Our view of the Galile

Friday, February 12, 2016

Israeli Give and Take- Teruma 2016/5776

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

February 12th 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 19 3rd Adar I 5776
Parshat Teruma

Israeli Give and Take

So how do you know Hashem is Israeli? Well for one He definitely has a soft spot for Israel, although He isn’t that happy quite often with its political leaders, pretty much since its founding thousands of years ago. In addition like your typical Israeli He can pretty much do anything, although it’s generally on His own timetable. Perhaps most telling though He generally is misunderstood by the entire world, although they all seem to try to claim the things He does for their own and attribute it to their own cheap knockoffs of Him, and He pretty much blames the Jews for all those problems with that as well. After all we are the ones He charged with teaching the world about Him and we’ve kind of been shy about that. Perhaps the most tragic similarity though is that when the going got tough here and the Jews messed up everything, Hashem pretty much went to Exile with the Jewish people. He left His home. Most of us are coming back already, although it seems that the Israelis and their God seem to be waiting for Mashiach until the final return.

This week’s Parsha begins the story of the building of the Hashem’s first home. Although it seems He had it designed outside of Israel, in the wilderness. But of course He only used items that were Made in Israel. Our sages tell us for example that the wood that was used, were planted centuries before in Israel by Yaakov and brought down to Egypt with them. Now the gold, silver, and copper were Egyptian of course, but we never had a problem with non-Jewish money. Especially since it was kind of earmarked for us by Hashem when he told our forefather Avraham that we would be heading down that way in the first place. This house, known as the Mishkan or Tabernacle was meant to be the temporary dwelling place, yet at the same time model of what Hashem’s eventual home would look like in Jerusalem, when we would get there.

Now being a good Israeli, Hashem understands and sets the precedent for Jews that in order to build a house one has to raise money for its building. Maybe that’s the reason why we had to go down to Egypt.           Who has money in Israel for a house? I’m in the wedding business now, I know. So the Parsha begins this week with a collection, a shnorr. “And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for Me a contribution, from each man who is of generous heart they shall take my contribution.” Now almost all of the commentaries note the difficulty with the wording of this verse. We understand that God is an Israeli and may not speekeeng Eenglessh dat goot, (although they may not ask the question precisely like that). But the proper wording grammar should probably be ‘And Hashem told Moshe to ask the people to give me a contribution’- not take for me. Take for me is Israeli speak, not proper English and the truth is not proper Hebrew as well.

There is a beautiful Chasidic story about the Rebbe of Spinka, known by his sefer the Chakal Yitzchak-incidentally my grandfather was very close with the Rebbe of Spinka. The Rebbe would visit various towns and shtetls and the Chassidim would flock to him for his blessings to share with him their troubles and worries and ask for the Rebbe’s prayers on their behalf. As was, and is, customary the Chassidim would leave a donation or Pidyon/redemption as they would call it, with the Rebbe. After the Rebbe would receive all of the Chassidim they would join together and have a Tish; a set table that they would join together with the Rebbe to eat, drink, the Rebbe would say words of Torah and they would sing together until the wee hours of the night.

At one of the Tish’s one of the Chassidim- a bit more cynical and skeptical than the rest, noticed that the Rebbe was spending an inordinate time when reciting the grace after meal “bentching” on the sentence of
ViNa al Tatzricheinu Hashem Elokeinu Lo Lidei Matnat Basar V’Dam V’Lo Lidei Halva’asam Ki Im L’Yadcha HaMilaeah HaPesucha V’Harchava-And please do not require us Hashem our God to fall into the hands of gifts from flesh and blood, and not in the hands of their loans, Only in your plentiful, open and generous hands.” The Rebbe repeated these words over and over with great fervor and concentration. The Chasid smirked to himself, thinking how nice that the Rebbe doesn’t want handouts after sitting for the past few hours just accepting all of these gifts and contribuitions from people. After the Tish the Rebbe called over the Chasid and in a few words he explained the quandary that was troubling him.

My dear Chasid” the Rebbe said. “When people come to me and pour their hearts out to me and share with me all their pain and beseech me to pray on their behalf. They give me money. If I am successful immediately, then the money that they give me is like a service fee for me having shed many tears and achieving all that they have asked me to do. I have earned their money honestly. We all have to make a living somehow right? If however Hashem does not answer me right away, then the money that they have given me remains in my hands as a loan. Until I can make good on my prayers for them. Until I can rock and shake the heavens and Hashem will answer their desperate pleas. However sometimes, despite all my prayers, my tears, my supplications, Hashem has other plans. For whatever reason, Hashem only knows, I am not worthy enough to change the heavenly decree. In those cases than the money that they give me becomes a gift; a present from flesh and blood. When I pray to Hashem, I ask him please, please accept my prayers, and don’t force me to receive the money that I have been given either as loans or gifts. Please allow my prayers to be heard and the only money I should have should come because you are kind open and generous. Those are my thoughts, when I recite those holy words. That is my deepest prayer.”

The Chasid was silent. He understood what the Rebbe was telling him. For the Rebbe the biggest sacrifice he was making was to take money from his Chassidim. For him to take money meant undertaking a tremendous responsibility. The Chassidim who were in fact ‘giving’ were forging a bond with their master, that would not end until their prayers hopes and fears were answered and resolved. They understood that they were taking far more than what they were giving. They were receiving in lieu of their donations the best investment of their lives. They were bringing his prayers and his connection into their lives and into all of their own prayers. They were bonded forever.

When Hashem goes about building His first home, the place that He will forever be bonded with the Jewish people, He wants to send us the message of what our contributions to this Home will always be. We are not giving, but rather we are the ones that are receiving we are taking the greatest gift of all, in the mere fact that Hashem will accept our few shekels, our gold, our silver, our sheep. We will forever be bonded with these simple donations. We will forever have a place to come to and transcend this world. We will always have a place where we can bring our worries our fears and our thanksgiving and our atonements. We are taking we are not giving. That is perhaps the most important principle of building a Jewish home. That is how you build a House of God.

It is no wonder, that the Mishkan/the Tabernacle is a truly a microcosm of what every Jewish home and marriage is meant to be built on. We received the Torah on Mt. Sinai and we were wedded to Hashem and our eternal bond was consecrated.  We accepted the laws with love and he chose us as his holy nation. Parshat Teruma which although chronologically happened after the sin of the golden calf occurs, which we do not read about for another two weeks, is mentioned here, right after the Torah was given because just as in every wedding. It isn’t over until we come back to our house. Until we contribute to our house. But we have to understand that our contribution, in reality is not a giving from us, rather in reality it is us taking and receiving from Him. That’s what marriage is truly about. One has to give and give and give, but the truth is all the giving is in reality taking. It’s us getting. Someone who feels that his is giving in marriage is missing the boat. Just as one who feels he is giving to God, or giving charity is not truly giving, rather they are receiving the greatest blessing, the greatest opportunity, the most fantastic connection that there is in this world. We are becoming one with our spouses, with the people, that we give to and with the Almighty who certainly does not need our gifts, gold and goats. That’s Israeli-speak for you I guess, giving is really getting. May Hashem finally answer all of our prayers and bless us with his eternal home that we are still awaiting.                                                                                                     

 Have an increasingly Happy Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Qc8j1lIqJs   -Truly awesome clip of Menachem Begin saying it like it is…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRz7UsYhRg4  – Menachem Begin and Guess who? Shlomo Carlebach

“Es shtumeh di tsinger ven du host in kesheneh klinger” The tongue is silenced when in the pockets there is a jingle.

“We don't need legitimacy. We exist. Therefore we are legitimate”

“The Jew bows before no man, only God.”

“Goyim kill goyim and the Jews are blamed.”

“What kind of expression is this - "punishing Israel"? Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we youths of fourteen who, if they don't behave properly, are slapped across the fingers? Let me tell you who this government is composed of. It is composed of people whose lives were spent in resistance, in fighting and in suffering. You will not frighten us with "punishments." He who threatens us will find us deaf to his threats. We are only prepared to listen to rational arguments. You have no right to "punish" Israel - and I protest at the very use of this term.”

 -Menachem Begin Yartzeit this Shabbos the 4th of Adar

Menachem Begin(1913-1992) – In my opinion he was the greatest of all Israel’s 12 Prime Ministers. Certainly the most traditional and the closest to truly creating a Jewish state that was unabashed about the reasons and purpose for which we have been given this land. Menachem Begin was born in Brest -Litovsk in 1913. As a child he was forced to flee with his family to escape the fighting between the German and Russian armies in World War I.A passionate Zionist from an early age, he joined Ze'ev Jabotinsky's Betar youth movement in his teens, rising quickly to important administrative and leadership positions.
By 1936 he was in charge of Betar Czechoslovakia, and in 1938 at age 25 he became the head of Betar Poland, an organization with 100,000 members which engaged in weapons training to defend Polish Jewry, preparation and transport of “illegal”immigrants to Israel, agricultural training, and communications. Not bad for a 25 year old.
In 1940, Begin was imprisoned in Siberian labor camps by Josef Stalin's NKVD (a forerunner of the KGB). After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, he was set free by dint of his Polish citizenship, and joined the Free Polish Army, which in 1943 made its way to British­ controlled Palestine for training.
Contacting the dormant Jewish underground, Irgun Zvai Leumi, Begin set about planning a Jewish uprising against the British authorities. Unlike the Hagana that sought to achieve the goal of an independent Jewish state through negotiation. Begin understood that the only way that it would happen is if the Jews took a stand and pretty much made it too difficult for the British to stay here. This began in 1944, but increased in pace and scope immediately after World War II and continued until late 1947. Begin ordered many of the Irgun's operations, including the Akko prison breakout and the destruction of the central British administrative offices in the King David Hotel. Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Begin disbanded the Irgun, after being shot at and having his men killed by members of the Hagana under orders from Ben Gurion who demanded he surrender and create on unified army.
From 1948 to 1977, Menachem Begin was the leader of Israel's opposition. In the 1950's, he led the movement against accepting German reparations for the Nazi Holocaust. He felt strongly that the Germans should never be allowed to feel as if they can make atonement and reparations for their crimes and murder of our people.
In 1965, Begin merged his Herut Party with the Liberals to form Gahal, which later served as the foundation of the Likud Party. The crisis atmosphere in 1967 saw the establishment of a National Unity Government, which finally brought Begin and other Gahal leaders to the Cabinet table. The National Unity Government continued until 1970, when Begin insisted that Israel condition Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's extension of the cease-fire across the Suez Canal on the signing of a peace treaty recognizing Israel. When this demand was denied Begin left. He understood that successful peace can never be declared unilaterally it is only with the acceptance by our enemies of our right to exist.
In 1977, Begin was elected Prime Minister of Israel. As the new head of state, he helped initiate the peace process with Egypt, which resulted in the Camp David Accords and the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. As of a result of this effort to achieve peace with Egypt, Begin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1978 with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
In 1981, Begin ordered the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, where the Iraqi regime was developing nuclear weapons. Though Israel was roundly condemned by the international community at the time, it became apparent during the 1991 Gulf War that Israel's action had succeeded in hampering Baghdad's drive to acquire nuclear weapons.
In 1982, after repeated acts of PLO terror, Israel launched Operation Peace for Galilee to remove the terrorist threat from Israel's northern border.
Begin's decision to encourage Ethiopian Jews to immigrate to Israel later culminated in Operation Moses, which brought thousands en masse to Israel in the early 1980's.
Following the death of his wife, Aliza, in the winter of 1982, Begin resigned as Prime Minister. He spent the rest of his life in seclusion, glimpsed in public only at memorials for his wife or at the weddings of his grandchildren. He died March 9, 1992, and was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, declaring that he wished to be buried with the “true Gedolei HaUma-the great men of our nation- referring to the heroes of the Irgun who had died fighting the British. Rather than with the other prime ministers and leaders of Israel that are buried on Mt. Herzl who declared themselves as such although they were far from that title.
May his memory be blessed.

answer below at end of Email
Q. Graben is the opposite of:
  1. An endemic animal
  2. A horst
  3. Low barometric pressure
  4. A Tel

There are times that Rashi will quote a Midrash just to explain verse but in those words that he quotes there is so much depth so many lessons, that if you jump over it than you miss it. The first Rashi in this week’s Torah portion where Hashem tells the Moshe to command the Jewish people to ‘take for me a portion is a classic example. Rashi on the word  ‘Li’- for me’ rights for my Name. What is he trying to tell us? The commentaries on Rashi suggest that Rashi was troubled with the question that everything really belongs to Hashem in the first place. How can we take something and give Him something that He already possesses. So Rashi understands that it means rather that when we give our donation to Hashem it should be without any ulterior motives. It should be purely for the sake of Hashem’s name. The Netziv notes that Rashi derives this concept from other places in the Torah where it says that something should be done for him or for her. Such as the writing of a Get divorce document for a woman Vkatav Lah it shall be written for her the Torah says. Or when a Torah scroll is meant to be written for a King it says Vkatav Lo it shall be written for him. Both cases meaning specifically for that person. The Alshich notes that the law is that when one betroths a woman he must give her something of value and it must be unconditionally. When one gives something of value to a scholar or a great person though, there it is considered as if the receiving of that gift is truly a giving on behalf of the great person. For a person enjoys the fact that he was able and worthy of having his gift received by the great person. Like if the president accepted my beautiful song I composed or the picture that I drew and hung it up it-the picture that is. Then it is as if he gave me something when he received it. And we can get married as if he gave something to me. That only works though if I do not get anything it back in return. If however I only gave him the gift on loan then it doesn’t work. Thus Hashem tells the Jewish people, I wish to become betrothed eternally to you with the gift that you are giving. Now although usually when you give charity it is even notable to do so in order that Hashem will bless you for it and answer your prayers. In this case I want you to do so without any other expectation. Merely to give me pleasure for my name.
Finally the Zera Baruch explains the significance of term ‘for my name’ based on the concept that we cannot pronounce Hashem’s name fully outside of the Temple. Only in the Temple would Hashem’s name be mentioned explicitly. So he notes that we should give the charity in order to have a place to recite and glorify the name of Hashem as it is written and meant to be pronounced. Interestingly the Zohar notes that the Yud- Heh- Vav-Heh name of Hashem actually corresponds to the mitzva of charity the Yud being the smallest letter in the Aleph Bet which looks like and corresponds to a coin. The Heh which is the numerical value of five corresponds to the hand of the giver. The person who has the coin. The next letter of Vav, a straight letter is him stretching out his arm to another and the final Heh is the hand of the poor man who receives the charity. Give Charity for to make my name complete. What an amazing two words in Rashi.


Moshe Rabbeinu Born and Dies- 7th of Adar (1392 BCE &1272 BCE) – Although the Torah does not specifically tell us the date of Moshe’s death, our sages calculate themath and tell us that it was on the 7th of Adar. Even more significantly they tell us that he was born in a leap year on the first month of Adar. The Talmud tells us that the story of Purim and the plot by Haman to calculate when would be a fortuitous time to kill all of the Jews, which he determined by that tried and true fashion of throwing lots, fell out in the month of Adar. Haman was excited because he knew it was the month that Moshe died. Little did he know that it was also the month that he was born. Throughout history this special day has been celebrated as a day of fasting and prayer by Jews particularly those that are involved in the Chevra Kadisha, the Jewish burial societies. AS this was the day that Hashem buried Moshe personally, as described in the last portion of the Torah. Many gather in Meron and celebrate and pray, as the Ari”Zl noted that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who is buried there had the same essence of the soul of Moshe, Moshe revealing the written Torah and Rabbi Shimon revealing the hidden secrets of the Torah. Moshe died at 120 years old and the Torah tells us his burial place is not known by anyone until today. Although it is right across from where the Jews sinned with the idolatry of Pe’or. The Zohar tells us that each day the accusing angels rises from Pe’or to speak bad about the Jewish people and condemn them, and Moshe rises as well and puts him back in his place. The significance of the celebration of the birthday being the same as the day that he died, the Zohar tell us is that Moshe when he died left his spirit in each and everyone of us. We all hava little bit of Moshe and the power to rise up to the heavenly realms and connect with Hashem. The day that he died is the day that he was also not just born but reborn in each and every Jew. May we merit to see that  that holy spark in every Jew that we meet and may we reveal it within ourselves as well.

One morning a local Israeli building crew reached their job-site.and realized they had forgotten all their shovels. The crew’s foreman radioed the office and told his supervisor of the situation. The supervisor radioed back and said,“Don’t worry, we’ll send some shovels … just lean on each other until they arrive.””

An Israeli “Shiputznik” (Handyman)walks onto a job site of a large company and hands the foreman his application.
The foreman begins to scan the sheet, and notices that the applicant has been fired from every job
he has ever held. “I must say,” says the foreman, “your work history is terrible.
You’ve been fired from every job.” “Yes,” says the carpenter. “Well,” continues the foreman,
“there’s not much positive in that.” “Hey!” says the guy as he pokes the application. “At least I’m not a quitter.”

Why do builders have see-through Tupperware lunchboxes? So they know if they are going to work or going home. 

Three men are on a job site together. One is American, one is Mexican, and the third Asian. A man walks up and starts giving them instructions: he tells the American his job is to stack bricks to build a wall. He tells the Mexican his job is to cement the bricks as the American stacks them. And last but not least he tells the Asian man that he is in charge of the supplies.
An hour later the man comes back to check on the progress and sees the American and Mexican just sitting around. He furiously asks the men why they aren't working. They tell him that they never got any supplies. No bricks or cement or tools, nothing. After he calms down, he asks them where the Asian guy was. They said he walked around the trailer to get the supplies and still hasn't come back.
Now he's really mad. He storms off and heads for the trailer. As soon as he turns the corner the Asian man jumps out in front of him and yells "SUPPLIES!"
Answer is B – Another Geology question for you. Again not my favorite topic but actually one that I found quite easy. Just because grabben and Horst go together. When we learned these inclines and mountain ranges and valleys, I like the way the words sounded. Kond of like Grab a liverwurst. or horst. Anyways not exactly sure I remember which one was up and which one was down. And I think that some are formed by bends in the earth or something like that. I’m too bored by the subject to even look it up for you. You can google it yourself, or hire a tour guide that cares about this stuff. But I’ll still show you were the best liver worst is in Israel J.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Marriage 101- Mishpatim 5776/2016

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

Febuary 5th 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 18 26th Shvat 5776
Parshat Mishpatim
Marriage 101

There’s a great joke. It’s funny because it really insults everyone in the Orthodox Yeshiva world. It plays into all the stereotypes and really nails them. Don’t get insulted. I’m sure you are different. You’re already non-stereotypical because you read my E-Mail. But it’s a great joke and I can’t resist. So here goes.

There was this young man, a really nice and innocent young Yeshiva student, raised a little sheltered from the world and its ways. Let’s call him Yankel. So Yankel got engaged recently. Her name was Shani. She came from an illustrious rabbinic family. Her father besides being an amazing Rabbi with a penchant hearty penchant for chulent had very high aspirations for his daughter and her husband to be. Yankel, wanting to do it right, decided that he was going to engross himself in all of the laws and traditions of marriage and he decided what better place to start then from the great works of Maimonides-the Rambam.
Yet it seems that he was having difficulty finding the section in the Rambam’s fourteen volume set of laws called Yad Chazaka { A mighty hand- Yad being the Gematria of 14), that dealt with marriage.

Not being a shy boy Yankel decided to go to the top yeshiva and ask where the laws of Marriage could be found. He went to the famed Brisk Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he lived and asked a young man there where the laws of marriage could be found. The Brisker looked at him and responded that it of course can be found in the volume that tell with Kinyan-acquisition and binding legal contracts. Yankel was very excited and went home and checked his Rambam, however he was disappointed that it was not there.
Not one to give up readily Yankel decided, that perhaps he should try the Chasidic yeshiva down the block, after all Chasidim get married very young and are always making weddings for their millions of children. They certainly should know. So he asked the young Chasidic Rabbi he met in the yeshiva and was told that the laws of marriage could certainly be found in Tahara- the volume that deals with the laws of purity. Which of course Yankel said he should have figured, marriage being a very holy thing and all. Yet, once again after checking his Rambam thoroughly he came up empty handed. It wasn’t there.

Yankel’s next thought was perhaps these guys are too religious. I might be going the wrong route here. Let me try a perhaps more modern worldly look maybe Yeshiva University, or the Hesder Yeshiva down the block. So Yankel makes his way over there, and stops the young men outside of the Yeshiva and politely asks them if perhaps they know where the laws of Marriage could be found in the Rambam. Without batting an eye they all told him that it was obviously in the volume called Ahava-Love where the Rambam deals with all the laws that connect and express our love for Hashem. Sadly though when Yankel came home, lo and behold it wasn’t there either.

Almost ready to give up, Yankel decides that he’s going to give it one more shot. The one place that he hadn’t tried yet and perhaps the first place he should have tried was the Sephardic Yeshiva. The Rambam was of course a Sephardi and if anyone should know it would be those that practice the Sephardic and Maimonidean traditions. So Yankel, headed into the Sephardic yeshiva and decided this time rather than asking a simple Yeshiva student, he found out who the Rabbi was who would study with the young Sephardic Yeshiva students before they got married. He approached the Rabbi and asked him “Rabbi, or holy Chacham, perhaps you can tell me where the laws of marriage can be found in the works of the Rambam?” The Rabbi without batting an eyelash responded “Why in Nezikin- The laws of damages, of course….” Bada Boom Bada Bing.

If you didn’t get the joke above or at least smile. You either are just not that familiar with Yeshiva world, or are standing next to your mother-in-law right now. The truth is the laws of marriage in the Rambam is the volume called Nashim-Women, where the Rambam delineates all the laws of marriage, divorce, a women taken forcibly, levirate marriage and a Sota- a woman suspected of being unfaithful. Who wudda ever thunk that marriage has to do with women, Huh? The truth of the matter is though as we know perhaps the most critical and the essence of Jewish life is marriage and family. The first Mitzva in the Torah and command to mankind is to be fruitful and multiply. Yet interestingly enough, how to make a marriage work, the obligations a man has to his wife are not necessarily so spelled out as clearly in the written Torah as one would expect them to be. One really has to scratch the surface a bit and pull out their yeshiva thumb twirl in the air to discover them. Which come to think of it, is not bad practice for marriage in learning that not everything will be that simple to figure out.

This week’s Parsha Mishpatim is really a confluence of Jewish laws.  It begins with laws of servitude and from there it jumps to a man who is forced to sell his daughter as a maid servant in order to provide for her. And then in jumps to laws of not dishonoring one parents, civil laws when one damages another, when ones animals or property damage, laws of honesty, returning lost objects, kosher, oaths, sacrifices, holidays, Shabbat, how to treat a convert, even laws of the various death penalties and agricultural laws. Reading the portion one literally feels like they are experiencing ADHD. Just jumping from law to law and topic to topic, seemingly without any connection. It certainly is unlike any organized law book I have ever seen written. The basic responsibilities that the Torah delineates in fact for marriage-namely that the man must provide for his wife the three basic necessities which is to take care of her K’Mishpat Ha’Banot- as is the custom of Jewish women which many of the commentaries explain refers to shelter and a marriage befitting a Jewish woman, are hidden in the laws of the man who buys a young Jewish girl as a maid servant and his obligation to marry her to his son. The only more specific obligation the Torah says he is he must not minimize the basic understanding of marriage and must provide her with children, clothing and spending intimate time together regularly. It’s strange that it’s so hard to find these laws. There seems to be more time spent on oxen, witches, converts and slaves then seemingly the guiding principles of what is the center of Jewish life; our marriage and our families.

The answer I believe and that seems certainly obvious from the Torah, is that this was never meant to be a mere law book and handbook. The Torah was given for us as the holy word of Hashem to inspire us and to elevate our souls and lives to fulfill the mandate and function of our creation. The Torah isn’t a pick and choose book of laws that are convenient, relevant or even necessarily understandable to their fullest. It’s our understanding and appreciation that Hashem should permeate our lives in everything that we do in every interaction that we have. The parsha begins with those who we might be most insensitive to, our servants, our ‘help’, the people we pay for and provide for that we may feel we deserve to take advantage of. Yet the Torah tells us remember not too long ago, just three Parshiyot ago, you were also slaves. Remember how it felt. God’s world that you are meant to be building should be a different one. It continues with our interactions and responsibility for our animals, our fellow man, the ones we fight with perhaps sometimes. It juxtaposes these laws with sacrifices and laws that have to do with our relationship with Hashem. There are not two different approaches or choices on how to become the people we are meant to become. To be the nation of god we must be just as vigilant as we are in how we worship Hashem and engage in spiritual holy activities as we are in how we treat our fellow man. Jew, non-Jew, convert, poor people, widows, orphans, slaves each one of them are children of God and we are meant to treat them with the dignity His children deserve.
The opposite is true as well. One cannot truly feel that one is a ‘good person’ by ignoring his Creator and focusing solely on being kind and responsible to your fellow man. Tikun Olam and all the significant ‘social’ and environmental causes that are bereft of a connection with Hashem, that do not connect to Shabbos, to holidays, to a fulfillment of our mitzvos that imbue spirituality and the divine into the world, will never ‘fix’ the world, never bring it to the destination it was meant to achieve. It’s the full package. Our commitment and the covenant that we entered into was for all of it or nothing. The Midrash tells us that Hashem offered this deal and the Torah to all of the nations and they all rejected it. There were some that were more than happy to become spiritual and there were some that agreed to become more socially conscious, and there were some that had no problem with all of it besides for a little adultery or thievery here and there. The Jewish people being the only nation that responded with the two most important words in the history of the world. Naaseh Vnishma- we will do and we will listen. Not only will we fulfill the letter of the law, but we will integrate its concepts in order daily lives in the principles that will guide us for eternity. Just as we will always fulfill the Torah, we will always listen and hear the Divine words. The word Nishma is future tense as the word Naaseh-we will do is. We will always hear the call of the Torah. We will always be listening to that Divine word that continues to express itself through it. It is the constant ringing in our ears. It’s what will guide us in all that we do.

There is perhaps no area in our lives like marriage, which requires that basic consistent all-encompassing commitment. We’re married when we get up, when we go to sleep, when we are at work, when we are on vacation. Through hard times and easy times. The good, the bad, the ugly, the holy and the even holier. The way to get good at marriage is to get a good head start by embracing and being raised in a life that expresses that total all in commitment. Someone who is good at being sensitive and taking responsibility for the poor, the needy, the downfallen and trodden should certainly become an expert at taking care of their spouse. Someone who embraces the joy and sanctity of Shabbat, holidays, who every bite he takes is careful that it should meet Gods standards will have the foundations of home that is committed to God. They will be able to bring a higher purpose, a lasting eternal sense of accomplishment in the house that they are creating. A marriage handbook can never be just about the two of you and you will be able to communicate and connect to one another. It is about having a shared value system for which you can build a Bayis Neeman B’Yisrael- a home built on commitment and faith. Faith to one another, faith to our Torah, faith to the Jewish people and Israel and faithful to elevating the world to our Father in heaven.

It is with great pride and joy and enormous thanks to Hashem that I am delighted to share with you that this past Tuesday evening my Bechorah-my first born-, Shani got engaged to her Bashert, the sweetest yeshiva bachur who whadaya know name is Yackov Yisrael;-or Yankeleh as I told him he would be called. May Hashem bless the young couple that the joy and love that we hope that they always find in one another, shine out to the rest of the world. May they truly merit to build that home of faith together. Mazel Tov!

 Have a totally awesome Shabbos and a blessed joyful Chodesh Adar Tov,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/asher-bara  -An Ephraim Schwartz composition in honor of daughter’s engagement

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKDPY8R5a6I – Ilan Ramon the first Jewish astronaut whose yartzeit is this week tribute video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyGZRsNziUE  -The Shadchan song in honor of Shani and Yackov Yisrael’s wonderful Shadchan Mrs. Chana Klein- this is actually the fourth of the Berger childrens that she set up with their Bashert!

“Besser gut un a bissel aider shlechts un a fuleh shissel” Better good and a little rather than bad and a full plate of it.

Wisdom is to the soul as food is to the body.”

How can you expect me to be perfect...when I am full of contradictions.”

“There is no one so lonely than a man who loves only himself.” -Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra Yartzeit this Shabbos the 27th of Shvat

Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra –Ibn Ezra (1089-1167) --Rabbi Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (usually called simply "Ibn Ezra"), a true giant of the spirit, was perhaps not such a great poet as Rabbi Judah Halevi, but as a man of Torah scholarship, art and secular knowledge, he surpassed all his contemporaries, and his influence upon learning and writing in Italy, Southern France and England was greater than that of any other Jewish figure.
His adventurous, almost legendary life began in Tudela, Spain, where he was born about the year 4852 (1092). He was a man of so many excellent gifts, and such a wealth of universal knowledge, that one is at a loss to judge his mastery of learning, poetry, philosophy, Jewish grammar, astronomy or mathematics. He spent the first half of his life in the various cities of the Arabic part of Spain, always in financial difficulties and dire need. In one of his poems he makes fun of his ill fortune and complains that "if he were to sell candles, the sun would never set; if he should deal in shrouds, no one would ever die." Life was made somewhat easier by the generosity of his admirers, who appreciated the elegance and stylishness of his poetry and other writings.
Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra spent the second half of his life travelling from country to country, studying peoples and countries, languages and cultures. About the same time as his great contemporary, Rabbi Judah Halevi, who according to some accounts became his Father-in-law, he set out for-the Orient, together with his son Isaac. He visited Africa, Egypt, and the Holy Land, where he learned Kabbalah, the deepest and most mysterious part of Torah study, from the sages in Safed and Tiberias. Then he traveled to Babylon and Persia, where the Caliph of Baghdad had permitted the Jews to have their own prince. Finally he returned to Italy where he lived in Rome, Salerno, Lucca and Mantua. There he wrote most of his great commentaries to the Bible, and his books on Jewish grammar and philosophy. He wrote poems in honor of his friends and spent much of his time teaching a great number of disciples who gathered about him.
Ibn Ezra did not stay in Italy. He moved to Provence, in Southern France, where he was received with much honor and respect. For it was there that the two great lines of Jewish tradition, the Sephardic in Spain, and the Ashkenazic from Northern France and Germany, met.

After three years of quiet study, in Beziers, Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra again took up the wanderer's staff and went across the channel to London, where at that time a rich colony of enthusiastic Jews were eager to have this great representative of Jewish learning and art in their midst. Yet before his death Rabbi Abraham wanted to return to his old home. At the age of about 75 years he died in Calahora, between Navarra and Castilia.
As a student and writer, Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra was as tireless as a traveler. His style and form in poetry were considered even more perfect than that of Rabbi Judah Halevi. While Rabbi Judah Halevi's poems and prayers are full of feeling and longing for the restoration of the Jewish people and the Temple, Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra wrote poems which clothed some of the deepest thoughts and mysteries of learning into verse. Unless one is very well acquainted with the entire literature of the great Sages before him, it is sometimes almost impossible to understand the true meaning of Ibn Ezra's writing. This is also true of his greatest work, the commentary to the Bible, generally known under the name "Ibn Ezra." It is a mixture of the most lucid explanations and implications of deep mysteries.
Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra wrote also several books on Hebrew grammar, a profound dissertation on philosophy called "Yesod Mora," and several books on astronomy and mathematics. His "Chidoth," riddles in poetic form, and his small poems written on innumerable occasions, made him the master of all rhymers in Spain. It has been told that Rabbi Judah Halevi once wrote a poem of which each line began with a letter of the Aleph Beth. When he came to the letter "Resh" he could not find a suitable thought. Finally he fell asleep. When he awoke he saw that a stranger had fitted a perfect line to his poem, beginning with a "Resh." Full of joy and admiration he is said to have exclaimed: This is either the work of an angel or Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra.
Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra is dear to us, not so much because of his elegance of writing, his poetry, philosophy or science, but as the man who with all his familiarity with secular knowledge, was full of piety and the spirit of G‑d. Warmth and deep feeling, which is said to be lacking in his secular poetry, permeate all his religious poems, prayers and writings. It is here that Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra shows his true nature, his boundless faith and absolute confidence in G‑d. Through all his work rings his despair over the separation of the Jewish people from G‑d, the Torah and the Holy Land, and with the fervor of his soul he prays for the reunion of these three in the time of Mashiach.

answer below at end of Email
Q. Terra Rossa soil is formed out of:
A.    Sand stone
  1. Granite
  2. Lime stone
  3. Chalk (Kirton).

Can you imagine a Judaism that didn’t have a Shabbos? Didn’t have Pesach Shavuot or Sukkot? Incomprehensible right? Not according to Rashi in this week’s Parsha and his understanding of the basic Pshat of the Torah commandment. Our Torah portion this week which brings down a chulent of varied laws tells us the mitzva of the Sabbatical year, which we observed last year in Israel. Right after that the Torah tells us the mitzva of Shabbat and the Mitzva of the pilgrimage holidays. Rashi, seemingly troubled by the juxtaposition of these laws, explains that one might think that in the Shemitta year one did not need to observe the weekly Shabbat of Bereishit/Creation, therefore the Torah-seemingly because the entire year is called by the Torah Shabbat. Therefore Hashem tells us the mitzva of Shabbat to tell us that even in the 7th year one must observe it. Similarly Rashi notes by the holidays that one might think in the Sabbatical year the holidays might be removed from their place and therefore Hashem commands us about them as well even in that year.

This is truly a mind-blowing concept. Why would I think there would be no Shabbos or holidays, just because it’s a Sabbatical year. Perhaps the clue is in the word that Rashi uses “Shabbat Bereishit”. There are two aspects to Shabbos one that we remember that Hashem created the world and that it belongs to Him, and the second is that he runs the world and controls it and gave it to us as a special day to remember that he took us out of Egypt “Zecher LiYitziat Mitzrayim”. When a farmer observes the Shemitta year, then to a large degree he is already testifying that the land belongs to Hashem. He has shut down his business, he allows anyone who wants to come in and take what they like each day. It is a daily testimony to what Shabbos Bereshit is meant to mean to us. Therefore one might think that Shabbat Bereishit is extraneous.
On the other hand as well the holidays as they are brought down in these verses speak about the agricultural aspect of the holidays, the spring, reaping and harvesting seasons of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. The idea being, Rashi notes that in a year that one does not engage in these activities one might thing that the holidays are “moved from their place”. Our farmer has moved beyond his fields already. He is already in a spiritual state, there is no need for him to connect the holidays with the agricultural seasons.
For both of these days Hashem tells us, yes but Shabbat was given to you as a day of rest as well, the holidays were given to you so that you may come see “my face” and celebrate with me. Regardless if you are working your fields this year or not, regardless if you acknowledge already my existence. I want you to celebrate Shabbat and Yom Tov, because it is our special time together. They are days for you and I to bind. What a beautiful thought!


Space Shuttle Columbia explodes in return to Earth- 29th Shvat 2003 – A Jew in space, who would’ve thought. The excitement was palatable. Ilan Ramon after years of training and being accepted into NASA’s program was set to be the first Jew on the moon. Ilan was no stranger to flying and to adventure, a decorated officer in the Israeli Air force, he was the youngest air force pilot to participate in the attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. Ramon who was told during his wait that the Israeli government was running out of funds for the project and may have to cut it, told his superiors that he was no longer a representative of the Israeli Air Force, rather he was the representative of the entire Jewish people.

Prior to his departing to space on Space Shuttle Columbia, where his mission included the manning of a multispectral camera for recording desert aerosol, he arranged to take along Kosher food, a Kiddush cup and a small Torah scroll that had survived Bergen-Belsen. He also brought along a mezuzah adorned with barbed wire -- symbolizing the Nazi concentration camps -- in tribute to his mother who survived Auschwitz and his grandfather who was murdered there, as well as a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. On board the Shuttle, Ramon welcomed the Shabbat with the first intergalactic Kiddush. As he passed over Yerushalayim, he recited "Shema Yisrael," the age-old declaration of Jewish faith.
The Space Shuttle Columbia, returning from its STS-107 mission, broke up upon re-entry, 16 minutes before its scheduled landing. All seven crew members perished, including Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, a combat pilot in the Israeli Air Force.
Miraculously 37 pages from the diary he was keeping while in orbit survived the crash and were returned to his widow, Rona, who has shared an excerpt with the Israeli public in a display at Jerusalem's Israel Museum. Only two pages were displayed, one containing Ramon's notes, and the other is a copy of the Kiddush prayer. In the words of the curator of the museum "The diary survived extreme heat in the explosion, extreme atmospheric cold, and then "was attacked by microorganisms and insects. It's almost a miracle that it survived — it's incredible. There is 'no rational explanation' for how it was recovered when most of the shuttle was not, he said”.
The letter is perhaps the sign and miracle of Hashem attesting to the great Kiddush Hashem that this hero of Israel accomplished both in his life and his death. May his memory be blessed.

Sam was the owner of a worldwide branch of stores and a multi-millionaire. When his daughter Sarah got engaged to a very religious young man he called the future Groom into his office. “So tell me,” said Sam, sitting the young man down. “What are your plans for the future?” “Well”, said the Groom. “I plan on studying holy works all of my life.” “And how exactly do you plan on supporting my daughter if you are studying all day?” questioned Sam. “I am sure The Lord will provide.” Answered the young man. “And what about your kids? How do you plan on supporting them?” “The Lord will provide” answered the young man again. “How did it go?” asked Sam’s wife after they finished talking. “It went great” Sam replied. “I had just met the young fellow and already he thinks I’m the Lord!”

Leah announcing to her father that she was engaged.
The father asked, 'What does he do? Does he have any money?' 
Leah replies back saying, 'You men are all alike.
That's the first thing he asked me about you!'

Berel and his Father-in-law didn’t get along to say the least. Finally for Chanuka one year Berel decided to buy his father-in-law a gift. He handed him a certificate that showed that he had purchased him a plot to be buried in Har HaMenuchot in Jerusalem. The Following year his Father-in-law came to him again for Chanuka and asked what his gift was this year. Berel replied “Well, you still haven’t used the gift I bought you last year!”

Best Rabi Schwartz Line of the Week- When my daughter came to me and told me that she was concerned that her fiancĂ© really didn’t speak English well and she was concerned about the language gap. Her very wise father told her that she was ahead of the game. It took me over twenty years to realize that my wife and I are speaking different languages….It’s so much easier when you know that going in don’t ya think J

Answer is C – Geology was not my favorite topic in our tour guiding course. Thankfully most tourists are not that interested in it as well. I remember the concept of Terra Rosa as being this very fertile red dirt that Israel is rich with. I have no clue what it comes from. I ruled out Chalk stone because it’s white and not red. Granite isn’t really found too much in Israel which just left sand stone and limestone. I went with sand stone, but I was wrong. And should have known better. Limestone is perhaps the most prevalent in the Jersualem area the Judean hills and that’s where there is a lot of Terra Rosa as well. Good thing most people don’t care.