Our view of the Galile

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Sight to See- Bamidbar/ Shavuot 2013

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
May 9th 2232013 -Volume 3, Issue 29 –29th of Iyar 5773
Parshas Bamidbar/Shavuot
A Sight to See

He was the general in the war for the sanctity of Jerusalem. A student of the Ktav Sofer who was known for battling the "enlightenment movement" in Austria-Hungary in the 1800's waving the flag of authentic uncompromising Judaism, Reb Yosef Chayim Sonnefeld fought the new battle in the old city of Jerusalem. The new secular Zionists had begun to come to the country in the first three Aliyah's and they were not just bringing the dream of a return of the nation to its land- they were looking to create a new Jew as well. Torah was out. Tradition and rituals were all images of the old persecuted "ghetto jew". The new Jew would never be subject to ridicule and scorn again. He would become a people like all other people, a nation like all other nations. The battle ground was in the holiest city of the world and both sides were digging in. Leading the Old Yishuv, Reb Yosef Chaim, valiantly fought the battle with edicts, posters, bans and demonstrations- your typical Jewish battle. 

The opposing Zionist camp was split between the secular new-comers and the religious Zionists led by no less of a figure than the first chief Rabbi of pre-Israel Palestine Rav Avraham Kook and his students who felt that the anti-religous camp should and could be partners in settling the land and co-operation was the way to achieve the goals of a religious State rather than opposition. (some things even a century later seem never to change…). The battles were fierce and sometimes even got bloody. Yet unlike modern times, Rav Kook and Rav Sonnenfeld had a deep relationship and mutual respect that transcended their political battles. Perhaps it was because they both shared so many common loves; Torah, Eretz Yisrael and perhaps most of all Klal Yisrael. They each understood that despite their differences of opinion upon the right path to bring redemption to the land and the proper way with which to deal with these new challenges to the sanctity of the city, each one was knew that the other was only acting for the sake of heaven and out of love for the Jewish people.

Once, the story goes, Reb Yosef Chayim was leaving Sha'arei Tzedek hospital with his student Rav Moshe Blau, when they bumped into a whole parade of young men and ladies marching in their blue and white, certainly not dressed or behaving in the typical "old Jerusalem" modest style. It was a display of the new generation and their anti-religious ideology and Rav Blau knowing how much pain the Rav would be caused suggested heading back inside. Instead, Rav Yosef Chaim told his student, “They are Jewish children, aren’t they?”

As the youth marched by, singing their songs, Rav Moshe noticed that Rav Yosef Chaim’s lips were moving steadily, as he murmured something softly to himself. Rav Blau moved closer and he heard his rebbe saying the following verses:

“May Hashem add upon you – upon you and your children! Blessed are you to Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 115:14,15).

He repeated these verses of blessing over and over again, until the last child in that long procession had passed.

This week we begin the fourth book of the Torah the story of our wandering in the wilderness. The book of Bamidbar commences with the commandment for Moshe, the great leader and his brother Aharon to count the Jewish people. Literally count the Jewish people… Tribe by tribe, family by family… individual by individual. The Jewish people at that time numbered 603,550 and that is only the men between the ages of 20-60. Can you count that high? How long would it take you? Now imagine the most important people in the world, Moshe, who had gone up on Sinai and spoke with God face to face, split the sea, the ten plagues, Aharon the high Priest, who enters the Holy of Holies and achieves atonement for the entire nation, meeting each and every Jewish family. Wow! It would seem that this was a pretty inefficient system. Imagine what Yisro Moshe's father-in-law who helped establish the Jewish bureaucratic system (which we still suffer from today…) would have said. Was there a shortage of people that couldn't do this kind of leg work for our leaders? The 13th century sage Nachmanides who poses this question asks "I don't understand this purpose of this commandment, Was it really necessary to know the number of the entire Nation?"

He answers that the significance of this event was not necessarily in the mere counting. Rather it was in the meeting and the count. Here's the scene-

"Honey, will you get the door I hear someone knocking- I hope it's not those collectors again- I just gave to the Tabernacle and sacrifice fund last week… If it is, tell them mommy's not home."

Ummm, Mom… I think you should come to the door…

Why? Who is it…?

I really think you need to see this mom… it's Moshe and Aharon…

I'll be right there…

They said they want to see everyone…all of us…

I'm bringing the camera…"

To quote the Ramban once again, the purpose of the count was so

"The one that would come before the Father of all prophets and his brother the sanctified of God will have a merit and life… each will have their special number given to them by Moshe as he places his eye upon them for good, and will beseech mercy for their family and bless them "May Hahem increase you 1000 times and may your numbers never falter…"

It is with this mitzvah that the Book of our wanderings in the wilderness begins. It is perhaps for this reason we refer to is as our book of Numbers/ the counting. Each Jew had their special number given to them by Moshe. They knew they were special. Moshe and Aharon visited them, knew who they were and met their family. Hashem was with them. They knew they were not going to be merely "wandering". They were going on their journey of a lifetime, with Hashem, with Moshe, with Aharon, as the people and nation of God. After that family meeting with Moshe they were ready to conquer the world.

This week we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot that momentous occasion when we became that Am Segualah, the precious nation of Hashem. For me one of the highlights of this special holiday the past few years has been to go to the old city of Yerushalayim. Before the sun rises at around 5:00 AM the streets fill up with 10's of thousands of my brothers and sisters heading to the Kotel for the morning holiday prayers. It is like days of old,  almost…(except as I pointed out to my children in the Temple times there were sacrifices being brought and thus these same streets were filled with animals as well and the smell of BBQ) .  As the Kohanim step up to the platform and bless us, I feel like I am transported back to that moment when we were chosen. And as I look around at the crowd I take it all in. So many different Kippa's, so many different backgrounds, from all over the world, from across the religious and non-religious spectrum, yet we are all here. "Yosaif Hashem Aleichem" I think, "May Hashem increase your numbers, Blessed are you Hashem Maker of Shamayim and Aretz". May He return all of His children once again to His home.

 Have an absolutely amazing Shabbos

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



With Shavuot arriving soon, the Hebrew school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the fifth commandment, '"Honor thy father and thy mother," she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?'

Without missing a beat, one little boy answered, "Thou shall not kill."




"If you can smile when things go wrong,

you have someone in mind to blame." ANONYMOUS




Reb Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld on Zionism


Rare live footage of Rav Yosef Chaim and Rav Kook together



 (answer below)

Which of the following settlements was founded first?

(a) Motsa

(b) Petach Tikva                                                                                                            

(c) Rishon LeTzion

(d) Zichron Ya'akov



Nachal Gilabun It's Tiyul season and there is no place like in the Golan heights, Nachal Gilabun the southern-most Nachal in the Golan that streams into the Hula Valley is a great few hour hike with beautiful waterfalls for the whole family. Best of all it's free. One can also take a short detour to the nearby ruins of the Talmudic city of Kfar Devora and walk through the ruins of what was a large city. If you look through some of the ancient houses you can see, and oil press,lintels with birds and fish and coolest of all is ancient synagogue which had on its lintel "this is the beit medrash of Reb Elazar Ha'Kfar". What is even cooler is that Rabbi Elazar Hakfar is quoted in Avot  D'Rabbi Nasan as saying " Be not as the topmost doorpost, which no hand can touch, neither be as the lintel against which men strike their heads, neither as the raised step over which men stumble, but be as the threshold which all cross over. The building crumbles, yet the threshold remains. How cool is that perhaps it is the humility of that teaching that caused it to be the only remaining remnant that mentions the word Beit midrash from that period!


Answer is A or B?- This is another question where I'm not sure what the correct answer is I wrote Motzah because technically Motza was purchased in the 1850's by a Baghdadi Jew and in the 1870's a chaan/inn was built there however the settlement started in 1890's. I think however the answer they were looking for was Petach Tikva which is known as the Eim Ha'moshavot/mother of all settlements which was founded in 1878. So technichally the settlement started there first although motzah which is built on the ancienct temple period ruins where they actually found idolatrous temple items recently from the time do the second temple was purchased first. In Motzah as well as the ancient synagogue which is really not that ancient as it dates back only to the late 1800's. and was the former ch'aan are ancient springs from where the Talmud tells us they would bring Aravot/willow branches in the time of the mikdash for the service on sukkot in the Temple.

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