Our view of the Galile

Friday, November 30, 2012

No Jew Will Be (or eat) Left Behind- Vayishlach 2012/5773

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

November 30th 2012 -Volume 3, Issue 8 -16th of Kislev 5773

Parshat Vayishlach

No Jew Shall Be (or Eat) Left Behind

(sorry couldn’t resist… I love my titles J)

Wednesday night was the first time in a long time that I did not dream of Crusaders. I didn’t dream about Philistines, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Umayyad or Abbasid dynasties or the Mamluks either. My second final exam (an oxymoron, I know) for my 2 year tour guiding course is over. {check out new feature below of a question of the week from my exam-to see if you could pass it} One left to go. From here on the Seleucids can return to once again being associated with potato latkas and here in Israel jelly doughnuts on Chanukah. It was a nice peaceful sleep. All of the historic empires and enemies who have sought to destroy us from time immemorial and who continued to torture me from their graves as I crammed and studied non-stop for weeks, disappeared. I dreamed of hills and valleys, of sunrises over Masada and sunsets in the Golan of peace and music once again in the streets of Jerusalem… And then my three year old kicked me in the nose as he climbed into my bed. Oh well… it was nice while it lasted. I guess I had to get up and study for my oral exam anyways…sigh.

 Yes, our people have certainly had our fair share of battles, wars and struggles for survival. Perhaps more than any nation on earth. When we recite at our Pesach Seder- She’bichol Dor Va’Dor Omdim Aleinu Li’√áhaloseinu- That in each generation they have rose up against us to destroy us- Vi’Hakadosh Baruch Hu Matzileinu Mi’Yadum- and the Holy One Blessed Be He has saved us from their hands, we know it’s true. It is one of the constants in Jewish history. As the famous joke goes- What are Jewish holidays all about? They tried to kill us… we survived… let’s eat. It makes sense. After all what better way to commemorate our survival then by eating, drinking and of course with our belly’s full and spirits raised to than turn to our Father in heaven and thank Him for never abandoning us. L’Chaim! Bi’Tayavon!

 This of course leads us to our question of the week on the Parsha on what seems to be a decidedly un-jewish eternal response to one of our most historic battles. The Torah, continuing from last week, tells us of our forefather Yaakov as he leaves Charan and his uncle Lavan, to meet his angry brother Esau who is coming with 400 men to fulfill his decades old blood-wish to kill him for “stealing” the blessings of his birthright (which of course Yaakov legitimately bought-but since when have the facts ever made a difference when it comes to our right to the holy land… some things never change). As he goes forward to meet him, the Torah tells us that he went back across the Yabok river, having forgotten some vessels there and is left alone, when he is confronted by the angel of Esau. Now it’s bad enough having to deal with your angry brother- but a wrestling match with a Divine being, where the dust of their feet, according to the medrash, kicked up to the heavens, is an entirely different story.  The conclusion of this battle, of course is the victory of Yaakov who pins the angel down and gets a blessing from- the biblical form of crying uncle, yet he is wounded. The angel had struck him in his thigh and he now had a limp. The Torah thus gives us a commandment- the second only to circumcision that is mentioned before the giving of the Torah for the Jewish people for ages. It is the prohibition to eat the Gid Ha’Nasheh- the sciatic nerve which pretty much knocks off most of the back half of the cow that we have since then traditionally not eaten. ”Therefore the children of Israel shall not eat the Gid Hanashe which is on the thigh until this very day for he (the angel) injured the thigh of Yaakov in the Gid Ha’Nasheh. No filet mignon for the Jews.

Now why would we commemorate this incredible victory- the only of its kind against a divine being- with not eating something? If I was writing this law I would probably proscribe some angel-hair pasta, some thank heaven for 7-11 Slurpees perhaps and maybe some Devil Dogs (we will miss you Drake’s cakes-so we will go to angel’s bakery of course). But Hashem doesn’t consult with me. So it is up to us to figure out what is this all about. Thankfully, our sages don’t leave us hanging and the Chizkuni- the 13th century French commentator suggests an interesting idea. The reason why we commemorate this battle with the prohibition to eat is so that the children of Israel will always remember to never leave another Jew alone. The angel’s power, this precursor of all battles that Israel will have for eternity only poses a danger to us and they can only harm us if we are on our own. Our strength and the Jewish people’s power to bring down the Divine assistance we need to overcome is only if we stand before our father as a nation united. His family. Our family. Whenever we sit down to prepare a festive meal and we slaughter an animal for a good steak, we remember Yaakov who was left behind by his sons to fight for himself. We can never “eat the whole cow” if there is even one Jew we are leaving behind. It is that message that we are meant to internalize from this 1st of our historic battles.

We have learned this lesson for the large part I hope. I received the following E-Mail this week that I share with you from a recent soldier from the recent Pillar of Cloud/defense operation and battle in Gaza.

“It's nearly 3 AM, the cease fire was announced 30 hours ago,  I've been home for 7 hours already, but I'm still restless. I cannot sleep. The thoughts and feelings fill my mind...

 I was called in from my studies to help my brigade prepare for the ground entrance to the Gaza Strip as part of operation Pillar of Defense. I spent a week in the field, since last Friday. Although we didn't go in, I returned home full of strength. I had the privilege to be out in the field and see true unity amongst Am Yisrael and an army that is not only strong militarily but strong in spirit. I met and worked with many soldiers and commanders, all with deep faith that we are doing the right thing. I saw hundreds of soldiers dance hugged in a huge circle, singing "Am Yisrael Chai" and "the nation of eternity isn't afraid of a long journey". I saw commanders draw power and faith out of this amazing scene.

 Under my command were a few reserve soldiers, all 10 years older than me and more. They were part of tens of thousands that enlisted to their units until the enlistment count stood at 120% percent. Doctors, students, fathers, high-tech engineers, meat seller, they came from all over to protect our nation and country. I met truck and mobile drivers who drove over 10 hours from north to south, back and forth, again and again, just so we can have our armed vehicles to go in. All they asked for was "Go in, do your job, and let us have some quiet finally". I met volunteers who supported us with hot soup, drinks and goodies as we waited in the field for the order that never came. I met brave residents of Southern Israel, who taught me what true courage and power is. Can you imagine living under fire for 12 years??

A month ago I returned from our honeymoon in India. I told people that within 2 months I saw true unity in Am Yisrael. There, in the Far East, and here, under  fire. My question is why can't we be so united at normal times, on daily basis? Why can't we gather around the same values we truly share, even if deep inside? Why can't we respect and treat each other as brother unless it's in the middle of nowhere, or in time of crisis? It starts with each and every one of us. Can we try being nicer to each other? Can we try harder to respect each other's views and opinions, even if they contradict our own? Can I treat every Jew as my brother, even if he wears black, or doesn't wear a Kippa\Yarmalka, if he's dark skinned or if he prays differently than I do? If he has long hair and piercings, or if he has long Peot?  Can I try understanding what bothers him, what hurts him, so I can avoid doing so? Can I truly CARE about someone who is from my nation, even if we are different and sometimes it looks like we're not so connected? The change starts with YOU, with ME, with US, in the small, daily actions and reactions. No politician can promise or do it, it is only up to us. Thank you for protecting and fighting for us worldwide all around the media, social networks and out on the streets, helping justice win and revealing evil lies. I'm proud to be part of this nation, and part of a unique and moral army. May we be blessed with these unique feelings every day, and not only in times of crisis?”

 Shabbat Shalom

 Yaakov Selavan

 Lieutenant, IDF Armored Corps

Yackov I dream together with you of that day. May Hashem help us get there soon together.

Have a smashingly amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz







Lido Junction- Right at the intersection of route 1 from Jerusalem and route 90 towards the Dead Sea one comes to an incredible break in the mountain range of the Judean Desert which then continues all the way up to the hills of Shomron known as Matzuk Ha√Čtikim. As this is the only break it was the major crossroads for generations to cross the Dead Sea into Jerusalem. Until 1967 this was of course under Jordanian control. After the war when Israel restored this part of our country to us we actually had Palestinians build the road giving employment to our newest “ Israeli” citizens. Diagonally across from the gas station one can see the ruins of a former resteraunt that used to be on the banks of the Dead Sea which has since receeded due to Israelis and Jordanians taking out water from the Jordan river which meet the Dead Sea and this uppermost portion of it. It was here the original Dead Sea Plants were started in the early 1920’s to mine the minerals and Potash from the Sea which only later moved to the Southern part of the Yam. You can also check out the incredible re-creation of the Crusader period map of all of Israel that was painted on the walls of this restaurant and make out names of ancient Israel cities. Don’t leave the intersection of course without stopping for a camel-ride from one of the Bedouin youths with their camels that are waiting to give your backside a feel of the true desert experience.



(answer below)

The tunnel well (fugarot) site is the northernmost limit of the distribution of the

 Winter thorn  (Shita malbina)(a)

(b) Doum Palm (Dekel Ha’Dom)

(c) Sodom’s Apple (tapuach Sodom)

(d) Accacia strap flower (Harnug haShittim)



Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them you're a mile away and you have their shoes.


Answer is C- Dekel Ha’dom in the bottom of the Arava valley outside of Eilat where incidentally Rabin and King Hussein met to sign the Jordanian peace accords in 1994 with Bill Clinton the second only country to do so after Egypt.



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