Our view of the Galile

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Universe's Guide for the Hitchhiker- Chukas 2012

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

June 29th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 34 –9th of Tamuz 5772

Parshat Chukas

The Universe’s Guide for the Hitchiker

It is one of my favorite parts about living in Israel. As I pull over to pick up the hitchhiker on the side of the road, I remember my good old days when I was a student here in Israel, traveling the country with a few shekels in my pocket and waiting to see where the next kind ride would take me to. In America one would have to be a little crazy to stop on the side of the road to pick someone up. We were rightfully scared by our parents and all those horror stories of “picking up the wrong people”. But here in Israel hitchhiking is a way of life. It’s an opportunity to meet someone new, perform a chesed/kindness for your fellow brother or sister and for Rabbis like me- to get a good story and possible sermon out of the deal.

So Chaim a middle-aged bearded Sephardic gentleman dressed in his suit and hat hopped in my car and asked where I was going. Rule 1 of hitchhiking- get in the car first- it’s air conditioned-after that you can figure out where you need to go and how the driver will get you close enough for your next hitch. When I told my passenger Chaim I was going to the Giv’at Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem his face lit up.

“Wow, is Hashem good! He listens to our prayers, He is truly always there! Just a minute ago I asked him for a ride to Giv’at Shaul and sure enough you pull right up!”

Little did I know that my husbandly errand to deliver some clothes to Beitar was a Divine plan to give Chaim a lift to Giv’at Shaul. But hey, that’s the way things work here in Israel. Now I’ve been happy to get lifts before, but Chaim’s response definitely took it up another league. He immediately pulled out his trusty pocket Tehillim (Psalms) and began to sing praises to the Master Divine traffic controller who provides rides to all those who ask Him. I’m not sure exactly what psalms he said that conveyed that message but I knew that Hashem was smiling.

In this week’s Torah portion we read the story and song of the Jewish people in honor of the miraculous well that provided them with water during their 40 year sojourn in the wilderness. It is a short song but nevertheless rich with vivid and poetic imagery:

 “Thus sang Israel …Come up, O well, call out to it! The well that ministers dug, nobles hewed . . . from the wilderness a gift. And from a gift to the valley and from the valley to the heights . . . as it is seen over the surface of the Yeshimon”.

The Shemen Ha’tov, (as does Rashi) note that this song as opposed to the song at the splitting of the sea omits the name of Moshe. Whereas by the sea, the Jews were in their national infancy and still required the guidance and inspiration of Moshe to direct them to focus their songs of praise on the Almighty who had performed the great miracles of the Exodus from Egypt, 40 years later the Jewish people had arrived. The song was their own. The Abarbanel re-enforces this point and suggests that the water they had received in the past came as a result of complaints and fear. Now for the first time the Jewish people received the miracle of this well and the water it produced without any of the previous prerequisite kvetching. The well according to the Medrash went down into the caves and showed the miracles of the salvation they had achieved and water flowed in rivers throughout the camp. Unsolicited love. The unexpected gift. The hitchhike they didn’t even know was already on the way to them.

Living in Israel one has the opportunity to be more in touch with these little “small” “miracles”. It’s interesting; we do not find the Jewish people singing songs of praise for the miraculous Manna they ate that fell from the sky each morning. They do not compose a song in honor of the fantastic clouds of glory that accompanied them paved the roads, protected them and even provided incredible climate control and dry cleaning service, according to the Medrash. The song they sang was about the simplest and most basic of human needs- water, a cold drink on a hot day. Perhaps that is the most essential kind of song to sing. Chaim, my passenger taught me that it wasn’t me who was giving him a ride (although he thanked me profusely when I dropped him off) in the same way that the Jewish people noted that it was not Moshe that was performing the miracles for them. It was the well from Hashem and it was for them. We are all hitchhikers in this incredible universe Hashem manages for us. We just need to open the door, hop in and thank him as he takes us where we need to go.

Have an absolutely perfect Shabbos

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


A man stood on the side of the road hitchhiking on a very dark night in the middle of a storm. The night was rolling and no cars passed. The storm was so strong, he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him. Suddenly he saw a car come towards him and stop.

The guy, without thinking about it, got in the car and closed the door to realize that nobody was behind the wheel. The car started slowly forward.

The guy looked at the road and saw a curve coming his way. Scared, he started praying, and begged for his life. He hadn't come out of shock, when just before he hit the curve, a hand appeared through the window and moved the wheel. The guy, paralyzed in terror, watched how the hand appeared every time before a curve.

The guy gathered strength, got out of the car and ran to the nearest town. Wet and in shock, he ran into a bar and asked for two shots of tequila, and started telling everybody about the horrible experience he went through.

A silence enveloped everybody when they realized the guy was crying and wasn't drunk.

About half an hour later, two guys walked into the same bar, and one said to the other, "Look Pete, that's the idiot who climbed into the car while we were pushing it."


Biriya- in the heart of the second largest forest in Israel right outside of the city of tzefat lies this small little hilltop and fortress that in the 1940’s captured the heart and soul of our soon to be fledgling nation. The yishuv of Birya mentioned as the home of various tana’aim in the Talmud and also the place where Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote his first volume of Shulcah Aruch- the code of Jewish law on Orach Chaim was abandoned in the 17th century until the jews started to return here with the assistance of Baron Rothschild and P’IKA(Palestine Jewish Colonization Association) who purchased the land in the 1890’s and was first settled unsuccessfully in the 1920’s. In 1945 with the British limiting Jewish purchase of land in Israel and emigration, the Jews fought back by occupying hilltops and establishing Jewish settlements. Birya, being one them, was occupied by 24 young men from the Palmach as a training camp for young recruits. However the British after finding an illegal arms cache expelled the Jews from the settlement. This being the first time the British had thrown Jews out of a settlement raised uproar amongst the Jews. And on the 11th of Adar a few days later (taanis Esther that year) thousands of Jews who pretended to be going to their annual pilgrimage to Tel Chai detoured to Birya and reestablished the camp. The next day after many of the groups had left. The British once again came with tanks and threw the Jews out. But the Jews would not be stopped and that Friday evening  and Shabbos  the Jews returned for the third time from Rosh Pinna and Tzefat- even getting permission to bring food  on Shabbos as the Rav of Tzefat felt that it was a dangerous area that protected the city from the arabs around them. And the British finally caved and allowed 20 men to remain and work the ground. Jews celebrated that Purim throughout the country. Until today each year Purim of Birya is celebrated as youth groups from around the country relive that great moment when it was clear that the Jews were willing to do whatever it takes to never give up the land. Today one can visit the beautiful forest see the short film of the history of Birya in the visitor center and explore the old homes of this early Yishuv.

1 comment:

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