Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
August 30th 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 42 –12th of Elul 5772
Parshat Ki Tzeitzei
It has finally happened. I can no longer fool myself. I'm not 17 anymore. I’ve gotten too many comments this past week from my children, wife and friends (that’s what they call themselves) about my slightly spreading change of color of my beard. My first white hair made its appearance quite boldly (and definitely premature) on my beard not that long ago and it seems to feel it is a nice breeding place. At least hair is growing…right? Now if it could only go a little further north on my head.
My father has white hairs. He is old. He worries about stuff like salt in his food and too much red meat. My doctor said something to me about cholesterol intake but you know doctors they're just trying to be safe. Right? But these little (kinda cute) white fellows that place themselves on the lower part of my chin, now they’re definitely trying to tell me something. Maybe I'm not 17 anymore.
The truth is getting older in Judaism is actually viewed to be a good thing. The word for an Elder in Hebrew the Talmud tells us, Zaken, is in fact an acronym of the phrase Zeh shekonoh Chochmah He who has acquired wisdom. Well I can deal with that. I definitely think I've gotten somewhat smarter since 17. O.K. Mom, you can stop smiling now. So what is it that I think most people fear of "old age"? Well there is definitely the sense of facing mortality and the hard reality that one may not have "all the time in the world" to accomplish all that we may have fantasized about being able to do. But perhaps even more than that, although we should all live and be healthy, is the fear of the infirmities of old age. To me that is most represented by forgetfulness and what they jokingly refer to as "senior moments".
Now I will confess that the idea of having a convenient excuse when anniversaries and birthdays come around does sound somewhat appealing. Although I still don't think it would get me off the hook with my immediate family. Yet having witnessed personally the horrible deterioration of the memory of my loved grandparents as they aged and began forgetting more and more their loved ones and those important special parts of their lives that fuels the continued drive for existence, the thought of approaching an age of forgetfulness of any capacity is certainly a very sobering one.
Interestingly enough, this weeks Torah portion shares with us some perspectives on remembering and even on forgetting.
Remember what Hashem your God, did to Miriam when you were leaving Egypt . (Duet24:9)
(For those of you who forgot, Miriam was punished for speaking Lashon harah- gossip about her brother Moshe insinuating that he was behaving 'Holier than thou" when he separated from his wife in order to receive prophesy from God. She was punished with leprosy and was healed when Moshe prayed for her.)
Do not pervert the judgment of a convert or orphan, and you shall not take the garment of a widow as a pledge. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and Hashem your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this thing.
When you reap your Harvest in your field, and you forget a bundle in the field, you shall not turn back to take it; it shall be for the convert, the orphan and the widow, so that Hashem your God will bless you in all your handiwork. When you beat your olive tree, do not remove all the splendor behind you; it shall be for the convert, the orphan and the widow. When you harvest your vineyard you shall not glean behind you; it shall be left for the… (see above). You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt , therefore I command you to do this thing. (Duet. 24:17)
Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you were leaving Egypt that he happened upon you on the way, and he struck those of you who were hind most, all the wek in you rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear God. It shall be when Hashem your God gives you rest from all your enemies all around in the land that Hashem gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven- you shall not forget!(Duet. 25:17)
Yep, definitely a lot of remembering and forgetting is going on this week. On one hand the Torah seems to mandate that should always be careful of remembering the eternal lessons that our nation learned in the school of "hard knocks" (to put it mildly) of Egypt . We can't forget the travails, attacks and even the consequences of the personal misdemeanors of our leaders during our forty year desert journey. Yet at the same time the Torah even creates a Mitzvah out of forgetting. In fact the only way one can fulfill the Mitzvah of Shikcha- forgetting ones sheaves and leaving them for the poor is if one unintentionally forgets them.
I believe what the Torah is sharing with us is that perhaps one of our greatest gifts and mandates are our national memory and our dedication to remembering who we truly are. To be a Jew is to never forget our roots, being persecuted as slaves unable to serve our Creator and perhaps even more significantly unable to develop and create the society of kindness and caring on Torah values that is the essence of Creation. It also entails recognizing that all our actions from that time onward, yes even the simple conversations between brothers and sisters, are meant to be held to a higher standard and the desecration of those gifts we possess will impact us and bear consequences. Perhaps the one thing that is unfortunately most difficult and essential for us to never forget is that there are enemies and "Amalek" that seek to destroy us and to confound that special mandate that is the Jewish role in the destiny of the world. We must never stop longing for that day when that Evil will be "blotted out from under the heaven".
At the same time though we are told that forgetfulness plays an important role as well in our identity of being a Jew. It is a Mitzvah for us to develop ourselves to the point that we are not identified by every one of those last little bundles that are left in the field and that we didn't pick up. It's not the car that we drive, the Nordstrom's sale bargains that we grabbed, the size of our house or the style of the clothing we wear that make us who we are. When our life becomes focused on those things that are truly important, meaningful and eternal then naturally the dollars that we leave behind become less defining of ourselves and we can begin to forget them and become less stressed of their import. Even eventually, being gladdened that they are helping out the less fortunate.
We are approaching the High Holiday season. The day of Rosh Hashanah is referred to in our liturgy as the Yom Hazikaron- the Day of Remembrance and these days as Yemei Zikaron- Days of remembrance. We are told that more so than any time of year this is the period we have the ability (and obligation) to tap into ourselves and reflect about the essential nature of who we are and our relationship as Jews between one another and our loving Father in Heaven. It’s a good time to find ourselves class, a synagogue and a community that can help us prepare for these days. For those that are here in Karmiel please join us for our upcoming classes, Shabbos services or women’s program. I can't promise I'll remember all your names….I am getting oldJ, but I guarantee that you will definitely have an unforgettable experience
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Taba Crossing Eilat- We are told to remember leaving Egypt. Well in Eilat our border with Egypt every Pesach the chief Rabbi of the city goes down to the border and sings the song of the Sea. The only jewish community to be able to do that in the world. Our border with Egypt is actually an open border and Israelis can even enter without a visa. The reason is because in 1948 this was on egypts side of the border in 1956 we took it abck until 1957 and in 1967 it was again in Egypts hand after the Yom Kippur war Egypt maintained it as well but in our peace agreements with Menachem Begin and Sadat it was the last thing to be settled because Israel realized that it was on our side of the Ottman border. And in 1988 it was finally ruled in Egyptian hands with the conditions that Israelis can enter with ease. Mnay due their duty free-shoppiing there and over a million cross each year. In the times of leaving Egypt before Mt. Sinai the 9th through 13th stop of the jews were all around this area. Technicahlly becoming the first part of modern day Israel we entered before we entered 40 years later by Yericho.
RABBI SCHWARTZES PARENTING QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“There are three signs of old age. The first is your loss of memory. I forget the other two”