Our view of the Galile

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shemos- Making it Happen

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
  December 23rd 2010 -Volume I, Issue 12–17th of Tevet 5771

Parshat Shemos 

Making it Happen
It has always been the least favorite part of my job in my field of Jewish educational outreach work. I love teaching, I love meeting people and introducing them to the beauty of their Jewish heritage. I even used to love preparing for our events, sweeping the floors, peeling potatoes, and cleaning up afterwards. I didn’t mind cold calling people and I relished new opportunities to go where no Rabbi has ever gone before. The least favorite part of my job however was the fundraising that was always necessary to pay for everything that we did.
There are some people that enjoy it. They thrive on the challenge of inspiring a wealthy individual to invest in their projects. They love knocking down doors until they make that ultimate connection that pushes their organization to the next level. But for me- I’d rather be teaching. Yet the truth is from the beginning of the Jewish people’s existence we have always had our fundraising Rabbis that would be forced to leave the walls of their Yeshivot, Batei Midrash and organizations and hit the pavement to start bringing in the Shekels that would make it all happen.
In fact it seems that the Torah wishes this symbiotic relationship. We find that the Kohanim and Levi’im who were charged with the Jewish spirituality were supported by the tithes of the people. The Tribe of Yissachar was partners with his brother Zevulun so that he could dedicate his time to Torah study. If not for the relationship between the two both would lose out. The Kohen and Levi had to go out and see and understand the challenges that face those in the fields and the work place and the tribes had to appreciate that all that they had was a gift granted to them for a purpose. It was theirs to further the greater goals and spiritual calling of creating a holier more Godly nation.
In years of plenty this is an easy beautiful relationship. It’s easy (or at least easier) to fundraise. The rich are happy to help and those with needs and great projects feel more comfortable pushing them forward. When the going gets tough though….unfortunately it becomes a nightmare for many. There is no more fun- in the draising.
Until recently I empathized with the poor and needy during those times. Yet on a recent trip to the States to assist our local Rav Ha-Roshi in raising the funds necessary for all the many organizations he personally carries in Karmiel, I finally began to see the other side of the coin (pun intended) as well.. I spent quite a bit of time with some friends of mine that in better years were doing quite well- Thank God. I saw their beautiful houses, their nice cars their ‘perfect’ lives and heard stories about their amazing vacations, and I felt happy for them. Not jealous, because frankly I always loved my job and life and really would never of traded it. Just happy for them…
But then the door bells started ringing… and ringing… and the phone calls started coming. It was endless days and nights of watching  and listening to people walk through their doors with stories that just break your heart. I visited friends of mine in their offices and I saw lines- and I’m not exaggerating- of people waiting to “meet” and receive some financial help. I have a friend of mine who told me that he has to change his phone number every few months because of the many calls that he keeps getting that don’t even allow him to get anything done. Others have told me stories of how they have to daven in shuls far from their homes so that they are not mobbed by the “pauper-azzi”( this pun thing is getting old) or sneak out back doors or early in the morning so that they are not accosted. It’s truly mind boggling. My heart started to feel for my “rich” friends. I couldn’t even imagine living like that.
And yet they continue to give. They recognize their position and their blessing and they do the best that they can to meet the needs of their brothers. It’s just as much part of their jobs and lives as their business aspect. Mi K’Amcha Yisrael- Who is like you Nation of Israel.
This weeks Torah portions the second Book of the Torah shares with us the story of the nation Israel. Whereas the first Book of the Torah is the story of the Family of Israel. Now we become a Nation- a people born out the bitterest of moments in human history (think 210 years of Jewish Holocaust-slavery, infanticide and every imaginable type of inhuman abuse) and we are told a few stories of the fabric of the leaders and the merits of the individuals that led us to our Exodus.
The Portion begins with the story of two heroic women Shifra and Puah who were midwives that stood up to Pharaoh and saved Jewish children from death. Think about it. There were hundreds of thousand of babies being born in Egypt annually. Within a few decades a family of 70 turned into a nation of a few million. Shifrah and Puah were just a small little drop in the bucket. How many babies could they have saved? What difference in the big picture did they really make? Yet the Torah shares with us their story and tells us that these great women eventually merited the greatest homes in Israel of Jewish leadership. Two women who couldn’t sit silently while their brethren suffered.
The Torah then introduces us to Moshe and shares with a few stories of the first 80 years of his life. Stories that in the big picture of his life in the palace of Pharoah could have even been forgotten. Yet they are, what the Torah tells us, the most formative and significant incidents of his life. The Torah spends time and ink telling us how Moshe’s sister watches over him as he is sent out on the sea of reeds in a little basket and how the daughter of Pharaoh goes out of her way to save him. It tells us how although he was raised in the greatest palaces in the world, he chooses to go out to the ‘trenches’ and advocate and put his life on the line to stand up for a Jew that is being beaten.
Yet Moshe’s life and world view does not end even with Jews. When he flees to Midian he stands up for Midianite women who are being threatened- the daughters of Yisro. Incidentally, Yisro as well the Talmud us as well had previously fled Egypt so as not to be party to Pharaoh’s persecution of the Jews.  Here we have small acts, yet each one of them reflects that true sense of Jewish leadership, that I cannot sit back when the needs of the Jewish people are great. I must do whatever it takes to help them. If I am fortunate enough to be in a position to help whoever it may be, than the only reason I have this blessing is to accomplish a greater good for mankind. Moshe chooses the occupation of a shepherd and the Medrash tells us that even in his care of the sheep. Each one was precious to him and into each one he put his days and nights into caring for them.
Finally the Torah portion concludes with the story of the Jewish taskmasters who endure extra beatings for their brethren who are so broken in their slavery that they cannot produce the inhuman amount of work and bricks demanded by Pharaoh. It is these taskmasters that eventually become the Sanhedrin of the Jewish people. The leaders who will in the future be chosen to represent all of the Jewish peoples spiritual needs as they enter the land of Israel. These are the stories of the Jews in Exile that the Torah teaches us and it is these stories that lead to the upcoming story of our redemption in what is known to be the Book of Our Redemption Sefer Hageulah.
It is truly a fascinating bridge between last week and this week. The end of Bereishit and the story of our exile is one of where brothers sat by and ate as Yosef was thrown into a pit and sold into Exile. They remained silent for years as Yaakov sat in pain over his  son that he thought to was deceased. The Exile happens when we don’t care and when we’re not there for one another. The Redemption happens when Jews step up to the plate and put our own comforts aside and see the needs of our brothers and sisters and do whatever it takes to alleviate their pain and suffering.
Living in Israel today one feels the Geulah, the ultimate redemption, is around the corner. There are so many with so many needs. Perhaps, more so now than in earlier times. It’s harder for people to give. It’s easier to lock one’s self away. But at the same time, so many of us are not doing that. We are stepping up to the plate. Those with financial resources are pushing themselves further. Those that can help others, be it in helping singles find their Bashert, helping children and teens with challenges, visiting the sick, caring for the elderly and reaching out to Jews who are so far from their heritage, are doing so in numbers that are absolutely astounding. In the weeks that I was in the States I saw tens of different prayer groups that were organized of women who would get together and pray for different people with needs. Yes the Geulah is getting closer. We are all becoming leaders in this needy needy generation. May Hashem see fit to bring us all to our own new and final chapter of Redemption as a family together in our home.

May your Shabbos be uplifting,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
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"Israel where you can experience Judaism in its natural habitat"

Any one know what else happened there (before the chrisitans stole our ritual immersion area)?

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