Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
November 9th 2012 -Volume 3, Issue 3 –24th of Cheshvan 5773
Parshat Chayei Sara
“Freiying” My Patience
I used to be a very “chilled” guy. I remember when I was dating my wife and after a few dates she asked me if anything bothers me, as I am seemed so relaxed and easy-going. Which in truth I was. In the heavenly yeshiva world, I was my own boss, to do what I wanted when I wanted. Sure there were rules in Yeshiva, but I was the one who decided to be there and follow them (when I did J). So I thought before I answered my then hopefully bride-to- be, and I answered her with what I think was a pretty deep insight that not I even I appreciated at the time. What I told her was that I thought that the only thing that really got on my nerves was when I saw someone making a really bad mistake, just heading down the wrong path, and if they would only listen to me than everything would be fine. Yet, no matter how much I tried they just won’t listen…That upsets me. Now to my mind that sounded like a pretty caring and sensitive answer. After all I care deeply about people and I really hate to see them get in trouble or make mistakes. Seemingly, my wife bought it too because just a few months later we were standing under a chupah in Lakewood New Jersey. Little did she or I know at the time how often this seemingly until then once-in-a-while issue would surface and foster itself to the frustration of the both of us.
See in Yeshiva there are not too many major mistakes that I would really care about. But all of a sudden everything was happening differently. The laundry was not right, dinner was milchigs, and we were no longer on time for weddings and functions. Then came the children.Boy did they make mistakes and were heading in directions, doing things differently and of course all wrong from how I expected them to be done. My way being of course was the right easier and of course more logical way. Before I knew it, this once cool, calm, collected, rational and of course chilled husband was (and is still) struggling with this major issue in his personality. Feelings of anger, bursts of temper, and continuous frustration which of course made me critical and not fun to be around. Why isn’t everyone just listening to me? Because I’m yelling of course! What happened to the chilled yeshiva guy ? I remember talking to one of my Rabbi’s earlier in my marriage and sharing with him this different person that I felt I was becoming after a frustrating day. He than shared with some ancient words of wisdom that truly has the power to be transformative-
“Aha, now I know you married the right person! Life is about growing and developing yourself. If you’re feeling challenged and your skin feels likes it’s crawling on you than you know that those comfortable single “bochur’she” layers are being rubbed off and now you can really start to work on developing your soul. Ezer-Knegdo the Torah teaches us she is your helper working opposite you.”
18 years and five children later I’m still working on it, and she’s still helping and the kids even more so in teaching me perhaps that being right is not always right. My job is to learn how to swallow accept and perhaps inspire by my own behavior and actions rather than “motivating” by commanding, directing or orchestrating the rest of the worlds Rabbi Schwartz view of perfection.
Now if being married and having children are the relationships for me to work on this, I am living in the country most suitable to work on it as well. Here in Israel we live in a country where more than anywhere where else in the world where so many people are doing things so wrong, so backwards, so illogically that someone who is not as aware as my years of marriage and parenting have trained me to be would just throw up their hands and yell. And they do. Constantly. Why do banks charge an arm and a leg to deposit money or withdraw my money?” Why do government offices only open two or three days a week and even than close in the afternoon for a few hours? Why can’t supermarkets help you bag your groceries? Why do many businesses that you frequent here make you feel like they’re doing you the biggest favor by selling to you? Why would a post-office leave me a note in my mailbox, yesterday, telling me that I have mail and after waiting a half hour in line (because for some reason everything comes registered in this country and of course has to be picked up in the post office) than tell me that it has not yet arrived and I should come back tomorrow? Aarrrghhhh…Yet, I smile and bear it. It’s Israel. I love it. I feel blessed that I am lucky enough to live here. Unlike my close relative-you know who you are- that told me that he would move to Israel tomorrow if not for the fact that he would have to deal with Israelis, I feel that there is no better place to work on oneself and to develop oneself than in our special country. Remember if your skin feels like it’s crawling than it just means that the “comfortable layers” are being rubbed off to develop your soul.
Now this Israel business mentality is not a new one. Take for example this week’s Torah portion. Our parsha begins with what the great 12th century commentary Rabbeinu Yonah of Girondi describes as the final of the ten tests that our forefather Avraham had to undergo; purchasing a burial place for his wife of close to a century, Sarah Immeinu. Now as opposed to other commentaries that see last week’s test of the binding of his son Yitzchak on an altar and almost bringing him up as a sacrifice to God as being the final one, Rabbeinu Yonah suggests that this test is even more challenging being the culmination of all of his tests. This is would seem to be a pretty deep idea. After-all can there be anything more challenging to the man who has been preaching kindness and a loving God , who has waited until the age of 100 to have this promised child after years of prayer, to have to kill this child in what would seem like the common practice of idolatry. How would he face his son…his wife… his students…the world? How would he be able to get up and pray the next morning to God? How could a shopping trip to the fields of the cave of Machpela in Hebron afterwards even compare to this challenge? Yes, its true Efron the owner of the cave gave him a hard time. O.K. so he ripped him off and charged him 8X the going price. But still it’s not like having to shecht your son?
The answer Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler the great 20th century Jewish ethicist and thinker suggests is that it is not necessarily the big challenges that develop and make our soul complete, as much as the small nitty gritty frustrating day-to day dealings that have the ability to truly push us to the great heights. Many people can “rise to the occasion” when called upon to do an act of great sacrifice and heroism. Much fewer can smile when someone is rude or brazenly taking advantage of you. Avraham, was able to pass the Akeida test without any problem. Hashem commanded him to do something, and as incomprehensible of an act and sacrifice it might entail, at the end of the day it’s what Hashem told him to do. Efron on the other hand was this slimy Israeli business man (Hittite to be precise) pretending like he was doing Avraham the greatest favor in the world. Avraham who was in his most vulnerable place after the loss of his wife seeking the most simple basic need, a small little cave to bury her in. Can you fathom being able to hold it together at this point. There’s no command from God. There’s just me and him and Avraham is clearly right and being taken advantage of. This is the final test. Can you be a hero even here? Can you hold it together and behave with dignity and even respect for the loathsome situation and the way you are being treated. Avraham passed. The tests were over. I guess he proved he really has what it takes to inherit the land that will always challenge you in this way. And we his descendants have the privilege to undergo that same challenge daily here and become the hero that he modeled for us to become.
Why is it so difficult for us? Perhaps it’s because we feel threatened. The word in Israel is Freiyer or sucker. Nobody ones to be one and no one wants to be treated like one. Its’ perhaps the worst thing you can call your fellow Israeli. But the truth is by overcoming this challenge the Torah is telling us we become the opposite of that. We become the children of Avraham who have faith in Hashem and all that he makes us undergo-even if it comes at the hands of the Efrons at the local Makolet or government offices. Especially if it is coming from our spouse and our children. Things don’t have to work the way we want them to. The only thing that has to work is our ability to compose ourselves and to develop our patience, understanding and our acceptance. We’re in the right place we just have to become the right people.
Have relaxing peaceful Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Tel Chatzor- This largest archeological site in Northern Israel covering over 840 dunams with both an upper and lower city is an incredible place where one can feel the stories of tanach first hand. The city of Chatzor is mentioned as a Canaani city that attacked the Jews in the wilderness and was eventually conquered and burned to the ground by Yehoshua when he conquered the land the only city that this was done to. Ashes from a great fire can be seen on the burned rock of the beautiful palace remains from that period and the later periods. Seemingly the city rebuilt itself as a Canani capital as in the book of judges Yavin the king sends out his mighty general Sisera to battle against the Jews by Mt. Tabor from here. The prophetess Devorah and her general Barak (see it’s a jewish name J) miraculously were able to defeat him. In the upper city excavations today one can see the unique 6 chambered gate that is identical to the ones found in Megiddo and Gezer all three being cities that king Solomon built to fortify his kingdom and collect taxes on this important crossroads from Damascus to the coast. One can also see the incredible water system that was dug perhaps by king Ahav that is 40 meters deep actually hitting underground aquafiers to supply the city with. An Ancient Israelite period classic four room houses and tower, as well as an oil press have been found. The lower city which has just barely been excavated has revealed a temple from the canani period as well as idols from that time. The city was conquered in the 8th century BC by the invasion of Tilgeth Ilessar form Assyria with the exile of the ten tribes.
RABBI SCHWARTZES FUNNY ISRAELI COMMERCIAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
RABBI SCHWARTZES ISRAEL (WOULD BE FUNNY IF IT WEREN’T SO TRUE) JOKE OF THE WEEK
Max, a Vaadnik (union head) is addressing a union meeting at a certain unnamed Israeli government-owned company.
"Comrades - Haverim. We have agreed on a new deal with the management. We will no longer work five days a week."
"Hooray!", goes the crowd.
"We will finish work at 3 PM, not 4 PM."
"Hooray!", goes the crowd, again.
"We will start work at 9 AM, not 7 AM."
"We have a 150% pay rise."
"We will only work on Wednesdays."
Silence...then a voice from the back asks, "Every Wednesday?"