Our view of the Galile

Friday, October 22, 2010

Parshat Noach 2010 Family Land

Insights and Inspiration
 from the
 Holy Land

From Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
 “Your friend in Karmiel”

October 8th 2010 -Volume I, Issue 3– 1 of Cheshvan 5771
Parshat Noach
Family Land

Walking down the street with my baby carriage, a woman stops me to tell me to put down the hood, the sun is in my baby’s face. I walk further up the block and am stopped by another person who tells me that my son has fallen asleep and I should recline the seat in the stroller because he doesn’t look comfortable. I arrive at the doctors office and the doctor tells me that I have a stain on my shirt and that I should clean it before I walk out, as it’s not nice to walk in the street with a dirty shirt- That was my DOCTOR- not my dry cleaner talking. On the way home, the street cleaner guy turns to me and tells me that my stroller looks too weighted down with groceries I had bought and that I will break it.
I should rather carry them on the side. I have moved to the country of free advice. On every corner, on every bus ride, at every supermarket line there is someone who thinks they are my mother, standing there to tell me what I am doing wrong and how I could be doing it better. When they told me that Israel was home they didn’t tell me that I was moving back with my parents!

Truth of the matter is, though, it is nice. It’s nice to live in a place where the doctor calls to find out how my daughter is doing and where the guy who’s fixing my fridge tells me where I could buy my groceries cheaper then the expensive price tags he saw on the ones inside, my freezer. Yes, we lived in places in the States that had different levels of neighborly relationships. We experienced Southern hospitality, Midwest- salt of the earth cheery friendliness, Pacific NorthWest live –and- let- live geniality and even New Yorks one of a kind,  in –your- face, dog-eat-dog, make-it- here- make-it-anywhere abrasiveness. But absolutely nothing comes close to the incredible sense of family, caring, nosiness and as we would say in yiddish, Haymishkeit,that you have with the average stranger you meet in the street that you meet here in Israel. It feels we are all connected in this small little country and so we all have to be there for one another. I like it. Truth be told, this Jewish tradition really dates back to the beginning of our people.

This weeks Torah portion named after the father of all humanity in the post-flood world- Noach- also concludes and introduces us to the father of the Jewish people Abraham- Avraham Avinu. Our sages, ever mindful of these two great individuals, note a very significant but easily overlooked difference in the Torah’s description of them both. They note that whereas by Noach the Torah tells us that he walked with God, Avraham walked before God. They also contrast, a very interesting difference between both Avraham’s reaction to Hashem’s intention to destroy the  wicked city of Sdom and Noach’s reaction (or perhaps lack thereof) to being foretold of the destruction of the world. Avraham steps up to the plate and pleads on their behalf. Noach, the one who walks with God just follows his orders and builds an Ark. He does not plead for the world.  Avraham, who ultimately becomes the father of the Jewish people founded monotheism without ever having talked to God. He looked at the world understood that God existed and went out and taught it to everyone he knew. Noach, who actually spoke to God, was not successful in actually getting anyone to join or pass on a legacy. He did what he was supposed to, as the Torah says he was entirely righteous, but he never saw beyond his own service. He was never brave or broad enough to tell, show and share with others the beauty and significance of his own convictions.

The Land of Israel is one that is repeatedly promised to the descendants of Avraham. It is the country that will not only always bear his memory, but it has been ingrained with this sense that each person living here is responsible for one another. We’re responsible to make sure the other is alright. We’re responsible to make sure that our neighbors are taken care of in every way. But most of all, the secret to this country of Avraham’s children, is that we are responsible to help and inspire each and every one of our brothers and sisters to get closer to Hashem and to appreciate his loving ways. We have to walk before God in this beautiful land and inspire the rest of the world- even Noach’s world, with how great a society we can become if we all just take that responsibility as our Divine mandate. What we could create if we all behaved like the family we were supposed to. What we might become if allowed ourselves to accept and to share that love and caring we are so capable of achieving. As we enter the new Jewish month of Cheshvan and approach the winter season let’s aim to keep that unity we achieved over the holidays and see it last through the year. Invite over a friend for Shabbat, go join a new Torah class, call a friend and bring him or her to shul. You won’t regret it…at least that’s what the guy on the street told me.

Have a wonderful Shabbos and a good Rosh Chodesh,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

There is a street cleaner, an older russian man with a kippah, who walks up and down the streets every morning with a broom and garbage can sweeping the floor and picking up the litter. He is always smiling… When asked what he thinks about when he works, he responded that he thinks about how lucky he is to be cleaning the streets of Israel. When he feels that his job is below his education level (he had a masters degree in science in Russia) He thinks of Moshe Rabbeinu, who never merited to enter Israel and what he would have given for the merit to clean the streets . “I’m doing what Moshe only dreamed of” he sings.
I’m doing what Moshe only dreamed of…

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