Karmiel

Karmiel
Our view of the Galile

Friday, July 18, 2014

The IDF!- Matos 2014/5774

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

July 18th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 37 -20th  of Tamuz 5774
Parshat Matos
The IDF!

It's a wimpy name for an army if you ask me; The Israel Defense Force. It kind of sets ourselves up for the notion that we are on the defense and that we will always need an army to defend ourselves. There were other options when we started. There were in fact three different forces in pre-state Israel. The Irgun or Etzel (Irgun Tzva Liumi) which was the Organized National Army and the LeCHi (Lochamei Herut Israel) The Israel Freedom Fighters. But Ben Gurion and the Hagana were the strongest of the three so we are left with an army that is named peacefully the Israel Defense Force. If only the world would see us that way as well…

But the truth is what we might lose in our pacifist sounding name we make up for, thank God , in our unbelievable determination, dedication and sense of self-sacrifice to go to the end of the world to do what we have to do to protect our country and our people. I don't necessarily speak about our various governments and politicians who have sometimes let us down in their decisions that sometimes are too often influenced by that seemingly endless Jewish desire and fruitless pursuit to be loved by the world or at least not to be so hated and condemned. I speak rather about our brave young men and women who are willing and even to a large degree feel honored to be able to run into the firing line in order to save and defend our people without any sense of self. The wars of Israel are filled with stories soldiers who have jumped out of one burning tank to only get into another and continue the fight, soldiers who have braved all odds and left their families to collect intelligence that will protect us by living as Arabs in their countries and gaining precious intel from those that seek to destroy us. Perhaps even most amazing to the world is how Israeli soldiers and our emergency services are the first responders in many other countries who need our help in times of crises and natural disasters.  So there we are the IDF-Israelis Don't Fear, Israel's Dedicated Friends, Israel Dislikes Fighting, Israel Defends Freedom, Israel Desires Friends, but perhaps most significantly and yet to be fully achieved The Israeli Divine Forces.

This week's Torah portion tells us the story of one of the final battles of the Jewish people; the fight and the destruction of the nation of Midian, who at the scheming of the Bilaam and the Moabite king Balak who had been unsuccessful at cursing the Jewish people (remember the talking donkey trick) succeeded in their plan B against us. Bila'am realized that the way to get the Jewish people is not by trying to kill us or curse us, rather the greatest way to get to us  is by pretending to be our friends. They sent their daughters to seduce us and lo and behold it worked. Next thing we knew it as soon as we saw they didn’t want to kill us wadda boom wadda bing we were in their tents and worshipping their idols… Hashem of course did not like that plan. In general He has a problem with His children trying to disappear and shirk their special mandate to bring light to the world. 24,000 dead Jews in a plague later, which is only brought to an end by Pinchas and his heroic zealotry, Hashem commands Moshe to avenge those deaths by wiping out Midian. Jewish blood is not cheap.

I know this story seems so long ago. I don't just mean historically which actually and sadly does not feel so long ago, but rather I mean textually. It actually started over two parshiyot ago and the command to fight against Midian was the beginning of last week's Parsha almost 5 chapters before the actual battle. It seems that the Torah for some reason separated the command for the battle with a long seemingly misplaced cut and paste job of narratives, laws and sacrifices until we get back to this "jew"cy battle. We know by now that everything in the Torah including its placements and the form in which it tells us its narratives has a reason. Let's see what the significance of these pre-war instructions and stories as prerequisites to the actual battle are.

The lists of instructions from the command until the battle are actually quite fascinating. First we are told of the counting once again of the Jewish people post-plague according to the tribes. Now although one might assume this was just a head count to figure out who will go to battle or not and how many available troops we have, the Torah tells us something else. "And Hashem said to Moshe to these will the land be divided as an inheritance according to the counting of their names…each man according to their numbers  shall be given their portion". This wasn't an army count, it was a pre-inherit the land count. The narrative therefore continues with the story of the daughters of Tzlafachad and their desire and ultimately successful bid and plea to also inherit the land. This of course than leads to Hashem's denial of Moshe's bid to enter the land and the setting up of the leader that will bring them into the land, none other than Yehoshua.  Seemingly before we wage war against Midian it was critical to count, explain and clarify to them, that this is not just a battle against an enemy this is the beginning of a war in which they have a larger vested interest and goal; The acquisition of our divinely promised homeland in which every single surviving Jew would have a portion.
The truth is the Torah in fact tell us specifically that this group are really if one thinks about it survivors. Right after the count the Torah tells us

"And this counting of Moshe and Elazar   there were none who were in the previous count of moshe and Aharon at Mount Sinai for Hashem had said they would all die in the wilderness."
This was the generation that had been under twenty and that were born afterwards. The dramatic plague at the Midian debacle wiped out the remaining Jews left. This was the new generation. There are no more sins in the wilderness, no more deaths, no more plagues. The new world awaits them and they need to understand what they are fighting for. They need to know that they must succeed where there parents failed. The land will be theirs. Their leader will no longer be Moshe, once they get there, so don't get all hung up on the Moshe golden calf replacement thing again. You can do it. This land will be yours. Avenge their deaths by eradicating the evil and assimilationist temptations that will distract you from your mission. You have to build me a special different country.

And what type of country will that be? The Torah than tells us the next two narratives and laws. It will be a place where there will be sacrifices twice daily sacrifice being offered up in the Temple for him  Every Jew will have a part of that daily  sacrifice. There will be Kohens and shifts and his annual half shekel donation  makes sure he's a part of it. It will be a place where you will meet with me regularly. Where we will have holidays together.Where the mere words and vows that you make and take have the power to create sanctity and holiness and will transform the world. Don't make the mistake of your forefathers of Lashon Hara on the land and of despair and crying. Your words and your oaths will be fulfilled. You will bring their offerings to me in our Temple. You will have wives and husbands and fathers and daughters each one of them offering up gifts and promise to Hashem. We will be a family…a holy family. We will be one in our home.

It is then and only then that the Torah can tell us about the battle with Midian. For us to succeed at war we have to know what we are fighting for. We were not meant to have a nation and country like any other nation or country. We're not just another member of United Nations. We are a family that is meant to live in on its divinely granted and inherited homeland that is our family heritage. You fight differently when you're fighting outside of your own personal backyard. We are not merely just fighting for our backyard. We are fighting for the world. For the world will only fulfill its destiny when we can show them what it feels like to have Hashem's presence shine forth from our country. We're fighting for Him. I know that the monsters on the other side feel they are also fighting a Jihad and they are Allah's army. It's what makes them so dangerous. It's why they will stop at nothing. For us to succeed we need to know that they have it wrong. It is not them who are meant to fight the battle of Hashem. It is us. There is perhaps no greater evil than that false sense of Godliness that they cloak themselves in. It is interesting to note that the name Midian is the same letters as the word Dimyon-Imagination, illusory reality, make believe, falsehood. We need to know that our battle is for truth.

For us to win the war and give our family the home we have been promised to give Hashem the home he is so longing to return to. We need to remember the training narratives that were given to our first army before they began conquering the land. The land is ours- all of it, we can conquer it, and we have been granted it and we will one day soon once again see and bring the miraculous sacrifices in our service to our Father in heaven on behalf of all mankind. Watch out the Israel Divine Forces are on the way…
 Have a quiet restful and miraculous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 
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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  IMPORTANT  QUOTES OF THE WEEK

"Before Israel dies it must be humiliated and degraded – Hamas Leader Khaled Mashal

"“We repeat today that we are with the establishment of a Palestinian state on any liberated part of Palestinian land that is agreed upon by the Palestinian people, without recognizing Israel or conceding any inch of historical Palestine.” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh

“This is a generation which knows no fear. It is the generation of the missile, the tunnel and suicide operations.”- Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh

“I am heartbroken by the violence, especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza – men,women, and children who were caught in the crossfire. We are going to continue to encourage diplomatic efforts to restore the cease-fire, and we support Egypt’s continued efforts to bring this about”-President Barak Obama

What would've been nice for him to say
“The indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are terrorist acts, for which there is no justification. It is evident that Hamas is deliberately using human shields to further terror in the region.
“Failure by the international community to condemn these reprehensibleactions would encourage these terrorists to continue their appalling actions. Canada calls on its allies and partners to recognize that theseterrorist acts are unacceptable and that solidarity with Israel is the best way of stopping the conflict.
“Canada is unequivocally behind Israel. We support its right to defend itself, by itself, against these terror attacks, and urge Hamas to immediately cease their indiscriminate attacks on innocent Israeli civilians.
“Canada reiterates its call for the Palestinian government to disarm Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups operating in Gaza, including the Iranian proxy, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”- Canadian PM Stephen Harper


RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Which of the following was an ancient dryland farming (haklaut baal) crop?
  1. Eggplant
  2. Pomegranate
  3. Onion
  4. Garlic

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
Here are some cool "Protective edge" Gematriot- Tzuk Eitan the name of this battle which was given the name after the verse in parshat balak "Eitan moshaveicha vsim b'Sela Kinecha"- strong is your dwelling and set in rock is your nest.  Our sages tell us is also a reference to our strength being our forefathers Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov. Interestingly enough the gematria of Avraham Yitzchak V'Yaakov (with the Kollel meaning plus 3 for the three words) is the same as Tzuk Eitan protective edge. In who's merit we should win this war. In addition the iron dome called Kipat Barzel the word Barzel our sages tell us is also an acronym for the four wives of Yakov the mothers of the Jewish people Bilha Rachel Zilpa and Leah. Who are certainly protecting us as well.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK

Gush Katif- I know I know…but with Israeli troops on the ground who knows maybe once again it can be ours again. I visited this beautiful city back in 1990 for an Avraham Freed concert and it was truly magnificent; beautiful beaches, clean streets and shops and incredible fields and fields of orchards, flowers and vegetables that were bug free miraculously grown in the sand that seemed to produce only for the Jewish people. As once we left nothing the Arabs tried could get them to grow again. Just some small statistics to realize what we had there- The agricultural produce of Gush Katif represented some 10% of all agricultural produce raised in Israel; it accounted for 65% of Israel's organic export industry; 90% of Israel's bug-free leafy vegetables; 45% of tomato exports and 95% of Israel's cherry tomato exports; 60% of Israel's herb exports; 60% of Israel's geranium exports came solely from Ganei Tal in Gush Katif. WOW and we gave it all to Gaza and Hamas. I remember as well that sad 10th of Av day in 2006 when the "disengagement/or expulsion of Jewish families from the Gush took place. Perhaps the blackest and saddest day in our States history. A day that we are still paying for today as our boys head back there. Mey one day soon all of Israel be returned to our home.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Great song sung by Israeli soldiers getting ready for battle and the return to Gush Katif
(lyrics included if your don’t understand them throw em in to google translate)

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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  HAMAS JOKES WORTH CIRCULATING OF THE WEEK
  After the death of four Gaza children in today's attack Hamas has threatened to set up more of their children for death by shooting missiles from their schools if Israel does not admit defeat.

Hamas's solution for solving the population explosion that they cant afford to support because of their corruption...shoot missiles at israel from their maternity wards.

Israel has iron dome to deflect missiles being shot at it...Hamas is not worried they have still have some six year olds that they can hide behind

Obama has offered to negotiate a peace agreement between israel and hamas. Bibi has agreed on condition that he can negotiate a peace agreement between al Quaida and the US

Israel has been devastating Hamas by destroying the empty houses of its military leaders. This hasn't worried them much because each one of them has another few wives and daughters whose houses they can still steal.

How many Hamas terrorists does it take to change a lightbulb? one to shoot a missile at the electric wires 3 to hold guns on the women and children to use as a shield as you shoot it and then wait for the Israelis to come in and change it for you...

Why did the Hamas terrorist cross the road? he saw an old woman that he could hide behind while he shot off a missile

What's the difference between a hamas terrorist and a weasel? the weasel hides its children in an underground tunnel while it protects it...

And last of all HAMAS  acronym: Hiding Among Mosques And Schools
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Answer is B:  Pomegranate. Fairly easy I guess because it is one of the 7 species of fruits of Israel all of which are irrigated by rain not man. In Hebrew the term is Sadeh Baal a field with a husband. The Talmud explains that just a woman with a husband is settled and has no need to worry for here needs also a field that is fully irrigated from rain and requires no human irrigation is settled. Now I'm not sure about the other things as well. But I did know that rule about the 7 species so it helped me out. See, it always helps to know a little Talmud.:)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Impossible Possibilities-Pinchas 2014/5774

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

July 7th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 36-13th  of Tamuz 5774
Parshat Pinchas
Impossible Possibilities

It has been a surreal week… a surreal month…Missiles flying over my (our) country, terror unleashed on our children, an indifferent world that is once again silent, more concerned about the 5 or 6 silly or frustrated Israeli teenagers that write graffiti on a mosque or the mentally unstable ones that commit horrific acts than the barbaric acts of the thousands terrorists that are using their own children as shields and that use hospitals and schools as launching pads as they try to once again commit genocide against our nation. Peace seems impossible. Jewish casualties seem inevitable and god forbid worse. But yet I still believe it can happen. How? Why? When? With who? I have some of those answers, some ideas, some suggestions. I'm somewhat of an Israeli by know and having an opinion comes with your citizenship. But I do agree that it seems impossible. But this is a country of impossibilities and we are a nation that has always seem to beat all the odds.

Those were some of my thoughts as I started writing this E-Mail and I came across this E-Mail I wrote four years ago. It was my last West Seattle TLC E-Mail. The E-Mail when we were leaving our lives in the United States (although many in Seattle would prefer to live in Canada J- its in fact why they moved so far away (to the left) from everyone else in the country) and we were moving to Israel. Interestingly enough it started off the same way… as you can now read it. Perhaps the impossible can come true.

" It has been a week… a month… of the unreal coming true. Every box we pack, every piece of bureaucratic red tape that we cut through, every piece of our Aliyah puzzle that comes together, we get one step closer to seeing this un-real and truly remarkable dream come true.  We always had hoped and dreamed that we would make it to Israel . Would it be before Shani gets married (weddings are cheaper thereJ)? When I retired from the Rabbinate and my outreach work (I don’t really see that as something we can ever leave-watch out IsraelJJ). Who knew when that day would be? Just a “someday” that we hoped and longed for like all Jews…a someday soon that is now coming much sooner than we could have ever dreamed possible.

How does the impossible dream happen? The truth is most of the things that we write off as being impossible are really just at best improbable and beyond our imagination to achieve. As one great quote I read put it “ In truth everything is theoretically impossible until it is achieved”. As children, Hashem gifts us with tremendous imaginations. We believe in talking animals, dolls that speak, fairy tale lands and heroes tht swoop down from the sky and save the day. But as we get older we lose our imagination. We get stuck in the “real world”. We’re pragmatic, limited absorbed with the necessary here and now and we don’t have the energy or even the belief to pursue the elusive dreams that might have been the light and essence of our souls. We made them impossible and we gave up on ever seeing them fulfilled.

But we Jews are supposed to be different. Afterall we are the impossible Nation. There’s no logical reason or way we should still be around. After all we have never gone a century without someone trying to wipe us off the map someplace. We haven’t gone a century sadly enough where we ourselves haven’t tried to assimilate and disappear and leave the chosen-ness to someone else. It’s impossible to imagine that after 2000 years of Exile from Israel we now have returned again. It’s impossible to believe how 60 years after the Holocaust and the destruction of most of Torah Judaism and its scholarship. Thjat there is more Torah being studied and published then probably any other time in our history. We are the impossible dream come true. So if our existence is a dream anyways, doesn’t that make everything possible?

This week’s Torah portion has quite a few disparate portions to it yet after scratching the surface a bit, there seems to be this link that revolves around these impossible dreams. The Torah portion begins with the epilogue of last week's unforgettable story. Hashem rewards Pinchas, who against all odds and the mass revolution that was taking place as Israel engaged in immorality with the Midianite women, picked up a spear killed the leader of the revolt and halted the destruction of the Jewish people. Hashem rewards him with the impossible reward; he is made into a Kohen. Now although his father and grandfather were Kohanim (Aharon and Elazar) since he was born before their anointment and only those born after the anointment were to be Kohanim- his lot was to remain a simple Levi like the rest of his tribe. Yet, nothing is impossible. In reward for him standing up to an impossible situation and desecration of God (as his entire tribe did after the Golden Calf) he merited to achieve the impossible the only Kohen ever to earn the gift of Priesthood.

The Torah then continues and lists of the numbers of the tribes of Israel , a survivor in the aftermath of the Divine plague. Fascinatingly enough when you examine the numbers of the tribes of Israel, one notes that there is one tribe that stands out as having the largest amount of children, the unlikely tribe of Dan. Now what makes Dan so unlikely to have the largest tribe? Well if you go back to the original numbers of the tribes of Israel that and their children, you will note that many of the tribes had many children, Binyamin had 10. Yet, Dan of all the tribes had one lonely son; a son named Chushim whom the Medrash tells us was deaf. Imagine, what the neighbors would say? Poor Dan, will never amount anything. Who knows if this son will ever get married? What will become of their family? Yet here we are just two generations late and Dan is the largest of all tribes. Impossible. Not for Hashem who always looks after the impossible and least likely.

Next up we have the daughters of Tzelafchad who approach Moshe asking for a portion in the land. Their father was a sinner who was put to death in the wilderness. The Law is clear that only the male heirs get a portion. Israel is a small country and everything is already called for. But… what happens? The impossible. Hashem adds a law to the Torah in their honor. They may inherit. Their love of the land of Israel , and their dedication to pursuing that dream within the bounds of the system, as far as they could go and as impossible as it seemed, earned them it. Dreams come true.

We then are told about Moshe. The greatest leader of the Jewish people, who may not enter the land with us. Who will replace him? Is it possible to find someone. What will become of the people without their great shepherd who advocated and sacrificed and inspired them for so many years? Hashem said fear not there is a replacement. Yehoshuah, your servant, will lead. He will fill those big shoes. He will perform miracles and salvation as you did. The people will be alright. The impossible leader to find is already there. I am with him. He will succeed.

And then the Parsha concludes with perhaps the greatest impossibility of all and the secret to our capacity to supersede our limited expectations. We are told of the various daily, weekly, monthly and holiday sacrifices and services. What is so impossible about a sacrifice you ask? It is a mind boggling notion if you think seriously about it. Here we are mortal flesh and blood bringing a cow or a sheep to the Creator of the entire world as a gift. Huh?! Is there a shortage of hamburgers up in heaven? How can we even expect to approach the Almighty in any way? The answer is, it is impossible. But yet, Hashem has told us to do it. Why? Because he wants us to feel close to him in the only way we know how; through sharing our blessing with him, communing with gifts, and worshiping in His Temple…His home.

Not only does he want this once in a while. But Hashem wants this daily, twice daily. We are his children. He wants us close. He wants us to know that we can transcend this world. We can face everything and accomplish anything. Nothing is impossible, when we are with Him. The world is limitless and it is for us raise ourselves and it beyond.

We have no Temple anymore. We have no sacrifices, and perhaps that’s why we have lost our dreams. But we still have one thing. We have our deep inner longing that won’t die to come Home. This week "might" begin the period of mourning for the destruction of our Temples, our Palace for God. I hope it doesn't...  The Talmud tells us that the fact that we mourn something that has been taken from us for 2000 years and still hope for its rebuilding and our redemption is the merit that we need to get it back and come home again. It is impossible to mourn something from so long ago. But we are the Nation of the impossible and we know that within that mourning all of our hopes and dreams lie. I know I am certainly dreaming of the Holyland and our Temple. I return to our country but it is still missing its heart. Perhaps if we all just dream and think, wish and hope, and even plan and long than Hashem will make that final impossible dream come true."

That was four years ago. I have returned. The impossible became a reality. May we also soon see the impossible reality of peace in our country. The impossible reality of the continued safety of our brave soldiers and citizens on the front lines (which seemingly have now come to include Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) despite the thousands of missiles raining down upon us and the malicious and barbaric hatred of our people by our enemies and may we soon…so very soon see all of you that have not yet made it here home again as we once again all celebrate in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and our Temple.
.
May this Shabbos be one that brings peace quiet and tranquility to all of Israel
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 

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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S QUOTES OF THE WEEK

Two Jews- three opinions…but one heart-Anonymous

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
What sort of a spring is En Mabu’a in Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)?
a) A gravity spring
b)  A fault spring
c)  A thermal spring
d)  A rhythmic (intermittent) spring

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
There is an interesting medrash that Pinchas upon seeing the plague that struck the Jewish people because of the immorality saw the letter "Mem" filled with blood hovering over the Jewish people. The Mem which in Gematria is 40 could refer to the 40 year sojourn in the desert that was going to be for naught if we would have been destroyed. But on a deeper lever The Megaleh Amukos explains that Pinchas in Gematria is 208 together with the 40 it equals 248 which correspond to the limbs of the body and also to the name Avraham who was the symbol of the covenant that we would inherit the land and the circumcision that was being desecrated by the immorality that was going on with the Midianite women. Pinchas grabbed a spear in Hebrew the word is Romach which is 248 and restored the peace by correcting the desecration of that Bris. It is therefore and cool as well that our sages tell us that Pinchas is connected to Eliyahu Hanavi who attends every Bris!

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK

Air Force museum- Be'er Sheva As our boys in the sky are kicking serious Hamas posterior. Its cool to present this awesome museum. A tour through the outdoor museum of airplanes from the establishment of the State in 48 until modern times is truly a walk through our history as a nation. There are great stories about each plane and their different achievements and how we acquired them and it fills you with pride and an appreciation of our ingenuity and how Hashem has helped us despite all odds. The conclusion of the tour is sitting in the 747 airplane that was the control center for the Entebbe raid and watching a great short film about all of the different milestones of our air force. Really really a great place to visit for the family.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Red Heifer/ Parah Aduma born?

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  LATE NGHT ISRAEL JOKES OF THE WEEK
"An Israeli man's life was saved when he was given a Palestinian man's heart in a heart transplant operation. The guy is doing fine, but the bad news is, he can't stop throwing rocks at himself." —Jay Leno

"More rockets were fired into Israel today. Israel responded by bombing more targets inside Gaza. Now there's talk the U.S. might send some troops over there to help with border security. That's when you know the people over there are in trouble, when they start asking our advice on border security." --Jay Leno

"This morning the Vatican weighed in on the crisis. The Vatican came out and condemned Israel's attacks on Gaza ... which is great, because all day yesterday, the Jews and Muslims were asking, 'What do the Catholics think?'" --Conan O'Brien


Answer is D:  There are many springs in Israel. It is one of the most beautiful parts of our country as the Torah tells us it is a land of rivers and springs. Most are as a result of the underwater aquifers that are formed by the various rivers that pour underground and then come up. There lots of fun to swim in. The correct answer is that it is rhythmic spring which means that the water just comes out every so often in spurts as it fills up underground. There is another like that in Israel that I am aware of anyone else know where it is? Hint… in Jerusalem.. still guessing..in the city of David..correct it is the Gihon spring.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Only Love Can Break Your Heart- Balak 2014/5774

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

July 3rd  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 36-5th  of Sivan 5774
Parshat Balak
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
I am at a loss for words this week. So much going on so many feelings. So difficult to move forward. So difficult to envelop oneself in the many distractions of life, even a tour guide like me in the busy season. I sat by the Torah reading this morning as they read about the diabolical plot of Balak the namesake of the parsha and king of Midian as he tried to engage Bilaam the evil prophet to curse the Jewish people…to harm us. Hashem prohibits Bilaam from cursing us. "Do not curse the nation- for they are blessed.." and a tear flows down my eye. We are blessed it is true, but the curse seems to have befallen us. The nation of Hashem is mourning yet the world can't seem to stop cursing us.

As I found myself at a lack of words, a lack of jokes and funny comments and so desperate for inspiration, I came across Just a letter from Shlomo Katz, a holy singer, one of Reb Shlomo Carlebachs Chasidim, I share his words with you today. As his touched my soul. And I pray that just as our Father in heaven turned those curses by Bilaam so long ago into blessings, so he should finally grant comfort, consolation to all those who mourn our losses with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

And here's Shlomo's thoughts…

As the day was nearing an end, the anguish, helplessness and anger based upon the news of our three boys - reached new boundaries. My davening throughout the day was a mixture of mumbling and crying, perhaps ignoring what my heart really wanted to say and ask of G-d. It was nearly 5pm, I decided I had to go to the mikve. It is a minhag (ritual) to immerse oneself in purifying waters on the day of the passing of the righteous In an attempt to rise above the inevitable confusion and darkness, which are still lingering on, I grabbed a 
towel and the key to the local mikva here in Efrat, in search for a few moments of solace.

 As I drew closer, I couldn’t make any sense of what my ears were hearing. It was a sound of a large group of men, crowded in the mikve… and all this on a late Tuesday afternoon? This made no sense. Walking in, I suddenly saw a sea of exhausted eyes. It was a group of chayalim, soldiers who have been stationed here for the past few weeks. These boys (yes ‘boys’, they all looked like they weren’t a day older than 20) have been working endlessly to find our three boys, and are now continuing to search for the murderers who are still believed to be in the area north of Chevron, just a 15 minute drive from our home in Efrat. 15 minutes…
These soldiers have been sleeping in an empty building in Efrat, with no showers. So they all piled into the small mikve complex, waiting on line to use the showers there. The shower area was almost pitch black, as they didn’t know where the light, which runs through the shower area, was located. As soon as I turned it on for them they saw me, wondering what I was doing there at that time, possibly a tad embarrassed from the whole scene.

I quickly asked them if they needed anything else besides the lights. Towels, shampoo, soap? ‘Hakol Sababa Achi, Toda’, ‘everything is great bro, thanks’, they smiled graciously.
 And here I thought I came to purify myself by immersing in the mikva water. The site before my eyes was more powerful and purifying than anything I knew of. A group of very tired and physically dirty soldiers who have been risking their lives for the past few weeks – IN THE NAME OF AM YISRAEL IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL.

But what continues to strike me deepest is that these young brave warriors have no idea how holy they are. I sure don’t either, but they definitely don’t.

I was immediately brought back to a Shabbos table I recently had the privilege of being part of in Cape town, just a few weeks ago, which drove home this point in the most profound way. I was in South Africa for a very inspiring conference, and had the privilege of dining my Friday Night Shabbos meal by a very sweet local family, who was also hosting a young man named Rom. Rom is an Israeli who is currently motor biking his way up from South Africa to Israel. Yes, I couldn’t believe it either. With an Israeli flag on the bike’s tail, a mandolin and minimal clothing, Rom has been traveling the world. While sharing with us a bunch of his collected tales from his recent adventures, he then stopped and changed gears. Rom began telling those around the table that he comes from a completely secular kibbutz near Netanya. He kept on talking about how he, his family and his friends don’t believe in anything, and keep absolutely nothing when it comes to religious observance.

The rest of us around the table couldn’t hear of it anymore. I interrupted him in the middle of his speaking, asking him if he was in the army. He proudly yet very discreetly shared that he was in a very elite and dangerous unit for nearly 4 years. ‘You mean to tell me that you were willing to sacrifice your own body for the Holy Land on a daily basis for four years’ I began crying out to him, ‘but you feel you are not holy because you are not classified by the orthodox standards as an observant Jew?’ And a small tear began to form in his right eye.

 He had no idea how holy he was.
 The truth is we don’t know how holy we are either.
 We have very little sense of who we are.
 The moment we begin to forget, we are temporary reminded when tragedy strikes.
 And boy has tragedy stricken us these days.

 For some very confusing reason, we only remember what we are made of when we feel our hearts break open. We are so beyond angry, upset and frustrated. Despite our desire to pour out the wrath of heaven onto our enemies, our heart is so broken knowing that nothing will bring home Gil-ad, Eyal and Naftali.
As friends have begun to share and seek comfort from one another, the same words kept coming out of each other’s mouths. ‘I can’t explain it, my heart is literally broken. I feel like my heart broke’. I was immediately reminded by a beautiful song written by Neil Young, ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’, and things began to sink in.How is it that three boys, who were alive for approximately another 10-15 minutes from the moment of being kidnapped… how is it that their story (which is really our story) has broken our hearts in such a traumatic way?  What is it which Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali have forced us to return to?

Love.

 Whether we like to admit it or not, we are a people of love. Many articles have been written in the past few
 days, people pouring out their hearts in such a courageous way. Some of these articles call upon Am Yisrael to focus more on the current unity rather than the payback. As much as it’s hard for me to admit – these calls comes from love. However, in the heart of the matter, calls for revenge – can come from love as well. Once the love becomes the focus of it all, we will be able to permanently take care of our enemies.
Master of the World (who I have such a hard time asking anything of these days), when someone thinks differently than me – how do I remember they still love me and that I really do love them? How do I see holiness in a room of soldiers wherever they might be? What a shame it would be if we quickly got back to our daily routines, forgetting the light which these precious boys brought down on Am Yisrael. These three boys had the unfortunate merit to crack open our hearts – reminding us who we are and what we are made of.

We are made of love.

It’s the love for these three families, a love developing so quickly and naturally, which defines our true beings. What wouldn’t any of us do to be the smallest source of comfort for Bat Galim, Iris, Racheli and their families?

 But how can you love someone who you know so little of? Maybe it’s simply because love has very little to do with knowledge. How does one know when it is their heart which is breaking open? When you don’t know how to think or act, and all your left with is simply ‘being’ – it is your heart that has broke. Love is ‘Being’. If your heart is broken… turn off all social media for a few seconds. Embrace this moment which rarely rises upon the surface. Just for a second. Let yourself feel the pain of the brokenness and as hard as it may be, thank the One above for being part of a people who are love.

Because only love can break your heart.  

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 

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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S INSPIRING  QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"They are a nation that dwells alone" - It will live in an insulated land without much intercourse with other nations, living its "internal" national mission as an am [people] as a national social body, and will not seek its greatness as goy [nation] among goyim [nations], not as a powerful imposing national body among the other individual nations.-- Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsh on the verse in this weeks portion

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
The Rededication of the Temple in the period of the Hashmonaim and Maccabees was
a)  164 BCE
b)  169 BCE
c)  171 BCE
d)  174 BCE

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
In Bilaam's curse which Hashem turned into a Blessing He said that we will be a nation that lives alone and will not be reckoned with the other nations. Many of the commentaries see this as a prophecy for when the Jewish people will achieve a state (or State?) when we no longer feel the need to assimilate or follow the rest of the world and look to them for guidance rather we become the light for them. Interestingly enough the Gematria of the words Lvadad Yishkon/ and he dwells alone= 420 and it is the same gematria of words Yemei Hamasiach/ the Messianic Era- 420

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK

Jordan River Rafting- It's been a bad year for water in Israel this year. Perhaps one of the worst. Yet we don’t' hear much about it because thank god we have developed many alternate forms of drinkable water with Israel's top modern technologies of Desalinization and water purification. But the one place you do feel it is on the rafting tours up north. The upper Hatzabani river places are sadly all but a lot of backside scraping and raft schlepping along the now shallow river that last year was full of water and even hard to stand in the current. The Jordan river though is still very full and a really great place to go. Jordan River Rafting by Gadot not only has the most water this year but there are all types of fun activities such as jeeping, bike riding and even paintball that can be done there as well. For those that like a current though it may not be for you as the water is fairly still and requires paddling to get down it. But for little kids and adults that just like to lounge out on a lazy river, theres noting like sitting back on your raft down the river our forefathers once used to frolic about on as well.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Powerful and appropriate Clip if only the rest of the world would get
The WEST WING J Proportional response

Answer is A:  It's pretty crazy that you have to remember dates. I  can barely remember my wife and kids birthdays forgot about what year they were born in and I should remember the Chashmonaim secular year 2000 something years ago? But I actually did J the revolt started in the year 167 and after three years of fighting the Greeks (and our fellow Hellenist Jews who supported them -shhhh we don’t like to talk about that) in the year 164 BCE it was rededicated. Walla!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Don't Ask- Chukas 2014/5774

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

June 27th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 35-29th  of Sivan 5774
Parshat Chukas
Don't Ask
One of the more frustrating stereotypical accusations made against the Jewish people is that “They all ways answer a question with a question”. Why would anyone say that? Do we always answer a question that way? And even if we did is there anything wrong with it? Oops.

Perhaps one of the reasons why we are this way is because we have a deeply ingrained nature to find the truth and to clarify it. The responsibility of being the nation chosen by God to preserve and deliver that truth to mankind has to a large degree embedded itself into our natural psyche of communication as Lukshen (noodles) to chicken soup. So we ask and ask and ask again to clarify and to achieve the ultimate understanding of all aspects of everything. Yet there is wisdom about asking questions the first part of which is to understand from whence the question comes.

There is a story about Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik who had student from the Volozhiner Yeshiva in Lithuania who had left the yeshiva and the path of an observant lifestyle. In those times in the early 1900’s it was unfortunately not uncommon. It was a very turbulent time. Judaism was under assault. There were some very precocious minds in Volozhin. Not everyone withstood the temptations of the Haskalah, of Socialism, of Communism, and the other "isms" that were prevalent in that era.

Many years later, Rav Chaim happened to be in another city and this wayward student came to see him. He said to his old Rebbi, "I have so many questions about Judaism, so many questions of faith. Will you sit down and talk to me about them?"

Rav Chaim responded, "I'll be glad to sit down and talk to you about your questions. I'll talk to you the whole night. But first you must answer one of mine: When did you first develop your questions before you smoked your first cigarette on Shabbos or after?” the student answered that the questions had developed after his Shabbos desecration. “If that is the case”, Rabbi Soloveitchik responded. “Than your questions are not really questions they are excuses and answers to rationalize your behavior. I can answer questions but for answers there are no solutions”.

Very often in the work that I do I meet many individuals with questions. People honestly searching to discover answers to difficulties, problems and issues that challenge them in the modern world. I also meet quite a few individuals that have answers that are presented in the form of questions. Most typically those questions revolve around times of tragedy and catastrophe and of why bad things happen to good people. It is very rare to find someone troubled with the philosophical issues of why good things are happening to them. It seems that it is only when things go south that many “questions” arise.

This weeks Torah portion is called Chukas which means Laws or decrees without explanation. It describes the fascinating purification process of the sprinkling of the ashes of the Red Heifer that was undergone to extricate oneself from the impurity of having come in contact with death. Although many commentators give various explanations to the symbolism and meaning of various aspects of the process, the aspect that many point to as the unexplainable or decree is, that the process is one that makes Tamei or unpure the Kohain (priest) who performs it and it makes pure the one who is being sprinkled upon. How is it possible that the same act that brings purity should come from a process that makes the Kohen impure?
The answer

“Gezeirah Hi Milfonai Omar Hashem, V’ain lecha Reshus Le’Harher Acharehea”- It is a decree from before me God says, and you should not attempt to question it.

I find it significant that it is particularly here in dealing with the issue of how one extricates oneself from the spiritual morbidity and Tumah that accompanies one who is beset with the tragedy of a death, that Hashem chooses to declare a Chok or decree that is beyond the comprehension of man. Shouldn’t this be the one area where we should have an explanation? Where the questions of how can I move beyond this tragedy, or how can a loving God ever do this to me, be answered.

The answer my friends I believe is a very powerful one. It is that our questions are not really questions they are expressions of grief. They are answers to rationalize the pain and the distance we experience upon coming in contact with tragedy. This is not a time for questions nor is it a time for answers. It is a time for the recognition of the truth that is ingrained in us from the moment we receive our first sweet breath of fresh air provided for us by our loving Father in Heaven. “It is a decree from before me”, Hashem says, that purity and connection can come out of that which feels most distant, from that which feels so lonely. It is here more than anywhere else where the process of healing is described and premised on the concept of Faith. For many other Mitzvos we are encouraged to explore, understand, question and discover answers. For the Parah Adumah the Red heifer whose process is to relieve one from the sense of death and its accompanying Tumah it is only through acceptance first that the healing can begin.

Yes, we are a people of questions. It is perhaps those questions that have kept the study of Torah and the vibrancy of its lessons so alive three thousand years after its being given. Yet what truly makes us a people is our ability and capacity to recognize when not to ask, rather to accept. We live in a world and in a country particularly (at least I do…) where there are so many terrible things that happen. Innocent children, crying families, a nation praying for the return of our boys. How? Why? What are we supposed to do? What can we do? But sometimes questions should not be our response. When we recognize that sometimes the areas that are most difficult to come to grips with, are truly only the decree from the same loving Hashem who shares with us in our pain. The process of an even greater connection will then be an imminent result. And isn’t that something we all hope to achieve? May Hashem have mercy on his children and continue to watch over us and may the merit of our faith in His salvation soon bear the fruits of our ultimate redemption.

Have a Shabbos that is full of joy and a Chodesh that brings us only rejoicing

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ROSH CHODESH  QUOTES OF THE WEEK
May it be Your will, HaShem, my God and the God of my forefathers, to fill the flaw of the moon that there be no diminution in it. May the light of the moon be like the light of the sun and like the light of the seven days of creation, as it was before it was diminished, as it is said: ‘The two great luminaries.’ And may there be fulfilled upon us the verse that is written: They shall seek HaShem, their God, and David, their king. Amen-Kiddush Levana- the prayer for the sanctification of the new moon.

The Rosh Chodesh sin offering is brought as an atonement to for Hashem for minimizing the moon as it says a he goat sin offering for Hashem- Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish- 4th century Talmudic sage (ponder that amazing statement…)

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
The Chalcholite area of Ein Gedi has
a)  a closed building surrounding a spring that served as a temple to their water god
b)  a small fortress that served as a factory to produce their spices
c)  an area that has two rooms and an open courtyard and a circular structure in the middle
d)  a building where copper ritual prayer paraphernalia were found
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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

Words of strength and faith from Rachel Frenkel mother of one of the boys

 Return again by Reb Shlomo Carlebach in prayer  of our three sons return

Bring back our boys song beautiful and heartwrenching

Please keep in mind in your prayers, in whatever charity or good deeds you do or whatever Torah you learn the names of our three sons

1. Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah
2. Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim
3. Eyal ben Iris Teshurah
as well as all our brave soliders who are out there in the trenches looking for them. May Hashem see them returned quickly to us. 

 RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
The Portion begins with the word Zos Chukat HaTorah these are the laws of the Torah. It then continues with the mitzah of the Red Heifer. The Kotzker Rebbe notes that the Gematria of the word Zos- This is 408. Interestingly enough in the month before Rosh Hashana when we recite the Psalm of L'David Hashem Ori we also say B'Zos Ani Botay'ach- In this I believe? He suggests that the this is what three things Tzom/fast= 136 Kol/voice= 136 and Mamon/money=136 those three words are found in many machzors above the list of  three things that can alter ones heavenly decree that may not have been so good Teshuva/repentance, Tefila/prayer and Tzedaka/charity  3x 136=408 or Zos. Similarly King David says that those are the three things he has faith in and our parsha as ell beings that the 408 of Zos or these three things which fulfill the commandments between man and God and his fellow man as well as between man and himself (which is the reflective nature of prayer).

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK

Madrasa/Beit Tzaida- If you like water and have little kids this is the place to come. One of the most beautiful national parks in Israel this   which is a continuation of Nachal Daliyot that flows from Gamla down to the East side of the Kinneret, is a great and easy 45 minute to an hour hike all through knee high water. The park does have an entrance fee however along with it comes changing rooms, bathrooms and theres evena kiosk where you can buy ice cream afterwards. Madrassa is part of a larger park which is called beit Tzaida which is the largest fresh water park in Israel (7000 dunams), which was an ancient canaani and Israel city through the periods of the 2nd Temple and the Jewish revolt. But it’s a great place to really see the beautiful nature this country has to offer and its lots of fun!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  JEWISH JOKES OF THE WEEK
Two five year-olds are playing in a sandbox. One is Jewish, the other is Catholic. The Catholic boy says to the Jewish boy, "Our priest knows more than your rabbi!" To which the Jewish boy replies, "Of course he does, you tell him everything."
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Once there was a maggid, an itinerant preacher, who traveled from town to town in a horse drawn cart with no companion other than his faithful driver. This maggid was very wise and learned and would always end his sermon by fielding questions. People would ask him questions involving obscure and profound talmudic reasoning, but no matter how difficult the question, the maggid's agile mind always produced a learned answer equal to the question. One day the maggid's driver said to him, "I have traveled with you for many years, heard you preach and heard you field every imaginable question, and though I haven't your learning or wisdom, I think that I could deliver a sermon and field the questions as well as you. It has long been my dream to stand up there and preach like you. The next town we are going to is one we've never been to before. If we traded clothes, no one would no that I wasn't the preacher and you the driver. Just this once, let me try."The maggid agreed and when the driver preached he did indeed preach an excellent sermon. When it came time for the questions the driver found himself fielding every kind of question. That is, until a young boy asked a question that he had never heard before. It was such a profound and complicated question that the driver had no idea how to even begin to answer."Well," said the driver turned maggid, "I can't believe anyone would ask such a question. That question is so simple that even my driver can answer it." "Driver!" he yelled out. "You heard the question. Now come up here and answer it!"

Answer is C:  I Love Ein Gedi. It’s the perfect place to tour easy hike, gazelles, cute hedgehogs running around and even some king David Tanach and of course the waterfalls. The Chalocholite temple though is the part of Ein Gedi though no real tourists ever go to. It’s a few hour hike that is not fun all the way to the top to see the thousands of year old group of rocks in a circle which was some type of temple a long time ago with two rooms a nd a courtyard. Hooray! Stick to the bottom its a lot more fun…