Our view of the Galile

Friday, September 7, 2012

Timely Message- Ki Savo- 2012

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

September 7th  2012 -Volume 2, Issue 43 –19th of Elul 5772
Parshat Ki Savo

Timely Message

Nobody likes to hear Pesach or Haggadah Dvar Torahs after Pesach. People pretty much overload on them during the Seder. The little kids with all their questions from Gan or school. The yeshiva Bochrim with their boxes of notebooks full of Drashos that their Rebbe has been packing them up with so that we feel we are getting something out of our High School Yeshiva education. Frankly I’d be a little happier with some more help cleaning out the car of Chametz and checking the maror and other errands then lengthy Dvar Torahs but that’s just me. But by the time Pesach is over I am certainly not interested in any more Dvar Torahs about the Seder. I’m not interested in Matzah Brei or Matzah lasagna either. Same thing with Chanukah. I don’t want Latkas (or jelly doughnuts) after Chanukah or Hamantash after Purim. I love them on their respective holidays. But the second the day is over. I’m done. The exception being chulent after Shabbos. But that’s because we have a special relationship. Years of Yeshiva food trained me to appreciate chulent until even Monday. And I haven’t lost it yet.

Now where am I going with all this? Well when one opens this week’s Torah portion and pays attention to the reading one all of sudden might hear the familiar sound of the Haggada reading as the Torah recites the confession of one who brings his Bikurim/ first fruit offerings (on Shavuot incidentally another holiday that is long gone).

And you shall call out and say before the Lord, your God, "An Aramean [sought to] destroy my forefather, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there with a small number of people, and there, he became a great, mighty, and numerous nation.   6. And the Egyptians treated us cruelly and afflicted us, and they imposed hard labor upon us. So we cried out to the Lord, God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.   8. And the Lord brought us out from Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awe, and with signs and wonders.   9. And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

The question of course is why are we reading this now. Pesach or Shavuot makes sense but this is Rosh Hashana season. Now if you then turn to me and say listen Rabbi it just happens to fall out this way in our annual cycle. The Talmud however tells us that even in times when there would be a tri-annual cycle they would pause and read the Torah reading of Parshat Ki Tavo the week before Rosh Hashana in order to read the blessings and curses at the end of the portion before the end of the year. This seemingly misplaced reading of the Arami- being Lavan of course, who tried to kill our forefather Jacob and the eventual Egyptian exile and redemption, however was also included. So there must be a message in ti for us as well. And I don’t think it is to think about the Matzah Brei.

There is an interesting Rashi that notes that the word in Hebrew destroys when it mentions the Arami is actually not necessarily literal (thus the above brackets {sought to} are our own). Meaning that Lavan in fact was unsuccessful in destroying us, proof being- we are here reading this E-mail today. Rather Rashi says that he tried to kill Yackov and de-facto his children however Hashem thwarted his plan. Yet Hashem considers the thoughts of evil-doers as if they had actually committed the acts. In a similar vein the Talmud tells us that righteous who try to do acts but are unsuccessful- for example one gives charity to someone who is a fraud, one places on tefillin that may not be kosher, one tries to make it to Minyan or read an entire Torah email but somehow doesn’t make it through. As long as one puts in all his best effort Hashem considers it as if he fulfilled the Mitzvah.

Rabbi Yochanan Zweig notes that the reason for this Divine rule is that when an evil person like Lavan is committed to doing something destroy us there is virtually nothing within take nature that can stop him. (One can certainly that same lesson today with our enemies who are constantly shooting missiles and attacking us throughout the years with overwhelming odds and yet…). The reason they are not successful is because of extra Divine intervention. Thus it is considered as if they have accomplished their goals. It is for that reason that we thank Hashem as if they had destroyed us and He saved us.

Perhaps even more inspirational is that the opposite is true as well. When a Jew sets his mind to do a mitzvah, a good deed, an act of Godliness, there is no natural physical force that would prevent him from accomplishing his goal. It’s a rule of nature in as much as gravity is. The only reason why we would not be successful is because there is some type of Divine plan and intervention that prevents us from actually carrying it out. Hashem does not make us lose out as a result of that. We are rewarded as if we actually accomplishe what we set out to do.

Which then brings us from Pesach when we first experienced the attempt to destroy our people, and Shavuot when we bring our first fruits to Hashem saying that we have actually done all you have asked of us. Meaning you have blessed us with the opportunity to actually fulfill the mitzvah to its culmination. To the holiday of Rosh Hashana when we add in this extra Torah reading as we examine our actions of the previous year and pray for a renewed better one this coming year. One of the greatest challenges as we approach this special day is the feeling of un-worthiness many of us have. If you were God would you invest in you for the coming year to serve Him, to emulate His ways, to be his “face-man” for the rest of the world? We look at all of the things that we had meant to accomplish this past year, so many of the resolutions we might have made to improve and here we are at the same place again. From where do we get the chutzpah to ask for another chance of after all our failures?

The answer I believe lies in this mitzvah of Bikkurim. Hashem does not judge us as much on our action rather on our sincere, realistic and meaningful decisions to accomplish. All it takes is for us to resolve to be better and make our best efforts to make amends of the ways of our past and it is as if we have actually done so. We are renewed. We are fixed. We are considered as if we have changed; For Hashem considers the act of the righteous as if they have done them. The caveat is merely that we actually have to mean it, believe it and understand that it is our nature to be close to Him. All of our mistakes are against our nature. They are, because we don’t believe that we have it in our power to achieve the greatest of heights that we know Hashem has created us to achieve.  As we enter this last week of the year it is our chance to end off the year with this life changing perspective. Hashem doesn’t expect us to become entirely different over night. He just wants us to know that it is in our nature to become great and the failures that we experienced in the past are not necessarily all our fault and certainly do not change our inherent potential to become His special children. To make our Father proud.

Have a magnificent Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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Israel Supreme Court- As we approach the day of judgement it might be worthwhile to take a short visit of the truly inspiring building of the Israel Supreme court. Located right near the Knesset in Jerusalem the building stands out with all kinds of architectural symbolism of the Jewish perspective of Justice. The building which was opened in 1992 on the hundred birthday of James Rothchild (donated by the Rothchild foundation) has no regular entrance way rather it is designed like a street thouroughfare in order to give a sense that the court is not for the elite but for all who wish to be heard. In fact as opposed to United States Supreme Court which hears less then a hundred cases a year that they handpick in Israel the Supreme Court hears over 10,000 cases and serves as the court of appeals as well with 15 judges total and generally three justices presiding over a case.
The building has one main wall that is designed like the Kotel that flows through the building connecting it’s relationship to the Sanhedrin that once sat on the Temple mount. There is a pyramid dome in the center hall that can also be seen to symbolize the mountain of Sinai which hashem held over the Jewish people when we received the Torah .The building itself is full of geometric designs of circles  (Ma’agalei Tzedek/ circles of justice) and straight lines and squares (Chukim Yesharim/ Laws that are straight). The court is open for anyone to visit and one can see the museum there as well that discusses many of the courts famous (and infamous decisions).



Moishe was heading out of the Synagogue one day, and as always Rabbi
Mendel was standing at the door, shaking hands as the congregation departed.
The rabbi grabbed Moishe by the hand, pulled him aside and whispered
these words at him: "You need to join the Army of God!"
Moishe replied: "I am already in the Army of God, Rabbi."
The rabbi questioned:

"How come I don't see you except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?"
Moishe whispered back: " I'm in the secret service........."

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