Our view of the Galile

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Trips Staff Stuff- Korach 2012

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

June 22nd 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 33 –2nd of Tamuz 5772

Parshat Korach
Summer Trips Staff Stuff

Summer is here. It is time once again to begin planning that ancient Israelite tradition that dates back to the moment we became a nation- The family summer trip. You see historically we received the Torah on Shavuot, hung around Sinai for a little over a month and then we began to plan our first summer trip into the wilderness of Sinai on the way to Israel. Like most Summer trips this one had its hitches. The kids complain about the food, angry natives that aren’t too accommodating or interested in the Jewish tourist business and we end up wandering around as the visit turns into a forty year journey. Of course no family trip is complete without all the delightful fights-“Why does he get to see it in front?” “She started it” I’m bored- this is not what you told us it would be like” “Are we there yet?” “When can we go back home again?!” Yes, this very significant Jewish ritual reminds us time and time again of why we are grateful that our children are in school all year round and why we are the people of the book rather than the people of vacations.

This week’s Torah portion shares with us the family fight that took place on our Sinai trip. Not exactly “why does he get to sit in the front?”- But close. Korach and his group of 250 men, we are told, team up against Moshe and Aharon the leaders of the Jewish people and demand equality and new leadership. “Who are you to rule over the Jewish people” “We are all holy”.  Korach wants to sit in the front. Yet unlike Rabbi Schwartz who just turns up the music a little louder in the car hoping to drown out the fighting in the background, Moshe implores them to recant. Ultimately when they refuse, he leaves it up to God to decide, as the earth opens up and swallows them alive. Ahhh… quiet at last.

Not so fast, the Torah, tells us though. Once again the people claim and complain accusing Moshe of being the one responsible for the death of poor Korach. Hashem by this time pretty fed up with this trip wants to terminate the whole thing now. This is not working. A familiar story that I’m sure many can relate to on these family trips. Which is why it’s always good to do them with both parents, so that when one has had enough the other can calm them down and make sure that the trip will continue until its very bitter end. In our family, my wife and I generally alternate that role. The trip must go on. In the Torah’s story Moshe and Aharon calm down Hashem (14,700 deaths by plague later) and the trip continues.

And now we come to the beautiful part of the story. For once and for all Hashem decides to show the nation, who seemingly with all that has taken place still needs convincing- although they are by now probably sitting very quietly in the backseat J, what this is really all about. He commands the head of each tribe to bring a staff and to place it in the Tabernacle and the one whose staff flourishes the next morning will know that they are chosen by Hashem to serve as the Priest for the Jewish people. The next morning as they arise, “Walla”(as we say in Israel), Aharon’s staff sprouts flowers, buds and almonds and the deal is closed. The Jewish people recognizing their mistake (finally!!), fear retribution once again. Yet Hashem reassures them that Aharon and his children are forever charged with protecting the sanctity of the Tabernacle and that the Jewish people will be protected in their merit as long as they continue to respect their authority.

The Rav of Brisk notes that it is fascinating that the Torah points out that at the end of the story each member of the tribe took home their staffs. It would seem that this was definitely not something that we would want to remember. The trip that went really sour, thousands dead, all the fighting and the final blow that no one besides Aharon can lead; their bad lottery tickets that didn’t win the prize-so to speak. Yet he notes that it was this that they took home with them, because they wanted to remember the incident. They needed to remember it, because to a certain extent it was a sign of their desire for greatness to be close and serve Hashem as priests. To a larger extent it was also a sign that Hashem ultimately did not throw them out of the car-although they certainly deserved it, rather He took the time to show and explain to them that Aharon was meant to flourish and lead while their staffs were meant to continue to journey and grow.

Rabbi Yisrael Reisman suggests that in these stories lies an incredible insight into the proper way to guide our children. Maimonides notes that the Jewish people never believed or were inspired or convinced by the miracles that were performed for them and certainly not by the punishments. Sometimes what it takes to convince the Jewish people is the beautiful wonder of Hashem. The flowers, blossoms and almonds and the time to invite them into the Tabernacle to bring their staffs and their desires for greatness, had a much more impactful conclusion then the deaths plague, fire and splitting of the earth. This method worked so well that the nation even took those staffs home with them, feeling and seeing the value and specialness of the lesson.

As the summer begins, our trips begin. Our children and our families will have souvenirs and memories of these special moments that we will share together. I always found amusing and ironic that the Schwartz family souvenir of choice of the many places we went was always a shot class-perhaps because we all needed a stiff drink remembering all of the adventures that we endured on these trips together. Yet with the right frame of mind our trips can be ones that will bring our families closer, that will be learning and growing opportunities and will most important of all give us an appreciation of the staffs that each of us hold and carry as we continue to march forward in the service of Hashem. We just need to focus ourselves on the flowers and the blossoms and the miracles of the potential we all have.

Have a totally awesome Shabbos

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. ~Susan Heller


TEL DAN- Located at the lush northern part of the Galile the border of what was once Syria the Tel Dan Archeological site is officially Rabbi Schwartzes favorite spot in Israel. Although with the history of the place it was not necessarily the holiest of places for our nation. The story of Tel Dan begins with the story of the tribe of Dan that was not successful inheriting their portion in Israel on the coast who come up here (after a brief stop to steal the idol of Micha) and conquer the ancient city of Laish making it their own. They are drawn hereby the beauty, water and serenity that until today you can experience as you wander through the flora, Gan Eden streams and ancient walls and city of the biblical tribe. Here also one can see that ancient temple and altar where the Temple of Yeravam and his descendants the kings of the divided kingdom of Israel lived throughout the period of the first Temple. Most exciting as well in the Tel Dan site is the discovery of the Gate to the Canaani city from the times of Avraham- who the Torah tells us chased the kings who captured his nephew Lot to here ( the oldest archway ever found in Israel). In the distance one can see the Moutain named after the Bris Bein HaBesarim which took place afterwards and the fortress of “Nimrod” across the hill. Delightful all year round cold water pools and springs to dip in, Jewish history and even modern history as the in 1964 this was the site of the battle over water with the Syrians. Tel Dan has it all and its right here in the North close to me!

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