Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
November 15th 2012 -Volume 3, Issue 6 –1st of Kislev 5773
Broken Glasses-Holy Eyesight
He got new glasses the other week. He lost the lens the first day. Yes, he's definitely my son. My mother's curse/blessing has come true. I have been blessed with a child that assuredly will give as much nachas (pride and joy all mixed together, but really just an untranslatable Yiddish word) and frustration as I did to my parents.
I couldn't even really get angry. I knew it would happen. I remember being in those little shoes myself. D.O.C.-Detroit Optical Center (my least favorite glasses store growing up in Detroit) , canceled their warranty policy because of me, or at least because of my numerous bi- weekly and once even bi-daily visits. So instead I shlepped with my little tatteleh back to the glasses store, picked up another pair with a big sigh, and resignedly asked them if they made any that could be stapled to the head or were made of unbreakable steel (yes I know what is coming next after they get lost…) I then looked at my sons somber guilty face, and passed the traditional blessing down to my son. With a strong sense that there were generations of Schwartzes up above smiling down upon me as I create another link in our broken- glasses- nachas filled heritage I said. "May Hashem one day give you a son just like you!"
This week’s Torah portion, as always non-coincidentally, shares with us a story of blessings and curses as well. It all begins it seems with our forefather Yitzchok who it seems was in need of glasses himself. The Torah tells us that as he aged his eyes became weak and he could no longer see. Yet the Zohar tells us a slightly different story. We are told that source of Yitzchak’s failing eye sight was not just a symptom of his age. Nor was it because he read too many books under his cover late at night either, or for not eating his carrots, Mom! Rather it was a result of when he was bound on the altar by his father Abraham (at age 37 incidentally) and the gates of heaven opened in mercy as he witnessed a Divine Revelation, and the tears of the angels at this heartbreaking act of sacrifice and dedication, as father stood over his son to offer him up to God as commanded, pierced his eyes and they began to fail.
The great Chasidic master of Radomsk, the Tifferes Shlomo, suggests a very powerful idea behind Yitzchak’s blindness. He asks can it be that a Divine revelation or the tears of angels would have such a debilitating effect that would blind someone. And why would God not cure or heal Yitzchak from such an affliction? Rather he explains that the weakening of the eyes of Yitzchak were not a physical symptom in as much as they were a spiritual elevation.
What are the tears of the angels? The tears of the angels are the incredible power of having mercy in the face of what seems to be the harsh judgment of Hashem. It is the capacity to recognize and even hope beyond hope that there will be goodness and salvation in what seems to be a desperate situation. Yitzchak is saved from the moment of death yet those tears penetrated his eyes and his capacity to see. There would be an Eisav, a murderer, a liar, an idolater; an individual who's only aspiration in life is to get another bowl of red red stew (chulent??). Yitzchak, however can only see the good, only the potential for mercy. Yitzchak, who kabbalistically represents judgment –Din- could no longer see the wickedness even when judgment and inspiration were meant to be utilized. For his eyes had been elevated to appoint of Godly mercy and holiness by which un-rectifiable evil in another could not be seen. But his eyes were weak at that moment. Yackov deserved the blessing. It is his descendants that were chosen to be nation of God that would require the blessings to fulfill their Divine mandate. One can hope and one should pray for the rectification of the evil murderous ways and blood lust of our enemies but that weakened eye of mercy can never come at the cost of depriving Yackov of his heritage. It can’t blind us of the threats to our existence.
I had another memory when we picked up my son's new glasses and that was the blessing my father would give me when I would come home and put them on for the first time. He would say in Yiddish to me in what perhaps was also an ancient Schwartz tradition of glasses-wearing sons.
"Du zolst nor zein gutteh zachin-You should only see good things with them."
We all have a tremendous gift of eyesight (glasses, contact wearers and lasik patients included). Yet, unfortunately we live in world where there are so many things that perhaps we shouldn't see. Images, Movies, Magazines and the list goes on, of things that have become acceptable in our "advanced" civilization and culture that perhaps wouldn't hurt us if our eyes could do without. There is also so much negativity that we can have a tendency to find in other people. Rather than looking and appreciating the good in others, we turn a critical (if not a hypocritical) eye to them and assume the worst. It is in this world and with these challenges that we need that blessing of our fathers for holy eyes even more than ever. It is in this world that the glasses of Yitzchak and of Divine mercy and goodness would serve us well as we look at our fellow man. May Hashem bless all of us that we only see gutte zachin both from ourselves, our children and in one another.
Have a Shabbos that brings rest, peace and protection to our entire nation,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Yad Mordechai- Just a few kilometers from Gaza sout of Ashkelon this small Kibbutz has withstood the dangers and times of being close to the worst of Israels enemies. Founded in 1943 by a group of kibbutznikim from Netanya, the kibbutz was named after Mordechai Anielewicz the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising who died while fighting the Nazi’s. There is a an incredible statue of him holding a grenade that was sculpted by Natan Rappaport right next to the Kibbutz’s shrapnel torn, bullet ridden, water tower that became the symbol of their perserverance as the Egyptians tried many times to destroy it during the independence war. One can visit the Kibbutz’s powerful Holocaust museum that is unique in its linking the story of the Warsaw Ghettto uprising to the history of the establishment of Israel and the particular story of life in the South and Yad Mordechai. The museum has been recently updated with laser yellow stars that remain upon you as you tour the museum, the largest scale model of the Ghetto in the world, a film of the story of the uprising and a light sound experience in a reconstructed cattle car. One can visit as well the reconstructed battle ground of the kibbutz, as well as the monument to the “gingi” who evacuated the children 7 and under at the site where they parted from their parents who remained to protect the kibbutz and Israel’s border (somethings sadly never change).
On the fun side the kibuutz has a wonderful bee and honey factory, cow where you can watch the cows milk and the museum of life in a kibbutz with activities for children.
RABBI SCHWARTZES ISRAEL LATE NIGHT JOKE/QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Unbelievable: In Haifa they’re eating hummus while missiles are falling in Tel Aviv” -Dan Cooper making fun of how in the past tel avivnikim were out of touch with what has been going on in the rest of the country