Our view of the Galile

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's Good to be Da King -Parshat Tetzaveh/ Zachor

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
 March 1st  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 17 –7th of Adar 5772

Parshas Tetzaveh/Zachor
“It’s Good to be da King”

Hey, it’s almost Purim so I’m allowed to quote from Mel Brooks. If you can’t identify the title quote though you might be either too young or too religious to be reading this E-mail and might probably want to go find something else maybe on Torah.org. Because this one ain’t changing anytime soon. It’s good to be da king …at least over my own personal e-mail.

In truth I believe there is this deep seated King complex in each of us. One that is usually cured by a few weeks or months of marriage, or for some really quick learners like me it was a few hours. (Or maybe that was because I had a quick teacher.)Yet somehow this complex continues to seek to express itself in various other areas of our life. “My office is my palace” some friends of mine say. “My work is my kingdom” others have told me (don’t work for them). All I got is a little "throne room" with a sink off my bedroom. Yet there is something to be said for viewing oneself as a king. There is perhaps even a divine part of each of us, created in the ultimate Almighty King’s image, which wishes to leave its imprint on its own unique fiefdom. That wishes to leave a mark upon the part of this world that we might even be able to call and distinguish as our own.

I recently noted this instinct quite vividly when I visited NY recently. In fact every subway station declared itself in spray paint to be the kingdom of someone else. It seems in Israel most places belong to this Na Nach Nachman guy J. The truth is one doesn’t have to go to NY  or Tzefat to appreciate this concept. Any visit to an art museum will find the signature or imprint of its artist or sculptor. A music fan will be able to distinguish their favorite musician’s style and songs. A film critic can tell you who the director is, and an avid reader who is the author of the novel he is reading just by recognizing its distinctive style. For that matter most fortunate people who have visited our Shul would be able to discern the incredible chef of the best chulent in the world, by the heavenly flavor it exudes and tantalizes the masses with, as its smell wafts throughout the shul Shabbat morning and its taste whets the palates and fantasies of many (run on sentence, sorry, but I skipped lunch today). Yes we each have our kingdom and because we view it as such we put our energy into personalizing it so our imprint will be remembered and recognized as our own.

This week in addition to the regular Torah reading of Tetzaveh we read the additional special supplementary portion of Parshat Zachor, a Parsha of remembrance or non remembrance.

Wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens don’t forget.

This evil nation was the first that attacked the Jewish people and is dedicated to challenging the supremacy of Hashem in this world.

For the hand is on the throne of Hashem a war against Amalek from generation to generation.

and as Rashi explains God’s throne so to speak is not complete as long as Amalek exists and creates doubt playing on the fears and weakness of men.(incidentally the numerological value of his name Amalek= Safek doubt). So we wipe out his name and his descendants (Haman) so that they should not have any memory left

What I have always found ironic though is that generally the Parsha read before Purim is Tetzaveh which our commentaries point out is the only portion where Moshe's name is not to be found from the time he is born through the entire Torah. So the week when we read the parsha about remembering to erase the name of Amalek we also read the only Parsha with the name of Moshe "erased" from it.

If you think that is just coincidental than a) you are clearly not ready enough for Purim yet so have a little drink and b) you haven't noticed that this happens again. In the reading of the Megilla. Sort of. For on Purim when we pull out our graggers, blow horns, fog horns, noise makers, cap guns, machine guns, whatever your pleasure is, and drown out and practically fulfill and erase the name of Haman that most famous Amalekite descendant. We also interestingly enough, find seemingly absent or erased someone else pretty holy; Hashem the king. What happened to the king? What happened to leaving your imprint?

Now in both instances what is also interesting to note is that although not mentioned by name both figures are alluded to in their respective portions. The portion of Tetzaveh begins
 And You shall command the children of Israel
the you being a reference to Moshe. And in the Megilla we are told that every reference to "The King- HaMelech" in the story which is usually and simply understood as King Achashveirosh is also (or really) referring to the Almighty, the real King. {This makes for a very fun and deep reading by the way, much better than listening to Beatles tapes backwards.}

The Lubavitcher Rebbe suggests that perhaps the idea of the absence of the name of Moshe is because a name is sometimes too limiting. A name is a reference point for which other can call you by. But it really can't capture the truest essence of the depth and impact of ones soul. Moshe's  name was erased the commentaries explain as a result of when he was asking God to forgive the Jewish people he stated that
 "If you do not forgive them, than erase me from your book".
 This statement, although the Jewish people were forgiven, was still fulfilled in this Parsha. Yet perhaps it is not a punishment rather a reflection of the act of Moshe. Moshe in his willingness to give up his entire existence, his signature and his imprint as the bearer and transmitter of the Torah, by his readiness to have his name removed on behalf of the forgiveness of his people, superseded his name. He became one with his people and transcended any titles. We may not write Moshe's name in the parsha but it is merely to show that when God says "Hey You, command the Jewish people" in the Torah  the one that God calls "you" is Moshe.

The same message is in the Megilla as well. Yes Hashem's name is not explicit in the entire story, but is there another real King running the show? Do you really think that when it says the king did this and the king did that it is really that loser Achashveirosh? On Purim we realize there is only one true HaMelech-one true King we don't even have to name him for when we say King we know who we are talking about.

  We read these messages this week, the week of Zachor the week we wipe out the memory of Amalek. Because what is Amalek? Amalek and Haman are the ones out there saying there is no King, you cannot transcend yourself, you cannot make a meaningful  impact on this world because it's all by chance it's all a lottery; a Pur. Their fate is that we wipe out their memory. For if your entire existence is about denying a meaningful life without any possibility of a connection to the Eternal and the spiritual. Than ultimately your fate will be the obsolescence you worship.

So on Purim we channel that natural Divine instinct for kingship. Some of us even dress up like Kings, others toast L'Chaims to express our transcendent and High inner longings. We become kings for a day even in our exile, even when we're not. But at least for one day we understand and express how good it is to be a king to have that special life of Mitzvot that give our acts meaning. Yet we also realize something even more important Yes, it is good to be a king, but more importantly it is even better to know that we have a King. Ein Od Milvado -there is none other than Him.
Have a Good Shabbos and spectacularly joyous Purim,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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Atlit- As you make your way up the coast of Israel a little before Haifa one can visit the historic refugee camp of Atlit for an experience in what true dedication to come to Israel felt like. After WWI when many jews assisted the British in fighting against our common enemy and they were promised with the Balfour declaration a Jewish State. The British reneged on their deal creating the infamous White paper limiting Jewish immigration to Israel. But we were not to be stopped illegal boats smuggling in jews brough thousands of Jews home. Yet many were stopped and captured by the British and kept in this camp to be sent to Cyprus or other countries that wouldn’t take.
As one walks through the camp one can see the showers and sanitation centers that they first came to and can imagine how those who had just experienced the horrors of the holocaust must have viewed these barbed wire chimney stacked rooms. One can view the barracks where they stayed and see the graffiti on the wall of survivors looking for the relatives. A small hike to the shore brings the visitor to a recreation of one of the many refugee boats where you can watch a super short film experiencing what the trip and conditions were like for those who smuggled into Israel. At the end of the tour one can visit the room where they have computerized archives of those that were in the camp as well as hearing the story of the famous breakout on October 1945 led by Yitzchak Rabin.

Marriage is when a man loses his bachelor degree and a woman gets her Masters-
(or as the megilla says- “Li’Hiyos Kol ish soreir BiBeiso”-not.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Home-Work- Mishpatim 2012

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
 Febuary 16th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 16 –24th of Shevat 5772

 Parshat Mishpatim


Children need two parents. One to do their homework with them, the other to cook, clean, do laundry, clothing-shop, food-shop, make a living to pay for all the shopping, go to parent/teacher conferences and of course to spend quality time and love with them. In Israel one has the added pleasure and responsibility to deal with all the government bureaucracy offices that seem to dominate our lives as well. Maybe children need 10 parents. But I can tell you with confidence and experience that homework is a full time parenting job.

 I thought I was done with trigonometry, biology, history (even chumash and Navi-at least the assignments?) when I passed my regents and received my diploma.

 No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks”.

 Yet, the only thing I seem to have moved beyond is the pencils which really weren’t too bad. So here I sit cracking my head on Pythagorean theorems and Isosceles triangles as my younger daughter awaits help with her “Teva/Science” homework and her questions on the story of Gideon in Navi. My children are in bad shape…Daddy/Abba, deleted this information from his brain a very long time ago. But if they want I can teach them how to write a sometimes humorous Parsha Email, a great inspiring fun tour of Israel or even a mortgage. But they might just need another parent if they have plans of graduating.

The truth is being a parent is not an easy job, or so the more experienced one, my wife tells me. It is a constant balancing job of chores, errands and love. How do people with 10 or 12 kids manage? I have no clue. Yet at the same time people with one or two kids ask me the same question “how do we manage with five?” (Bli Ayin Hora). I tell them to marry well. The one thing that keeps it all together is perhaps the ingrained sense of responsibility and the natural sense to nurture, that our Creator blessed us with. For most of us if someone would offer us a job cleaning floors, picking up laundry, cooking, washing dishes and doing homework, I don’t think it would make it on our top ten of what I wanted to be when I grow up positions. Yet, that’s what we do and we bless Hashem daily for the privilege to be granted such a precious gift.

This week’s Torah portion shares with us a multitude of laws that govern relationships between man and his fellow man. It starts with one’s responsibility to ones servants, his neighbors, his obligation in regards to their possessions, his obligation in regards to watching over his own possessions so they do not do damage. The Torah also delineates ones obligations towards the unfortunate members of society; widows, orphans, converts, charity cases and those needing a loan, or a hand. The Torah even mentions consideration one must have for accidental murderers, thieves, and those that have made mistakes and wish to make things right once again. Basically the majority of civil law can be found in the first few Aliyot of this Parsha. What is blatantly missing though is some guidance on raising ones family. In fact there are not too many verses in the Torah that gives us parenting tips or how to raise a Jewish family. If the Torah is the book of Jewish living shouldn’t there be at least one Parsha dedicated to the eternity and well-being of our family?

The answer suggests Reb Yisrael Salanter the great Mussar giant (as well as many of his students), that all of the clues of how to parent are incorporated in the laws of how one deals with ones society. If one understands the degree of honor, respect and consideration one must treat one’s servants with, one’s neighbors with, and even those who have done wrong, than our spouse and our children are of course to be treated with the same level of dedication. If Hashem provides a special place for one who kills someone to run to as a place of refuge, shouldn’t our child who crashes our computer or consistently doesn’t pick up their clothing be offered that same refuge? If we are obligated to take in the lost object of a neighbor care for it and seek him out to return it, are your kids lost shoes or coat (generally 5 minutes-before carpool) any less? And if we can be mandated to assist our enemy unloading his donkey from his heavy burden, is the homework burden of our children (who sometimes resemble donkeys shelpping a load with all those school books) any less of a mandate?

There’s a great story of one of the great Mussar ethicists whose student asked him what the best way to excel in the attribute of kindness- doing chesed. His Rebbe told him that when he comes home and his wife tells him that the children need a bath he should run to do it with simcha-joy. In that way he fulfills chesed with his wife, his children and perhaps greatest of all with himself. He points out that when the Torah describes the mitzvah of unburdening your enemy’s animal it says

If you see your enemies animal crouching from under his burden, would you hesitate to assist him in unloading? Unload with him!

The Rebbe said the reason one might hesitate is because he feels that he is losing or assisting his enemy. However the Torah tells us in truth what is happening is that he is himself burdened by his feelings of hate or anger and by working together he too will be unburdened. Unload! Azov Ta’azov IMO- Which can also be translated as leave “you shall leave with him”. Put ones personal feelings behind and you will find that you yourself are being helped.

There is no place this truer, the Rebbe said, than when it comes to one’s family and children. Too often our own personal stress, needs and projected expectations weigh us down and pre-occupy us from helping out those that are most important to us. The greatest chesed is when we can put those down for a bit (and many times more than a bit) and help unburden the load of those that we care the most about. In doing so we will find that we ourselves will become unburdened. The chesed that we do with our loved ones can be the greatest chesed. It’s not always easy but that what our real homework is really all about.

Have a rejuvenating Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


 Dalton- Located way up in the Galile above Tzefat is a small but significant Yishuv most recently formed in 1950 by immigrants from Libya. Today it’s most famous for its world class wines who’s grapes grow in the unique volcanic soil. However in ancient times this was a bustling city where some of the great leaders during the period of the mishna lived and were buried Rabbi Yosi Hagalili and his son as well as Rabbi Yehudah Ben Taima- the author of the statement one should bold like a leopard, light as an eagle, swift like a deer strong like a lion to fulfill the will of Hashem. In the North of the Yishuv a synagogue lintel and pillar from times of the Talmud was found which in Aramaic read “may His name be blessed”. There is also testimony that there was jewish settlement here during the arab crusader and mamluk periods. In the Cairo Geniza there were letters that were written to the Rabbis of the city as well.

Today one can visit the industrial area for a great tour of the Rimon pomegranate factory, Adir goat cheese and winery, the Dalton winery and the Butterfly Beer brewery all in one great location!






Friday, February 10, 2012

A Giant Win- Yisro 5772

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

Febuary 10th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 15 –17th of Shevat 5772

Parshat Yisro

A Giant Win

It seems I was one of the few people in the world that did not watch the Super Bowl this past week. In the US alone over 114 million people spent the entire Sunday viewing in what one of my Rebbeim once described as a bunch of scary gentiles beating each other up after prostrating themselves to a pig skin and running wild at each other with it to the delight and war cries of tens of thousands of rabid natives. Being an optimist though, he concluded that perhaps the game was created to keep above mentioned gentiles off the street corners. Yet he couldn’t fathom how people could spend hours of their lives glued to the screen watching this. Clearly, he never had foot long hero sandwiches, beer pretzels and buffalo wings which were always my attraction. The game itself though was never anything that drew me though. In fact I’ve never much been that into sports in general. Perhaps it was my more athletically challenged physique (is that a real P.C. term? It should be!) that always kept my interest more oriented on skills that I stood a chance excelling at. Or maybe it was the line about painting me orange and writing Spalding on my midriff as I was offered my first opportunity on the court. I don’t know, my therapist and I are trying to work it out. Needless to say I’ve never really been that fascinated by sports. In fact I found them quite boring.

Yet the good Lord in Heaven, who quite frequently it seems, looks down on this world and wonders what fun he can have with my life, saw fit to place me in a position where it would ultimately become impossible to succeed without a firsthand knowledge and a professed enthusiasm for the one thing that bored me more than anything else. Yes, I was hired to become a College Campus outreach Rabbi. “Just go out there and develop a personal relationship with the students. I’m sure you have a lot of common interests. Little did I know at the time that the scope of their interests (at least the mentionable ones) would generally revolve around who was playing who, the plays that were made and who was the most likely to win some sort of championship. But if that’s what I have to do than that’s what shall be done. Very slowly and with the help of Robert (now Reuvein, the Kollel rabbi J) I learned the ins and outs of college football, basketball, and even hockey. I still don’t enjoy sports that much but as my education began to develop I learned many lessons that carry true in areas of life outside the stadium and even in my spiritual life.

One of the first lessons of my new education required unlearning something that it seemed had been ingrained in me from my unfulfilling PE days. I refer to that famous adage of “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. It seems that in spectator sports’ winning is of primary significance. Or to quote the great Vince Lombard “if winning isn’t everything than why do they keep score? The energy that drives man’s fascination and devotion to what to me seemed like a rather meaningless pursuit, in fact revolves not as much upon watching a good fun game as it does being part of the super human drive to becoming the team that is quite simply the winner or champion. The pursuit of the Gold or the title is what is mandated from the participants and striving for anything less is the key to failure and quite frankly a fairly boring experience.

I remember the day that I learned that lesson I was studying through the Parsha of this week, Parshat Yisro, and lo and behold it seems that the Kotzker Rebbe (one of the sharpest of the Chasidic masters in the early 19th century) found this lesson to be not only one that has a basis in Jewish thought rather it was one that he declares can be found homiletically as the ultimate prerequisite to our receiving the Torah and becoming a nation of God.

On that fateful day three thousand years ago, as our ancestors stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai awaiting that special moment of Hashems revelation. The moment, for which we had been redeemed from Egypt , the most purposeful of Creation, at that time Moshe commands the Children of Israel.

Beware of ascending the mountain or touching its edge; whoever touches the mountain shall surely die.

The Kotzker explains the discrepancy in the latter of portion of the text where it merely mentions the “touchers” and not the “ascenders”, with a fascinating perspective into the nature of man. Many times we set great goals for ourselves, we hear an inspiring lecture and are motivated to grow. We witness a beautiful family or relationship and decide to work on our own, or even something as simple as reading a powerful Erev Shabbos Email (J) that has a lesson we want to incorporate in our lives. We want to ascend the mountain. Unfortunately, all too often what happens is that we get distracted and our attempts to improve fail. We tried and we changed a little and slowly we fall into a lulled sense of complacency. After all it’s more than I was ever doing in the past. To the Kotzker this was the kiss of death. ‘Beware if you are trying to ascend the mountain to achieve your stated goals of rising up, and merely succeed in touching the mountain’ he reads homiletically in the verse. For that complacent sense of satisfaction at the small accomplishment in the face of the great goal of achieving the greatness that still remains unaccomplished is not life rather it is a form of death.

We were created to be winners. Hashem has granted each and everyone the ability to climb mountains in the betterment of ourselves, our society and in our relationship with Him. The only thing that holds us back so often is the lack of belief that we can actually achieve the greatness that we aspire to reach. We become satisfied with the at least it was a good game attitude and we lose the energy and focus that we all posses and require to go for the Gold…to win. As Vince was fond of saying “Winning is a habit…unfortunately so is losing”. Just as our forefathers so long ago on that momentous day made that eternal resolution of Na’aseh V’Nishma- We will do and we will hear” without any room for failure so to today we can all tap into that strength and truly become the champions we were meant to be

Have a winning Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


The Kinneret- Still raining in Israel Thank god and the good news is that our Kinneret is over the lower red line of -212 and is getting closer to upper lower redline of -209 which is right where we want to be. The lower line is the where we ae at risk of not having enough water and the water becoming too salty and the shoreline being hurt the upper line is where we would be at risk of flooding.  Providing Israel with over 25% of its water needs with over over 450 million cube meter waters- the kinneret the world’s lowest fresh water lake, is critical to Israel. In fact many of the wars that Israel has fought over the years with Syria and Jordan revolved around the siphoning off of water from the kinneret on both sides. The majority of the water in the Kinneret comes from the Jordan River and the streams that flow into it from the Golan and Hermon. The rest is from rainfall and underground saltwater springs.

Called kineret because as the Gemara says it’s waters are sweet like a harp music one can in the summer months enjoy a plethora of water activities from banana boating jet skiing and cruise rides as well as water hikes on both sides of the kinneret. And even in the winter one can walk up and down the beautiful boardwalk and every evening see the spectacular light and sound show that is really beautiful from the boardwalk in Tiberias right next to the great big water level measuring meter that is now once again at a good level!

*****NEW FEATURE****




Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wat' er you about? -Beshalach 2012

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

Febuary 4th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 14 –10th of Shevat 5772

Parshat Beshalach

Wat’ er You About?

It is a wet winter here in Eretz Yisrael. According to the news reports, this past month is the most rainfall since they started keeping track in 1947. See what a good Seattlite Oleh (immigrant) can bring to this countryJ. It’s interesting having been in the States a few weeks ago and experienced a rainy New York winter, how different I feel about rain in America versus here in the Holyland. As I told the Rav, who I was accompanying on our trip, in Israel when it rains you feel a sense of blessing, everyone is excited and appreciative of the much-needed water and plod happily through the puddles. In America though it just feels, gloomy miserable and depressing-icky.. wet… sloshy… cold. And a real damper on fundraising efforts. Not that the rain in Israel does any wonders for my burgeoning tour-guide business. But even the tourists somehow feel and appreciate the blessing of rain in God’s special country.

So what does a tour guide do when his tours cancel because of rain? We head to the Beit medrash to grab in some extra learning of course. Trying to escape the damp weather, I open the weekly Torah portion for some cut and dry Torah reading, and my luck this week’s Torah portion is of course the wettest one in the entire Torah. The portion starts off with the great conclusion of our Exodus at the Red Sea. Water turns to dry land for the Jews and for the Egyptians …not so much. A few days later when the Jews run out of water they come to a wonderful place called Marah-bitter- because of the undrinkable water they found there. Yet miraculously Moshe throws a stick in and it turns sweet. Shortly after that the Torah tells us they come to a place called Eilim where they find 12 springs of water-obviously symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. And just when you thought you pretty much had enough water stories for one Parsha, the Torah tells us one final one, the incident of Masa-UMeiriva –(testing and quarelling), where it seems from the commentaries understanding of the text, that there was once again a complaint of the water not being sufficient enough for the Jews satisfaction and Moshe is commanded to hit the rock (after he complains that the people are getting ready to stone him in their doubt of God and his leadership) and water pours forth.

{This rock seemingly continues to do accompany them for the next 38 years until much later in the Book of Bamidbar when we once again-are told the final water story when it seems the water runs out and Moshe makes the egregious error of hitting the rock once again instead of speaking to it as commanded.}

Yes it is a wet wet Parsha…The question is why? What is it about water that the Torah seems to put such an emphasis on its role in the development and becoming of the Jewish people? Even more interesting perhaps is that the story of the destruction of Egypt starts with smiting their source of water-which in fact they worshiped- the Nile River and their end is also through drowning in water.

For those of you that like word plays- The word for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which is made up of the letters Mayim (water) with the word Tzar which means enemy or narrow in between or breaking it up. From there they go to a place of Mayim which is Marim (bitter)- almost the same letters as Mitzrayim with just the letter Reish- as breaking up the word Mayim. And then ultimately coming to 12 springs of good water; the journey from Mitzrayim-to Marim-to Mayim has been completed. But what does this all mean?

Rav Avraham Hakohein Kook, the first chief Rabbi of Palestine in the 1930’s suggests an interesting a deep concept regarding water and the journey of the Jewish people or “birth” through trials and lessons of water. He notes how water is the most essential element of human existence. It provides man with energy to move, to withstand temperature and the lack of water creates an almost primordial burning thirst that brings man in touch with the frailty of his existence. It is for this reason that water and the thirst for it is used repeatedly as the metaphor for what one spiritual desire and connection to God should feel like.

“Tzam’a Lech Nafshi- Mys Soul thirsts for you,” King David says, “My whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

In Egypt the one thing that was never lacking was water. The Nile itself was revered as a God. It provided for men who were never thirsty and as a result man indulged themselves. Our sages refer to Egypt as Shtufei Zima- flooded in licentiousness (flood being another water word). Measure for measure that flood of self-indulgence was where they would find their end. The Jews, as newly released slaves, first lesson that they had to learn was to develop a thirst for life. Water that life-giving force and the lack of it for the first time, was a wakeup call that their spirits that had been dulled and dead for so long was now burning with a thirst to live. Yet they also had to learn that water just to fill their thirst and satiate their physical needs alone could be bitter or sweet. Having left Egypt, bitter god-less water would no longer suffice them. They needed and were given the sweetened miraculous waters of Hashem. Coming to their next stop in Eilim they were shown that the water for them was meant to be special. It was not just that Hashem would sweeten water for them, but in fact there were 12 springs that awaited them which symbolized that their water was from a deeper source. It was meant to be a spiritual connection for the 12 tribes to connect with Hashem and to fulfill their individual thirst for Him from their own independent springs of life.

Having quelled their thirst and developed this finer taste the Jewish people had another lesson to learn. The water and thirst for Hashem will only come with the breaking of their physical nature that seeks only to satisfy its body and not its soul. The strangely worded verse tells us that the Jews camped in Refidim and “there was no water to give drink to the people”. The commentaries note that it’s not that there wasn’t water for them to drink rather that the limited water they had was not “drink” for them. It wasn’t coming easy and flowing anymore. Their thirst was more for the easy physical and spiritual path. It was a test of God and of Moshe. Here Hashem gives them lesson two. Which was that the flow will and can come even from a rock, yet you have to make the effort and put your faith to break your own internal heart of stone by maintaining your faith even when you don’t see the water flowing. By utilizing your thirst for Me, to push yourselves a little harder and break that simple search for the satisfying easy sweet path, the water will flow. Hashem commands Moshe here specifically to use the staff of the miracles of the Nile. The old Egyptian water thirst was destroyed by your faith in Me symbolized by this staff. Your future challenges as well will be overcome as you once again have that strength to believe and continue to strive for greatness.

Finally we come to the last water incident. The water before they come to Eretz Yisrael. Once again their water and rock dries up. The Jewish people are at this point 38 years later about to enter the newest and what was supposed to be final stage of their nationhood; their promised Holyland. Here, the Rav notes, as opposed to in Masa Meriva where Moshe is told to hit the Tzur- a term that refers to a hard rock, Moshe is commanded to speak to the Sela- a soft easier pliable rock. The Land of Israel and the Jewish people in their homeland have a more natural connection to Hashem and spirituality. That burning thirst for holiness becomes a warm flame in Hashem’s country. That huge heart of stone that seems unbreakable in the wilderness and Diaspora will crumble and produce soul nourishing life force with a few simple words of prayer in Eretz Yisrael. The connection to those springs of holiness can be found in the division of the 12 portions of Israel to its tribes that draw forth from them. It is here where the rain is always a bracha-blessing. It is why the measure of our spiritual connection to Hashem in the Torah is always connected to the barometer of the rainfall that we are either blessed in a plentiful way with or god forbid not meriting in receiving.

Yet Moshe failed in his mission to give us that message and for that he was not permitted to enter the land and bring about the final redemption. So we were exiled from the land. The soft and easily accessible rock of Eretz Yisrael was desecrated by our people in our sins and lack of faith. We forgot our thirst. We were too physically satiated and didn’t even notice that our souls were starving and parched. Today that we have the blessing once again to be in Eretz Yisrael, we can once again rebuild our nation by nourishing our inner thirst for a connection to Hashem. When it rains everywhere else it’s wet, sloshy and icky. Here there is a sense that our prayers that we recite each morning have been answered. It is an incredible feeling to be connected to Hashem through the daily weather report. May our inspiration increase our thirst for an even greater connection to Hashem so that we may soon merit to the day when the prophecy of

Ush’Avtem Mayim B’Sason M’Mayenei Ha’yeshuah- And we will draw water with rejoicing from the springs of Salvation be fulfilled.

Have a fantastic Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



Qumran- As you had down the Judean desert by the Dead Sea you can’t help but notice the awe inspiring mountain cliffs on your right side that tower over the Dead Sea. It is hard to imagine anyone in their right mind ever living there. Maybe your correct. Yet for about 250 years the caves of the Qumran were home for hundreds of Jews that had fled Jerusalem and the chaos of the fraternal fighting and despotic Kings from Herod until the Destruction and they created their own little world and alternate form of a temple-less Judaism in the  quiet and peaceful caves of the wilderness of Judea. This group referred to as the Essenes built many mikvaot ritual baths and insisted on high forms of purity. Many of them lived and advocated celibate and communal lives and existence spending their time studying Torah texts and writing about battles that will take place in the end of Days between the forces of Darkness and Light.

We know all this because in these caves we have uncovered (actually a Bedouin shepherd chasing his runaway sheep did) what is of course perhaps the most famous and significant archeological finds commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, that describe their way of life and ordinances as well as the oldest fragments of every single one of the books of Torah, Prophets and Scriptures (except the book of Esther), and some of their history of the era. In addition in the elaborate city below the caves their tefillin were found there as well as their working and eating utensils almost as they had left them.

 Today Qumran gets about 450,000 visitors a year. Interestingly enough the majority of which are Christians who see in the story of the Essenes early Christianity. The Movie and the rather simple museum there does play up that theory as well. But regardless of your faith Qumran is certainly a interesting and pretty hike through an ancient Jewish city that is fairly well documented as well as their ancient water tunnels which kids can climb through. But best of all in the winter it’s a great place to get out in the sun and away from the rain…J