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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