Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 10th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 14 –28th of Tevet 5772
It has been an interesting week. I cut my finger and it began to bleed. BLOOD. My fuses blew and the lights went out. DARKNESS. I looked out my window at the brewing storm and what do you know? HAIL. My wife started screaming as she combed my daughter's hair. LICE. I have decided to stay away from wild animal, frogs, cattle and anything that might burn me and I gave my 1st born an extra hug this morning. Call me paranoid, but it's Parshas Va'eira and if I wasn't thinking about plagues beforehand, I sure got thinking about them now.
It is perhaps one of the most familiar stories of our nation. We recount it in much detail and embellishment at our Pesach Seders-sometimes with the help of all types of little cutesy demonstrative toys- dead sheep, windup hoppy frogs, hail ping pong balls… We all know the story of the ten plagues and could name them probably even faster than we can name the ten commandments (I'll pause so you can try it…J). Yet in truth after all the fun and games and exciting stories the question we have to ask ourselves is what was really the point of it all. Don't get me wrong I'm all for an exciting story, but imagine you were living in Egypt for 210 years under harsh slavery conditions and the time for Exodus is here. Wouldn’t you want to just get out already?
To make this perhaps even more real imagine a concentration camp survivor when the Americans came through the gates of Auschwitz at the end of the war. But rather than chocolate bars and buses to take the people out, they soldiers said "Hold on a second-or a year-as we change their water to blood, hit them with frogs, kill their animals, knock out their lights and so on and so on." For an entire year we remained in Egypt as this process went on. Don't you think our nation would have said "thanks for the show but we'll catch the movie later. We'll grab our matzo's and leave now- thank you". If Hashem wanted to punish the Egyptians than He could've had some type of Nuremberg trial once we were out of there already. Even if the function of the plagues were to serve as a Divine quid pro quo (mida k'neged mida-as our sages refer to it), each plague being retribution for every type of persecution that they enslaved and tortured our people with, why did we have to be there for it all? Wouldn't it have been nice just to sit back, with some hot cocoa and watch it all on TV?
The answer the Torah tells us in the first few verses of this week's Torah portion in Hashem's preamble to the entire story is that it was not about the Egyptians or retribution. It was about us.
Hashem spoke to Moshe, and He said to him, "I am the Hashem. I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov with [the name] Almighty God, but [with] My name Hashem, I did not become known to them. And also, I established My covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings in which they sojourned. And also, I heard the moans of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I remembered My covenant. Therefore, say to the children of Israel, 'I am the Lord, and I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be a God to you, and you will know that I am the Lord your God, Who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land, concerning which I raised My hand to give to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov, and I will give it to you as a heritage; I am the Lord.' "
So there we have it. The ten plagues, the yearlong extended stay in Egypt, were in order that we would know the name of our Father and redeemer. Until we personally witnessed Hashem's hand against the Egyptians, until we realized that all the forces of nature were united by Hashem's word to carry out His will, until we first hand stood back in awe and amazement as their water turned to blood while ours stayed water, the frogs, lice, locusts, wild animals terrorized them but didn't even croak in our direction, until we saw that we had total light while our oppressors were frozen in the dark…we weren't ready to go. The Exodus from Egypt wasn't as much about getting us out of a rotten concentration camp as it was of creating us a nation that would always know at its core that we were different, Chosen, Hashem's people. We were meant to know that Hashem who created all and who consistently manages and directs all aspects of nature is our God. It was a course that we would never and have never forgotten. We may not always remember all the commandments but deep in our souls we will never forget what we witnessed that year in Egypt.
I once saw a testimony from a Holocaust survivor who described his worst day during the Holocaust. He said that it was not the day that he was separated from his loved ones when he first came to the camp. It wasn't the day that he watched his children killed in front of him, nor when he thought he was going to die as he marched 14 miles in the bitter snow. The worst day he said was when the gates opened up and the American tanks with their shiny flags came through throwing chocolate bars to the surviving prisoners. Why was that the worst day? He asked for us. Because throughout all the years and all the suffering, no matter what happened we had one thing that held us through it all; it was the faith, knowledge and belief that there would be an end and it would bring Moshiach. What we were going through were just the birthpangs, the persecution before we were to be redeemed. But, this time forever. We saw those gates opened and we were expecting Moshiach on a white donkey blowing a shofar waiting to bring us finally home. And when we saw that it was just the Americans with chocolate bars there was nothing more devastating than that…
Moshiach did not come after the Holocaust. We were not redeemed after the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Cossacks, Stalin and even after all of the wars and terror we have undergone since the founding of the State of Israel. Yet the Jewish people are still here, still strong and have still maintained faith that we will ultimately be redeemed. That strength to survive and flourish and pick ourselves up from the ashes again and again is only because we have the knowledge that Hashem is our God and that he controls all that happens to us. It's what has still kept us looking at those gates of challenge hardship and tragedy and still wait for the redemption. It was the lesson we have never forgotten from that last year in Egypt.
At our Pesach Seder we drink four cup of wine to remember the four terminologies of redemption. I will take you out, I will save you, I will take you to me and I will redeem you. While most people drink to forget we drink to recall that sense of euphoria and knowledge we had when we left Egypt. We drink because we truly are free with the knowledge and redemption we experienced. We will never again be enslaved in spirit because of that redemption. No matter what we are put through the horrors that we experience and the challenges that we face we know that Hashem is our God. Yet there is one cup, a fifth cup that we place on our table that we do not drink. That cup is the only one, even here in Israel today that we do not fully have; we cannot yet drink. And I will bring you to the land. -we have come home or at least begun to, yet we still await for Hashem to join us and bring that final redemption, the culmination that we have been longing for. We know it will happen. We pray it will be soon. We've had enough of the chocolate bars, the hail, the darkness and the lice. It's time for Him to come home.
Have a warm, light filled, scratch free J Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ "TEN PLAGUES" VIDEO OF THE WEEK
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL ISRAELI ELECTION COMMERCIAL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE COURSE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
What is a casemate wall
(a) A wall composed of two parallel with partitions between them
(b) a wall with projections and recesses
(c) a wall with an attached moat
(d) a thick wall with towers
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Holon/Blind, Deaf and children's Museum – the city of Holon founded in 1935 on the sand dunes (Hol being sand) outside of Tel Aviv has the 2nd largest industrial area (after Haifa) in israel. In addition to that in 1954 President Yitzchak Ben Tzvi established the 2nd only city for Shomronim/Samaritans here. This ancient people who believe they are the real jewish people after the destruction of the 2nd Temple have lived in Israel since then historically being a thorn in the Jewish peoples side today they are a small population supportive of the state of Israel with many jewish/like customs and distortion of our traditional Judaism. The best reason to visit Holon though, is the incredible blind and deaf museum where you can take an hour tour led by blind and deaf people through total darkness or soundless environments. It is absolutely amazing and gives you a real appreciation of the gifts of eyesight and hearing that we have and a true sense of awe and empathy for the lives of the blind and deaf and their strength to achieve and succeed despite their handicaps. There is also a wonderful hands on children's museum as well with five different tours and programs to inspire and excite your youngsters with the world we live in.
RABBI SCHWARTZ FAVORITE LICE JOKE OF THE WEEK OYYYY…
What did the head lice say to the other head lice? You wait here – I’ll go on a head!
What do you call a lice on a bald person? Homeless
Where do mountain – climbing head lice go? The Widow’s Peak
What does a louse need to drive? A License
What did the head lice say when their host went to the barber? “There goes the neighborhood.”
What is the favorite San Francisco treat of a louse? Lice-a-roni.
What is the favorite hobby of head lice? Nitting
What is a louse’s favorite frozen confection? Lice cream
What is the favorite lice nursery rhyme? Three Blind Lice
What did the mother louse say to her misbehaving little nits? “Don’t make me get the comb!”
Answer is A- I actually skipped this one on my exam (you're allowed to skip 5 out of 50 questions). The reason was because I learned the material in hebrew and was not familiar with the English word for this. In Hebrew the casemate wall is known as a Chomat Sograyim which is two parallel walls with space in between. We find them in the great cities that shlomo built Chatzor, Meggido and Gezer as well as in Masada. The function of this type of wall was that it was cheaper to make as one didn’t need to fill up a whole solid broad wall and the space between the two walls could be used for storage, guard space or other purposes. In case of attack the space in between the two walls could be filled up to add extra fortification for the city.