Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 9th 2011 -Volume I, Issue 40–10th of Elul 5771
Parshat Ki Teitzei
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
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…