty.”
Hashem in His wisdom lines us up against them. We look pretty good that way. In fact, he suggests that is the secret of the mysterious Azazel goat offering on Yom Kippur. Two goats identical, like the two brothers Yaakov and Esau who were twins. They are placed next to one another and the Divine lottery is done and Yaakov is chosen. One gets offered in the Temple and the other is flung off the mountain top as a gift to the “angel of Esau” who is screaming that we should be judged on our own merit rather than contrasting us with the other nations. It works it quiets him. There is no Satan and we are judged for life.

But like all good things it only lasts for a day or two. Esau is back again trying to attack us that we should be judged on our own merit. And you know what…? He’s right. It’s our job to light up the world. It’s our mandate to raise up Esau and every other nation. To bring them in the Temple. To connect them to Hashem. We can do this now because we have been chosen for life. But it is still a dangerous world. Esau is clamoring for us. So Hashem places his Sukka around us to protect us. We go out of our comfortable houses and we go into booths, under His shade, His protection. We bring offerings every day in the times of the Temple for each of the nations of the world. 70 of them all together less and less each day. We are Yaakov becoming Yisrael. We are slowly uplifting Esau and getting rid of the negative claims against us and becoming Yisrael where even Esau can’t claim against us anymore. That happens on Shemini Atzeret. For on that day we have completed the process. The Sukkos that we were commanded to build, ironically enough to use as a tool and protection to allow us to uplift the goyim, have served their function. We can now go back into our house. Hashem is glorified with “Yisrael”  “Who is like you Yisrael” rings out in our homes. See I told you Sukkos were for Jews.
The Beit Hamikdash, that holy Temple that we are awaiting for is called the Sukka of David that has fallen. As a tenting- albeit 7 years out of practice-expert, I can tell you that when you tent collapses, its not that big of a deal to put it back up again. Most of the pegs are still in place, the poles and canvas are just toppled. All you need to do is to raise it back up again and knock a few good shots into the pegs that got loose. After 2000 years our heavenly temple is built and ready to come down. We need to just lift it up a bit more. Firm Hashem’s place here on earth for it with a few good knocks. May our Sukkos inspire His Sukka to come join us in the heavenly campground it belongs in.

Chag Samayach and Happy camping J,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“Di velt iz a hekeleh: ainer darf tsum anderen.”. The world consists of cogs: one depends on the other..


https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/ushpizin-2   - Best Hartzig song you’ve ever heard for Sukkos by me J) Ushpizin learn it and sing it in your sukkah!

https://youtu.be/E3T9A1exLQQ    My cousin Yehuda Litki and friends and their great organization’s debut song and you tube click Yerushalyim- beautiful Kol Hakavod

https://youtu.be/NJdWKNwIT3Y       – Lior narkis Dudu Aharon the song sweeping the country Chagia V’Yisrael fun and happy

https://youtu.be/EC4IVe61p-0 Funny the Lulav Shake

answer below at end of Email

Q. Kibbutz Kerem Shalom is located in the sand dunes of:
a. Shunra
b. Kisui
c. Khalutza
d. Nitsana


Sukkos- On the holiday of Sukkos we read the sacrifices that were brought in the Temple each day. It’s not a particularly interesting Torah reading, There are cows, sheep, flour offerings, libations and the goat sin offerings among many. A peek in Rashi though is certainly going to make it more interesting as he diverges from his typical simple understanding to explain the strange changing amount of offerings each day.
Bamidbar (12:34) The bulls of the holiday are 70- this corresponds to the 70 nations and they progressively decrease. It is a sign of the annihilation for them. And in the times of the Beit Hamikdash the bulls would protect the nations from punishments and the sheep correspond to Israel, who are called “a scattered lamb” and they are a fixed number each day. The total number of sheep are 98 to eradicated them rom Israel the 98 curses that are mentioned in Devarim.
The Rebbe of Sochatchov, The Avney Nezer notes that this fits in beautifully with the idea that Sukkos we are told is the holiday of joy-Chag Simchateinu. For the last of the curses and the reason given for all the curses is tachat asher lo avadata es Hashem Elokech Bsimcha- That we did not serve Hashem out of joy. It is therefore on this holiday when we are granted and celebrate with the most joy that we can atone for this and eradicate all the curses.
May we thus merit.

Rabbi Avrohom Bornsztain- the Avney Nezer (1838 –1910), also spelled Avraham Borenstein or Bernstein, was a leading posek in late-nineteenth-century Europe and founder and first Rebbe of the Sochatchover Hasidic dynasty. He is known as the Avnei Nezer ("Stones of the Crown") after the title of his posthumously-published set of Torah responsa, which is widely acknowledged as a halakhic classic. Born in Bendin, Poland he was a descendant of the Ramah and the Shach. In his youth, Avraham was recognized as an outstanding student with a phenomenal memory. Under the tutelage of his father, who taught him the ways of pilpul, he began writing his own chidushim (new Torah thoughts) at the age of 10.
As a child he was weak and frail from his childhood. He especially suffered from lung problems. Once when he fell dangerously ill, the doctors forbade him from exerting his mind in Torah study. But the Kotzker Rebbe gave him a blessing for longevity, which was fulfilled in the fact that Bornsztain died at the age of 71.
In his teens, he became a close talmid of the Kotzker Rebbe, who chose him as his son-in-law. Reb Avraham and his wife resided in Kotzk for seven years, until the Kotzker Rebbe's death in 1859. During that time, he was known to sleep only two hours each day and dedicate the rest of his waking hours to Torah learning. His only son, Shmuel, was born in Kotzk in 1857.
After the Kotzker Rebbe's death, he became a Hasid of his uncle, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the Chidushei HaRim of Ger. Following the latter's death in 1866, he became a hasid of Rabbi Chanoch Heynekh of Alexander.
In 1863, Bornsztain accepted his first rabbinical post as Rav of Parczew. In 1867, he left the city due to persecution by those who opposed him and accepted the position of Av Beit Din of Krushnevitz. Here he founded a yeshiva gedola which attracted many top students, including future Torah leaders. The Rav displayed tremendous devotion to his students, with whom he learned for eight hours each day, delivering several shiurim(lectures) during the course of each day. In his introduction to his book, Eglei Tal, he noted that he dedicated all his energies to teaching Torah to his students, leaving the publication of his chiddushim to his old age.
When Rabbi Chanoch Heynekh of Alexander died in 1870, Bornsztain agreed to serve as a rebbe — with one condition: his regular shiurim and learning schedule were not to be interrupted. He also insisted that only those who were well-versed in Torah scholarship should visit him at his court. After a while, his Hasidim noticed that while he answered each petitioner concisely, he did not spend much time with them. When questioned about this, he responded: "You should know that for every second that I am disrupted in my learning, they have losses at home, so it is to their advantage that I only hold brief audiences with them!"
In 1876 Bornsztain moved to the city of Nasielsk after the death of that city's rabbi. Yet here, too, he encountered opposition from those who wanted him to ease his insistence on following long-standing traditions and minhagim. When the community of Sochatchov approached him to be their Rav and Rebbe, he gladly accepted. He moved to Sochatchov in 1883 and served as its Av Beit Din until his death. Thereafter, the hasidut which he founded became known by the name of Sochatchov, and he was called the Sochatchover Rebbe.
While he wanted nothing more than to continue his regular schedule of Torah learning and teaching in Sochatchov, his fame spread quickly. Many difficult halakhic she'eilos (queries) were addressed to him by rabbis and scholars throughout Europe, and he became known as one of the era's leading poskim. To arrive at his psak (halakhic decision), he would first study the sugya in the Talmud in depth, then study the explanation of the sugya by the Rishonim, and then formulate his decision. His responsa also reflect his great humility. While others relied on his psak completely, in some cases he himself wrote that one should not rely on his psak unless another posek was found who ruled the same way.
His responsa, covering all four sections of Shulchan Aruch, were published posthumously in seven volumes by his son and grandson under the title, She'eilos U'teshuvos Avnei Nezer. He became known as the Avnei Nezer after his death.
His other works include Eglei Tal on the 39 Melachos of Shabbat, unpublished sifrei Hasidut, and many writings in manuscript form, including chiddushim on the Rambam. Many of his Torah sayings to his Hasidim appear in his son's work, Shem Mishmuel.
Rav Bornsztain suffered from a heavy cough in his later years, due to his frail lungs.
His only son, Shmuel, later known by the title of his own work, Shem Mishmuel, succeeded him as Av Beit Din of Sochatchov and as Sochatchover Rebbe..
The Sochatchover dynasty continues today under the leadership of Bornsztain's great-great-grandson. A Sochatchover Yeshiva, called Yeshivat Avnei Nezer DeSochatchov, operates in Jerusalem under the leadership of Rabbi Moshe Betzalel Weinberg, a brother-in-law of the current rebbe.
Homeless People – Sukkos we are all homeless. So it’s a good time to talk about the those that don’t have a home all year around or a dirat keva to go out from into their sukkah, Although Israel has a very low homeless persons rate, about 2300 people according to a study done in 2015 and .02% of the population, it is 2300 too many. Over a third of the homeless live in Tel Aiv, Haifa and Jerualem about 8% and Ashdod has about 5%. The majority of the homeless are Russian immigrant almost 50% amazingly and tragically enough. Is there anything sadder than moving to the land Hashem promised us and not having a home here? Although a quarter of them drug related reasons, almost 17% are because of financial challenges. As well perhaps most tragic are those that were thrown out of their houses by the Israeli government like those from Gush Katif, who have yet to find houses and live in trailers as well. There are organizations and government programs that are trying to deal with this growing problem which has increased significantly. As we sit in out Sukkos it is worthwhile to ponder, reflect, pray and consider what we may do to help this growing problem

Steps to Build a Campfire Joke
1. Split dead limb into fragments and shave one fragment into slivers.
2. Bandage left thumb.
3. Chop other fragments into smaller fragments.
4. Bandage left foot.
5. Make a structure of slivers (including those embedded in the hand).
6. Light match.
7. Light match.
8. Repeat “I’m a Happy Camper” and light match.
9. Apply match to slivers, add wood fragments, and blow gently into base of flames.
10. Apply burn ointment to nose.
11. When fire is burning, collect more wood.
12. When fire is burning well, add all remaining firewood.
13. After thunderstorm has passed, repeat the above steps.

The loaded mini-van pulled into the only remaining campsite. Four children leaped from the vehicle and began feverishly unloading gear and setting up the tent. The boys rushed to gather firewood, while the girls and their mother set up the camp stove and cooking utensils.
A nearby camper marveled to the youngsters’ father, “That, sir, is some display of teamwork.”
The father replied, “I have a system — no one goes to the bathroom until the camp is set up.”

A Yankel and son went fishing one day. While they were out in the boat, the boy suddenly became curious about the world around him. He asked his father, "How does this boat float?
Yankel replied, "Don't rightly know son." A little later, the boy looked at his father and asked, "How do fish breathe underwater?"
Once again the Yankel replied, "Don't rightly know son." A little later the boy asked his father, "Why is the sky blue?"Again, the father repied. "Don't rightly know son." Finally, the boy asked his father, "Tatty, do you mind my asking you all of these questions?"
Yankel knips his cheek and tells him "Of course not my dear child if  you don't ask questions, you never learn nothin'."

Berel and his wife Chani were on a camping and hiking trip. They had gone to bed and were lying there looking up at the sky. Chani said, "Berel, look up. What do you see? "Well, I see thousands of stars." "And what does that mean to you?" "Well, I think of the promise of Hashem to Avraham that we will be multiplied like the stars of the sky. What does it mean to you, Chan?" "To me, it means someone has stolen our tent."

Answer is C– I  have no clue, nor do I much care. I knew this Kibbutz is in South in Negev, by Gaza. Gilad Shalit was snatched near there in 2006. Although it is a secular Kibbutz, in 2008 when it was hit by mortars in the worst bombardment ever the families decided to stay and make their Pesach Seder anyways. Nothing like good Israeli secular Jews! J. That’s the type of stuff my tourists are interested in. Not whats the name of this specific sand dune. This is the last question from the 2015 winter exam next season we”ll jump to this past summers 2017 summer exam! Let’s see if we know the answers.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Conspiracies are Flying- Yom Kippur 5778/2017

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

September 29th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 46 9th of Tishrei 5778!
Yom Kippur
Conspiracies are Flying

I go flying every year. Not in a plane, not para-sailing, or wind surfing. No I mean flying like a bird, soaring into the heavens, up there with the angels, high up in the clouds, I become one with Hashem. What’s really amazing is that I do all of this without ever leaving the ground, at least my body doesn’t, my soul is way up there though. I had a great flying instructor. He was my Mashgiach-our spiritual mentor- in the yeshiva that I studied in Israel when I was a student; Reb Menashe Donut. No snide remarks about his name being the reason I liked him, OK. He was a holy man and he taught me how to fly.
The truth is I really was never that inspired by his lectures. Works of mussar and learning how to develop holy, spiritual character traits was not my thing back then. I enjoyed the give and take and intellectual challenges of Gemara/Talmud learning were much more exciting to me and that was the reason I chose the yeshiva I did. To learn at the foot of one of the great leaders of our generation who himself had sat by the great masters in Europe prior to the war. Yet when it came Elul time, I started to pay a little bit more attention to some of the words of our simple unassuming mashgiach. His lectures took on more of an intensity. The King was in the field, we would soon be declaring Hashem’s kingship on the world, Teshuva/repentance, returning to Hashem all of the traditional themes of this past month and the High Holidays were repeatedly earnestly with his eyes closed as he spoke with reverence from the pulpit. The pinnacle of course came was when he would fly.
The Rosh yeshiva, Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, himself a baal menagen- a master of songs, composing and singing, would lead many of the tefilos on the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. They were beautiful, uplifting, melodious and intense. But the final prayer at the end of Yom Kippur- Neila- the closing of the gates of heaven, that prayer was led by the Mashgiach. And it was then that I learned how to fly.
See the Mashgiach by that point of davening was already in another world. As he took his three steps forward, I can almost swear they were not touching the ground, he was floating. Every shuckle every sway that he took as he recited and sung out each piyut, each prayer, each request he literally lifted his whole body up. You could feel him going up with his prayer. King David in his psalms describes his prayer as Va’Ani Tefilati- And I am my prayer. The Mashgiach was a human embodiment of prayer. When he asked Hashem to write us in the book of life, of redemption, of merits, of healing, of forgiveness, we felt that he was jumping up to God grabbing the book out of his hand and stamping and sealing it himself. By the time he reached the final 7 times of Hashem Hu Elokim- Hashem is our God and the Shema we were all up there with him. We were one with our Creator. It was absolutely awesome. I learned how to fly.

Since then I’ve led many prayer services on the High Holidays. It’s one of the perks of having congregations where most of the shul couldn’t read Hebrew. But even here in Israel where it is not difficult to find Baaalei Teffilos and Chazan/Cantors to help out and lead the prayers. Neila- that final prayer on Yom Kippur is mine. It’s when I fly. It is my annual experience of soaring above this world and making it up to the heavens. I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
It is an incredible prayer Neila, the time of the closing of the gates of heaven. When all our prayers are done all our confessions are said already. It’s just us and Hashem. Everything is riding on this moment. Our brothers, the sefardim, start off their neila with a beautiful poem that was written in 11th century by Rabbi Moshe Ibn Ezra it is called El Nora Alila- The God of an awesome plot. According to Wikipedia some Ashkenazim recite it as well, but that’s the Birnabaum Machzor. Artscroll doesn’t have it so it doesn’t count. The piyut is truly a beautiful one written by one of the great rishonim. The refrain is as follows
El Nora Alila,-Awesome God of plot
 Hamtzeh Lanu Mechila- Bring out for us forgiveness
 Bshaat HaNeila – during the time of the closing of the gates
Here’s a link to the song and the lyrics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nora_Alila
The question and mystery is of course what does this mean that Hashem is the God of plots? {Wiki’s translation of the mighty God is really not an accurate translation of the word alila, which means more like cause, conspiracy or plot.} And why are we utilizing this to enter into our holiest prayer?
There is a fascinating Midrash Tanchuma in Parshat Vayeshev that discusses this verse at length and in general explains this major conspiracy of Hashem. It’s long so I’ll just paraphrase it through for you, but it’s really worthwhile to see yourself inside. The Midrash begins with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Karcha who notes that Hashem carries out circuitously in his dealing with man. For we know that the angel of Death was created on the first day of Creation as it says
and darkness was on the face of the deep”.
Yet when Adam sinned Hashem told him that they day that he eats from the tree he shall die- as if he was the one who caused death to come to the world.
The Midrash compares it to a man who writes out a divorce document to his wife before he gets married. When they get to their house he asks her to bring him a drink. When she hands it to him, he gives her the Get. When she asks why he is giving her a Get, the man responds because she gave him a warm drink instead of a cold one. She responded however, that you must have planned to divorce me beforehand already as you had the Get already pre-written. The drink is just the excuse to carry out your previous plan. Similarly Adam told Hashem, you created the world by looking at the Torah. And in the Torah it says
“If a man shall die in a tent”
Obviously You knew that man would die. That was part of your original plan.
The Midrash gives more and more examples of this concept. Moshe who wasn’t allowed in the land points out to Hashem the same concept. Your‘re are blaming it on the fact that I hit the rock, but you already had this plan from before when you stated (after the sin of the spies) that
No man of this evil generation shall see the good land”.
 Similarly it says by Yosef going down to Egypt that on one hand it says that the brothers sold him down to Egypt. It was Yaakov’s fault for favoring him, the brother’s for being jealous, Yosef’s for inciting them. But The Midrash tells us it was also part of this divine conspiracy. Hashem had already told Avraham that his children would descend to Egypt. So Hashem “made Yaakov love Yosef more, so that the brothers would hate him and sell him down to Egypt and ultimately Yaakov himself would have to descend to fulfill that Divine will. That is what it means when it says Hashem acts with conspiracy to his children; El Nora Alila.
The truth is the entire day of Yom Kippur and the concept of this incredible day of Teshuva is premised on this notion. Rashi teaches us that the reason Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement is because it was the day that Hashem forgave us for the sin of the Golden Calf and the second tablets were given. Now Hashem had already forgiven the Jewish people 40 days after the 17th of Tamuz, on the first of the month of Elul. Yet that forgiveness wasn’t good enough for Moshe. Hashem said that He would not destroy us, but at the same time He would not dwell amongst us anymore. Rather an angel would lead us into Israel instead. Moshe said that’s not good enough. I want it to be back just the way it was. Even better. That was the month of Elul.  40 days later, Yom Kippur was the day when Hashem agreed, with love, that he would once again dwell within our midst.
If you think about it it’s quite chutzpahdik of Moshe. Let’s put it into modern thinking. Someone close and dear to you betrays you in the worst of ways. Or better yet, you betray someone close to you in the worst of ways. You humiliated them in the most personal and public of ways. You basically destroyed them and everything that the two of you had together. You did it maliciously and really without any reason. You messed up big time. You wake up the next morning and you realize what you had done. You regret it. You feel terrible. You can’t sleep at night because you threw away this most special relationship. You want to apologize but you don’t even know how. You think about writing a letter, because you don’t want to mess up your words. You don’t even have the courage to look them in the eye. But you know a letter is not enough. You’re gonna face the heat. You apologize, you express your heartfelt regret, you swear you’ll never betray them like that again, and you beg their forgiveness. Surprisingly it works they say they forgive you. They’re moichel you. Amazing! Miraculous.
But then you do something absolutely crazy. You ask them if they will come out to eat with you for a nice romantic dinner. If they will hang with you like before and go have a few beers and party together. Like nothing ever happened. What!?! That’s insane. It’s one thing to forgive you, imaginably the person will tell you, but wipe it away like it never happened. To be just as loving and trusting as before. No, you say. I want it even more than before. Could that ever happen? That’s essentially what Moshe was asking Hashem for. The truth is that is essentially what we are asking Hashem for. But for us it’s even worse. We keep asking forgiveness and doing it again. We’re perpetual sinners, and betrayers. Where did Moshe and where do we get the chutzpa to make that request?
The answer is Nora Alila- Hashem we tell God, we know that You were behind every sin that we did. You put us in situations where we might inevitably fall- for precisely this reason. For us to return to You. For us to raise You up from the depths that we have fallen to. It’s why Adam sinned, because You structured a world that You wanted there to be teshuva, where we would sin and return and raise it up even greater. It’s why You arranged for us to go down to Egypt. You wanted us to fall to the lowest level and then raise it back up again to the 49th level of holiness where we would see Your presence, hear Your voice, receive Your Torah. And it’s why we fell again so fast and betrayed You. It was Your conspiracy. El Nora Alila.
And it’s why we come before you at these final moments each year on that same day to once again hear those words. Salachti Kidvarecha- You have forgiven us as You said You would. We are now naul- We are locked together the two of us. We are one. We have risen from the pits that we have fallen. We can fly. We can join you. We can bring the whole world with us. Hamtzei Lanu Mechila. Bring us once again forgiveness. Return us to You and we will return to You. It’s not chutzpa if this was the original plan. This is the day You have been awaiting for.
Are your feet lifting up from the ground yet? Do you feel yourself starting to levitate? Flying could be a scary thing. But Hashem is the wind beneath our wings. May he grant all of us a Gmar Chatima Tova- May we all be sealed and signed in the book of life and may all His wishes for us finally bring us to the ultimate fulfillment of the world, when all will see Hashem is one and His name is one.

Gmar Chatima Tova,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“Di vegen fun teshuveh zeinen nit vainiker farborgen vi di vegen fun zind”. The ways of repentance are as much hidden as the ways of sin.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE2VfDEmVYY   Deaf Man in the Shteeble-most moving Kol Nidrei song ever!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUvrINuGBKc      – MBD’s new Yaaleh sung Chasidish style

https://youtu.be/LsT7r7F5jjI  Another favorite Neila song of mine Yehi ratzon by SYR

answer below at end of Email

Q The inspiration for the design of the dome on the Shrine of the Book was:
a. The Dome of the Rock
b. The lid of an urn
c. A dome that was located in the Temple
d. A man’s head covering (“kippa”)


Yom Kippur Acharey Mos 2017- I know it’s a holiday and who has time to review the holiday readings with Rashi? Yet this with Yom Kippur falling out on Shabbos, so it becomes our Shabbos reading as well. If that’s the case then it is certainly worthwhile to review the Rashis as it can give us extra insight into our YK davening and inspiration as well.
The reading is of course about the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur. The Torah tells us that Aharon and his descendants, the High Priest that will follow him are warned
Vayikra (16:2) And he shall not come to the Holy at all times… Because in a cloud I shall appear upon the Paroches- Ark cover.
This warning is given after the death of Aharon’s two children for doing precisely that and lighting a foreign fire. Rashi on this verse explains the raison d’etre
For I always appear there with my pillar of cloud. And because the revelation of My Shechina is there, he should take care not to come there regularly. This is the simple meaning.
Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz notes that Rashi is pointing out something incredible over here. Imagine we are speaking to Aharon ,the High Priest, we are speaking about the Holy of Holies, we are speaking about Yom Kippur the holiest day of the year and yet there is still a concern and a necessity to warn him about not coming regularly, because if he does he might forget about the sanctity of the place. This is an incredible lesson. Perhaps the greatest reason why we sin, despite our deepest inner desire to the right thing, is because we just get used to doing the same old-same old. Our mitzvos, our daily prayers, our Torah study even though we all know and are aware of the incredible significance of all it, just becomes rote. Something we take for granted. Even the holiest things in the world can become mundane if we are aware of the perils of doing something monotonously. He notes that the law is that when one would come to Temple on the Holidays would have to switch up his entrance and his exit. The people from the North must leave through the southern gate and the ones from the south would leave through the southern gate in order that they should not get used to coming and going in and out of the same place as they do in their own home. The Temple is special. Yom Kippur is special. Each day our service is special. Rashi is pointing out this is reason why Aharon couldn’t come in. And if this is true for Aharon, how much more so for us. As Rashi says… this is pretty simple.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz (1902-1979) – To any Mirrer when one talks about Reb Chazkel there is a sense of awe. He led the yeshiva through its stormiest years during the war years, in Shanghai where the yeshiva fled, and he planted the seeds here in Israel of what is today the largest yeshiva in the world. He was born Shmuelevitz was born on the second day of Rosh Hashana  1902 in Kovno, Lithuania, to Rabbi Refoel Alter Shmuelevitz and Ettel (née Horowitz), a daughter of Rabbi Yosef Yozel Horwitz, known as the Alter of Novhardok. The sandek at his bris milah was Rabbi Yitzchok Blazer ("Reb Itzele Peterburger"), a Torah and mussar luminary of the time, who was one of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter's greatest disciples.
In Chaim Leib's youth, his family moved to Stutchin. Until the age of 16, he was educated by his father, who was one of the leading yeshiva lecturers in Lithuania. In 1919 Rabbi Refoel Alter, who was then the rosh yeshiva of Shaarei Torah in Grodno, died suddenly. Within a very short time, his mother died too, orphaning Chaim Leib, his younger brother Shlomo, and two sisters.
Rabbi Refoel Alter's position at the yeshiva was taken up by Rabbi Shimon Shkop. Chaim Leib developed a close bond with Rabbi Shkop. At the age of 18, Chaim Leib's mentor invited him to deliver the third-level shiur in the preparatory academy at the yeshiva. He held this position for a few years before transferring to the yeshiva in Mir. Many of his students of those years later became great Torah leaders, and his own four years in Grodno with Rabbi Shkop had a profound influence on his approach to Talmudic analysis.
At the age of 22, Reb Chayim headed a group of students who transferred from Grodno to Mir. The Mirrer rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, set his sights on Shmuelevitz as his eventual spiritual heir. He set the seal on this future appointment by offering his student the hand of his daughter in marriage.
A scant few years later, at the relatively young age of 31, Shmuelevitz was appointed as a maggid shiur, delivering regular lectures. The hallmark of his lectures was depth combined with a fabulous breadth; it was not uncommon for him to cite 20 or 30 different sources from far-flung corners of the Talmud and its commentaries during a single shiur.
With the outbreak of World War II, Mir Yeshiva was forced into exile Rabbi Shmuelevitz's shiurim continued virtually without interruption throughout the early period of World War II, while when the yeshiva was continually in transit. In late 1940, hundreds of Mir yeshiva students obtained visas to Japan.
The yeshiva stayed in Kobe, Japan, for about six months, and then relocated to Shanghai for the next five years. Although living conditions were extremely difficult, the yeshiva prospered. Rabbi Shmuelevitz and the mashgiach, Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, assumed responsibility for the day-to-day running of the yeshiva.
Somehow, Rabbi Shmuelevitz became responsible for the financial needs of all Jewish learning institutions in the city, not just his own. These included contingents of the famed yeshivas of Kamenetz, Kletzk, Lubavitch, and Lublin. This was despite the fact that exchanging foreign currency in Shanghai was fraught with danger and Rabbi Shmuelevitz lived with a perpetual fear of being apprehended by the authorities.
A short while after arriving in Shanghai, Rabbi Shmuelevitz received American visas only for himself and his family. He refused them, saying that he would leave only when all the students had received their visas. This ultimately meant staying in Shanghai for five and a half years.
In 1947 the yeshiva moved again — as always, as a single unit — this time, to the United States, where Rabbi Shmuelevitz spent six months before rejoining his father-in-law, Rabbi Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, in the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem. For the next 32 years, until his death in 1978, Rabbi Shmuelevitz remained in Mir-Jerusalem, disseminating his unique wisdom and insight to thousands of disciples.
He became active in Agudath Israel in Israel, and its Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages) on which he served. Rabbi Shmuelevitz was well known for his ability to become totally engrossed in his Torah study for hours at a time. His ethical discourses, many of which have been published in English, are considered classics. They offer novel interpretations and reveal his penetrating insights into human nature.
His greatness in Torah was matched only by his sterling character. Possessing an all-encompassing concern for his fellow Jew, his constant preoccupation with the well-being of others was a manifestation of the love that poured forth from his great heart. 
A few days after Sukkot 1978, Rabbi Shmuelevitz was rushed to the hospital and, for the next two months, his life hung by a thread. Even during the weeks of semi-consciousness his lips moved, and from time to time he could be heard mumbling words of Torah. Jews worldwide prayed for his recovery, but it was not to be. Two months later on the third of Tevet, Rabbi Shmuelevitz died at the age of 76. Nearly 100,000 mourners attended his funeral. He is buried on Har HaMenuchot.
During his lifetime, Rabbi Shmuelevitz committed to paper his every lecture and public address, leaving behind at his death thousands of handwritten pages, including chiddushim on every tractate of the Talmud
Kohanim – Unlike most of the other types of Jews that we have listed throughout our journey this past year in this column, the Kohanim are not identifiable by merely looking at them. They can be Ashkenaz, Sefard, Chasidic, young, old, religious or secular. They are identifiable though if you are really interested by use of a microscope though as they all share the same common DNA gene marker known as the Kohen gene. That is a fact that in the words of Dr. Karl Skorecki in the New York Times, (January 7, 1997)-
“The simplest, most straightforward explanation is that these men have the Y chromosome of Aharon. The study suggests that a 3,000-year-old tradition is correct, and has a biological counterpart.”
As well Dr. David Goldstein, Oxford notes in the Science News (October 3, 1998)
 “For more than 90 percent of the Cohens to share the same genetic markers after such a period of time is a testament to the devotion of the wives of the Cohens over the years. Even a low rate of infidelity would have dramatically lowered the percentage.”
In the times of the Temple Kohanim were the most important people of our nation as they were the serving intermediaries between Hashem and his people. They lost their way and became corrupt at the end of the second Temple, but for many of them that badge of Kehuna was kept in their family as a source of pride and tradition as they await for the day when they will be returned to their service with the building of the Beit Hamikdash.
In Israel the Kohanim play a larger more practical role than they do in America where all they do is receive the first Aliya to the Torah, as should be the case. See in Israel the custom is for the Kohen to belss the people by davening every day, unlike outside of Israel where it’s only on holidays. For the past few decades here by the Kotel the highlight for many people is to come and get blessed by the thousands of Kohanim that gather there. It is truly an awesome experience. The most common Kohen names amongst are of course Cohen, Shapiro, Katz and Rappaport, Azoulay is also a common Sefardic name. Now just because your last name is one of those that doesn’t make you a Kohen, one has to have a tradition that dates back to seal that deal. But you never know. God willing, Eliyahu Hanavi ,who will herald in Mashiach, will tell us and clarify who ultimately has that heritage. May it be this year!

A group of 9/11 conspiracy theorists were killed in a bad accident and they all ended up together in heaven. Once let in through the Pearly Gates they decided to try and meet with God himself believing only he could answer their big question: Who was responsible for 9/11?
God decided to meet with them. When assembled he told them they could ask him one question about 9 /11 and he would answer it truthfully having perfect knowledge of everything. So the leader of the group stood up and said, "God, I need and my fellow friends who feel the same way about 9/11 as I do would like to know if in fact 9/11 was an inside job? Can you finally tell us this truth?"
God looked at the group of conspiracy theorists and said, "I know you may not want to hear this but 9/11 was NOT an inside job...it was a terrible tragedy caused by radical and mostly Saudi Islamic fundamentalists who wanted to send a message to the United States and make you afraid of them."
The leader looked dismayed with God's answer and turned to one of his cohorts and said, "Wow, God must have been in on it too."

I, too, have a conspiracy theory. I believe that Einstein was killed by the mafia because he knew too much.

Two Jews meet on the street.
"David, how have you been?"
"N-n-not so good. I was just turned down for a j-j-job."
"At a r-r-radio s-s-station. Anti-S-S-Semites!!!"

Shlomo is on the train reading a newspaper, when his friend Mendel walks in. 
"Shlomo, why on earth are you reading an Arab paper?"
"When I read the Jewish papers, all I find is Jews under attack, synagogues under attack, Israel under attack. But when I read the Arab papers, what do I find? Jews control the media, Jews control the government, Jews rule the world. Mendel, the news is much better!"

Answer is B– OK how many of you know what the shrine of the book is? I thought so… Yeah if you haven’t noticed the past few weeks questions have been architectural questions; another one of those exciting topics we have to cover in our tour guiding course. Next question is the shrine of the book Jewish, Christian, Muslim or secular? See if you knew the answer to that you might be able to answer the question. So the shrine is actually the part of the Israel Museum that hosts the Dead Sea scrolls. They say that Ben Gurion or one of the Prime Ministers once took a US president and explained him the difference between us the Jews and other countries. In the US the most important museum hosts is perhaps the Smithsonian with all types of artifacts, In France it is the Louvre with all its art. In Israel the most important museum has old scrolls and books. That is what defines us. So now that you know that what, you can easily figure out that the correct answer is of course the most unlikely one if you did not know what this was which is the shape of the lid of the urns in which they were found.