Our view of the Galile

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Loving You- Va'etchanan Nachamu 2013

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
 July 19th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 38–12th of Av 5773

Parshat Va'Etchanan/Nachamu

Loving You

It’s a funny thing this thing called love. It’s hard to describe. The dictionary defines love as- a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. But anyone who has ever felt true love knows that it is an emotion that really can’t be put into words. What’s even stranger about love is that sometimes it can strike at the most unexpected moments. Last night as I went in to check on our three year old sleeping youngest, and found him curled up in a little ball with my yarmulke perched on his head and my necktie- I had been looking a week for- crumbled up in his hand as he was snoozing away, I just stood there for a few minutes overcome with that feeling of total love. Why? I don’t know-I can’t explain why that yarmulke and tie mean so much to me. I just know that I love them… just joking (sorry I couldn’t resist).

But jokes asides, our kids more than anyone elicit these feelings within us. We want to hug them at different moments out of the blue. Hold them close. Go on great trips with them. Show them how beautiful life is… how beautiful it can be-particularly in Eretz Yisrael. I have started our summer family Tiyulim and I can just sit back and watch all of these beautiful families around me basking in that love and all of that energy that parents are making to share the beautiful world with their children. The kids however? Not so much- as my children would say. How much longer? Can I have an ice cream? This is soooo boring… Why do we have to shlep around so much. Even worse are the older ones with the headphones implanted in their ears. They are in your car and with you on your trip in a twilight zone/alternate universe type of way. Their bodies are there, but their brains and souls have been captured by an alien ipod electronic god that slowly moves their heads to and fro every so often to the rhythm of a tune that has something to do with love.

But we love them anyways. We can’t explain why. It’s strange. Imagine if someone just showed up on our door one day, demanding to be fed, cleaned up after, laundered for, educated, put to sleep and entertained as well- for free. They were cranky, impatient; they fought with your other children and in general stressed you and your spouse out- sometimes even bringing the two of you to serious disagreements (a nice word). How would we react? With love? Do you think you would sit by their sleeping bed at night and just gaze in their beautiful face. Yet, if they’re our own children it all changes. A funny thing this love. But there’s certainly nothing more special and more desired in this entire world.

One would think with the unique nature and mystery surrounding the origin of this love, that it would be a hard thing to force or even command someone to have. It has to be something that comes naturally and unexplainably-not something that we can expect to elicit on our own if it is not there. Yet as Jews we know that perhaps the two greatest mitzvot we possess are the mitzvot to Love your friend as yourself- maybe because he is your friend it is easier (an interesting aside- the literal translation of the verse in the Torah is your friend-Rayacha, not like the more common mistranslation or wrongful Christian paraphrase of love your neighbor-which it does not say in the Torah- although there’s nothing wrong with loving him as well.) But perhaps even more troubling is the mitzvah in this week’s Torah portion which we read twice daily in the Shema-

And you shall love Hashem your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your possessions.

How can we be commanded to love God? Isn’t love something we either have or don’t? I can understand the mitzvah to revere or to honor God, to obey Him and even to relate to Him or imitate His ways as we are taught. Those are mitzvot that demand an action. But how does one elicit an emotion? We can’t exactly stand over God’s crib and bask in His beauty. What does this mitzvah mean? We recite it twice a day. It’s probably worthwhile to understand what it’s all about.

The Sefat Emet- the Rebbe of Ger suggests a very deep insight based on our questions. He seems to agree that it would be difficult for us to be commanded to have an emotional feeling for someone or something. One either has it or doesn’t. Therefore he concludes, it must be (and you can close your fist and stick out your thumb and swoop it up in the traditional yeshiva Talmudic motion) that if Hashem commanded it, we must already be programmed to have that emotion- to have that love. Loving our Creator is hardwired into our psyche. It’s there. It is in fact at the core essence of who and what we are- in as much as a parent possesses that same sense for one’s child. Being a Created being with a Divine soul means having an innate natural sense of overwhelming love for our Creator.

The problem with love though is that if it’s not expressed it gets buried and forgotten. If a parent never takes those moments to spend and focus on the love they have for their children, they can and will get so caught up in all the distractions of life to ever experience perhaps the most beautiful part of being a parent. If they never tell their children how special and important they are and how much they mean to us-not only will the children suffer, but we ourselves will be missing out on building and growing that incredible feeling and essence of life. It is in that vein Hashem commands us to express that inner self and love for Him. This is so that we may bring out the core of our souls. So that we may appreciate all that we are meant to be and feel.

With this understanding we can explain the beautiful, yet haunting story we read on Tisha’a B’av of the great sage Rabbi Akiva, who as his body was being ravaged by the Romans with iron combs declared to his students how he could withstand such torture.

“My whole life, I waited for this opportunity to declare my love for Hashem and now that it has come to my hand can it be that I will not fulfill it?”

And with the words of the conclusion of Shema he passed.

Rabbi Akiva was certainly not someone who had a death wish. He lived, enjoyed life and accomplished so much and had so much more to accomplish- more than any of us could ever hope to experience. So what does this perplexing statement mean? Perhaps the answer is as we have suggested. Rabbi Akiva was telling his students, that his whole life he wanted to experience this part of his soul that possesses such great love for Hashem even to the point of giving up one’s life. –to paraphrase an old love song- I will die for you , I will walk the world for you, everything I can do I will do for you. He waited his whole life to feel and express that powerful level of love which he knew was latent inside of him. At the end of his life he finally had the chance. His last lesson to us was how much and how deep that powerful love could be.

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Nachamu. It is the Shabbat after our intense mourning for our Temple that has still not been rebuilt. It is a time to remember that as we left and saw our Temple burning the Talmud tells us that the last image we saw was of the two cherubs embracing on top of the Ark- a miraculous phenomenon- leaving us the most important message, as we left into our long bitter and distant exile. Hashem loves us even with all that we had done. We had forgotten how much He meant to us. We had forgotten who we could be and what we could feel for Him. But He always- like a parent to a child- has that love for us. Sometimes we need to be far away to remember that love we had. Sometimes only losing that special person reminds us of how much they meant to us. May Hashem finally comfort His nation and return us all once again to His loving embrace so that we may once again truly feel the beauty of being His special children.
Have a passionate and loving Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz  



 (answer below)

Pretty cool that this happened to be the question-as I'm going in order- for this week!

Which Jewish festival is known as the Festival of ingathering (Hag Ha'Asif):

(a) Sukkot

(b) Tu BiShvat                                                                                                               

(c) Passover (Pessach)

(d) Shavuot




"Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel taught There were no holidays so joyous for the Jewish People as Tu B'Av (the Fifteenth of Av) and Yom HaKippurim (The Day of Atonement), for on those days, daughters of Jerusalem would go out dressed in borrowed white clothing [so that they would all look the same and not embarrass those who didn't have nice clothing to wear]."
"And the daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards located on the outskirts of the city. [And all the young men who were not married would go there and watch]."
"And what would the girls say?"
"Young man, lift up your eyes and choose wisely. Don't look only at physical beauty - look rather at the family - 'For charm is false, and beauty is vanity. A G-d-fearing woman is the one to be praised ..." (Proverbs 31:30)"
–Mishna Taaanit




In honor of our newest olim- Rabbi Orlofsky-poignant, hilarious, inspiring But those that love America more than Israel-  beware..






Tel Azeka- if you like places that are of Biblical significance Tel Azeka is a great place. On the north part of Park Britanica and right off the road past Beit Shemesh on the border between the upper and lower Judean Shefela/lowlands in the Elah valley one can visit this archeological Tell sit in the shad and pop open your Tanach and read about the famous battle of Yehoshuah when we first conquered the land and the hailstorm Hashem brought against the Emorites here, or better yet one can actually visualize the famous battle of David and Goliath and even go down the mound to the stream where David took his five smooth rocks for his slingshot. This was also the 2nd to last city the Babylonians took before the they destroyed our Temple. There is not a lot to see at this site although there are some caves and tunnels that were dug by the Bar Kochva revolt against the Romans to recapture Jerusalem that ultimately failed. Archeologists have uncovered remains of the walls and towers of the city and found seals that go back to the Temple period as well. But for the Tanach buff this is a great place to travel through centuries of Jewish biblical history.


 Answer is A- Again one more that most observant jews know, but many secular do not, forget about non- jews. These past few questions actually made me proud of the ministry of Tourism for demanding a basic Jewish holiday and of what they represent. Pesach is the festival of our redemption Tu B'Shvat the new year for the tithes of the trees and Shavuot the time of the giving of the Torah and the cutting of the crops. Sukkot though at the end of the agricultural cycle is when we gathered it all in.

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