Our view of the Galile

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Doctor God-Mishpatim/ Shekalim 2013

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 7th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 18 –27th of Shevat 5773

Parshas Mishpatim/Shekalim

Doctor God

I don’t like going to Doctors. Maybe if I wasn’t an overweight, middle aged, unhealthy lifestyle (lots of coffee, intermittent meals and some stress) man with a family history of people who died (doesn’t everybody?), than I wouldn’t be subject to those scolding glares that mentally send me back to my days in the Principal’s office. Yet here I am, fulfilling my annual marital responsibility. I realized long ago it’s much easier and less painful to get the glances and scolding from my Doctor then from my wife- for not going.

I used to have a good Doctor. He was overweight, he smoked, and he was always smiling and positive. I felt healthy just looking at him. He even gave me a great prescription for some medicine that got rid of my heartburn after eating Pizza, lasagna or too much chulent. It was great… until my wife came with me once for a physical. Needless to say I no longer see him. My new Doctor, Dr. Watson is 6’1, weighs about 100, works out like a million times a day, is probably a vegetarian, has never had a Danish in his life and stands in front of the mirror each morning practicing his “disappointed in you” look to perfection. Unlike my last Doctor who always wished me a wonderfully cheery “See ya next time, Rabbi”. Dr. Doom shakes my hand as if it will be the last time, and reminds me to make sure my life insurance is paid up.

Joking aside, though as any good Jew and certainly any married, unhealthy, Rabbi whose wife is also Torah educated knows, it’s a Mitzvah to take care of your health. THE MOST IMPORTANT MITZVAH (caps are her’s). Hashem gave us a soul and a body and we are entrusted to take care of it. So I am grateful to my doctor, as much as I hate it, for giving me the mussar I need. As I am grateful to my teachers and principals, in retrospect for guiding me and rebuking me the many times that I certainly deserved it. Yet it would be nice if the doctor would have a little humility and smile a bit more. After-all although we are obligated to care for ourselves, ultimately Judasim believes that are years and our health is in the hands of the Almighty.

This weeks Torah portion shares with us the Mitzvah of being a Doctor. The Torah tells us that if someone injures another he is obligated to pay for his medical costs. V’Rapo Ye’Rapeh- and heal he shall heal him. The Talmud utilizes this verse as the source for Judaism’s permissibility to heal. Although it would seem that this would be seemingly a no-brainer, after-all aren’t we obligated to take care of ourselves and to help save a life. Yet, the commentaries suggest that the Torah felt it was essential for Doctors in particular to recognize that their license to practice comes from the “Rofeh Kol Basar- The Healer of all flesh” the Chief Doctor Himself; Hashem. For us, patients, as well there is an important lesson in this teaching. As much as we are obligated to go to Doctors and to take care of our health, we are always meant to recognize that the Doctor is merely a member of God’s Medical team. Any prognosis we ever receive is always appeal-able to the Higher Power. Your Doctor is and always should be your necessary second opinion. But ultimately it is Hashem who heals you. He does so every day before we get sick and He stands by our bedside as we recover. Doctors probably should have the capacity to recognize this more than us, as they witness medical miracles regularly. But in truth if we pause for just a moment, as we are obligated to throughout the day, we can experience this too.

When during the day am I referring to? Have a read below from this moving article that was actually published in the Journal of American Medical Association. I’m sure it can change your life as it has mine.

For Everything A Blessing

 by Kenneth M. Prager, M.D.
Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, New York

Journal of American Medical Association Vol. 277, Issue 20, 1589 May 28, 1997

When I was an elementary school student in yeshiva – a Jewish parochial school with both religious and secular studies – my classmates and I used to find amusing a sign that was posted just outside the bathroom. It was an ancient Jewish blessing, commonly referred to as the asher yatzar benediction, that was supposed to be recited after one relieved oneself.

For grade school children, there could be nothing more strange or ridiculous than to link to acts of micturition and defecation with holy words that mentioned God’s name. Blessings were reserved for prayers, for holy days, or for thanking God for food or for some act of deliverance, but surely not for a bodily function that evoked smirks and giggles. It took me several decades to realize the wisdom that lay behind this blessing that was composed by Abayei, a fourth-century Babylonian rabbi.

Abayei’s blessing is contained in the Talmud, an encyclopedic work of Jewish law and lore that was written over the first five centuries of the common era. The Jewish religion is chock-full of these blessings, or brachot, as they are called in Hebrew. In fact, an entire tractate of Talmud, 128 pages in length, is devoted to brachot.

On page 120 (Brachot 60b) of the ancient text it is written:

Abayei said; “When one comes out of a privy he should say:

"Blessed is He who has formed man in wisdom and created in him many orifices and many cavities. It is obvious and known before your Throne of glory that if one of them were to be ruptured or one of them blocked, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You. Blessed are You that heals all flesh and does wonders.”

An observant Jew is supposed to recite this blessing in Hebrew after each visit to the bathroom. We young yeshiva students were reminded of our obligation to recite this prayer by the signs that contained its text that were posted just outside the restroom doors.

It is one thing, however, to post these signs and it is quite another to realistically expect preadolescents to have the maturity to realize the wisdom of and need for reciting a 1600-year-old blessing related to bodily functions. It was not until my second year of medical school that I first began to understand the appropriateness of this short prayer.

Pathophysiology brought home to me the terrible consequences of even minor aberrations in the structure and function of the human body. At the very least, I began to no longer take for granted the normalcy of my trips to the bathroom. Instead, I started to realize how many things had to operate just right for these minor interruptions of my daily routine to run smoothly.

I thought of Abayei and his blessing. I recalled my days at yeshiva and remembered how silly that sign outside the bathroom had seemed. But after seeing patients whose lives revolved around their dialysis machines, and others with colostomies and urinary catheters, I realized how wise the rabbi had been.

And then it happened: I began to recite Abayei’s bracha. At first I had to go back to my siddur, the Jewish prayer book, to get the text right. With repetition – and there many opportunities for a novice to get to know this blessing well – I could recite it fluently and with sincerity and understanding.

Over the years, reciting the asher yatzer has become for me an opportunity to offer thanks not just for the proper functioning of my excretory organs, but for my overall good health. The text, after all, refers to catastrophic consequences of the rupture or obstruction of any bodily structure, not only those of the urinary or gastrointestinal tract.

Could Abayei, for example, have foreseen that “blockage” of the “cavity,” or lumen, of the coronary artery, would lead to the commonest cause of death in industrialized countries some 16 centuries later?

I have often wondered if other people also yearn for some way to express gratitude for their good health. Physicians especially, who are exposed daily to the ravages that illness can wreak, must sometimes feel the need to express thanks for being well and thus wellbeing. Perhaps a generic, non-denominational asher yatzer could be composed for those who want to verbalize their gratitude for being blessed with good health.

There was one unforgettable patient whose story reinforced the truth and beauty of the asher yatzer for me forever. Josh was a 20-year-old student who sustained an unstable fracture of his third and fourth cervical vertebrae in a motor vehicle crash. He nearly died from his injury and required emergency intubation and ventilatory support. He was initially totally quadriplegic but for weak flexion of his right biceps.

A long and difficult period of stabilization and rehabilitation followed. There were promising signs of neurological recovery over the first few months that came suddenly and unexpectedly: movement of a finger here, flexion of a toe there, return of sensation here, adduction of a muscle group there. With incredible courage, hard work, and an excellent physical therapist, Josh improved day by day.

In time, and after what seemed like a miracle, he was able to walk slowly with a leg brace and a cane. But Josh continued to require intermittent catheterization. I know only too well the problems and perils this young man would face for the rest of his life because of a neurogenic bladder. The urologists were very pessimistic about his chances for not requiring catheterization. They had not seen this occur after a spinal cord injury of this severity.

Then the impossible happened. I was there the day Josh no longer required a urinary catheter. I thought of Abayei’s asher yatzer prayer. Pointing out that I could not imagine a more meaningful scenario for its recitation, I suggested to Josh, who was also a yeshiva graduate, that he say the prayer. He agreed. As he recited the ancient bracha, tears welled in my eyes.

Josh is my son.

Have a spectacular Shabbos Mevorchim!

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

This week's Insights and Inspiration is sponsored by Asya Starosta in loving memory of her grandfather Abram Krinberg and in appreciation of the weekly inspiration. May the merit of the Torah that is learned each week and her support of our programs in Israel uplift her grandfather's neshoma and may she blessed with only wonderful things!



Our weekly Torah and inspiring E-Mail is sent out weekly to over 1000 subscribers. Your sponsorship is a great way to honor a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, family Simcha, yahrtzeit, friend, or any occasion while lending support to Rabbi Schwartzes efforts in furthering Jewish education and an appreciation of Eretz Yisrael. Please help us continue this weekly offering of inspiration through your generous dedication and sponsorship. To register as a sponsor or for more information, send an e-mail to this address, or call Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz at 050-597-0649 (from States it is 011-972-50-597-0649)rabbschwartz@yahoo.com.
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The Young Israel of Karmiel would like to invite you to join us this Shabbos for our warm and friendly services.

Our Shul is located at 24 HaChavatzelet Street in the Dromi in the Beit Meli building/home.

Candlelighting-4:50 PM

Friday Evening- 5:00 PM

Shabbos Morning Services --8:30 AM

Mincha Shabbos afternoon 4:35 PM

Shabbos ends- 5:56 PM



American Friends of Yisrael Hatzair &
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Kollel Toras Chayim is starting a monthly Rosh Chodesh Neitz/SUNRISE minyan this Sunday Rosh Chodesh Adar Shacharis at 6:05 AM at Bait Mali- Hallel, singing followed by breakfast!
WHEN- Sunday Feb. 24th  Purim Day3:30 PM-?????




and of course the classic funny Shekel haggle





 (answer below)

An inscription bearing the word "boundary" was found near ?

(a) Tel Beit Shemesh

(b) Meggido

(c) Hatzor

(d) Tel Gezer



Mamshit Located in the upper Negev who would ever have thought that if it were up to Ben Gurion this might have been the capital of Israel. This was part of his lifelong dream of populating the Negev. This Nabatean city is one of the most beautiful in Israel and is a UNESCO recognized heritage site along with its counter parts (Nitzana Shivta and Obdat) as part of the Spice Trail. The Nabateans, which were descendants of Yishamael that are mentioned in the Torah as passing by and purchasing Yosef from the pit (Bereshis 23:14 "These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam") major period of development was from the 4th  century BC when they were tribes of nomads trading in spices and incense from africa to between China, India, the Far East, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. They were pagans who's laws included the prohibition to drink wine, plant trees of houses by punishment of death. Thus maintaining their nomadic lifestyle for centuries traveling through the desert on their 62 day journey covering on camels about 25 miles per day. Eventually however with their wealth and later Hellenist and Roman influence they built cities and converted to Christianity. In mamshit which was a capital city of the negev the Palestina Teretzia of the Romans one can see beautiful remains of the rich mans quarters, the roman stables, ancient churches and pagan nile temples with mosaics. Definitly a cool place to see and feel what life in the desert was like.



There must be something to acupuncture.After all, you never see any sick porcupines!” - Bob Goddard



Answer is D- (I confess I answered this one correctly by process of elimination- I was at the other sites and was never at Gezer and I didn't remember it from the other sites-but I got it right… and that’s what countsJ ) The ancient site of Gezer is not an easily visited or kept up site although it's significance is great. First excavated in the early 1900's by McAllister of the PEF it was the first biblically identified city by the find of the boundary stone in Hebrew and Greek stating it was the boundary of Gezer. The stone was possibly from the Chashmonaim period to define borders of the city in regards to the laws of Maaser/tithes between the jewish farmlands and their pagan neighbors. Since then 13 such stones have been found the most recent last year. The city originally Egyptian was given to King Solomon as a dowry when he wed the pharaoh of Egypt's daughter and he built it along with Megiddo and Chatzor as huge cities. Each one of them identical with 6 chambered gates. There is also a mud brick gate from the Cannani period (it's survived all these years because it was burnt in a fire-which we are told in mealchim was done by pharaoh when he conquered from the cananites) as well as a temple of sorts with 10 stones reminiscent of the stones of Moshe when the Jews came to Israel. There is a huge 50 meter water reservoir as well as remains of the ancient towers. Unfortunately the site is not well kept and not easy to visit. But in recent years new digs there have tied to make it more accessible.






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