Our view of the Galile

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Well Songs-Chukas 2013

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

June 13th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 33–5th of Tamuz 5773
Parshas Chukas
Well Songs

I sing in the shower. Maybe it’s the pounding beat of the spray on my body, that delicious cleansing power of water running down my head, the echoes of the walls or maybe I'm just happy that somebody remembered to leave the "Dood" (hot water boiler switch that needs to be turned on in this highly advanced third world country that still hasn't figured out how to provide hot water all the time yet sigh..) on. Regardless water makes me sing. It's not only me I imagine. Some of you readers I'm sure are also "water "closet singers. Truth is my experience as a tour guide as well has taught me that when you are on a hike in Israel and you hear some loud singing coming up ahead of you in general it is a sign you are near some type of waterfall. Underneath the glorious cascading dalls inevitably you will see some crazy Israeli teens jumping up and down or some yeshiva students and than some americans on the side wondering if it is dangerous and taking pictures and arguing with their children whether they need life jackets or not to go in. Yet the hills are truly alive at that moment with the sound of music…
Yet with all the singing that takes place under water I have yet to find anyone that sings what should be the most popular song to sing while frolicking in the water. That would be the first and only biblical song that this week's Torah portion tells us the Jewish people composed in honor of the miraculous well that provided them with water in the wilderness for forty years- Shirat Ha'Be'er -the song of the well. Perhaps it is because no great Jewish singer has yet to come up with a tune for it. Perhaps it's because like most of my readers, most of us don't know the song by heart and those that do probably don't find it too inspiring. We know the song of the sea that the Jewish people sang when we left Egypt. It's part of our daily morning prayers. Many of us know the song of the Torah portion of Ha'azinu that Hashem commands Moshe to write and "place in their mouths" so that it will be for us eternally. After-all we read it annually the Shabbat right before or after Yom Kippur when everyone is still paying attention to the Torah reading as those New Year's resolutions last at least that long. But somehow the song of the Well has been forgotten. And that is something we have to do something about.
The truth is out of all of the biblical songs, mentioned above, the song of the well in the Torah's introduction to it describes it as one that we are perhaps most obligated to remember
"About this it shall be said in the books of the wars of Hashem" and Rashi's comment is that when we are meant to recall the miracles Hashem performed for our forefathers we should relate this miracle and song. He adds even more than that. "Just as we are meant to remember the miracles of Splitting of the Sea,  so too we are meant to remember the miracle of the valley of Arnon" (where this song was composed). Now I know that all of us have a whole holiday to remember the splitting of the sea and some great and not so great Hollywood movies to help us visualize it, but what about Nachal Arnon? Where is our song and commemoration that Rashi dictates we must remember? Perhaps even more perplexing is why did we have to wait until the end of our 40 year sojourn in the wilderness to sing this song. After all this well miraculously accompanied the Jewish people throughout our whole trek. As well (excuse the punJ) we find many miracles in wilderness, the clouds of glory, the manna and the miraculous battles, yet it is only for the well that we ever composed a song. If it is that important shouldn't we be singing about it a little more?
Perhaps it's not our fault. Unlike the other songs in the Torah the song of the well isn't framed in the traditional style of a song with a separation of the lyrics. It also has no refrain, as the song of the sea did. In fact if one looks in Torah you have to search pretty hard to find the few verses that compose this song. Yet it's about time we learned it and perhaps even got some inspiration from the only song in the Torah sung and composed spontaneously by our ancestors. So here we go close your eyes start humming your favorite tune and then insert the following words…(if you need help with a tune you can scroll down to RABBI SCHWARTZ'S YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK for my favorite tune this weekJ)
Then Israel sang this song:
“Spring up, O well!
    Sing about it,
about the well that the princes dug,
    that the nobles of the people sank—
    the nobles with scepters and staffs.
There it is. Are you inspired? You’d think after the big build up I just gave you that it would be something more. Maybe that's why we haven't been too big in the music business. What is this song really about? What is the miracle of Arnon?
So Rashi and the medrash share with us  that the impetus that led to the composition of this song was the battle that never happened. We were camped as the previous verses tell us on the other side of the Jordan river and the Emorite nation wishing to prevent our entry to the land camped out in the cliffs of Moav to attack us. Miraculously, we are told, Hashem shook the earth causing the mountatins to collide and smushing (so much more Jewish than smashing) the Emorites in the middle. This was a miracle we would have never known about. Yet Hashem sent the rolling well into the valley and the blood of our would-be murderers flowed around the camp. It was at that moment that we broke out in the above song.
Rav Mordechai Alon suggests a fascinating insight into this song and miracle. He notes that most of our Torah portion which contains the story of the Jewish people before we entered the land in year 40, corresponds to the first portion of our Exodus in Parshat Beshalach. We have the Jews complaining about the food again. We have an attack by the Cananite/Amalek, another water crisis with Moshe hitting the rock instead of talking it to and of course we have the song of the Sea and the Well. The difference between the two narratives is that whereas at the start of our Exodus the Jewish people had miracles performed for them via Moshe and Aharon and in the merit of their forefathers, at this point is was time for them to stand on their own; to recognize their own greatness and potential and to acknowledge that we had what it takes and we were connected to Hashem enough to move forward and conquer the land.
 Aharon dies, Miriam dies, Moshe is not allowed to bring the Jews into the land. Yet miracles can and would still be performed for them. They are loved by Hashem and protected.  The miracle of the cliffs of Arnon and its subsequent revelation via the well showed them that even after Miriam and Aharon had passed they have within the merit and potential to achieve that special Divine care. It is perhaps for this reason that Moshe was so severely punished in hitting the rock rather than speaking to it. The wellspring for miracles within the Jewish nation had already been dug and uncovered. There was no longer any need to force it. It just needed to be spoken to and coaxed. We were that well. Our ancestors, our experiences and miracles in the wilderness had given us all that we need. We had within us the power to conquer the land. And thus we broke out in song. A song to the well we found in ourselves. A song that perhaps we have forgotten…
The miracles of that last year in the wilderness was the transformative experience for our nation. It gave us the strength to eventually conquer that land. To wage wars that all odds, besides the Divine, were against us ever winning. We had faith in Hashem and in His love for us and our potential to create that special country and Nation that was our destiny to create. Yet with time we forgot the song. It wasn't standing out in the Torah like the other songs. It has to be searched for. It is a song each Jew has to seek as he studies and grows and builds that special relationship of love with our Father, our Creator. It can be found in the Book of Wars that Hashem fights for us on a personal and daily basis. Perhaps even in the ones we don't even know about unless we hear that song of the well. Yet if we can sing that song once again and have the faith  and confidence of a nation that knows that with Hashem's eternal love for us we can rightfully return and claim our place in the world…see the redemption…return to Israel…be victorious once again.
Have a transformative Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz  


"The bad part about singing your heart out in the shower is watching it go down the drain"
- Susan Gale.


·         WARNING*This song will make you smile but will stick in your brain


 (answer below)
What is the leading site of the Society for the Perservation of Israel Heritage sites where illegal immigration (ha'apala) is commemorated?
(a) Atlit
(b) Nahariya                                                                                                                    
(c) Giv'at Olga
(d) Nitsanim

Caliber 3-Efrat-A super cool place and experience, although not cheap (actually kind of expensive) Caliber 3 is not just a shooting range where your whole family (any age!!!) can shoot handguns, rifles and snipers. It is a actually one of the top counter-terrorism training centers in the world where Navy Seals and special forces from all over the world come to learn from Israeli expertise that has developed much to our sorrow in this area. American tourists can come here with their passports and will learn hands-on firsthand from experts in the field about the skills and dangers that make this essential section of Israels defense forces unique. You will train learn how to handle (and respect) the weapons that you will be using and then you will practice your skills with live ammo on the range. A truly unique one of a kind experience only in Israel.  

 Answer is A- The Atlit detainee camp (a previously described Rabbi Schwartz cool place in Israel and I quote from there)- As you make your way up the coast of Israel a little before Haifa one can visit the historic refugee camp of Atlit for an experience in what true dedication to come to Israel felt like. After WWI when many Jews assisted the British in fighting against our common enemy in exchange they were promised with the Balfour declaration a Jewish State. The British reneged on their deal creating the infamous White paper limiting Jewish immigration to Israel. But we were not to be stopped. Illegal boats smuggling in Jews brought thousands of Jews home. Yet many were stopped and captured by the British and kept in this camp to be sent to Cyprus or other countries that wouldn't take.
As one walks through the camp one can see the showers and sanitation centers that they first came to and can imagine how those who had just experienced the horrors of the holocaust must have viewed these barbed wire chimney stacked rooms. One can view the barracks where they stayed and see the graffiti on the wall of survivors looking for the relatives. A small hike to the shore brings the visitor to a recreation of one of the many refugee boats where you can watch a super short film experiencing what the trip and conditions were like for those who smuggled into Israel. At the end of the tour one can visit the room where they have computerized archives of those that were in the camp as well as hearing the story of the famous breakout on October 1945 led by Yitzchak Rabin.

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