Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 24th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 16 –13th of Shevat 5773
Make Me Proud
If there is one thing that Israelis pride themselves the most on it is their sense of pride. They are proud to be proud. Proud of what? Well it depends who you ask. Most of them are just proud to be proud. Many Israelis are so concerned with pride that they want to share the pride that they feel with others that they are sure don't have it. Israel's most recent political campaign was all about who will restore our pride or make us proud once again or bring us real pride. For some pride means equitable living for all (or at least in Tel Aviv), for others it is pride in our religion and heritage (or at least the way they feel it should be lived), for others it is pride in our moral high ground by giving dignity, money, electricity and maybe even guns to our poor helpless cousins who are suffering under our "occupation" so that we and they can be proud in the UN and in the State Department and in France, and for others it is pride in a life that contains military service, being self-sufficient and being part of our proud society.
What is most ironic is that most Israelis, who claim to be proud, feel that their fellow countrymen are lacking in pride and that only if they would vote for them would they truly be proud once again. The religious feel that the secular are not proud of their heritage and the secular feel the religious are not proud of their close-minded minimalist lifestyles. The right feels the left is not proud of Israel's existence and its accomplishments and the left feels that Israel has no sense of pride in being a moral peaceful nation that cares about its minorities. For a proud nation our obsession with our own pride seems to be at the core of our Jewish psyche and sadly enough for me, a recent Oleh, all of this makes me very not proud. Our country is ripped into shreds by all of this well-meaning-and I truly believe it to be so-divisiveness. Thirty four parties ran for office. Thirty four different groups and campaigns were dedicated to bringing their own unique vision to the Holy-land and the Jewish nation. They all lost. We all lost. In my humble opinion we have nothing to be proud of.
Whoahhhh… you say, what do you mean, nothing to be proud of? Don’t you know that Israel is the first to________ ___________ __________...that we are the greatest_____ _______ __________…. We accomplished________ ________ __________…. There is no other place in the Middle East that ______ __________ __________… For three thousand years we have been the only ones _______ ____________ ________… That every major ________ throughout history is only because of the Jews- they got it from us……. In the field of ____ _______ ______ the Jews were the ones that led the way… that broke new ground…that shone the light. See how proud you just became, when I said that we have nothing to be proud about.
OK, maybe I'm wrong. We are the greatest country in the world. We are the most successful people around. We are a nation that is perfect. The world should learn from us, rather than us from them. They have nothing to teach us. We are Chosen and a light to the world. If not for us, where would everyone else be? We are the smartest, strongest, most educated, most loved by God and the possessors of the only truth. There is and will never be another nation as incredible as us and it's about time we realized it.
Woahhhh… you say again. But don’t you know that we are failing at _____ ______ ______... and that more than half of us are ______ __________ ____________..... and when it comes to _______ __________ _______ even the ______ are doing better… have it better… are more____ _____ _____. What makes you think you're so superior? Don't you know that _____ __________ _______ were all Jews and doesn’t that make you ashamed to be Jewish. It certainly does me… I'm sure Hashem as well can't be too proud of his people, with someone like that…! And there you have it. See how un-proud you became when I said we should be proud. So there we are, the proudest nation and the least proud nation all wrapped up into one nice corned beef sandwich on Jewish Rye with mustard and sour pickles (sorry about that I told you I was getting nostalgic about the States J).
If you have mixed emotions about now, don't feel bad. This is an ancient struggle of our people; perhaps the quintessential one that has always been our challenge. In fact it started 6 days after we left Egypt on the way to becoming that perfect Nation we have yet to achieve becoming and it of course starts in this week's Torah portion.
The Torah tells us that the Jewish people left Egypt on the first day of Passover leaving in their wake the greatest world empire in total destruction. The entire infrastructure of Egypt was destroyed, the Egyptian morale and certainly their "deity-complex" was shattered. Hashem had shown them who His nation was and punished them for all they have done to us. You don’t mess with the Jews. What a proud moment. But wait… what's that in the distance? Uh Oh… 600 chariots and the elite forces of Egypt are pounding down our backs and here we are stuck against the Sea. The Medrash tells us that at that moment a bunch of political parties opened up. . One group favored a battle with the Egyptians- probably the militant right, another group advised leaping into the sea-this was the Masada group-die as free men rather then slaves, a third said to surrender and return to Egypt-perhaps the left- let's work this all out in a peaceful diplomatic way, and a fourth advocated crying to Hashem for help- and there goes those religious guys again. Welcome to our first Israeli politics. Not bad it only took one week.
What does Hashem say?
"Don't be afraid! (for the masada people) Stand firm and see the Lord's salvation that He will wreak for you today, for the way you have seen the Egyptians is today, you shall no longer continue to see them for eternity (for the diplomatic left returnee advocates) . Hashem will fight for you (for the militant ones), but you shall remain silent (for the religious prayer ones)."
Well what do you know? They were all wrong. Hashem continues in the next verse..
"Why do you cry out to me (seemingly the political commercials didn't stop, especially the prayer ones)"
"Speak to the Jewish people and tell them to go".
I'm in charge of this one. It's not about you- Hashem says- it's about Me. And thus ends our first lesson of becoming a nation. The water splits. The Jews come out and our first song-our national anthem is declared. The song of our pride. Our song to Hashem.
Ashira La'Hashem Ki Go'ah Ga'ah- I sing to Hashem for He is the pride of all prides…
This is my God and I will glorify him…
U'Vrov Gaon'Cha TaH'aros Kameicha- With the abundance of Your pride You shatter Your opponents
Who is like You in greatness…Hashem shall rule forever..
This is perhaps the most pivotal moment of our history. We are united. We are one. We are at once the most humble of all nations and the most proud. We recognize that in essence there is nothing that we have or accomplish that is not from Hashem. What fills us with the most pride possible is that we are connected to that greatness. Our only and greatest pride is that we are His people and He is our Father. It's never about us being proud about us. It's always meant to be us proud about Him.
We've fallen a long way since that moment. But there are times when we really do and can feel that pride. Think about your most proud moments. Is it your child's Bar Mitzvah, walking them down the Chupah? Is it when you achieved a milestone that you never thought you could achieve, but for the help of Hashem? Is it when you moved to Israel and connected and returned to that special country that we have longed for? It is at moments of our deepest sense of pride that we are probably most filled with a sense of humility and connection to Hashem. It is at those moments that our souls fly back to that first moment and echo that song- Ashira La'Hashem Ki Go'ah Ga'ah. I'm proud that Hashem is with me. Our least proud moments in life are when we are disconnected from Hashem. When we are trying to "make it on our own" and when we are trying to change and fix the world and everyone else because we don't value their connection to Hashem and their sense of pride in being His children; the connection they possess merely by created in His image.
Our sages tell us that our pride for Hashem is reflected in the Teffilin/Phylacteries that we wear as a crown upon our head which state in it Hashem is our one God, our eternal love for Him and our memory of that moment of our Exodus. Hashem, our sages teach us, also "wears" Tefillin. In God's tefillin it states his pride in the Jewish people… His crown…His greatest nachas. And what does it say in his tefillin? Mi K'amcha Yisrael Goy Echad Ba'Aretz- Who is like you Israel, one nation on the land. What makes Hashem proud of us? That we are one nation. All of "our" accomplishments throughout history in wars, technology, innovation, wisdom, ethics, even the light we share all comes from Hashem. It is He that gives us greatness and from which everything comes. The only thing Hashem can be proud of us is when we are one…when we are united and when we can all put aside all of our petty differences and become His people together…all of us.
Can you remember that moment when we left Egypt? Do you remember that moment when we stood on Sinai when we crowned Hashem? When we knew we could change the world into His world? When we knew that was all that we wanted…all that we were here for? When we all stood together as His people? I don't remember it…but my soul does. It longs for that pride. It knows we can achieve it again. Ba'Yom HaHu Yehiyeh Hashem Echad U'Shmo Echad- On that day may it be soon Hashem will be one and His name one. Together we can be proud once again.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and an inspiring Tu B'Shvat,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ PROUD ISRAEL VIDEO OF THE WEEK IN HONOR OF TU B'SHVAT
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE COURSE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Biblical Giv'on is located in?
(a) Nahal Sorek
(b) East of Mikhmash
(c) the Ayalon Valley
(d) north of Nebi Samuel
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Ari Ashkenazi Shul, Tzefat – The Ari"zl – Reb Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572) was one of the greatest Kabbalists of all times and can be accredited with starting the standard and normative ideas about Kabbala elaborating and explain the concepts of Tikun Olam and redeeming the sparks of holiness found in every aspect of Creation. His father was Ashkenazi and his mother was Sefardi raised in Jerusalem and moved to Egypt when he was orphaned at a young age. He came to Tzefat for the last two years of his life ( he died at the young age of 38) and in those two years he transformed much of the religious world and lifecycle as we know it. Innovations attributed to the Ari'zl (which means lion but also an acronym of his name Adonainu Reb Yitzchak of Blessed Memory) include Tashlich Rosh Hashana, Simchat Torah Hakafot, Shavuot night studying, Ushpizin/ the heavenly Sukkot guests and even the TU bi'shvat Seder that many will hold this Shabbos J. Perhaps most significantly each Friday night they would come out to this field where the shul is and welcome in the Shabbat Queen with psalms and songs. The shul originally built by the Jewish greek community form Grigos was sold to the ashkenazic Chasidic Jews that came here in the late 1700 and early 1800's. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1837 that killed over 2000 Jews in Tzefat and rebuilt with mystical design that looks like an orchard and trees.
On the top of the Ark with 3 pillars on each side corresponding to the three classes of Jews Kohein Levi Yisrael one can make out the face of man that was turned into a lion so as not to have any human images in the Shul. In the rear of the Shul is a chair of Eliyahu donated by the daughter of the the Sanzer Rav where it is said to be an omen for having children. The Bima as well is known to be a place of miracles as in 1948 when a missle hit the courtyard shrapnel flew into the shul and just missed the person who was sitting there as he was bowing down during the modem portion of prayer. Many put letters with their prayers in that crack which is still visible as they do in the Kotel.
RABBI SCHWARTZ QUOTE OF THE WEEK
While the sage Choni was walking along a road, he saw a man planting a carob tree.
Choni asked him: "How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?" "Seventy years," replied
the man. Choni then asked: "Are you so healthy a man that you expect to live that length
of time and eat its fruit?" The man answered: "I found a fruitful world because my
ancestors planted it for me. Likewise, I have planted for my children."
Answer is D- Giv'on is mentioned quite a few times in tanach. The Giv'onim tricked Yehoshua into making a treaty with them when the Jews first came into Israel. They became the water carriers and wood choppers for the Jewish people. The city became one of the Lev'im cities in the portion of the tribe of Binyomin. King Shaul was from there and because he killed the Givonim King David (after suffering a three year famine in Israel and being informed by Hashem that this was the cause) handed over Shaul's children to be killed to them in order to rectify the desecration of Hashem's name. The Tabernacle/Mishkan resided in Givon as the final place (after Gilgal, Shilo, Nov) until Shlomo built the Mikdash. Shlomo brought 1000 sacrifices in Givon when he received his dream that gave him wisdom. By the pool of Givon as well was the fatal battle between Avner Sauls general and Yoav Dovid's general. Archeologists have found this ancient pool as well as all types of burial tombs and huge ancient wine cellars for 95,000 wine jugs with what do you know? the letters Givon engraved on their handles. L'Chaim!