Our view of the Galile

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What would you do? Mikeitz Chanukah 5772

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
December 23rd 2011 -Volume 2, Issue 8–27th of Kislev 5772

Parshat Mikeitz/ Chanukah

What would you do?

Imagine being in prison; an ancient Egyptian pre-geneva conference prisoner rights prison facing what is certain to be a life sentence. After 10 years there was a glimmer of hope. You’ve befriended one of the Pharaoh’s vassals and he had assured you that he would advocate on your behalf. Yet here you are 2 years later and zip…nada… same old Egyptian prison grind. Bakers who can’t keep pebbles out of his bread, That Egyptian teenager who wrote graffiti all over the pyramid walls (said it was hieroglyphics) in cell 3 the cranky midianite camel thief in cell 4. How long will I be here?

And than your moment arrives. It seems that there is an opening in the dream interpreting department of the pharaoh. The last few guys seemed to have ended up in dreamland themselves after some interpretations they gave just weren’t cutting it with the megalomaniac king. This could finally be it. Only problem is, it seems that this Pharaoh has somewhat of a god complex in  the center of this idol-belt part of the ancient world. And you believe in this “insane” notion of a one God world who happens to abhor idols and men that think they are gods. What do you do? Do you take off your yarmulke and put your religious beliefs on the side to get out of the hell that you have been suffering through and leave your faith out of the workplace? Or do you utilize this momentous-once in a life time opportunity to espouse your religious beliefs in a public way before the king and all his loyal servants and priests (who happen to make a very good living out of the false god mindset of their ancient society) perhaps in the process showing them the error of their ways and the beauty of your faith?

 Scenario II: You are a young child living in an intolerant Greek society. Intolerant is really just being polite, actually they kind of kill you if you don’t worship their gods or if you openly practice your Judaism. So now this young boy is standing in front of the “Caesar” after having watched his 6 older siblings being carted off to be killed for violating those two cardinal crimes. Caesar, being in a bit of a jam after being defied in front of his whole entourage, offers the lad a way out. “I’ll drop my ring on the floor and you bend down to pick it up- that way you won’t technically be bowing down and I’ll save face”; An easy and seemingly quite benevolent solution from a life threatening situation. Do you say to yourself “he who bows down today will live to pray another day”? Or do you take advantage of this tremendous teaching opportunity to point out to the king how silly he is to assume that I, a child, would be more concerned about his honor as a flesh and blood being and a mere mortal king and not worry about the honor and desecration of the name of the King of all Kings, our Father in Heaven?

 Scenario III You live in the quaint Judean village of Mod’in and you have been called to the city square by the newest Greek general in town for a special occasion. An altar is being built and dedicated in the center of town and a sacrifice is being made. You’re not too happy about this invitation. In general you try to avoid these things and truthfully you had other plans this morning, you were going to pick some olives, stamp on some grapes to make some wine for the upcoming Purim holiday  or even suffer through another annoying day sitting through that donkey traffic at the local shuk. Anything but another Greek festival. But you know the price for not coming, and frankly you prefer your head on the top side of your head… so you go.  Yet this  time things go a little differently than usua,l for as the General stands there he orders the local Jewish priest to sacrifice a pig on the altar. Now that’s a big no no, as we all know, but what can you do? They are in power now. Jews don’t fight and particularly not against the largest and strongest army on the planet earth. Listen, if I suffer through this a little bit and pretend to be happy with them, the truth is the Greeks are really not  bad. I mean check out the beautiful streets and markets they have brought to the area. They really cleaned up these slums those barbarian Persians and Babylonians left this country in. The music, the architecture, the literature, the science, the arts. So they have this minor pig- killing- in- front- their- idols fetish. Nobody gets hurt (besides porky), they have fun, we have fun and we all go home happy.

As these thoughts pass through your head you are shaken out of your reverie by this seemingly crazy fanatic Rabbi who pushes his way to the front grabs a sword and kills the priest in front of everyone. This is not going to be good, you think as tens of  soldiers from all sides converge on the middle. I should have called in sick, you think. But then the Rabbi jumps up and announces the start of a revolt.”Who is for Hashem the one true God join with me!” he calls out. “lets run to the caves grab some sticks and begin a guerilla war against the entire Greek empire. Join me on a war that will restore the sanctity of the Temple so that we can once again offer our daily sacrifices and prayer and get rid of these goyim for once and for all.” This does not seem like a good idea. You don’t particularly like caves. You really were never too inspired by the Temple and the whole cow sacrifice thing in the first place. In fact you can’t really remember the last time you made the pilgrimage up there. It’s been a mess these last few years and quite frankly you hated the shlep and were getting kind of used to Pessach and Sukkot at home together with the family in your nice latest greek mosaic furnished living room. Yet something inside of you is saying, maybe the Rabbi is right. Maybe I should stand up. Maybe life was meant to be something more. Maybe if I join the battle, that voice inside of me that has been waking me up in the middle of the night reminding me of my roots will finally be stilled… Be fulfilled.

 From a historical perspective the holiday of Chanukah is not one that I think any of us would dedicate a holiday to. Yes, the old man and his sons led by Yehudah Maccabee did indeed make their way to the Temple in some miraculous victories and they lit a rather pathetic wooden menorah they constructed with some oil that miraculously lasted for eight days. Yet the Greeks were still in control of the Temple mount and still shooting at them from the Temple mount. It wasn’t until after the first 4 sons died in battle and the last son Shimon was left did they final conquer the Temple mount. However his son Yochanan eventually became a Greek once again, and his son Alexander eventually wiped out the Rabbinic leadership and within a few generations the Chasmonean family invited in Rome and the Temple was eventually destroyed. That small light and window in the dark period is not necessarily something to make a holiday for. It would be like making a holiday for a small victory that the Warsaw Ghetto had before their eventual destruction. So what indeed is the holiday about?

The answer, our sages tell us, is that the Jewish holiday is not focused on the battles rather it is all about the lighting of the Menora; The Jews lighting that eternal spark that gave them and us the strength and the fortitude to stand up for our eternal values regardless of the cost, the danger, and the ridicule of those that do not appreciate the special-ness of our Torah. Rav Shabsi Yudelevitch tells a story of how once he was waiting on a hot Tel Aviv day at the central bus station waiting for a bus to Jerusalem to come along with 10’s of other people. When the bus arrived a large burly un-gentleman pushed his way through the crowd to the front of the line. As the crowd who were obviously outraged by his chutzpa (even by Israeli standards) confronted him, he turned to them with arrogance and said

Do you not know who I am?. Do you not see the hat on my head with its symbols and the badge on my chest and on my shoulders? Don’t you see that I am from the Machleket Ha’Sanitorium(the Sanitorium Department)”

For a minute they were all taken aback- not recognizing what the Sanitorium department was. Until someone looked at the badge a little closer and realized that the obviously deluded person was in fact a garbage collector for the Israeli sanitation department. Yet he wore his badge with pride. He had medals. He had a hat and a uniform and he felt he was the king of the world.
Reb Shabsi then turns to his crowd and asks and what than should we feel? The king of all Kings has chosen us to be His nation, His representatives on earth should we not wear His badge with pride. Is there anything that should ever make us feel ashamed of our connection and special relationship with Him. Yosef in the heart of Egypt, The youngest son of Channa and our ancestors the Maccabees lit that that flame and had the strength to respond the way they did because they were proud of their beliefs. Why should they ever want to hide it? How could they. Just as a loving Jewish bubby can’t help herself but to pull out her pictures of her children and grandchildren, or a young groom or bride cannot stop to sing the praises of their fiancĂ©e or a new father or mother who will go on and on about their anecdotes of their babies first crawl,first diaper and first drool, should we feel any less when we have such a special history such an incredible heritage and legacy that we have been chosen and blessed with?

The holiday of Chanukah is celebrated by lighting that age old flame and remembering the courage and pride of our ancestors and then with the singing of songs of praise of how lucky we are. We light those candles in a place that our children, family and those out in the streets can see. So that the world will know that we have nothing to be embarrassed of and we take pride in our special-ness. May we very soon merit to shine the eternal flame of our people with pride once again in the Temple rebuilt soon in our days.

Good Shabbos and a Bright and light filled Chanukah,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz




(funny but sad of those who don’t necessarily appreciate the pride of Chanuka)  



THE SOUTHERN TEMPLE MOUNT WALL Not being able to go up to the Temple wall due to our state of impurity and lack of knowledge of exactly what the permitted areas for the Tamei to walk and not walk we can still today however get an appreciation of the Temple and the period by viewing some of the excavations from the Southern wall. Underneath Robinsons Arch we can see the old city street where there were stores and mikvaot to buy animals for sacrifices and purify oneself before you go up to the mount. The arch itself was not the entrance for the regular people rather it was for the palace that Herod had built for all the non Jewish dignitaries to view the Temple, it was actually built near the foundations of the Greek Chakra where the Greeks had built a fortress and temple for idolatry and during the Chanukah story when the Maccabees restored the service was still active and in fact a firing point against them.

 On the SouthWest corner of this wall there was found a rock that had fallen from the Temple mount when it was destroyed by the Romans that stated that this is the stand of the Shofar blower, where as the Talmud tells us each Friday the Shofar would be blown to call people from the fields for Shabbat. Further along the gate one can see the remains of the various former Arab Palaces that were built here and finally one can see the Hulda double gate where the pilgrims would actually go up to the temple. One gate to enter and one gate to exit exceot for mouners who would walk in the wrong door so that all who would see them would comfort and console them on their loss.  May we soon merit to see the Temple in its former glory restored once again.

Lighten up! -Vayeishev Chanuka 5772

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
December 16th 2011 -Volume 2, Issue 7–6th of Kislev 5772

Parshat Vayeishev

Lighten Up

There is a story I once heard from Rabbi Berel Wein about one of his older congregants, a simple older woman, who not having been raised with much Torah education would approach him after shul each week with questions and issues about the various biblical stories from the weekly Torah portion that would trouble her. When Parshat Vayeishev came, he recalls she came to him in tears and full of indignation for poor Yosef- Joseph.

"How could they do this to him?" she cried. "Such a poor young man, and his own brothers try to kill him, and then they sell him" How could this happen!?

Rabbi Wein did his best to console the woman, yet he feared that somehow he would never be able to explain to her properly one of the more difficult Torah narratives. As the year went on and her questions persisted Rabbi Wein dreaded the upcoming anniversary of the Vayeishev Yosef story. Much to his surprise though, after services the much awaited outburst never came. When he approached her and asked what she thought of the story this year and why she had not responded again. She replied

"Listen Rabbi, once I can feel sorry for him, but if he was dumb enough to go back again this year to his brothers, than it's his fault – Tze Koomt Em- he deserves it"

Simple old women stories aside though, this weeks Parsha certainly contains in it some of the most troubling stories of our forefathers. Every year when I read this Parsha it always strikes me how contrary to other ancient "histories" of all other cultures that tend to at best whitewash their laundry, but more often than not even fabricate legends heroics and even god-like figureheads of their founders. Judaism and the Torah with its dedication to truth and moral lessons paint a very disturbing and critical image of our ancestors from whose fabric our nation is sewn.

 We read in this week's portion about Yackov and his favoritism for his son Yosef over his other children. We read about Yosef's dreams of leadership that he exacerbates his brothers with. We read about their jealousy, their scheming, and their deception to their father. The Torah even goes out of its way to tell us even the most scandalous stories about Yehudah and his relationship with his Daughter-in- law who poses as a harlot and Yosef's almost-seduction by his Egyptian bosses wife ( have I tempted you enough to come to shul this Shabbos yet?J). No, it does not look good for the Jewish people.

Yet it is in this Parsha also that beneath the scenes of all the chaos that is going on the seeds of redemption are being planted. From Yosef going down to Egypt the road is being paved for the Jewish peoples sojourn and survival in exile in the upcoming famine. As he is falsely thrown into jail for having committed a sin with his seductress he is merely being prepared for the time when he will be able to be given the opportunity to be released and become the vice premier to Pharoh. Even slightly more hidden in the parsha though, is that from the seemingly illicit relationship of Yehudah and Tamar the eventual seeds of Moshiach and King David comes forth and are born. In the darkness there is light and it is precisely in the worst of times when redemption can most be found.

This parsha is always read Chanukah time. It is an interesting holiday Chanukah. In the large picture of history one would think that it would almost be irrelevant. To get a picture of the times, the much fragmented Jewish people to a large part had assimilated into the beauty and immorality of Greek culture. The Greeks were not interested in destroying the Jewish people or even the Jewish religion. They just wanted it Greekified. Have your temple- but also worship our gods. Bring your sacrifices- but also slaughter pigs. Light your menorah- just use defiled oil… and just place it next to your Chanukah bush..(oops). And the Jews to a large degree did. The situation seemed hopeless. One can almost hear the sages of the time raising their voices in prayer Mimaakim Karsicha Hashem- From the depths I have called out to you Hashem. Will we ever be able to rebuild? Can a small group of Kohanim- temple priests dedicated to a life of service in the Temple ever win against the largest world power and army? Can we ever be whole again? And it is then that we were granted our miracle.

 It is perhaps very revealing, that the Holiday of Chanukah really does not put its focus as much on the miraculous victory of our small nation against the mighty world empire of Greece , as it does around the miracle of the oil; the miracle of the light that would not be extinguished, the flame of the Menorah. In fact within 50 years after the Chanukah victory, the new empire on the block, Rome had already begun to make it's inroads into Israel and influencing and assimilating the children of the Maccabees. Not much further down the road they would eventually pillage and destroy that temple, for which the Chasmonaim gave their lifeblood to rededicate, and it would not be rebuilt again even until our day. Yet Chanukah is still celebrated. Celebrated because in the darkness we were able to glimmer at the light. We were able to see the miraculous hand of Hashem in a situation that seemed hopeless.

 It is a unique holiday. Whereas all the other holidays fall out in the middle of the month Chanukah is at the end, when the moon is the smallest, when it is the darkest. On all other holidays the mitzvah rituals, matzah eating, Sukkah sitting, Megillah reading, take place during the day and the night. On Chanukah when the nights are the longest and the darkest we only light our Menorahs in the evening at night. And what is our mitzvah? To take a small wick and oil (or candle) and to light a small flame and to remember and focus on the incredible light and flame that still burns within us.

The kabbalah notes how the word for oil- Shemen has within it the same root as the word for soul Neshomah.

"Ner Hashem Nishmas Adam- The candle of Hashem is the soul of man"

King Solomon wrote. There is a spark within each of us, the Zohar tells us, that is always connected, that can never become sullied and defiled, that can always be redeemed and shine forth. That is our Shemen, that is our lovingly entrusted Neshomah; our soul. And just as oil no matter how diluted you may try to make it will always eventually rise to the top. So too our inner flame no matter how dark and lonely, and no matter how distant we may have wandered, will always be able to come forth and shine through.

 So as we gaze, like our ancestors before us have for millennia, into the soft welcoming flame of our menorahs. Let us pray and hope that Hashem helps us find and light that spark of holiness and redemption within us. That He once again picks us up from the depths and the darkness. May he give us the joy and health that we long for and the Divine love that we so sorely miss. As he did for our Yosef and our forefathers so long ago in Egypt , as he did for the Maccabees in Israel and as he still does for us in our time. May it be his will as we say in our blessing on our menorah that we truly are able to feel the SheOsah Nisim L'Avoseinu Ba'Yamim Haheim Ba'Zman Hazeh- that He performs miracles for our forefather in those days in this time.

Good Shabbos and a Bright and light filled Chanukah,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

UNDER THE “ROVA” IN JERUSALEM – up on top of the jewish quarter of the old city of jerusalem one sees youth playing, tourists from all over the world, pizzas shwarmas and even holy bagels being sold out of every crack in the wall… truly a prophesy of the once destroyed city restored has been fulfilled at least in part as we still await our temple. Yet to truly appreciate the restoration one has to travel back 200 thousand years and a few meters below ground in the wohl archeological museum and to “the burnt house museum” to truly appreciate what this city endured during its destruction. From 1948 until 1967 the jewish rova was under jordanian control and they destroyed the homes on top. In 1967 when we returned to our ancient city the unique opportunity to explore for the first time since the destruction of the temple as they excavated before rebuilding the now new and imporved rova arose. And amazing finds were found. 6 homes that belonged to the elite of the kohanim who lived in the upper city were uncovered with gorgeous mosaic floors, ballrooms elaborate bathrooms and of course mikvaot to purify themselves. There were coins that were minted during the jewish revolt with the date “ to the year of the redemption of jerusalem and even- in honor of chanuakah a hand drawing – the oldest of its kind – of the menorah that was in the temple giving us a idea of what it looked like with vessels that go back to the period of the chashmonaim. All this and more can be seen in the wohl museum.

In the burnt house one can actually go to the home of kitros upon who the talmud says

"...woe is me because of the house of kathros, woe is me because of their pens. ... For they are the high priests, and their sons are treasurers, and their sons-in law are trustees, and their servants beat the people with staves".

Archeologists believe this is house because a weight was found that states his name on it there. Nice to find a proof of the name of someone the talmud says lived there. There is a very moving short film of the story of the destruction and the civil war between the rebels that led to the destruction. In the home one sees the burnt walls from its destruction a month after the temple was destroyed and pictures of the skeleton of a human female arm right next to a spear head. Was she killed with it was she reaching for it… we will never know…. Regardless it is impossible to not appreciate the incredible miracle of our return home 2000 years later once again. May the final and complete redemption come again soon…

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jewish Guilt- Parshat Vayeitzei 5772

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

December 2nd 2011 -Volume 2, Issue 6–6th of Kislev 5772

Parshas Vayitzei

Jewish Guilt

"What do you mean you’re not finishing up your supper?? Don't you know that there are starving people in Ethiopia ...that would give anything to have a little something to eat??"

Thus I was introduced to our wonderful national attribute... good old Jewish guilt. (Incidentally it also was the beginning of my weight struggle.. a little back at you Mom .) Yes we are certainly a people that are nursed on healthy sense of guilt. Perhaps it is what makes us so focused on creating a better society... one where we won't have to feel so guilty about all the worlds’ problems. It has always been fascinating to me the extent to which our people are at the forefront of almost every cause that the world has. World peace, civil rights, hunger in Africa (we just want to be able to leave over some supper one day y'know), Environment, education there is nary cause out there that you won’t find Jews  in the forefront of the battlefield to improve and enhance and to... stop feeling guilty?

Now in case this e-mail is making you feel guilty about feeling too guilty-yes we do that too, I will do my small share as a Rabbi to ease your pain and help you realize that there is absolutely nothing that you are able to do about that sinking sense you get regularly or those strains of conscience that keep you up at night. The fact it is to a certain degree they are our birthright and our namesake going all the way back to the beginning. to the defining essence of our people when our Matriarch Leah first named our first ancestor. This is who we are.

In this week’s Parsha we read of the birth of the twelve tribes to Yaacov and his wives. None of the births were natural and they all came after much prayer and tears. A lesson in of itself. Leah, who was certainly not the favored of Yackov’s four wives, spent years crying and praying that she should merit to be married to Yaacov, rather than his older brother the brutal hunter Esav. Finally as she merits her marriage with him and begins to bring forth the future Jewish people names each of them with the power and thoughts of her emotions and prayers. Reuven -God has seen my affliction- Shimon- God has heard my grief. Levi - I have been able to accompany my husband.

When she reaches Son number four however, Yehudah-Judah, she announces

"This time I will praise Hashem"

Rashi as well as the other commentators note that what was different this time was that now she has received more than her portion… more than she felt she deserved. Being that through prophesy all had known that there would be 12 tribes and that Yackov had four wives, by having merited to produce a fourth she recognized that her blessing was one that was more than the others would have. Her share felt now extra blessed than others and in turn she had to do something back. She had to give back to Hashem, with praise, that sense of appreciation for an undeserved blessing.

Rabbi Dr.Abraham Twerski points out that in Hebrew there are three words that all have the same root. To praise- Hodaah- To thank-Todah- To confess- Viduy. He also notes that in his 40 years of professional practice he has come to understand that those three words are the three most important words to learn when building a happy and fulfilled relationship. "I am sorry" I appreciate you" and " I admire you". The connecting link in all three of these things is that there is an incredible capacity within us human beings to live our lives, our marriages, our gifts and our blessings with an oblivious sense of their source coming from outside of ourselves. We live, we happen and we take for granted. If we fail someone, particularly someone we love, particularly Hashem, we would rather just move on. It is hard to face our mistakes and to meaningfully say we're sorry. If someone does us a kindness it is not natural to focus and praise and express our appreciation. Perhaps we are scared of the imbalance it might cause us in our relationship. Perhaps it might make us feel unworthy or guilty.

Yet, Rabbi Twerski notes, in fact the opposite actually occurs . The more one can express their admission, be it thanks, apology or praise and admiration, the greater and closer the relationship becomes. The more we are able to perform Hodaah, to channel our feelings of undeserved-ness into a reciprocal giving back to the source of our blessing the better and ultimately the more deserving we become and experience in the relationships we will have.

We are a people that are called Jews. Although we decend from all of the twelve tribes the name of the tribe of Yehudah-Judah has become our title; the little sticker nametag on our shirt.

Recently while visiting one of the many museums here in Israel I watched film footage of our people with that sticker on our shirt. Except that it wasn't a white sticker  in a little plastic case nametag safty-pinned on. It was yellow and it was in the shape of a star and  it said JUDEN-Jew. In Hitler's Mein Kampf he writes "The Jews have an inflicted two wounds upon society circumcision on their bodies and a conscience on their soul". That is our yellow star. That is our essence. To bring a sense of appreciation and yes even a feeling of undeserved-ness to the world of the incredible blessings and responsibilities that come with them for all mankind.

We are Yehudim and yes we may suffer from a little guilt. But as my mother would say a little guilt can go a long way;  especially if it is the way to Hashem our loving and most important relationship and the way to our home. So do a little guilt, say your sorry, say thank you, express your admiration for all the love and blessings you have. Mean it. And you’ll have a better Shabbos. I promise.

Have a happy earliest Shabbos of the year J,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Hammat Tiverya – These ancient hot springs which still flow today right across from the Kinneret we are told by our sages found their source goes back to the times of the flood when the water came up from the depths of the earth. Arab sources bring a legend that King Shlomo (or Suleiman as they call him) sent demons underground to heat up the waters and then he made them deaf so that they wouldn’t know of shlomo’s death so they would continue to heat the waters and not rebel later. The Talmud and Josephus all quote sources that this was a central healing place for much of the Roman and Jewish world. In fact the Talmud states that the reason Hashem didn’t create hot springs in Jerusalem was because He didn’t want people coming to Jerusalem and saying “if we had only come for the hot springs (rather then to see the Temple) it would have be enough.

Also located at the natural parks of Hammat Tiverya are the excavations of ancient 4th-6th century synagogues that functioned during those periods. Having undergone repeated earthquakes (being at the edge of the Syrian/african tectonic plates divide) they as well as much of the Galile faced devastating destruction almost every 1 or two centuries. Each synagogue was built on top of the remains of the previous one and one can see incredible mosaic floors that remain with the fascinating astrological circles and even pictures of Helios the ancient sun god a common motif back then but not something you would expect to find in any traditional synagogue today.

You can also pop in to see the ancient Turkish baths and msuem there. However to really get a feel of the healing powers pop across the street to the modern day baths in the Tiberias hot springs and soak your worries away.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Praying for the Unexpected- Toldos 5772

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

November 25th 2011 -Volume 2, Issue 5–28th of Cheshvan 5772

Parshat Toldos


Praying for the Unexpected

Shmuli was not usually the type of person that was found in the homes of great people. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy seeing the great holy leaders of Klal Yisrael or find being in their presence inspirational. It was just that he never wanted to trouble them with his burden… his pain. They had enough people coming to them for their prayers and their blessings. They had bigger issues to worry about. Their study of Torah was holding up the world and Shmuli didn’t want to take them away from their certainly more monumental task. So he suffered in silence…until it became too much too bear.

So there he was in the waiting room of Reb Chaim Kanievsky, a modest little apartment in Bnai Brak (or Bnai Braq as they write on the road signs in this “q” obsessed country). He joined hundreds of others that day who had all come to ask the Rabbi for his advice, who sought his prayers or who just wanted to meet this great leader who is renowned for his  piety and scholarship and his love for each Jew. When it was finally his turn and he sat down next to the Rabbi and struggled to find the right words that would somehow bring him that special blessing he was seeking. The Rabbi took his hand gently and asked him what it was that was troubling him.

Rebbe” he began. “I am already close to 40 years old and I am not sure anymore if I will ever find my soul-mate. I have dated and dated for years. I stay up at nights dreaming of having a home, a family, a wife I could sing Eishet Chayil to each Friday night. Yet after all these years and fruitless dates I have begun to give up hope. I am terrified of dying alone and never experiencing my true fulfillment together with that other part of my soul that I long to meet and be one with.” The years of pain and the hopelessness all came out in a gush of tears as Shmuli broke down sobbing. “Please, Rebbe, tell me what should I do? How can I go on? Why is Hashem doing this to me? Have I done something wrong? Is there something that I need to atone for?

Reb Chaim stroked Shmuli’s hair, and with his warm loving hand brushed away Shmuli’s tears. “There is nothing you have done wrong, my son,” Reb Chaim said.” Nothing you have to be fearful of. Hashem certainly has your perfect Bashert- your soulmate picked out for you. Do not worry you will get married.” Had Reb Chaim stopped there everything would have been fine. Yet he continued and said “Have faith Shmuli that Hashem is looking after you. You just have to wait for the right time… and your soul-mate hasn’t been born yet” and with that he ended off mysteriously…

Questions ran the gamut through Shmuli’s head. What type of blessing was this? If she hasn’t been born yet than how am I supposed to get married? Does this mean that I will have to wait until I am 60 until I get married? He walked out with more questions than he walked in with. But the Tzadik had spoken and had told him to have faith and somehow with the warm confident tone that he had assured Shmuli he felt strong enough to move forward and try to do exactly that.

This story took place a few months ago. This past week Shmuli came back to the house of Reb Chaim beaming. “I’m engaged” he announced “Mazel Tov!”  The Rebbe’s assistants were astounded and exhilarated to hear the wonderful news. “But, to who?” they asked. “My bride to be…” Shmuli continued “is a geyores- a righteous convert, who had just finished her conversion process shortly after my blessing from the Rebbe. And I’m sure you know our sages teach us that a Ger SheGiyer KiKatan HaNolad Dami- That one who undergoes a conversion is a new born child. The Rebbe was right, my bashert hadn’t been born yet. I just had to wait until the right time.”  

This week our Torah portion tells us the story of another bachelor who got married at age 40. According to our sages, our forefather Yitzchak also had to wait for his Bashert Rivkah until she was “of age” and the time was right for her to get married to him. Yet although they had finally found each other, they had another waiting period of twenty years until Rivkah became pregnant. During those long difficult years the Torah tells us that they both prayed fervently for children.

“And Yitzchak prayed opposite his wife because she was barren and Hashem responded to his prayer and Rivkah became pregnant.”

The Rebbe of Ostrov has a beautiful insight into why it was that the verse seems to say that Hashem, only responded to Yitzchak’s prayer rather than Rivkah’s. In a homiletic reading of the verse he reads the verse differently; in a way that carries a tremendous lesson for us. He writes that when it says that Yitzchak prayed to Hashem – it means he prayed for a child that would serve Hashem- for Hashem. As opposed to his wife who prayed because she was barren. Rivkah just prayed that she no longer be barren and that she should merit having children. Her prayer was that of a woman who so desperately wanted children. She didn’t even feel strong enough or even perhaps meritorious enough to ask and daven for a son who would grow to be one of our great ancestors and the father of the Jewish nation. The verse therefore tells us that Hashem responded to his prayer- not hers. He continues to therefore explain the following response that Rivkah had when she realized that she was pregnant and as the Medrash tells us that the children in her belly were “running” around. When they passed a house of God one would push one way and when she passed of a house of idolatry the other twin would jump around to get out. She then realized perhaps her prayer as well should not have been one of desperation but rather one of faith and knowledge that Hashem in his Divine plan only has her interest and what was best for her in mind. She thus responded realizing this

If so that my prayers just for me and my pain and not for the service of Hashem and would produce an idolatrous heir that would not bring the beauty and knowledge of Hashem to the world -“Lama Zeh Anochi- Why didn’t I as well pray as my husband did?” Va’teleich Ldirosh Es Hashem”- She thus goes forward to seek out Hashem, our merciful loving Father in her own prayers.

There is an old saying that there are no atheists in a foxhole. For many of us when we pray to Hashem it is precisely those prayers that fill up much of our lifetime of prayers. “Please Hashem, heal this person.. give me an easy parnassah (livelihood)… bless me with my spouse… children.. peace…comfort.” They are prayers of a foxhole. I am in a jam and I need you Hashem to take me out of it. But Hashem is not merely a Divine lifeguard waiting to pull us out of every bind we find ourselves in and every desperate-feeling circumstance. He is our Father. Our Creator. He wants a relationship with us and a prayer that shows that we trust in him and that what we are asking for is merely a better circumstance to allow us to serve Him better and get closer to Him. Foxhole prayers are for those who just want to live another day. Divine ones are those that show that we wish to develop an eternity for ourselves together with our Creator.

It is not easy to have faith and pray to Hashem with the knowledge that all He does and has planned for us is for the good, when things seem so bleak and hopeless. Yet we have the prayers of our Forefathers in our genes. The essence of our souls knows that truth, and that should inspire us. Sometimes it takes the reassurance of a Tzadik like Reb Chaim that “all will be well- our Bashert, hasn’t been born yet”. Sometimes we can even merit to see in our own lives the various times Hashem has given us something which at first we thought was not what we needed and ultimately we saw the incredible benevolence of Hashem  having not “heeded” our original request. Yet as challenging as it may seem, ultimately if we can achieve that level of prayer one thing that is certain is that our relationship with Hashem is bound to more meaningful. For why would you settle for a lifeguard, when you can have the warm eternal embrace of a loving Father instead? May Hashem answer all of our prayers as He best sees fit.

May your prayers this Shabbos be uplifitng,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



Har Azazel – the fun part of the trip to see the famous and significant site which was the peak ( excuse the pun) of the Temple service on Yom Kippur during the first and second Temples, is that the only way to get there is by jeep- or a very long difficult hike through the Judean desert. The Torah tells us how each Yom Kippur the High priest would take two identical goats and through a certainly deeply mysterious process would perform a lottery declaring one goat as being sacrificed to God and one to go to “Azazel” (which our sages teach us is the angel of our evil twin brother- the “other” brother and twin of Jacob and child of Rivkah and Yitzchak above). The Azazel goat would then be taken for a thirteen KM hike (in biblical measurements) by a priest (who would not live out the year) to the highest mountain peak in the Judean Desert passing along the way 10 booths that were set up to escort him to the peak offering him food and drink should he need although it was Yom Kippur (he never did). Upon arriving there a string was tied to his horns and the goat would be thrown off the mountain top to its death along with all the sins of Israel.

P.E.T.A (people for the ethical treatment of animals would not approve of this ritual- but they don’t like me eating steak drinking milk eggs or cheese either). The Talmud records for us that when the Jewish people achieved atonement-meaning that this service included remorse for their sins and a dedication to repair their ways, there was a red string that would turn white in the Temple letting them know that they had been forgiven. For the first forty years of the Temple it always turned white after that it was touch and go…

When we returned after 2000 years to Israel and recaptured the Judean desert in 1967, archeologists wanted to verify that this was indeed the place although this is the highest peak in the Desert and the proscribed distance. They built a model goat identical in weight and build to a real goat (built according to PETA standards) and pushed it off hoping to see where it landed and to find ancient goat bones.

Sure enough they found bones and were very excited until…. They saw some Bedouins come later that night and make a barbeque there in the desert and realized they had come upon a modern barbeque spot rather than an ancient Temple ritual location. Yet most agree that although there is no way to find 2000 year old goat bones this is indeed the location of that ancient ritual. We will just have to wait for the rebuilding of our Temple with the coming of Mashiach to confirm it.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Tzadikim- Chayei Sarah 5772

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

November 18th 2011 -Volume 2, Issue 4–6th of 21st Cheshvan 5772

Parshat Chayei Sarah


My Tzadikim

It was a rough few weeks for the West Seattle TLC. First we lost one of our founding pillars Bob Ross* .This past week another one of our dear friends and founders Bob “Dov Ber ben Sender” Lubin passed away**. Both of them were fairly young (early 60’s), both were on their third lives (medically speaking the doctors said they each should have been dead twice before-which is one of the reasons I try to stay away from doctors J) both were raised without a religious upbringing and both went through an incredible journey of faith to return and reclaim that heritage and their yiddeshe neshomas- their holy Jewish souls.

The past few weeks the Jewish people as a nation lost some of its great leaders. Although I had never had the privilege of meeting Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel, the Rosh Yeshiva of the largest yeshiva in Israel known as the Mirrer Yeshiva with over 6000 students where many of my friends studied, I had admired him from afar. His story of greatness, having grown up as a ‘typical American day school’ student who went off to become one of the most inspiring leaders in Israel, who knew the names of the majority of his students and personally interviewed each one, who struggled with Parkinson’s disease and refused medication that might threaten his faculties and his ability to teach Torah, and who despite his health and age and responsibilities to his Yeshiva where he would have loved to just sit and teach was continuously traveling around the world to raise the 13 million dollar annual budget so his students could study in peace***..

 A few weeks ago as well one of the greatest women in the Jewish world Rebbetzin Bat Sheva Kanievsky, the wife of one of our great leaders Reb Chaim Kanievsky-the ultimate Jewish power couple” who would literally greet hundreds of visitors daily that would come visit their small ‘hole in the wall”  apartment in Bnai Brak****. She would spend time talking to those who were suffering from illnesses who she would pray for daily, singles looking for their bashert, the poor, the needy  and those that just wanted to be in her presence. For many she was the mother of Klal Yisrael, but for each person that would walk through her door with the weight of the world on their shoulders they walked out feeling that they had been comforted by their own mother… their own bubby.

Yes it has been a rough few weeks. This week’s Parsha as well shares with us the death of the Tzadikim- the most righteous of the first generations of our ancestors. The portion of Chayei Sarah begins with the passing of the first of our matriarchs; Sarah. The Torah lists the years of her life and tells us she was righteous in all of them. The great mother who comforted so many and who when she miraculously became pregnant all who were barren also became pregnant in here merit was gone. The anguish of the world at the passing of the first great woman in the post flood world was immense. Later on the Parsha tells us of the passing of the great Abraham; the man who brought monotheism to the world, the great Patriarch and Rabbi who taught the world brought them close to God and even prayed on behalf of the wicked city of Sodom. Avraham was no longer here and with him the pillar of chesed/ kindness would never reach that same level. One can imagine the grief that had struck his students and all those that looked to him provide them with their inspiration upon his death.

But most fascinating to me is the passing of the final Tzadik that concludes this week’s  portion. I speak of course of none other than the son of Avraham, Father of our friendly cousins the Arabs… Yishmael. Wait.., you say. Yishmael… A Tzadik? Isn’t he the one that Sarah had Avraham throw out of the house because he was involved in idolatry? Adultery? Murder? Who the medrash even tells us tried to “play’ kill Yitzchak? Are you talking about the same person as the one upon whom the angel told Hagar will grow to be a wild beast and in the face of all his brothers?

Yes… I am talking about Yishmael. For in describing the death of Yishmael the Torah uses a terminology of Va’yigva Yishamel and Yishamel expired and Rashi notes that the term expired is one that is only used for the righteous…like his father Avraham.  Even more than that, the Torah tells us that at Avraham’s funeral it lists the pall bearers as being Yitzchak and Yishamel. Once again Rashi points out that we see from here that Yishmael did Teshuvah-repentance as can be seen by the fact that he let Yitzchak his younger brother, yet the true heir of his father’s legacy, go before him. That humility and recognition of Hashem’s commandment that the Chosen nation would come from his brother’s legacy, rather than his own was obviously as a result of the now Tzadik Yishmael’s return to the roots of his Father. In fact the Torah even lists the generations of Yishmael at the end of the Parsha in the same way that it follows with the generations of Yitzchak. All these are signs of the incredible return to his roots at the end of his life. (If you do the math it actually is close to the last third of his 137 year old life.)

How does someone like that return? What of all the people he killed? The sins of his past? What could bring someone like that back? Seemingly the Torah felt prudent to mention it by the passing of his father Avraham. Perhaps it is in his relationship with Avraham that the answer lays.

It is fascinating to study the relationship between Avraham and Yishamel. Yishmael the son of Hagar the Egyptian woman he married against his better judgment at the urging of Sarah, was clearly a trouble child. Yet, when Hashem promises Avraham a new son Yitzchak, Avraham states “it would be enough if Yishamel should live before you”. Later on after Yitzchak was being threatened by Yishmael and his antics and is becoming a serious source of marital strife between Avraham and Sarah. Once again Avraham stands up for Yishmael and it is only when Hashem intervenes that he sends him away. Even more fascinating at that most pivotal moment of the command to Avraham to bind Yitzchak Hashem tells Avraham”take your son- whereas Avraham says I have two sons. “The special (or unique) son"-“they are both special” The one  that you love- Avraham responded unequivocally-  I love them both. Finally Hashem tells him it is Yitzchak. Clearly and unbelievably in Avraham’s eyes the great Yitzchak who he was explicitly told would be his true progeny was just as special unique and loved as the murdering, adulterous and idolatrous, Yishmael.

Perhaps the most incredible moment in fact comes at the moment of Avrahams death, when the Torah tells us that Avraham dies without giving his final blessing to Yitzchak. Rather the verse tells us Hashem blessed Yitzchak because Avraham on his deathbed did not want Yishmael to feel bad or be jealous of his brother. For those that have learned the Torah once or twice we know that deathbed blessings particularly those of our forefathers are powerful things. Yet out of a love for Yishmael, even that Avraham would not do.

Why did Yishmael do Teshuva, you still ask? Because he knew that regardless of what he had done his father still had hope for him. His father believed he could do Good. It is for that reason that it is by Avraham’s funeral when the Torah tells us that Yishmael was a full Baal Teshuva- he lived the rest of his days in holiness and righteousness. For it was at that moment when he most realized how powerful his father’s love for him truly was and when he was able to appreciate that he did not have to become greater than Yitzchak to fulfill his purpose.

A Tzadik in Jerusalem who started off in Chicago has passed. A Rebbetzin born of an illustrious family in Bnai Brak, yet who dedicated her life to sharing the love of Hashem with so many desperate people has passed. And my two dear dear friends and inspirations who in the last years of their lives knew above all else that their Father in Heaven was always listening and rooting for them to grow and become greater are now gone from this world as well. It has been a rough few weeks…But we remain here remembering these great people and we must remember their message. We must lead lives that inspire others and we must always continue to tap into that love and knowledge that they together with Hashem are looking down upon us and rooting for us to come home…to get closer… and to be the children He wants us to be.

May Hashem comfort us all and bring us soon to that day when we will be reunited again

Have a warm loving Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

*For those that missed my E-Mail last week you can read my eulogy of Bob Ross by clicking on this link http://holylandinsights.blogspot.com/2011/11/holy-shlepper-bob-ross-9th-cheshvan.html

** Bob Lubin’s eulogy can be read at this link for those who were not able to make it to the funeral http://holylandinsights.blogspot.com/2011/11/man-who-would-hate-his-funeral-bob.html

***Seattlites might appreciate this article of Rabbi Finkels meeting with and described by Howard Schultz CEO of Starbucks http://www.aish.com/ci/be/48880957.html

**** A very insipiring personal perspective of Rebbetzin Kanievsky (http://www.yated.com/content.asp?categoryid=7&contentid=486 )

In memory of Yerchmiel Nachum ben Yitzchak  “Bob/Robert Ross the Young Israel of Karmiel has formed the and our friend Dov Ber ben Sender/ Bob Lubin  the Bob Ross memorial fund dedicated to perpetuating their legacy of warmth and love to each Jew and to sharing their message of a Father in Heaven that loves all of us with our  entire family of Jews and particularly those in Israel the country of our ancestors. To contribute to the fund, those providing a lasting merit to our Bobs and assisting us in creating a lasting memory please go to the Holyland insights Blogspots and click on the paypal link to make your contribution.

Thank you and may all those who knew and loved Bob be comforted with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and be inspired in partnering to continue his “life’s  special mission.


The pilgrimage path- Derech Olei Regel – at the foothills of the city of David around the corner from the pool of Silwan, from where water would be brought up to the Temple on the Sukkot holiday for the most festive celebration of the year- the Simchat Beit Ha’shoeiva  when water rather than the usual wine would be poured on the Altar, was discovered a huge street and staircase that would go from the lower city of David and all the way up to the walls of the Temple Mount where the entire Jewish people would make their three times a year annual pilgrimage to the temple. This path which dates back to the Hashmonaim period of the second temple was later “Herod-ified”  and made into an elaborate boardwalk around the pool that one passes on the way up which served as the largest mikva in the world for those who needed to be purified before coming to the temple.

In 2007 it was discovered by accident that in the sewer canals that were built underneath this road (primarily for rain water to flow out) full earthenware eating vessels and  tens of coins that state upon them year one, two three and four of the “freedom of Jerusalem”. This of course place them at the time of the Jewish revolt at the destruction of the Temple. After examining the book of Josephus the historian of the time he states that after the Temple was destroyed the surviving rebels hid under the street and they were hunted out and killed by the Romans. The greatest amongst them Shimon Ben Giora was executed in Rome.

As of two months ago an incredible sound and light show in these tunnels that give you a true sense of what it meant to be a Jew at this times and the struggle for survival was added. It concludes with the inspirational message of maintaining hope with the return of our people to our ancient roots. An incredibly inspirational and new added addition to the many cool sites in Israel!!!


The man who would hate his funeral Bob Lubin OB"M 5772

Dear friends, family, loved ones and all those who have gathered here today to pay our last respects to our dearly beloved and too soon departed Dov Ber Rafael Ben Sender… Bob Lubin.
I write here this evening in Israel-a place that Bob loved and cared about so much and who’s greatest wish was to return here- and I write in tears and grief. Can it be that my friend..my confidant…my brother…my inspiration is gone? Was it only 8 years ago that you first came in to my and my families lives? It seems like decades ago when we first arrived in Seattle and had a little BBQ in the backyard of Ivy and Jamie Nugent on our “pilot trip” to Seattle from Virginia and you came over to us and in your typical joking and warm welcoming way “warned us” of the challenge that lay before us.

“The Jews here are far gone, rabbi” A bunch of liberals and democrats that value politics over religion…” But you know? Maybe that’s why we need a good Rabbi.” That’s why we need a real shul” You’ve got a rough road ahead” But I”ll tell you what. I will be here to help you…. I’ll be here whenever you need me…”

And thus the West Seattle TLC began. He was the first. Our first Minyan Friday night after spending an entire week calling around the West Seattle federation list and Rabbi Toban’s list of names to get people ended up with just us Bob and a non-Jew joining us.

“Well there’s only one way to go from here” he told his clearly disappointed Rabbi. And move forward we did…

The TLC became his home away from home. Or more correctly his home in addition to his home. There wasn’t a class or program that I gave or that we ran that Bob wasn’t in the forefront of;  coming early, setting up and of course taking pictures and more pictures and more pictures for posterity. In our TLC he found his Neshoma-his Jewish soul that he felt he was deprived of the first half of his life. And it was that Yiddeshe Neshoma that once ignited couldn’t be put out… That Neshoma, that never failed to bring light to a room that he was part of. That shined every Shabbos when he lit candles.. when he shared in our Torah sessions…when he enveloped us with his warm smile and always comforting embrace…It is that neshoma that I cry and mourn for…A neshoma that I was blessed to know, teach and learn from…
One thing I can share with you about Bob-our Dov Ber… is that he would not have liked his funeral and his eulogies. One of his favorite jokes was -what does a Jew wish for them to say about him by his funeral?... “Look! He’s still moving… He’s alive!”. Unlike others who live their Judaism out of fear of the consequences of the World to come, or out of Jewish guilt-either from their parents…the weight of their ancestors legacy or their Rabbi-who really wants a Minyan… Bob’s Judaism was out of a deep appreciation of the greatness of Hashem and the incredible beauty and inspiration that can be found in our Torah and heritage. When Bob came to Daven one could see on his face (and I usually had plenty of time to because he prayed longer than I did…) that he was truly having a personal intimate encounter with his Creator. When we traveled to Israel together tears rolled down his face at almost every stop we took along the way. His Neshoma- his special holiness sensitive Neshoma- was touched and moved and it remained with him… and it will remain with me.
Yes, Bob would hate his funeral… because he loved so much to be alive…Another mitzvah another class…another joke… another day with his friends…with his wife…with his children and grandchildren… with my children… with me.

Bob would also hate his funeral because he did not like to be the center of attention. He certainly was not someone that would want people to get up, praise and talk about and recall their memories of him… He was one of the most humble individuals I knew. “Salt of the Earth”, “One of the boys”, the guy in the background taking the pictures or in the kitchen or behind the grill roasting, cooking, setting up or cleaning up…The person you could always count on to be there for you in your time of need and at the same time the guy who would somehow disappear right afterwards not waiting to be thanked and not wanting to be in the way or a burden to someone else. “ Where did Bob go?... I wanted to thank him”… was a frequent refrain in our house.

The last few years of Bob’s life were beset with challenges. Economic challenges, problems with his health and personal struggles. Most people, I’m sure, wouldn’t know this, because Bob was the last person to talk about himself. It was other people’s lives that he cared about. When tragedies hit our community Bob was the first to shed tears and share the pain of another. When we celebrated the so many milestones of our TLC family they were his Simcha. Yet when it came to his own  milestones and simchas, particularly those of his family who he loved and cared for so much, he became private. He didn’t want to brag or mix his personal “outside of shul” life into the world of his Jewish family at the TLC as much as we wanted to share it with him. And that was perhaps his greatest challenge of all. It is almost unimaginable to be able to lead and maintain that incredible balance of worlds that Bob excelled in creating.
On the one hand, he knew his neshoma and his heritage which were so important to who he truly knew he was and wanted to be, drove him to lead an incredibly religious and inspired life that never stopped burning. The number of Jewish organizations he was involved with is incredible The kollel, the TLC, Chabad, the Jewish prisoner services not to mention the many national organizations.  Yet, unlike many who have grown in their Jewish observance and reclaimed their 3000 year heritage of which he was so sadly deprived as a child growing up in the secular assimilated post holocaust era, Bob did not feel the need to impose his beliefs and life changes on his family that he loved and cared for although they were not of his faith. He understood that his wife and his children and much of the large world in which he was raised and which he raised his family in did not have that same yiddeshe neshome and drive. What they had however was his love… his affection… his fatherly advice… guidance… encouragement and his warm husbandly dedication. His religious choices and path were for him and him alone. If they were good, caring responsible and the respectable people he and Sue had raised them to be that was all that he wanted. And regardless they knew they would always have his love.
For lesser people that pull and struggle and challenge that Hashem in his Ultimate wisdom-saw fit to put him into, would’ve turned away and rejected a life of Torah and mitzvoth. A smaller tzadik may have felt it would be impossible to continue to grow and learn…if I can’t do it all the way-it’s just not worth it. But not Bob-there was nothing that would make him reject the truth and beauty of the heritage he had discovered. He understood what many of us take a lifetime to understand. That Judaism is not and has never been an “all or nothing” religion or way of life. Each Mitzvah he could do… Each Shabbat he could celebrate and give thanks to his creator. Each chance he had to put on his teffilin…to talk to his loving Father in heaven was meaningful and was Eternal.

 Bob knew he wasn’t perfect. He also knew that the chances of him living a fully observant lifestyle- as much as he may have wished in another world and another time he could have been born into that that background and upbringing- was not something he would likely achieve. Yet what Bob also knew and lived for was to become the most perfect person he could. More than anyone he felt and knew that Hashem was his Father who loved and wanted what every Father wants- for their children to become the best that they could become. And it was that which he strived for. To be a better Father… a better husband…a better friend… a better Jew and the best son he could be to his Father in heaven.

It is hard to imagine a world without Bob. His jokes and his laughs will always echo in my ears. His caring for my family, my children, our shul …our community and the entire Jewish people will forever be an inspiration. The pictures that he took for us of our years in Seattle are part of my families history and the journey of so many who felt privileged to have him in our lives. We sat down this evening and looked at those pictures and my children couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Our Bob is gone. Our friend. Who will replace you…? Who will comfort us…?

You were granted another life and we were sure you would fight and be strong enough to once again pull another miracle out of your hat. Your bright red hat…but there are no more miracles left. You accomplished what you were sent here to accomplish and we must move forward as you would want us to. Never giving up. Always moving forward. Always with a smile and a firm belief that what lies ahead of us will be better... Has to be better…

That is the legacy that you leave us and it is with that which you will always be remembered.

May Hashem who always watched over you and who you were so close with, comfort all of us and may your presence in Shamayim together with our friend Yerachmiel/Bob Ross hasten that day when we will very soon once again be reunited in yerushalayim may it soon be rebuilt.

With love and with sadness,

Your friend Rabbi Schwartz