Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 12th 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 35 -22nd of Tamuz 5772
In Between Protests
The cause was just. The crowds began to gather. It was time for the people to speak up and be heard. This was another blow to the democracy and freedom that their forefathers had given their lives for. Who does the government think they are? Have they forgotten that they were placed in office to represent the people? If we don't stand up know who knows what can be next? Chopped liver? Kishka? Dare I even think about Chulent? And with those highly motivated principles the Million Big Gulp March against Mayor Bloomberg's NY state Soda-ban on sales of 16oz or larger sodas in eating establishments began.
Queens city councilman and currently running for congress (god help us) Dan Halloran flanked by two aides dressed up like 157 oz Big Gulps declared that the ban challenged "the principles on which our country (your country) was founded". David Krakauer, a 16-year-old New York native who lives in Israel, said there's no such soda ban in Israel (my country:) ). "Every person has the right to decide how much soda he can drink - not the government". Now although David might be correct when it comes to Soda bans in this blessed country of ours, we still can't get a decent slurpee here. Perhaps even more frustrating, for some reason Israelis seem to feel that an extra large coffee is not larger then a small 4 oz cup (1/3 of which is full of bootz (mud/ coffee remains). A regular size here is like a shot glass! Now that is really something to protest about. But here in Israel we are a peaceful accepting country- that are averse to protests...umm...maybe not so much...OK we are the kings of protests and counter-protests and counter the counter-protests. So why can't I have my Thank heaven for 7-11 large coffee that I can nurse for an hour or two?
The many protests here make it easy to be a newsman in Israel. Since I have been here I don't believe a week has gone by that there is not another protest or rally. Chariedim in the army, Settlements in the Shomron, Pro-peace, the rights for homeless people to live in expensive houses in Tel Aviv, Ethiopians equal rights, alternate marriage, secular marriage, grave digging, internet usage, illegal immigrant rights, pro-Sabbath anti-Sabbath and all of this was just in the past month or two. News papers here never have a slow day. We are an opinionated people that do not like to keep our opinions to ourselves or even to our few hundred closest friends. We feel the need to tell the world about our issues and everything becomes a crisis. Welcome to God's chosen nation.
In our weekly Torah reading we have arrived at the end of the story of the Jewish people in the wilderness. The beginning of the book of Bamidbar fast forwarded two parshiyot ago to the last few months of their forty year journey as the Torah repeatedly tells us that they are camped in
"Arvot Moav Al Yarden Yericho-on the plains of Moav by the Jordan river across from Jericho." It is here when the Jewish people complain about the water after the death of Miriam and Moshe and Aharon are told that they cannot come into Israel because of their sin of hitting the rock. It is here when a snake plague strikes the Jewish people after complaining about the Manna, and it is here that the conclusion of last week's Parsha told us that the Jewish people began to sin with the daughters of Moav and the worship of their idolatry. In the wake of that last act of rebellion 24 thousand Jews die in a plague that was only stopped by Pinchas who spears the leader of the rebellion in front of Moshe and all of the nation.What is going on? Why all the unrest after all of the years in the wilderness, right at the brink of their long awaited return to their promised land?
It is interesting to note that this week's Torah portion, which also contains in it the counting of the people "B'ArVot Moav Al Yarden Yereicho", tells us about the command to Moshe to go up to the mountain of "Avarim" as he will not merit to go to the land of Israel. The word Avarim is very similar to the word of Arvot. Erev is evening a point between day and night or mixture, Arvot-plains are a place that is in between the mountains and the sea, and Avarim means transition- avar- to pass from place to place. The Jewish people are now standing at a moment of transition. One leg and one ideology of theirs is still in Moav, while the other is on the Jordan towards Yericho and the Holyland. Rav Kook notes that it is at the moments of transition in life that one is faced with lifes greatest challenges, the challenge to leave behind the comfortable and accustomed to world of the past and step forward into a different stage with a greater opportunity for growth and greatness.
For the past forty years in the wilderness the Jews, as they have historically have done, have acclimated and even prospered in their different environment, both in a religious and material way. Yet, the time was close when they had to move forward, into a new world. The challenges of creating a state, that island of God in the sea of paganism and idolatry around them terrified them. The idea that they would have to leave Moav and Egypt behind and leave the comfortable spirituality of Moshe Aharon and the miracles of the desert of the clouds of glory, Manna and well of Miriam was the struggle they faced on the banks of Yericho. It all came to a forefront these last few months. And it brought out the worst of them.
Rav Kook notes that similar challenges were taking place in his own time. He viewed the return to Israel in the early1900's as the final transition of our people home. Much of the fighting, the differing ideologies, the determination to build but at the same time to bring over ideals foreign to our holyland were the same struggles that happened the first time we came here over 3000 years ago. In his times the question was will Socialist Russia, European culture and Secular even anti-religious creeds be the seeds that are planted in the new Jewish state. In our days it is Capitalism, anything-goes media driven hedonism and even Big Gulps that many don't feel they can do without or leave behind on the "banks of Moav".
We are in the three week mourning period from the 17th of Tamuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, until the 9th of Av, when both Temples were destroyed, that is also known and referred to as a time of possible transition. In the words of our sages the period is called Bein Hametzarim- based on the verse in Lamentations Kol Rodfeha Hihiguha Bein Hametzarim - all her pursuers overtook her between the narrow straits. Why does this verse become the name of this period of time? Perhaps because it defines the challenge of the failure of the transition. We were stuck in the narrow middle. We couldn't move forward. The idolatry and the foreign ideals that we brought with us into the Holyland led to our destruction. Our inability to join together as a nation dedicated to one ideal of the service and glory of the Almighty, who has waited for so long for us to build His home...our home... is what is keeping us here.. The protests, confusion, self interests and the eternal inability for us to see the big picture of what could lie behind that next door if we allowed ourselves to open it is still haunting us as we are locked in these self-inflicted straits. Egypt, Moav, Babylonia, Greece, Spain, Europe, Russia and even the United States and Canada are not where were supposed to be. We're stuck between the straits and the our pursuers both physically and spiritually are still overtaking us. The final transition is still taking place and the fighting and protests are evidence that we know that we are close. May we soon merit to see that great day when we merit to finally and eternally cross over all the narrow borders that are holding us back.
Have a beautifulShabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
This week's Insights and Inspiration is dedicated in honor of the engagement of my Brother-in-law Chanochi Sorotzkin to Shulamit Deutch from Har Nof. Mazel Tov to my inlaws Rabbi Yosef and Chana Sorotzkin and to the Deutch family. May the young couple merit to build a Bayis Ne'aman Bi'Ysrael.
Please have the baby Ha'Tinok ben Aviva Michaela in your prayers for a refuah Shlaima/ a complete healing.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE HISTORIC YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE WEEK
RAV KOOK ON YOU TUBE AND RAV YOSEF CHAIM SONNENFELD
AND HIS BIO
AND HIS BIO
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
The house of Rav Kook/ Beis Dovid- In a small little neighborhood- if one would even call it that on the north side of Yaffo street next to Nachalat Shiva in Jerusalem lies the 4th Jewish settlement outside of the old city walls of Jerusalem since 1873. Named after Dovid Reiss the founder of the neighborhood which consisted of a walled gate with two story homes that surrounded and open courtyard, the Beis Dovid neighborhood became the center of most major issues and decisions that took place in the early formation days of the State of Israel in the 1920's because of its most prestigious resident Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha'Kohein Kook. Rav Kook who was a student of the great Volozhin Yeshiva and the son-in-law of the Rav of Ponovizh Rav Dovid Rabinowitz Teumim (AKA A"Deres) was given smich at age 20 from the Aruch Ha'Shulchan. He moved to Eretz Yisrael to become the Rav of Yaffo and then after WWI he was appointed Rav of Jerusalem where established the chief Rabbinate becoming the first Chief Rabbi of Israel (Palestine-back then).
Rav Kook was known as the Rabbi for everyone new immigrants, poverty stricken families from the old Yishuv, as well as secular Zionist and socialists all found an open door (that was built specifically outside of the walled gate so that he would always be reachable. He was known for his love of every Jew regardless of their religious observance and he saw and developed the ideology that the replanting and settling of Israel was the mitzvah that was a fulfillment of the ultimate redemption. Each year on Simchat Torah there are thousands that dance from the house of Rav Kook for 2nd Hakafot with Torah Scrolls. Today one can visit his home and see his modest dwelling in the museum that is there. The letters in his study, pictures with great Rabbis and early Zionist leader together with the fascinating movie of his life will give you a true sense of this most special and pivotal figure in early Eretz Yisrael history.