Our view of the Galile

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Senior Moments-Ki Teitzei 2102

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

August 30th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 42 –12th of Elul 5772
Parshat Ki Tzeitzei

'Senior Moments"

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)

And finally
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
Good Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


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.


“There are three signs of old age. The first is your loss of memory. I forget the other two”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parent Things- Shoftim 2012

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

August 23rd  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 41 -5th of Elul 5772

Parshat Shoftim

Parent Things

The sun was too hot. It was too warm to play. So I sat in the house on that hot hot warm day

. Elka is five. Tully is two. Mom had left for the day. And today was Daddy’s day with Thing one and Thing two.
I thought this was a mistake. I should not be about. Children need a “real parent” when mother is out.
There was no Cat in the Hat. (the DVD was broke too). No fish in the pot. Just me and my darling Things one and two.
I call them that, you see, Because they take advantage of me. They knew I did not know the rules, without their mommy.
Shabbos cereal for breakfast-mommy always lets”. “She does not care- if we jump on the beds”.
“Toilet paper is a fun toy-see how it roll roll rolls” There is nothing wrong-with swinging from these stairwell poles.”
There they stood  in life jackets and with bicycle helmets on their heads. They were wearing their sisters makeup. When Mommy would come home I knew I would be dead.
“Let’s learn a little Torah” said the Father in a hat. I knew that wouldn’t work. Maybe a story from the Parsha...something before they went splat.
So I gave them a little melatonin, a healthy little tranquilizer (that mommy sometimes uses). And I sat down to my computer... as my adorable little things start their early morning snoozes.

And how has your day been, dear readers? Is there anything more then cute angelic (makeup-covered) faces of a five and two year old sleeping among streams of toilet paper with bicycle helmets snuggling next to each other? I hope their mother feels the same way. Or at least learns that it pays to take the little ‘uns along with her next time.

So I open up my Chumash to this week’s portion, Shoftim, which contains in it many of the basic laws of creating a society in Israel. The laws of judges and pursuing justice, the laws of kings, prophets, Cohanim (priests) and Levi’im, cities of refuge, war exemptions and responsibilities and finally the strange law of Egla Arufa- the decapitation of a young calf who never had a yoke put upon him by the elders of the city upon finding a murdered body near their city, with the statement that our hand has not spilled this blood. Snuck in between all of these exciting laws, is a short verse that you might miss if you blink but also a very important pieces of advice or more accurately a prohibition.

“There shall not be found amongst you one who passes their son or daughter through fire... (followed by a list of various magic practices, future tellers and practitioners of the “dark arts”)....This is an abomination to Hashem all who do these things and because of these abominations Hashem is giving you their land to inherit from them. Be Tamim (complete, pure, blemish-less, faithful.) with Hashem your God.”

Now I have only babysat (or parented- as my wife likes to tell me) for one day and I admit I have had certain not-good thoughts during this long exhausting morning. But fire? I think that’s getting a little carried away. Maybe they didn’t have melatonin back then. But this is definitely a strange commandment. Even more strange is that from the verse it seems that this is our merit and right to inherit the land of Israel. Two more quick points so that we could put the puzzle together, what is the connection between the prohibition of sacrificing your child in fire and the practice of magic or future-telling and why does this mitzvah conclude with the commandment to be pure before Hashem?

The great 13th century work on Jewish mitzvos, the Sefer HaChinuch, notes that the Talmud derives from a different verse that the strange qualification that this prohibition only applies when one sacrifices some of his children and not all of them. With this he explains the prohibition and gives us an insight into the idolatrous practice known as Molech. He suggests that the practice was that one would sacrifice one of their children in exchange for a promise from the priests of Molech that the rest of his surviving children or child would live long and have great wealth and blessing. It is for this reason that the prohibition is connected to trying to know or even “beat” the future. This explains as well why the commandment concludes with mitzvah to be faithful and complete with God.  For it is in parenting that we need the most faith.

There is no other area perhaps that causes greater concern or consternation for Jewish parents. Oy...what will be with my children? Will they be successful? Will they ever grow up and take responsibility? When will they start watching out for themselves and being more careful? Imagine if there was a secret pill that you could take that would guarantee your childrens success. Imagine if everybody in the society that you were assimilating in all did something that at first and maybe even second glance and thought didn’t seem right, but “everyone is doing it” and “it’s the only way your child will make it in this world”. Don’t you want your child to have the greatest opportunity that he or she could have? Are you really going to deprive him or her from that opportunity.  So it might come at the “burning” expense of some of the other children but at least the chosen, special child will make it...

Have faith in Hashem, the Torah tells us. Don’t compromise His values, the Torah’s values, our values because of society's promises of success. We only inherit the land because our nation is different in this regard. We will succeed because we can set the tone for what is right. We don’t have to sacrifice our children for ideals that may harm their souls. We are not allowed to put one child's future above anothers as necessary as it may seem. We must do as much as we can for each of our kids, and Hashem our Father and third partner in our children’s creation will do his part as well.
We have entered the month of Elul, the month when we begin to examine our deeds from the past year as we approach our High Holidays. It is a time when we are meant to get close to our Father. It is a time as well when we should pause and reflect as our children go back to schools and summer vacation is over of how important they are to us. What type of parents we need to be and what sacrifices we shouldn’t be making to raise them into the types of people that deserve to inherit the land and that will bring them closer to Hashem. They are our most precious gifts. The angel faces we see when they are sleeping could and should be there all the time. Should be cherished all the time...just as our Father cherishes ours...

I hear them stirring now. Perfect timing. I think we’ll go out to the park. Time to do some parenting.

Have a spectacularly wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Gai Ben Hinnom/Gehenum?- According to the Talmud one of the openings to Gehenam the Telmudic term for Hell is to be found in Jerusalem. This Valley sat runs South and West of the old city outside of Mt. Zion and the foothills of Mishkenot Sha’ananim and Cinematech of Jerusalem (hmmm..) known in the prophets as the Valley (Gai) of Ben Hinom could very likely be the place. It is in this valley, that actually is beautiful with all types of foliage and flowers during the season, where the Book of Melachim tells us Jews worshipped the Molech King Achaz and Menashe his son as well according to Tanach sacrificed their children to the fire worship over here as the customs of the earlier Canaanite tribes. As one walks down from the Zion gate to the valley, passing the the cable car that carried supplies and munitions to the old city clandestinely at night during the 1948-1967 years of Jordanian occupation (:))) of our old city, one can appreciate that this valley was no-mans land and the border between Jordan and Israel during those years. In the valley itself one can find graves (in caves as was the custom then) from the 1st and second temple in the area as well as more recent Karaite grave site and the first Crusader cemetery remains in Jerusalem.
Today the valley is certainly a fascinating nice hike through a valley of some of the worst parts of our history. Yet as one looks up at the Old City walls and the return to Eretz Yisrael it serves as an inspiration of how fine and close the line between the service of Hashem and the atrocities of Hell can be if we are not careful.


“Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry.”- Bill Cosby
(eg- Shaneeeeee, Yonaaaaaah, Rivkaaaaaah, Elkaaaaaah Tullyyyyyyy)

Understanding Children with Reb Bill...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Man who Changed the World-Re'eh 2012

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

August 9th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 39 –29th of Av 5772

Parshat Re’eh

The Man who Changed the World

I never try to start my E-Mail with a Dvar Torah. You have to capture your reader’s attention with a story, a personal anecdote or best yet a joke. I know that, because that’s how I get drawn in. There are a lot of people that try the other Dvar Torah first approach. I delete them. Maybe you do too. We need a teaser in life; something to suck us in and entice to read that Torah or do that mitzvah. A free lunch, good AC, maybe a bagel and donut breakfast class will always be better attended than the dry hardcore Torah class. The chulent Kiddush shul and minyan will generally get better membership and attendance. We’re human. Hashem gave us a natural desire for some personal pleasure to accompany our natural desire to fulfill His will and to grow spiritually. It’s healthy. It’s fun and it works so go with the flow.

This week though I’ll start with a little Torah idea that flows throughout this Parsha. (unless of course you count the above as the grabber intro- see  I got you J-didn’t have the guts to start too dry). The portion begins with Moshe presenting to the Jewish people “See I have given you today the blessing and the curse.” The blessing is to heed the mitzvos that Hashem has commanded and the curse is not listening and leaving the path Hashem has commanded. Simple instructions. The portion continues and delineates that the function of the Jewish people is to live in Israel and create a society where Hashem permeates every area of our existence. The commandments to destroy alternate forms of worship to foreign false gods and to destroy all the corrupting influences that take us away from our mission, the obligation to tithe to the temple, to the spiritual leaders from the tribe of levi, the laws of kosher, the sabbatical year, the obligation to give charity and assist the needy in the forms of loans, helping ones slave become independent and finally the laws of the pilgrimage holidays Pessach Shavuot and Sukkot. The unifying idea behind all of these diverse commandments is to recognize that in every area of life be it the way we live, the food we eat the money we earn and the seasons of the year that we traverse- Hashem’s name and our mission must be taken into account and be furthered. We weren’t meant to lead ordinary lives. We weren’t meant to live in ordinary countries. Our meals aren’t just meals, and the money that we earn is not for us to hoard and put away in some 401k. All that we have and are given is bring the blessing of Hashem to this world.

This past week Jewry lost one of its greatest leaders that exemplified this concept and lifestyle. Mr. Ze’ev Wolfson was on one hand the simplest of men. When one saw him you couldn’t imagine that you were standing in front of one of the wealthiest people in the world. He would invite you in personally offer you a drink and share with you his inspiration and aspirations to making a more godly world. On the other hand he was one of the greatest men. He was tireless and demanding in his drive to accomplish his mission and the jewish peoples mission. It is certain that the 10’s of millions of dollars that he gave annually and hundreds of millions over his lifetime to jewish causes particularly as he took the lead in spearheading the battle against assimilation, Jewish apathy, and the spiritual holocaust that has distanced so much of our family from our Father in heaven and the blessing of the lifestyle gifted to us transformed the world that we live in. There is no outreach organization, or community Kollel that did not benefit and in many cases survive and flourish because of his support. Yet, unlike many philanthropists that see their contributions as ways of building their own name or in some way just getting people of of their case by making token “alimony checks” to Judaism, Zev was a partner in all of the work we were doing. Regular reports that were thoroughly read as detailed as any business plans were submitted so he could be appraised of the furthering of Hashems mission. “How many people started keeping Shabbos? Kosher? Went off to Yeshiva to learn and grow as Jews, were regular questions we had to answer. We weren’t just building organizations of outreach. We were part of a larger project to bring all of Hashems children back to Him. Zev set the tone for outreach in the world. He could have sat back, retired and basked in his wealth but till his last days he was in his office greeting, planning and inspiring a world in the mission of our people.

I share with you some thoughts from my colleague Rabbi Tzvi Holland of the Phoenix Kollel upon hearing of the loss of our teacher.
One of the measures we use in Kollelim to determine who and what a prospective Kollel Rabbi is about is asking him who his Rebbi is. Most have a few. A number of years ago while interviewing a particularly feisty young man, I was asked "Rabbi Holland, Who is your Rebbi?" As I answered I realized that my answer was not complete. Who taught me how to ask a direct real.practical question? Who influenced my methods of determining what I accomplish? After a while I realized that in addition to the Roshei Yeshiva, Rabbonim, and Rabbeim I merited to be close with, there was another powerful influence that I never really considered.
That most unique philanthropist of the Yeshiva world, the tireless, fearless legendary Mr. Zev Wolfson ZT"L.
Mr. Wolfson taught me what it means to care. When you care you never lose focus of your goal. He was only interested in results. Doing for Klal Yisroel. He could not bear   to waste the two most precious commodities in the world time and money. He never forgot to measure success in real terms, "how many Rabbis do you have?" " How many shomrei shabbos?" "How much money did you raise?"
He hated honor and attention with an unmatched passion. His simple lifestyle was far below his means. I remember how he and his wife Tlct"a Mrs. Nechama Wolfson, once welcomed my wife and I to their home, not only with warmth and grace but as equals, colleagues in the commitment of community service for Klal Yisroel. Imagine a billionaire and his wife, just off a plane from Eretz Yisroel, after an hour or two, playing host to a young couple from Phoenix with energy,  concern and great interest. We felt that they were as enthused about our work as we were.
His love and concern for Klal Yisroel knew no bounds. He was always looking for a new idea. He showed me tremendous concern and interest even as a wet-behind the ears Rosh Kollel yet to celebrate his 30th  birthday. This from a man who cut his "community responsibility teeth" with Rav Aaron Kotler ZT"L (the founder of Lakewood Yeshiva and the builder of Torah Jewery in America!
I will never forget the  words he said to me the first time I met him. "Who are you?" He asked. When I told him he said, " Rabbi Holland, your name goes before for you from one end of the world to the other!" He had vision that transcended the limitations most people believe exist in the world. He had no question of the value of a person  that not only could he say and act with the confidence of “the world was created on my behalf” for himself, but he saw it in others and he actualized what he saw by giving hundreds of millions of dollars to Rabbonim.and Askonim for his beloved Klal Yisroel.
I once participated in a solicitation in his house with a large group of Roshei Kollel. In a matter of seconds we asked for millions of dollars ....and got it...Zev then.spent a day and a half, figuring out how the projects would be successful, not just writing a check and going back to business.
Zev knew the value of good people. He wasn't interested in buildings, he was interested in manpower for klal yisroel. He once said to me "there are not enough boots on the ground", I  told him I could find them, he said then I will pay. It was that simple.
Zev knew what responsibility was and he was a shining example of what a person could accomplish if they lived a life with that mission and sense of responsibility.
He took responsibility for outreach, he took responsibility for protecting the interests of Eretz Yisroel. He took responsibility for the needy and indigent. He never wanted anything back.
That is truly amazing.”
For the many of us we need that teaser, the candy, the joke the bagel to get us to do the greatest mitzvos and to be motivated to fulfill our Divine mandate. For Mr. Zev Wolfson the blessing and the good was in merely being part of the greatest mission that Hashem has given us.
May his light continue to shine through the world and the merits of the millions touched by his generosity, inspiration and vision continue to grow as we continue to fulfill his dream of experiencing the blessing Hashem has given us. Tehi Zichro Boruch.
Have a beautiful Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


The Great Synagogue- THE REAL SITE OF THE SIYUM HASHAS  LAST WEEK-I know I told you last week that heichal Shlomo was the site I hope you dint get lost but he real site was the building that replaced Hechal Shlomo as the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem in 1982. The synagogue which was donated by Sir Isaac Wolfson ( I don’t know of any relationship to Zev mentioned above) of England seats 1400 people and is the center of prayer in Israel for all official services. The beautiful stained glass windows with symbols of Israel the glorious Ark and the incredible acoustics all make the prayer experience truly royal each Rosh Chodesh - like this past Shabbos one can hear the great choir of the synagogue lead an incredible cantorial service truly inspiring and hearkening back to the services of the greatest congregations in the alteh heim!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Foodies-Eikev 2012

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

August 9th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 38 –20th of Av 5772

Parshat Eikev

Volume V, Issue 40– August 6th 2009
Parshat Eikev
This E-Mail is written for Foodies. Jewish foodies that is, although that is probably a redundancy. For those not familiar with the term, Wikipedia tells us that Foodies differ from gourmets in that gourmets are epicures of refined taste who may or may not be professionals in the food industry, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news. Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food. For this reason, foodies are sometimes viewed as obsessively interested in all things culinary. As I said before- Jews.

We are certainly a food oriented culture. Shabbat chulent, Kugel, Chicken soup. Holiday Blintzes, Good Jewish Kosher deli. That’s my type of foodie I guess. When we had moved to the Pacific NorthWest though, my wife has developed into another type of Foodie- Organic, Free Range, Whole Wheat, Hormone, Chemical and Pesticide free and of course environmentally conscious. This has certainly not been one of the most gratifying evolutions of our marriage relationship, particularly not for someone like myself who seems not be able to get enough High Fructose Corn Syrup and Mono-Sodium Glutomate (or now referred to as POISON in our home). But hey I’m a flexible type of guy and at least she stills give me my Shabbos chulent which can me going all week long!

But the truth is, to be a true Foodie as Wiki tells us, you have to know everything there is to know about food. Because Food, as good Foodies know, is about more than just filling up our digestive tracts and putting a good satiated smile on our face. Food can be art. Food can be passion. It has environmental impact, social ramifications and it can even be sinful (see Garden of Eden story where the first sin of mankind was about Food). It seems though that God also seems to be somewhat of a foodie. For the Torah proscribes so many different Mitzvot around food perhaps more than any other area of life. There are of course Kosher Laws, than the intermingling of foods. There are specific holiday foods like Matzah and weekly Kiddush on wine. And there are days of fasting and feasting. It’s almost impossible to be an observant Jew and not be a foodie. It seems Hashem wanted us to take our eating seriously.

This week the Torah portion tells us about our first experience with food as a nation and what why Hashem chose to create our nation with a special relationship with its food.
And He fed you the Manna that you did not know nor did your forefathers know in order to make you know-Ki Lo al Halechem Yichyeh Ha- Adam- that (The) man does not live by bread alone. Ki al Kol Motza Pi Hashem Yichyeh Ha-Adam- rather by all that comes forth from the mouth of God (The) man shall live.

The great founder of the Chasidic movement the Baal Shem Tov shares a fantastic and deep thought about this verse. What he suggests is that there is deep mystical tradition that in every food that we eat there is a hidden spark of holiness that longs to be elevated and connected with our soul. When we eat we are not only meant to nurture our body but our souls as well. He notes that after Adam sinned of Adam in the perfect world of Eden and was banished as a result of eating that which was forbidden for him, the sparks of Adam’s own holiness attached itself to food throughout the world. For forty years in the wilderness Hashem fed us food- the Manna of a purely spiritual nature, to teach us this lesson that our connection with food is meant to be not merely physical but to elevate the spark Ha’Adam- the spark of Adam Ha’Rishon- the first Man in each of us. This happens, Hashem tells us, when we put forth from our mouths the name of Hashem. When we make a blessing and recognize that all that we have has been delicately put on our plate from the Master and Creator of the universe; our loving Father in Heaven. Through that we elevate our souls as well as nurturing our body.

So all you Jewish foodies out there, I hope I have given you some food for thought (I couldn’t resist that one sorry). The next time you go shopping and look at that incredible variety of Kosher food we are so blessed to have. The next time you carefully go through your organic fruit bins in your supermarket selecting the best for your plate. And the next time you check the nutritional values on the back of the box of that nosh you are picking up (while my wife is not looking of course). Take a moment and thing about the holiness of what you will soon put in your mouth. Pause before chowing down and think how much love your Father in Heaven has put into it to give your soul something special to connect with. Make a Bracha. If you don’t know the proper ones give me a buzz, invite me for a mealJ. And enjoy that delicious dish with the knowledge that your soul is loving it too.

Have an perfect Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Heichal Shlomo- SITE OF THE SIYUM HASHAS THIE EVENING-THIS former home of the chief rabbinate of Israel and central Beit Din of Jerusalem was built in 1958 after thirty years of calls by Jewish leaders dating back to 1923 Rav Avraham Kook who announced the need for one uniting synagogue in Jerusalem. It contains the greatr central Torah library of Israel with 10’s of thousands of works from the holocaust. The synagougue that ws built primarily for the offices of the Rabbinate has beautiful stained glass windows with different mitzvoth on each one of them and the gorgeous ark which was brought from Padua Italy and built in 1728 when the Ramchal composed songs and a work called Chanukat Ha’Aron in honor of the occasion. Once can visit the Wolfson museum of Art in Hechal Shlomo including many other important offices such as The International Young Israel Movement offices!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Double Comfort- Va'Eschanan Nachamu

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

August 3rd  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 37 –15th of Av 5772

Parshat Va’eschanan/Nachamu

Double Comfort

Was it only just a week ago that we were sitting on the floor and crying over the destruction of our heart and soul, the Bais HaMikdash-our temple, not yet rebuilt? After a full week of summer vacation- touring, kayaking, hiking throughout our beautiful country, it seems like moons ago. For those that were fortunate enough to be part of the hundreds of thousands that participating in the grand Siyum Ha’Shas the completion of the 7 ½ year cycle of the daily study of a folio of Talmud I’m sure Tisha’a B’av feels long gone. (for those of you who weren’t lucky enough to participate in one yet make sure to come this Thursday evening to Heichal Shlomo for the Young Israel English Siyum in Jerusalem, see below for details,- a brief shameless plug by our sponsors and now back to your regular E-Mail programming J). Have we moved on already? Have we forgotten about the reality that we were hoping for that still hasn’t come?

This Shabbos is known as Shabbat Nachamu, the first of the 7 weeks of comfort in which we read a selection of the prophets each Shabbos for the Haftorah that offer words of consolation to the Jewish people over our loss. It’s our Shiva- so to speak; the time when Hashem, who understands our souls and the tragedy we endured on Tisha B’Av much deeper than we do, tells us that we need to be comforted. How sad is it when someone comes to pay a grieving mourner a Shiva call and he finds out that the mourner is out on the beach. Yet, to be fair to us summer vacation frolickers (and of course not to take business away from those faithful tour guides- www.ourholylandtours.com   check it out J- shameless plug number 2- it’s Olympic season when commercials are at a premium give me a breakJ J) and for those of you that might be feeling guilty, we are not meant to be mourning now either. The mourning is over. It ended the day after the fast. So on one hand there is Shiva on the other hand we are not mourning. What is the season all about? Are we meant to move on, or are we meant to still be reflecting and receiving consolation?

The answer I believe can be found in the strange repetition of the opening words of this week’s Haftora- Nachamu Nachamu Ami- Console, console my people- Says Hashem. The Maharsha, the classic 17th century Talmudic commentary, notes that in many places when our sages comfort they repeat the phrase twice-“Kol Hanechamot B’Lashon Kaful-all consolations are expressed in a language repitively” The classic case he refers to is the famous story of Rabbi Akiva and the sages who when upon seeing foxes run through the temple ruins had different reactions. The sages burst out wailing and Rabbi Akiva began to laugh. Perplexed they turned to him and he explained that just as they were mourning as they see the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah ”foxes in the ruins”  in that destruction, he sees in that a sign that the prophecy of its eventual rebuilding and the return to the temple  will be assured as well. The rabbis then respond “You have comforted us Akiva, You have comforted us, Akiva”.

Rabbi Akiva laughed. He saw the ruins, the burnt remains of the Temple that he used to pray at and where the offerings and the Divine presence were centered around for so long. He saw the destruction and the later failed return of Bar Kochva, and he laughed. For Rabbi Akiva understood what consolation and mourning were all about. Rabbi Akiva understood that in the ruins of the temple lie the beginning of the rebuilding. Our mourning is our consolation. Our connection of Tish’a B’Av gives us the strength and direction to move forward.

When one sits Shiva, it because he is beset with a sudden tragedy; the loss of a close relative. The process of shiva and the mourning for thirty days and the whole year that follows is one that helps a person adjust to the new reality of life without that individual. He needs time to absorb the loss and heal. When it comes to the Temple, the opposite takes place. We build up our mourning from the three weeks before. We work towards that day when we fully appreciate the gravity of our lives without the Temple…without the nearness of Hashem. Once that is over though, like Rabbi Akiva we can be doubly consoled. We must focus on the laugh, on the knowledge of redemption still to come. We are consoled doubly. Once by the fact that we know that our souls were still alive enough to feel that pain-our mourning was successful, and secondly that we know that if we were capable of still crying…still feeling that pain…still experiencing the longing to come home…than Hashem must feel that too. And He will come back and we will be united once again.

The consolation Isaiah tells us is Nachamu Nachamu Ami- Be comforted be comforted- my nation. You are still my nation. I haven’t left you. Be comforted for our loss. Be consoled in the knowledge that I have never left you. There maybe foxes jumping and dancing and building foreign places of worship on our once Holy Home that we shared together. But know that we will be together once again.

The next seven weeks until Rosh Hashana when we start fresh again are that time of comfort... When we appreciate and are strengthened and fortified by our shared destiny together that we know is soon on its way. The singing and dancing of the Jewish peoples renewed dedication this week to once again begin the study of the Talmud is the greatest testament to our power of laughter and the consolation Hashem has given us until that day. The tours we take together as a family and as a people, the serenity we try to achieve in the seven weeks before the High Holidays are part of the holiest work a Jew can do. We don’t move on and forget the past. Rather we take our work and our struggles and our pain and recognize that they themselves are the secret of our endurance. The key to our redemption…. So if you’re looking for a good tour guide this summer ….

Have a fantastically amazing Shabbos!!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Metula- It’s summer time and as all good jews know you go to the north- no, I don’t mean the catskills (I know that there are jews outside fo new York that go other places- but New Yorkers don’t know that J)
Anyways in Israel the furthest North you can go is to the tip of Israel-or what is reffered to as the nail of the finger of the Galile the quaint little village of Metula. The city of Metula one of Israel’s early settlements was purchased from Lebanese Druze arabs from Baron Rothchilds foundation in 1893. A few years later 59 families moved there to work in the barons fields. After WWI Metula which is actually surrounded by the north, East and west by Lebanon was placed under French rule unlike most of Israel/Palestine which was under the British mandate. In fact from 1920-1924 the jews of Metula voted in the Lebanese parliament elections. Prior and during the independence war metula served as a transit base for the smuggling in of many “illegal” Jewish refugees under the pretense of “fake” weddings many were snuck to the center of the country after the celebrations.
The city was hit very hard during the Lebanese wars and even evacuated however today Metula is a great tourist site with its Canada Center Ice Skating Rink that hosts Israels hockey league (the Rangers, Islanders and Red Wings have nothing to worry about) as well as beautiful views and pleasant walks through the old Yishuv area.


THE WHOLE PROGRAM- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzZtjj0ICe0
(if you don’t have time to watch the who thing click on 11:00 minutes to see dancing.
32 minutes for cantorial piece memorial
41 minutes for shema together-)

NACHAMU AMI- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWWuYadWME0