Our view of the Galile

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Book- Vayigash 2012/5773

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

December 20th 2012 -Volume 3, Issue11 -7th of Tevet 5772

Parshas VaYigash

The Book

So it's about time I wrote a book, people tell me. Rabbi Schwartz stories, insights, quotes, jokes, cool Israel stuff, parsha inspiration. I've hesitated for many years. After-all we have a special relationship, you and I. I spill my weekly kishkas without much thought or care for political corrected-ness (and possibly even grammar or editing). You sneak a peek at your work space or waiting on line somewhere, I don't venture to think much past that, although I hope for the best. Many of you even do me the honor of printing me up and sharing at your Shabbat table. It's free (although donations and sponsorship are always appreciated at my blog below-specially before the end of the year, although not many of you have taken me up on that donation offer-shame...

L-((see I can't do that in the book-))) and it's our secret pleasure. Once I put myself "out there" and people actually have to make a conscious decision to buy me-because my E-Mail is me of course- I might than have to think or limit myself. And what if it doesn't sell? What if I am really not the next Maimonides, Luzzatto, or Jewish Dickens, Shakespeare, Twain, Dr. Suess, Dave Barry and J. K. Rowling all rolled up into one loveable hard-covered package? Will I be able to survive that blow to my very fragile ego? I'm not that worried. See I have the perfect marketing plan.

Now as every author knows the most important part of the book is the marketing. Being a frequent purveyor of book stores with a nice library myself, I know what sells. There are new books that come out every day. What separates the ones that sell from the ones that languish until they retire into the clearance discount section, especially from the new still-unknown and not yet famous authors, is the cover, title and after that the approbations inside. So here's my secret strategy- it is patented already so don't try to steal it. The title of the book will be "Banned- the book that is forbidden to read". The cover will look like one of the walls of a Jerusalem street with those protest posters on it. The author's name will be blocked although it can be faintly seen ( I want people to know it's me) with a disclaimer that says that the author has chosen to remain anonymous for fear of his life and his children's future marriage prospects. The book, instead of having approbations, will have letters of condemnation from great Rabbis-who will write that although they have not had time to read the book they have heard that is inflammatory and heretical. Similar condemnations will follow from the Prime ministers and chief Rabbis of Israel, the Republican and Democratic parties, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, my mother, my children and Mrs. Cohen my fourth grade English teacher. Do you actually think it makes a difference what I write after that? You know it will sell. Walla! an author is made.

It's interesting how human nature is. We are driven and drawn to the prohibited. Since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden we are born with a nature and an inclination to "eat the forbidden fruit". King Solomon, the wisest of all men, in his great work of Proverbs made the observation that mayim genuvim yimtaku-stolen waters taste sweet. Water the most tasteless of all things, suddenly tastes sweet like honey or Israeli coke after a good plate of chulent if it is forbidden; the sweet hard-to resist taste of sin. So how do we conquer this desire, this temptation? How can we assure ourselves that we don't get caught buying a lousy book that has a brilliantly marketed cover that touches and awakens that Yetzer Hara/evil inclination and calls to us daily.

Our sages turn to this week's Torah portion and see in its exciting yet innocuous story a powerful and moving lesson; A secret strategy to becoming the person that we want to be. The narrative of Yosef and his brothers finally comes to an end this week with Yosef's grand reveal to his brother who had sold him down into slavery.

"I am Yosef- Is my father still alive? And the brothers could not answer him for they were disconcerted in front of him."

A powerful moment. Perhaps one of the most moving and inspiring in the Torah narratives. Yet our sages took a different look and lesson from this moment. The Torah is not a story-book or biblical novel it is an eternal work to give us life-lessons. The 3rd century Mishnaic sage Abba Bardela read these verses and wept.

"Woe is to us from the Day of Judgment; woe is to us from the Day of Rebuke. Yosef was the youngest of the brothers, yet the other brothers could not respond to his rebuke. If so, what will we say when Hashem will rebuke each and every one of us according to what he is?"

Was that the first reaction and thought you had, when you read this story? Did you see in this story of Yosef's reunion with his brothers your day of judgment before your eyes? Our sages did. The reason is because they lived a life with that image before their eyes as real and as present as we see the blue sky and shining sun. Rabbi Yehudah Ha'Nasi (the prince), editor of the Mishna writes in Pirkei Avot-

"Consider three things and you will not come to sin: Know what is above you: an eye that sees and an ear that hears, and all your deeds are recorded in the Book."

The Book, the one that you are authoring is being written. Our sage's lives were about that eternal book. That book's readership will be read by Hashem and everyone that one encountered or interacted with, as well as one's ancestors from the beginning of time. They have a lot of time up there and they are all fascinated to read what you wrote. What legacy you left. What impact you made. Who you moved, inspired and did kindness with and type of world did you leave behind. When Yosef's brothers stood shamefaced as their brother stood before them and the mistakes of their past were revealed to them, our sages examined and thought about their own heavenly book that they were writing and wondered if they would also be shamed; If the mistakes, slips, and failings that they may have made in their lives would also leave them abashed, wordless and mortified. When one sees their life as being a book that is going to be read, you think about these things. You make different decisions. The right decisions. Sin doesn't tempt. Controversy is avoided. And the wrong books and all those other temptations that we might not be so proud of having been lured into in the past no longer call to us. We don't need everybody to read about it in our book. It does not have to be part of our story.

Now if some of you are concerned that there are a lot of parts of your book that are already written that you perhaps may not be so comfortable with your parents, children or Almighty reading. It's just not exactly angel-worthy. Have no fear. See the Divine Book you are writing has a really cool old-fashioned app that works with it. It's a delete/edit mode that is called Teshuva/Repentance. By merely regretting ones actions, telling Hashem (it is voice operated) that you are sorry, and by resolving not to make those silly mistakes again, all of those unsavory parts of your book-that would be banned- now become transformed into beautiful prose, episodes of growth and salvation and acts that brought you closer to Hashem.

So I guess we are all fellow authors, dear readers. We are all writing books. We won't have to come on to any cheesy marketing strategies if we write them right. Hashem Himself has written His approbation on the work that we can do. And they all lived happily ever after...The End

Have a marvelous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

(Heart-wrenching and inspiring-worth watching through)



(answer below)

Concentrations of sea squills (hatsavim) imply the presence of:

A high water table(a)

(b) Alluvial soil

(c) Remains of Chalcolithic settlement

(d) A burial site


Jaffa Gate/ Jerusalem - This week we commemorate the start of the siege around the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians. The current walls of Jerusalem as awe inspiring as they are, are not the walls from that period of time. In fact there was nothing really here until later in the second Temple and even then there was no gate here. The Jaffa gate was built in the 16th century by Suliman who modestly called himself the magnificent. I know that might seem shocking as the walls seem so ancient, even more amazin though is that until the late 1800's there was no-one really outside of these walls. Jerusalem as we know it was only inside the gates. Some interesting things about Jaffa Gate. In the early 1900's there used to be a clock tower here that was taken down by the Brit's. in the 1920's. This was the first gate that was opened up to auto-traffic as the wall was broken down and opened up to allow for the passage of the motorcade of German Kaiser Wilhelm II who came to visit the city. Allenby entered the old city upon defeating the Turks from this gate where he dismounted and walked through it in order to give honor to the Holy city. Right on the side of the gate one can see the graves of two of the engineers of Suliman who built the wall. Legend has it that he was upset that they left Har Tzion/Mt. Zion out of the walls and so he killed them and buried them here. From 48'-67' the gate was sealed with a armoured car that was stuck in the gate as it was no-mans land (I call it Jordanian occupied territory). Today the lovely Mamilla mall leads right up to this main entrance to the old city of Jerusalem.



History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." -Winston S. Churchill



Answer is D- burial site. I got this one wrong too... The chatzav interestingly enough is mentioned in the Talmud yerushalmi as being a geophyte shrub (meaning it has a bulb under ground like an onion) that was used to separate borders in Israel. Joshua even used these shrubs to delineate between the portions of the tribes of Israel. The leaves of this shrub which serve as the harbinger of the autumn being that it is in fact the latest sprouting plant/flower of the previous winter. The leaves of this plant are poisonous and thus not susceptible to animals eating it and served as a rodenticide. It was used as way of identifying graves primarily of the poor when a gravestone was too unaffordable because it would grow each year and not spread thus serving of a permanent reminder and sign of a grave that would not be subject or disturbed by animals. As it rises and sprouts up among the dying leaves of all the other trees the chatzav is a symbol of the resurrection of the dead and of the flourishing of the Jewish people whose roots are strong and will always grow again.


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