Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
December 12th 2012 -Volume 3, Issue 9 -23rd of Kislev 5773
The Pit-falls of Office
So I'm debating running for Knesset. It seems that everyone else is these days. Rosh Memshala/Prime Minister Schwartz has a nice ring to it. I can start my own party aptly calling it the Chulent party- Tet, Shin with a little apostrophe after it. My platform will be a plate of chulent in every crockpot on Shabba,t or Chamin if you're Sefardic. We will also promise to expand our mandate to include vegetarians-respecting their right to avoiding the pleasures that the rest of us holy carnivores have (more cow for the rest of us). In this very divided country of ours, which thank god has no serious problems or issues to deal with; we have peaceful neighbors, plenty of housing, cottage cheese is cheap, we have a backup of everyone who wants to serve their country equally and an educational system that is better than any third world country out there, it's time for us to focus on the important issues that plague our country. The lack of a Schwartz representation in any important government position (Northern regional director of Synagogue development for the Young Israel/ tour guide/ mortgage broker/ shlepper for Ameri-$-Kana new and lightly used clothes-my wife's business/ and tzimmer owner- is just not enough for me) and the heart-wrenching (and burning) lack of quality Shabbat chulent/stew on many peoples plates.
Think about it, I know a lot of important things that can help this country. I can tell you the history of the Crusader and Mamluk periods, what rock formation the eilat mountains are made of (actually I kind of forgot that one already L) and where the best kayaking and mehadrin restaurants are located. I know used clothing prices and how the banking system works (you give them money- they charge you, you withdraw-they charge you, you yell at them- they reverse the charges). Most importantly I know how people like their chulent. It makes them happy. A little herring, some crackers and rugelach and every so often Yerushalmi Kugel and all your problems go away. I am also planning on running a clean campaign. I will not bring up the flip-flops, false promises and criminal pasts of most other Knesset members (Although I will quote- Natan Sharansky- the soviet refusenik and former member of Knesset who once said convincingly that he believes he is the only person in Knesset who sat in prison…before he got to Knesset). It's just me and you. A Jewish country based on principles of democratic chulent and kugel for all. I will even make a constitution that says that. All will share equally in this burden. We will finally be one.
Now as I begin to launch my campaign I will strategize using the Torah and of course our weekly portion, I have to write this weekly E-Mail anyways so why not cook two chulents in the same pot. See, efficiency- that's what you'll get from me. Our Parsha this week starts out with the story of the first Jewish leader running a campaign for leadership of the Jewish people, or at least the tribes of Israel; our forefather Yosef.
Let's see what we can learn from his successes and his pit-falls (excuse the pun). Yosef starts his campaign at the young age of 17 launching it with his famous "I had a dream" speech. In his dream he saw his brothers sheaves of wheat bowing down to his sheave of wheat. Not the most inspiring speech I imagine. It didn't really go over well. After all who is really interested in wheat- now barley, beans and meat that might have gone over a little better. So Yosef ups the ante. He promises them the stars. In his next dream he even includes his father Yaakov and mother as all coming and bowing to him. That didn't seem to work too well either, although his father according to the text "guarded the matter". Only a Jewish parent could still have hopes for this kid. Yosef, however ends up in the bottom of a pit, sold to Egypt and lands himself in prison with not so savory allegations pressed against him. One can imagine the tweets going on. So perhaps Yosef is not the best model for our campaign.
We turn then to the next future leader of the tribes of Israel. Yehudah starts his campaign with a unique strategy. He stands up for his competition and brother Yosef who was thrown into a pit declaring "What gain can you have from killing our brother and covering up his blood". Pretty amazing and counter-intuitive for someone who himself was meant to be the leader of the tribes. Yehudah however hedges, rather than returning Yosef to his father, he attempts to get him out of the picture by selling him down to Egypt. Yaakov is of course inconsolable. Yehuda is blamed for this and he himself is sent away where he also get caught up in an unsavory scandal and tragedy. Things do not look good for the leadership of this people. If we don’t learn from these mistakes and their consequences, 3000 years later we will continue to fail to create the nation Hashem wants us to become. So who will we model our campaign on?
Let's take a look at the story of Chanuka. We have a major world empire that is destroying the pillars of our faith. The nation has left God, embraced Hellenism, Greek parties, the Temple has become pagan and there doesn't seem to be anyway to turn back the clock. And then the Maccabees come into the picture. A small Jewish family with no aspirations of greatness launch their campaign with a call "Mi Kamocha Ba'Eilim Hashem- who is like you among heavenly powers Hashem (the acronym of MaKaBI)". They pick up a sword themselves, without delegating it to anyone else. No one has to bow down to them. No one has to anoint them king (in fact their downfall only comes years later after the first Chasmonai descendant takes the political office as king). They restore the Temple, light simple lights and bring us the first independent Jewish government in Israel. Now, although we know the names of the Chashmonaim Matityahu, Yehuda, Yochanan Yonatan, Elazar and Shimon, we barely mention them in the additional prayers we say to commemorate the holiday of Chanuka. Imagine talking about the establishment of Israel without Ben Gurion, Chaim Weizman, Jabotinsky, Herzl). The reason is because the Chashomanim were never seeking political office or any self-promotion or leadership. They were fighting a battle for Hashem. The less their names were "out there", the more that the commemoration was about Hashem and the miracles He performed, the greater the success of their life's mission was.
Let's turn back to Yosef again, in next week's portion he makes his comeback. But he is a new Yosef. He no longer is trying to get anyone to bow down to him. He in fact tells Pharoh with sincere humility and a desire to help save the Egyptian populace that all he has is from Hashem. He seeks no recompense or place in the Egyptian Knesset. And what do you know? From there he is chosen and rises to becoming second in command to Egypt. Yehuda as well in this week's portion once again begins his rise to greatness when he puts aside any political aspiration by confessing that Tamar, who was the threat to his leadership, was more righteous than him- pulling her out of the "pit of death" and this time however restoring her to her place of glory, as she becomes the mother of the future kings of Israel and the line of David.
So perhaps announcing my campaign at this time is not such a good idea. Real Jewish leaders never came out of political campaigns. Our greatest heroes and leaders were individuals that looked at the world saw a lack of Hashems' presence and took upon themselves the responsibility to change the world. Starting with themselves, their families, their communities, the Jewish people and eventually the world. Bit by bit… candle by candle. Each home its own little light adding a spark each day. The world needs us. We are all part of the mandate. May we merit bringing the spark of Chanuka to the world.
Have a spectacular Shabbos and Chanuka,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZES VIDEO OF THE WEEK –Funny Bris clip- the Greeks tried to stop us and we're still at it with pride J
And of course your first Rabbi Schwartz Chanuka video- and who says Yeshiva guys can't move?
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE COURSE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Which of the following is not a karstic phenomenon
A vadose shaft (huta)(a)
(b) a stalactite cave (me'arat ha'netifim)
(c) a sinkhole (dolina)
(d) a volcanic crater (juba)
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Maccabee graves- right off the road from Modi'in to Jerusalem one can pass a sign that directs you to the grave of the Maccabees. The site goes back to the early 1900's when a group of school children with their teacher asked some local arabs where the graves are and they were directed to "kubur-al Yahud" an ancient jewish cemetery. Unfortunately most experts acan see that the graves are from a later Byzantine period rather than early Hashmonai from the style of the graves and possibly even pagan or Christian. Oops.. Josephus describes the graves of the Chashmonaim as being these big pyramid like pillars with armor and carved ships. If Josephus is telling the truth (which is always questionable) these are not them. Other suggestions of the site was sheik-al jabreihh where some graves and ruins where found but was discounted because of a crucifix of which was a church floor instead. Some suggest it may be in Al midyeh or other digs in the area. All in all we don’t know where they are.. Maybe that is the way they wanted it J
RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
In my country we go to prison first and then become President ~ Nelson Mandela
Answer is D-Juba Located in Israel's most volcanic area Jubas are craters that were formed either by Volcanic gas being expelled from the earth without any lava (kinda of like and volcanic burp) one can see the big juba in the Odem forest in the upper Golan heights that is about 250 meters wide and 60 meters deep.