Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 19th 2012 -Volume 3, Issue 2 –3rd of Cheshvan 5773
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
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.
RABBI SCHWARTZES JEWISH MOTHER ADVICE VIDEO OF THE WEEK
RABBI SCHWARTZES JOKE OF THE WEEK
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?!?!"