Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
August 23rd 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 41 -5th of Elul 5772
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
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.
RABBI SCHWARTZES PARENTING QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“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)
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Understanding Children with Reb Bill...