Our view of the Galile

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

May their memory be Baruch (blessed)-Acharei Mos-Kedoshim -Zikaron

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

April 25th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 25 –3rd  of Iyar 5772

Parshat Acharei Mos/ Kedoshim

May Their Memory be Baruch (blessed)

One by one the cars pulled over to the side of the road. Many people get out of their cars and stand next to them in silence. It is 8:00 PM on Yom Hazikaron- Israel’s memorial day and I pull over as well. The radio station I had been listening to begins to recite psalms. Tehillim as a merit and in honor of the soldiers who perished in all of Israels wars and its civilian victims of terror. I listen to the numbers. 22,993 soldiers- 126 this past year alone, 2,477 innocent civilians, 10, 524, bereaved families, 4,992 widows and 2,396 orphans. That we know the exact number of each one and name is incredible. But even more touching and truly heart-wrenching is to hear the audio-biographies and memories of the loved ones that have been carved in my brain and heart as I listen to their stories as I drive home.
“Yishai was just a boy. He loved nature and animals. There was nothing he loved more then hiking through the hills and streams of the galile. I spoke to him at 7:16 PM and promised to cook him his favorite supper when he came home the next day. At 7:33  august 2006 we were told he was killed in Lebanon. Until today whenever I make that special rice stew I cry.”
“As I was sitting Shiva for my son Ilan, I went into the next room and put on some classical music and closed my eyes and imagined it was just the two of us sailing in our boat that he loved so much. I felt him next to me, smiling… laughing…I felt him there with me. I miss him so much.”
“My husband Yoram was so brave. Me? I am a scaredy cat. Maybe that was what attracted me to him. Whenever he would go out on Miluim I wouldn’t sleep. He would call me each night and reassure me. I still here his voice. ‘Don’t worry Danya, I won’t leave you alone’…Our boys are just like their father. The oldest one remembers him and now serves in the same brigade he did. He calls me as well. And when he does I pretend I am hearing Yoram again. ‘Everything will be alright…I will come home soon…”
In America Memorial Day was never somber. Sure we know that Soldiers died in wars and we should remember them. But the majority of the country went shopping or to the beach. In Israel it is personal. It is real. I have often noted how unique it is to Israel that when one goes to the graves of our sages and other holy sites to pray one can find an inordinate amount of secular Jews there davening/praying- places that in America one can’t possibly imaging the average secular Jews frequenting. Yet here it is different. For the prayers that are said by these sites are of mothers, fathers, brothers and children who have family serving in the army, perhaps on the front lines or in Gaza. They are prayers of families of soldiers to Hashem that their boys/men don’t become a number.
This weeks Torah portion of Achareis Mos-Kedoshim begins with the statement
“And Hashem spoke to Moshe after the deaths of the sons of Aharon when they came close before Hashem and they died.”
The commentaries note they seemingly needless repetition of the fact that they died; being that it already says a few words earlier that Hashem was speaking after their deaths. The previous Rebbe of Lubavitch comments that what the Torah is emphasizing in this statement is that the deaths of  the sons of Aharon was because they were not able to complete the process of bringing that inspiration of drawing near to Hashem to its completion. ‘And they died-’ their lives of connection didn’t bring the fruits in this world that they were meant to have been.
I recently read a beautiful story from Yitta Halberstam’s book small miracles of the Holocaust (now on aish.com). Its message is one of death that bore fruit. The chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yonah Metzger noted how that one an Israeli soldier is killed the traditional Tahara (the body purification ritual)  is not performed for those that fall and give up their lives for the sake of the protection of the Jewish People and because they are Jews. They are already pure. They are holy sacrifices whose death have meaning before Hashem and on behalf of the Jewish people.
I share with you the story of Baruch Shapiro…
Chaim Shapiro went through the seven levels of hell. He survived four concentration camps not to mention the ghetto and forced marches. He began the War with eight children and a wonderful wife, and in a little over a year, he lost his wife and seven of his children, without ever having the chance to even sit shiva.
He was finally liberated from Buchenwald with his only surviving son Baruch and they wallowed in the DP camps for nearly three years until finally, in 1948, they found place aboard an immigrant ship and arrived in Israel a week later.
Israel, in the midst of the War of Independence, was fighting a desperate battle for survival against overwhelming odds, so Baruch Shapiro volunteered to fight. With no previous training, he was taken to a ravine, handed a rifle, taught how to shoot a few bullets, and sent off to war. Meanwhile, with the stipend that he received from the Jewish Agency, his father Chaim rented a small apartment outside Tel Aviv.
Baruch Shapiro distinguished himself in battle. As part of the Harel Brigade fighting under Yitzhak Rabin to break the Arab siege on Jerusalem, Baruch received a field commission as an officer and was awarded a medal for bravery under fire.
And then, one day, as Chaim Shapiro was sitting in his tiny living room in Tel Aviv, he glanced out the window and saw one of those terrible delegations heading up the path to his apartment.
They say that Chaim Shapiro opened the door before they knocked, and they say that he never even read the telegram, just crumpled it over and over in his hands....
When a soldier in Israel is killed, the army takes care of everything, including the funeral arrangements. Chaim Shapiro had only one request: he wanted his son who had died fighting for Jerusalem to at least be buried in Jerusalem, on Mount Herzl, the National Military cemetery.
The next afternoon hundreds of mourners gathered at Mount Herzl. Most of them had never known Baruch Shapiro or his father Chaim, but they had heard of the terrible tragedy and wanted to pay their respects. After all, what Hitler had not finished in the crematoria had ended at the hands of an Arab bullet; this was the last Shapiro son; the end of a line.
As the coffin was being lowered into the ground, Chaim Shapiro began to sing.
Yigal Yadin himself, the IDF Chief of Staff (who would later discover Massada) stood by Chaim Shapiro's side.
And as the coffin was being lowered into the ground, Chaim Shapiro began to sing.
People thought he had lost it; Yadin put his arm around Chaim's shoulders and someone ran to get him some water. But he shrugged them all off, and again, began to sing. People had no idea what to make of it, so finally Chaim Shapiro looked at them and said:
"You know, I have been through a hell the likes of which most people cannot imagine; I lost over seventy relatives in a little over a year, including seven children, my wife and parents. I have no place to mourn them, no grave; they are ashes in the skies over Europe, and I have no idea why they had to die.
"But this son, at least this son, I know why he died. He died so we could have a home for the Jewish people in the land of Israel, and he has a grave, here on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. And that is not a reason to cry, it is a reason to sing."
When Chaim Shapiro finished speaking, he began to sing once more, and grabbing people's hands, to dance.
And as the flag-draped coffin of Baruch Shapiro was lowered into the ground, three hundred mourners began to sing and to dance against the setting sun of the Jerusalem sky...
The next time you visit Israel, go to Mount Herzl, Israel's National Military Cemetery, her Arlington. And when you walk through the wide stone gates, walk up and then down to the right where the graves from 1948 lie, and you will find the lonely grave of one Baruch Shapiro. Close your eyes there, and you will understand perhaps, why the Jewish people will never be destroyed.
Am Yisrael Chai.
Have a meaningful day, a festive Yom Ha’atzmaut and a spectacular Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


YOUTUBE CLICK first this could be you or donate above…

Army base in the Golan with chaylim this yom ha’atzamut!!-
Hello all,
This Thursday, bring a warm family experience to our chayalim that are
remaining on their base on Israel Independence Day. The Young Israel of
Karmiel together with the international Young Israel movement and Standing Together would like to invite families in the North for a meaningful Yom Ha'atzmaut opportunity. At 10:30 am we are invited with our families to an army base in the Golan to bring cheer and support for our troops and to give the soldiers stickers of support. We are asked to bring bags of snacks and sodas as well, if we can. The above organizations have sponsored the burgers and franks for the soldiers and we can assist in the
preparation and mangal- BBQ.

Please note that there is a limited amount of meat so families that wish to
join in the eating should bring their own grill and meat.

If you are interested in joining please contact Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
Via email
Rabbschwartz@ yahoo.com
Or preferably by phone at 050-597-0649
Thanks so much and have a happy Yom Ha'atzmaut

What did you see in heaven? I saw those who are low here high there and those that are hled to be high here are low there? Who does this refer to? The Martyrs of war (harugei malchus). As it says Jewish Martyrs none can stand in their presence (in heaven).”
Talmud Bava Basra  10b

Rabbi Schwartzes YouTube Yom Ha’zikaron clip of the week

Thursday, April 19, 2012

First of All- Tazria Metzora 2012

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

April 20th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 24 –28th of Nissan 5772

Parshat Tazria/ Metzora

First of All

It is one of the oldest questions of all time. It asks the secrets of the universe. Scientists, archeologists, evolutionary theorists have all weighed in on this one. Yet, it seems there is still no consensus as to the true answer. I have explored this question extensively (at least 7 minutes or so on Google) and I have weighed the different approaches. It is truly inspiring to see how much work and time has been spent by seemingly intelligent individuals to discover the answer to the all time perplexing imponderable. I will share with you my conclusive research, and with that a Torah approach. You can then make your own judgment as to what truly came first the Chicken or the Egg.

Now according to Professor Randy Garner, the esteemed Dean of Houston University, and one of the premier experts on the topic, the egg most certainly came first. Chickens, according to him, evolved from reptiles that after millions of years learned to fly and as everyone knows reptiles lay eggs. Thus the chicken came from an egg first. Chicken opponents argue that only a chicken can lay an egg and therefore the reptile egg is not a real egg in relation to the question at hand. Others argue along those lines that nobody would have named the egg a chicken until it became a chicken so therefore the egg wasn’t an egg until the chicken came into being. To paraphrase the old question; if an egg is born and there is no chicken around to name it, is it really an egg?

There are other chicken protagonists that point out a very compelling proof that the chicken obviously comes first. After all take a look in any dictionary the letter C will always proceed E. Simple enough. Yet for me the answer was always quite obvious- What came first? The answer… whatever the Rebbetzin decides to serve. And years of Shabbat experience clearly shows that she would never serve an egg after a nice Friday night Shabbat BBQ chicken. Even the egg cooked over night in the chulent and mixed in the chopped liver Shabbos day precedes the serving of the chulent. Now if egg comes before chulent, wouldn’t it stand to reason it comes before chicken.

Jokes aside, though the Torah does seem quite clear that on the 5th day of Creation Hashem created birds, fish and all creepy crawly things… imaginably chickens are included in that. No mention of eggs. So just as Man, created on the 6th day, was seemingly not born an embryo in the traditional Biblical narrative, one can assume neither was our good friend, the chicken. Now I hope the readers of my weekly E-Mail have better things to do than to ponder this great question. But once I have your train of thought going in this direction, I will share with you a similar, however non-nonsensical question, posed by our great Rabbis on this week’s Torah portion that they wish for us to ponder; a question that again may seem simple enough, but perhaps not. Namely, what came first Man or Mosquito? The Medrash at the beginning of this week’s portion gives the classical decisively Jewish answer… it depends.

But first let’s backtrack. The Torah portion this week begins with the laws relating to the birth of a Jewish child. It includes the laws of purity and circumcision and then extends its discussion to all areas of achieving human holiness and purity. The Talmud notes how these laws follow last week’s discussion of the laws of Kosher and pure animals to teach us a lesson.

“Just as man's formation took place after all animals ... so too, the laws pertaining to him are set forth after the laws regarding animals."

In short, the order here parallels the account of the original story of Creation. But what is the significance of this order? The Midrash elaborates the implied moral lesson:

"If a person merits, he is told, 'You came before all of creation'. And if not, he is told, 'the mosquito came before you'."

So now I ask you, dear reader, once again, which came first the Man or the Mosquito?

The Medrash though seems to be perplexing. Why does the order of Creation change if man merits or not? Doesn’t the Torah itself teach us that animals and crawly things were created on Day 5 while man was on Day 6?

The Kedushas Chaim answers this puzzle with a powerful lesson and insight. What he suggests goes to the essence of the nature of humanity. What are we really? Are we highly developed and evolved animals (most of us that is) that have the ability to survive, eat, and dominate the rest of the animal world; A super king of the earthly jungle? If so, then guess what? Hashem tells us ‘you guys are last, in the Creation. Mosquitoes are more important than you.’ There is however one part of us that preceded the mosquito; one thing that differentiates human existence from that of its lower counterpart creation. It is that when Man was created, Hashem blew within him the spirit of life. He granted us a soul. There is an eternal part of each one of us that preceded all of Creation; the piece of Godliness that resides within us all. If we identify ourselves with that holiness, than we are the essence of Creation. We came first. If not, mosquitoes, chickens and eggs all have more significant value then us all.

We are in the period of Omer right now. It is a time when we are told that we are meant to elevate ourselves, as our ancestors did so long ago, on the road to Sinai. Can we ever imagine being able to hear Hashem speak to us? Could they? As slaves, human-work dogs, highly developed human mules? No way. But they- we- were freed. We’re not animals. There’s a soul, a piece of God, in us longing to reconnect and hear that voice once again. When we read about the laws of purity of man, during this season, the Torah reminds of that lesson. We are the pinnacle and essence of Creation. We don’t have to and shouldn’t identify ourselves any longer by the physical and animalistic tendencies instincts that will inevitably push us to the end of the line. We’re Children of God. His voice, his Torah, is still resonating within the fiber of our beings. We just need to push it and us to the front of the line and let it shine. We have 36 more days to make it to the top. Let’s climb that mountain together.

Have a Great Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Talmudic Experience Katzrin- One of the coolest things about Israel is how one can at anytime just take a step out of our 21st century hi tech world and turn back the clock and walk back thousands of years to the same places our ancestors once dwelled. Katzrin is one of 10 synagogues that have been excavated that were in the Golan from the period of the Mishnah and Talmud. Mentioned numerous times in the Talmud the katzrtin Talmudic park is an excellent place to get a feel of what life once was. The guides at the park are bedecked in clothing of the period and by pre-arrangement can demonstrate the oil making on the press there, bread baking and pottery making. An hour tour there can include visiting the re-created house of rav avun and ancient synagogue from the 6th century (built on the ruins of a 4th century one) One can see the bima and where the geniza once was and the steps leading up to where the ark was. There is also two films that can be watched there the Talmudic stories of the “tanur of Achnai” which established the supremacy of Rabbinic legislature- even contrary to voices from Heaven and the tragic story of Rabbinic sage Elisha ben Avuya or Acheir who was excommunicated when he lost faith.  Down the block is the Golan archeological museum stay tuned next week for the scoop on that J

Albert Einstien

Rabbi Schwartzes YouTube Yom Ha’zikaron clip of the week

The Mourning After- Shmini 2012 (for americans)

Parshat Shmini
The Mourning After
There were a lot of questions by our Pessach Seder. Hey, with 11 Schwartz/Golding/ and Schwartz grandchildren of questioning age and a fun Seattle Rabbi offering between a dollar to 5 dollars per good question- if you pay them they will ask. Even if Zaydie is dozing off the questions still kept coming. But it was the after- Pessach Questions that have me thinking more. It seems that a few dollars were well spent. The children want to know.
“What Sefira are we holding this year?” “Do we observe the first half until Lag Ba’Omer or the 2nd?” “Why can’t we listen to music now?” “Don’t some people not listen to only live music?” “Are tapes and CDs’ also out?” But then we got to the best question “Are we supposed to be sad during sefira, Daddy?”
For those not familiar with what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a brief background. The Talmud tells us that this period of time between Passover and Shavuot is a period of tragedy for the Jewish people.
It was said that Rabbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of disciples from Gabbatha to Antipatris; and all of them died at the same time because they did not treat each other with respect. The world remained desolate until Rabbi Akiva came to our Masters in the South and taught the Torah to them. These were Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yose, Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar ben Shammua; and it was they who revived the Torah at that time. A Tanna taught: "All of them died between Passover and Shavuot". (Yevamot 62b).
There are different opinions as to when the custom to observe mourning during this period of time took hold. Some suggest it was in Talmudic times (7th century) other suggest it was in the time of the Geonim (the 10th century) with others suggesting that many of the customs of mourning developed in the times of the Crusades (12th century) as a response to the post-passover blood libels and pogroms that took place during this season(see Aruch Hashulchan). Even the details of how to mourn during this time are disputed. Some have a tradition that they only died for 33 days which begin on Passover until Lag BaOmer, others count the 33 days from after the festive month of Nissan until Shavuot. Yet there are others that have a tradition to observe the mourning for the whole time. Even the process of mourning has differing customs Observant Jews traditionally do not get married during this time frame, nor do they listen to music, nor do they shave or take haircuts in the same way that traditional mourners behave. But do mourning customs mean that we’re supposed to be sad? I’m not sure.
It is certainly a strange time for these restrictions and behavior. After-all, until these customs were enacted it seems like this was a more festive or certainly an exciting time on our calendar. We just left Egypt as we celebrated Passover. We are now heading to Shavuot the day of the giving of the Torah. This is such an exciting period that the Torah commands us to count every day and week until we arrive there. There are different levels of acquisition of Torah that are outlined in Pirkei Avot- Ethics of our Father that we are striving and growing in, during this period of greatness. Why mourn? How do we balance these seemingly contradictory pathways?
Perhaps the answer could be found in the Torah portion that is read this week, usually in the period of Omer. We are told about the day of the coronation of the Mishkan- the Tabernacle of God. Hashem has finally forgiven our sin of the Golden Calf. All the Jewish people are gathered on this great day and then tragedy strikes. Two of the children of Aharon the High Priest, are struck down for a mysterious violation of bringing a “foreign fire’ on the altar. Can you imagine the horror ,… the pain.. the grief of Aharon. This was to be his day; the day when a new, great era of achievement would finally be realized. But instead it had become the day when he must bury his two sons.
Moshe turns to his brother and tells him it is upon this it said that with my closest ones I am sanctified. And the verse tells us Aharon in turn is silent- VaYidom Aharon. The commentaries all struggle to define Aharon’s silence. Some see it as a resilient acceptance of Gods’ will. Others suggest it is a external attribute and control, an almost impossible feat for the one person who is defined and chosen for his deep emotional love for each and every Jew, who was chosen particularly for that love, to be the one with whom all Jews may be blessed with the Priestly blessing. Yet the Maharal suggests something even more powerful. He sees Aharon’s silence as an expression of incredible spiritual achievement. Aharon moved beyond the sphere of words. There are no words to describe the revelation and deep connection Aharon achieved in that moment of witnessing the strong, painful and powerful hand of the Almighty. He transcended words. At the moment, that he could have felt most distant from God, he heard Moshe’s true words of consolation and felt closest to God. Closer then he had ever felt. Rashi points out, that the Torah right after this incident tells us that Hashem appeared and commands Aharon directly, Without Moshe. For Aharon had become like Moshe in his connection to God at that moment. He was one and closest to Hashem through his experience and tragedy.
The great Rabbi Akiva as well, lived at a time when he felt the Redemption was imminent. The Temple had recently been destroyed, but hope was certainly close, with the great revolt of Bar Kochva who was doing a fantastic job of knocking down the Romans and rebuilding Israel . It was a time of joy. Just like after Passover is, for every Jew that has gone through a Pessach Seder singing Next Year in Jerusalem . But then it failed. His students lost the opportunity and died. Like Aharon the moment of greatness and potential could have turned into tragedy and hopelessness. But as the Talmud, for which our customs and observances of the Omer period draws itself from, tells us. He didn’t give up. He utilized the moment to move closer. He laughed while other sages cried. He built forward rather than throw up his hands. For he knew that the real closeness to Hashem can sometimes, come even more from experiencing and recognizing the hand of God in tragedy, than from celebration and festivity.
Pessach is over. The redemption still hasn’t come. Do we just move back into our lives as we plan for the next holiday? Do we just go back to work? Back to Chametz bagels, pizza and chocolate cake and hope that next year it will happen? Hope that we can grow enough by Shavuot so that maybe we will merit it then? Jewish custom guarantees that we don’t. We have to mourn a little during this time. We have to contemplate as Aharon and Rabbi Akiva did about how to transcend our lives and move to an entirely different sphere. Turn off the music. Scratch that beard. Think about the tragedy of Rabbi Akiva’s students lost opportunity and think about our own. And than crack that Ethics of our Fathers wide open and move towards Sinai. Move towards Jerusalem . It can happen this Year still. We just have to feel we need it. Let’s count those days together.
Have a Great Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Third Cup- Passover 2012

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

April 6h 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 22 –13th of Nissan 5772

Passover/ Pessach

The Third Cup

What do you think about when you hear the word “redemption”? How about when I talk to you about being “saved”? Admit it. These words make you feel uncomfortable. A little Christian, maybe?  I believe it was Rav Hutner ZT”L who once complained about how the Christians stole Tanach from the Jews- after all they can quote Isaiah and Zedekiah better than most Jews; as the Jews stopped learning these works. But have they also stolen the notion of Geula? Is it Jewish-ly Incorrect to talk about being redeemed? I hope not. There’s a lot of Matzah and cleaning that has gone into celebrating this upcoming holiday and I for one want to make sure I know what this holiday of redemption is all about.

The truth is, even leaving the Christians behind, we need to examine an even deeper or fundamental question about Pesach. As a recent Oleh or even examining the state of the Jewish people, do we really feel we are lacking redemption today? I can understand during the times of past, holocaust, persecution, wandering Jew-homeless with nowhere to go, that there was a sense of longing for our homeland. But today thank God after thousands of years we have returned to Eretz Yisrael. We have an independent Jewish State, although not perfect. But when was it ever perfect? Yes, we have some anti-Semitism, some missiles flying here and there, the fear of a nuclear Iran looming, but in the far recesses of our day to day lives. Over-all we are home with the freedom to learn, study and serve Hashem. Sure it would be nice to have a Bais HaMikdash our Temple restored, but somehow I think that urgency of being redeemed from the dire “Egypt-like” slavery and persecution days seem to be behind us.

There is a story told of Rab Yehoshuah Leib Diskin, the Rav of Brisk, who settled in Eretz Yisrael in the early 20th century after fleeing the terrible situation in Europe. As he was celebrating the first Seder in Eretz Yisrael and began to sing the traditional Seder refrain and conclusion of “L’Shana Ha’Ba B’Yerushalayim- Next Year in Jerusalem” he was asked by his son what his father’s intent was in this song.
In years past we longed for Jerusalem, but now we are here, why are you asking for next year to be in Jerusalem? His father answered “Son, yes we are here this year, but as you know the situation is dire, people are starving and we suffer daily threats. We ask Hashem that next year we should merit remaining here and being here as well.” But that was then. Today I don’t think anyone thinks that Israel is not here and ours for keeps. In fact I noted to someone that I believe we are living in an era that for the first time in thousands of years of Aliyah to Israel, Jews are moving to Israel for financial reasons. There is a great sense of opportunity and entrepreneurship over here. It requires a lot less to live. Minimal tuitions for schools, subsidized health insurance and more affordable and secure real estate (at least in the North), so what redemption are we really missing?

One last question, after all it is the holiday of questions. We have four cups of wine and a fifth for Eliyahu that we are told represent the five terminologies of redemption mentioned in the Torah in regards to our Exodus. V’Hotzaisi- I will take you out, V’Hitzalti- I will save you, V’Goalti- I will redeem you, V’Lokachti- I will take  you, V’Haveisi- I will bring you  (to the land). What would be lacking without that middle one of redemption? Let’s say Hashem would have taken us out, saved us from the Egyptians, taken us as his nation (through giving us the Torah) and brought us to Israel. What would we have been missing? Mah Chaseir? What is that third cup really about?

It is fascinating when we examine the verses and ritual of the Korban Pesach/ the Phascal lamb. Right before the final plague of the death of the First Borns, Hashem gives us this commandment to take a lamb- or a goat, roast it-without water, dip its blood and put it over the doorposts-Pehsach (with the letter Taf) and eat it together as group. In return Hashem will be Pascah (skip-Rashi or have mercy-targum) over us. This seems to be the prelude to us becoming the first-born of God. Rabbi David Fohrman, one of my favorite contemporary Torah scholars and biblical commentators, notes that it is fascinating to note the similarities between the Korban Pesach offering and many of terms and storyline that led to us coming down to Egypt in the first place. For if we trace back our history to the narrative of the sale of Yosef. Yosef was elevated to the level of the first born by his father Yackov- symbolized by the  coat of colors-Ketonet Pasim ( note the Peh Samach of Pesach connection) . After being sent by his father to check on the sheep they are jealous of him and throw him in a pit- without water, Yehudah, the leader from the children of Leah then says “what gain will we have by killing him and covering up his blood”(similar terminology by pesach lamb of covering the Nefesh), they then remove his coat dip it in the blood of a goat and sit down to eat together. It’s also interesting to note that the word utilized by the Phascal lamb is that the blood should be taken from the threshold- Saf, which is the same letters as Pas- Yosef’s coat of colors and also the letters of his name.

What to make of all these connections? What the Torah is suggesting perhaps, is that the means for the Jewish people to achieve redemption and become the first-born of Hashem is to rectify the sins and scars that remain of the past-when they unjustly tried to take the birthright. The Torah repeatedly cautions us as we leave Egypt to be careful in how we treat our slaves. Having been slaves ourselves and been persecuted, we are the most prone to pass that same abuse on to someone else, in the same way that someone who has been abused in some form can become the abuser. One cannot just “move on” without dealing with the trauma of the past in a constructive meaningful way. There are many holocaust survivors who tried to forget and never talked about the trauma they had been through, yet those scars keep showing up. They never went away.

Geula/redemption is the process which Hashem promised to take us out. Yackov, who tried to take the birthright from his brother (also through goats-and our sages say on Pesach night), and his children as well wanted the birthright for the right reasons. To serve Hashem. To bring his Name to the world. Yet the energy they invested was negative. The only way we could become the true representatives of Hashem is by doing it the right way. We have to revisit that earlier murky past.  Relive the blood, the sheep, the goats, the coats, the no-water, the sitting together and eating and channel it into the true earning of rightful role. Only then can we become the first-borns. Only then can Hashem be Pas-ach on us (using that same word of the symbol of the birthright the Ketonet Pas-im. When we take that blood from the Saf-the blood of Yosef and redeem it.

Which brings us to our Seder today. Yes, we have Eretz Yisrael, we have our freedom. We have the ability to learn and grow close to Hashem and bring his Name to the world. But yet, something is missing in what seems to be this almost perfect world. What is missing is us. Why are we not waking up each morning with a special closeness to Hashem? Why are we not running around dedicating ourselves to building a country that would only serve to make His name great; To create a home for him that he would gladly and speedily return to? The answer is because we are still lacking Geula/ redemption. 2000 years of exile has made us cold and stagnant. We have been freed, we are no longer being persecuted and that seems to be enough for most of us…most of the time. We have V’Hotzaisi, V’Hitzalti, V’lokachti V’Havaisi. But we are still lacking the V’Goalti. We are missing that inner sense of redemption that makes sense of the past and that allows us to rectify it and appreciate and move to our new roles. We still need to be redeemed.

The truth is there is one time a year when I know I feel that sense. When I believe we are meant to feel that inspiration. It is Pesach night by our Seder. Usually it around the time of the third cup; the cup of Geula. We have read through the majority of our Haggadah. We asked our questions, we re-experienced slavery, we tasted our Matzah, our Maror, our festive meal and we tasted what it must have felt to be fully redeemed. As we say our grace after the meal and thank Hashem for the Eretz Hatova and we pray for the return of Jerusalem, for the sending of Eliyahu Ha’Navi, we are now ready to lift up our third cup and make a blessing of redemption. We know what it feels like. We want it back. We want it now. Its time for us to not just come home but to be inspired and capable of being that home. Not just once a year… but every day… all the time. Home with You. Your first-borns. May each of us merit this year and this Seder to taste that redemption and may we celebrate together redeemed in Yerushalayim Ha’Bnuya.

Have an inspired Pesach,
Chag Samayach
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

This weeks insights and Inspiration E-Mail is sponsored by Deborah Cole of Kirkland Washington  in appreciation of the weekly inspiration and in honor of the olim that have moved to the North of Israel!
Thank you!

Free stuff- There is nothing cooler than free stuff. If it’s free its cool. If it usually costs money and now it is free..it is even cooler the following is a list of places sponsored by Bank Ha’Polaim in honor of Pesach that is free for the holiday for Yom Tov Tiyuling pleasure
List of Sites with Free Entrance:
• Ben-Gurion’s hut, Sde Boker
• Treasures in the Wall Museum, Acre
• Wilfred Israel Museum, Hazorea
• Eco-Kinneret laboratory boat
• The Aqueduct, East Talpiot, Jerusalem
• The Archeological Experience, Emek Tsurim, Mt. of Olives
• Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, Haifa
• Haifa City Museum
• Derech Ha’etz park, Shadmot Dvora
• Old Yishuv Court Museum, Jerusalem
• Museum of Water and Security, Nir Am
• Rishon Lezion Museum
• Mane Katz Museum, Haifa
• International Stone in the Galilee Symposium
• Deer Forest, Moshav Odem, Golan Heights
• Ein Harod Museum
• Parobot, robotic dairy, Kfar Yehezkel
• Dan Sewage Reclamation Center – eco-art exhibition
• Massuah Holocaust Museum
• Corinne Maman Museum, Ashdod
• Ashdod Museum of Art, Monart Center
• Hai Negev, Revivim
• Israeli Museum at Yitzhak Rabin Center
• Reuven Rubin House, Tel Aviv
• Gan Guru, Nir David - Sakhne
• Haifa Zoo
• Botanical Gardens, Jerusalem
• Armored Corps Memorial, Latrun
• Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem
• Joe Alon Bedouin Culture Museum, Negev
• First Aliyah Museum, Zichron Yaakov
• Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art
• Air Force Museum
• Haifa Museum for Israeli Art
• National Maritime Museum, Haifa
• Umm el-Fahm Art Museum
• Ghetto Fighters Museum, Lohamei Hagetaot
• Janco-Dada Museum, Ein Hod
• Nachum Gutman Museum, Tel Aviv
• Golan Antiquities Museum
• Katzrin Park
• Petah Tikva Art Museum
• Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan
• Tel Aviv Museum of Art
• Museum of Pioneer Settlement in the Valley, Yifat
and Katzrin Park

It is extremely difficult for a Jew to be converted to christianity, for how can he bring himself to believe in the divinity of - another Jew?
Heinrich Heine



and on a more serious note