Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 14th 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 44 –26th of Elul 5772
To all of my beloved readers I would like to share with you the opportunity before the High Holidays to share in the merit of supporting our programs and projects. These weekly Insights are part of our larger project of supporting our congreagation that brings Jews from all backgrounds together, encourages and assists new Olim in moving to Israel as well as spreading Torah and love of Jews and Eretz Yisrael to the world. It is a great merit to have in your hand as you approach Hashem these Holy Days and your support can help us firther our programs. Please click on the link on our blog for our High Holiday Young Israel campaign. Online PayPal or credit card contributions can be made in memory of a loved one, and in honor of Simcha or a mere appreciation for your weekly E-Mail J)
or if you would like you can send a charitable donation to the International Young Israel Movement and send it to
Ephraim Schwartz 25441 Gardner
Oak Park Michigan 48237
Or in Israel to
Karmiel, Israel 21681
Thanks so much for your support!
Nitzavim/ Rosh Hashana
A Father's Gift
He was so far from yiddeshkeit. So very far. Anatoly was raised in Odessa in a completely secular environment. No Shabbos, no Kosher, no Chanukah Menorah, he never even knew about the High Holidays or Rosh Hashanah until last year. He had come to America, made a life for himself, built a family, but Judaism was never something that interested him. It was a new world, the faith of his ancestors was exactly that; something his Old Russian grandparents had practiced and gotten persecuted for. Even if there was a G-d, Anatoly thought he certainly was never going to find anything to connect him with Him. That was until he went to Israel for the first time to visit some relatives he had there.
Somehow everything seemed to change for him over there on that trip. He felt stirrings somewhere deep inside that he couldn’t identify. He felt that he had been there before. He saw Jews of all hats and backgrounds and he felt an allegiance towards them. He spoke with some Rabbis he had met there and they had opened up a world to him. It was a foreign world, a world that he wasn’t sure he would ever have anything to do with. But something spoke to him, a voice he couldn’t seem to shake.
On his way back home to Los Angeles he had arranged to have a flight that would layover in Odessa , his old childhood home. He walked around his old neighborhood and as Jewish fate always seems to have it, he bumped in to an old man who recognized him. As he shared with the old man his experience in Israel the old man told him about how difficult it had been to be Jewish in Russia growing up. He then handed Anatoly the gift that would change his life forever. One who’s lesson has certainly inspired mine.
It was an old worn out Rosh Hashanah Machzor-prayer book. Its pages were old and brittle but seemingly very typical. Yet as he flipped through the pages something caught his eyes. He noted that by one of the prayers the words were crossed out. In the famous prayer Avinu Malkeinu- Our Father Our King- recited throughout the High Holiday season the word Malkeinu-Our King was crossed out and replaced with the word Czar. Then the word Czar was crossed out too, and replaced with the name Stalin; which was also crossed out as well. Seemingly the owner of this Machzor fearing for their lives from the Czarist or Communist Governments had changed the text. Tears began to rush down his face as he considered the conditions that this Machzor owner must have lived under, and what he would've given to be able to live with the freedom that Anatoly now possessed. He was shaken to his core that this Machzor had some how made its way into his hand. He kissed the precious book and made a New Years resolution. The Malkeinu- would know longer be erased, he Anatoly would make God his King and find out about his tradition. This is the first part of the story.
This week's Torah portion the one always read before Rosh Hashanah contains in it the Eternal promise of the Jewish people. After reiterating the blessings and curses that will come in response to our observance of the commandments, Hashem says
"When all these things come upon you and your heart will return to you amongst all the nations of which Hashem your God has dispersed you; and you will return to Hashem your God and listen to His voice … If your dispersed will be at the edges of the heaven from there Hashem, your God will gather you in and will take you."
Reb Zalman Sorotzkin notes that Hashem is not speaking here about merely the physical ingathering of Exiles that is a principle of Jewish faith; for if so it should say "from the edges of the earth". Rather it is talking about the spiritual in-gathering that will happen. Those who have been pushed away from any piece of heaven. Our brothers… our sisters… ourselves who sometimes feel we have fallen so far we could never get back. We too Hashem will bring us back. But why does He do this. Haven't we abandoned Him? The answer lays in part II of Anatoly's story.
After Odessa , Anatoly went back to L.A. a changed man. He found himself a Synagogue, began to study and developed a relationship with a special Rabbi he had met. One day he worked up the courage and showed him his precious Machzor. When the Rabbi saw the Machzor he pointed out to Anatoly an even more incredible lesson. He told Anatoly to note that the word Malkeinu was crossed out, but the first word Avinu- Our Father, never was. There are times throughout history when Jews have felt they had pressures, forces, and threats that were too overwhelming; they crossed out the Malkeinu in their books. They came to new worlds where different gods ruled in their minds. But they never could replace Avinu- our loving caring Father in heaven.
We approach Rosh Hashanah this week. Many of us have not necessarily lived this year as our King would've wanted us too. We question if there's a place for us back home. Who are we to come to Shul, blow a Shofar proclaiming Hashem as our King and hope to be judged for a good year? The answer is that he is also Avinu- our Father. He is our Father who has promised us that no matter how far to edges of heaven we have floundered we can come back home. He will bring us back Home. We just have to open our Machzors, open our hearts, and take our rightful places at our ancestral heritage and heavenly palace. He'll take care of all the rest. Fathers are like that sometimes. Hashem is like that always.
Have an inspirational last Shabbos of the and may we all be written in the Book of Life and all that is good this coming year.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
The Young Israel of Karmiel J- my personal favorite shul in Israel. The shul founded a year and half ago is the first of the new project Kehillot Ha’Galil of the International Young Israel Movement, as we begin to develop a synagoguge movement in Israel that views the Shul as the community center for classes, programs, socials and a place to join together with your community. The Young Israel movement as well is looking to bridge the differences between our somewhat divided people bringing together Chareidi Jew, Religious Zionists, Ashkenaz, Sefard, Olim, Anglos, Native Sabras and Secular Jews who are all part of our community in a non-judgemental warm and welcoming environment where we can grow together in our service to Hashem, the love of Jews and an appreciation of Eretz Yisrael. In the Young Israel of Karmiel we delight in our warm carlbach style Friday night services our weekly chulent Kiddush and our growing Olim population as well as the many secular Jews who have felt comfortable to join us for their simchas and services. We also love our Rabbi J although he does have a tendency to speak a little to long. So if you’re looking for a place for the High Holidays come join us and be part of this special exciting Shul!
RABBI SCHWARTZES FAVORITE ROSH HASHANA PRAYER SONG OF THE WEEK
(and he looks nothing like me!)
RABBI SCHWARTZES JOKE OF THE WEEK
It was Rosh Hashanah evening. In the old Jewish neighborhood, everyone was heading to services. And on his way to synagogue, the Rabbi notices one of his neighbors - an old timer - sitting on a park bench.
"Sam. Aren't you going to services."?
"Not this year, Rabbi."
"Why not Sam? Don't you think you should ask G-d for another year of good health?"
"Rabbi. I'm ninety-three years old. Most of my friends are gone. And I have a hunch. I think that in heaven they've forgotten about me. And the last thing I want to do... is remind them!"