Our view of the Galile

Friday, October 26, 2012

Roots- Lech Lecha 5773/ 2012

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 26th 2012 -Volume 3, Issue 3 –11th of Cheshvan 5773

Parshat Lech Lecha
I've always been a nostalgic kind of guy. The "Alter Heim" world or the "old country" lifestyles of my ancestors have always fascinated me. When there's a movie, show or book that even mentions the world shtetl my imagination is captured and I begin to dream about what those times were like. The sense of community, the simpler lifestyle "needs" and most of all the significantly lowered materialistic expectation our zaydes and bubbys had when it came to what they wanted from their lives. If the Polish rabble didn't decide to have a pogrom, if the cows gave milk, the chickens laid eggs and they had a few extra peaceful minutes to peruse the ancient texts of our Torah or recite a few pages of psalms it was a good day.  It was a world without Madison Avenue yelling at us about what we have to have. And frankly I don't think that they suffered any more depression or anxiety then our generation that supposedly has it all. So I travel back there in my mind for a bit… and then I get back to my i-pod, as I edit on my computer, while my pizza's cooking in the microwave. So much for my nostalgia.
This week the Torah tells us about another seemingly nostalgic individual; none other than our forefather Avraham. Having left his father’s home to journey to the land of Israel at the behest of the Divine command, the Torah tells us that not everything is so rosy in the "Promised Land". In fact after his arrival there the Torah tells us there is a tremendous famine and Avraham destitute and probably pretty hungry takes his walking stick in his hand once more and heads down south to Egypt, a land that is not-so-promised, but with plenty of food. After a brief adventurous stay in Egypt that included the kidnapping of his wife by the King he returns to Israel fabulously wealthy. (It seems we Jews have it in our blood to turn the worst situations into an opportunity to receive the beneficence of Hashem and make a nice profit; God-willing soon by all of us J).
  So now he returns to Israel a wealthy man, the Medrash suggests one of the wealthiest men in the world, a regular Jewish Bill Gates. Yet the Torah tells us something fascinating about his journey home.
"And he went on his journey from the south to Beth- El to the place where he originally tented… "
Rashi commenting on this, quotes the Medrash that tells us that when Avraham returned he stayed in the same inns that that frequented on the way down. The Torah tells us this to teach us Derech Eretz- loosely translated as proper etiquette or proper ethical values-that a person should not change his lodgings.
Now I imagine that each of us could certainly understand the concept of customer loyalty as an important principle that would be taught in an Economics 101 or Marketing principles course. But is it a religious value as well? Particularly in Avraham's case it would seem to be almost bizarre for him to stay in the same type of accommodations. Think about it for a second. Going down to Egypt as a poor, impoverished, famine-refugee where do you think he stayed? Motel 6- Gaza would've been a pleasure. More likely then not he would've been lucky to stay in the Ai Yai Yai hostel. And now he returns, the Bill Gates of his time, where would you stay? The Eilat Hilton, Crown Plaza Sultan Suite. But not Avraham. Avraham goes back to his roots. To teach us Derech Eretz.
 And what is that lesson? Reb Shabsi Yudlevitch, the great Magid of Jerusalem suggests it was that we should never forget where we came from. Yes, we may be a lot better off financially then we were before. We may have received that promotion, hit it big on the market or just achieved some success in our latest endeavors. But does that mean we "need" to then upgrade our lifestyle as well. The old car drove just fine, the house managed to serve all our needs, we managed to survive with the old TV, computer or cell phone. Why do we need to listen to that call and find the "new you" and so quickly erase all of the past just because we made a few bucks or because our friends and the commercials tell us we should. Derech Eretz tells us to respect and appreciate those things of the past. They worked and were there for you. Don't forget your simple beginnings. Look back upon them fondly and you will become a much better person.
Yes, we are entering a new Era of "change" (once again???...). Perhaps the greatest change that we might all make is to take a deep introspective trip back down the memory lane to the "alter heim". We may be surprised and even learn a thing or two about the beauty of the simplicity of what life could be. And who knows?  It may even help us create a greater tomorrow.
Have magnificent Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
Tel Shilo- Located in the Shomron hills of the tribe Ephraim this site which according to some of the most important archeologists is one of the most identifiable sites in Israel. The city which was the first Jewish capital when our ancestors first came to Israel for 369 years is clearly identified as being north of Beit El (y’know where Avraham stayed see above J) and gives clear geographic identifiers. As well it has been called Kirbat Seiliun which is like Shilo for centuries of arab occupation (I like the way that sounds). In addition one can see the ancient Can’aani wall remains where many vessels possibly even ashes of sacrifices were uncovered as well as Byzantine and arab places of worship as this was the holy place for us where the Mishkan actually was until it was lost to the Philistines who destroyed the city as described by Yirmiyahu. In addition Shilo is the location where the Yehoshua divided the land to the tribes and where the great prophet Shmuel was raised after his mother Chana prayed for him here. In fact many of the laws of prayer are learned from that famous prayer and her prayer of thanks which is a tradition in all three religions. One can explore this Tel and see awesome views and even see a short film on Shilo in the visitor center.
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Family Land- Noach 2012/5773

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 19th 2012 -Volume 3, Issue 2 –3rd of Cheshvan 5773

Parshat Noach
Family Land

Walking down the street with my baby carriage, a woman stops me to tell me to put down the hood, the sun is in my baby’s face. I walk further up the block and am stopped by another person who tells me that my son has fallen asleep and I should recline the seat in the stroller because he doesn’t look comfortable. I arrive at the doctors office and the doctor tells me that I have a stain on my shirt and that I should clean it before I walk out, as it’s not nice to walk in the street with a dirty shirt- That was my DOCTOR- not my dry cleaner talking. On the way home, the street cleaner guy turns to me and tells me that my stroller looks too weighted down with groceries I had bought and that I will break it, I should rather carry them on the side.

 I have moved to the country of free advice. On every corner, on every bus ride, at every supermarket line there is someone who thinks they are my mother, standing there to tell me what I am doing wrong and how I could be doing it better. When they told me that Israel was home they didn’t tell me that I was moving back with my parents!

Truth of the matter is, though, it is nice. It’s nice to live in a place where the doctor calls to find out how my daughter is doing and where the guy who’s fixing my fridge tells me where I could buy my groceries cheaper then the expensive price tags he saw on the ones inside, my freezer. Yes, we lived in places in the States that had different levels of neighborly relationships. We experienced Southern hospitality, Midwest- salt of the earth cheery friendliness, Pacific NorthWest live –and- let- live geniality and even New Yorks one of a kind,  in –your- face, dog-eat-dog, make-it- here- make-it-anywhere abrasiveness. But absolutely nothing comes close to the incredible sense of family, caring, nosiness and as we would say in yiddish, Haymishkeit,that you have with the average stranger you meet in the street that you meet here in Israel. It feels we are all connected in this small little country and so we all have to be there for one another. I like it. Truth be told, this Jewish tradition really dates back to the beginning of our people.

This week’s Torah portion named after the father of all humanity in the post-flood world- Noach- also concludes and introduces us to the father of the Jewish people Abraham- Avraham Avinu. Our sages, ever mindful of these two great individuals, note a very significant but easily overlooked difference in the Torah’s description of them both. They note that whereas by Noach the Torah tells us that he walked with God, Avraham walked before God. They also contrast, a very interesting difference between both Avraham’s reaction to Hashem’s intention to destroy the  wicked city of Sdom and Noach’s reaction (or perhaps lack thereof) to being foretold of the destruction of the world. Avraham steps up to the plate and pleads on their behalf. Noach, the one who walks with God just follows his orders and builds an Ark. He does not plead for the world.  Avraham, who ultimately becomes the father of the Jewish people founded monotheism without ever having talked to God. He looked at the world understood that God existed and went out and taught it to everyone he knew. Noach, who actually spoke to God, was not successful in actually getting anyone to join or pass on a legacy. He did what he was supposed to, as the Torah says he was entirely righteous, but he never saw beyond his own service. He was never brave or broad enough to tell, show and share with others the beauty and significance of his own convictions.

The Land of Israel is one that is repeatedly promised to the descendants of Avraham. It is the country that will not only always bear his memory, but it has been ingrained with this sense that each person living here is responsible for one another. We’re responsible to make sure the other is alright. We’re responsible to make sure that our neighbors are taken care of in every way. But most of all, the secret to this country of Avraham’s children, is that we are responsible to help and inspire each and every one of our brothers and sisters to get closer to Hashem and to appreciate his loving ways. We have to walk before God in this beautiful land and inspire the rest of the world- even Noach’s world, with how great a society we can become if we all just take that responsibility as our Divine mandate. What we could create if we all behaved like the family we were supposed to. What we might become if allowed ourselves to accept and to share that love and caring we are so capable of achieving. As we enter the new Jewish month of Cheshvan and approach the winter season let’s aim to keep that unity we achieved over the holidays and see it last through the year. Invite over a friend for Shabbat, go join a new Torah class, call a friend and bring him or her to shul. You won’t regret it…at least that’s what the guy on the street told me.

Have a spectacular Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Tel Jezre’el- The Valley of Jezre’el is the site of many stories of Tanach. Here at this small little Tel with some slight Acheological ruins one can use your imagination and Tanach to relate over the two stories of Tanach that took place in what was once the home of the winter palace of the infamous Ahab and wife with the worst  biblical name Jezebel. One can look out to the valley and picture Ahab being jealous of navots vineyard trying to get him to sell it and ultimately under the advice of his wife Jezebel framing him for cursing Hashem and killing him. But here from the other end comes Eliyahu to warn them that their act has signed their own death penalty in heaven as the dogs will look the blood of their flesh. Not long after we have the story of Yahu who comes here as the newly appointed king and kills Ahabs grandson here. One can also see the monument for Israeli soldiers who died in the wars here in the area and take a great hike down to the spring of Jezre’el from here where there is water and a pool from the period of the British here as well.




A Jewish mother is worrying day in and day out about her poor son, far away in a college: "Oi vey, will he ever find a nice girl,... will he have enough to eat,...will he be cold at night?" While worrying she decides to, at least, buy and send him two warm flannel shirts. A couple of months later he travels back to New York and sees his mother. After many hours on a bus he arrives Erev-Shabbat at her door and thinks: "Wait, maybe I should wear one of the shirts she sent me! Surely this makes her happy!" He puts on the shirt, rings the door bell and his mother opens: "Yankel!" "Mammele!" "Yankel, I am sooooo happy to see you! And your even wearing one of the shirts I sent you!" "But tell me one thing: You didn't like the other shirt?!?!"


Friday, October 12, 2012

Intorducing... Us- Bereishis 2012/5773

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

October 11th 2012 -Volume 3, Issue 1 –26th of Tishrei 5773



Here we are again. The holidays are over and with it our summer season comes to an end. No more Tiyulim- sunny hikes through our country, no kayaking, our sukkas are down, any renovations before the winter rains God willing have to be completed. Back to the “real world”; our jobs, our schools and the mundane realities of what to a large degree fills up our every day- ho-hum- existence. Yet we still have our Shabbos. Hashem in his infinite Divine wisdom granted us that one special day a week to rise above it all, to come back to Him and to hear his Holy word.
How do we hear the word of Hashem? One of my teachers once put it nicely to me. He said that when we pray we are talking to Hashem. When we learn and read his eternal Torah though, it is Him talking and communicating to us. How do we hear that word? Each week when we are in Shul we read the portion of that week (for those that are members of the Kiddush club or who come to shul to conversate- this generally happens about an hour into the service when they take out the Torah scrolls.) and our sages tell us that if one pays close attention he will find within each weekly portion a message from above that relates to one’s personal life. It could be a word of needed inspiration, a story from our forefathers that relates to ones current dilemmas, or a mitzvah that one should analyze or enhance that is sure to lift up ones spiritual connection to heaven. It also gives the chance for a simple Rabbi from Karmiel Israel to share with you his weekly insight and E-Mail making sure I get in my Torah Parsha time while trying to maintain some of my rapidly waning English writing skills.

So from wher do we start? Why the beginning of course- a very nice place to start, wouldn’t you say? However Rashi quotes a medrash that seems to feel that there may be a better place to start. Perhaps from the first commandment given to the Jewish people before our Exodus from Egypt “This month shall be given to you as the first of the months.” Why from this mitzvah, you ask. Well, it’s never too early to start thinking about Pesach (5 months,13 days for those who are keeping count)- just joking J. Seemingly the Torah, being Hashems book of laws and messages for the Jewish people that was given to us on Sinai should be directed to our nation. Why do we have to hear the whole story of the world from Day one of Creation. Imagine if a Rabbi tried to get up and tell his congregation a sermon in Detroit ,New York, Iowa, Virginia or even West Seattle relevant to their community. Yet he prefaces his sermon with a history of the United States of America the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam Wars, for good measure he also includes a discussion of the development of the constitution it’s amendments and then the history of the particular State that you are sermonizing in. Needless to say he would not be a Rabbi much longer and would probably have to move out to some city up in the distant Galilee in Israel. So why does Hashem start his eternal message for life for the Jewish people with 2448 year of prelude history and 1948 years before even the first “Jew” Avraham was even born?

The answer Rashi shares with us is quite non-intuitive
“God gave an account of the work of Creation in order to give the Jews (Eretz Yisroel) the heritage of the nations. For should the nations of the world say to the Jews (Bnei YIsrael), ‘You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan,]’
The Jews (Bnei Yisrael) will reply to them ‘The whole earth belongs to (God) the Holy One, Blessed be He.He created it and gave it to whom He pleased. Of His own will He gave it to them, and of His own will He took it from them and gave it to us”

Meaning the reason that we have this whole introduction, Rashi in 10th century germany quoting Rabbi Yitzchak who lived in Israel a few centuries after the destruction of the Temple tells us  , is that there will come a time one day in the future, perhaps 5773 years from Creation when the nations of the world will claim that we have no right to the land of Israel and we need a response for them. So Hashem aptly provides us with one in this narrative. Now I may be a pretty optimistic person, yet even I might be skeptical about Bibi’s chances of getting up in front of the UN and explaining to them the Medrash’s explaination of “Hashem created the world and he gave it to us”. For some reason this doesn’t seem like a message that would fly for the 99.98 % of the world that are not “from the tribe” (let alone the infamous 47%). So what is this all about?

In fact, in1948 Ahmed Shukri the representative of the Arab Legion stood up in front of the United Nations and made exactly that claim
“We have dwelt in this land for generations, in Jaffa, Ramla, Lod, Haifa, Akko, in hundreds of villages. With what permission do you have to push us out? With what right do you have to take our lands? What do you have here?”
David Ben Gurion the head of the Jewish agency at that time stood and with the Tanach that he held in his hand called out
“This is our document of claim, our Torah is right to Israel”
Certainly, aproud historic moment for the fledgeling Jewihs nation…until…
Shukri stood up once again and responded.
“Sir, from Tel Aviv, you wave that Tanach as if it is your deed of claim to Israel. But doesn’t it say in that book “You shall observe the Shabbos for it is holy to you and it’s violators shall be put to death’? Are they not driving in Tel Aviv on the Sabbath?”
Oops… Once in a while even the other team can say something smart. Perhaps it is that reason that when the laws of the State of Israel were established. Ben Gurion insisted that all public functions and transportation cease to operate and rest on our holy day.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the Torah started with this history lesson for the Jewish people. It is not the nations of the world that need to be convinced sadly enough of the authenticity of our Torah, the relevance of its message and the eternal binding nature of the commandments. Sadly enough it is we that more often than not need to that strengthening of faith. Our link to Eretz Yisrael and our claim to it are bound inextricably with our mandate to be God’s nation and light to the world. We can’t legitimately expect or claim one without the other. The entire world, that Torah tells us in our introduction of Sefer Bereishis, was created so Hashem would have a resting place and presence here on this world; So that the world would know of and have a relationship with our great Creator, the Father of us all. That will only happen if we live up to our mandate as His nation. If we bring Shabbos to the world. If we live in that special way the mitzvoth he gave us direct us to. If we do it all with joy and a sense of honor, pride and humility that we have been chosen not only to share that knowledge with the world and serve as their beacon, but we have been given the perfect little country in which to establish His holy kingdom here on earth. That’s what it’s all about.

So we start once again this Shabbos. Our mission begins. The Torah is read. We have a chance now more than ever to live and build a response that the nations will be inspired by. They will see the lifestyle that the Torah proscribes and our dedication to Hashems principles and as our prophets have told us, they will themselves come to us and ask us to share with them the beauty and knowledge of Hashem. It is hard to imagine. Perhaps, because it is hard to imagine us ever living up to that mandate and fulfillment of the Torah and its mitzvoth. But that’s what new beginnings are for. Hashem has chosen us and believes we can do it and He is usually a good assessor of our potential. Let’s make him proud.

Have a magnificent Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Tel Chai- Up in the Etzba Ha’Galile (Galilee Panhandle) lies a small little Yishuv where one of the earliest stories of modern Israel’s return to its homeland took place. Formed under what was then post WWI French occupation (the border of the British mandate was south of there). As much as the arabs hated the jews they hated the French more and the Syrian/French war began in the 1920’s. The jews remained neutral in this war yet as they had little too gain and certainly not enough forces or munitions to protect themselves. In Tel Hai re-enforcements where sent and a total of 18 people (6 men and 2 women) under the leadership of the “one-armed” former Russian war hero Yosef Trumpledor and stood ready to continue protecting the border of what they had hoped would one day revert back to the British and then fall under the mandate for the future state of Israel. On March 1st the 11th of Adar 1920 the small walled in settlement found itself surrounded by Arabs and Bedouins that claimed to be searching for “French spies, soldiers and munitions” When they arrived seemingly a mis-communication took place and one of the women opened fire and a shoot out took place. After a few hours of fire and Trumpledor being wounded and eventually dying on the way to Kfar Giladi nearby 8 were killed in what is attributed as being first Arab Israel conflict concluded in tragedy.
Until today a national pilgrimage of Israel’s Zionist youth go up to Tel Hai on the 11th of Adar. Trumpledor’s last words "Never mind, it is good to die for our country- En davar, tov lamut be'ad artzeinu” are repeated and his vision for Israel and story of heroism is passed on to the next generation. The nearby city of Kiryat Shmona is named for these 8 heroes.
Today one can visit the museum of reconstructed site of Tel Hai watch a movie of life their and be inspired by these early settlers who died so that we may return to our homeland.




If all Jews would observe one Shabbat properly,
the messiah would come immediately-Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Taanit, Page 3B: