Our view of the Galile

Friday, September 23, 2011

Up Close and Personal- Netzavim Vayeilech 2011

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 23rd 2011 -Volume I, Issue 42–24th of Elul 577

Up Close and Personal

I almost missed it. The road between Tzefat and Meron is quite curvy and as I was coming across the bend by the Birya forest, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something that looked strange. I stepped on my brakes hurriedly, very carefully made a U-Turn and sure enough my eyes did not deceive me. There they were. What they were doing there… I wasn’t sure. But this is the mystical mountains of Israel and I knew that there most certainly was going to be a good story or at least a worthwhile E-Mail that as your “man on the ground” I was obligated to investigate.
So I got out of my car and slowly and quietly made my way over to this strange sight on the side of the road. They were a very mixed crowd of about 20 women. There were older and younger women. Some were obviously very religious with head coverings and wigs. Others were younger with rings and piercings dressed more “street –like”. Some seemed were more put together women and some who seemed like they could use a hand-out. Yet the diversity of the women was not what caught my eye, rather it what each of them was doing that seemed very bizarre. For each one of them was standing next to their own tree, with their eyes closed in some type of meditation and hugging the tree for dear life. Now I come from Seattle and New York and have certainly seen quite a few strange people and things in my life. But the range and the diversity of these women coupled with what seemed like either some biblical styled tree worship or some type of science fiction mind morphing alien abduction definitely took the cake.
I approached one of them and asked what was going on and was shhhh’ed away back to my corner. All of a sudden a woman who seemed to be leading this group shouted out some type of command that unfortunately I did not understand and could not make out. But within a second I was shaken to my core when each woman let out a deep guttural scream, almost tarzan-like on the tops of their lungs for a full 30 second or so.
AAAAAAiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!! OYYYYYYYYYYYY!
It was suddenly very quiet again. Each woman went back to her silent intense tree-hugging meditation and then once again three minutes later with even more intensity.
This continued one more time and then they all smiled at each other hugged and embraced and made their way back to their bus that was parked there.
I couldn’t restrain myself anymore. I walked over to the “leader” and asked her what this was all about.  Was this some environmentalist thing, some far out eastern religion, or maybe some type of candid camera thing that my reaction was being filmed for? She smiled at me and explained.
Actually”- she said “this is a very Jewish thing. You see these women have all suffered some type of tragedy. Some have lost their children, others are from abusive relationships and others have sunk to the bottom and are in so much pain they could barely pick themselves up. We are a support group for these women and we have found that one of the most effective means of helping them is by utilizing the great wisdom and insight of Rebbe Nachman of Breslav”.
Rebbe Nachman advises that when one is so overcome and overwhelmed and feels that he or she has nowhere to turn; they should go out to the forest, a place of quiet, solitude…of holiness. There in the forest one should feel the life force that flows from the heavens, the earth and the trees. One should contemplate how each leaf and each branch rises up and is cared for and loved by the Master of this Divine universe. And then one should pour out all of their pain and woe to our Father who has never left our side and who sits and joins us in our sorrow or loss and our hurt. That knowledge and personal connection is the essence of their relief. Hashem is not just a concept and ideology or a global manipulator. He is a personal God who is there to hold our hand and bring us up and closer to His presence.
The great 18th century Chasidic Rebbe, Reb Yackov Yitzchak of Peshischa, known as the Yid Ha’Kadosh in this week’s Torah portion shares with us this very powerful idea. We learn hownn Moshe in his final speech to the Jewish people warns them to heed our special covenant that is being made with each individual.
“ Your leaders, tribes, elders, officers, each man, infant, woman,  convert in your camp from the wood chopper to the water carrier… those who are standing here today and those that are not here with us today…”
Perhaps there is amongst you a man, woman, tribe, family or tribe whose heart is turned away from Hashem our God… “Pen Yeish Bachem- perhaps there is within you a root that bears poison and bitterness…”
The Yid Hakodosh reads the verse, that the root that bears the poison and the bitterness is actually the “perhaps” itself. Pen -Yaish Bachem- There is doubt within you. That is what the source of your pain is. That is the root which will fester and grow and it, and it is from there that all sadness, sorrow and sin result.
I walked away from the bus somberly. It was not them who were taken over by aliens rather it was me. Alien thoughts, foreign reliance’s, a forgetfulness of the essence of who I truly am and the world I truly exist in, but fail to see and appreciate. But most of all the powerful love and caring that my Father has for me.
This week each of us will stand by ourselves before Hashem. “Like a sheep passing underneath the rod- Hashem counts and brings us close to Him as he decrees the upcoming year’s outcome for us. Our prayers for the New Year should not only be for ourselves, but for all of Klal Yisrael, for Eretz Yisrael, for Jews that are in pain and for all those that need relief, comfort, redemption and salvation. But our prayers should not be like those of the past. They should not just be read as an organized book of prayers and rituals. Rather they should be conversations of the most personal and deepest nature to our Father who is yearning for us to be close to Him. Who stands with His pen poised to give us all that we need and could possibly hope for if we only were able to really deeply tell Him how badly we want it, how much we need it. How real He is us to us and how much we need this year to be better and different.
May Hashem bless each and every one of us with Ketiva VeChatima Tova- a blessed sweet year.
Have a spectacular last Shabbat of the year,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Machon Ayalon-the Bullet Factory Museum- There are many cool places in Israel each has their own story but the Underground clandestine bullet factory from the years 1945-1948 in Rehovot is certainly one of the top coolest places in Israel. The factory which was built 25 feet below the ground of a Kibbutz that was used for agricultural training for new olim that moved to Israel was right under the nose of the British. Millions of bullets for the precious Sten guns of the Hagana and pre-State of Israel defense forces were made for 3 years providing them with all the ammunition they needed to protect and establish the Jewish State. One can visit the center with a guided tour and see the bakery and Kibbutz laundraomat with the spy movie- like retractable oven and washing machines that led to the underground factory which no one on the top – and even in the leadership of the Jewish people knew about or its location. One can watch a great film there of their story and hear interviews from these great heroes-many of them still alive today. A fun and fascinating trip for the whole family that shares an important and unique story of the establishment and fight for our Country.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Joy to the World- Ki Tavo 2011

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 16th 2011 -Volume I, Issue 41–17th of Elul 5771
Ki Tavo  
Joy to the World

So there you are sitting in traffic on a hot sweaty Israeli summer day. You’re late for your meeting. You’re low on gas. There is absolutely nothing interesting on the radio and your kids scratched up all your CDs. It does not feel like it’s going to be a good day.

But then out of the blue you hear some very loud music coming from two cars in front of you. It’s joyous Bresslov Chasidic songs- something about their Rebbe, Rebbe Na… Nach… Nachma… Nachman Me’uman. All of a sudden, 6 chasidim jump out of the back seat and perform, what we used to call as kids, a “Chinese fire drill” (how they all fit in there in the first place is another question). Well at least half of one. See as kids what we used to do was when we would get to a red light, we would get out of our car  and run around the car and get back in the same seats much to the bewilderment of the other drivers on the road (this is what we used to call fun) . They, on the other hand, got out and started dancing like wild people, around and around and around, even enlarging the circle to incorporate other cars. A smile began to curl up on my face as I watched them in their rapture. My fingers started to drum along on the dashboard to the catchy rhythm of the rocking rabbis. Suddenly the day didn’t seem so bad anymore. It wasn’t so hot. I felt kind of happy and amused. Just another one of those “only in Israel” experiences that make all the other headaches feel like it’s worth it.

For those who have never witnessed the dancing hasidim of Israel, you have obviously not driven around too much in this country. They can be found anywhere at any time. They are the roving Simcha patrol. Their rebbe, Rebbe Nachman who passed away in the early 1800’s and is buried in Uman,  where 10’s of thousands congregate each year for the high holidays in his small little backwater Ukrainian village, had a guiding principle that the greatest of Mitzvot was to be happy. Some of his teachings included
If you don’t feel happy, pretend to be”.
“Even if you are downright depressed, put on a smile.”
“Act happy. Genuine joy will follow
Interestingly enough modern psychology gives much weight to these pearls of wisdom. But what is more important is that for his Chasidim this is their way of fixing the world. The more joy there is, the more that we can dance away our troubles and sorrow and put our faith in Hashem, the happier our Father in heaven is. And thus for them the solution to most of the world’s problems can be found in a good song, a lively dance and a warm generous welcoming smile.
The Torah portion this week alludes to the counterpart of this great mitzvah of Rebbe Nachman. As we approach Rosh Hashana and get closer to the end of the book of Devarim of Moshe’s final speech to the Jewish people we read parshat Ki Tavo and within it of the blessings and curses that the Jewish people will receive according to their observance or lack of observance of the Mitzvoth of Hashem. The Torah portion than continues and gives us a frightful picture of the horrifying punishments that unfortunately has befallen us throughout our history, when we have not been living up to our mandate.
Yet in middle of this chilling exhortation the Torah gives us what seems at first glance to be a minor ralmos innocuous reason for all of these punishments.
“Tachat Asher Lo Avadata Es Hashem Elokecha Bi’Simchah V’Tuv Levav Meirov Kol-Because you have not served Hashem your God with joy and goodness of heart when you had an abundance of all things”.
One would think that as the Torah had previously told us that these punishments will befall us for not following the commandments, that the fact that we lacked joy in the act of serving Hashem would not even be counted as significant. Yet, what the commentaries all suggest is that the lack of joy in our service of Hashem and in our yiddeshkeit is the underlying cause of all the other sins that follow. The commandments and the “Jewish Torah Lifestyle” were not given for us to be miserable, obedient followers for our own good that we will not understand and appreciate until we “get older”. As my children sometimes complain I tell them about their school or home chores. Rather they are ways of pleasantness that are meant to enhance our life and bring us that ultimate, perfect sense of inner joy and completion as we fulfill them day by day, hour by hour and act by act. And if we aren’t feeling it then we’re missing it and we must not be doing it correctly. But if we would be feeling that sense of joy every time we did a mitzvah, celebrated a Shabbat, learned a little Torah (even via email J) than we would never come to the sin that only happens from a lack of satisfaction of the abundance of good that the Torah is to us.
We read this Parsha before Rosh Hashana each year, which seemingly is one of the most solemn days of the year. We are judged on this day for the coming year and we are meant to be doing Teshuva and intense introspection during this time of the mistakes we have made and the different ways we have fallen short and disappointed ourselves and Hashem this past year. Yet it is inspiring to read of a different Rosh Hashana in our history. The prophets in the book of Nechemia tell us the story of when the Jewish people came back to Israel after our exile in Babylonia and rebuilt our Temple. The Navi (chapter 8) tells us how on that first Rosh Hashana back, Ezra and Nechemia called all the Jews together and read from the Torah along with its admonitions. The Jews upon hearing this written word after so many years, broke out in tears when they realized how far they had fallen during their 70 year exile. Nechemia then tells the Jewish people an astonishing statement
This day is holy for Hashem your God; do not mourn or weep…. 'Go and eat fatty foods, and drink sweet drinks, and send portions to those who do not have any prepared; for this day is holy to our Master; don’t be saddened; for the joy of Hashem is your strength.'
Here we have the perfect sermon, the people are inspired, they feel the spirit of teshuvah, one would think this is the time to tell them to pray or to cry out. Yet the prophet Nechemia sees something more important to do. Rejoice! It’s Yom Tov. Holiness is meant to lead to Happimess. It is time for a Breslover dance. Rosh Hashana should not be a time that is scary and depressing, rather it is a time to find the joy we have been missing in our distance from our King.

The great Rebbe of Ger, the Sefat Emes tells us that the reason that the Torah tells us that that reason for our exile and accompanying bitterness is the lack of happiness, is to teach us the way to come back home is by repairing that sin. By rejoicing in our service of Hashem and by feeling that inner peace when we celebrate our opportunities to get close to Him. It is not always easy to feel this happiness, for some it is a lifetime’s work. For others there are only certain moments when they are challenged to smile and appreciate the goodness we have in our blessed lives. But Rav Nachman’s secret is that we do not have to feel the happiness to act happy. We can always dance. We can always sing. And yes we can always smile. If we do so even at the moments when it is most difficult and if we take those times of difficulty and redeem them with joy than we will become happy. We will feel that natural bubble inside of us begin to glow with joy. And if there is one thing our Father loves-any father loves- more than anything else it’s when His children are happy and appreciate how good it is to be blessed to be part of His family. And if our Father is happy everyone is happy.

Have an exuberantly joyful Shabbat,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Abu Ghosh/ Kiryat Yearim/ Telshe Stone-  Although I listed three places above they are all right next to each other and Biblically we are not sure of the exact location of the real Kiryat Yearim is. The biblical significance of this city as it is mentioned in the Tanach is that it is the location of the final resting place of the holy Ark of the covenant/Aron Ha’Bris that was captured by the philistines and wreaked havoc on their cities until they returned it to the Jews via leaving it on a wagon. The ark rested here for 20 years before it was finally moved to Jerusalem by King David. The city of Abu Ghosh is the arab village where many say was the place where this took place and there is even a church dedicated to its location there. In more recent history during the War of independence the village of Abu Ghosh was the only arab village that was allowed to remain on the dangerous road up to Jerusalem as they very early in the war decided to join the Jewish forces and side actually giving them keys to the British fortress there and standing against all of the other arab forces – for which they are forever ostracized. They’re also famous for their unique and special flavor chummus.
 The city of Telshe Stone right next door was founded by Rabbi Leizer Sorotzkin with the generosity of Irving Stone as a community of which the center would be the great Yeshiva Telshe that would be replanted here in Israel after the holocaust from its former glory in Europe. In more recent history Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz and his family are here in Telshe-Stone for Shabbos by the my Father-in-Law the son of Rabbi Leizer Sorotzkin! J

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cigar Wars- Ki Teitzei 2011

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 9th 2011 -Volume I, Issue 40–10th of Elul 5771
Parshat Ki Teitzei
Cigar Wars

Yankel was a good Chasid. He loved his Rebbe the Imrei Emes of Ger, with all of his heart. When he was younger he studied the pearls of Torah his rebbe taught him so lovingly. As he grew older the Rebbe married him off and was the Sandak (godfather) for all his children’s circumcision. Each year along with 10’s of thousands of Chasidim from around Europe, Yankel would go to his Rebbe’s court for Rosh Hashana. It was said that on the special train lines that the Polish government added for the high holidays, there were over ten thousand chasidim that came who ate on Yom Kippur and didn’t wear Tefillin…all boys under the age of Bar Mitzvah. Yet even with the thousands that came Yankel looked forward to his precious few private minutes with the Rebbe. He would get the Rebbe’s blessing for his family, his health and business. Yet, most important to Yankel was the blessing he would recieve for his continued spiritual growth.  He was enough of a Gerrer Chasid to know, that more than anything else, his relationship with Hashem and the inspiration to lead a vibrant Jewish life was the greatest gift one can have.

This Rosh Hashana though, the Rebbe surprised Yankel as he began to ask him about his business. Yankel shared with the Rebbe that his business was expanding and in fact in a few weeks he would be traveling for a few days to Paris to purchase more materials and to create new networks of supply. The Rebbe then made a request of Yankel.
“I heard that they sell very good cigars in Paris, would you be able to pick me up a box?”
Yankel was a bit taken aback. Was the Rebbe really thinking about cigars on the holiest of days?
Yet, he knew better then to question the Rebbe. He quickly assured the Rebbe that he would bring him two boxes of the very best he could find and would return within a month with the Rebbe’s cigars.

Sure enough two weeks later Yankel returned from his trip with the two boxes of cigars. The Rebbe after examining them closely though asked him if they were indeed purchased in Paris. Yankel blushed a little and apologized to the Rebbe. He explained that while he was in Paris he was so caught up in business that it totally slipped his mind. On the way home however, when he remembered, he made a stop in Belgium and bought the cigars over there.

“But don’t worry Rebbe” Yankel said “the cigars in Belgium are much better and I made sure to purchase the best of the best for the Rebbe’s pleasure”.

“Oy Yankeleh… Yankeleh”, the Rebbe sighed,
“Did you really think that I needed or had any interest in Cigars from either Paris or Belgium? It wasn’t the cigars I wanted it was the chasid that I wanted. I wanted you to remember that even though you may be in Paris you still have a Rebbe back in Ger that is waiting for you. A chasid in Paris is what I was hoping you would be and feel like. Not a business man without a Rebbe.”

This week’s Torah portion conatins a unique mitzvah of war.
Ki Teitzei LiMmachaneh Al Oivecha V’Nishmartem mikol Davar Rah-When you go to camp against your enemy you should guard yourself from all bad things.
The bad things that the Torah is referring to here are in areas of licentiousness, impure thoughts and all matters that will distance oneself from God.

The Slonimer Rebbe notes how it is interesting that this mitzvah as opposed to the two other commandments of war preciously mentioned does not refer to it as a war rather as when one camps against the enemy. In addition both the commandment and the enemy are referred to in the singular form rather than the plural. He therefore suggests a deeper more meaningful understanding of the Parsha. What the Torah is hinting to us a here is not merely the global biblical warfare battles and its commandments, rather it is teaching us about our personal internal battles that we each are challenged by. And the enemy- the greatest enemy we have- is our Yetzer Harah the evil inclination that is there relentlessly to tempt us.

The previous Parshiyot describe and allude to how one must go out and engage that force whether it is in areas of observance, where we must know the places to avoid and the things that bring us down and actively battle those temptations. Or as the latter Parsha suggests there are even battles in matters of a permissible nature such as excesses where one must reign oneself (like the case of the captive women) or in our worship of God where we must offensively strategize how to win those battles. How we can put more energy into our prayers, our studies, our faith and our acts of kindness and even limit our exposure to the baser although permitted physical pleasures that come our way. In “times of war” changes have to be made

 Yet there are times when there is no ‘war” and this is what this final mitzvah is talking about. It is when one goes out in to the world to do his or her regular things. Shopping, Business, Teaching, Learning, Touring. It is here the Torah tells you that we are also vulnerable. Ki teitzei Machaneh- when we go out from our “camp”.  It could be vacation; it could be your workplace. Maybe Paris. You’re not in Shul you’re just doing your every day thing. Vnishmartem Mikol Davar Rah- watch out. Protect yourself. Why?

Ki Hashem Elokecha Mit’Halech B’Kerev Machanecha - Because Hashem is always found within your camp. L’Hatzilcha- to save you and to place your enemy before you. When you leave home base,  to a place that may seem so innocent and so necessary, however if it is not part of your camp; if you feel that you are chutz la’Macheneh- outside of the camp than the extra protection we so need to inspire us to sanctify Hashems name is much harder to achieve. For His presence is found amongst the camp. And to paraphrase a US president who just a little over ten years ago said-You are either with us or against us- you’re either part of His camp or you’re not.

We read these Torah portions as we get closer and closer to Rosh Hashana; the end of the year and the beginning of the year. There are so many battles, struggles and challenges each of us have gone through and may still yet face and yet the greatest battles are sages teach us are within ourselves. Yet perhaps the strongest weapon we have in our arsenal is knowing that we have a camp that we can always be attached to. We may not all have a Rebbe in Poland, as Yankel did, but we have a loving Father in heaven who is always amongst the Jewish people waiting and watching for us to reattach ourselves to our community. Imagine the nachas and pleasure He has as His children all gather in synagogues around the world as they join together and crown Him annually as our King. But once or twice a year is not enough. Neither is once a week, neither is even each day. We have to feel that we are part of His camp wherever we go and whatever we do. He’s not looking for cigars either or even for Chasidim. He’s looking for his children and for His soldiers to be standing tall at His side.

Have a grand Shabbat,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Tzuk Minara- Located just south of Kiryat Shemona in the “finger of the Galile” the cliffs of Minara provide and unbelievable view of the Hula valley which was once a swamp now turned into beautiful fertile agricultural center as well as the Golan heights and the Hermon mountain range. The fun part is of course getting up the cliff which today has the longest cable car in the entire Israel at about 6300 feet and more then a half mile high. From the peak one can see the burnt areas of the forest on the mountain sides that were burnt during the last Lebanon war and the incredible green of the new trees that have been planted to replenish those lost areas. There are also many fun activities for children at the top peak as well as Israel’s highest alpine slide and bungee jumping as well. One can also visit the kibbutz that was formed there in 1943 as it still stands today and take  a train ride around the peaks. For the adventurous the tzuk (cliff) is  a great place to go rappelling and zip lining as well. Just don’t tell your mother until afterwards…

Friday, September 2, 2011

Holyland-Oleh Land Shoftim 2011

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 2nd 2011 -Volume I, Issue 39–3rd  of Elul 5771
Parshat Shoftim
Holyland-Oleh Land

It is perhaps one of the most simple gravestones I have ever seen. One would think that for a man who almost indisputably had the greatest hand in establishing the modern State of Israel, we would find a monument or plaque filled on both sides commemorating his life and his accomplishments. Yet for Israel’s first and longest reigning Prime minister, the man who headed the Hagana and united all the diverse military factions, the visionary who oversaw operation Magic Carpet bringing thousands of Jews from Arab countries home to Israel, who in his early life was the head of World Zionist organization and the Jewish Agency, and who personally oversaw the flourishing of the Negev and the establishment of Israel’s national water carrier , the three line epithet on his modest grave was all that he wished it to state.
David Ben Gurion
*Alah Artzah 1906
*moved up to Israel
All he had done, all that he had accomplished in his simple eyes it all paled compared to his most significant accomplishment. He was a Jew that moved to Israel. It was how he wished to be remembered. It was what gave him all the inspiration he needed to build our national homeland.

This week my family and I celebrate our first “Aliyah”-versary. We came as a family of seven with children and we moved to the North. It’s a time in life when many advised it would be difficult. Your children are the wrong age. Finding the right schools would be difficult. The North is a hard place to live. It’s far away from everyone (we moved from Seattle Washington so that really wasn’t too much of a concern). Making a living is hard, the culture is different, the bureaucracy is crazy, housing is unaffordable, the reasons and arguments not to come were strong. Yet compared to what those early settlers had to go through, today’s Israel is a veritable Garden of Eden. They, as their ancestors before them for hundreds of year, came to Israel by foot, camel and dangerous seas to a country that was full of swamps, disease, poverty and daily dangers from the hostile neighbors that have always sought to destroy us. They came, as did we, because we felt that this was our home. This is where we would be connected in the deepest way to our history and our destiny. They came because just as much as Israel needs us we felt we needed it.

The past few weeks Parshiyot describe the significance of the land of Israel. Last week Parshat Re’eh describes the promise and the beauty of the land and our religious mandate to rid it of all forms of Tuma’ah and idolatary. Eretz Yisrael is meant to be more than a national homeland it is the Holy Land (thus the title of this weekly E-Mail J), a land where God’s presence can comfortably dwell. Next week’s Parsha will discuss the various mitzvot of the land Israel. According to the Ramban-Nachmanides all mitzvot were only given to be preformed ultimately in the land of Israel. It is only here that they can be experienced in their fullest spiritual expression. And then we have this week’s Torah portion the center of this triumvirate; Parshat Shoftim which delineates the establishment of a Jewish society in Israel, the creation of a Torah justice system, its officers, its religious army, and its righteous kings.

This is perhaps the most challenging of all the commandments. In our tragic 3000 year history of being a nation there has been not more than a few hundred years when we have succeeded in creating this holy society. We have conquered land, we have expanded our borders, and we have even rid the country at times of idolatry. We have also been observant of our commandments. There have always been an enduring portion of the Jewish people who have observed Shabbat, the holidays the prayers and rituals that make up Jewish life even in the harshest of conditions. Yet our greatest failure has been to create this society of a nation of God in our Promised Land. The world needs a place which would serve as a role model of what it should look like if only His presence would be reflected in the nation of Israel.

As someone who now lives in Eretz Yisrael this is failure is constantly on my mind. What can and should I do to bring that Divine presence back? The early Zionists, like Ben Gurion planned plotted and strategized in order to build a modern state, to achieve UN and world recognition and to create a country that would be a light to the world not only in terms of the advancement of technology, wisdom and development but also as a secular humanistic ethical society built on principles of kindness, justice and democratic principles. And to a large degree they were and are phenomenally successful in achieving their goals. Israel does stand out as that nation that shines not only in the primitive Middle East but in the entire world as a leader in all of those areas. But it is still not a Nation of God. And that’s not their fault- that wasn’t their training or upbringing. It’s ours…It’s mine and yours who know better and who can do better.

We have entered the month of Elul. In a few weeks we will be standing before God and reflecting on our lives. Interestingly enough Rosh Hashanah is not a time when we pray to a large degree for any of our personal requests for the upcoming year. Although our sages tell us it is the day when we will be judged. Instead the repeated theme of Rosh Hashana is for the return of Kingship of God to the Holy Land. To have his presence once again rule the world as it was meant to be. We daven on the most important day of the year not for long life, health, Shalom Bayit, marriage, our children, or even for a better livelihood. We pray for the big picture. For the day to come when we may live a life that is a fulfillment of our chosen mandate.

If this is the focus of what will be our prayers on Rosh Hashana, then these days of Elul are meant to be the preparation for those prayers. We are in a time when we each have to start asking ourselves what we could be doing more to bring about that ultimate day, not only for ourselves and our families but for the entire nation. Just as Ben Gurion the hero of the modern state of Israel gave his entire life so that his Aliyah La’Aretz would be one that left this country in a better place than it was before; a step closer to the ultimate Redemption hopefully. So to must we plan and actualize our dreams and the hopes and prayers of all the generations before us and the will of our Father in Heaven to once again restoring the Malchut Shadai- the kingdom of heaven to his holy city. May that day come soon Be’Ezrat Hashem
Have a truly amazing Shabbat
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
Kibbutz Sdei Boker- Established in 1952 in the negev the Kibbutz is best known as the retirement place and “dream home” of David ben Gurion and his wife Paula. It is said that he came here early in his career and was taken by the kibbutzniks literally living the dream of bringing life to the desert in fulfillment of all of the prophecys of our ancestors. Today one can tour the Kibbutz and tzrif Ben Gurion where he lived worked, and mostly wrote letters to young children from around the world who asked him the simple questions of what life in Israel was all about.
In one of the letters he is quoted as saying
The desert provides us with the best opportunity to begin again. This is a vital element of our renaissance in Israel. For it is in mastering nature that man learns to control himself. It is in this sense, more practical than mystic, that I define our Redemption on this land. Israel must continue to cultivate its nationality and to represent the Jewish people without renouncing its glorious past. It must earn this – which is no small task – a right that can only be acquired in the desert.
When I looked out my window today and saw a tree standing before me, the sight awoke in me a greater sense of beauty and personal satisfaction than all the forests that I have crossed in Switzerland and Scandinavia. For we planted each tree in this place and watered them with the water we provided at the cost of numerous efforts. Why does a mother love her children so? Because they are her creation. Why does the Jew feel an affinity with Israel? Because everything here must still be accomplished. It depends only on him to participate in this privileged act of creation. The trees at Sde Boker speak to me differently than do the trees planted elsewhere. Not only because I participated in their planting and in their maintenance, but also because they are a gift of man to nature and a gift of the Jews to the compost of their culture.
May we all soon merit to see the fulfillment of that dream….