Our view of the Galile

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Religious Choice-Acharie Mos Kedoshim 5773/2013

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 19th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 27 -9th of Iyar 5773
Parshas Acharei Mos/ Kedoshim
Religious Choice
In the Bah'ai religion if the parents are Ba'hai it doesn't mean that the children are. They believe in "individual choice" and as long as the kids are moral and ethical it's fine. If the children choose to be Ba'hai they then go around for a few years and plant gardens and then gradually observe their laws. Interestingly enough according to a study I saw Bah'ai are the 2nd fastest growing religion (based on percentage of growth) in the world. Chareidi/ultra Orthodox being the fastest J. Take that Islam...
In the Druze religion all children born Druze are Druze. There are a limited amount of Druze souls and you can't convert to become Druze, you've got to be born one to be one, just in case any of you have ever considered it. Yet each Druze has a choice if they want to be religious or not. Those that choose not to be religious are not allowed to learn about the faith or participate in anything religious, and are still considered fine Druz'im. About 85%-90% choose not to be religious. The rest are nice loyal citizens to the country that they live in. The Syrians to Syria and the Israelis to Israel (the Golan is still kind of one the fence).
In Christianity and Islam on the other hand if you don't believe...it's bad. You will go down down down... Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. It doesn't make a difference if you were born into it or not. You need to believe in their faiths or you're in trouble. And in the generosity of their hearts Christians and Muslims throughout history (thankfully not too often at the same time) have tried to help prevent us "non-believers" from suffering that eternal damnation by trying to show us "the light". Sometimes that light came from the glare of the sword, the flames of pyres that they burned us on and sometimes by bombs and the blinding bullets and explosions from their various religions of love. Somehow though, we managed to stay in our own not always so comfortable version of the truth. Cause frankly they weren't too persuasive.
Now how about Judaism? How does our religion work? Frankly, the truth is we're really not a religion. In fact we don't even really believe in the concept of a religion. See religion is a belief system. We Jews don't believe. We know. I don't believe in who my parents are. I know who they are. Religion is an institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices (Merrimam's definition). We don't have attitudes, beliefs or practices. We have what God told us to do on Sinai in order to actualize the essence of our existence and what not to do. When I'm married and my wife tells me to do a bunch of things-I don't have any institutionalized attitude, belief or practice. I do what she says because she told me too...and she's usually right...even when she's not...When Mama's happy everyone's happy. And my children know the same is true when I tell them to do something. It's for their own good. It's how they will get the most out of life. It's not a religion. Neither is Judaism.
Now that we got that down pat, let's take a peek at this week's 2nd Torah portion and perhaps we can begin to understood the role of Judaism in the world. Parshat Kedoshim, Rashi tell us was read in the presence of all of the Jewish people Rabbi's, lay leaders and even the guys that talk in the back of the shul during the speech. The great assembly was done because it contains the majority of the principles of the Torah...so pay attention this week. It begins with the famous words and directive- Kedoshim Tiyheyu- Be holy Why? You ask. Ki Kadosh Ani- Because I am holy, Hashem your God. The verse tells perhaps one of the most amazing ideas of life. Our fulfillment and greatest self-actualization will be to become holy-but not just simple fast a few days and give a lot of charity and pray a lot holy- but like God, the Creator and Master of the world holy. And even more fascinating that this mandate was given to the entire Jewish people. There is no elite. There is no religious by choice. If we were created by the spirit of life, and possess that godly soul (generally you can tell, if you take your pulse), than we are meant to be holy.
How do we do that? The Torah than continues and gives us the entire game-plan. From laws that relate to recognizing the significance of our relationship with our other Creators...our parents, to avoiding all the false belief systems that are not based on truth, laws that relate to how we take lifecycle events and uplift by getting close to Hashem and pretty much focusing on bringing everything in this world that we experience and seeing and connecting it to Hashem. We are living in this world in a very real way. We are interacting with friends, co-workers, with restaurants, crops, courts and marriage and children. Yet in every single area we have things that we do and don't do to remind us that we are here connect it all to above. To make it holy. To make ourselves holy.
So if you're Jewish, the Torah tells us, Hashem took you out of Egypt-remember that Pesach Seder not long ago-to be holy. If you're Jewish than your children are holy and have that same obligation to them-selves and to their Creator to fulfill all of the eternal commandments that they can, to actualize that holiness. It's not a choice thing "I want to be religious or not". It's, "Do I want to become the most I can become or not? Do I want to become what I was meant to become or not?" . Sure, you can choose not to. But frankly, in Judaism that's not called not being religious. It's called giving up on life.
Now what about the non-Jews? Don't they have a pulse? Isn't there a soul in them as well? Why can they eat milk and meat together, get tattoos, speak Lashon Harah and all of those other 613 commandments that will bring us to holiness? Because just as we are different than the Druze and Bah'ai whose religions are by choice, we are different than Islam and Christianity that believe in the universality of their religions. We don't believe that one has to be Jewish to be holy. Non-Jew's path to holiness is by leading the moral ethical lives that are guided by the basic concepts of morality and belief in Hashem-and of course not of the stuff that was made up in the past 200 or 2000 years or so. They also will be holy and as the prophet zecharia (2:15) says-"The nations will accompany you to Hashem on that day and they will be a nation to me".
It is for that reason Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests that the Torah tells us Hashem uses a terminology of Va'Avdil Eschem Min Ha'amim-separating us from the nations-as one who chooses out the better in order to than further choose and categorize the rest and put in its proper place. Rather than saying Va'Avdil Ha'Amim Mimchem which would be discarding the not worthy and bad and leaving only us. We were separated to serve as the priests of Hashem- to live a life of holiness that reflects the truth of our world. Not to be good practicing or "religious" Jews. But Jews that know that Hashem has told us that we are to make the world a holy place and that the way to do that is really very simple...do what he told us to do and don't do what he told us not to do. Become the best we were meant to become. And the world in seeing that perfect holy incredible god-like life will obviously be impressed enough to connect to Hashem as well.
Whewww... thus ends our discussion about Judaism. We are getting closer to Shavuos; the day when we got the Torah. When we became who we would always be able to become....and I needed to get more inspired about that. It's also the start of the tourist season in Israel and I spent way too much time studying about for my course and now even when I guide, explaining about Bah'ai, Druze, Muslim and Christianity and their "religions" and I had to get that out of my system. I don't like the word religion. But I love the holiness that the reality of a God-filled world inspired by the life of Torah that we can all achieve and transform humanity with. May we all continue to grow as we count up those days of Omer until Shavuos, and delight in the knowledge that it within us to truly be that Holy Nation our Father is waiting for.
Have a wholly holy Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
Thank You to all those volunteers who helped bring Yom ha'atzamaut bbbq to soldiers in the golan and to all our donors from all over the world who wanted to share the holiday with our young men...our soldiers were touched and we were moved and privleged to be your shlichim/messengers and volunteers.
click on the link below to see the great press release of our event
Kever Shmuel on yahrtzeit
"People are accustomed to look at the heavens and to wonder what happens there. It would be better if they would look within themselves, to see what happens there."- Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk

(answer below)
A church, a fortress, and a camping area for pilgrims carved into the rock dating to the Crusader Period can be found at?
(a) Latrun
(b) Nebi Samuel
(c) Tzova
(d) Kastel
Nebi Samuel- Overlooking Yerushalayim in nachalas Binyamin is the legendary burial site of Shmuel. Perhaps the most famous Navi and the one who heralded in the period of the Kings Shmuel was adopted as holy by Islam and Christianity as well. Which is why it's one of the few places where one can find a shul, mosque and church all from different periods at the same place. Fantastic archeological finds here have uncovered vessels and seals from the first beis hamikdash period when there seems to have been a yishuv here. It is currently under the auspices of Waqf (although we conquered it in 1948 after bitter battles. Although many archeologists and biblical scholars (not neccesarily heretical ones either) debate whether this is the actual site of Ramah where the verses say he was buried, we have testimony of travelers that go back to the 11th century that mention this site as a place where jews would come to . Each year on the 28th of Iyar (this month) similar to the Rashbi in Meron on Lag Ba'Omer 10's of thousands of Jews come here and light fires on his yahrtzeit (some even suggesting that the custom really started here).
Answer is B- All of these are Crusader fortresses on the Judean hills and were thus essential strategic points in the battles into Jerusalem. Yet Nebi Samuel was the one that had the camping ground for pilgrims cut in the rock as this was the path and stop point for pilgrims when they would come to Jerusalem during that period.

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