Our view of the Galile

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Facebuker Rebbe- Bo 2015/5775

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

January 22nd 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 14 -2nd of Shvat 5775
Parshat Bo
The Facebuker Rebbe
It was at an AJOP (Association of Jewish Outreach Professionals) convention that I met him a many years ago. The convention was a great place for all of us outreach guys from around the world to get together and commiserate each year of what life out in the boondocks was like. We'd kvetch about fundraising, exchange "war" stories about what life on the "front lines" of the battlefield for Jewish souls was like, and of course share different ideas programs and strategies that we had utilized in order to reconnect Jewish souls to their heritage. My highlight each year was our "Rosh Kollels at Risk" late night sessions, when we would break out the scotch and cigars, chuck off our black hats for a few hours and have a good old fashioned bull session, just like back in the dorms in our old yeshiva days before we became heads of institutions of higher learning. We were going to change the world one Jew at a time. It was our life's work. We were entitled to one night once a year of letting our Payot down.

I'll never forget Dovid though. He was the guy with a constant smile. He wasn't really a Kiruv professional. Just a regular baalabos (Yiddish for working guy- although I always tell people that in Hebrew it translates as the husband of the boss:)), who worked for a payment processing company, that for some reason couldn't stay away from this convention. Every year he had different ideas, different strategies, all types of money making schemes for our organizations so that we could make more money, reach more Jews, connect more souls. He had business cards, TV shows, radio programs, websites, he was unstoppable a "Kiruv hurricane of ideas and enthusiasm. I don't think there was anyone there that didn't get a hug from Reb Dovid. His love for every Jew was palpable. His commitment to sharing the beauty of our heritage with every one of Hashems children was contagious. It wasn't only with non-observant or un-affilaited Jews either. He was connected with so many community organizations, for the sick for the needy, for helping people find their bashert. Even non-Jews were on Dovid's  "hit list". He would hand out cards to people that would make them smile, start random conversations with people he bumped into on line, on the train at work and share with them the enthusiasm he had about living in a God-filled world and some inspiring Jewish Torah thought. He even numerous times helped raise money in times of crisis or tragedies, hurricanes, terrorist attacks for the victims and perhaps even more significantly requested prayers for them. He was a true child of Avraham and he was out to shine Hashems light to the world.

I remember when he excitedly told me about his newest project. He decided to become a "Rebbe" of the largest Jewish population in the world. In fact he told me he was becoming the "Rebbe" of the country with the largest amount of inhabitants on the planet. It seems that this country had been Rebbe-less for a long time and he intended to become it's Rebbe. The name of country- some of you may have heard of it- Facebook. And Dovid Winiarz became the "Facebuker Rebbe".  I don't know how many followers the Chasidim of Ger, Satmar or Lubavitch have. But the Facebuker had over 13,000. And that does not include the 10's of thousands that read his posts, his jokes, his stories that were shared by his followers all across the globe. As I read some of the recent posts and the condolences that were sent to the family after his untimely passing in a car accident this past week on the way to the convention, it was mind blowing to read the stories people shared.

"He just sent me my first pair of tzitit and a mezuzah" commented Mark, "He introduced me to my husband" Stephanie said. "My first Shabbat was only because of our conversations and I haven't missed one since"- remarked David." I was out of job and he helped me find one and he didn’t' even know who I was, I was just a Jew in need coming to the only Rebbe that I felt comfortable communicating with" Allan kvelled. "I just sent him a Shabbat Shalom and he sent me back a "ditto" Sarah tearfully posted "I can't believe, I'll never hear him say it again". I can't believe it either…

There are some that were hesitant about becoming a Rebbe on facebook, social media can be dangerous. The internet is perhaps appropriately called a web, a place and trap which you can fly into and get stuck and die in. But for Dovid it was a no-brainer, As he told me he explained to his Rabbi in order to get his blessing, "There are Jews, that are out there, that are hungry, that won't come to classes and prgrams, but just need a Rabbi, a friend a hug, how can I not be there for them". The Facbuker Rebbe died this week. The world has lost a tremendous light. Hashem took him on the Torah portion that discusses our redemption from Egypt and our last minutes in Exile. I believe in this weeks portion we can find as well the message and legacy that the Rebbe has left us.

This weeks Torah Portion of Bo shares with us the end of the story of the plagues of Egypt. We have reached the final countdown. Hashem tells Moshe to tell the Jewish people to put blood on their doorposts in order that when Hashem comes to smite the first-borns of Egypt, he will see the blood
"And the blood will be for you for a sign upon the houses where you will be, and I will see the blood and spare you, and there will be no destructive plague in you when I smite the land of Egypt."
Rashi notes that the seemingly repetitive phrase of sparing you and no plague in you, will come to include even the Jew that is in the house of the Egyptian at the time of the plague. It's a simple Rashi that one could read through quickly and move onward; however the Lubavitcher Rebbe sees in it the deepest of ideas. Think about it for a second. The Jews were told by Moshe do not leave your houses on this night. The plague will hit, the first borns will die and the blood on your doorposts will serve as your sign before Hashem. You're on his team. And yet there still seems to be some Jews that will decide to go and sit with their Mitzri/Egyptian "brothers" in their Egyptian homes. Perhaps in solidarity. Perhaps because of their assimilated state. Perhaps because they refused to identify themselves religiously in any visible way. There are and were always Jews like that. Yet Hashem tells Moshe. That those Jews as well in the house of the Egyptians will also not be subject to the plague. They are also still my children. They are also My First-Borns, whether they know it or appreciate it or not.

The plague of the First-Borns is different than all the other plagues. It is this plague that Hashem first tells Moshe to tell Pharaoh about.
"Speak to Pharaoh and tell him, My First Born is Israel, and I tell you- send out my children and they shall serve me and if you refuse to send them out I will kill your First Born son."

Whereas the other plagues were meant to teach Pharaoh and the world about Hashem and His power and constant managing of the world. This plague was his punishment for not listening. The plague takes place precisely at midnight, Hashem says. Midnight is the time when the Darkness and the night gets as dark as it can and when it starts to begin to get lighter. Our Kabbalists tell us that midnight is the point when Din and Rachamim, judgement and mercy meet. The Jewish people very likely were just as assimilated and certainly our sages tell us were idol worshippers as the Egyptians were. Yet the difference Hashem tells Moshe from the beginning is that we are his children. We are His First Borns. No matter how much a child sins, disappoints and is disconnected. He is always his father's child. The father will always have mercy.
It's interesting that our Pesach Seder there is a custom that the children steal the Afikoman. It is returned however before midnight to  the father who than rewards his cute little crook and continues the singing and the praise until the end of the seder with.his son by his side. At midnight even the little "gonif"  who just stole from his father an hour ago, finds the mercy and grace. That is the love of a father to a child. That is the love of Hashem to His children.
The Talmud tells us that we are meant to emulate the ways of Hashem. If Hashem can go down to the house of the Egyptian to rescue and pull out one of his children in order to tell him how loved he is, then we must as well. Facebook may not be Egypt, but it is a place where so many are looking for "friends". We need to not only "friend" people but "brother" them, "sister" them connect each Jew no matter where they are to us to our Father. Last Shabbos, the day before Reb Dovid Winiarz, was taken from us he was in shul most certainly as all Jews were when we recited the blessing for the new month of Shvat. The blessing we said concludes

"He who had done miracles for our Forefathers and has redeemed them from slavery to freedom, He will redeem us soon and will gather in all who have been pushed to the four corners of the earths. Chaverim Kol Yisrael-All Jews will then be "friends" and we shall say Amen."
Hashem has taken back the Facebuker friend who is certainly praying before our father for that day to come soon.
Have a friendly Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Dovid Winiarz was a special individual who lived to make the world a brighter place. Never content to just enjoy his own little corner of the world, Dovid was a people person who wasn't happy unless he was doing something for others. Constantly widening his circle of friends with his trademark humor, his genuine smile and his perpetual good mood, Dovid literally lived his life for others.
Dovid died in a tragic car accident on his way to a kiruv (Jewish outreach) convention in Baltimore, leaving behind a wife and ten beautiful children, seven of whom are still single. Dovid spent his life helping others and now it is our turn to perpetuate his legacy by helping his family face the future.
Every penny contributed to this campaign will go directly to the Winiarz family.

(This site charges no fees.) Please give what you can in honor of a man who made the world a better place, each and every day he was in it.

Tizku L'Mitzvos!

The audio recording of the Levaya (funeral) is available here:https://app.box.com/winiarz
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The Rebbe for Shabbat.com
Dovid's birthday video speech two weeks ago..



" Count your joys instead of your woes.
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your courage instead of your fears,
Count your laughs instead of your tears.
Count your full years instead of your lean.
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth,
Count on G-d instead of yourself – The Facebuker Rebbe

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  The term Jizyah denotes:
A.    The commandment of charity
B.     The northern Arabian Peninsula
C.     The protected religions
D.    The per-capita tax levied on non-Muslims

The Midrash shares with us the symbolism of the lintels and the doorpost of where the Jewish people were meant to put the blood as representing our forefathers. The lintel represent Avrahams the two doorposts represent Yitzchak and the Yaakov in the merit of our forefathers the children are redeemed although our merits may be insufficient. Additionally the foods consumed Seder night the Midrash tells us are reminiscent of our patriarchs and Matriarchs. The lamb roasting over the fire remind Hashem of Avraham who was thrown into a fiery furnace and saved. The matzos allude to Sarah who baked Matzos for her guests, the three angels, The maror represents Yaakov who was persecuted by his brother Esau and whose life consisted of a succession of tribulations.
It is interesting that we are a nation that is called in tanach by the moniker of Bnai Yisrael, All other nations are called by the country they live in Moabites, Amonites, Egyptians, Americans and Russians. The Jewish people are called the Bnai Yisrael, the children of Israel. Our national identification and title is as children of our Forefathers. Children of our Father,

Explore unique Geological sites   – Eretz Yisrael is truly the place that has everything in it. The Midrash tells us that this was the starting point of the world, so it would make sense that we have every type of geological formation here. Being at the center of the Syrian African Rift has afforded Israel the prestige of having the lowest place on the planet earth.  And one can experience that at the Dead Sea, We have hot springs in Tivera, and Hammat Gader, We have volcanoes, and we have beautiful Craters known as Makteshim down in the Negev -our mini Grand Canyons, but nicer with all types of colored sands and unique formations and rocks as well.


"Whiskey probably won't help your problems, but it's worth a shot."

"What kind of job is a rabbi for a good jewish kid anyway"



Answer is D:  Although today the world suffers most from the terrorism of muslim radicalism, for millennia the Jews suffered much more from our Christian neigbors who killed us massacred us and pillaged us. Under Islam though non-musilims were permitted to live in relative peace. They did have to pay the Jizya though, which was an extra tax on non-muslims. This would show the subordination to Islam and Jews and Christians had to pay it. Until the late 1800's this was common in the muslim world and it remained that way in Persia until the 1900's. Today ISIS is the only ones that would like to see that be reinstated, which if Jews could or non Christians would be able to keep their heads on their shoulders might not have a problem paying. The rationale for the Jizya as described by the 12th century muslim philosopher is
"The intention of taking the jizya is not to approve the disbelief of non-Muslims in Islam, but rather to spare their lives and to give them some time; in hope that during it; they might stop to reflect on the virtues of Islam and its compelling arguments, and consequently converting from disbelief to belief. That's why it's important to pay the jizya with humiliation and servility, because naturally, any sensible person cannot stand humiliation and servility. So if the disbeliever is given some time watching the pride of Islam and hearing evidences of its authenticity, and see the humiliation of the disbelief, then apparently this might carry him to convert to Islam, and that's the main rationale behind the enactment of the jizya".
It would be nice if this was the way they went about things today.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Animal House- Vaeira 2015/5775

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

January 16th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 13 -25th of Tevet 5775
Parshat Vaeira
Animal House
We have rabbits hopping around "our" house. The "our" is just a polite way of saying my wife and children's house that they allow me to sleep in and work on my computer with every once in a while. If it was my house, there wouldn't be rabbits hopping around, jumping up and down my steps, nibbling at my sefarim and books or jumping on me while I am lying on my couch. I have nothing against rabbits…in the fields and pastures where they belong or even on key-chains  (ouch!). I have nothing against animals in general. I eat a lot of Kosher ones regularly and take tourists for rides on a lot of non-kosher ones all the time. They just don't belong in houses. Certainly not my house, but who am I to argue? I've learned long ago there are just some things that don't pay to argue about. And if the Rebbetzin wants rabbits, she can have rabbits. Especially since they were free…maybe that's what it was. The problem is that I think that they are male and female. I guess we'll find out.

The truth is they are kind of cute. I don't have to walk them, or put a bag on my hand and clean up after them; how or why people would do that I will never ever understand. I don't even have to buy them food. I just pick up the leftover vegtables from the supermarket as they throw them out. Tuli and Elka can stay entertained and quiet for a good hour playing with them. That's a good thing. If I had to choose an animal that would be in my house, rabbits aren't that bad of a choice. As long as there's only two…but who knows this is Israel. If the cats in this country seem to reproduce by the thousands overnight I'm scared to find out what the bunnies might do. I guess we'll find out.

This kind of leads us this into this week's Torah portion as the Torah shares with us the beginning of the end of Pharaoh and the Egyptian's houses. All types of animal invasions a lot more dramatic than bunny rabbits hit them. It seems like their house didn't really turn out to be their houses either by the end of the story. Plague after plague the Egyptians entire world came crashing in upon them and in the end we were finally sent free taking with us all of the wealth and spoils and even the clothing of our Egyptian taskmasters. The Parsha begins with Hashem telling Moshe of the big plan to take out the Jewish people and to bring them to the land. In addition Hashem tells Moshe about his plan for Pharaoh.

"And I will harden his heart and will increase my signs and miracles in the Land of Egypt..and Egypt will know that I am Hashem when I stretch my hand on Egypt and I will take the Children of Israel from within them."

Each one of the plagues that were brought upon the Egyptians had a message for them. Our sages and the Midrash have myriads of insights. That's kind of what happens when you have a holiday that entails reciting the story each year with the only rule being that "He who elaborates upon the story of the Exodus from Egypt is praiseworthy". Some of our sages explain that each plague is retribution for each act and persecution that the Jewish nation was put through. Others focus on the different levels of Creation that Hashem is revealing to the world and all its different aspects. Others describe the plagues as different stages of attack of an army, and the more mystical see in them the 10 Kabbalistic Sefirot of Hashem's name expressing themselves in each of the plagues. Whichever way you cut it, Egypt was pretty devastated. It was not fun to be an Egyptian in those days.

Now I'm not such a deep guy. And after quite a few Seders of hearing the same old- same old I decided to shake things up a little by playing a little game. It was called if you had to pick a plague that you had to have if you were - god forbid- an Egyptian which one would you pick? Being that my kids don’t' drink water much Dam/ Blood was their plague of choice followed by Choshech/Darknes. One of our vegetarians had no problem with the Dever/ Pestilence one knocking out all the prime rib and shwarmas in town. I, to get back at her, said that I had no problem with the Arbeh/ locusts eating up all her salad. So there! She reminded me that Pitas come from wheat that grows in the field.  The next game on the list was "Which plague was the worst and the one that you would never want?" You can guess which one my first-born picked J; although her younger sister didn't choose that one interestingly enough. So as not to get too personal we changed the rules of the game and the tenth plague Makkat Bechorot was left out. What was fascinating was that I think that almost everyone chose the Wild Animals plague as being the worst. Lions and tigers and bears oh my!

What I find most interesting about this plague, besides all the gory stories that you can make up to kind of help your children visualize this terrifying plague, is that the name of the plague doesn't really do it justice. For as opposed to all the other plagues which the plague is clearly defined by its name, here the Torah refers to the plague as Arov which can be translated as swarm, mixture or chulent if you like, of animals. Chulent is not a terrifying name. In fact although most interpretations of the plague go with the Talmudic opinion of Rabbi Yehudah that the plague was a mixture of different animals, but many of the commentaries explain it as a swarm of hornets and other flying insects, angry birds of prey, sea creatures or even panthers or wolves that roam the evening. Who knows maybe it was killer bunny rabbits? Regardless the Torah is certainly precise in the name it chose to describe the plague and unlike what all of our Seder guests might have thought it doesn't seem that the objective or even severity of the plague was animals marauding and eating people rather it was the fact that there was a mixture that took place here.

Another interesting aspect of this plague was that the Torah describes the damage caused by the Arov as being Mashchis Et Ha'Aretz Mipnei Ha'Arov the land was ruined as a result of the Arov- The Talmud notes earlier when it discusses the flood that whenever the term Shacheis-ruined is used it is a reference to idolatry and illicit relations. The Midrash over here makes that connection as well and notes that "Just as the Egyptians ruined and mixed up the ways of the world {by engaging in idolatry and illicit relations} so too did Hashem mix animals in ways that were normally prevented by natural law." Finally, and perhaps our last clue is the Midrash that suggests that the plague of Arov came as retribution for the Egyptians sending the Jewish people out to the forests and jungles to get them these wild animals that would be used for their blood-sports which included of course included siccing them on their slaves much to delight of the cheering audience.

I have to give a disclaimer here. I'm not a sports fan. I never really even got the concept or the entertainment value of it. Why would I spend hours on end of my life watching people run, jump, kick and throw a ball into various nets and hoops. One of my more cynical Rabbis once suggested that sports was invented in order to keep big scary gentiles off the streets. I'm not that cynical but I can certainly appreciate where he's coming from. It is interesting though, when you come to think of it though how most of the sports teams are named after animals. The Tigers, Lions and Wolverines and that’s just my home teams of Detroit, where they apparently aren't so successful I remember from my childhood of keeping all of the wild animals off the street.  But check out all the teams, the Bears, the Bulldogs, Panthers, Hornets, Jaguars, Raptors and Bulls all the animals that plagued Egypt. Although I don't believe there's a team called the bunny rabbits. Even more entertaining to me though is to watch the crazy crowds many of them dressed up with all types of face paint like the animals; whiskers and all. Listen to them roar, growl, scream for blood. The large screens urge on the crowds. And they all become animals. One big Arov.

It's interesting to note that Man was created in the Garden of Eden on the same day as the wild animals. We were forbidden to eat animals. We were created as a higher form with the spirit of Hashem our neshoma blown into us by God as opposed to the animal kingdom and we were distinct from them. We were inherently Divine and good and evil/ Ra was on the outside. On a tree, that if we ate from it would merge the two. We would internalize and "know" in the biblical sense good and evil. Godliness and our animalistic nature would become one and we would constantly be driven to pursue the latter. The snake who made the argument that we're all animals convinced us and the rest is history. Mankind sinned and the earth became "ruined before God" licentiousness idolatry, thievery all our baser natures took over. The world was destroyed with the flood and man becomes permitted in the New World to eat animals, to remind us that we are not them. We are holy. We can uplift the animal kingdom, rather than fall to its level.

The slavery of Egypt as in all of our persecutions was about our enemies dehumanizing us. We're animals, were maggots there is no Tzelem Elokim/ Divine spirit that differentiates us. We are at best slightly more developed primates. It is the essence and primary principle of any hedonistic society as well. It's interesting that the word Arov is really a mixture of the two words Ra/evil and Tov/good - (where's the Tet of Tov you ask? The letter Reish and Ayin in mispar Katan meaning that you remove the zeros of the 200 of Reish and of the 70 of Ayin in gematria and you are left with 2+7 which equals 9 the letter Tet-but that’s just a little deeper). Hashem's response therefore was to bring upon them the Arov, the mixture and the herd You want to know what being an animal really feels like? Welcome to the herd. The Arov came into their houses their homes, their palaces. It doesn't make a difference which animals it was. Whether they were engulfed in beasts of prey, a swarm of birds or a pack of rats or a cloud of hornets. The point of the plague was that they were now officially part of the animal chulent. The animals ruined the godly spirit that was on the earth. The Egyptians got a feel for what an world absent of a godly soul-driven human being would be like.

It is on this plague that Hashem says that the Egyptians will learn that the land upon where the Jews reside will be distinguished, the Arov will not be there. I will bring about redemption between My nation and yours. The Jewish homes will not have any Arov/Mixtures. We are of a Divine nature. The blood-sport the pursuit of animalistic desires will not be found in my holy nation. In fact quite the opposite the Midrash suggests.
 "Let the animals come and persecute the nations that persecuted my nation who are compared to animals as it says Dan is like a snake, Yehuda is like a lion Binyamin like a wolf and Yosef is like an Ox."
The tribes of Israel have the ability to raise and sanctify that animal part of us to the highest realms of spirituality. Our homes are not zoos; our entertainment is not feeding and expressing our most animalistic natures. Our teams are not animal names. We are on "Team God"  The Abrahams are playing the Issacs tonight. The Rabbi Akivas against Rabbi Yochanan in the arenas of Torah.We are here to build homes of Hashem, a land so holy that even the animals become inspired by us. To create a world where the prophet tells us.
"A wolf shall lie with the lamb and a leopard with a kid goat and a calf, lion cub and a fatling shall lie together and a small child shall lead them."
All of the world will be as friendly as bunny rabbits. As we are all united in singing the song of Hashem.
Have a Divine Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Smart funny annoying animals!

10 Most deadly animals that kill humans a bit gory

a little taste of the plague of wild animals


"Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve."-Erich Fromm

"Man is a clever animal who behaves like an imbecile. -Albert Schweitzer

" Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time." -C. S. Lewis

and finally…
"There's nothing funnier than the human animal.-Walt Disney

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  Which of the following, among others, does “Laylat al-Qadr” denote?
A.    Accepting the commandment of prayer
B.     The prophet’s night journey
C.     The decree of the destinies (kviat hagoralot)
D.    The last night of the Hajj
By the last plague in this week's Torah portion of Hail, when Moshe warns the Egyptians to bring in their animals in order that they not get harmed and Pharaoh and his advisors refused to listen to him, the Midrash shares with us an eternal parable and message.
The wicked may be likened to the stormy sea. The first wave declares "I will roll up to the shore and flood the world" But as soon as it reaches the sand it breaks. The wave that follows it again announces " I am going to flood the world" but it also breaks at the shore. Each wave makes the same proclamation and never learns from the previous one. Thus pharaoh was conceited and therefore suffered, but Amalek failed to learn from him. Amalek was punished for his arrogance, yet Sichon, Og, Balak, and all the oppressors of the Jewish people did not learn from the downfall of their predecessors.
Some things never change… sigh…
Frolic with Israel's biblical animals   – Yeah, I know they have animals all over the world, but only in Israel can you actually open a Tanach (bible) and read verses that tell you about the animals right in front of you. Of course there is the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem that makes it quite easy. But one can go anywhere in this country and see our biblical animals. Whether it is shepherding in the Shomron, the hyrax and Ibex in Ein Gedi, cows and goats in the Golan Heights, and even griffins- the biblical Nesher at Gamla or in Carmel, Donkey rides and camel rides just like our ancestors. Israel is the place where you can see them all and be inspired.


Top Ten Egyptian Game Shows
10.  Egyptian Idol:  24 contestants vie to worship a sun god
9.    No Deal or No Deal - Pharaoh's personal favorite
8.    $25,000 Pyramid
7.    The Amazing Race - 600,000+ people journey across a sea, a barren desert to reach a mountain top
6.    So you think you can Walk (like an Egyptian)?
5.    Egypt's Got Talent! - lot of snake-to-stick acts to follow
4.    Flavor of Blood
3.    Project Runaway
2.    Extreme Makeover Plague Edition- This family's house was filled with frogs, pelted by hail, ravaged by animals, infested with lice and locusts, and worst of all, their light bulbs never seem to work
1.    Survivor: Firstborn

Young Muhammad came to school in France for his first day. When his teacher asked him his name. The teacher told him that he is in France now and therefor his new name will be "Jean-Pierre" a nice French name. When he came home that day from school and he told his mother that he learned in school that he had a new name Jean- Pierre, his mother slapped him and told him that he was a muslim named after the holy prophet and his name was Muhammad. When his father came home as well he got another slap for changing his name. The next day when he came back to school with to red marks on his cheeks, his teacher asked him what happened.
"See, I became French for only one day and two Arabs started to beat me up already!!"


Answer is C:  OK now that we covered all the easy Jewish questions, we move on to the Islam questions. I decided to skip the three Christian questions because it seems that some of my readership was getting sick of them-as was I, especially during this season. So here's the Islam stuff. La Quadr is the night the muslims believe that the Quran was revealed to Muhammad, It takes place in the last ten days of Ramadan on the odd nights, though not the last day-thus the various tricks in their question. The Muslims believe that on this night Allah decides their faith and can shower them with all types of blessing for the entire year. Many of them stay up and pray these evenings. So how many Jewish hoiday and customs can you find in this holiday that they misappropriated from us. Rosh Hashana, Shavuot…what else…sigh no imagination.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Looking for a Leader- Shemos 2015/5775

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

January 9th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 12 -18th of Tevet 5775
Parshat Shemos
Looking for a Leader
So it's that time of year again. The Arabs have stopped killing us for about five minutes or so. It happens every now and again. (Note – how I said have stopped killing us not stopped trying to kill us- you have to read my words like Rashi to fully comprehend their depth- trying I don't think has ever stopped.) So in honor of the occasion and in order not lose that small window of opportunity, my blessed brothers here in this country of ours have quickly decided to call for elections, in order to increase fighting, divisionism, and in general hatred and vitriol between Jews. We don't get these chances often. Usually we have to hide in bunkers together and declare solidarity with our soldiers and support for the Government as we stand united against our enemies who seek to drive us into the sea. We all daven together, attend funerals sadly together, we see hareidi men going out to bring support to our front lines, visiting hospitals, we even have leftists  not hugging so many terrorists and actually even upon occasion condemning violence and not calling for us to vacate our homes. We're together and it's kind of awkward for many here. So at moments when we have a break, tragically we fall back to our far too familiar and comfortable traditional default status of Jew vs. Jew. Welcome to 2000 years of exile.

So in honor of the great occasion it I felt it behooves upon me to offer up some of my recommendations for candidates for Jewish leadership. I know many of you are clamoring for me to take that position. But frankly, Jerusalem gets me kind of dizzy, I like it here in Karmiel and I'm scared if I became prime minister I wouldn't have the time to share with you my weekly missives, And then what would you do? Now I know the pickings are slim out there in the running. There's not that many people in office or running for office that you feel you can trust not to sell you, your family and our country down the road for the opportunity to have a photo-op with a US president in the rose garden. Heck, there's probably no one you would even trust to babysit your pet rabbit. That being said I believe that the Torah's wisdom can share with us some really important insight into the types of people that Hashem choose for leadership. Some of their qualities, experience and strengths and let's see if we can kind of like-you know one of the Facebook "see-what-type-of-biblical-leader-you-are" type quiz's that they send you. Plug in the info and see who we come out with it.

So lets' start, as this week's Torah portion does, with perhaps our greatest leader, Moshe Rabbeinu. Would you back his candidacy. What do you think his chances would be of taking office? Now if I were asked to become his political campaign consultant- a job that I think too many Israelis feel they have- I would probably say that we would have to engage in an ancient Palestinian tradition of historical revisionism. Let's start from the beginning. First of all the Jewish people is in a crucial critical moment. We have been persecuted in Egypt for quite a long time now. Babies are being thrown into the Nile, we are being forced and whipped into devastating slave labor and we have lost all hope. It's time for change. Nothing like a good crisis to kick-off a campaign. Enter one Moshe Rabbeinu. Nothing like a new fresh face to step in and save the day. Except, problem one, he's not really a new face. See Moshe is the adopted grandson of Pharaoh. In fact when the verse tells us that Vayigdal Moshe and Moshe became great, Rashi quoting the Midrash notes that he was appointed to be Pharaoh's chief of staff, His Goebbels if you like. Hmmm… that doesn't seem to be something to put on his resume, although there is quite a tradition in this country of party leaders switching parties affiliations and ideologies regularly. It's not something you generally play up, although we can certainly work with it and describe it as an awakening that he had.

OK, what's next? So the Torah tells us he went out to his brothers and in fact gets himself into a street fight with an Egyptian that is beating up a Jew. That wouldn't have been too bad, although it is quite radical, it would've probably played out better if he had just mediated and convinced him to back down, but it certainly shows a sense of willingness to get his hands dirty, which people generally like. But then he actually killed the guy, even worse he buries him in the sand to cover it up. Even worse he gets himself into another fight with two Jews fighting-never a good place to be, and word gets out and he is in fact arrested for the murder of the Egyptian and sentenced to death according to the Midrash. Now we certainly have no important political figures in this country who have gone to jail. And perhaps we might even be able to sell the notion that why should we wait until after they are in office to send them to jail, Moshe served his time before hand already. But murder is kind of a harsh black spot to have on your resume.

Moshe flees before they can kill him and the Midrash fills in the blanks over the next forty years or so of his life. Let's see maybe he can overcome these challenges to making him electable. So first off the Torah tells us that he comes to Midian, and once again it seems this guy can't seem to get off trouble. He sees some women getting harassed by some shepherds and does the whole JDL thing again. The woman that he saves is incidentally the daughter of the Pope of the world at that time, Jethro also a former advisor and collaborator of Hitler/Pharaoh. Moshe marries his daughter, who incidentally according to the Midrash might have been a Kushit or African-american (although there was no American…what do you call them…hmmm Colored…? Negro…? Black? Any politically correct options? ) How do you think that would fly in Boro Park, Lakewood or Bnai Brak? I mean but let's leave the race card alone for a bit, but the Popes daughter?! Really? To make matters even worse for his campaign, the Midrash tells us that he eventually made it big there in Midian and became the ruler of the country there. Imagine the former king of Saudi Arabia running for Israel political office. Now I know former oil magnates make it big in the States, maybe pitch this as the Bush/Obama blend Oil meets African American…hmmmm…

Finally the Torah tells us he ends up as an eighty year old shepherd running around with sheep in the Sinai desert. It is there where he comes to his real "found God..halleluya" moment. Except it also doesn't seem to work out well. Rather than an expectant Moshe who we would hope would stand up for the Jewish people by the burning bush and jump at the opportunity to rescue them from their persecution and near-annihilation. Moshe tells Hashem "Who am I to take to go to Pharaoh and can I take out the Children of Israel from Egypt?" and as Rashi notes Moshe said, "Even if I am significant why is Israel worthy that a miracle should be done for the and that I should take them out of Egypt".  I hope they don't have any video of that conversation to release to channel 2. In the following week of discussion about him "running for office" . The Torah spends an inordinate amount of time and ink telling us how reluctant he is to take this job. He offers up his brother, Aharon as a candidate instead, he is extremely skeptical of whether the Jewish people will believe him or not. He almost seems oblivious to the fact that the entire time this conversation is going on "the trains are still heading to the Egyptian Auschwitz".

 Perhaps the final faux pas comes when after Hashem finally convinces him to take the job and he comes to Pharaoh and he fails to convince him to release the Jewish people and the work is doubled on the Jewish people and the local Jewish Biblical Times are already condemning this radical that has just stirred up the pot, Moshe loses it. He turns to Hashem and protests.
 "Why have you done bad to the people and why have you sent me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name he has harmed this people and you haven't saved your nation".
Now remember this is Hashem here. The Master of the World. Yet Moshe right after the first crisis seems to fall apart and seems ready to head for the door. Can this really be the true leader of the Jewish people. Oh by the way did I mention he had a lisp as well and forgot to circumcise his son on the way into Israel. Ohhh the Jewish tabloids will have a field day with this election campaign. Let the blogging begin.

The truth is I don't think the Jewish people would ever have a more unlikely leader than Moshe (although King David is a very close second). It is perhaps precisely because he is so unlikely though that Hashem chose him and he became the greatest leader of our people of all time. In fact our sages tell us that if not for Moshe we would never have been able to leave Egypt, not ever received the Torah, no other individual who ever spoke to Hashem "face-to-face". The Zohar on a very deep level even tells us that there is a spark of Moshe in each and every Jew; The spark that is in the most unlikely of spots and the spark that will always connect us to the greatest of heights; to our redemption. What is that spark? What does is look like?

The Torah tells us the one thing about Moshe that was unique was that he was the humblest man on the face of the earth. Humility is not a feeling of inadequacy; it's not a feeling of wimpy-ness or a lack of appreciation of one's greatness. Humility is the recognition that I exist, and my power to accomplish is all only because it is the will of my Creator. I am nothing without Hashem and everything with Him. There is no 'God and I' there is only a "Moshe Moshe" -without the hyphen in between- that Hashem calls out to him from the bush as; A Moshe soul up above that has absolute clarity of the existence of Hashem how there is nothing that happens that is not His will, and a Moshe below that mirrors that exact sentiment and who's every fiber is governed by that.
Moshe doesn't see a difference between Egyptian fighting a Jew, a Jew fighting a Jew or some Midianites picking on the Pope's daughter. The will of Hashem is that truth and goodness must prevail. He doesn't even see Jews in Egypt's persecution as being worthy of redemption initially as they are meritless, until Hashem tells him that it is his will to take them out to bring them to Sinai. There's no black and no white, only Hashem. Once Moshe recognized that it is the will of Hashem to take them out he will even challenge Hashem based on his own will. Why then have you sent me, it is your name you told me it is your people. Let the party begin. That's our candidate. That's our leader; The unlikely person who views his entire existence as that of being an Eved Hashem-literally a servant of Hashem who cannot do anything, but for the will of God.

We need a Moshe today. We have had enough politics and poli-shticks, enough agendas, enough campaigns and enough fighting. Ritzoneinu Liros Malkeinu- We want to see our King. Moshe within 50 days of us leaving the lowest place where Jews can fall was able to raise our nation up to the highest level of our entire existence. Because it was never about him, he was nothing and therefore he became everything. We knew that. We felt it and we were thus inspired to the degree where we became the nation of Hashem. We said Naa'she V'Nishma- we will do and we will hear- none of the details of what the Torah said were necessary for us to hear before our acceptance of it. It was the will of God and that's all that counted. Our inner Moshe was redeemed. We were ready to serve our Creator.

Now if we can only get that back again…
Have a Marvelous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

First snow in Jerusalem!

Aharon Razel classic -Sneh Bo'eir-burning bush

If Moses had facebook


"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted"-Mae West

"Ani Lo Nimtza HaYom Ani B'Snowfesh"- (I am unavailable today I'm on snowfesh (a new word combining snow and Chofesh (vacation) - an Israeli

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  The fast of Yom Kippur was determined by:
A.    The Jewish Sages (derabanan)
B.     The Torah (deoraita)
C.     Maimonides
D.    The Israeli Chief Rabbinate
A fascinating Midrash about Moshe-tell me if it sounds familiar- when Moshe first arrived in Yisro's house, Yisro imprisoned him because he was fearful of Pharaoh. Tzipporah would sneak down and bring Moshe food for the next ten years. After 10 years, Tzippora told her father to come look at the man he imprisoned and when he found him still alive. He declared that "I heard about the greatness of the God of the jews. he saved Avraham from the fiery furnace Yitzchak from the knife on the altar and Yaakov from the hands of the angel. He also saved this man from Pharaoh's sword." He ordered Moshe freed and given a haircut and dressed and brought to the house. When Moshe went into the garden to thank Hashem he saw a staff with a sapphire on it stuck into the ground. He removed it and brought it to Yisro to find out who's it was. Yisro was in awe as he explained that he had taken this staff from Yosef after he died and it was predicted that whoever could pull it out of the ground would redeem the Jews from Egypt and no one has been able to do that until now.
The staff our Mishna in Avot tells us was created in the dusk before Shabbos of Creation and given to Adam. It was then handed down to his son Shais and tehn to Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov and Yosef. After Moshe it was passed down to King David and the succeeding kings of Yehudah.
Can anyone say excaliber?
Connect with Hashem through weather – Most religious Jews that pray three times a day never realize how much of our prayers are about weather, rain snow, sun and all the blessing that it brings. Here in Israel weather is a really big deal. This past year was the worst year for rainfall ever! There wasn’t a water crisis because thank god we have developed over the past years water alternative options such as water purification and desalinization. But tour guides like me that had to bump our backsides on the Jordan river rocks all summer long knew it was pretty bad. Recently I was speaking to a farmer and he told me how good the cold is for the crops as the fruits come out sweeter. Being raised on the song rain rain go away come back another day, it's really wonderful to live in a place where when its raining every one is saying" B"H we need the rain". The ski slopes are opening up on the Hermon now. The schools are out for "snowfesh" and I'm grateful that things look good for my backside this coming summer rafting down the Jordan J.

Q: What do snowmen eat for breakfast? A: Frosted Flakes.
Q: What did the snowman and his wife put over their baby’s crib? A: A snowmobile!
Q: What do Snowmen call their offspring? A: Chill-dren.
 Q: How does a Snowman get to work? A: By icicle. 

A blonde driving a car became lost in a snowstorm. She didn't panic however, because she remembered what her dad had once told her.
 "If you ever get stuck in a snowstorm, just wait for a snow plow to come by and follow it."
Sure enough, pretty soon a snow plow came by, and she started to follow it. She followed the plow for about forty-five minutes. Finally the driver of the truck got out and asked her what she was doing. And she explained that her dad had told her if she ever got stuck in a snow storm, to follow a plow. The driver nodded and said,
 "Well, I'm done with the Wal-Mart parking lot, do you want to follow me over to Best Buy now?"
And the best for last
The Israeli Chariedi school Rebbe gets a call from the principal that he shouldn’t bother to come in as there is only 6 kids in school. The rebbe's response-
"I've got 12 at home…I'm coming in…J"

Answer is B:  I can't believe that there is anyone that got this question wrong. If they did they have some serious atonin' to do this coming year… Yom Kippur is not only Biblical but it is the only fast that is Biblical and the punishment for eating is Kares/ being cut off from the Jewish people. In Israel even the most secular Jew observes Yom Kippur not necessarily by attending synagogue but certainly by refraining from work as the entire country is shut down and even highways are empty. The holiest day of the Jewish year is certainly holy for all in the holy land.