Our view of the Galile

Friday, July 13, 2018

No Questions Asked - Matos Masey 2018 /5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 13th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 38 1st Av 5778

Parshat Matot/Masei

No Questions Asked
“Are we almost there yet???”

 “How much longer will it be?”

“When are we going to get there already???”

Every parent’s favorite question to be asked generally twenty minutes or so upon embarking on a three hour trip. Usually that is followed with an “I have to go to the bathroom” or He’s/She’s touching me… Fun, fun, fun…There’s nothing like quality family time cooped up in a car together for a few hours. Who remembers the good old days packing everyone in the old station wagon, with a few kids in the ‘spaceship’-my father’s ingenious way of making us want to sit in the back-back before the world realized that this was very very dangerous. We barely had air conditioning, the 8-track cassette player would inevitably get broken, and my mother would have us play I-spy or some find the license plate game. Sure we fought and sure we asked the traditional how-much-longer questions. But they were simpler times. We didn’t even dream that there would be a day when we would be able to watch movies in the car on a tablet, with our own personalized climate control and listen to songs on our own little pocket headphones. But if we had dreamed of that, I’m sure we would never think that we would ever complain about our trips. That we would ever ask how much longer it would be. We probably wouldn’t even need to go to the bathroom or eat. Yet whadaya know? They still ask. The questions it seems are eternal ones. Will they ever end? And there I go again.

The truth is as a tour guide I get this question more often than then the usual family traveler. That’s because I pretty much do this every day with families. There are some kids that are a bit shy to ask me the question for the first 20 minutes or so. So they ask their parents who would never answer that question in their own cars or family trips. Parents learn very quickly that the question is a rhetorical one. The child is not asking for a time frame so they can plan out the rest of their day. They are merely figuring out how much is kvetching is necessary to aggravate the parent, and whether they should immediately start the kvetching or space it out meaningfully over the next undisclosed period of time. Yet when it is on a tour bus, the parents seem to forget their role, and quickly and immediately pass the question on to the tour guide to answer. I of course do not fall into that trap. I give my father’s sagely answer. “We will get there when we get there.” But… But…. But… But when will that be?” the persistent continue to ask. “It will be when we get there. Not a second before or a second after. Exactly when we get there.”  And so the tour continues. They don’t know if it’s worth kvetching or not. They certainly aren’t dreading or trying to figure out how long this may be. They appreciate that they are in for the ride and may as well have fun as we travel and the journey continues.

We sing songs, I point out things, I tell stories, make jokes and before you know it we are here. OK some of them just stick their headphones back in and go to sleep. But that’s just the parents J The kids at least I have engaged. At least till the next time we get back in the car.
This week’s Torah portion called Masei begins with the travels of the Jewish people; our family trip of forty years in the wilderness. One wonders how many times the children asked ‘how much longer?’ The forty nine verses that recount our 42 different travels and encampments over the forty years do not recall any of the incredible incidents that took place during those 40 years. No mention of the giving of the Torah, the sin of the golden calf, the spies, Korach, Bilam. Nothing at all. Just names and places. There is one glaring and perplexing exception though. Three entire verses that tell us of one seemingly minor incident. Bamidbar (33:37-40)

“And they traveled from Kadesh and he camped at Har Hahar at the edge of the land of Edom. And Aharon the Kohen went up to Har HaHar by the mouth of Hashem and he died there in the fortieth year from the children of Israel going out of Egypt”

Yes. The death of Aharon is the only incident that the Torah felt it was necessary to mention. But it does not just end with his death. The Torah continues and tells us when this took place

“In the fifth month on the first of the month, And Aharon was 123 years old when he died on Har Hahar.”

In case you’re not familiar with the Jewish calendar that is the first of the month of Av. In other words today is the yahrzeit of Aharon. Not only is it today, but each year the Parsha of Masei is always read on the week of his yahrzeit. We even caught up with you slow-pokes in America and the diaspora in honor of the yahrzeit. Incidentally this is the only person in the entire Torah that the Torah explicitly tells us when he died. It doesn’t tell us when Adam died, not Avraham, not Moshe, not any of the 12 tribes. Just Aharon. Strange.

The Torah then continues

“And the Canaani the king of Arad herad and he dwelled in the south of the land of Canaan whne the children of Israel came”

Rashi notes that this is coming to tell us that the death of Aharon is what he heard, and that {as a result of that} the clouds of glory had departed and he thought that it was given permission to battle Israel.

Why Aharon? Why is this the only incident? What is the significance of telling us about this particular reason for Canaan attacking us? We had many nations attacking us in the wilderness, many battles.

The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni goes at length to describe the death of Aharon. Hashem commands Moshe to tell Aharon of his impending death and Moshe engages in Aharon in a discussion about his death. He asks him how he feels that because of the sin of Adam death was instituted in the world. Aharon responded that it is the decree of Hashem and we must accept it. Moshe continued asking him and if Hashem decreed that you must die in a hundred years how would you feel. He said I would accept the judgement. And if he said it would be today? Aharon responded that he would bless the Dayan Emet- the True Judge who thus decreed. Moshe then took him up the mountain. The Midrash describes how the angels in heaven clamored at the sight. Hashem pointed out the similarity of the scene to none other than the binding of Yitzchak. Just as there Avraham brings his son up. Yitzchak and Avaraham both know that he is going to his death and he accepts without questions. He stretches out his neck. He is ready to accept the will of his Creator. No questions asked.

Aharon as well goes up. With him is his younger brother Moshe and his son Elazar. Moshe removes his clothing, he places them on his son. Yet there are no questions. Aharon is one with his Creator. Aharon ends his career just as he began his career. Remember back in Egypt. Aharon was certainly the leader and the future of the Jewish people, yet when his younger brother Moshe returns. His brother who was raised in an Egyptian house. His brother who had fled the country for forty years and married the daughter of a Midianite priest. Aharon not only steps down, he accepts and greets Moshe with love and joy for his brother who would be taking the role of leadership. No questions asked.

Later on perhaps the high moment of our history the day that the tabernacle is dedicated and his two children are killed by a heavenly fire. The Torah tells us two words about Aharon. Vayidom Aharon- and Aharon is silent. He accepted the world of his Creator. He appreciate and is perhaps the greatest teacher of the idea that we ae mere travelers in this world. In His world. Whatever happens is because Hashem is leading us. He’s the tour guide. Our job is not to question, rather it is to be from the students of Aharon as our Pirkey Avot teaches us. To be lovers of peace. To see in each human being a fellow journeyer. Someone we can bring close to our Father in heaven. A way of life that removes all personal agenda and that lives in harmony with our Creator and with one another.

The Torah reiterates the story of our journey in the wilderness, Rashi in the beginning of the Torah portion tells us to teach us that Hashem is the one that is leading us like a father leads his son and is bringing him back from being healed. Our wanderings, Rashi notes, are divided into our leaving of Egypt until the spies-14 travels. 20 travels over the next 38 years and 8 travels after the death of Aharon. The death of Aharon is the transformation point. It is when our journey leaves the clouds of glory and yet we have learned and are able to stand on our own faith. The yahrzeit and passing of Aharon on the month of Av gave us that power of faith. The mourning for his death and the subsequent commitment to maintaining his legacy is the power that is just as potent as the clouds of glory. For they are the ultimate clouds of glory. The sukkat shalom -the tents of peace that unite and protect us.

The Canaani thought we had lost it. They reacted. Their job-as our sages tell us they were really Amalekites were to create doubt. To ask questions. How much longer? Will you survive? Yet our journey continued just as before. With Hashem leading us. With the faith that Aharon had embedded to us forever in our hearts and souls. And that journey still continues today. We enter the saddest month of the year of Av with the death of Aharon and the reading of his death. As we prepare and even escalate our level of mourning, we are meant to find hope and see redemption in that mourning. On Tisha B’Av every year we recount all of the tragedies of the Jewish people throughout the millennia since our Temples were destroyed. We don’t question. We don’t accuse. We cry. We mourn and we recognize that we are being led on a journey ultimately back to our home. Back to His Temple. That is the legacy of Aharon. May we see that ultimate journey reach its final glorious conclusion this year.

Have a Chodesh Av Tov and a blessed Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Besser mit a klugen in gehenem aider mit a nar in ganaiden”- It’s better to be with a wise man in hell than with a fool in paradise.

answer below at end of Email
Q. According to the Biblical text, Channa prayed in:
a. Mitzpah
b. Shiloh
c. Rama
d. Bethel


Parshat Matos Maaasey As we are in the period of mourning of the Temple we read that haftoras of mourning from the prophet Yirmiyahu. Yirmiyahu who lives at the period before the destruction of the second Temple, is horrified, aghast and extremely verbose about the disappointment he and Hashem has with his sinning Nation.
(2:12)  Be appalled, O heavens, at this. Be horrified, utterly dazed!”
Reading the Haftora one keeps hearing the question that Yirmiyahu keeps describing to the Jewish people of how they question the existence of God and instead fill up their water in broken up cisterns. ie: false gods and idols. Know any Jews like that today? That search in other religions for meaning and purpose not realizing that we have it all here. He doesn’t pull punches, he blames the priests, the prophets, Kings and leaders. They are all culpubae they all have abandoned the God who has done so much for them. Who has taken them out of Egypt and saved them from all troubles. Yet we have ignored the Mussar and the rebuke. These are the messages that we are mean to reflect upon. These messages are eternal as we continue to fail to merit to bring the Messianic era and the return to Jerusalem rebuilt with the Beit Hamikdash.

Yirmiyahu (590 BC) – One of the last prophets of the first temple. Yirmiyahu prophesied for the last kings of Yehuda Yoshiayahu the righteous King, and his following kings Yehoachaz, Yehoyachin, and for the 11 years of King Tzedkiyahu who was captured and exiled by Babylonians. Yirmiyahu certainly living in one of the most tragic periods of our downfall’s prophecies are full of rebuke trying to get the people to repent and avoid the impending destruction.


Marah bitter waters- 1312 BC-  Our first stop outside of Egypt the Torah tells us was in a place with bitter waters named Marah. Moshe throws a stick in and the water turns sweet. This site is not in Israel of today but in the Sinai Desert not far from the Suez Canal. Archeologists identify it with the “small bitter Lake” north of Suez and others with spring known as Ein Musa- or Moses’s spring. Being that it is in Egypt I can’t really show either place to you. However, I can definitely take you and show you some of the incredible “miraculous desalinization plants we have here in Israel. Israel has three plants in Ashkelon, Hadera and Sorek near Tel Aviv. We are the leading country in the world in alternate water resources. With over 600 million cubic meters of water annually. In a nut shell the way it works is that water is shot through membranes that are very thin and the salt stays behind and the water is clean drinking water. We will soon be exporting water to other needy countries.
In addition we are the leading country in water recycling. 86 percent of the water that flushes down the drain here is reused for agriculture after it has been “’purified” by little parasites that eat up all the sewage. That second largest country to do this is Spain and they only recycle 19 percent of the water. You can visit the plants at Shafdan near Tel Aviv and see this amazing process. So no we don’t have miraculous sticks to throw into water. But seemingly the first challenge hashem gave us was to deal with water challenges and B”H he gave us the wisdom and technology to perform miracles in this arid region.


Yankel feels all lucky that he is at the Super bowl game. This is the most sold out game of the year.
He had been sacicng up and waiting for years and managed to get best seats in the front row. But as he sat down he noticed that there's an empty seat in the row behind them. When intermission comes and no one has sat in that seat, He notices it’s his friend Berel sitting next to the empty seat and asks, "I hate to bother you but I was wondering why that seat is empty."
The woman says, "That's my late wife's seat."
Yankel is horrified and apologises for being so insensitive. But a few minutes later, he turns around again.
"Without meaning to be rude or anything, this is an incredibly hard game to get into. Surely you must have a friend or a relative who would have wanted to come and see the show?"
Berel nods, but explains, "They're all at the shiva."

Maurice was a good, well-respected elderly Boro Park man. He felt that death was close and asked his sons to take him to the Holy Land, to die there and be buried in Jerusalem.
The loving sons did as he asked, brought him to Jerusalem, put him in a hospital and waited for death to come. However, once in Jerusalem Maurice started to feel better and better and after a few weeks was again strong, healthy and full of life.
He called upon his sons and said: "Quickly, take me back to Boro Park."
The sons were somehow disappointed and asked: "Father, how come? You said you want to die in the Holy Land and be buried in Jerusalem!'
"Yes," answered Maurice, to die it's OK but to live here....!?"

Shlomo goes to Doctor Lewis for a check up. After extensive tests Doctor Lewis tells him, "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. You only have six months to live."
Shlomo is dumbstruck. After a while he replies, "That's terrible doctor. But I must admit to you that I can't afford to pay your bill."
"Ok," says Doctor Lewis, "I'll give you a year to live."
Arnold had reached the age of 105 and suddenly stopped going to synagogue.
Worried by Arnold's absence after so many years of faithful attendance, his Rabbi went to see him. He found him in excellent health, so the Rabbi asked, "How come after all these years we don't see you at services anymore?"
Arnold looked around and lowered his voice. "I'll tell you, Rabbi," he whispered. "When I got to be 90, I expected God to take me any day. But then I got to be 95, then 100, then 105. So I figured that God is very busy and must have forgotten about me and I don't want to remind him."
Answer is C– So all the answers are biblical cities Mitzpa is where the tragic story of the Pilegesh of Giva takes place, as well as where Shmuel judged the people and where Shaul was anointed King. Rama is the burial place of Shmuel and some attribuite to being where Nebi Samuel is. Beth El is also a city where Shmuel would go out from to judge the nation besides being the place where Yaakov had his dream and later on the King Yeravam had a Mikdash. Get the theme here? These are all Shmuel oriented answers, as Chana was the mother of Shmuel. She prayed for his birth in the Mishkan in Shilo though and the High Priest Eli thought she was drunk at the time. A great place to visit by the way.

Friday, July 6, 2018

A Holy Room Above Hell- Parshat Pinchas 2018 / 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 6th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 37 23rd Tamuz 5778

Parshat Pinchas

A Holy Room Above Hell

We’re gonna do it different this week. Usually I start off my weekly E-Mail with a cool story, a joke, some radical political statement or a personal anecdote. That sucks you into reading one paragraph and then another and before you know it you’re halfway through and then I sneak in there “this week’s Torah portion” and boom- I’ve got you. But not this week. This week we will start with the words “In the Torah portion this week”, and you will just have to trust me, the payoff and stories at the end and maybe even a joke here and there will be worth it. Life-changing even perhaps. I haven’t let you down yet right? You can do it. I know you can. I have faith in you and that’s really what it is all about.

This week the Torah portion of Pinchas talks about the aftermath of the plague that struck the people after they sinned with the daughters of Moab. Hashem commands us to avenge those deaths by waging war on the Midianites who were behind this whole thing. Rashi notes he spares Moab, although their daughters were involved because Ruth and ultimately Mashiach will come from them. The Torah then goes through a lengthy naming of all the families of Israel. Hidden inside that list, kind of like the way I hide my dvar Torah in my weekly E-mail there is a verse that stands out. In the recounting of the family of Reuvein the Torah tells us that Dathan and Aviram , who were from that tribe are not around anymore because they sinned with Korach rebellion against Moshe and were swallowed up live in the ground. Then the Torah tells us sort of by the way
Bamidbar (26:11) “And the children of Korach didn’t die”

Now if you blinked you missed this verse, but Rashi doesn’t blink and he notes seemingly the anomaly of this teaching. First of all it would seem that the Torah previously tells us that anyone that was in the sin of Korach was swallowed up. So if they sinned seemingly they should have been dead. If they didn’t sin, then it should have just stated they lived. What does it mean that they didn’t die?

So Rashi notes that actually they did sin. Not only did they sin, but they were in fact from the instigators of the entire rebellion. Yet Rashi notes

“At the time of the dispute, they had a thought of teshuva- repentance in their heart. Therefore a high place was fortified for them in Gehennom and they resided there.”

Wanted to know where the term a high place in Hell comes from. This is it.
Now if one reads Rashi correctly Rashi is not stating that they repented. If they would have they wouldn’t have been swallowed at all. Rather they had thoughts of repentance and seemingly that was enough to get them out of the very bottom. It seems like a strange thing. I never really understood it. Are they sinners or repenters? As well, if they survived shouldn’t it have told us this back in the story of Korach? It was three parshas ago and 40 years ago chronologically. Why here? Why now? One last question, perhaps, why reveal this story of the miraculous survival of the children of Korach here with the listing of the name of the families of Reuvein? They were Levites, tell us about it when we recount their tribes family. The answer my friends can perhaps be found in this week’s story of the week. Isn’t it cool you made it this far… Now for the payoff.

It was a few months ago. The Gadol Hador, the great Jewish leader of our generation, Rabbi Aryeh Leib Shteinman passed away at age 104. I don’t usually like to go to funerals, and particularly those of great men when there are 10’s of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people coming. I know it’s wrong of me, perhaps lazy of me. I should go. I should show my respects, but perhaps too my failing I never felt connected so I really avoided them.

Rav Shteinman was different. He opened a yeshiva in Karmiel. I met him twice here and he even gave my son Yonah a blessing on his Bar Mitzva day. I still wouldn’t say I felt connected. But there was something pulling me to go and I felt I needed to connect perhaps a bit deeper, as I was certainly fully aware of orphaned our generation would be without him. It was on the way home from this funeral that I heard two stories that blew me away. And I am pretty well padded as you know, and it takes a lot to do that to me.

There was a man that had come to the funeral with a long beard and was crying incessantly, at the loss of his Rebbe that had changed or even saved his life. He said that he was raised religious and had some terrible experiences that turned him off. It was too repressive. Too challenging and there was too much fun to be had elsewhere. So he left Torah and Mitzvos, he partied, he had fun and he walked away from his parents’ home after they had it out about the shame he had brought upon the family. Ultimately this young Bnai Brak yeshiva boy-let’s call him Yankel-found himself in love with a non-Jewish girl that he declared he would marry. His cousin, who was not religious as well with whom he was living with, was upset that his own flesh and blood was going to go this far to cutting himself off from his family and people. Although he wasn’t observant, he knew that marrying out of the faith would be the end of his cousins’ connection to his old life and his family.

Now even though he couldn’t get him to break it off, his cousin did insist that Yankel go back and at least spend a Shabbat at home with his family and tell them to their face what his plans were. Yankel agreed, but on the condition that his parents would not put any restrictions on him. He was no longer observant, and he wasn’t going to fake it for them. They agreed and Yankel went home for Shabbos.

Friday evening, the family had a pleasant meal together. After the meal Yankel went out to smoke on the porch and then he came back and told his parents his plans. Their hearts broke but they realized he was a big boy and they were not going to be able to force their will or faith on their son anymore. Shabbat morning, Yankel did not go to shul. He pretty much sat on his smartphone all afternoon. He had some chulent and then went back to his room. At about an hour before Mincha, Yankel’s dad asked his son if he would join him for the Torah class of Rav Shteinman. He wasn’t too hopeful, but he figured he may as well try. Lo and behold Yankel agreed. They went to the class and afterwards his father brought him to Rav Shteinman and told him that his son was no longer observant, in fact he didn’t even keep Shabbat. Rav Shteinman turned to the young man and asked him how long had he already been not Shomer Shabbat.
“Two years” Yankel said

“And during those two years, did you ever have any regrets any thoughts of teshuva?”- The Gadol Hador asked.

Yes, probably about 4 times” Yankel responded brazenly

“And about how long did those thoughts last for?”- the elderly Rav asked as he stroked Yankel’s hands and looked into his eyes.

Each time for maybe ten minutes or so… I guess”.

Rav Shteinman put a big smile on his face and did the math for him
So 10 minutes times 4 is 40 minutes! 40 Minutes that you were standing in a place where our sages tell us that where baalei teshuva stand not even a tzadik gamur can stand in heaven. You were higher than the most righteous jewish leader ever could stand. I am jealous of you…His rebbe then said. I am jealous of you… Shabbat Shalom.”

Yankel went back home to his cousins house and the words of the Rabbi gave him no rest. He kept hearing the Rabbis voice, He saw the caring in his words and the true awe that the Gadol Hador, the man who studied Torah all day and all night, who wrote great works, who lived in humility and modesty, and who embodied everything that Judaism was meant to be… He saw the awe that the Rabbi had of him. Of Yankel. He broke his engagement. He came back home. He became this crying Rebbe at his Rabbis funeral who would try to impart the lessons and power of even a thought of teshuva could have to his own students.
There is a part two to this story, that’s even more amazing but first let’s finish up the Dvar Torah.

The Jewish people right before we enter the land of Israel are at a crossroads. We have just suffered a horrible plague. 24,000 had been killed when they let their desires overwhelm them and they sinned in the most immoral of ways. Can we pick ourselves up from that. Hashem tells us we can. He tells us to avenge the Midianites. They are the ones that His anger and wrath is against. Not us. He tells us that Moav will be spared. There are sparks of holiness even in this impure tribe that seduced us. Not just sparks of holiness but in fact Messianic sparks can and will come out of the most impure place once it becomes uplifted. Once it becomes brought under the wings of the Shechina.

After that we are named the families of each tribe and we begin with Reuvein. Reuvein our sages tell us was the first person to recognize the power of teshuva. It was he that returned to pit to find his brother Yosef. It was he that was in sackcloth mourning and repenting for having sinned by “messing his father’s bed” and defiling it in the act that Torah compares to illicit behavior of the worst kind. Hashem adds his letters “yud and hey” to each of the tribes names, to show that each family has the name of Hashem in their midst always. That we have that same soul as well.

And then, right then it tells us about the children of Korach. The children that didn’t repent, but had thoughts of repentance. They were placed above everyone else, as they were swallowed and our sages tell us from there they sang out praises to Hashem. Praises and Psalms that King David who was anointed King by their very descendant none other than the Prophet Shmuel, incorporated in Tehillim. Psalms that we recite every Monday in our shul after morning service  and every Rosh Hashana before Shofar reading for even thoughts of teshuva, of repentance are holy.

Now back to Yankel. When asked what made him go to the Rav’s shiur in the first place. After-all if you were a critical or even typical cynical Jewish reader of the story, it’s the part that doesn’t make sense. Yankels smoking on Shabbos, do you really believe he would even step foot in a yeshiva, let alone the class of Rav Shteinman?

But Yankel explained. He sais when he was a little boy, Rav Shteinman came to their class, (as he did incidentally almost until the end of his life) and he would test the children. He would ask boy’s questions and they would get candies ofr answering correctly. Yankel was asked once by the Rav a question and not necessarily being the best student he didn’t know the answer. So the Rav asked him a few minutes later an even easier question. Yankel thought long and hard, but unfortunately as well this time he really gave the wrong answer. The third time around the Gadol asked him a really easy question. Not necessarily one that would be obvious that he was giving the ball away. But easy enough that really anyone who was paying any attention to what they were studying would know in a heartbeat. Unfortunately Yankel was not from that aforementioned group. He answered once again wrong and the exam ended shortly afterwards. After the exam as the Rav was handing out candies to the children who earned them. He called over Yankel and told him the following lesson which really encapsulates it all.

In Judaism we get rewarded for our efforts, not for our results. All of the children here tried and answered one question and therefore they all got a candy. You on the other hand tried to answer three questions. Therefore you get three candies.
And the Rav stroked his hands and looked in his eyes and handed Yankel three candies. That’s why I came to the shiur Yankel said. There was something about this Rav, that I remembered that wanted, perhaps even needed to see him again.

There is perhaps nothing more fleeting or meaningless in the modern world and mind-set than “good intentions”. How does that old adage go about the pavement on the road to Hell. Not so in Judaism. A hirhur teshuva, a thought of repentance of regret is a whole world. A thought to do a mitzva, raises up a planet. A candy, a word of encouragement can save a life. We have the power and the name of Hashem within us. Yet how often are we so indignant about the sins, failings, weakness, an lack of observance of others. That is sinat chinam. That is not loving someone and focusing on their flaws when ultimately it is the most counterproductive thing one can do. It is perhaps that for that reason why the Torah waited 40 years until the Parsha of Pinchas, the great zealot, and the role model of religious zealotry to teach us about the lesson of the children of Korach. It may be that the Torah waited until the period right before Tisha B’Av, when we mourn our Temple that was destroyed because we failed to see the greatness in each other. The good intentions, the fleeting thoughts of teshuva that even the simplest and most distant of us might have and the tremendous value and holiness that they possess.

We have lost our Gadol Hador. But we have not lost his lessons. May his teachings forever continue to inspire us, his orphaned nation.
Have a heavenly Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“Besser mit a klugen in gehenem aider mit a nar in ganaiden”- It’s better to be with a wise man in hell than with a fool in paradise.

answer below at end of Email
Q. Alters abolished during the 1st Temple period:
A. Ramat Rachel and Lachish
B. Tel Arad and Tzuba
C. Lachish and Tel Be’er Sheva
D. Tel Be’er Sheva and Tsfat (Safed)


Parshat Pinchas This weeks haftora is one that I talk about often with my tourists. In fact I spoke about it this morning. It is the epilogue to the story of Eliyahu on Mt. Carmel. After preforming the great miracle of Hashem bringing down the fire that eats up his sacrifice as opposed to that of the prophets of Baal. The Jews go back to sinning and Jezebel the wife of Ahav sends people to kill him. He flees for his life, wanders in the wilderness and Hashem miraculously provides water and food for him. He ultimately makes his way after 40 days and 40 night to Chorev (Mt. Sinai?). Hashem asks him what he is doing here and Eliyahu answers that he is hiding for his life as the Jews have violated the covenant/ bris and worship idols and frankly are not really impressed with the miracles and they’re hunting him down. Ouch!
Hashem then brings wind, fire, and earthquake and then in a soft quiet voice comes and asks again what is he up to when he gives the same response. Hashem basically tells him his season is up and he should appoint new kings and new prophets. Meaning Eliyahu can’t handle the soft spoken way.
The connection to our Torah portion is that Pinchas, who was also a zealot, it never mentions that he died. As well Eliyahu the zealot never dies but goes up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Our sages suggest Eliyahu is really Pinchas.
It is interesting to note, I point out, that we see Eliyahu upon two occasions; by the Pesach Seder and by circumcisions where we have a special seat for him. In recent studies they have found that the two rituals that Jews keep despite being even unaffiliated are Pesach and circumcision. Now if you ask me those would be the first two I would not do if I wasn’t religious. I would keep Purim and Simchat Torah. But yet those are the two most common commandments. Both symbolize the covenant that we have never rejected and Eliyahu is always there to testify. Pretty amazing. That is why he will be the one who heralds in Mashiach because he is the one that can testify that we have always kept it.

Eliyahu Hanavi (905-890 BC)-  Perhaps the greatest and certainly one of the most famous prophets Eliyahu Hanaiv is known by all. He lived after tehe split of the kingdom and prophesized in the northern kingdom of Israel. He is the mysterious figure that our sages tell us never died and has been known to come to help, warn, and guide the Jewish people throughout their exile. He has free reign on both worlds. Eliyahu HaNavi was one of the very few to be taken up to Heaven without dying. He is known as the “Angel of the Covenant,” and according to Jewish Tradition, he is present at each circumcision, when a new Jewish soul is brought into the World. Generations of children have heard the lullaby that begins:
“Eliyahu HaNavi, Eliyahu HaTishbi, Eliyahu HaGiladi…”
“Elijah the Prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, Elijah the Giladite…”
“Bi’mehera Yavo Elaynu, im Mashiach ben David.”
“May he soon come to us, accompanying the Messiah, Son of David.”
Eliyahu is the harbinger of the Mashiach , and he is the one “who will restore the hearts of the fathers unto the children and the hearts of the children unto the fathers,” uniting the generations of the Jewish People across all of the ages


Splitting of Sea- 1312 BC-  Now this of course took place by Egypt. When the Sinai desert was under Israel’s control from 1967 until 1982 one could visit there and see where the Jews crossed, I am told. Not anymore. However one can certainly go to the Red Sea, after all that is the beach of Eilat. In fact every year on the 7th day of Pesach, the day that the sea split 3000 years ago the Rabbis of Eilat go down to the red Sea and sing the songs of the splitting of the sea which is pretty awesome. Now although I can’t show you the splitting of the sea, I can show you what a sea that has been dried up looks like. Can you guess where? Yup sadly the Dead Sea is pretty much almost 40 percent gone. Once you pass Masada you pretty much can’t see it anymore, until you get close to the new manmade pools on the bottom that have been trying to put the water back in. Now unlike the splitting of the sea this was not miraculous. This was in fact the negligence of Israel and Jordan as they drained the Jordan River of much of its water for their countries consumption and thus less flowed into the Dead Sea drying it up.
Now besides the splitting of the sea locations of discussion in the museums of Israel one can certainly see remains of ancient Egyptian chariots. And of course in the Music Museum one can even see musical instruments they found there.  Now for the wealth and booty of Egypt, there’s not too many places I can show you that. But we can go to Kfar Kedem for the Talmudic experience and ride on donkeys which the Torah tells us the Jews left Egypt carrying all of the booty that we got there. And that’s lots of fun too!


Hannah comes home from her afternoon out with Arnold looking very unhappy.
"What’s the matter, Hannah?" asks her mother.
"Arnold has asked me to marry him," she replies.
"Mazeltov! But why are you looking so sad?" her mother asks.
"Because he also told me that he was an atheist. He doesn't even believe in Hell."
Her mother then says, "That’s all right Hannah, it really isn’t a problem. I suggest you marry him and then I will show him how wrong he is."  

A priest invites his rabbi friend to join him in the confession booth. A penitent enters on the other side, saying, “Bless me, father, for I have sinned this week.”
“Very well,” the priest replies. “Say three Hail Marys and put $5 in the collection box.”
The next penitent says, “Bless me father, for I have sinned three times this week.”
“Very well,” the priest says. “Say three Hail Marys and put $10 in the collection box.”
At this point, the priest feels the call of nature. “Why don’t you take over for me while I’m in the loo?” he tells his rabbi friend. “You see how it works. Nobody will know the difference.”
Soon another penitent enters the booth. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned twice this week,” she says.
“Go back and sin again,” the rabbi instructs her. “We’ve got a special this week: three sins for $10!”

A Rabbi once traveled to a distant town to speak on the subject of teshuva to the locals. He wanted to get across the point that we all will be called to task in heaven for our actions on this world. He warned, "Everyone in this community is eventually going to die. Therefore you must do teshuva before it is too late."
As his point was taken, he noticed that everyone in the room became somber
except one man who was grinning. The Rabbi wondered why this man wasn't
getting into the proper mood. He decided he should make the point stronger.
"My good townsfolk, you must remember that sooner than you think, you are going to die. At that time you will be called to judgment in the heavenly court. All your sins will be revealed and discussed. It can be a horrific experience. Repent now." As the Rabbi looked around the room he saw people squirming uneasily and looking distressed. But, to the Rabbi's chagrin, he saw that the man who had been grinning was now chuckling.
The Rabbi realized that he was now going to have to pull out all the stops.
"Members of this noble community, you must realize that your lives on this
earth are only temporary - as fleeting as the shadow of a passing bird. Soon
will come the frightening Day of Judgment. You will be brought before the
heavenly tribunal whose judges you cannot bribe or deceive. All your
innermost secrets will be presented and scrutinized by the court. Your
feeble excuses will not work there like they do here. The judgment will be
exacting. Your only chance is to repent now before it is too late." At this
point, everyone in the audience was turning white and trembling with fear.
Everyone appeared as though they were about to faint, excepting the one man
who by now was laughing out loud.
The Rabbi couldn't control himself and he asked the man why he was reacting
this way. The man replied, "Because I am not a member of this community."

Four Jerusalem beggars are driving home one Sunday afternoon when they are involved in a terrible car crash. Unfortunately, none of them survive. When they arrive up in heaven, they are kept waiting to get in because the angel at the gates can’t find them listed in the book of heavenly new arrivals. "I'm sorry," he says to them, "but I can't find you in the book."
So he has no choice but to send them down to Hell.
A week later, God visits the entrance gates and says to the angel, "Where are those nice Jewish beggars who were supposed to be here by now?"
"You mean the fund raisers? I didn't see them listed, so I sent them to Hell," replies the angel.
"You did what?" God says, "I wanted them here. If you don’t want to join them, you’d better call Satan and get them transferred back here right away."
So the angel phones Satan and says, "Satan, you know those Jewish beggars I sent you last week? Well we really need them up here. Could you please send them back?
"Sorry, I can’t oblige," Satan replies, "they've been down here only a week and already they’ve raised $100,000 for an air conditioning system."

Benny’s dog has died and he goes to see his rabbi. "Rabbi, I wonder whether you could find the time to say a special blessing at my dog's grave?"
The rabbi replies, "I'm afraid it isn't possible, Benny. In fact the rules don't really make any allowance for animals."
Benny says, "But I'm really upset, rabbi."
"So maybe you should go to see the Reform rabbi over the road," says the rabbi.
As Benny walks away dejectedly, he turns to the rabbi and says, "What a shame. I was willing to donate £1,000 for such a service."
At which point the rabbi shouts, "Come back, come back."
Benny turns round and says, "I thought you couldn't help me."
"Ah," says the rabbi, "but you didn't tell me your dog was Orthodox."
Answer is C– OK annoying thing about this question. Alters is spelled altars inless your talking about alter-egos or an alter kackers. Which it seems the ministry of tourism who issues this exam are because they refuse to learn English enough to spell things correctly. As well tsfat is spelled Tzfat, safed, Tesfat, Zfat and what else you can think of. Why they cant spell it normal is also annoying. But that’s just me ranting. Anyways I guessed this question correctly. It was definitely Tzfat. I don’t know of any First Temple Tzfat it wasn’t even around then. Beer Sheva and Arad both have one. I wasn’t sure about Tzuba. I never saw archeology there, just a great chocolate shop. So I guessed correctly C Lachish and Beer Sheva. I knew Lachish was Bayis Rishon, but didn’t know of a mizbayach there. Turns out they didn’t find it till 2016, after  I finished the course. And there you go!