Our view of the Galile

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Fruits of His Labor- Ki Tavo 5775/2015

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

September 4th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 42 20th Elul 5775
Parshat Ki Tavo
The Fruits of His Labor
*Please don’t miss our special message at the end of this e-mail
I had spent two years in my tour guiding program. Five hours a week of class, a weekly tour from 7 in the morning until it got dark out. Each tour didn’t’ have any of the fun stuff we do with tourists, no jeeping, rafting or chocolate factories. Rather the tours where all the historical, archeological and nature sites as well as visiting all the other “religious” sites that the wonderful State of Israel continues to host here. Each tour required us to submit a 20-30 page paper on everything we had seen and done. Thank God for cut and paste and Wikipedia J.

Finally after the two years we had to undergo two exams, a written and an oral given by a tribunal from the Ministry of Tourism whose objective is to trip you up and see how you respond when provoked. And then it was finally over. I had my license. I was legal. I could now, not only tour the individual lucky families, who were technically illegal to guide without a license and who were of course all my “friends and family” in case I ever got stopped, but I could lead group tours. College Students, Birthright trips, Synagogue groups, all bookings that come from agents that of course only use licensed guides. I missed my college students and the outreach work, classes and Lunch and Learns I used to run. I was finally back in the game. You can imagine my excitement when I got my first call to lead a group of students on a tour of the city of Tzfat. Tzfat was one of my favorite places and the students were from the University of Michigan! Being a native Detroiter, I pulled out my U of M baseball hat and suited up for my tour. I was ready. Watch out world Ephraim Schwartz is here to inspire the day. At least that’s what I thought

When I got on the bus I was a bit taken aback. Every single student took out their I-pod thingies and stuck their headphones in their ears. I was pulling out every joke, every story, I even started to dance and sing. Nada, Gurnisht, Bupkas. Turns out this group was in Israel at least 4 times already, all of them had done Tzfat already each time, this was pretty much a learning trip and they really weren’t interested. And thus my first tour had its ignominious beginning. At least they were interested in shopping and eating, two things that I was more than happy to assist them with. Needless to say I came home with my very big balloon busted. My wife all excited for me, saw my face when I came home and did her best to console me. A nice hamburger and beer later I was doing just fine. I’m easy that wayJ. Thank God my next group was some newbies, first-timers, students from Texas who were enthused about every step and breath they took here in the Holy Land. But I’ll never forget the first. It was like Hashem was telling me “You think you’re so hot, Thank Me, we’ve been doing quite fine before you got here”. It was a healthy wake-up call for an over-exuberant beginning.

Now if you think, having all of your ideals and hard work and the final realization of your goals come crashing down are difficult for a new tour guide. This week’s Torah portion tells us that the truth is that’s the way every real new beginning is meant to start; with a pause and realization that it ain’t should never have been about us. Rather it’s all about and comes from Hashem. The Mitzvah that this week’s portion begins with is the Mitzva of Bikkurim, the first fruits. Bikkurim, is perhaps the Mitzva that has the longest time frame of any other mitzvah the entire year. Each year from the holiday of Shavuot all the way through Sukkot almost 6 months Jews would come to the Temple bearing their wagons loaded with fruits as a gift to the Kohanim, the priests who served in the Beit Hamikdash. These wagons would be adorned with gold jewelry, bells and even chirping birds. The people of Jerusalem would come out to greet the Bikkurim Pilgrims and they would be escorted up through the Southern Gate of Jerusalem to the Temple itself. Pretty amazing isn’t it.

But let’s think about the other side of the coin. For months this poor farmer labored. He had to clear his field, plow it, get some money for seeds, plant each one and then pray and pray for rain of course. Finally when it started to grow one can imagine the joy and excitement at those first buds sprouting out from the ground, the first fruits finally ripening off that tree. It’s all come together. All my hard work had paid off.  It’s time to reap what I have sown. WAIT! Not yet. That first pomegranate, Jaffa orange, fig or grape it’s not for you. Take it to Jerusalem. You mean I can’t taste that first one?! Nope. OK, you say, I understand that Hashem has a portion in that, after all he did make it rain. Am I supposed to bring it as an offering to Him? Nope, just give bring it to Jerusalem and give it as a gift to the Kohen. The Kohen! You mean the guy that doesn’t work all day that is already taking his tithe and my first born animals and the first shearing of the wool…He seems to be getting a lot of my firsts already. Why the Kohen and why my firsts?! I’m more than happy to give charity, but can’t I enjoy the first fruits of my labor? Isn’t that what I toiled for?

The answer, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggests, is precisely the so that I should truly realize and appreciate what we are really toiling for. Sure it’s good to eat and enjoy what we have worked hard to produce. But imagine if what we were working for was not merely our own bellies and satisfaction. Imagine if our labor was to produce something special for the King of all Kings to enjoy. All our sweat, all our tears all our endless hours in the fields, the office, the tour guide buses were in order bring Hashem’s glory further and further into the world and to elevate the universe with our deeds. The first symbolizes the function of what we are working towards. Everything after that is Shirayim, leftovers. This last Mitzva in the Torah for each individual Jew is that when we come into the land of Israel and are finally finally able to be in the place where we can transform the universe from and shine out the light of His Glory to the world from, than bring the first fruits to the Kohen. The function everything you are working for is for Me. Not only that but I don’t even want you to burn it on the Altar. I wanted it to be enjoyed, just the way you made it. The Kohen is my representative, to eat it in holiness. To take a big bite out of that juicy new fruit and taste all the hard work that you put in it for me. Your fruit is holy for Me. You, the Jewish people, are the First of all nations, the first of my handiwork, my First-born. It was you I thought about when I planned the world. Now when you bring the world to its fulfillment, I want you to realize that your Firsts are precious to me. Ani L’Dodi VDodi Li- I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.

We are a little over a week before Rosh Hashana. Our prayers for a good and sweet new year begin with our Selichot supplications this Saturday night. We’ve all had ups and downs this past year. Our prayer for this coming year are that it should only be better, only filled with more blessings only be sweeter. We will ask Hashem to grant us health, a good livelihood, a year that we can see the fruits of all our labors come to fruition. Yet before we engage in all of our prayers for the New Year, we read the portion of Bikkurim that teaches us that the secret and objective of all that we are asking for is so that we may serve Hashem, that we can bring His Holy Name to this world. Even the mundane activities that we do our business, our families, our children, our social interactions are all opportunities to achieve and bring holiness to our world. To turn it into His world. The fruits of our labor are sweet to Him. If we pray for Hashem to give us all that we need to deliver him all of those special fruits. Who knows? We may even very soon be heading up with wagons to the Temple rebuilt.

Have a Majestic Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Dear Friends, readers, and fellow lovers of Israel
I turn to you before this High Holiday Season to assist us in supporting our local Shul and programs here in Karmiel. With the help of Hashem our community is growing, we have welcomed over 30 families over the past few years and 7 just this summer alone. We ae creating a dynamic community that welcomes Jews from all backgrounds and brings together our families with our shared love of Eretz Yisrael, Torah and the Jewish people. Our Shul’s expenses are thousands of Shekel a month and all of our funding comes from grassroots support. Twice a year we come to you before Purim and before the High Holidays and ask and offer to you my dear readers who enjoy our weekly musings and inspiration and ask you to join us and support our efforts. Every donation and contribution gives you and your family the added merit of helping to build our community in Israel, to assist new Olim settle in Israel, and of course to have a portion and show your appreciation in the weekly insights and inspiration that reach over 1600 Jews all over the globe each week before Shabbos
You can contribute in three easy ways

1)      The easiest click right now on our link to our blog http://holylandinsights.blogspot.co.il/ and contribute via paypal on our website.
2)      You can mail a check made out to American Friends of IYIM (International Young Israel Movement) for those that would like a US Tax Deduction to either
Abraham Schwartz
25441 Gardner
Oak Park, Michigan, 48237

Or for those in Israel to
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
10 Eshel
Karmiel, Israel, 21681
3)      For those that would like an Israeli tax deduction Checks can be made out to
Tenuat Yisrael HaTzair HaChadasha or IYIM
And mailed to my address above


Once again I wish to thank you in advance for your support and for all those who have expressed their appreciation and gratitude throughout the year with your E-Mails, sponsorships and dedications.
May Hashem bless all of us with a blessed and sweet New Year.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


http://www.aish.com/jw/s/I-Am-Israeli.html?s=show   If you haven’t seen this yet. It’s a must see “I AM AN ISRAELI”

https://youtu.be/j4d-jcr4DfI   - Rabbi Pesach Krohn (like you’ve never seen him) and Rabbi Senter and everything you wanted to know about bees and honey and great cartoon

https://youtu.be/TAy8PaExmdM - 6 New Songs by my good friend R’Shlomo Yehudah Rechnitz in honor of his daughters wedding

While in the states I picked up a great book with yiidsh quotes and wisdom and I have always wanted to teach my kids Yiddish so here we go each week another great proverb in yiddish maybe you guys will learn it too!!

Parnosseh iz a refueh tsu alleh krenk”-  A good livelihood is a cure for all ills

. The first time you marry for love, the second for money, and the third for companionship.” Jackie Kennedy
“The first time I sang in the church choir; two hundred people changed their religion.”-Fred Allen
“The first time I see a jogger smiling, I'll consider it.” –Joan Rivers
Of course women don’t work as hard as men, they get it right the first time”- Anonymous (probably a Jewish wife though J)
(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
Tanzimat are
A.    Privileges granted to European Consuls
B.     Laws of the property ownership of the Ottamans from the 18th century
C.     Laws of Suleiman the Magnificent
D.    The Ottoman’s reforms in the 19th century
We read this week the long series of curses that will fall upon the Jewish people if they do not follow the Torah. Tragically we have seen all of them come to pass throughout our history. Nachmanides in the 13th century describes already how he had already seen them come to pass in his days. What can we say 750 years later? One of the curses described is that we will be groping about in noon as a blind person gropes in the darkness.
The Midrash quotes Rabbi Yosi who said “All my life I puzzled over this verse. Why in the dark? A blind man can’t find his way even in the day time. Once in the dark of night I met a blind person carrying a torch. ‘Of what use is is torch to you, my good man’ I asked him ‘since you cannot see?’.
He explained ‘As long as O carry light, other people will notice me and hopefully will warn me of ay pits or obstacles in the way’
Similarly Rabbi Yosi derives that if we will not heed the Torah we will become a generation when we will not merit to have leaders that will be able to show us the way out of the darkness and that will be able to help us alleviate the suffering that we will endure. We will be like blind men in the dark with no one else to help us.
That Yonah doesn’t think I can come up with each week…
“Siyurei Selichos”- Selichos Tours – For centuries as Jews approached the High Holidays there has been a custom to rise up early in the morning and to recite supplications called Selichot-poems of repentance and beseeching Hashem for mercy and grace before our Days of Judgement and Awe. Sfardim customarily begin from the beginning of the month Ashkenazim from any where from 4 days to a week and a half before Rosh Hashana from Saturday night. In Israel though this period of time in recent years has become popular for Selichos tours in various communities , where Jews from all backgrounds and certainly many many non-observant Jews utilize this time to have tours of Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues through the night that culminate in the recitation of Selichot afterwards. The most popular place is of course in the old city of Jerusalem where the tour culminates with a mass recitation at the Kotel where thousands gather each night and early morning. But the tours have expanded to Tzfat  Bnai Brak, Akko and even Tel Aviv/Yaffo. I think it’s amazing and cool that Jews can all come together in prayer and unite in the common bond that we all share that we know that there is a day of judgement, there is a Father in heaven that listens to our cry and our prayer and that we know that regardless of what we have done all year, He is waiting for us to return to Him. How cool is that!

When life gives you lemons ask for salt and tequila
When life gives you lemons unless it gives you sugar and water you’ll have pretty lousy lemonade
When life gives you lemons, gift wrap them and give them to somebody as a gift.
When life gives you lemons construct a crude electrochemical battery
When life gives you lemons squirt them make someone’s paper cut hurt really bad
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Use the profits to buy an assault rifle. See if life makes the same mistake again.
If life gives you lemons, ask for the receipt so you can exchange them for oranges.
When life gives you lemons make grape juice and sit back and watch the world ask how you did it.
If life hands you lemons, ask 'Where do you get all these lemons from?' Actually, don’t ask. You really don’t want to know…
If life stole your lemons, he gave them to me.
When life gives you lemons learn to juggle
When life gives you lemons regularly, you'd better get a taste for sour fruit. 
When life gives you lemons, alter their DNA and make super lemons.
When life hands you lemonade, don’t try to make lemons
When life gives you lemons, ask yourself how exactly an anthropomorphic personification of something immaterial like life can give you a fruit. Unless it isn’t…
When life gives you lemons, drop them, then you will have lemon drops.
When life gives you lemons, you've got potential for a lemon quote. 
If life gives you melons, your dyslexic
Finally the Israeli Version When Life gives you chickpeas…make Chummus

Dogbert-"well, look on the bright side, you know, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade"
Dilbert-"I'm allergic to citrus"
"well, look on the bright side, you know, when life gives you lemons, swell up and die"
Answer is D-Arab words have never been my thing and the Ottomans who were here from the 1500’s until World War I which were perhaps one of the longest “occupations” of our land were never the most interesting to me either. Or to most tourists as well. That being said I had no clue to the answer to this question. So let’s go through it together the privileges to European consuls were called the “Capitulations” and pretty much was the sick man of Europe trying to save itself by allowing the Europeans all types of benefit in trading. Jews did well getting those documents that offered them these benefits. Next the Laws of property ownership known as the Majala were the laws that defined property ownership which led to the establishment of the legal registration of all properties called the Tabo. This was interestingly enough in force until 1969 Israel’s Lands Law superseded the previous Turkish and British Law although in Yehudah and Shomron many times the old law still applies. Suleiman who lived in the 16th century was also known as the Law maker and he wrote the canons which pretty much institutionalized Sharia law throughout the Empire. The correct answer therefore is D which was a whole series of reforms the Turks tried to institute to save themselves and modernize before the World pretty much took them over. And there you have it more than you even needed to know about the Turks!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cigar Wars- Kit Teitzei 2015/5775

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

August 28th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 41 13th Elul 5775
Parshat Ki Teitzei
Cigar Wars
Yankel was a good Chasid. He loved his Rebbe the Imrei Emes of Ger, with all of his heart. When he was younger he studied the pearls of Torah his rebbe taught him so lovingly. As he grew older the Rebbe married him off and was the Sandak (godfather) for all his children’s circumcision. Each year along with 10’s of thousands of Chasidim from around Europe, Yankel would go to his Rebbe’s court for Rosh Hashanah. It was said that on the special train lines that the Polish government added for the high holidays, there were over ten thousand chasidim that came who ate on Yom Kippur and didn’t wear Tefillin…all boys under the age of Bar Mitzvah. Yet even with the thousands that came Yankel looked forward to his precious few private minutes with the Rebbe. He would get the Rebbe’s blessing for his family, his health and business. Yet, most important to Yankel was the blessing he would recieve for his continued spiritual growth.  He was enough of a Gerrer Chasid to know, that more than anything else, his relationship with Hashem and the inspiration to lead a vibrant Jewish life was the greatest gift one can have.
This Rosh Hashana though, the Rebbe surprised Yankel as he began to ask him about his business. Yankel shared with the Rebbe that his business was expanding and in fact in a few weeks he would be traveling for a few days to Paris to purchase more materials and to create new networks of supply. The Rebbe then made a request of Yankel.
“I heard that they sell very good cigars in Paris, would you be able to pick me up a box?”
Yankel was a bit taken aback. Was the Rebbe really thinking about cigars on the holiest of days?
Yet, he knew better then to question the Rebbe. He quickly assured the Rebbe that he would bring him two boxes of the very best he could find and would return within a month with the Rebbe’s cigars.
Sure enough two weeks later Yankel returned from his trip with the two boxes of cigars. The Rebbe after examining them closely though asked him if they were indeed purchased in Paris. Yankel blushed a little and apologized to the Rebbe. He explained that while he was in Paris he was so caught up in business that it totally slipped his mind. On the way home however, when he remembered, he made a stop in Belgium and bought the cigars over there.

“But don’t worry Rebbe” Yankel said “the cigars in Belgium are much better and I made sure to purchase the best of the best for the Rebbe’s pleasure”.
“Oy Yankeleh… Yankeleh”, the Rebbe sighed,
“Did you really think that I needed or had any interest in Cigars from either Paris or Belgium? It wasn’t the cigars I wanted it was the chasid that I wanted. I wanted you to remember that even though you may be in Paris you still have a Rebbe back in Ger that is waiting for you. A chasid in Paris is what I was hoping you would be and feel like. Not a business man without a Rebbe.”
This week’s Torah portion contains a unique mitzvah of war.
Ki Teitzei LiMmachaneh Al Oivecha V’Nishmartem mikol Davar Rah-When you go to camp against your enemy you should guard yourself from all bad things.
The bad things that the Torah is referring to here are in areas of licentiousness, impure thoughts and all matters that will distance oneself from God.
The Slonimer Rebbe notes how it is interesting that this mitzvah as opposed to the two other commandments of war preciously mentioned does not refer to it as a war rather as when one camps against the enemy. In addition both the commandment and the enemy are referred to in the singular form rather than the plural. He therefore suggests a deeper more meaningful understanding of the Parsha. What the Torah is hinting to us a here is not merely the global biblical warfare battles and its commandments, rather it is teaching us about our personal internal battles that we each are challenged by. And the enemy- the greatest enemy we have- is our Yetzer Harah the evil inclination that is there relentlessly to tempt us.
The previous Parshiyot describe and allude to how one must go out and engage that force whether it is in areas of observance, where we must know the places to avoid and the things that bring us down and actively battle those temptations. Or as the latter Parsha suggests there are even battles in matters of a permissible nature such as excesses where one must reign oneself (like the case of the captive women) or in our worship of God where we must offensively strategize how to win those battles. How we can put more energy into our prayers, our studies, our faith and our acts of kindness and even limit our exposure to the baser although permitted physical pleasures that come our way. In “times of war” changes have to be made
 Yet there are times when there is no ‘war” and this is what this final mitzvah is talking about. It is when one goes out in to the world to do his or her regular things. Shopping, Business, Teaching, Learning, Touring. It is here the Torah tells you that we are also vulnerable. Ki teitzei Machaneh- when we go out from our “camp”.  It could be vacation; it could be your workplace. Maybe Paris. You’re not in Shul you’re just doing your everyday thing. Vnishmartem Mikol Davar Rah- watch out. Protect yourself. Why?

Ki Hashem Elokecha Mit’Halech B’Kerev Machanecha - Because Hashem is always found within your camp. L’Hatzilcha- to save you and to place your enemy before you. When you leave home base,  to a place that may seem so innocent and so necessary, however if it is not part of your camp; if you feel that you are chutz la’Macheneh- outside of the camp than the extra protection we so need to inspire us to sanctify Hashem’s name is much harder to achieve. For His presence is found amongst the camp. And to paraphrase a US president who just a little over ten years ago said-You are either with us or against us- you’re either part of His camp or you’re not.
We read these Torah portions as we get closer and closer to Rosh Hashanah; the end of the year and the beginning of the year. There are so many battles, struggles and challenges each of us have gone through and may still yet face and yet the greatest battles are sages teach us are within ourselves. Yet perhaps the strongest weapon we have in our arsenal is knowing that we have a camp that we can always be attached to. We may not all have a Rebbe in Poland, as Yankel did, but we have a loving Father in heaven who is always amongst the Jewish people waiting and watching for us to reattach ourselves to our community. Imagine the nachas and pleasure He has as His children all gather in synagogues around the world as they join together and crown Him annually as our King. But once or twice a year is not enough. Neither is once a week, neither is even each day. We have to feel that we are part of His camp wherever we go and whatever we do. He’s not looking for cigars either or even for Chasidim. He’s looking for his children and for His soldiers to be standing tall at His side

Have an inspirational Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



http://www.humansofjudaism.com/humansofjudaism/kimmelvid   Yeshiva save SpongeBob on Kimmel Late night TV!

https://youtu.be/RVksB8Pqi5Y  - For the Yiddish speakers pretty ummmm interesting video Rebbe Nachman Uman Rosh Hashana..what do you think?

https://youtu.be/fi90dhz4Ou8 - Another pretty wild Yiddish music video…one really has to wonder what Rabbi Nachman must be thinking…? Gevald new …hit ? or not?

While in the states I picked up a great book with yiidsh quotes and wisdom and I have always wanted to teach my kids Yiddish so here we go each week another great proverb in yiddish maybe you guys will learn it too!!

Gutskeit iz besser fun frumkeit”-  Kindness is better than piety.

"I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time.” Mark Twain
. Smoking is indispensable if one has nothing to kiss.” Sigmund Freud
“The end of a good smoke is a little saddening. In some regard, it's a bit like losing a best friend who had time to sit and listen.” ~ Zen Warrior
(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
Baybars conquered from the Crusaders
A.    Akko and Akziv
B.     Ashkelon and Jerusalem
C.     Ein Jalut and Gaza
D.    Arsuf and Tzefat
The weeks Portion tells us about the mitzvah to for one to put a fence around his roof so that no-one will fall off- “And blood not be in ones house”-The Midrash derives from here that it is not specifically the fence but anything that is dangerous shall not be in ones house. The Talmud says this refers specifically to “bad” dogs. It even tells a story about a woman who was pregnant whose baby aborted when she was frightened by a dog. When the owner told her not to worry because the dog has not teeth-“It’s all bark and no bite”. The Talmud tells us that it was to late… Lesson, the Maharsha says, even a dangerous looking dog is something one should not have in one’s house…. I just wish that Midrash would have said bunny rabbits as well…J
That Yonah doesn’t think I can come up with each week…
Randomly bump into herds of animals on the roads – I don’t literally mean ‘bump’ into them of course, rather happen on to them. This week alone we had a herd of horses just running along by Mt. Bental in middle of the road, sheep and goats along the Judean wilderness trails and camels as well. The galilee has cows all over the place and in the evening hours on many roads one can see deer, fox and even wild boar. Israel is a country that raises wildlife and cattle and prides itself on its and they have full reign of the roads. Sure there’s other places you can see that. But I challenge you to find me anywhere else in the world that has a such a great variety as they do in Israel. It’s really an awesomely cool experience just driving down the road and just seeing these herds. Just very very cool!

 A Russian, a Cuban, an American and a lawyer are riding on a train.
The Russian takes out a bottle of the best vodka out of his pack; pours some into a glass, drinks it, and says:
"In USSR, we have the best vodka of the world, nowhere in the world you can find vodka as good as the one we produce in Ukrainia. And we have so much of it, that we can just throw it away..."
Saying that, he goes to a window and throw the rest of the bottle through it. T he others are quite impressed.
The Cuban then pulls out a pack of Havanas, takes one of them, lights it and begins to smoke it saying: "In Cuba, we have the best cigars of the world: Havanas, nowhere in the world are there such good cigars and we have so many of them, that we can just throw them away..."
Saying that, he throws the pack of cigars through the window as the Conductor approaches. One more time, everybody is quite impressed.
Slowly, the American just stands up, with a superior smile.
He opens the window, and throws the lawyer through it...
A guy traveling through the prairies of the USA stopped at a small town and went to a bar. He stood at the end of the bar, ordered a drink, and lit up a cigar.
As he sipped his drink, he stood there quietly blowing smoke rings.
After he blew nine or ten smoke rings into the air, an angry American Indian stomped up to him and said, "One more remark like that and I'll smash your face in!"

Yankel was in a lawsuit involving large sums of money and he was talking to his lawyer. "If I lose this case, I'll be ruined."
"It's in the judge's hands now," said the lawyer.
"Would it help if I sent the judge a box of cigars?"
"Oh no! This judge is a stickler or ethical behavior. A stunt like that would prejudice him against you. He might even hold you in contempt of court. In fact, you shouldn't even smile at the judge."
Within the course of time, the judge rendered a decision in favor of Yankel. As the he left the courthouse, he said to his lawyer, "Thanks for the tip about the cigars. It worked!"
His Lawyer responded "I'm sure we would have lost the case if you'd sent them."
"But, I did send them."
"What? You did?" said the lawyer, incredulously.
"Yes. That's how we won the case."
"I don't understand," said the lawyer.
"It's easy. I sent the cigars to the judge, but signed the plaintiff's name.

Answer is D: OK So this Baibars guy was a former slave in Egypt who rebelled and pretty much cleaned the Crusaders out of Israel. He was a fierce warriaor proving himself first by getting rid of Ghengi Khan and the Mongolians in the battle of Ein Jalut. I knew that so therefore I knew that Ein Jalut was not the right answer as it wasn’t a Crusader Battle. I also tour Akko A lot and know that he didn’t  conquer Akko rather he sieged it and then left it. Knocked out two answers. Jerusalem was already conquered by the arabs before Baibars- that’s kind of the reason why they were based out of Akko. Which of course leaves Tzfat and Arsuf  apoliana as the correct answer. In Arsuf he used tremendous sieges engines and then they surrendered and he raazed it and in Tzfat he fortified the Crusader fortress and because it was so strategic. PS  If you ever have a tour guide that that is busy talking about Baibars in Tzfat for more than thirty seconds or so…you’ve got the wrong guide.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Jewish Occupation- Shoftim 2015/5775

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

August 21st  2015 -Volume 5, Issue 40 6th Elul 5775
Parshat Shoftim
Jewish Occupation
“A Rabbi ??!!, What type of job is that for a nice young Jewish Boy?” My Savta didn’t pull any punches, neither did my great Auntie Franka of blessed memory. My parents weren’t too thrilled with the idea as well. “Eef you want to stahdy and learren a leetel beet- dat’s fine-eet’s wanderfool even,, but you have to provide for your faahmilee too” Let the goyim become rabbis,  A Jew should be a doctor or a lawyer, worst case an accountant, but a rabbi wasn’t gonna cut it for my family. So I went to college. I got my degree. In finance, of course- it was shorter and easier than law or medical school and allowed me to pursue my Semicha rabbinic ordination at the same time while I was in Kollel. It helped me tremendously in life, this degree of mine. I know understand the principles why I have no money. I think it’s something to do with getting a real job.

 My father really would have loved me at least to join him in his business. Although he’s not a doctor, but he prides himself on being an MD… a metal dealer. Selling metal was never really my thing. Why sell metal when I can sell God. So I spent many years doing exactly that. My yiddishkeit was enhanced by meeting and growing off the inspiration of my fellow brothers and sisters and their inspiration as we introduced them to Judaism. I even got to work on Shabbos J. After moving to Israel, when it was time in life to find a “real” job. I chose tour guiding once again relishing the opportunity to sell not metal but rather ‘Eretz Sh’Avaneha Barzel’- A land flowing with milk and honey whose very stones are compared to metal. And there you have it my Jewish career.
The truth is though it’s a fascinating thing about the Jewish people. According to my informal google searches Ivy League schools have anywhere from 15-30% Jewish students in grad school. In medical and law schools it’s even higher.  We are about 2-3 % of the population but are overwhelming represented in the fields that require higher education, the US supreme court and even in the hi tech world. This is not only explained by the higher IQ that Jews possess which has certainly been documented. But rather by a intense drive by Jews to “make it”; to fix the world. We have something in us as a nation driving us to create a complete society that functions, with laws, with longevity, that solves the problems the world faces with poverty and dysfunction. Now if only we could get everyone to realize that the place that we are meant to do that from is Israel… Than we could really get things done.

This week’s Torah portion describes for us the process of setting up our country when we arrive here. It begins with the fascinating mitzvah of setting up judges and officers of the law in all the gates of our cities. Our sages explain this mitzvah and qualify and quantify it. There is meant to be a court in Jerusalem where whenever we have a difficult case we shall “Go up the place to that I have chosen for you and you shall come to the Kohen and Levi that will be in your days and you shall ask of them and they will tell you the law that you shall follow.”. Our sages teach us that the court in Jerusalem would have 120 members on it, each minor city would have a court of 23 Judges. A city incidentally would have to have at least 120 people in it. This is a pretty mind-blowing concept if you think about and crunch these numbers a bit. Where’s my Jewish accountants to do the math here? Each Judge had two understudies. Which would mean that in a city of 120 people 69 of them would be part of the court system. I know we need Jewish lawyers and judges, but really?! More than half the population? I mean I know that we are a litigious people, but we don’t really do the petty crime thing, how much court do we need.

Rabbi Yochanan Zweig offers a fantastic insight, which is that the function of a Jewish court system is not to merely enforce the law. In fact he argues, that if a court and justice system is only about enforcing, punishing and delivering verdicts and justice than the legal system becomes a game of “is it worth the risk-or not?”. Jews are not meant to uphold the laws because “crime doesn’t pay” rather it’s because crime is wrong. It’s a sin. It’s a mistake that will remove you from Hashem and ultimately prevent you from fulfilling yourself and achieving the Divine mandate for which we are here.  A Jewish court system is meant to create a society that appreciates Hashem; that teaches and serves the world as role models of the beauty of the Divine system of Law that Torah and Mitzvos provide. It is for that reason, the Torah tells us that the most important part of our society is to have the court system not merely to enforce, but rather to inspire society, to serve as a place where we can hear the word of Hashem. It is for this reason, he suggests, that our Torah portion is adjacent to the portion, from last week’s Torah portion that describes the mitzvah of the holiday of Sukkot. Sukkot is the holiday when we leave our physical homes and enter into the Divine Shade of Hashem’s glory for a week. When all our physical surroundings are of being in the presence of Hashem and the Divine glory. That’s what our cities are meant to look like. That’s what our land is meant to look like. It is that light we are meant to shine out to the world.

There is a story told about Rav Avraham Pam, the great and most humble of Roshei Yeshivas of Torah V’Daas in New York, who was once summoned to Din Torah. It seems that someone had some financial claims against the Yeshiva and they went to the Jewish court and subpoenaed the great elderly Rabbi to come to court. His students were aghast at the audacity of this individual. How dare he summon the Rabbi to court like one would any simple litigant? Didn’t he realize this was one of the greatest Rabbis of the generation? When they approached Rav Pam though, he was perplexed. He couldn’t understand what the tumult was all about.
 “I have been called to a holy Jewish court, to seek out the word of Hashem. This is a mitzvah of the highest order. It is an opportunity to hear what Hashem wants us to do. This is an honor. How could one think otherwise?”
We are in the month of Elul and it is a time when we begin to prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana-our annual day of Judgement. These are days that are reffered to as Yamim Noraim- Days of Awe. There are many that tremble during these days, out of fear for what the New Year holds for us. Many are busy doing the mitzvah of Teshuva, bettering our ways, aking forgiveness from those that we wronged. These are all important things. Yet the bulk of our prayers on the holy days that approach us will be about the “big plan” for the world. That Hashem’s kingdom will reign supreme. That sin will be destroyed and that the land will rejoice in the ultimate fulfillment of our Divine mandate. We will feel the holiness. The world will acknowledge the truth. Parshat Shoftim, which is always read in the beginning of this month serves as a reminder to us of this big picture. A world of justice. A world where there will be no need for lawyers and even doctors, as we will have achieved the perfection and brought the world to its ultimate Tikun. We’ll still need Rabbis and tour guides though… I think

 Have a magnificent Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l463vS68reA&safe=active Hakol Lavtova great new song from my friend Yosef Chaim Shwekey

https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/asher-bara - My latest song composition “Asher Bara” composed in honor of the wedding this week of my dear friend’s daughter..Mazel Tov!

While in the states I picked up a great book with yiidsh quotes and wisdom and I have always wanted to teach my kids Yiddish so here we go each week another great proverb in yiddish maybe you guys will learn it too!!

Aider me zogt arois s’vort, iz men a har; dernoch iz men a nar”-  Before you utter a word you are the master; afterwards you’re a fool.

"Doctors are just the same as lawyers; the only difference is that lawyers merely rob you, whereas doctors rob you and kill you too..”-Anton Chekov
. Where there are too many policemen, there is no liberty. Where there are too many soldiers, there is no peace. Where there are too many lawyers, there is no justice.”-Lin Yutang
(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
The first Crusader King was
A.    Godefroy de Bouillon
B.     Baldwin the First
C.     Richard the Lion Heart
D.    Fredrick the First
The weeks Portion tells us about the mitzvah to build cities Arei Miklat of refuge for someone who kills someone else unintentionally to flee there. The law is that the court is obligated to put up signs all over telling people how to get there, so there would not be any need for them to ask people directions. The signs probably said Ir Miqlat though with a “Q” as it seems Israelis have a thing for that letter in all the cities here. The reason for this specific mitzvah for signs, the midrash tells us is so as not embarrass the murderer and force him to humiliate himself. Rabbi Chama Bar Chanina applied the verse “Good an upright is Hashem, therefore he instructs sinners the way”. If Hashem is so concerned that even sinners find the right way certainly much more so he does so for the righteous.
It’s interesting that the counter to this mitzvah is the pilgrimage road to Jerusalem, there were no signs in order that people would ask others and increase the glory of the mitzvah inspiring others to come with them to Jerusalem. They would be forced to ask directions. And others would then join them. I can tell you the way if anyone out there wants to come. I’m heading there next week J
That Yonah doesn’t think I can come up with each week…
Finding your Bashert – They tell me that there is a Shidduch Crisis or as others refer to ita Shidduch Catastrophe in America. Maybe it’s another sign and gentle push from Hashem for people to come move to Israel. Here in Israel it seems there are plenty of nice guys and girls to marry (I know one of the latter J). But many people have told me that it is much easier here. First of all being an American is an added benefit here as well as speaking English helps. Second since there are a much smaller population and demographic of American Olim here so there’s great networks and a pretty much even playing field without all the competition that goes on in the States. In addition, weddings are cheaper here, people are much more laid back about them and everyone is your family and participates in your simcha. Finally finally how cool is it that finding your Bashert here and marrying her is a fulfillment of the ancient promise and prophecy that the streets will once again be filled with the sounds of Brides and Grooms from their wedding feast. Jeremiah never said that about the Terrace on the Park in New York….

 lawyer and an elderly Hasidic man are sitting next to each other on a long flight. The lawyer is thinking that Hasidim are so dumb that he could get over on them easily. So the lawyer asks the Hasid if he would like to play a fun game.
The old Hasidic man is tired and just wants to take a nap, so he politely declines and tries to catch a few winks. The lawyer persists and says that the game is a lot of fun. "I ask you a question and if you don't know the answer, you pay me only $5. You ask me a question and if I don't know the answer, I will pay you $500".
This catches the Hasidic man's attention and to keep the lawyer quiet, he agrees to play the game.
The lawyer asks the first question. "What's the distance from the Earth to the Moon?" The elderly Hasid doesn't say a word, reaches in his pocket, pulls out a five dollar bill and hands it to the lawyer.
Now it's the Hasid's turn. He asks the lawyer "What goes up a hill with three legs and comes down the hill with four?"
The lawyer is stumped, so he uses his laptop and searches all references he could find on the Interet. He sends emails to all the smart friends he knows, all to no avail. After one hour of searching, he finally gives up. He wakes up the Hasidic man and hands him $500. The old Hasid pockets the $500 and goes back to sleep.
The lawyer is going nuts not knowing the answer. He wakes up the elderly man and asks "Well, so what goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four?"
The Hasid shrugs, reaches in his pocket, hands the lawyer $5 and goes back to sleep.
Q: In the Jewish doctrine, when does a fetus become a human?
A: When it graduates from Law school. 

Q: How can you tell if someone is half Catholic and half Jewish?
A: When he goes to confession, he takes a lawyer with him. 

A lawyer, a Jew and a Hindu were on vacation. They were taking a road trip through the backwoods of Tennessee and they were tired but could find no hotel with a room to rent for the night. They came across a farmhouse and thought they might as well try to convince the owner to let them stay there.
“Sure, y’all can stay here tonight,” the farmer said. “But the guest bedroom only sleeps two so one of you will have to sleep in the barn. Don’t worry about that barn — it’s nice out there and I sleep there myself when the wife is mad at me.”
The barn sounded good to the Hindu.
“Y’all take the bed and I’ll sleep out in the barn,” he said.
So, the lawyer and the Jew were getting settled down in the bed when they heard a knock at the door. It was the Hindu.
“There’s a cow out there,” he said. “It’s against my religion to sleep with a cow.”
“No problem,” the Jew said. “You two take the bed and I’ll go sleep in the barn.”
So the lawyer and the Hindu were getting settled down in the bed when they heard a knock at the door. It was the Jew.
“There’s a pig out there. There’s no way I’m sleeping with a pig.”
“Fine,” the lawyer said. “You two take the bed and I’ll go sleep in the barn.”
The Jew and the Hindu were getting settled down in the bed when they heard a knock at the door.
It was the cow and the pig.

Answer is B: So this is a really trick question. First of all a bit about the Crusaders. They were really bad people. They slaughtered Jews and destroyed Jewish communities on their way to Israel to redeem the land from the Moslem infidels. They killed them too. The first Crusade was led by Godfrey and his brother Baldwin. Godfrey was the first ruler but…. He chose not to take the title King. Believing that there was only on “king” of Jerusalem. Sadly it wasn’t “The King” Hashem but someone who impersonated as “His”  prophet/son/Messiah. His brother though didn’t have some compunction and had no problem declaring himself as king. Richie and Freddy were in the Third Crusade, after the Crusaders were thrown out by Salaadin. Freddy also known as Barabarossa never made it here, he drowned along the way, which is a good thing. Richard did make it here and setteled it up with Saladdin, when he lost his battle at the Horns of Hittin and he they then moved the capital from Jerusalem to Akko