Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 12th 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 35 –22nd of Tamuz 5772
I don’t know if the guys at Google are thinking about me when they create their different applications for their E-mails. It sure feels that way sometimes. The Grammar check, the spell check, thesaurus, folders, search, are all tools I regularly use. Although as you, my faithful reader, know better than anyone how many mistakes I still manage to get in. It takes talent y’know. But that’s why they pay me the big bucks.
Recently I heard about another application that was coming out and it definitely sounded like it was made with yours truly in mind. It’s an undo sent E-Mail function. You know those E-Mails that you should have never sent. The people that asked you ridiculous questions and you couldn't help but think of a cynical response, The Letters to the Editor you had to write but should never have sent, The knee-jerk joke you forwarded and then said “Oh my gosh I didn’t mean to send it to him (or her)”, or even the weekly E-mail that was perhaps a little too insensitive or not-so-politically correct. Well now your problem is solved with the undo Email function. You can yank that E-mail right back and safely store it in a nice, cozy, should-never- have-been-sent folder, where it can live in cyber eternity as a testimony to mankind of your personal and private inner communication that needed to be said but not heard. If only God created us with that function on our mouths and words as well…
Being a Rabbi in the ancient tradition of Rabbis, more often than not learning to use your power of speech properly is one of the greatest challenges a Rabbi has to surpass at. A few wrong words to the wrong people at the wrong time have lost many a Rabbi their pulpit and more importantly the respect of their congregants or students. At the same time, being silent and turning a blind eye to matters that one is obligated to speak out about can also wreak havoc ultimately on ones community, a Rabbi’s conscience and obligation and responsibility to G-d to care for his flocks spirituality. You certainly can’t please everyone all of the time… certainly not Jewish congregants. But as one of the Rabbis of the last generation told his student in some sage advice before he took his first pulpit. A Rabbi that all of his congregants likes him, what kind of Rabbi are you? But a Rabbi that none of his congregation likes him what kind of person are you? Thank God I’m blessed with a wonderful congregation here in the Karmiel. They never hired me and so I can get away perhaps with a little more camaraderie or less political corrected-ness than at a “real” paying job. Yet still it is certainly one of the most challenging things I find in my life is to be able to say the right words to the right people at the right time and not God forbid the opposite.
A lesson I saw this week in our weekly portion subtly brings that lesson to life in of course the Torah’s usually subtle way. But if you are a Rabbi for as long as Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin (my father-in-laws grandfather) was, and as gifted an orator as he, then it jumps right out at you. The Parsha tells us about the reaction of the first of all Jewish Rabbis and the role model for us all; Moshe Rabeinu-Our Rabbi and leader for 40 years in the wilderness. The Jewish Peoples last battle before entering the Land of Israel, and Moshe’s last commandment and mission from God before he was meant to die, is to wage war and take vengeance on Midian. Midian was the nation that sent their daughters out to seduce the Jewish people in last weeks Torah portion (see the E-mail that was never sentJ) and only through the intervention of Pinchas was the wrath of Hashem in the form of a plague that killed 24,000 Jews halted. So the Jews are meant to wage war against Midian, and they smite them in a mighty battle that kills 5 different Midianite kings and their armies (with nary a loss on the Jewish side). But they make one big mistake. As they come back into the camp, Moshe looks out at this victorious army and what does he see? None other than the women of the Midian, which the Jews had brought back with them as prisoners. Uh Oh… bad idea…don’t you get it guys??! This is the whole reason why we went to war in the first place, to get rid of the problem of you hanging out with their women. Not good. One can imagine Moshe’s inner E-mail he was composing. Actually all we can do is imagine it, for as Rav Sorotzkin points out Moshe never sent it.
The Torah tells us what happened and one subtle phrase gives an enlightening and inspiring change in how to read the story.
And Moshe was angry with the commanders of the army the officers….And Moshe said to them “Did you let every female live? Behold- it was they who caused the children of Israel .. to commit a betrayal against Hashem.”
Until this year I read this verse in what they call in cyber-speak “CAPS”. DID YOU LET EVERY FEMALE LIVE?!!?. But Rav Sorotzkin points out that this is not the case. The Torah goes out of its way to say “Moshe was angry” and then it repeats the phrase by pausing and saying “And Moshe said to them”, rather than saying the more concise and grammatically correct phrase “And Moshe was angry and said to them.”. This is to teach us that Moshe didn’t respond in CAPS. He paused. He put the five second Google retrieve inner E-Mail button into play. He kept his emotions and anger in check and responded in a calm voice to them. In a way that they could hear, without the inner angst. In a way that every Rabbi and individual should aspire to achieve.
We are entering the month of Av as our mourning builds leading up to Tisha B’Av the day of the destruction of our Temples and we focus on the Divine causes that led to their being taken away from us. One of the reasons are sages tell us was because some of the Rabbis of that time didn’t rebuke properly (Google the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza if you’re interested). Another reason given is because some Rabbis were too harsh and stringent with the law and rebuke. Each of us is meant to serve as role models to others. We all have values we know are important and we all know someone who could use some inspiration and guidance to be shown the proper track of personal spiritual growth. We are a nation of Leaders and Rabbis to the world (like it or not) and we have to deal with that role responsibly. Let us learn from Moshe how to fulfill that role. Never answer or rebuke from a point of anger and take a deep breath and remember the Google 5 second rule. But then contemplate, pray and respond, when and if it is appropriate. We are all responsible for one another and we can’t be silent when words must be spoken. Hopefully if we feel and act that way to one another we will merit to having that house of Peace once again restored.
Have a Shabbos that brings you and your family peace,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Har Hamenuchos- O.K. a cemetery is not necessarily a cool place but it is the three weeks so give me a break. Actually the Har Hamenuchos cemetery the largest active cemetery in Israel today, (although Har Hazeisim is larger in size but not as active), is certainly a place where many can go and experience and learn about the many great and even controversial figures that are buried there. Established in 1951 while the Jordanians had control of the old city of Jerusalem and Mt. of Olives cemetery was not a friendly place for live Jewish people to go to The cemetery became the central cemetery for Jews in Jerusalem and even from around the world to be buried in.
Many of israel’s early zionst figures are buried there including the 2nd president of Israel Yitzchak Ben Tzvi, the composer of Hatikva, Naftali Hertz Imber and the mayor of Jerusalem Gershon Agron. Some of the leaders of the early enlightenment movement Martin Buber and Peretz Smolentzkin are buried there as well. Rabbi Meir Kahane- the right wing leader of the Kach movement as well as the great spiritual singer Rabbo Shlomo Carlbach are also “resting” there
But certainly what attracts the most people to Har Hamenuchos cemetery are the great religious spiritual leaders that are buried there where jews from around the world come to pray by their gravesides imploring Hashem in the merit of the righteous to grant their requests for life, children, health, marriage and peace.
The earliest grave is that of the Chida the great 18th century Kabbalist and Halachist for the Sefardic community who although born in Jerusalem died in Italy where he served as Rabbi but was moved here in 1960. In addition to many of the Rabbis of Israel that are buried here Rav Moshe Shapiro the Rav of Lublin and founder of The Daf Yomi movement (see below for information on the culmination every 7 ½ years of the page a day study of Talmud in a few weeks) who died in lodz before the holocaust and although the Nazis destroyed the cemetery there, his grave was left intact and was reinterred here as well.
Rav Moshe Feinstien- the great American Halachist, Reb Shlomo Zalman Aurabach, the Rebbe of Belz, and most recently and tragically Reb Noson Tzvi Finkel head of the the Mirrer Yeshiva and this past week Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashuv the leader of the Hareidi Jewry in Israel. Rav Elayshuvs funeral which according to most estimates had over 300,000 attendees was the largest funeral to take place at Har Hamenuchos. Not a cool place but a place where one can literally see the spectrum of Klal Yisrael as they rest together awaiting the ultimate resurrection.
RABBI SCHWARTZES COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
Reb Elyashuv tribute in English- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB9oBu8jVNo
Reb Elyashuv tribute in Hebrew- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpjB2oCJArM
Reb Elyashuv tribute Chief Rabbi of Israel- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJXsTRUPQ0c
Reb Elyahivs funeral- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYfpDnTgZWo