Karmiel

Karmiel
Our view of the Galile

Friday, May 22, 2015

Romantic'a- Bamidbar Shavuot 2015/5775

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

May 22nd  2015 -Volume 5, Issue 28 -4th Iyar 5775
Parshat Bamidbar/Shavuot

Romantic’a
 
It sounds romantic” the Rabbi said to me. It wasn’t the first word that came to my mind, as I had been describing to him my vision of opening a new Torah center here in Israel. One that would bring together all Jews, from all backgrounds and orientations. One that would assist new Olim immigrants to the land of Israel and help them and their families integrate into Israeli society. One that would shine out to the rest of the country how we can as a people live in harmony and build a home that our Father in heaven would be proud of here in the holy land. One that would inspire all those that still linger in the diaspora to leave their comfortable yet-so not spiritual, so not divinely natural nor so not right homes and move to the land that we were always meant to live and develop. A small house of the Lord, which would inspire the heavens to already bring the ultimate home back again. No Romantic wasn’t the word I would have used.

But he was right. It was romantic. Obviously not in the roses, wine and hotel lounge kind of way or of the cheesy hallmark card type either. Both of which you gasp at the price you’re paying for something you know is five times of what it should cost. But you shrug your head and still that voice in your head, convinced that it is ultimately worth it (and it usually is). No this was different.  This was real romance. It was that ephemeral feeling and tug in your heart that you get when the sky is blue and the world seems like it could be perfect The type of love makes you feel that you will forever remain with that silly grin on your face as absolutely nothing could ever shatter that love, no matter how wild and crazy it seems.
 
It’s the word that has been lingering in my mind the past two weeks. Like a quiet whisper, a cell-phone on consistent vibrate ‘romantic…romantic…romantic…’ I even bought my wife flowers but it doesn’t still. I pass glorious mountains and valleys and hear them singing...romantic...I turn on the radio and hear the national anthem…I think of Mashaich … romantic… I open up a text to study and prepare my Dvar Torah or class…and I feel that tug… that longing…can they hear and see it too? Can we really do this? The world seems possible. All it takes is a little money and a lot of love.
 
The truth is, in Hebrew there is no real word for Romance. Romantica- was the best that those imaginative authors of the modern Hebrew language could come up with. Because in true Hebrew-Lashon HaKodesh- the holy tongue, only words that have a true basis and essence in the spiritual have translation. Not fantastical notions of the imaginary. So there is love- Ahava (its roots in the word to give) and even Cholat Ahavah which is lovesickness; that longing to give and to be part of something greater. But that indefinable and elusive romance is just not a holy word. Biblical romance is for a higher purpose; it is a game plan in reality to achieve the attainable.
 
Yet, this is the season that brings out that feeling. The spring is coming to an end. The birds are chirping the flowers growing. Creation has started anew and we are part of it. We even feel that we can be the center of it. It is in this season each year that we celebrate and commemorate the holiday of Shavuot- the day when we graduated from being just a former  and recently freed slave nation to becoming the ‘Priests to the world of God; his Chosen people. Being free and the exciting story of the miraculous Exodus, captures the imagination and is the thing of movies. Romantic’a. But the realization of our mandate, the acceptance of an entire people of the commandments of our Creator, that my friends is true love.
  
The fourth book of the Torah that we begin this week, almost always before Shavuot, is called Bamidbar-In the Wilderness. It begins with Hashem speaking to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai where we received the Torah and experienced en masse His Revelation. The Midrash asks why was the Torah given in the Wilderness? Couldn’t God have found a nice air conditioned Heavenly Palace from which to call his Press conference? The Midrash responds, that it is to teach us that the Torah is compared to the desert that is open and accessible to all humankind. The Torah as well, as it says (Isaiah 55:1): Let everyone who is thirsty, come for water- is free and open for all those who wish to drink of its wisdom. The wilderness is a place that is quiet, empty, and barren is perhaps a Romatic’a type of place for some. Being one with nature- as they say in Seattle quite often. Romantic’a. But a Torah that is each of our heritages, one which you do not have to be a great scholar, a wealthy person or even one with any background in learning to partake in? That is a gift of true love. We have a Book that has the answers to all our questions, that gives us strength, inspiration and guidance for every aspect of our lives. It’s ours. The world is possible with it.
 
But perhaps the most Romanticized story that we read in this season and that captures the true deeply felt love Shavuot is meant to for us realize, is the story of Ruth that we read on the holiday. The Midrashic version-which merely reflects and elaborates upon the text- of this heroic Moabite convert, who became the scion of the Davidic and eventually Messianic line, was that she was a young maiden who had intermarried into a prestigious family under a questionable conversion status. Romantic’a. Perhaps her husband felt that love would conquer all. It didn’t. As it seems he was certainly insincere and died in punishment for his sin. Yet, rather than taking the easy route out, she stayed. She ends up becoming a beggar and gleans in the fields of her husband’s relative who was a leader of the Jews and a very old man. As is the custom she was meant to marry her husband’s relative out of loyalty to maintaining his line. Not Romantic. Boaz (the older wealthier relative and Rabbi), informed her that if the first relative doesn’t marry her then he will. Again not exactly Romantic. She agrees. Boaz asks the man. Man says no. Boaz marries her and according to the Midrash she conceives that night and Boaz dies. Again not necessarily little cupids flying around with arrows and certainly not the version you can expect to come out on the Big Screen anytime soon. But it is in fact our symbol and story of love.
 
I’m sure Hollywood’s version would have had two gorgeous young looking people attracted to one another in some magical way. They are torn apart by a wedding gone sour and yet reunited on the beautiful wheat fields as they run- in slow motion- to one another and embrace in fulfillment and longing as they walk off in the sunset together forever. But did either of them ever sacrifice for one another? Is it about fulfilling their own dreams and desires? Than it’s not real. It’s not love.

Shavout we tap into the real love. We read a story like Rus and we see the big picture. We see and are inspired of how a former princess can leave her entire life behind and refuse to return, even after being offered the opportunity repeatedly, because she chose to live a life of truth… of true love dedicated to all her Father in Heaven has in store for her. Even if it means begging, even if it means entering into a marriage that was solely for the purpose of producing an heir to her husband’s line. It was true love and a higher calling, not Romance. Not Romantic’a; rather the kind of love that all of us deep in our souls have the potential to achieve. It is romantic to be in romance, but romance alone doesn’t bring us the fulfillment we seek. We need to actualize that, we need to make it real.
 
This Shavuot we can tap into that. Feel that love in the air. Stay up all night, go to classes, push slumber from your eyes to learn just one more word of Torah. And celebrate how lucky we are, a nation that is lovesick to connect with our Father and Him to us. It sounds Romantic, your soul is whispering its call, now let’s make let’s make it real.

Have a Romantic Shabbos and Glorious Shavuot

,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
Shavuot song stay up all night starring my good friend and fellow guide Moishe Hamburg!

The Matzah Shemita miracle plot that foiled Hamas pretty cool!

Am Echad starring Ari Goldwag-in honor of us standing as one by the mountain 3300 years ago

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

Libeh iz vi puter, s’iz gut mit broit.”- Love is like butter, It’s good with bread.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES  OF THE WEEK
My life is a like a big romantic comedy, Except there’s no Romance and it’s just me laughing at my own jokes. – anonymous
Stalking is when two people are going on a nice romantic walk together but only one of them knows about it.” Anonymous
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
Photosynthesis is the process of?
A.    The transformation of light energy to chemical energy in plants
B.     The transformation of light energy to chemical energy in animals
C.     The production of electricity from solar power
D.    The physics of purification of water
.RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
The book of Bamidbar begins “And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Mishkan on the first day of the second month (Iyar) in the second year after they came out of the Land of Egypt”.The Midrash notes why the Torah goes out of its way to describe the date and location here as it does not do so anywhere else.
It answers with a parable of a wealthy man who was known to own much real estate and investments who was however unable to find contentment in his personal life. He had just divorced his second wife the daughter of a magnate who had embittered his days with constant bickering. His first wife he had divorced because she was unfaithful to him. He refused to discuss these marriages with the press and when questioned about his previous marriages and divorces he refused to disclose any details, documents and dates as to when these occurred. After many years his friends suggested a match for him that was unusual for a man of his stature. The girl was from an impoverished home yet he was assured that she had a refined character and was of noble stock. After he had researched her and found that all that had said about her was true he exclaimed “This time I have found the right wife! I will now publicly announce the day of here wedding and give her a marriage contract.”
After creating mankind Hashem became so to speak disappointed with one generation after another. The generation of the flood and the dispersion rebled against him The Torha therefore glosses over the rise and fall of these generations without any specific details or dates. Of their appearance and exit from the stage of history. Regarding the Jewish people though Hashem said “ They are different! They are from the children of Abraham Yitzchak and Yaakov. I know that these people will always be loyal to me.
Therefore just a Ketuba, a marriage document specifies the date and place of the wedding so to the book of Bamidbar which describes the second year when all of the Jewish people are commanded to take their banners and flags and their places around the home of Hashem our Tabernacle
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Observing the pilgrimage holidays – Three time a year we are mandated to go up to Jerusalem and see the presence of Hashem on the mountain he has chosen for His home. In the times of the Temple, the Mishna describes Jews from across the country sleeping in the city streets on their journey up in order to inspire everyone else to come with them. The dignitaries and shopkeepers of Jerusalem would come out to greet everyone and the entire nation would gather in Jerusalem where miraculously everyone found a place to stay, to eat, to pray. Today we do not have the Temple yet many come from around the world to celebrate Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot in the Holy land and in Jerusalem. By each of these holidays there is a priestly blessing by the Kotel that thousands participate in, reminiscent of those ancient times. I always try to make it for the holiday of Shavuot as this was the first holiday 48 years ago just a week after the 6 Day war that Jews were able to once again return to the Kotel in our hands. Who knows maybe this year in the few hours remaining Mashiach will come and we will be able to be up on top on the Temple rebuilt.
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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  SHAVUOT JOKES OF THE WEEK
Abe and Sadie made a rare appearance in synagogue. It’s probably true to say that they are not the most religious of Jews. In fact, they only go to shul two or three times every year—and this Shavuot happened to be one of those days. At the end of the service, Abe shook Rabbi Rosen’s hand.
"Sadie and I both thoroughly enjoyed your service today, Rabbi, especially your sermon on keeping the commandments."
Rabbi Rosen replied, "It’s nice of you to say so, Abe; so why don’t you and Sadie come here more often?"
"It’s difficult," he replied, "but at least we keep the Ten Commandments."
"That's really good to hear," said Rabbi Rosen.
"Yes," said Abe proudly, "Sadie keeps 6 of them and I keep the other 4."
********
With Shavuot arriving soon, the Hebrew school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the fifth commandment, '"Honor thy father and thy mother," she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?'
Without missing a beat, one little boy answered, "Thou shall not kill."
**************
The Morgensterns, a Jewish couple who lived in England, won 20 million pounds in the National Lottery and resolved to live luxuriously on the proceeds. They bought a mansion in Southall and surrounded themselves with all the material wealth imaginable. They even decided to engage a butler.
After a thorough search, they found the perfect butler—very proper and very British. Soon after they engaged him, they told him that the following day was a holiday where the custom was to eat a dairy meal, and that they had invited the Cohens to join them for a dairy luncheon. They asked him to set the dining room for four. The following morning the couple left the house to go to Shavuot services. When they returned home, they found the table set for eight. They asked the butler why he had set for eight when they had specifically instructed him to set for four.
Replied the butler, "Sir and Madam, the Cohens rang soon after you left and asked that I inform you that they would be bringing the Blintzes and the Knishes."
***********
And of course the classic…
There is a well known Midrash about how God offered the Law to a number of nations, which all refused it, before He offered it to the Jews. What isn't known very well is the inside story.
God first went to the Egyptians and asked them if they would like a commandment.
"What's a commandment?" they asked.
"Well, one of them goes, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,'" replied God.
The Egyptians thought about it and then said, "No way, that would ruin our weekends."
So then God went to the Assyrians and asked them if they would like a commandment.
They also asked, "What's a commandment?"
"Well," said God, "one says, 'Thou shalt not steal.'"
The Assyrians immediately replied, "No way. That would ruin our economy."
So finally God went to the Jews and asked them if they wanted a commandment.
They asked, "How much?"
God said, "They're free."
The Jews said, "Great! We'll take ten.

****************
Answer is A: Come on, even my 7th grader knows this. It’s botany 101. Although I admit that Botany was my least favorite course in our tour guiding program. As my tourists know, one of the questions that I dislike the most after- what are we doing next, or are we there yet, is what type of plant/tree is that? I did not grow up on a farm, fruits and vegetables come from the supermarket. Inevitably I used to tell people that whatever tree they asked me what it was is an avocado tree. “Really, wow cool!”. Was the gratifying response. Until once someone asked me why there was oranges growing on the avocado tree. “Well, that’s the genius of Israel! We can make anything happen hereJ”. I’ve gotten a bit better though. I can now tell you what palm trees and olive trees look like and even mangos. Everything else is still pretty much an avocado though…

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hunger Gains- Bechukosai Yom Yerushalayim 2015/5775

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

May 15th  2015 -Volume 5, Issue 27 -26th Iyar 5775
Parshat Bechukosai
 Hunger Gains

Uh Oh. I know I’m in trouble when I begin to wax philosophical about dieting. Usually that is a sign that my post-Pessach -get rid of all those potatoes and Matzoh lbs- diet is in serious jeopardy. I know how it works. It starts with some brilliant insights on the principles of effective weight loss. Very slowly it then moves to some weak justifications of why a little piece of ……. really won’t impact my firmly committed resolve. After all I have just intellectualized the significance of why this is so critical to my lifestyle. I rationalize that one cannot go over board though. I quote Maimonides that one must choose the middle “golden path” avoiding extremes. Sponge cake is golden. Yet in the back of my mind I know that one I start quoting Maimonides, I’m in trouble. Before you know it I have reached the recognized reality that my justifications were indeed weak and I admit that I am not on my diet any more. This of course means that I will have to try harder next year post Pessach to find something else to write about for my weekly email so that it doesn’t happen again. Yet this week’s Torah portions contains in it two such beautiful insights into the Torah’s perspective of eating (and life for that matter), that I feel that it is worth the risk just to share them. Oy, what I don’t do for you. I will not quote Maimonides though.

The first insight comes from an interesting blessing that Hashem promises to the Jewish people if they follow the commandments.
You will eat your bread and will be satisfied”.
 Now even for those of us not on Atkins, the blessing may seem quite lame. I imagine that when many of us think of a blessing or reward for following the sometimes daunting commandments and restrictions of the Torah, we would hope that the good Lord might provide us a little something more than the promise of satisfying bread. Yet Rashi, the great 11th century most basic of Torah commentaries, quotes the Medrash that takes this blessing even further.
 "One eats just a bit and it will be blessed within his belly”.
So the reward is not even a lot of bread. Rather interestingly enough it seems to be the feeling of satisfaction that we are promised to feel after eating just a little bit.

Rabbi Yissochar Frand draws a very powerful insight from this rather humble blessing. All too often when we think of blessing we think of prosperity. Someone who has made it on our society is one who has the most and the best and the latest of everything. Unfortunately, I have encountered too many of these people and can attest that for a large part, many of them do not live with a sense of appreciation and feeling of blessing. On the other hand I have been privileged in my younger Yeshiva years in Israel to spend Shabbos with many families that feel they live the most blessed lives in the world. Many of them live in small apartments with families of ten children. Many do not own those basic western “necessities” microwaves, food processors, and computers. Yet the joy and feeling of blessing that fills these homes resonates with that special blessing of Hashem.

In a very similar vein the Seforno an early 15th Scholar notes another strange promise by God. We are told in Parshas Behar about the Mitzvah of the sabbatical year- Shemitta. After being commanded to leave our fields fallow for the entire year giving them a year of Shabbos, free from producing any fruit. The Torah then addresses that most primary concern.
“And if you may say, What will we eat in the 7th year if we do not plant and gather our crops? I will command my crops for you in the 6th year and it will produce for three years.”
The implication, it would seem, is that we only receive this blessing by virtue of the question "And if you will ask, what shall we eat?" What would happen, if they would not ask the question? Are we to infer that in that case, the crops would not double? Precisely, says the Soforno. If they would not ask the question, there would be no NEED for a quantitative blessing. The blessing would instead be something even greater. They would be satisfied with the smaller amount, and not fall into the never ending cycle of the unsatisfying pursuit for more.

One of the most difficult parts of dieting I find is eliminating “mindless eating”. Just turning off the brain and eating not for satisfaction purposes rather just eating for eating’s sake. This is not only true for eating unfortunately I believe it is true in our pursuit of “stuff” as well. Mindless impulse buying, things we have to have, places we have to go to, we lose focus on developing a mindset of satisfaction and instead hope upon hope that more of whatever, will make us feel better. Yet the Torah shares with us the true path to happiness. “Who is a wealthy man? He who is satisfied with his lot.” says the Mishna in Pirkey Avot. The road to true wealth and happiness is not going to be determined by how much food one has on one’s plate or how much money one has in the bank. Rather the truest happiness will only be found when we can feel satisfied and blessed with all that our loving Father in heaven has given us.

As we move closer to the holiday of Shavuot and work on building up to that spiritual peak of that anniversary of our receiving the Torah on Sinai. Let’s work on stepping back from our mindless pursuits (eating and otherwise) and begin a process of dieting. For as we focus on those actions that will truly bring us to a true state of satisfaction, we will be opening our lives up to the greatest blessing that Hashem has to give.

This week many celebrate the holiday of Yom Yerushalayim here in Israel. It is the day that 48 years ago. Hashem returned Jerusalem to our hands. It was not something we planned on, It wasn’t even a planned military objective. We turned around the corner as our soldiers entered through the Lion’s Gate in the 6 day War and wadda boom wadda bing we were there. Har Habayit BiYadeinu- The Temple Mount was in our hands. A true fulfillment of the verse Omdot Hayu Ragleinu B’Shaarayich Yerushalayim.- Our feet were standing at the gates of Jerusalem. We merited Jerusalem because we were never satisfied with the stuff of the Diaspora. Our Forefathers longed for it. They dreamed of returning and building once again the Temple of Hashem that will shine out to the world. Hashem created us with a hunger and a drive that is seeking to be satisfied and that can never be satisfied until it is fulfilled. Until the day that it will ultimately be rebuilt, our Jewish souls will always have a sense of void that needs to be fulfilled. It certainly isn’t meant to be filled with the quick fix noshes, luxuries and comforts that a few decades of no one trying to wipe us out in our foreign countries of existence might have provided us. It shouldn’t even be satisfied with the miraculous establishment of the State of Israel and the return of millions to our homeland. Even a day like Yom Yerushalayim when we celebrate the return to our holy city should cause us to look at the Kotel and see merely a candy wrapper; a retaining wall of the Temple Mount that was meant to envelop the home of Hashem that still needs to be built. It is what Hashem craves. Ratza Hashem Dira BaTachtonim.- Hashem desires a dwelling place here on this world. We can’t stop longing for that desire to be fulfilled. The Book of Vayikra concludes with the blessings and curses that can be achieved or that we will suffer if we forget that desire. If we forget that master plan. It’s time to give up the nosh. It’s time for the final glorious and eternal banquet that awaits us.

Have a spectacular Shabbos and festive Yom Yerushalayim.

,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
Love song for Jerusalem cute!

Jerusalem Flash Mob Eis Lirkod – at time to dance

Israel police – our pride and joy- doing the lion sleeps tonight

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

Fyn a kargn gvir in fet bok genist men ersht nukhn toyt!- A rich miser and a fat goat are of no use until they are dead!

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES  OF THE WEEK
I often hear them accuse Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem. That's like accusing America of Americanizing Washington, or the British of Anglicizing London. You know why we're called 'Jews'? Because we come from Judea." – Benjamin Netanyahu
“You ought to let the Jews have Jerusalem; it was they who made it famous.”– Winston Churchill
"Ten measures of beauty descended to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem."-Talmud: Kiddushin 
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
Citrus orchards in Israel in the modern era began in what region?
A.    The coast line
B.     Western Negev
C.     Judean Lowlands (Shefela)
D.    Jezre’el valley
.RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
This weeks Parsha tell us of that if we follow the mitzvos/ commandments Hashem will bless us with his “our rain in its time”. The Midrash explains what this means. One interpretation is that it will rain at the time of year when it si neede in Spring/The month of Nissan and in Cheshvan the fall month for they will not make the fruits soggy or flood the ground and will not harm houses our tress. Interestingly enough this year Israel has had the past month or two very unlikely rain in the month of April even and May. Someone pointed out to me that since this year is meant to be A Shemitta year and we are not meant to be working the fileds the only ones getting harmed by this are the farmers that are not keeping the Shemitta. Ouch!
Another interepertation in the Midrash is that it will rain when people are not outdoors like night time particularly on Wednesday night when there are evil spirits running around and Friday nights when all are home with their families. I added to that list when tour guide are not touring J
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Celebrating “New” “Jewish” “Holidays” – Three sets of Quotation marks depending on your orientation. Yeah in America you have July 4th, but here we have Yom Ha’atzmaut. How meaningful is Memorial day compared to Yom HaZikaron or Yom HaShoah? And only Israel has Yom Yerushalayim. Israeli holidays are not just days off to go shopping, the beach or catch up on work. These days are meaningful as we reflect on the miracle of the State of Israel and the return to Jerusalem. One literally feels they are part of the process of the unfolding of History and our destiny here. The last time new days were added that were celebrated by Jews was Chanukah over 2000 years ago. If you want to push it maybe Lag Ba’Omer 500 years ago. But here since the establishment of the State we’ve been getting these wholesale. Not everyone considers these Jewish there are some that see them as nationalistic, some that see them as holy days to thank Hashem. We Jews can never agree of course. But regardless here in the Land of Israel these days are celebrated as we await the return of the Biblical holidays with the coming of Mashiach to be experienced in our Temple hopefully very soon rebuilt.
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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  BARBER JOKES OF THE WEEK
A Jewish man was walking around Jerusalem when a bill board caught his eye. It read, "We would rather do business with 1000 Arabs than one single Jew!"
The Jewish man stopped and asked himself what place would advertise such a racist proclamation. Then he got it... The Funeral Directors.

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A good, old American Jew felt the death is close and asked his sons to take him to the Holy Land, to die there and be buried in Jerusalem.
 The loving sons did as he asked, brought him to Jerusalem, put him in a hospital and waited for death to come. However, once in Jerusalem the old man felt better and better and in some weeks was again strong, healthy and full of life. He called upon his sons and told them: " Take me quickly back to the United States."
 The sons were somehow disappointed and asked: "Father how come? You said you want to die in the Holy Land and be buried in Jerusalem!'
 "Yes," answered the father, to die it's OK but to live here....!?"

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Answer is A: If you got this wrong you should be ashamed. What you’ve never had a Jaffa orange before. The coastline which is called the Sharon area is where all of the Jewish orchards started, which was quite a feat being that the salt water isn’t great for them and fresh water wasn’t plentiful. The industry originally started with the Arabs in the late 1800’s but the Jews took it to whole new level with exports and drip and motorized pumped irrigation. Today Jaffa Oranges are grown mostly in South Africa and South America and Spain so as to maximize the world wide demand and to cover us in seasons when there is no rain.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dancing with Hashem- Behar / Lag Ba'Omer 5775/2015

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

May 7th  2015 -Volume 5, Issue 26 -18th Iyar 5775
Parshat Behar/ Lag Ba'Omer

Dancing with Hashem
I could swear his feet were not touching the ground as he circled around and around. His eyes were closed heavenward, his curly side-locks (payot) and glistening white beard swaying in the air with his hands stretched out as if they were holding the hands of his Creator. Grabbing anyone to join him in the middle of the circle, Sefardi, Teimani, Chasid, Black hatter, soldier, secular and anglo rabbis from Karmiel :).
"Anachanu Ma'aminim Bnai Ma'aminim-We are believers the children of believers" they all sang with him together. Welcome to Meron. Lag Ba'Omer 5775.

Only Jews could make a holiday on the day that one of our greatest sages Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (the 1st century Mishanic leader) passed way. For many other nations this might be a day of sadness and mourning. In traditional Judaism the period of Omer (the 49 days from Passover to Shavuot) is our period of mourning for the students of Rabbi Akiva- the teacher of Rabbi Shimon- who passed. Yet, on the day of Rabbi Shimon -Lag- the 33rd day- the mourning comes to an end (or is interrupted) as we celebrate the tremendous legacy Rabbi Shimon left us on the day of his passing- the fire and the secrets of the hidden and mystical aspects of the Torah and universe that are found in the teachings of Kabbalah.

As I walked through the jam packed streets of Meron (over a half a million people come over the course of the day) I watch Hashem's children who have picked themselves up from their mourning as they dance and celebrate like crazy. Circles after circles around bonfires. There are 10's of Kiosks and tents that are set up offering free food (kugel, cake, chulent, sandwiches) drinks, wine donated from people and organizations around the world. The rich, the poor there is no difference when it comes to that small mountain top we are all one joined in dance, song, prayer and Torah. The way it should be...it used to be... it will be.

This week we read Parshat Behar. It is named that after the first verse in the Parsha
"And Hashem spoke to Moshe- Be'Har- on the mountain- of Sinai" The Parsha then goes on to detail the laws of the Sabbatical Year and the 50 year Jubilee year and the incredible laws that take place during these years. All land that was sold is returned to their owners in the 50th year. The land cannot be worked, slaves are freed, debts are declared exempt and most importantly the obligation to assist those that are struggling. The Medrash asks the question as to why these laws are particularly singled out as being taught at Sinai? My father-in-law Rabbi Yosef Sorotzkin in his monumental work Meged Yosef, explains the Medrash's response that there have been many attempts throughout history to create societies in which all were equal, where one is not treated any less because of their financial hardships, their social status, where those more fortunate were obligated to care for the more needy. Yet, they have failed. Judaism is different. We are a nation that has its eyes and its memory firmly planted on that mountain where we were born as a nation. The Torah can mandate that I forgive the debts that are owed to me, I do not charge interest on loans I lend, I leave my land- the source of my income barren-giving it a Shabbos, I free my slaves because we remember where we came from. We remember that what made us a nation is how we all stood as one after having left the slave pits of Egypt. We swore we would never forget that unity, that responsibility, that heavenly mandate. We remember the mountain.

Other nations do not have that mountain to look back to. Ideals of equality, sharing of wealth and renunciation of our hard earned possessions and acquisitions fall to the wayside without a recognition of our Divine Benefactor who wishes all His Children to appreciate the goodness, freedom and blessing of having and being sufficient enough to serve Him. We understand with those miztvot that were given to us on the mountain that no matter how desperate and tragic our situation, there will come a time of Jubilee when we return to our ancestral heritage, when our debts are finally forgiven. When we will experience the final Shabbos together with Him. It is with that knowledge that we can pick ourselves from our mourning and dance, we can celebrate the greatest light that explodes from the darkness and we can float and sing and stretch out our hands to heaven to dance with us.

I went inside to pray by the grave of the great Rabbi Shimon and I came out about an hour later and the old Rabbi was still dancing in the middle. I asked someone who he was. He did not know his name as well, but told me that he had been there all night dancing, floating, singing. It seemed from what I gathered that the Rabbi had lost his children and family in a tragedy. Lag Ba'Omer, had become his day. The day when he felt he could dance and pick himself up again. The flames of the bonfire around which he danced were a testament to the flame and spirit of the eternal souls that we have. Just as all our souls are united and forged as one and a spirit of Hashem. So too in drawing every type of Jew together closer to that warm flame in joy he was creating that eternal connection we all shared to dance with Hashem.

From Mt. Sinai to Mt. Miron, may Hashem bring us all together one again on his eternal Temple mount in Jerusalem once again rebuilt.

"Lag" Samayach and have a spectacular Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
Lag Ba’Omer

a different type of bar yochai song…pretty funny

This one is really funny I thought.. “Wish it was Lag Ba’Omer now”


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

Besser a yid mitun a burd, vi a bord mitun a yid.
Better a Jew without a beard than a beard without a Jew

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES  OF THE WEEK
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai: "If a man plows in the plowing season, sows in the sowing season, reaps in the reaping season, threshes in the threshing season and winnows in the season of wind, what is to become of the Torah? But, when Israel performs the will of God, their work is performed by others" - Talmud Berachot
The soul of man is a lamp of Gd" (Proverbs 20:27). Just like the flame of the lamp strains upwards, seeking to tear free of the wick and rise heavenward - though this would spell its own demise - so, too, does the Gdly soul in man constantly strive to tear free of the body and the material existence and be nullified within its source in Gd”– Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
Breccia (Brektziya) is?
A.    A Crusader Queen of Armenian descent
B.     Pyroclastic ash
C.     Sedimentary rock composed of fragmented angles
D.    The intermission in Prayer in a Greek Orthodox Church service
.RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
This weeks Parsha tell us of the mitzvah of Tzedaka, helping your brother who has fallen financially. The Midrash tells us of a conversation between Rabbi Akiva and Turnus Rufus, The Roman ruler of Judea in the times of Rabbi Akiva. Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva “Your Torah says that Hashem loves the poor and impoverished. If so why does he not provide for them.”
Rabbi Akiva responded as only a good Rabbi could “If Hashem would provide for them then the rich would have no merit with which to save them from Gehennom/Hell. For only Charity has the merit to save a person from his punishment.”
Ten matters were created each stronger than the other.
Rock is strong but iron breaks it
Iron is strong, Fire melts it.
Fire is strong, but water extinguishes it
Water is strong, but clouds carry it
Clouds are strong, but wind disperses it
The body is strong, but fear breaks it
Death is mightier than all the aforementioned, yet Tzedaka/charity is more powerful as it saves from Death.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Experience the bonding of the thousands of Jews – Lag Ba’Omer is one of those days when you can just stand in awe of the tens and even hundreds of thousands of Jews that all come together ot dance, sing and celebrate together. Food is shared by all, drinks flow like ater, random people are dancing and singing with their brothers thay may have never met but have always been connected to. Am Yisrael Chai! The holiday of us picking up from the ashes of destruction of the deaths of the students of Rabbi Akiva and celebrate life, celebrate Hashem who blows life into his nation and celebrate the unity and shared heritage, history and our rebirth from tragedy. There are those that fly in from all over the world and there are history books and travelogues that go back centuries of Jews that all came just for this special day. Experiencing the joy and the unity here in Israel. You can understand it.
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RABBI SCHWARTZ'S  BARBER JOKES OF THE WEEK
 A barber gave a haircut to a priest one day. The priest tried to pay for the haircut but the barber refused saying, "I cannot accept money from you, for you are a good man - you do God's work."
  The next morning the barber found a dozen bibles at the door to his shop.
  A Muslim Imam came to the barber for a haircut, and again the barber
refused payment saying, "I cannot accept money from you, for you are
a man of God."
  The next morning the barber found a dozen Korans at the door to his shop.
  A Rabbi came to the barber for a haircut, and again the barber refused  payment saying, "I cannot accept money from you, for you are a man of God -"  The next morning the  barber found a dozen more Rabbis waiting for a haircut.
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So the Gentile barbershop moved into town and put up a sign attacking the fancy Jewish barber shop down the block.  The sign said, "Why pay twenty dollars?  We give haircuts
for two dollars."
  The smart Jew got even by putting up a sign of its own stating ,"We repair two-dollar haircuts!"
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I was at the Barber a few months ago and asked him “why do u always charge me double? You ought to charge me less because for I don't have much hair!”
He answered me and said “No, no! We don't charge for cutting the hair! We charge
 for having to search for it!”

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Answer is C: The answer was definitely not going to be the church thing they’re just palying on the word association of break as in intermission. The Crusader Queen was Melisinde so it wasn’t that either. Pyroclastic ash is a close choice because pyro is fire and clast is broken pieces…so it could be…but that’s not the word I remembered for ash. I remembered it was a rock of some sort which of course makes the correct answer C. If you are a tourist and this information interests you… find a different tour guide. Rocks are not my thing. Rolling Stones on the other hand J
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