Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 28th 2011 -Volume I, Issue 36–26th of Tamuz 5771
Where are you coming from?
“There is so little bureaucracy in this country” my friend who was a new Oleh was telling me. “You go to the government offices, or the banks and it only takes a few times until everything you need gets taken care of”.
“Actually what I like best here is the weather” my other Oleh friend told me- as I was wiping the 90 degree heat off of my brow-“I find it very pleasant here”.
Chaim, our newest Oleh, though had the best take- he couldn’t believe how wonderful the roads were and the lack of traffic, that he was so accustomed to fighting in his old home, made driving here in Israel just a Mechaya- a true pleasure.
“Are we talking about the same country I’m living in?” I thought. But then I remembered. You see, Chaim was from San Paolo, Brazil- home of the world record of 166 miles of backed up traffic out of 522 total miles. Nati, my heat loving friend from India was used to regular 105 degree months of summer. Boruch- or Boris, as he used to be called back in the former Soviet Union, never thought that he would live in a country where he didn’t have to wait in line for 2 weeks and then wait for another few months until he received a response. For him the Misrad Ha’Pnim-Israel’s infamous red tape capital was just a walk in the park. Isn’t it fascinating how much your point of departure reflects on how you see the world.
I had a Rebbe that once asked us, if we could change places with the wealthy Baron Rothchild if we would be willing to do it. He then proceeded to show us how the great Baron lived without running water, without air conditioning, he traveled by a bumpy horse driven wagon- without music. He lived without electricity, television, internet and would you believe cell-phones. Not even the poorest Kollel Rabbi lives in such conditions. If he were living today like that, we would probably start a collection for him. Yet we still feel we’re lacking and still find no shortage of things to complain about.
This week’s Torah portion, Ma’asei is the final one of the Book of Bamidbar. In truth it is really the final Parsha of the story of the Jewish people before they enter the land of Israel. The Book of Devarim for the large part is Moshe’s last sermon to the Jewish people before he dies. It is with that understanding that we can appreciate the first part of the Parsha that recounts for us a review of all of the travels of the Jewish people for the past 40 years. The traveled from…and they camped …. Over and over… 42 times the Torah tells us the names and hints of the various things that occurred along the way. Some places we had highs and some places unfortunately we sinned and were places of tragedy. The commentaries all struggle to understand the point of this list of names. Yet perhaps the reason is to give us the most important lesson of all before coming to Israel. Know where you’re coming from. Understand from where your perspective is built upon and it is important to take that in to consideration for it will affect your outlook on the country you are approaching and are charged to make holy.
Reb Moshe Feinstien elaborates on this point. He explains how it was, that this great nation that witnessed all the miracles of Egypt, the splitting of the Sea, The Revelation on Sinai, the Manna and the clouds of glory could have sinned so many times repeatedly. He explains that it is precisely because they were so accustomed to seeing so many miracles and the open hand of Hashem in the world, that they were challenged to see it when it wasn’t so revealed. Like a child whose parent is always there and then one day isn’t. Ma’asei, the review for the next generation before they will come into the land of Israel is to recognize that their previous experiences are the baggage and at the same time the tools for growth that they come into Israel with. If they want to have a successful Aliyah they have to consistently recall from where they came and be cognizant of the things that will influence their views as they approach a new life; one where Hashem’s hand will most certainly be more hidden than it was in the wilderness. Yet at the same time know that it is always there for them.
We enter the month of Av this week as we increase our level of mourning as we approach Tish’ah B’Av the day when our temple has been destroyed and even more tragically not yet been rebuilt. The increased mourning for men entails no shaving- so our face and beards scratch a little more. For others (who’s gender shall remain nameless.. JL) it is the prohibition on shopping for new clothing or significant purchases that shakes us out of our regular existence. For some, like my teenage daughter, unplugging their I-Pod and not listening to music for three weeks has been a life changing experience. The point is that we are meant to pause and think about our lives. There is meant to be something different here that is missing. Hashem’s Temple, his presence in our country…our people… our world, is meant to be here with us and it’s not. Why aren’t we mourning more? What are we doing to change it? Has our 2000 year “temple-less” existence made us so cold that we can’t even appreciate how lacking our existence is? This is meant to be a time to reflect and to review. To think. As we scratch our chins, sit music-less in our cars and homes and we are meant to contemplate about what has caused us to be so cold and so distant. We need to think about how as distant as we are, it is even more painful for the Shechina to be distant from us. How it must feel for the Father who goes away and how the children didn’t even notice he was gone. Didn’t cry… Didn’t mourn... Didn’t miss Him.
May Hashem help us as we try to get closer to Him during this time. May he see our efforts as minimal as we can muster up to be sufficient to return once again to us. To return to our Home and once again may we finally merit to complete that journey our ancestors began so long ago in building an Eternal home for us and Hashem forever.
Have a Shabbos of peace and joy,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
HAIFA- THE LARGEST CITY IN THE NORTH OF ISRAEL AND THIRD LARGEST IN ISRAEL IS A FASCINATING MIX OF JEWS, ARABS, RUSSIANS, CHRISTIANS AND OF COURSE BAHAI’IM (IT IS ACTUALLY A WORLD UNESCO SITE BECAUSE OF THE BEAUTIFUL BAHAI GARDENS)- ALTHOUGH CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF THE JEWISH POPULATION IS 90 PERCENT (OF WHICH 25 PERCENT ARE RUSSIAN). THE CITY WAS LOCATED AT TIMES CLOSE TO THE COAST IN THE LOWER ONCE WALLED CITY, AND AT OTHER TIMES MOVED UP TO THE GLORIOUS AND HISTORIC CARMEL MOUNTAIN RANGE LOOKING DOWN ON THE MEDITERANEAN. IT IS IN THESE MOUNTAINS THAT ELIYAHU HANAVI FOUGHT WITH THE FALSE PROPHETS AND THE CAVE WHERE IT IS SAID THAT HE STAYED IS A HOLY SITE FOR JEWS ,ARABS AND CHRISTIANS WHO ALL SEE HIM AS A TRUE PROPHET. THE CITY IS LOVELY TO STROLL AROUND ONE CAN SEE THE OLD TEMPLER GERMAN QUARTER WHERE GERMANS (NON-JEWS) MOVED TO ISRAEL AND WHERE MANY EARLY NAZIS SUPPORTERS LIVED UNTIL THEY WERE THROWN OUT BY THE BRITISH IN THE WAKE OF WWII.
THE PORT OF HAIFA, THE ABSOLUTLEY STUNNING CASTRA MALL WITH THE WORLD’S LARGEST BIBLICAL MOSAIC AS WELL AS THE MULTITUDES OF MUSUEMS ARE ALL WORTHWHILE POINTS TO MAKE A TRIP OUT OF WHEN VISITING THIS SPECIAL CITY THAT DRAWS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TOURISTS EACH YEAR.