Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 2nd 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 46 -8th of Tishrei 5775
Yom Kippur 5775
A Yom Kippur Song
They called him Yoyli. Or at least they used to, when he was still part of the "Kehilla"; the hasidic Satmar community he was raised in. But it wasn't for him. He was Joe now. Joe the agnostic, Joe the sinner, Joe the "bum". It didn't bother him that much. He had friends; it seems that there were quite a few that didn't fit in to the Satmar mold, that didn't make it in "the system". So they left. They found jobs in the city and left the life that they felt restricted them too much, that stifled them and defined who and what they must be. The beards got trimmed, the payo/sidleocks chopped off, The Yarmulka got replaced with a baseball cap and very soon nothing at all. Their observances as well seemed to have fallen of the Williamsburg bridge crossing into the city .First to go was their Teffilin and prayers, Kosher soon followed, then Shabbos and the holidays. Joe and "the boys" were "free".
The first Yom Kippur after their 'official Exodus" was coming up. "Let's celebrate" Jake (formerly yankel) suggested. "How about making a big bonfire, BBQ, party with the crew, I actually found a great new butcher "Tony's" great Italian sausages and tenderloins." Joe offered to bring the boombox (do they still call it that?), Jake was bringing the meat, Kayla and Sarah offered to make the salads and Jimmy (formerly Yirmiyahu or Yirmy) was bringing the booze. There was about 15 of them total and they were all psyched about their upcoming Yom Kippur party. It was going to be the night were they showed they had moved beyond their past baggage.
Things didn't work out the way they had planned though. They had a hard time getting the fire started. Seems that kind of got left out in their cheder education and they kind of never did the boy scout thing before. The meat didn't really taste as good as they had hoped. The booze was just fine though. It seems 'Captain' Jack was working hard to get them high that night although Jimmy did say he wouldn't mind a bit of shlivovitz or 'Alteh Zayde' (old grand dad) to top it all off. Joe decided to liven things up a bit and put on the Stereo with all the latest pop hits. But after a while the crew from Satmar realized that they really didn't know any of the songs.The disc he had bought of the greatest dance hits of the decade was about 5 year olds and sadly for them had a bunch of songs that they had failed to pick up during their year of freedom. And then the stereo died. "Oh well" Jimmy said "let's sing some songs that we do know. Hey, how bout this one?" he said with a smug smirk on his face. He then broke out sacrilegiously in the tune of the Kol Nidrei prayer of the Satmar community that they were part of. They all raised their beers and clinked them together. Finally a song that they all knew. And they began to sing…and sing… and sing..
At first their singing was a mocking. It they imitated the nuances, the choir, the funny guy in the back that always sang of key. But slowly something happened. The singing became a bit more soulful with the flickering embers. Their eyes slowly began to close and their voices began to rise with sentiment and emotion. The beers were put down and the Yom Kippur davening continued.
"BiYeshiva Shel Maalah UBiyishiva Shel Mata Anu Matirin LhitPalel Im Kol Ha'Avaryanim-In the Heavenly Court and in the Earthly court below we hereby permit to pray with all of the sinners".
"It was the most powerful Yom Kippur of my life", Joe said as he registered in Yeshivas Aish Hatorah in Jerusalem a month later. "We all went home that night somberly and quietly. We had been transported to some place incredible. For the first time I understood and appreciated how precious my soul is, how no amount of running and hiding will ever turn off that powerful heavenly magnet that resided in me. I knew I had a neshoma and I knew that no matter how far I went, I would never be complete…I would never truly be me… unless I developed it, I incorporated it, I lived up to what my soul was capable of becoming. I'm here to learn. To start fresh. To become the Jew my Father in heaven wants me to be"
This past week, Shabbat Shuva we read the Torah portion of Haazinu, or perhaps to be more accurate we read the song of Haazinu. It is the portion that is always read around Yom Kippur. Although the entire Torah is holy and important the song of Haazinu is arguably the most important part of the Torah. Maimonides in his description of the last Mitzvah in the entire Torah, which is to write a Torah scroll write that that mitzvah comes from the verse
"And now you shall write for them this song and place it in their mouths". The true mitzvah is to write down this final song of the Torah, however since we cannot write just one portion of the Torah by itself so we are obligated to write the entire Torah, But in truth it is all about the song. And what is this song? It describes the heavens and earth testifying to the eternality of our covenant with Hashem. It urges us to never forget our history, our roots. It talks about how we will violate the commandments and sin and how we will be punished and exiled. And finally it talks about our return, the vengeance with which Hashem will punish all those who have persecuted us. This is the song of the Torah, it is the song of all ages of our people that is deep within every Jew's soul.
Nachmanides, the great 13th century sage the Ramban write that this song is the ultimate promise to our nation that we have never been abandoned. Even more fascinating, he writes that the song does not even suggest that Teshuva/ repentance is not even a prerequisite for this eternal promise. We are always His children, we will certainly return. This is the music of our soul, it is this more anything else that the Torah wanted us to have written down
We approach what will hopefully be the last Yom Kippur before we see the end of this song fulfilled. We have seen and sung our songs of hope, our songs of rebellion, our songs of exile and our songs of return. Yet our souls are still longing for that ultimate song of redemption; the cleansing song of forgiveness, of healing of consolation and of the final return of our Abba to us, to Yerushalayim with our/His Temple and home rebuilt. The words of the Torah many of us have forgotten and have not fully upheld, but that one song that is so deeply embedded in each of us is just waiting to burst forth.
As I do every year, I would like to ask forgiveness from any and all of you who I may have offended or slighted this past year. It was certainly never my intent to cause pain or hurt to anyone. I would also like to express my appreciation to all those who have communicated and given me feedback over the year and particularly those who have generously contributed to our Synagogue and programs. Your words and donations mean a tremendous amount to me and inspire me to continue to share my inspiration, musings and jokes J with you. Thank you for being my hearing board. It is my hope that you will all be blessed and sealed with a year that is full of joy, happiness, health,
Parnassa / livelihood and maybe even Aliyah for those that are still not fortunate enough to live here yet. And I hope that you can find it in your hearts to have myself and my family in your prayers as well as all of those that we know that so desperately need salvation and miracles from Hashem be it in finding their Basher/Soulmate, be it in having children, or overcoming struggles in matters of health, finding a job or making ends meet, or those that are undergoing challenges from with their children, parents, or other struggles. As well please have in mind our country and our soldiers that we should have a year of peace, with no more losses, no more tragedies and a year that will finally bring the redemption. If we are all praying for one another, than our Father in heaven will look down upon us His family and seal us all for a Gut G'Bentch'd year.
Shana Tova and Gmar Chatima Tovah
Warmly, your friend in Karmiel
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE TESHUVA QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"When you come to Shamayim we may have answers as to why we sinned, we were weak, the challenges were to hard, we couldn’t overcome our inclination…our main judgement will be though on why we did not do Teshuva…why we didn't just say we were sorry and return to our Father who is waiting for us"-Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman
"99% of Teshuva is not focused on the past, rather it is focused on the future." The Rebbe from Slonim
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Q. Zodiac wheel decorations were found at:
a. Migdal and Sephoris (Tsipori)
b. Bet Alfa and Bet She’arim
c. Hamat Tiberias and Bet Alfa
d. En Gedi and Um-al-Qantir
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
Perhaps one of the most moving prayers of Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur davening is Nesana Tokef which describes the Day of judgment and the awe and trepidation up in heaven. The prayer concludes with the statement Teshuva Tefila and Tzedaka Mavirin Es Ro'ah Ha'Gezeira- that Repentance, Prayer and Charity remove the harsh decree. On top of those three words in little letters it says three words Tzom (fast), Kol (voice), and Mamon (money). Those three words each have a gematria of 136. In the added psalm we recite each day since the beginning of the month of Elul has the sentence that B'zot An Botayach-in times of trouble in this I have faith. B'Zot- in this in gematria is 408 the sum 136+136+136 those three tips that remove the decree. In addition my Rebbe noted to me that although charity may be difficult and teshuva may feel challenging Prayer/Kol serve in place of the other two as it says in song of songs Ki Koleich Areiv because your voice can is pleasant also can be translated as your voice serves as an Areiv a guarantor. The word Areiv is Gematria 272 which is the gematria of 136+136 the gematria of Tzom And Mamon that prayer can serve as guarantor for the other two.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Har Azazel - the fun part of the trip to see the famous and significant site which was the peak ( excuse the pun) of the Temple service on Yom Kippur during the first and second Temples, is that the only way to get there is by jeep- or a very long difficult hike through the Judean desert. The Torah tells us how each Yom Kippur the High priest would take two identical goats and through a certainly deeply mysterious process would perform a lottery declaring one goat as being sacrificed to God and one to go to "Azazel" (which our sages teach us is the angel of our evil twin brother- the "other" brother and twin of Jacob and child of Rivkah and Yitzchak above). The Azazel goat would then be taken for a thirteen KM hike (in biblical measurements) by a priest (who would not live out the year) to the highest mountain peak in the Judean Desert passing along the way 10 booths that were set up to escort him to the peak offering him food and drink should he need although it was Yom Kippur (he never did). Upon arriving there a string was tied to his horns and the goat would be thrown off the mountain top to its death along with all the sins of Israel.
P.E.T.A (people for the ethical treatment of animals would not approve of this ritual- but they don't like me eating steak drinking milk eggs or cheese either). The Talmud records for us that when the Jewish people achieved atonement-meaning that this service included remorse for their sins and a dedication to repair their ways, there was a red string that would turn white in the Temple letting them know that they had been forgiven. For the first forty years of the Temple it always turned white after that it was touch and go...
When we returned after 2000 years to Israel and recaptured the Judean desert in 1967, archeologists wanted to verify that this was indeed the place although this is the highest peak in the Desert and the proscribed distance. They built a model goat identical in weight and build to a real goat (built according to PETA standards) and pushed it off hoping to see where it landed and to find ancient goat bones.
Sure enough they found bones and were very excited until.... They saw some Bedouins come later that night and make a barbeque there in the desert and realized they had come upon a modern barbeque spot rather than an ancient Temple ritual location. Yet most agree that although there is no way to find 2000 year old goat bones this is indeed the location of that ancient ritual. We will just have to wait for the rebuilding of our Temple with the coming of Mashiach to confirm it.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
I Don't know what to make of these clips below besides hopeful that maybe Mashiach is coming pretty cool though strange shofar sounds heard around the world. Even more interesting is the Talmud quoted in the 2nd clip that predicts this happening in the shemitta year before mashiach comes
someone told me that this is here in Karmiel pretty wild..
Reb Shlomo Carlebach Kol Nidrei
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S YOM KIPPUR JOKE OF THE WEEK
A middle aged Jewish woman goes in search of a famous guru. She takes a plane to India and then a boat up a river, and then hikes into the mountains with local guides. All in all it takes her months of hardship to track down this guru. When she finds him he is in the middle of some kind of ritual which lasts for days and the guru's followers won't let her see him. Finally the guru is ready to receive visitors and calls for the woman to be admitted. She stands before the famous guru. "Harvey," she says. "It's time to come home!".'
An old rabbi was having a discussion with a young agnostic. The younger man told the rabbi, "According to Nietzsche, God is dead. "The rabbi thought for a moment, then replied, "According to God, Nietzsche is dead."
Answer is C: There are many Synagogues found in Israel from the period of the Mishna and Talmud (2nd-6th century) and perhaps one of the most interesting things that we find in those ancient shuls are the central mosaic motifs on the floor that are the Zodiac astrological wheels in some of the synagogues we even find besides pictures of the various astrological signs a central image of the mythological Greek goddess "Helios" with her long blonde hair and chariot of horses leading schlepping the sun. Not an image you would expect to find in a shul today. Some have suggested that the signs of the Zodiac or as our sages referred to them as "mazalot" was showing that the world is controlled by these signs but we the Jewish nation are above Mazal and our controlled only by the direct Divine. Regardless as far as the question above Tzippori has the Zodiac as well as Beit Alfa and Hamat Gader and I think Um al Quaniter in the Golan as well but I don't remember. Ein Gedi is unique in that it has a list of the signs but no picture. So C is the only correct answer with both choices.