Karmiel

Karmiel
Our view of the Galile

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Your Heart Desire- Parshat Teruma 2018 / 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
from
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 16th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 19 1st Adar 5778
Parshat Teruma
Your Heart’s Desire
So it was after a while that I was living in my community in America. With Hashem’s help we had built up a congregation there pretty much from scratch. Actually it was my wife’s chulent that really gets the credit for our growing tribe members coming out of their assimilated woodworks. We were living out where there were not too many religious Jews and yet somehow more and more somehow found their way to our classes and programs. After a while one of the things that I noticed, much to the consternation of my somewhat sheltered upbringing, was that most of the Jews I was bumping into and connecting with were married to non-Jews. I had lived in quite a few communities but yet there it was just wild. Almost everyone I met seemed to have found either a gentile husband or wife to tie the knot with.
 Now, I would reassure these congregants who were really raised pretty ignorant of their Jewish heritage and were making incredible steps in growing in their observance, that I did not believe that at this point in their lives when they were just being introduced to Judaism that Hashem was in anyway looking askance at the fact that they had married out of the faith. God had raised them in a home without religion or any value that there was something significant to marry a Jew. Heck, If wasn’t raised religious I would probably have married a non-Jew as well. However God was wondering why they didn’t come to services last week, or why they ate in McDonalds when the kosher restaurant was across the street, or why they weren’t learning more Torah, or celebrating the holidays they were learning about. And my people accepted it. They grew, they learned, they observed. It was amazing and inspiring.
Interestingly enough, some of them had spouses that ultimately joined them in their Jewish journey and converted.  Other spouses didn’t. In some cases radical things happened, which seemed almost certainly God-sent that led to each one going their separate ways and divorcing. Many that were married to non-Jews even remarried to Jewish spouses afterwards. While other couples remained married navigating the complicated life of one Jewish and one non-Jewish wife In each case the person recognized how Hashem was there for them, like their loving Father slowly assisting them up the ladder to the next rung that they were meant to achieve in their spiritual Jewish journey.
I remember once talking to my Rabbi at the time and mentioning to him how different and new this was for me. I told him that most of my shul was intermarried and yes quite a few of them had either broken up and then found Jewish spouses or alternatively converted. On the other hand there were many that had not. These were not skills and experiences that I had ever really been prepared for in my Rabbinic Yeshiva studies. He told me in words that I will never forget.
“Ephraim, remember Hashem gives each man certain strengths and skills. You can use those talents for good or for bad. So for example if someone has a violent nature he can be a murderer or a thief or on the other hand he can be a mohel(ritual circumcisor) or a shochet (ritutal slaughterer). So Hashem gave you ‘bad-marriage-skills’ so thank god you are using that talent and skill to counsel people that are married outside of the faith…
Bada Boom Bada Bing- Ouch! Thanks Rebs. See, that’s why he’s my Rebbe. He knows how to give it to me, the way I needed it. Straight up. No punches pulled. But with a loving smile and laugh that keeps me strong.

The truth is that is perhaps one of the most powerful lessons that an educator, or parent or mentor can give over to their, student, child or mentee. Hashem gave you a skill a talent a gift. He created you with a purpose that only you can achieve and with the skills that only you can bring to the world. Someone sent me a birthday E-Mail that said. Today is the day that Hashem decided that the world could no longer exist without you. What an incredibly empowering thought. The question though is how do I know and find what my purpose is. What I should become, should I focus my life upon achieving, what I should do when I grow up…

The answer many of our great Rabbis tell us is quite simple. One should study what one’s heart desires. There is a fascinating Talmud that tells us the story of two sages.
(Avoda Zara 19.) The Sages Levi and Rabbi Shimon the son of Rebbi were sitting in front of Rebbi and learning the meaning of certain verses in Tanach from him. When they finished the book they were learning, they each made differing requests regarding what  to learn next. Levi said he wanted to learn Mishlei- the ethical works of Proverbs, and Rabbi Shimon the son of Rebbi asked for Tehillim- Psalms- with a foucus on impriving ones prayers.
 Somehow, Levi was overruled, and efer Tehillim was brought for them to learn. When they reached the second verse —Psalms (1:2) “But his desire is in the Torah of G-d” — Rebbi expounded it to be teaching that “A person learns Torah only from a place that his heart desires.” Upon hearing this, Levi said, “Rebbi, with this teaching you have given me permission to stand up (from learning Tehillim, and to learn Mishlei instead, as I desire).” 
Perhaps one of the most incredible things about our Torah is that there is so many different areas of it study and every Jew will have his area that is connected to his soul and that is what he is meant to learn. This principle, is one of the most essential ones in personal growth for an individual. Now I imagine most of you are nodding your heads at this. You agree. It speaks to you. Learn what your heart desires. Learn what inspires you. The problem is though… this really flies in the face of having a school system where everybody pretty much is being made to learn the same thing. It is the opposite of a system, which pretty much tells every Jewish kid, you have to learn Talmud. Just learning ethics all day, or Chumash, or Midrash that’s for babies. Real men innovate, learn, spending their days and nights trying to plumb greater and greater depths in their study. Yeah that’s a problem. Because what if that’s not what “his heart desires”.
I have a confession to make for about four years after moving to Israel, I barely cracked a Talmud. I was busy, I was running around, I was settling, and in depth Talmudic study wasn’t speaking to me anymore. The truth is it hadn’t spoken to me for years. Pretty much since a few years after got married. Don’t get me wrong. It once did. I loved the arguing the appreciating the fine differences in the nuance of the text, the logic behind the different opinions of the Rabbis. It was awesome, challenging and exhilarating and I reveled in it. Yet once I got married I wanted to explore something new. The old way of study tired me. It didn’t give me the same life anymore. So I began focusing more on Jewish law- Halacha. It was no longer hypothetical arguments it was real. It was following the process of Jewish law from Sinai through the ages until modern day response. It was powerful. It was inspiring to see three thousand years of Jewish scholarship shedding light on modern day legal and ethical dilemmas. And that pretty much was my study while I was in the States.
Now of course in the States I also studied ethics, Textual Torah insights, history, even mysticism and other areas of Jewish life, but that was work. See I had to give classes and that was the material that I gave classes on. Most of my students were not looking for either Talmud or Halachic discourses. But once I moved to Israel, the Halacha thing wasn’t speaking to me so much anymore. Neither was the plain Talmud thing. So I began to study the Torah and its commentaries. Appreciating the text the weekly parsha and its different insights. As well I started studying Midrash more, some Chasidic insights, some of the philosophical works. It was a whole new world. One that I didn’t have the “guts” to pursue while in America, in a system perhaps where it is all about the Talmud. It was truly enjoyable. Here I felt the freedom to learn more of what my heart desired.
It’s interesting how things have changed. This past year and half, I’ve kind of started missing my Talmud. It’s been a long time my old friend. I wanted to see you again. So I started once again my Talmud study. I’m back in the game and better than ever. I sowed my wild spiritual oats so to speak. That’s what Torah study is all about.
This week’s Torah portion.- you were waiting for those words until now weren’t you- discusses the building of the Tabernacle. Our sages see in the opening words of the portion exactly that lesson for life.
Shemot (25:2) Speak to the children of Israel and take for me an offering from every man who’s heart shall contribute you shall take my offering.
Each person, each individual has a personal contribution that only he or she can make. That we are meant to be bring up to Hashem for His name. How do I know what that gift is? Form each person what their heart contribuites. What your heart desires, what it is drawn to. That is your strength, that is the inclination and gift that you should channel and bring up to the Almighty.

The great philosophical work Chovot Halevavot says that this concept applies not only in the area of study but in what one chooses to dedicate their life to. There are some Jews who are more drawn to community service, to hospitality, to charity work, to outreach. There are others for whom prayer, devotion, meditation have more meaning than studying. Some enjoy cooking, some join volunteer ambulance services, other visit the sick, while others focus on raising their families their children and instilling them with a connection to their heritage. We have soldiers, doctors, advocates even tour guides and Rabbis. We each have our gift that we can bring up.
In the words of the Chovot Halevavot
Each man was created with an inclination and desire for a particular area or business over another. Because Hashem has given him that proclivity. He did this with every animal as well, each one has its own nature. For example a cat’s nature is to hunt mice (I don’t think this is true for Israeli cats, I think they just eat garbage, every time I open a can one jumps out).  Hawks eat birds (I didn’t know this, but google says it so it must be true.). other birds eat fish.
As well Hashem formed each one of them in a specific way so that their limbs and their body shape can best realize the way they are meant to survive and provide for themselves. Fish-eating birds have long legs and long beaks to scoop up the fish with. Lions and other carnivores have sharp teeth and claws, whereas animals that are herbiovres don’t have these. Similarly human beings. Each one is built in certain ways and each one has innate inclinations to the ways that he will ultimately provide for himself. He should not try to hide or be embarrassed from it, for that is his calling
We enter the month of Adar today. It is the last month on the Jewish calendar year. It is the month that closes out the winter and heralds in the spring and renewal of Pesach. It is a time for reflection. Are we doing what our heart desires? If we are then we should feel the joy of Adar overwhelming us. For that is the key to rebuilding the Temple. May we celebrate it soon this coming month.

Have an increasingly happy and ecstatic Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK

“Ver es hot lib di melocheh iz im leicht di melocheh”- He who likes his work, to him work comes easy
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email

Q  The following were the first to break into the old city of Jerusalem in the Six Day War:
A. The Har’el and the Jerusalem Brigade
B. The Paratroopers and the Jerusalem Brigade
C. The tank reconnaissance and the Har’el Brigade
D. The Paratroopers and Golani Brigade

RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/techelet-mordechai  - In honor of Chodesh Adar my latest fun composition Techelet Mordechai- the Next big Jewish Purim hit!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEmIDlMuXsI  - Simcha Leiner cool new video Naavor Gam Et Zeh- Bonus points for my tourists who can say where this was filmed

https://youtu.be/0IBgZH0dHGA   – Matana Tova- fun song for Shabbos by SY Rechnitz

https://youtu.be/h6PNGrn0psM   – Kinderlach Purim medley Awesome play again and again and again

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S HAFTORA CONNECTION OF THE WEEK

Some Haftorahs are just plain easy to pick out. This week for instance our Torah portion discusses the building and collection for the Mishkan- the Tabernacle so of course the Haftorah will be the one that discusses its Nevi’im counterpart which is Shlomo’s Temple and the collection for that. Now there are of course differences. The Temple our Haftorah tells us was built with a covenant and partnership with Hiram the King of Tzur, which is Lebanon. Meaning it was built with gentile money. Our sages tell us that is the reason it was not eternal. The Mishkan on the other hand was entirely Jewish built as such it could never be destroyed and in fact Jewish tradition is that they were hidden away.
Another difference between the two is that the Temple of Shlomo involved heavy taxation and mandatory giving and labor as described in our Haftorah, the Tabernacle was a volunteer system. However the one common denominator is that we are told that the Shechina resides in both of them however that will depend on us fulfilling the mitzvos.
King Shlomo (848-796 BC) He was a mere 12 years old when he became King and he was the smartest of all men. The verses tell us that he composed 3,000 parables, and 1,005 poems. He understood the languages of the trees, animals, birds, creeping things and fish. Men of all nations came to hear Solomon's wisdom, as did all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom. This wisdom is also reminiscent of Betzlael who built the Tabernacle and granted extra wisdom. It seems to build the House that would be the place where we raise up this world to the heavens one has to be familiar with the spiritual nature of this world.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERA’S AND THEIR PLACES AND PEOPLE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK

Mt. Seir and Edom- It is interesting how when we come to Israel today we appreciate it all as Israel however a good portion of our country is not biblical Israel although it certainly is biblical. Our Southern biblical border ends near Beer Sheva the Negev from Maale Akrabim down was not part of biblical Israel. Meaning the Tzin wilderness they wandered in which is today in Israel was not back then. Now our brother Esau was promised the land of Edom and Mt. Seir, there is a dispute amongst biblical archeologists where that area is. Most associate it with the Eastern side of the Arava Valley in Jordan and the Mountains there north of Eilat. Although Rashi in the Torah seems to suggest that it is located in the South of Israel as well in the Negev, some even associate Mt. Karkum south Mitzpe Ramon as being Mt. Seir. It is interesting that many look towards Petra with its Red Rocks as being the Edom-which means red and state that it was named that after the rocks. The Navi Ovadia tells us that ultimately the Negev will inherit the Har Esau…that is the first part of the nevua that many are familiar with Valu moshi’im B’Har Tzion Lishpot et Har Esau, Vhayta La’Hashem Hamelucha… Just as we fulfilled the first part of the prophecy let us fulfill the second part.

RABBI SCHWARTZES TOP WORK QUOTES OF THE WEEK

My doctor told me I needed to break a sweat once a day so I told him I'd start lying to my wife.

My first job was being a diesel fitter at a pantyhose factory. As they came off the line, I would hold them up and say, "yeah, Deez-el fit her."

The best time to start thinking about your retirement is before the boss does.

I refused to believe my road worker father was stealing from his job, but when I got home, all the signs were there.
When my boss asked me who is the stupid one, me or him? I told him everyone knows he doesn't hire stupid people.
I always wanted to marry an Archeologist. The older I would get, the more interested she would become!

Team work is important; it helps to put the blame on someone else
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S TERRIBLE WORK JOKES OF THE WEEK

One day an auto mechanic was working under a car and some brake fluid accidentally dripped into his mouth. "Wow," he thought, "This stuff tastes good!"
The next day he told a friend about his amazing discovery: "I think I'll have a little more today." His friend was concerned but didn't say anything. 
The next day the mechanic drank a whole bottle of brake fluid. A few days later he was up to several bottles a day, now his friend was really worried.
"Don't you know brake fluid is toxic?" said the friend. "You'd better stop drinking it."
"Hey, no problem," the mechanic said. "I can stop any time."

A young man with his pants hanging half way down, two gold front teeth, and a half inch thick gold chain around his neck; walked into the local welfare office to pick up his check.
He marched up to the counter and said, "Hi. You know, I just HATE drawing welfare. I'd really rather have a job.. I don't like taking advantage of the system, getting something for nothing."
 The social worker behind the counter said "Your timing is excellent. We Just got a job opening from a very wealthy old man who wants a chauffeur and bodyguard for his beautiful daughter. You'll have to drive around in his 2013 Mercedes-Benz CL, and he will supply all of your clothes."
"Because of The long hours, meals will be provided you'll also be expected to escort the daughter on her overseas holiday trips. 
The guy, just plain wide-eyed, said, "You're kiddin me!"
The social worker said, "Yeah, well... You started it."

The Jewish Chronicle had heard that Benjy was coming up to his 108th birthday so they sent one of their reporters to interview him.
"How do you account for your longevity?" asked the reporter.
"You could say that I am a health nut," Benjy answered. "I have never smoked or drunk alcohol, I am always in bed by ten o'clock, I’ve been going to Israeli dance classes since I was a teenager and I've always walked three miles a day, even in rain or snow."
"But," said the reporter, "my uncle Shlomo followed exactly the same routine and he died when he was 70. So how come it didn't work for him?"
"All I can say," replied Benjy, "is that he didn't keep it up long enough." 

Hymie, a wealthy American, retires to England and buys a fabulous English country home with over 50 rooms. He brings in a local workman to decorate the place.
When the job is finished Hymie is delighted but soon after realises that he's forgotten something. There are no mezuzahs on the doors.
He immediately goes out and buys 50 kosher mezuzot and asks the decorator to place them on the right hand side of each door except on the bathrooms. He's worried that the decorator won't put them up correctly.
However, the job is carried out entirely to his satisfaction and so he gives the workman an extra bonus. As the decorator is walking out of the door he says "Glad you're happy with the job mate. By the way, I took out all the guarantees that were in those little boxes and left them on the table for you."  

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Answer is B – This one wasn’t so simple. Meaning I didn’t know the answer but I was able to guess it correctly based on process of deduction. See I knew it was Paratroopers. Everyone knows it was paratroopers. It’s the famous picture of Motta Gur by the wall “Har Habayit B’Yadeinu”. Yet I wasn’t sure who the second group was. But since there was only one other choice with the Paratroopers, I went with Jerusalem brigade, actually not because it’s called Jerusalem brigade, but because the Golani I knew was mostly up in the north against Syria. And whadaya know that was the right answer.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Story Time -Parshat Mishpatim 2018 /5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
from
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 9th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 18 24th Shvat 5778
Parshat Mishpatim/ Shekalim
Story Time
As readers of my weekly E-Mail, now perhaps one of my favorite hobbies as a child growing up was reading. I loved to read. It was an easy hobby to have. I didn’t have to run around. I didn’t have to jump up and down, throw a ball or even break a sweat. I could even eat while I was engaging in this important past time. Each week my mother would take me to the library and I would take out like 10 books and just read read read. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer always was a librarian. They had the perfect job. Surrounded by books they could just tell people to be quiet and refer them good books to read, to share their love and knowledge of books with them. My second choice as I got older was to be the guy that sells books in the book store- same concept, pretty much. Except I figured that I could actually make a commission on my advice of which books people bought and read. See I was a bit of a capitalist as well.
It’s one of the things I would say that I miss most in my life and look forward to catching up on in my retirement- in another million years or so unless I win a lottery- reading all the tons of books that I have bought because I couldn’t resist, but have yet to find the time to open. Ahhh those days were the best. Just becoming engrossed in a story, transporting yourself through the pages to a different time, a different place, a world of ideas. It’s incredible what reading can do for you. You escape from this world and are totally in your mind. Nothing else is around you. It’s just you and your book.
Now I got my reading career started, probably when my parents would read to me as a child. I would look at the pictures and the stories would come to life. As I grew older, I graduated to reading comic books. Each Sunday Morning we would get the Sunday funnies in our newspaper and I would tear through them. From there we graduated to comic books, to word books, short stories, Encyclopedia Brown and Hardy Boy mysteries and then of course to larger and larger novels and stories.  There weren’t many Jewish books back then Marcus Lehman and the Golem and the Dybbuk were the few that were even close. This was pre- Artscroll. Upon going to yeshiva I started for the first time reading what had become a new Jewish genre-the Rabbi Biography books. It was non-fiction, at least it was presented as such, although after a while some of these Rabbi stories just seemed too wild to fathom. But that started me on Non-fiction books, history books… learning about the “real world” not just the fictional one. If Jewish meant being a people of the book, then there was no question I was a member of the tribe. My hobby had been revealed to being a religious identity. Being Jewish meant being able to escape into the mind and expanding it via reading.
The truth is though the Jewish people were never called a people of “a” book. We are a people of “the” Book. That’s the book with a capital B. We are a people of one book in particular, the Torah. Now don’t’ get me wrong, the Torah has plenty of books to it. The five books of Moshe, the books of the prophets and scripture. We have the 6 books of the Mishna which is the oral law that was never in fact meant to be written down- but you know us Rabbis we can’t stop writing or speaking. And if no one is going to listen to our speeches then we will just write them out there for posterity. {Now you see where my inspiration comes from…} We have the Talmud that is an elaboration of that and works on the Talmud and works of Jewish law, philosophy, ethics, we have response, we have insights and compendiums on every nuance of behavior and idea possible. And remarkably it is all Torah. It all goes back to Sinai. It was born there and it carries on until today. There is nothing like our people and our Book. So besides being a nation of readers we have become a nation of writers. The People of the pen.
Now besides reading and writing books, the Jewish people have taken it a step further we have become a nation that doesn’t only read and write but we study. It is our national pastime. Not baseball, not football, not making money, not eating Falafel or even talking politics. The Jewish pastime is studying Torah. Sitting in front of a book with ancient words on it, usually on some obscure topic, like oxen goring, levirate marriages, ancient planting techniques, or temple services and examining, questioning arguing, cross referencing and comparing texts and generally trying to cover ground and making it through the text through critical examination in order to either review it again afterwards or begin another one. Pretty wild isn’t it? But this is what 10’s of thousands of Jews do each day. In Israel, in America, across the globe in every Jewish Torah community. This is true for Modern Orthodox people, religious Zionists, Chariedi and Chasdic Jews. It is the education in every traditional Jewish elementary and high School and the function of the education if you ask any educator is to develop a love, a need, a habit an addiction almost to studying. Not everyone will find their satisfaction in Talmud. Some might be more halachically-legally oriented while others might prefer Chumash, the texts, the narratives or the messages of our sages in the Midrash. There are of course your “greaseballs” as we called them in yeshiva-although in today’s world they might be called the self-help genre that find themselves drawn to the Mussar ethical works that inspire them to refine their character traits and there are others might find their soul connecting to the more esoteric and Chasidic mystical works. But the common denominator between everyone is, that there is this inner longing and soul that knows that will only find its completion and satisfaction in “The Book” and its study.
Where does that longing come from? I believe the answer can come from this week’s Torah portion. See last week we read the story of the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Torah and Sinai. This week begins with the word “And” never a proper grammatical word to being a parsha with (although the Torah seems to use it a lot). Rashi notes this is a continuation of the previous parsha.
Rashi Shemot (21:1) And these are the laws that you shall place before them- Just as the first ones were from Sinai- these as well were from Sinai
Meaning that our portion which lists 10’s of commandments, 53 to be precise, almost ten percent of the total commandments is an elaboration of the Sinai experience. What’s interesting though is that the end of Parsha seems to revert back to that story of last week and tells the story of what happened at Sinai again with a bit of a different take. Rather than recounting the thunder, the lightning and the word of Hashem. This week the Parsha tells us about Moshe bringing sacrifices, sprinkling blood on the people, establishing 12 different altars for each of the tribes. As well it tells us a story of the leaders feasting afterwards. We see them having an image of the throne of Hashem and the sapphire bricks underneath it. It’s a strange depiction and it begs the question or questions. What changes? Why these two different stories? Why not put them together? Why is it divided up by the various laws and mitzvos? What’s going on?
The answer is that last week we had the big reveal, we stood as one nation with one heart. We became eternal. We became the people of the Book. This week though the Torah tells us that although the Ten Commandments may encapsulate it all, but each mitzva, each command will have a book within itself. Each mitzva, each law will have a personal area that you will be able to find your story in. The Parsha is beautiful that incorporates every single area of Jewish life, law and insight. There are slaves, there are family laws, marriage ideas, charity, social contracts, holidays, Shabbat, Temple, agricultural law as, even midrashic accounts and stories of angels bringing us into the land of Israel and rituals of blood sprinkling and sacrifices. It’s amazing there is not a topic or an area of learning that is not here in order that every Jew can find his place, his book of interest in this Parsha. It is spread out for us like a set- table. Like peanut butter and Jelly on rye or matza as my wife prefers its. This Parsha moves us from Sinai becoming a people of the Book to each one of us becoming a Person of the Book.

But it gets even more beautiful. See the first mitzva of the Parsha is the story of an individual who had stolen and was sold into slavery for his debt. After the 6 years maximum of his slavery he decides that he wants to stay. He’s not ready to leave. He loves his wife, he loves his kids and his cushy life. So the Torah tells us that he should be taken to a doorpost and his ear should be poked a hole into it, then he remains in slavery until yovel- the 50th year jubilee.
Rashi notes ours sages statement that this bizarre punishment that his ear has a hole bored into it is because
Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai said this ear that heard on Sinai do not steal and went and stole should be bored. Or if he sold himself into slavery this ear that heard that ‘the children of Israel are my slaves- and he went and sold himself should be bored”
The question though is that seemingly it was the hand that stole, shouldn’t it be punished? Or the feet that went to sell himself, or the mouth that decided to ask to remain a slave? Why the ears?
So Rebbe Tzadok of Lublin notes as well something interesting, it is in this weeks portion that we see the words naaseh v’nishma- we will do and we will hear. Although one might have thought that this would be more appropriate in last week initial Torah Revelation narrative. He explains that naaseh v’nishma means that not only will we fulfill the commandments, but we will continue to hear the eternal voice that comes from Sinai. When Hashem gave the Torah it says it was a
Devarim (5:19) These words Hashem spoke to your gathering in the Mountain from within the fire, the cloud, the thick darkeness- a voice that did not end…
It was a voice that was eternal. It was a voice that calls out until today. The Jewish people vowed by Sinai that not only will we observe the Torah but we will always hear that voice that is coming from Sinai. It will continue to inspire us and it will always be there to remind and speak to us. Rebbi Tzadok explains that is the reason the ear is pierced. For if one were listening properly you could hear that voice still today. It is in your soul. It is calling to you to read your book. It is in fact reading to you from that book as it did over 3000 years ago by that Mountain. Each mitzva, each story, each part of the Torah, from the slave, the widow, the thief, the oxe, the dog, the first fruits and our temple and its angels. They are all being called out and read to us today by the Master Story reader. We just need to open our ears to hear it. If you stole, it’s not your hands fault, it’s not your feet or mouths fault that you sold yourself. It’s your ears. They stopped hearing the call to read the book. Open them up and get back to our story.
 Has this E-mail inspired you to crack that book, any book? I hope so. See because one day I’m gonna be a librarian or a book salesman. Maybe when I retire. In the meantime though maybe Hashem’s call will have to be enough. Although it will certainly be a hard act to follow.

Have a joyous Shabbos Mevorchim Adar,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK

“Der yam iz on a breg — di toyre iz on an ek.”- The sea has no shore — the Torah has no end.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
 Q:  The accepted etiquette in a church is:
a. Not to enter with sandals
b. To remove head covers (hats)
c. Not to cross your legs
d. Answers b. and c. are correct

RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

https://youtu.be/z1EkB-5c0UA - The Amazing Kosher Half-Time show this past week during the Superbowl with Ohad and Meir Kay!

https://youtu.be/tMqFKcgM8-I   - Shas A Thon- This is cool Someone just told me about this Torah Marathon for this great organization…cool!

https://youtu.be/D9tP9fI2zbE  – The Library Cop Seinfeld Classic!

https://youtu.be/J2dGSptIweU  – Mishenichnas Adar Eitan Katz Pey DAled start getting in the moon

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S HAFTORA CONNECTION OF THE WEEK

This week we have a special haftorah reading as this week begins the first of the four supplemental parshiyot that surround Purim and precede Pesach. The first Shekalim, this week was read in order to remind the Jewish people to begin to bring their money to the Temple to contribute for daily offering that would be paid for by the half shekel contribution of each person. So for Maftir we read the portion of Ki Tisa that reminds people of this mitzva. The haftora though which doesn’t describe the mitzva of shekalim is perhaps more appropriate in how we can fulfill this mitzva even when there is no Temple and no sacrifice. It is the portion from the Book of Melachim that describes the action of Yehoash the King of Judah who established the first Pushka in the Jewish world. The Kohanim were originally allowed to keep the money that would be brought in and then they would pay for the repairs and upkeep of the Temple. Yet there were problems thejob wasn’t getting done and the Tample started to go to pot… So instead Yehoash put up Pushkas where the money would go directly to the workers that would fix the Temple. He cut out the middle Kohen man. And thus the Pushka was born.
The eternal message of this Haftora read the week that we bless the month of Adar and begin to be marbin B’simcha- increasing our joy, is that charity is the impetus to accomplish this. We may not have the Temple but we can still support the upkeep of our Mini-Temples. That is the way we start to prepare for our holiday of Joy.

The prophet Yehoyada (980-850 BC)– Our sages tell us that the Prophet Yehoyada would have been even greater than Aharon the High Priest had he lived in his generation this great prophet really saved much of the Jewish people when he hid the King Yoash as a baby when the previous wicked Queen Atahliya was killing out his whole family. He established Yoash as king- at age 7 and heralded in a major Teshuva era with his kingship. Sadly after his death Yoash lost it and in fact killed Yehoyadas child Zecharia ben Yehoyada in the Temple. We remember that sin on Tisha B’av when we talk about the destruction.  

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERA’S AND THEIR PLACES AND PEOPLE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK

Rachel’s Tomb 1550BC- Where is the tomb of Rachel? Most people would seem to say that is quite obvious right outside of modern day Beit Lechem where it says here tomb is. The truth is upon looking at the sources it might seem not so simple. On the one hand the Torah tells us that Rachel died on the way to Efrat which is Beit Lechem. In the South of Jerusalem. On the other hand in the book of Shmuel it mentions that the tomb of Rachel is on the border of the tribe of Binyamin which would put it in the North of Jeursalem. As well the Midrash notes that Rachel was buried ther to cry for her children when they would be exiled from Jerusalem by Nevuchadnezzar. If that were true then she would be in the North of Jerusalem as that is the direction they were exiled- not South. So there are those that place it near Har Choma in the North of Jerusalem. Earliest sources for our location of Kever Rachel are Christian interestingly enough that mention the tomb there. We have some of the Rishonim and early journeyers to Eretz Yisrael that describe the building as having 12 stones according to the tribes of Israel that were established there and how visitors would write their names on the walls.
The Ramban- Nachmanides is perhaps most interesting in where he originally felt it was in the North of Jerusalem but upon coming to Israel and visiting the site, he changed his mind. Maybe he felt her spirit. Regardless Kever Rachel today is certainly one of he most holy places to pray in Israel. I always like to point out to people that Rachel is buried there to pray for the redemption. That is what she is crying for. It is therefore only appropriate that when we come ther to pray for whatever it is that we daven for, that we as well pray for the GEula, the redemption, Mashiach and the return of our people to our home. That is what the Mama is crying for, shouldn’t we….

RABBI SCHWARTZ’S TERRIBLE BOOK JOKES OF THE WEEK

Librarian: can I check you out?
Me: sure [spins around]
Librarian: I meant your book
Me: oh yea, that makes way more sense.

Why are first books afraid of their sequels? Because they always come after them

Why did the Romanian stop reading for the night? To give his Bucharest.

What's the best thing to read in the woods? POETREE..

What do you call Tom Sawyer's friend after he lost a lot of weight? Huckleberry Thin

Why does an elephant use her trunk as a bookmark?– Then she NOSE where she stopped reading!

What do planets like to read? – Comet books.

Why was the dinosaur afraid to go to the library? – His books were 65 million years overdue.

What do librarians take fishing?– Bookworms!

Why didn’t the burglar break into the library?– He was afraid he’d get a long sentence!


Top Funny Book Quotes

I just got out of the hospital. I was in a speed reading contest. I hit a bookmark. - Stephen Wright

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.- P.J. O’Rourke

Sure reading a book under a tree is peaceful but imagine how stressful it is for the tree to see a bunch of it's dead friends in your hand.

I heard that Amazon has started a program to try to get people to trade in their old bound books to get an electronic reader. They call it “Kindling.”
If someone says they just love the smell of books, I always want to pull them aside and be like, to be clear, do you know how reading works
I’ve been reading a book on antigravity. It’s so good I can’t put it down.
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S SHABBOS CARTOON OF THE WEEK
             


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Answer is D – Now I wasn’t totally positive about this but I guessed right. See I knew about the uncovered heads thing. In fact, it’s quite strange how I knew that. See in Virginia there was reform synagogue and the rule there used to be that it was prohibited to wear a Kippa in the synagogue. There was a new cantor there, a friend of mine, Jennifer. She refused to lead the services without a Kippa. She almost lost her job for this. The synagogue rule was established because the original reform was imitating churches. And just as churches one had to be bare-headed in synagogues as well. Now- I told her that she should say that women were always allowed to cover their heads in churches and she should be permitted to according to the original takana… But anyways. I wasn’t sure about the crossing the legs thing. But it sounded familiar and in fact it is a no-no to do in church as well. Now it is bad Jewish ettiquite, as well as halachically problematic, if not forbidden to go into a church, or any house of idolatry but that’s not a question I think they would ask..

Friday, February 2, 2018

Field of Songs- Parshat Yisro/ Tu BiShvat 2018/ 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
from
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 2nd 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 17 17th Shvat 5778

Parshat Yisro/ Tu B’Shvat
Field of Songs

One with nature. I learned that term when I was in Seattle. It’s what people there like to do. They don’t have family vacations. Truth is they really don’t do the family thing much in Seattle as well. Lots of lonely people, working in Microsoft, Amazon, or Boeing behind computers all day. They do have lots of virtual “Friends” though. Lots of people “like” each other. Once in a while they even get a “poke” from them. But those types of relationships don’t generally lead to high birthrates. So people go on vacation by themselves. I always that was a bit strange. I mean what type of vacation is it without everybody yelling at each other in the back seat, people getting car sick, and having to go to the bathroom right after we just went. How is this special family occasion going to accomplish its essential goal of reminding everyone why we make friends outside of the family and don’t spend a lot of time with one another, if you are doing it all alone?  How is a trip by yourself going to inspire your children to get married and move out of the house as soon as possible? Anyways that was my feeling back then. I’ve changed since then. I like to go off by my own now. It’s nice, it’s peaceful, it’s rejuvenating and you know what maybe it’s even re-Jew-venating as well.
Now I’m not saying this because I just picked up my wife from the airport from here alone week in New York, and noticed how rejuvenated she looked. Or even because I myself came back a few weeks ago from my trip and appreciated that alone time in LA. Because a trip alone to America can be rejuvenating, it certainly can be fattening, although your walled does weigh less when you come home. I don’t really think it is re-Jew-venating. It doesn’t really do anything for my soul, unless you count really longing to get back to Eretz Yisrael and the feeling I have of being  thankful that I don’t have to live outside of Hashem’s chosen and holy land anymore. Unlike all those unfortunate Jews that are stuck in the Diaspora. You know kind of the feeling that my Rabbis in elementary school would describe their experience of coming back from visiting the “Iron Curtain” of Soviet Russia, back in the 80’s and the unfortunate Jews that were tragically stuck there. No America really doesn’t spiritually uplift me on a trip there on my own. But a little hike here in Eretz Yisrael. A walk amongst the trees, amongst the hills, between the plants, through the streams and high up in the mountains. Not too many things can get more spiritual than that. I can just sit there on a rock, or under a tree in a field and listen to the breeze, look out at the beauty of Hashem’s land, I can watch the sheep or cows grazing and marvel at this incredible universe Hashem has created for me. And if I listen really close, I can even hear the music. The song of the trees, the song, of the field, the song of the shepherd.
Do you know about the song of the fields? Have you ever heard it? Let me tell you about it. Or better yet, let me quote you from the great Rebbe Nachman of Breslav who revealed to us this idea and song. See, Rebbe Nachman was very big into hisbodidus- or seclusion and meditation. He and his students would go alone into the field and meditate. They would think, they would pray, they would clear their heads from all the noise of the world and open up to the song of the field. This practice is still done by many Breslavers today. One of the things that Rebbe Nachman would suggest one can appreciate while meditating is the song of the shepherd and the field.
Know that each shepherd has a special song according to each of the plants and according to each place that he shepherds. For every animal has its own special plant and that it is meant to eat. As well, he doesn’t graze in one particular area. And according to each plant and each place he grazes, he has a special song.  Because each plant, each growing thing has its own song. And from those songs the song of the shepherd is formed.”
He notes that it is for this reason when the Torah back in Bereishit notes that Yuval was the father of all shepherds it mentions that he was the one that came up with musical instruments as well. Music and fields. Music and trees. The song within each one of us. That is the job of the shepherd and the experience of being alone and listening to the field. He even explains much deeper that the shepherd sings this song he gives power to the trees and the plants to provide for the animals. Even more significantly this really separates him from the animals that he is watching. For- to paraphrase the Rebbe- If you hang around with animals all day, you might become one of them. The song however, which comes from that inner spirit of Hashem, is what separates us from them. Our song uplifts the world. Their moooos, or baaaaas is the physical earthly mortal song that we are meant to uplift and direct.
I’ve been thinking about this song this week, not only because we celebrated the holiday of Tu B’shvat this past week and which is generally this parsha- the week in between Yisro the giving of the Torah and last week, the parsha of the song of the Sea. But also because whenever I read the parsha of the giving of the Torah, my mind goes to the holiday of Shavuot almost 4 months away from now and I picture the leaves, the flowers, the greenery that we place around our shuls and our homes in honor of the holiday and to remember when we stood at Sinai. There is a connection between the field and the trees and the Torah and us. I think it is all about the song.
It is interesting to note that each morning when we make a blessing on the Torah the blessing we say is
Asher natan lanu torat emet vchayei olam nata bitocheinu baruch ata Hashem notein ha’torah-  Blessed are you Hashem who gave us the Torah of truth and eternal life planted within us, blessed are you Hashem Who gives the Torah.
So we mention the giving of the Torah as if it planted something within us. This is really not a coincidence, I believe. In fact one of the things that I ask my tourists many times, is why in the Torah does it say Hashem created Man. Of course many of them give me many spiritual anwers that it states in the many philosophical or ethical works that they have been indoctrinated in. But then I repeat my question. Why in the Torah itself does it say Hashem created man.; In the actual text. The answer is because Hashem needed a gardener. Look at the verses.

“Bereshit (2:7) And Hashem- Elokim formed man earth from the ground and blew within him the soul of life and man was a living being.
And Hashem-Elokim planted a garden in Eden and he placed man in the garden which he formed.
The verses continue with the tree of life and knowledge and the rivers that flow out of Eden and then it says
Ibid (2:15) And Hashem-Elokim took man and put him in the garden to work it and protect it.
It is interesting to note that in the first chapter when the Torah describes Creation it only mention Elokim creating the world. That is the term of judgement. That is the standard term for god. On the other hand when it comes to creating the garden and man it describes Hashem as Hashem Elokim- the God of mercy, of eternality, the Jewish concept of God. As well as opposed to all other Creations that were created through speech, man and the garden and the trees in ti are formed. Man and tree, man and the garden. Our job was to go into the field and to raise it up. To find its song. To understand that each tree has its place and its time. To study from the tree of life. To avoid the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Rebbe Nachman explains, that when the snake tempts Eve and tells her to eat from that forbidden tree of knowledge, he tells her that on the day she will eat she will be
Ibid (3:5) “like God who knows good and evil”
What was their knowledge before the tree, Rebbe Nachman asks? He answers that before eating from the tree they didn’t have knowledge of good and evil. It wasn’t an academic course that needed to be learned. It was a reality. It was something that they felt inherently. Like we see blue and green. We don’t know it we experience it. Upon eating we became Good-ologues and Evil-ologues we can write 50 page treatises on the moral imperatives of some things and argue the immoral and unethical tenets of another. But we don’t’ have the gi’feel, as they say in Yiddish, for it anymore. We don’t hear the music or song of it. It’s just intellectual.
We lost the Garden of Eden. We were exiled from the garden and for 2000 years we wandered until we came to Sinai, to that place where we were once again given the Tree of life. Our Torah. The Torah is called a Shira at the end of the Torah, by our shepherd Moshe who gave it to us. He understood that the Torah is the way that we can understand our personal place in this world, our personal song that only we can sing. The right trees and plants that will nurture us. It is the eternal world that Hashem has planted within us. That can uplift the earthliness and animal within us. We decorate our synagogues on Shavuot to recall that song of the field; of the mountain.
This past week was the Rosh Hashana for the trees. Man as well, the Torah tells us is compared to a tree. Trees are different than fields and plants. When one plants a tree they put in a little seed, and unlike wheat, barley and other grains that pretty much produce little seeds that we use.  A tree produces fruit. A fruit is very different than the seed that is planted. It has flourished into a much greater, refined, perfect and tasty treat. It has lifted itself off the ground. It waves high in the air. Its song is soaring to the heavens. I look out at the beautiful trees here in the Galil, as I sit here on my own and I listen to their song as their waves blow in the wind. I begin to hear my own song stirring. The song that our shepherd, Moshe, sang for me as I stood under that mountain and looked up and heard Hashem blow that spirit of life into my tree. I await the day when soon the entire world will hear that song of the field and together the world will sing in one big symphony to our Creator.

Have a symphonious serene Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK

“Fun fartrikenteh baimer kumen kain paires nit arois.!”- No fruit falls from withered trees
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email

Q  The term “Dhimmi” in Islam means:
A. Dancing/whirling dervish
B. People of the Jahiliyya period
C. Heretics
D. Non Muslim citizens of an Islamic state


RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

https://youtu.be/q0ymyhxOJHA    - The awesome Abie Rottenberg classic “Little Kite” remade- thumbs up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx9k6zJjQmA  - The song of the grass Avraham Fried

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7_Gmax_yfw – National Tree of the year of 2017 of Europe saved Jews

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2LMLWn_7ok – Simcha Leiner Naaseh Vnishma

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S HAFTORA CONNECTION OF THE WEEK

As in last week’s Haftorah this one has different Sephardic and Ashkenazic readings. However as opposed to last week where the Ashkenazim started earlier then the Sefardim, this week we both start together the Ashkenazim just continue on to the next chapter. Now the first part of the Haftora can easily be realized in its connection to our parsha but that is only if we look at it on the surface. What I mean is that just as the Jews by Sinai saw the Hashem, in our Haftora Yeshaya Hanavi describes his first prophecy where he sees Hashem sitting on his throne with angels- seraphim around him reciting Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh. Now I say that this is only a surface connection for the rest of the Haftora describes the inadequacy that Yeshaya feels for being impure, yet at the same time taking up the role to bring the message to the Jewish people of his time that the land and the temple will be destroyed. That it seems that despite all their senses they have become fattened and will be wiped out. The Haftora concludes that a tenth will remain and will return like a tree stump that still has life. So I guess that is a positive enough of a note for the Sefardim to end their reading by. Now seemingly this part of the haftorah does not have much to do with the parsha. Yet the truth is the parsha really contains more than the vision of Hashem. It is parshat Yisro that talks about Yisro a priest for idolatry that is inspired to return to Hashem and the court system he recommends setting up. The inspiration for Yisro is the reward and punishment he sees that happens to the Egyptians and the battle of Amalek which would seem to suggest that there is power in our hands to fight as well. This is the dual nature of the Jewish people. On one hand we know we are eternal like the Hashem and His throne. On the other hand we are subject to consequences for our actions that will lead to our punishment, but will never obliterate us.
The Ashkenazim continue on that theme perhaps with the next chapter where the King Ahaz who is a wicked King is reassured that he will survive the attack by his enemies. And the Kingdom of David will be eternal. It’s fascinating that it is an incredible counter to the first part of the Haftora. Whereas the first part Isaiah is told to tell the Jews that they will be destroyed and there is nothing they can do. Interestingly enough the Jews were mostly observant in Uzziah’s time. When we are doing good the navi warns of our destruction. Yet in Achaz’s time the Jews sinning was widespread. Yet it is at that time that we see that Hashem will abandon us. Those two messages are what Yisro sees perhaps. The Jews role in this role to fulfill Hashem’s throne that will take us out of Egypt. Yet at the same time we must appreciate we have to fulfill our role and battle Amalek and utilize the Temple as that light for the throne of Hashem or else we will lose it.
Yeshaya Hanavi Era of Prophecy (780-700 BC)– Yeshaya came from a royal family from the Kings of Yehuda. He had a wife and at least two children and a daughter that are mentioned in Chazal. His sons names were Shaar Yashuv and Immanuel and he may have had others as well. It is interesting that he is compared by Chazal at many times to Moshe Rabbeinu and that as Moshe he came from royalty and thus automatically garnered a certain stature amongst the people.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERA’S AND THEIR PLACES AND PEOPLE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK

The battle of Shechem 1550BC- I don’t do a lot of Shomron tours, although I should. I wish we would finally liberate this historic part of Israel as we have done the rest of the this country from the occupying Arabs that are sitting in our land that the Torah tells us was purchased by our forefather Yaakov for 100 Keshita- that’s a lot of falafels and we kept the receipt... it’s called the Torah, the bible, the Koran all of the holy books register that purchase. We’re not doing anyone any favors by allowing the Pa-‘Lie’-stinian  authority stay in control and get rich off the backs of the people that they are holding down and persecuting and raising on hate. But I digress. But because of the often security situations and the nervousness of my tourists I really don’t get out there as often as I should. But there are certainly some awesome places where one can look down on the city of Shechem and even spot the grave of Yosef buried there. Particulary from Moutn Gerizim or Har Bracha as it is known. From there we can look down from mitzpe Yosef and talk about Avraham who first built an altar here in Alon Moreh as it is called. There is in fact an arab village on the suburbs of Shechem called Tel Balata- Balat is the arabi word for Oak which would be a reference to that tree Alon Moreh. Here as well we can tell the many biblical stories that took place here. the two brothers of Dina that rescued here and killed out the city, The story of the Jewish people coming into the land and having the blessings and curses right between these two mountains, as well as the stories in the period of Judges of Avimelech the son of Gideon and of Yeravam ben Nevat during the split kingdom who made his capital here.
This is about as Jewishally historical of a site as you can get and ranks up there with Chevron and Jerusalem as significant Jewish biblical cities. It’s really a shame that it is not as visited as it should be.

RABBI SCHWARTZ’S TERRIBLE TREE JOKES OF THE WEEK
What is every tree’s favorite shape?
A treeangle.
Which Canadian city is a favorite vacation spot for American trees?
Montreeal.

What did the tree say to the drill?
You bore me..

Why do trees hate tests?
Because they get stumped by the questions.

What tree produces fruit that tastes like chicken?
Poultree.
What do they serve to drink by trees Shalom Zachors?
Root beer.

What do you call a Russian tree?
Dimitree

What kind of trees do you get when you plant kisses?
Tulips.

Tully’s favorite joke- What did the Jedi say to the sacred tree?
May the forest be with you.

What’s green, fuzzy has four legs and if it falls out of a tree it will kill you? – A pool table.
The Cohen family was on good terms with their Catholic neighbors, the O'Brian's. In fact, little Yainkele Cohen and Chris O'Brian from next door would play together from time to time. Or at least they used to.
Well, one late December's day, Tim O'Brian, the non-Jewish father, came storming in to the Cohen's house holding poor Yainkel by the ear. "Your son is not going near my Chris again; he just has no respect for us and our religion!"
"What's the matter; what did he do?" inquired Mr. Cohen.
"I'll tell you" said Tim in a rage. "He saw our Christmas tree and started making fun."
"He did?" said Mr. Cohen. "What did he say?"
"He saw our tree and started asking all sorts of ridiculous questions - which kinds of pine trees can be used for a Christmas tree? What's the minimum required height? How close to the window does it need to be? Do too many decorations render it unfit? What if it's under a neighbor's balcony?!"

And perhaps the most Jewish Joke of all

Two Jews, Moshe and Itzik, are walking in the Ukrainian forest. In the distance, they see two local guys walking towards them. Moishe turns to Itzik, panics, and says, “Itzik, what should we do? There’s two of them, and we’re all alone!”

RABBI SCHWARTZ’S SHABBOS CARTOON OF THE WEEK        

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Answer is D – Although, like Christianity, Islam is not my forte. However that being said this one was pretty easy. See I am a fan of Jewish history and the Dhimmi status is quite essential to understanding Jewish life under Muslim rule, which was basically dhimmi status. They had certain rights as all Muslims did. And they had to higher taxes and certain restrictions as well. For the most part Jews fared far better under Muslim rule than Christian rule throughout our exile as a result of this. The other choices in case you are interested, the swirling dancing Muslims are called Sufi- and they dance- they’re like mystical Muslims. JahiIlya is pre-Muslim world- basically their term for secular people. And heretics are Kafirs- I only know that because like many Arabic words it comes from the Hebrew Kofer which means heretic.