Our view of the Galile

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thoughts and Prayers- Vayeitzei 2012 57773

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

 November 23rd 2012 -Volume 3, Issue 7 –9th of Kislev 5773

Parshat Vayeitzei

Thoughts and Prayers

 We are a people of prayer. Biblically the Torah commands us to bless Hashem after we eat and according to Maimonides we are Biblically obligated to pray in our time of need. Yet, our sages and generations of Jewish tradition have established prayers and blessings for all occasions. We pray three times a day, before we eat, when we come out of the bathroom, before we fulfill most mitzvot, when we hear thunder and lightning, see the greatness of Hashem in nature the sea, mountains and even upon seeing world leaders and presidents. With the destruction of the temple, our sages understood that without the opportunity to see Hashem “in person” in the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem as we used to three times a year, we would have to work harder and pause at most occasions in our daily life and recognize and commune with the Almighty as we go about our daily affairs. So we pray a lot. We pray for life, for peace, for livelihood, for our children, our health, but primarily we pray for Hashem to be recognizable in our lives. Without that we are mere walking talking animals. Our ability to self-reflect and develop our soul and our relationship with our Creator is what makes us unique of His created beings.


This past week most of our nation fulfilled our biblical obligation to pray. With missiles falling over our Holy-land (two of them right over my head, as I was touring the South with my cousin-before the “official” war broke out) the heavens were deluged with prayers from all over the world for the well-being of our people, the safety of our soldiers and the end of the reign of terror unleashed by animals who do not see the Divine spark in the faces of the women and children of their own citizens that they use as human shields, let alone on the cities, schools and hospitals of our holy nation that they target and are trying to annihilate. So we prayed. Heaven heard. The missiles have stopped. Four families have lost their loved ones here in Israel, many have been wounded and emotionally scarred for lives as their homes have been devastated and their families and children must once again go back to what is still a border with an enemy that wishes nothing more but to destroy them. But it is their home. It is our home. Our only home. Yet it is a home that we only merit and maintain with our prayers.


This week’s Torah portion shares with us the story of our forefather Yackov; Yackov, being the first Jew to have to flee our country because of the threat of a murderous brother who swore to kill him. As he leaves the Holyland the Torah tells us Vaifgah Ba’Makom-and he encountered the place and he rested there. As he rests he dreams the famous dream of the heavenly angels of Israel who had escorted him going back up to heaven and the angels of Chutz L’Aretz- the Diaspora joining him. It is there that Hashem appears to him promises him of the eternity of his descendants and of their heritage of the land of Israel and assures him he will be protected in his sojourn. Our sages tell us that the strange introduction to this dream of Yackov “encountering the place” is in fact a hint to the evening prayer of Ma’ariv that he established then as the sun miraculously set early so he would have that prophecy (thus explaining the terminology of encountering as if it was unexpected). The Talmud tells us that the evening prayer of Yackov is unique in that the morning and afternoon prayers established by Avraham and Yitzchak respectively are obligatory in nature as opposed to Yackov’s which seemingly from the nature of the Torahs describing the spontaneous nature in his encounter at night is a reshus-non-obligatory (although since its acceptance by the Jewish people our tradition has accepted as a obligatory as well). What is the difference between these prayers? Why would some be obligatory and Yackovs evening prayer be left up to our own decision or inspiration to pray?


The answer, I believe, lies in the nature of our peoples need to respond to Hashem. Avraham who dedicated the morning prayer sees Hashem in the morning. He sees Hashem in his kindness in the glory of the universe and the beauty of the magnificent world He has made that he easily recognizes can only come from the Divine intelligence that wishes to bestow goodness on the world. As human beings in Hashem’s image it is obligatory upon us to see the world and Hashem’s kindness and to appreciate the beauty found in the world each day as we arise. It’s a God-filled world and if we fail to see it than we miss out on the function of our existence. Yitzchak’s afternoon prayer as well takes that level of challenge up even another notch. He prays in the field in the middle of the day. As we work and toil and can fall prey to the danger of thinking that all that we are doing is the product of our own hands rather than the blessing of the ever-watchful eye and hand of Hashem, we need to pause and recognize Hashem as well. How scary it is to think that the responsibilities we have to provide for our families to, to raise our children, to succeed in this challenging world would fall solely on our shoulders. Hashem mandates us to turn to Him as well during the day with our Mincha prayer to let us know that He is there with us giving us strength to “hold that plow” and bring the rain that we need to acieve his blessing.


We then come to the evening; the prayer of Yackov. The evening that sometimes suddenly falls upon us, when the darkness and the missles sometimes hide the hand of Hashem. We hear of tragedies, deaths, hurricanes that sweep away people’s homes and possessions, missiles that fall on the Holyland and enemies that have sworn to open up the “the gates of hell” on our people. We see these things and get so caught up in the fear and panic and sorrow, and as Yackov who himself is fleeing, with just the shirt on his back, from his brother who is trying to kill him to his uncle who wants nothing more to enslave and take advantage of him we pronounce- “Hashem is in this place- and I did not know it”. It is here where Hashem who is not clear leaves it up to us to choose to find Him. In the time of darkness and night, at the time that we generally slumber and when we are exhausted from all we have gone through, it is than that we exert that Divine spark that is deep inside of us and that has been strengthened and re-enforced by the conviction of our morning and afternoon periods of Divine commune where we have seen his glory and how He has taken care of us. During the night we don’t daven to Hashem because we are commanded to, rather it is because Hashem gives us times when we must find the opportunity to connect and get close to him by chance on our own. The times that he is most hidden is the times that we can call up those resources and say that we see you the most. We need you the most. We know you are there. You are the Makom- the place (which non- incidentally is term for Hashem we use for a mourner) when I thought there was no other place to turn.

I was touched by the so many that when the war began sent the E-Mails, the tweets, the posts and the what has now become standard clichéd response to someone who is undergoing a scary time or tragedy- “You are in our thoughts and prayers”. World leaders make those statements and for some reason I don’t feel that they are actually turning to Hashem and praying for us. But our people and friends are different. I know that when you sent those E-mails and wishes tht you as well turned to Hashem for a moment or two as well and asked him to watch over us. You had an “encounter with God” and it came from the deepest part of your heart. That prayer, those expressions of our souls is what can bring peace to the world. If we can bring down and uncover Hashem in the darkeness for the past days of war we can bring Him back home for eternity. Our Parsha concludes with the angels that Yackov saw, coming back to greet him as he returned to the Holy Land after his 22 year exile complete in faith and whole with the twelve tribes accompanying him. May our long exile as well finally conclude and may we once again be joined not just in prayer in times of tragedy and war, but instead in song and dance as we return home for the final time.


Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

PS- I sure could use your thoughts and prayers this wek as I take my final exams upon the completion of my two year tour guide program from the Tourism ministry. J


(can you imagine American kids having to sing songs like this)




Yokne’am- The city of Yoken’am across from the south part of the carmel mountain range is one that is becoming a high tech capital in the north of Israel, yet the archeological tel dates back to the early Egyptian period and the conquest of Joshuah and the Jewish settlement.. On the archeological site one can see the remains of a crusader church as well as graves from the Persian period and jewish settelements period where remains of the douuble wall around the city were uncovered. The new city which has a population of 25,000 is and founded after 1948 on the arab village that was  once there has one of the larges graduation rates in the country and was originally the first school not affiliated with any stream of Israel’s religious demographics bringn together religious and non religious kids in the same school. My favorite place in Yokn’eam is the Morad winery across the tel where you can meet this amazing couple who had a dream to make wine out of everything but grapes including passion fruit, apple,s plum, celery, pepper you name it. Their liquors are delicious and kosher and you can watch a brief movie of their story and sample some delicious wines.


10. Your grandmother asks for the gravy by requesting "the turkey schmaltz"

9. "The turkey is served!" line is followed by someone cracking open an expired Empire deli pack

8. Leftover vegetable kugel is suddenly titled "stuffing"

7. Your neighbor comes over to borrow your hat and jacket for his Pilgrim outfit

6. Someone accidentally starts singing shalom aleichem

5. Dinner is delayed while family clears off the table of Macy's coupons

4. Meal cancelled due to prohibition on using Indian customs and the fact that your mom is busy cooking for shabbos

3. Homemade pies are from Supersol

2. Someone shares a really bad gematria dvar torah connecting Pocahontas and Hashem

1. It's Friday night.


No comments:

Post a Comment