Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 4th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 25 –24th of Nissan 5773
J.C. Wallis had been having a long tiring day. Things had been non-stop in the office; never-ending phone calls, deals, travel and orders were wearing him out. It was time to head home to his nice home in Ranaana where his wife and three children were waiting for him. Climbing on his shiny new Harley as he left the Airplane factory in Ramat Gan that he founded, he got a call from his wife that she was not going to have time to make supper, perhaps he could make a quick stop and pick up something on the way home. Traffic being what it was by all his usual Tel Aviv haunts, J.C. remembered someone telling him about this great little take-out place outside of Kfar Saba that was becoming renowned for its excellent cuts of Basar Lavan literally translated as white meat, but to those in Israel in the know the term is a euphemism for that delectable forbidden feast- the oink oink, split hooved but non cud-chewing cute little porky type. Standing on line waiting for his pork-in-a pita shwarma orders (maybe with a little ham-mas on that please? Oyyy), JC had the epiphany of his life. Things haven't been the same since.
Reb Shraga Feivel Winkler was having one of the easier days of the past few months. That was not a small thing in the Nazi labor camp called Dachau. Having been ripped away from his family when the Nazis entered his Hungarian city of Debrecezen, this simple god-fearing cheder teacher was tortured, starved and enslaved until arriving at Dachau his final stop before the end of the war. Throughout it all he served as an inspiration and source of strength to all his fellow prisoners. But the past week it had gotten easier. The US troops were getting closer, the Nazis fearing their arrival had already let up on the slave labor and were starting to flee. The ones that remained were being slightly more benevolent trying to ingratiate themselves and perhaps avoid the full weight of the justice and retribution that they were sure was coming (although until Mashiach comes will never fully be levied against them).
Hours remained before liberation and the prisoners were called into the camp square. The Kommandant got up before the group of breathing skeletons that stood before him and told them that the end was near and that they would be allowed to leave alive. But then he got an evil look in his eyes, as he threw his last dig at them. Two guards brought out a big pot of pork and as they laughed and mocked the Jews. They called Reb Shraga Feivel to the middle of the circle. The Kommandant told him that in order for him to "merit" his freedom and life he would have to eat the forbidden chazer" that he had avoided eating all his life, even in these camps of death with great sacrifice surviving on rotten vegetables and water. For Reb Shraga it wasn't a question. The pork would never cross his lips. The Nazi pulled out his pistol and barked at him one last time "If you eat this you will live… if not you will die here like a dog". Reb Shraga Feivel looked pitifully at this Nazi and proudly stood up straight and nodded his head in refusal. He died that night…but not like a dog…like a saint and a martyr who's memory lived forever.
JC stood there in that hot sweltering line and the smell of that cooking pork somehow stirred that eternal soul of his grandfather and of his memory. "What am I doing here?" JC asked himself as he recalled the story his father (who had raised him non-religious) had told him as a child. Either he was crazy, living here in the holy land surrounded by Jews, freedom and kosher and ordering trayf or his grandfather who had given up his life hours before liberation to not eat it was? Why would he give up his life for this? Why had Jews throughout the generations sacrificed themselves and their children, luxuries, pleasures, societal benefits for? Were they all crazy or maybe I am? One thing JC knew was that he was not going to put that pig in his mouth until he found out that answer.
This week's Torah Portion contains in it the prohibition of eating non-kosher animals. Pig being the most familiar perhaps of all of them and being the one that although has split hooves does not chew its cud, is known to be the "trayf-est" of them all.
Interestingly enough the Medrash in various places seems to see in the chazir/pig ultimate redemption and perhaps even a promise of some eternal pork chops for God's holy nation
"Why is it called Chazir (the Hebrew word for pig)- because in the future Hashem will return (machzir) it to his people"
In another Medrash it says similarly (after comparing the other three species listed camel, rabbit and hyrax to the three exiles Babylonia, Persia and Greece) it says Rome is compared to the pig as it will have no other exile following it (symbolized by the non-chewing cud status as opposed to the other ones which have another exile following them- like food that keeps coming up). Why is it called Chazir- because eventually Hashem will return the crown to his people (when he will judge Esav/Rome).
And finally one last Medrash- "Our Sages taught that there will come a day when Hashem will make a proclamation "All who have not tasted pig come get your reward… why is it called Chazir for eventually it will return greatness and kingship to her owners."
What is it about this pig that on one hand seems to be the most vilified of non-kosher animals but at the end it seems to have some type of redemption. The previous Rebbe of Lubavitch suggests a very deep thought. He notes that all animals were created to be elevated in the service of Hashem. The non-kosher ones are elevated by us avoiding them, thus declaring our obedience to Hashem.Tthe non-split hooves are signs that the external nature of these animals is bereft of godliness. The chewing of its cud is that its internal nature is pure. The pig being the only animal that’s has the external "holiness" shows its hooves off and pretends to be kosher. But deep inside, at its heart and essence it is trayf...impure… not kosher. When we avoid all the other animals we just merely have to see from the outside they are non-kosher. The pig requires deeper internal reflection. Why not? It looks fine… It smells good… (baked at leastJ). For the nation of God though the mere externalities are not enough. For a nation that Hashem will "return the crown, greatness and the land to" we have to make sure our essence is pure as well. The Chazir causes that reflection ultimately when we merit that final redemption and we have returned it will have reached its final elevation.
JC fled that restaurant that day and jumped on his Harley and headed home. He took his wife and children and decided to attend a local seminar on Judaism; to find answers… to understand…but definitely not to return. He left that weekend however a changed man. He saw Jews discussing obscure thousand year old texts that discussed minutiae of the law and tradition and understood that it had to be true. Jews have never accepted things on faith and the thousands of years of discussion, questions, arguments convinced him that the Torah was vibrant, real and from God. He spent his first real Shabbos watching Jews eat, sing, eat, sing some more, bond with their families, eat and sing some more and connect with Divine in the process. He understood what his grandfather had sacrificed for. He knew that he could never go back. Hu Chazar- He had finally returned. The pig that his grandfather did not eat returned him to his Father.
Today Rabbi Yosef Chaim Wallis (who I had the honor of spending this past Pesach with) stills rides his Harley, now however he has a Kippa on his head. His moment of inspiration in that pork shop in Kfar Saba led him to found the world famous Arachim seminars that share the beauty and inspiration of Judaism with thousands of Jews in Israel annually and in the past years has expanded its programs to10's of thousands of Jews worldwide. There are some people who might have seen him in his gang youth days in the bronx, or when he was serving as a US Marine during the Vietnam War, or as a secular Israeli soldier in the Yom Kippur war, or as the entrepreneur successful businessman in Los Angeles or as the airplane tycoon in Tel Aviv (as you can see we spent quite some time schmoozing over the chag), and said "Him? become religious? Observant? A rabbi? That will never happen…maybe when pigs fly…" But than they would just be judging externalities. They would be missing that pure essence that is in each of us. They would be judging a chazir by its hooves and forgetting that no one is beyond redemption. Perhaps thousands of years ago our sages foresaw the chazir Teshuva that Rabbi Wallis founded. Perhaps it is that pig of his grandfather that they were referring to as the pig that will restore the greatness of our nation to our owner. May that final prophecy of the exile symbolized by that pig that we do not eat and the nations that we will never assimilate with very soon be over as we return to our home, our people and our land redeemed.
Have a chametz-filled delicious kosher Shabbos J,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
This week's Insights and Inspiration is dedicated in appreciation of all those who helped keep the minyan going over Pesach as Rabbi Schwartz family was away. Yasher koach to our Baalei Tefillot, Baalei Koreh and Gabbaim.
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE COURSE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Which of the following is an Umayaad site on the shores of of lake Kinneret
(b) Khirbet Al Minya (hurvat minim)
(c) Khan Jubb Yusuf
(d) Khan Al Tujaar
Kursi- Located on the Eastern side of the Kinneret this ancient Byzantine city ruins (the largest in Israel) is not a particurly Jewish site although it is quite beautiful. The city of kursi which is mentioned as a pagan city in the Talmud and most probably has its name from the biblical area known as the Girgashi located here, was known to be a place where pigs were raised in Israel conveniently located not far from the Roman city of Hippos nearby who they would supply. The teacher of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, the great editor of the Mishna, was named Rabbi Yaakov Bar Kursi and came from here. It is here where the new testament attributes some miracle to their leader about chasing out some demons into pigs that went and drowned themselves in the nearby kinneret. It is because of those stories that the byzantines built these elaborate churches with mosaics in the area. One can visit the site and make the blessing on witnessing sites of idolatry that have been destroyed and rejoice in the fact that the Romans and their pigs that eternal world empire is long gone and the Jews have returned once again to our holy land.
What did the exasperated pig say? Oink vey!
Two pigs were talking and one said to the other,"Wouldn't this be a great world if everyone was kosher?"
One day this nasty old wolf came up to the straw pigs house and said, "I'm gonna huff and puff and blow your house down." And he did!!!!
So the straw pig went running over to the stick pig's house and said, "Please let me in, the wolf just blew down my house." So the stick pig let the straw pig in.
Just then the wolf showed up and said, "I'm gonna huff and puff and blow your house down." And he did!!!
So the straw pig and the stick pig went running over to the brick pig's house and said, "Let us in, let us in, the big bad wolf just blew our houses down." So the brick pig let them in just as the wolf showed up.
The wolf said, "I'm gonna huff and puff and blow your house down." The straw pig and the stick were so scared! But the brick pig picked up the phone and made a call.
A few minutes passed and a big, black stretch limo pulls up. Out stepped two massive pigs in pinstriped suits and fedora hats.
These pigs come over to the wolf, grab him by the neck and beat him up as another one of them pulled out a gun, stuck it in his mouth and fired killing the wolf, then they got back into their limo and drove off.
The straw pig and stick pig were amazed!!! "Whowere those guys?" they asked.
"Those were my cousins from Brooklyn....The Guinea Pigs."
Answer is I have no idea (and don't care)- And I'm not even going to bother googling this answer for you. Ancient Arab dynasties are not my forte' and their locations are even less interesting to me… If you are actually interested in the answer to this question than please unsubscribe from my E-Mail list and find a different tour guide-maybe Ahmed- to guide you. Thank God your allowed to skip 5 questions on the exam and this was the first one I skipped…I only included this to show you how insane this exam really is L