Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 11th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 37–4th of Av 5773
Parshat Devarim/Chazon/Tisha B'av
The Orientation of How
I was the only man there. My wife had gone to Jerusalem for the day and it was me and Elka, my 6 year old, arriving at her/our 1st grade pre-orientation orientation. They do that here. So there I was with a bunch of mothers from Elka's class. It was so cute all of these former preschoolers holding tightly to their mother's skirts nervous about what this assembly will mean for them as they prepare for the next stage in their lives. I looked down at my beautiful little girl in order to share this special father/daughter moment. She in turn looked up to me with her cute little eyes and adorable accent and said "Daddy you cen go 'ome now, eets just for Eema's…" and then she began to lead me so gently to the doorway-in case I didn’t understand her eengleesh. I happened to agree with her on this point. Yet knowing that my wife obviously would not be so happy with me leaving her there by herself, I tried explaining to her that I was like her Eema for tonight. I was not convincing. Elka ran off to play with her friends. I stayed in the corner and caught up on some phone/email work. She pretended I wasn't there. I played my part well. It was finally over and we reunited outside again. I was her Abba, she was my Elka and we walked hand in hand, family once again.
We are in the period of the "nine days" the week before Tishah B'Av that historical day of mourning and tragedy for our loss of our temple...our land… and the closeness we had with our Father. In this period, Jewish law and custom instituted practices of mourning for the Jewish people. We don't eat meat or drink wine during this period. I miss meat. Not just Israeli meat but a good slice of a Nebraska free-range red, white and blue cow. We don't listen to music during this period of mourning. I miss music. My kids make a lot of noise in the back seat without the CD playing. My country drives are longer without the sounds of music making the hills alive. Bathing and swimming are limited and cannot be done for pleasure. No Kayak or nachal tours for me this week. The no-shaving thing doesn't bother me that much, although my mustache started to scratch me the past few days. The no-buying new clothing might be saving me some money, although it has certainly put a damper on my wife's clothing business. Our lives have changed for a little bit. But in another few days it will be over. We'll get past it. Summer vacation is just around the corner again and we will move on. But maybe we shouldn't…Maybe we shouldn't write off Abba so quickly…
Over the past two weeks of this period which our sages say will be one that will be a time of crying and mourning until we merit to return, I have read and heard heart-wrenching stories of terrible stories of young children dying in tragic "accidents". Infants drowning, a young girl, my older daughters age being killed by a car, a tragic suicide by a sick teenager. Parents who will never again hold their children's hand from Gan, see them at their Bar/Bat mitzvah, walk them down to their Chuppah. My eyes tear, my heart is ripped apart, my soul cries out. I can't empathize, because I can't imagine it. But I can't turn the pain off, because it is so great. For these families as they mourn, meat, muic, wine, bathing are not signs of mourning. They are expressions of the inner pain and loss. For them life will never be the same. And as they experience the intensity of the tragedy that has changed their lives forever they couldn't eat a steak or think about swimming and enjoying themselves if you paid them. They have lost their most precious treasure and nothing in this world has any allure anymore.
There is an incredibly moving Medrash in Eicha, the prophecy of Yirmiyahu that we read on Tisha'a B'Av. It describes the Hashem coming to the Jewish people to comfort us after the loss of our Temple. The Jewish people though refuse to be comforted, complaining that although we had sinned, yet where was His mercy, what of all those that sacrificed, that sanctified, the Torah we alone accepted, the songs and prayers we sang and the hopes and dreams to build the Land for His presence. Hashem responded do you think that I am also not in pain? That I also do not mourn? That I also do not need comforting? The prophets than come to comfort Hashem, but instead Hashem sends them to comfort Jerusalem, the city bereft of its inhabitants…its children once frolicking in the streets, its scholars singing words of Torah into the night, its Temple that once housed the presence of the our Father. Jerusalem as well fails to be comforted. There will be no comfort, the Medrash concludes, until that return, until our enemies are destroyed, until we are once again reunited with our Abba in our home.
The Torah portion of Devarim which we begin this week, is Moshe's last "schmooze" to the Jewish people. In the parsha Moshe as well uses the word Eicha-"How?" that was echoed by Yishayahu prior to the destruction and by Yirmiyahu upon witnessing the destruction. Whereas Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah asks How does the city once so full of people now sit abandoned and alone, and Yishayahu/Isaiah asks how did the people who were so holy become so immoral, Moshe's Eicha is a personal one, and as the Medrash makes the connection, the precursor to all the rest.
"How can I carry the burden alone of your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels Provide men of understanding… and I shall appoint them as your heads. You answered me and said 'The thing that you proposed is good' "
Rav Zev Weinberger in the Shemen Ha'Tov suggests that the problem, downfall and eventual destruction all started from this point. When the Jewish people rather than step up to Moshe and protest losing their connection with him and thereby their special connection with Hashem that Moshe alone would provide, acquiesced to the new arrangement they had already than began to go down that slippery slope. How do you put a man like Moshe into "retirement"? Don't you understand that it is through him that you can have the greatest clarity and connection to Hashem. How do you just move on? It must be that connection to Hashem was not so vital. We were already fading. We had begun to lose it. And it is still lost until today.
Hashem though, has never lost it. Like a parent that suffers the loss of a child, Hashem mourns each day for his children to wake up, to come home, to invite him back and to truly, from the deepest recesses of our hearts, feel the pain of the loss of the greatness of what we were meant to become. What we can still become. What we will become as soon as we truly return. As soon as He returns.
I've been around religious Jews all my life. How many times have I heard "I don't mind the nine days-I kinda like Milchigs"- (you know who you are), "It's not so bad without a music- a little quieter around the house- I can listen to classes in the car now.." Life in America is really not too bad- It’s a Galut/Exile in a country of kindness" "There's more Torah now than ever before and that's the most important thing…the most important thing" We are not mourning. Our loss isn't real. Our child hasn't died. Our home isn't burnt. Like our ancestors told Moshe millennia ago when he first said Eicha- "The thing that you proposed is good" –We''ll make do without you. We will have our distinguished wise men of understanding. We will move on. We'll catch up with Abba at the end of the orientation. We haven't caught up yet. Sadly the "orientation" has left us disoriented and disconnected. But Abba is still waiting outside for us. We just have to realize that we need to leave. We need to ask him to take our hand once again. We need to forget everyone else in the room and realize that it's time to come home. We don’t want any more tragic reminders of our mourning. Our Father doesn’t' have to call, yell or punish us anymore. May this year see us once again hand in hand walking home together as recapture that special family that we are.
Have a Shabbos filled with blessing and peace,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE COURSE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Pretty cool that this happened to be the question-as I'm going in order- for this week!
It is customary to read the Book of Lamentations (Megillat Eicha) on:
(a) The Fast of Gedalya
(b) Yom Kippur
(c) The general Kaddish Day
(d) The 9th of Av
RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
They asked Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi
“Which is greater: love of G‑d, or love of your fellow man?”
“Love of your fellow man,” he replied.
“For than you are loving the one that your Beloved loves.”
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE LINK OF THE WEEK
BBC –The destruction of jerusalem film for your tisha b'av viewing (59 minutes)
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Har Ha'Bayit/ The Temple Mount Jerusalem- Although I have never been up there, the Temple Mount is certainly the most important place in the world for the Jewish people and perhaps one of the most fought over pieces of land in the world. Although many associate the Har HaBay it with the Beit HaMikdash, the Beit Hamikdash for most of its history was on a much smaller mountain and smaller area than the present day mountain top which was built up by Herod in the last century before its destruction. Herod needed a big building and the mountain wasn't big enough so he framed the mountain to give it its present structure. After the Romans and Byzantines plowed the Beit Hamikdash it remained barren until the early arab periods in the 7th and 8th century where they made it their holy site building the al aska mosque on the southern courtyard where Herod and the earlier Chashmonaim had their palaces for visitors (the chakra) and the dome of the rock, where Jewish sources describe to be the place of the Even HaShesiya,/foundation rock. The Crusaders as well built their Templer castles up there in an area they thought was Solomon's stables the Arabs however came back and built the rest of the structures there. May this year we merit with the coming of Mashiach to visit this special site with the Temple rebuilt and the offerings necessary to purify us so that we may enter all of our holy sites without question.
Answer is D- Easy as well..especially after you've read this E-Mail. But sadly many secular Israelis do not know the answer to this question and it is quite difficult for them. Kind of like how I would not know the different Muslem or Christian texts that are read on their holidays. Which of course we were responsible for as well. So it is a pretty detailed question that every Jew should know, but I don't really see the significance of a tour guide knowing unless he is guiding religious groups that actually know it anyways…