Our view of the Galile

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's All About Us- Nitzavim/Vayeilech Rosh Hashana 2013 5773/5774

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
August 30th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 44–24th of Elul 5773
Parshat Nitzavim/Vayeilech
It's All About Us

OK, it's the end of the Jewish year and like all major publications we have an end of the year poll or short quiz that we'd like to run by you. Let's see how knowledgeable you are.

Question 1) Name the prime minister of China?

Question 2) Name the prime minister of India?

Question 3), 4), 5), Indonesia? Brazil? Pakistan?

So you don't know even one? Do you know that the above countries together have almost half of the world population's, and you can't even name one of the leaders? Don't feel bad. Most people can't. In a recent world poll the most recognized leaders of countries in the world by the average human (taken from 156 countries) was of course Barak Obama, followed by Putin (from Russia-shame on you, if you didn’t know that)  and then, holding the number 3 spot of leaders that people were able to identify was none other than Bibi Netanyahu. Now let's think about this for a second. Israel's ranking on world populations with our very proud 8 million mark is number 97, which make us smaller than  Azerbaijan which most people can't even pronounce forget about spell (9.2 million), Benin and Berundi (10.6 and 10.1 respectively) which most people have never even heard of, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (67.5!)-which I know that you didn't know was Democratic or a republic and pretty much thought it was just a convenient country on the Risk board game where monkeys, elephants and lions ran around. But little Israel with our 8 million strong has a famous prime minister that everybody seems to know. How's bout dem falafel balls?

But it's not only Bibi that is famous (or infamous-depending on what news source and search engine you run), Israel is one of the top ten mentioned countries in all media outlets and searches since it declared its independence in 1948. Africa, Asia, even South America have each had more wars in their region in the past 60 years and greater amounts of deaths and casualties, yet for some reason no one can name what they were or who they were against. Yet everybody seems to know about the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur war and even the battles going on from our 7 1/2 mile wide x 25 mile wide strip known as Gaza. Can you name a 7 mile strip in Asia? There are ranches in Texas larger than this, yet Israel is on everyone's mind.

If the United Nations is any sign of what the world seems to be interested in (which is certainly debatable) as well, Israel ranks as the number one country with resolutions against it. Sudan, Syria, Cuba, Iran and Afghanistan are just pillars of moral righteousness, yet us little yidehelach here in the Holy Land that are just trying to hold on to our tiny little country (number 153 in size ranking, smaller than Moldova and the Solomon Islands?) seem to be really dangerous and full of bad people that seem to be impeding the glorious world peace that awaits if we only just______ -fill in the blank. What is it about us that just seems to garner so much attention?

 I'll be honest, I don't care much about tiny little countries and tribes in Africa, Asia, or South America. In all honesty I really don't care much about, Idaho, Wyoming or Oaklahoma or even Tennessee. They're really not too important to me and seemingly to the world either. I, like most of the people I know on this planet, care about things that are relevant to my life and that might impact me in some way or another. If I ain't going there and they ain't coming here then I've got a lot better things to spend time following. I do however care about Israel because I'm Jewish, because I believe it's holy, because it's my small little few thousand miles in the billions of miles in the world that was promised to us. But why should anyone else care? What is the world's obsession with us?

Now you've all read the blogs and posts about how many noble prize winners were Jews, and all the great contributions to modern society that has come out of Israel from cell phones, antibiotics, Hi Tech and Kosher Shwarma. So I won't bore you with that. OK, so we impact the world inordinately and disproportionately more than anyone else on the planet. But shouldn't that be a reason that they should like us more? Be nice to us? Help us bring them even greater and more wonderful things? What is it with the world? What are we missing?

Being Jewish and seemingly being in Israel long enough the answer of course typically is that it must be us and not them. .  If everybody is telling you something, than there must be some truth to it.They can't all be wrong. We deserve it. We are responsible for all the world's problems. They know it-although I don't believe they can put their finger on exactly what it is. But this week's Torah portion tells us that they are correct. Not only are they correct now, but they have always been correct. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, Greeks, Crusader, and even todays' Arab world all recognized that this small little piece of land is the heart of the universe and our small little nation has the keys to the world's ultimate redemption.

"And the final generation will say-your children who will arise after you, and the gentile who will come from distant lands…"

"And all the nations will say- For what reason has Hashem done this to the land, what is all this wrath? And they will say because they forsook the covenant of Hashem the God of their forefathers…."

For me these verses are perhaps one of the most remarkable statements of the Torah. Would any man ever be able to write and predict that in the future-the final generation- three and a half thousand years later, the world which is a pretty big and busy place would all be interested in what is going on in our tiny little country; that they would be creating commissions to try to understand what is happening in our little corner of the world  Who would've even thought that we would still be around? But yet we are and all that was predicted has occurred and continues to occur throughout the millennia.

The Torah than continues with the ultimate prophesy, after describing the incredibly accurate description of our exile, whether by boats, the attempted genocides and overwhelming desolation of the land in our absence.

"Then you will return it to your hearts, amongst all the nations where you have been cast off by Hashem your God, And you will return to Hashem your God and you will listen to His voice, according to everything that I command you today…..than Hashem will return your captivity and have mercy upon you and he will gather you from all the nations where he scattered you… and Hashem will bring you to the land which your forefathers inherited it and you will possess it"

It is an amazing thing to live in a world where thousands of years of prophecy are unfolding right before our very eyes. The nations of the world are all "United" in keeping their eye on the ball. If the world has not reached its ultimate fulfillment yet, the Torah is telling us it is because we haven't finished all returning to Hashem.

We're getting there. We're very close, closer than perhaps we ever were in the history of the world. Jews are coming home, Our brothers and sisters that were assimilating and throwing off the covenant are coming back in masses. It is another fulfillment of prophecy. 60-70 years ago many of the break-off denominations of traditional Torah observant Jewry predicted the demise of Orthodoxy. No one would keep the mitzvos in the "new world". "This is America, get real" Judaism has to change with the times. They forgot the eternal covenant of this weeks portion. In the beginning of the establishment of the State of Israel, it is well known (and in most recent times the source of much controversy) that Ben Gurion offered the exemptions to Yeshiva students from serving in the army and most of his financial government benefits for the study of Torah (inadvertently and quite meritoriously making the modern State of Israel the largest benefactor of Torah in the history of the world), only because he was quite certain that it was a dying breed. There would be no observant Jews in a few years. The "secular Zionist Jew" was the new Jew, the Jew of the future. Except he wasn't. In the past elections if all of the religious parties would have been able to vote together, there would have been a majority of religious Jews in Knesset and possibly even a Shomer Shabbat prime minister of Israel. Wouldn't you love to see the look on BG's face. We haven't done it yet, though. But we are so very close. The nations of the world know it. Hashem knows it. The Satan-that Divine accuser and tester whose job it is to try to subvert us and challenge us in accomplishing our message knows it as well. It seems that the only ones that haven't totally grasped it yet are us.

We are still waiting for the Bobs, Larrys, Samanthas and Dianas out there who have yet to have been introduced to their heritage and been invited to re-connect to their roots. The Yankels, Shloimy's Berel's and Chaim's who don't yet appreciate that all our infighting, Lashon Harah and baseless hatred is holding back that day from coming. The Yarons, Ittais, and Noams that know how important serving in the army is to protect our nation just need to value as much the how essential our Torah learning and fulfillment of mitzvot are in us achieving that miraculous ultimate peace and victory that we have been longing for. There are still Jews from all over the world who have not yet realized that it is time to come home, that the land is waiting for them. That Eretz Yisrael is holy and that their ultimate fulfillment of mitzvot, their ultimate learning or Torah can only take place in the land Hashem created and endowed with that special kedusha. They have yet to recognize how much of an impact and how dramatic of a change that they could bring to this country if they would only come home. Sefardi, Ashkenazi, Americans, Israelis, English, young and old, we are such a small people with such a big role and we are all the children of Hashem that everyone in the world looks at with the same eyes of expectations. When already? Is it almost here? What are you or aren't you doing to bring that day closer.

We read this Torah portion each year as the last reading of the year. More significantly we read it as the final Torah portion before we come into Rosh Hashana. On Rosh Hashana which we know is our day of judgment for the year. Whether we will live or die, be healthy or sick, share in simchas or god forbid tragedies. Whether we will have money to pay our bills, some extra to help others or will we be on the other side of the door with our hand outstretched. It is a serious day, if not the most serious. Yet none of our prayers, revolve around our individual needs. The focus of our Rosh Hashana prayers is only one thing; Hashem's kingdom on this world. The ultimate redemption. Our prayers on Rosh Hashana are for the entire world. We are their representatives. We are the only ones that will be praying on that day. It's the day that we finally get what we have forgotten and perhaps even buried for so long. The shofar will stir our souls and we will be back again on Sinai when it all started and we heard that first ancient Shofar blast. It all becomes clear. The nations will rejoice. We will finally merit. May the upcoming year 5774 years from creation be the last year that we count from creation, as the new year will bring with it a new era of peace, blessing as time will start anew with the coming of Mashiach.

Have the greatest Shabbos of the year and a Shana Tovah,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


 (answer below)

(and now we move on from the Christian questions to the Islam ones, sigh….)

Which festival concludes the month of Ramadan?

(a) Eid al-Fitr

(b) Eid al-Adha                                                                                                              

(c) Milad al-Nabi                                                                                   

(d) Laylat al-Qadr


"Lord of the world, you must forgive Israel their sins. If you do this--good. But if not I'll tell all the world that the tefillin you wear are invalid. What's the verse enclosed in your tefilln? A verse of David. your anointed king: 'Who is like your people Israel, a unique nation on earth?' If you don't forgive Israel…(this) verse is untrue, and the tefillin are invalid.- Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev


§  Avoid riding in automobiles because they are responsible for 20 % of all fatal accidents. 

§  Do not stay at home because 17 % of all accidents occur in the home. (that's 37 % already!) 

§  Avoid walking on streets or sidewalks because 14% of all accidents occur to pedestrians.(now that's 51%) 

§  Avoid traveling by air, trains or buses, 16% of accidents involve these forms of transportation. (that's 67%) 

§  Of the remaining 33 percent, 32% of all deaths occur in hospitals. Above all else avoid hospitals. 

You will be pleased to learn that only 0.01 % of all deaths occur in a synagogue!

...and these are usually related to previous physical disorders. 

 Therefore, logic tells us that the safest place for you to be at any given point in time is in Synagogue.
 Torah Study is even safer! The number of deaths during Torah Study is too small to register!
 For safety's sake, go to Shul as often as possible, and attend Torah Study!

It could save your life!   

 This message has been brought to you by your local synagogue's membership drive.

PS: You don't have to be Jewish to go to shul. Sure, you may not understand what the old guys are saying but they sometimes they serve schnapps in mini paper cups.


What's your wish for the new year interviews


Aish music Get Clarity Rosh Hashana-cool yeshiva guys moves




Me'arat Ha'Netifim/ Stalagtite caves- One of the most beautiful and amazing sites in Israel is this glorious cave right outside of the Beit Shemesh area in the Judean Hills. Discovered in 1968 while working in a quarry this cave has perhaps one the most dense concentration of stalagtites and stalagmites in the world. Formed by water dripping through cracks in the cave and then the CO2 leaving it as it leaves the stone residue, the shapes of this icicle like formations from the ceiling of the cave and the formations of the pillars that grew up from the ground make it a virtual playground for ones imagination where you can spot smurfs, giants, weddings, and just the ultimate beauty of this special part of creation to recognize the glory of the world Hashem has created. One can also enjoy a nice hike fown to the caves and back up again following the steps up with their cute signs that tells you how many ice creams and blintzes calories you burned doing this hike.

 Answer is A- Eid- in Arabic is like the Hebrew word mo'ed- appointed time al fitr the fast breaking holiday is after the month long-day time fast day of ramadan. It is also known as the lesser holiday as opposed to eid al-adha (adha comes from word zevacha the daled and and zayin interchangeable) which is the sacrifice holidaywhen abraham according to their tradition too ishmael their ancestor and borther of yitzchak our forefather up to bound as an offering- the akeida. We celebrate Rosh Hashana this week because that’s when the real story of Avrhams Akeida of Yitzchak took place. Like most religions that stole their foundations from us they distorted and got it wrong. Milad holiday is the birth of nabi muhammed and laylat al-quadr is the night he ascended to heaven and received the Koran-kind of like our Shavuot but of course false.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Godly Graffiti- Ki Tavo 2013/5773

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
August 23rd 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 43–17th of Elul 5773
Parshat Ki Tavo

Godly Graffiti
Kilroy was here. As American troops landed at various ports during World War II they left that silly little cartoon of a man with a big nose peeking out over a wall with the famous line "Kilroy was here" to show that they had come, conquered and taken care of business. The origin of Kilroy, it seems, started with this guy J Kilroy who would inspect the rivets on the ships and left his scrawl there to show that it had been inspected properly. So as the soldiers saw it at various unlikely spots on the ship's hull the symbol became a talisman of the omniscience and inscrutability of Kilroy and of the American troops conquest, victory and protection. There's nothing liking vanquishing your enemy and leaving your signature right there on the battlefield. It is a basic human need to want to leave your mark for the world to see.

That doesn't really explain though, why exactly Kilroy's name used to show up on our Yeshiva bathroom's walls. I mean, I know the Yeshiva food was a little hard to digest, and yes it's true some of my classmate's greatest accomplishments and epiphanies took place in those hallowed stalls. At times, as well, it did even resemble a war zone. But still… Kilroy? The oy part I got but the K-I-L-R really didn’t fit in. Although on second thought maybe the idea of Kilroy's cartoon guy with the big nose peeking over a wall was that we felt we were always being watched. Or perhaps it was a yeshivshe interpretation of the actual Kilroy peeking over a bathroom stall…hmmm…Thank god we had plenty of time to ponder this… But I  digress. Back to our Torah E-Mail.

The truth is, it is not only US soldiers and bored Yeshiva guys. From the early Egyptians with their funny hieroglyphics (camel, Egyptian prince with left hand pointing up and right pointing down, bird, snail, frog, arrow, spear,  pharaoh- roughly translated as- did you hear the one about the Jew that crossed the sea?), the ancient Greeks with their Alpha Omega, Zeta, Upsilon symbols that they left on every college campus they founded, or the Romans with their arches and gateways that were built just for glory in every country they conquered-like a doorway with no walls-one of which can be seen in the old city of Jerusalem today (called Ecco Homo-but that’s a whole different story), each great nation wanted the world to know that they had arrived. It's interesting for those of you who have been at Masada if you make your way to the far southern end there is an ancient water cistern with Hebrew graffiti all over it-No its' not Roman, they didn’t really write Hebrew, it is from the early Zionist youth groups that would hike there before the founding of the State. It was the early 1900's equivalent of "I-climbed-Masada-and-all-I-got-was-this-lousy-T-Shirt" souvenir, it seems.

Which of course brings us around to this week's Torah Portion, the Parsha of Ki Savo-When you will come to the land. The Parsha begins with what the Ramban/Nachmanides suggests is the final mitzvot of the Torah (although there is hakhel and writing a sefer torah following this, it seems that these are the last regular mitzvoth for the nation), the mitzvah of reciting and rejoicing when one brings one new fruits and ones tithes to Jerusalem. It's a wonderful ending to an incredible slew of commandments. Be happy. Recognize your historical connection to your forefathers who were promised this land and appreciate that all that you have, produced and are blessed with comes from Hashem. And then the Torah tells them/us of the first thing they are meant to do when they come into the land. Take twelve big rocks and write… Kilroy was here-oops… I mean write the Torah upon them…in 70 languages for all to see.

Now besides the incredible difficulty of schlepping these big rocks and writing all of the mitzvos upon them, the book of Yehoshuah actually tells us that all of this took place in one day. On the 10th  of Nissan of that fortieth year in wilderness we crossed the Jordan river by Jericho. Joshuah split the Yarden, just as the Red Sea split when we left, we then hiked all the way up into enemy territory about sixty miles up to Shechem and Mt. Eival, all few millions of us, set up these stones, recited the list of blessings and curses as the 12 tribes stood on opposite ends of the mountain, took down the rocks and headed back to down to Gilgal where they set up the Tabernacle…Talk about a long day. This left, of course, just a few days for our mass circumcision (which was put on hold in the wilderness due to medical concerns) and of course Pesach cleaning. One can imagine the Jewish women were not too happy to have to do it all on their own especially with their kvetchy husbands and able body yeshiva boy sons laid up in bed recovering. You know that somebody had to ask the question-Why? What is this all about? Yes, there was no shortage of questions that first Pesach Seder night, at least for those that were able to keep their eyes open after that very tiring-though exhilarating week.

The 15th century Spanish sage Don Isaac Abarabanel, who was himself expelled along with his fellow Jews from Spain after hundreds of years sojourn in that great country that many thought would be there final resting place-after all it was wonderful, comfortable and Jews were successful as Torah and the economy flourished there-until it didn't (something to think about for those living in similar situations today. I won't mention any names of countries or of States that are so United-it can never happen here-not here…), suggests a beautiful insight. He notes that wherever one goes in the world one can see ancient pillars and monuments attesting to the great victories and conquests that each nation has had. Everybody has a Kilroy. Everybody except the Jewish people, that is. For our nation upon entering the Land of Israel-Ki Tavo El Ha'Aretz, were different. We were not conquering a land. We were returning to one. Just as our forefather Abraham upon his arrival's first stop was to the valley of Shechem were he built his altar on Alon Moreh and Hashem promised that his descendants that they would inherit the land, so to we would came back to that same place. Just as many centuries before our forefather Yosef was sold and started our Exile to Egypt from that ancient city of Shechem, so his descendants would first stop there to return his bones for burial in the homeland he never was able to return to.

The Abarbanel continues and explains that the most important and primary act that we, the Jewish nation, had to do when first returning to the land, was to lay down those stones. Unlike the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks before them or the Spaniards, Turks, Americans or even early Zionists after them, our stones were not testaments to our conquests or our might and victory; rather they were our "old testament", our Torah, our tradition, our recognition that this land was given to us by Hashem and that we had an eternal covenant to maintain and to fulfill in inheriting the land. The Abarbanel so poetically describes the two mountains and the valley in between as our gateway to the land, two doorposts-mezuzot. Upon those doorposts we would have our Torah inscribed to always remind us and to serve as a testimony to the world.

"So that you may enter the Land that Hashem your God, gives you, a Land flowing with milk and honey, as Hashem, the God of your forefathers, spoke about for you".

Before entering ones new home, we place a mezuzah upon the door. The final sentence of that mezuzah that is on the home of every Jewish house for millennia wherever we may be found throughout the Diaspora is

"In order that your days and your children's days may be increased upon the land that was sworn to your forefathers to give to you like the days of heaven upon earth."

When we kiss our Mezuzah before entering our homes we not only are recognizing that Hashem has given us our home and all our possessions, but that our home is really in Eretz Yisrael, that our home in Eretz Yisrael has a Mezuzah on it as well that we all swore an oath and entered into a Divine covenant to uphold. Our monuments, our first graffiti, rock engraving when we came to Israel was that we don't need Kilroy, Rome, America, or even the extraordinary forces of what Yaackov Shweky most recently called "the greatest soldiers in the world-chayalei Yisrael". We are under the protection and order of Hashem and his Divine Promise. All that we need is for us to uphold our agreement, fulfill our mandate and share the joy and happiness that the entire world will know that Hashem's presence on this world will bring.

 As we approach Rosh Hashana the New Year, when all of our prayers revolve around the return and anticipation of that great day, it is worthwhile to ponder and reflect if we are truly doing all we need to live up to our ancient agreement. Are we as excited about the Torah, our mitzvos, our special role in the world as we were when we stood upon those mountains by Shechem on the day we first came home? If we do then we will once again merit hopefully this coming year to fulfill once again the mitzvos of Ki Tavo El Ha'aretz-when we finally all come back to our home rebuilt.

Have a spectacular Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

To all of my beloved readers I would like to share with you the opportunity before the High Holidays to share in the merit of supporting our programs and projects. These weekly Insights are part of our larger project of supporting our congreagation that brings Jews from all backgrounds together, encourages and assists new Olim in moving to Israel as well as spreading Torah and love of Jews and Eretz Yisrael to the world. It is a great merit to have in your hand as you approach Hashem these Holy Days and your support can help us firther our programs. Please click on the following link below on our blog  for our High Holiday Young Israel campaign. Online PayPal or credit card contributions can be made in memory of a loved one, and in honor of  Simcha or a mere appreciation for your weekly E-Mail J)  

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 (answer below)

(can you believe we actually need to know where Johns parents lived?)

Which of the following was a non-millitary monastic order established in the land of Israel during the Crusader Period?

(a) Templar

(b) Hospitallier                                                                                                                

(c) Franciscan                                                                                       

(d) Carmelite




"If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under." – Ronald Reagan

 There was an old fellow that had a patch of land and it included some creek bottomland that was all scrub, brush, and rocks. And finally, he set out, and he started clearing and hauling the rocks away and clearing the brush and everything. And then he started fertilizing and cultivating and planting, until he had a real gardenspot there. And he was pretty proud of it. And one morning after the church service on a Sunday morning, he asked the preacher if he wouldn't stop by and see what he'd accomplished and what he'd done. Well, the preacher came out and he looked at this, and he said, ``Oh,'' he said, ``I've just never seen anything like it.'' He said, ``The Lord has certainly blessed this land. Look at those melons. I've never seen anything so big.'' And then, he said, ``That corn, I've never seen corn taller than that.'' Well, he went on about this and everything was, ``The Lord has been good to this place, and bless the Lord and what He has done.'' And finally, the old boy was getting a little more fidgety, and finally, he said, ``Reverend, I wish you could have seen it when the Lord was doing it by Himself!

Ronald Reagan



Ronald Reagan humor at it's best-now that was a president!!





Yad Kennedy- High up in the hills over Yerushalayim near the yishuvim of Ora and Aminadav is the heart of what is called the Kennedy Peace forest is a memorial to the 35th president of the United States who was assassinated in 1963. JFK himself was a supporter of the Jewish National Fund and at a dinner once said " What work could be more heartwarming or more enduring than the great forest at Jerusalem. Your children and grandchildren when they visit Israel will find your monument". The memorial and forest which were donated from Jews from all 50 states is in the shape of a tree trunk cut short with 51 pillars corresponding to the 50 states and…not not israel the wanna be 51st J L but Washington DC. On the memorial one can see the emblems and insigna of each State as well as a glorious view from this highest mountain top of the Jerusalem hills (2700 feet) of the hills and valleys of the Jerusalem mountains. Inside the monument there is a library of JFK as well as an eternal flame that burns. Dedicated on July 4th 1966 with thousands of US dignitaries this forest and its memorial stand as a testimony to our two nations historic connection.

Answer is C- I believe the answer to this question is the Carmelites. The Templars and Hospitaliers were both militarily armed crusader orders that were sanctioned by the Pope to offer "protection of the Temple and the pilgrims that would come from Europe to visit their "holy sites". They made a lot of money and were in general pretty slimy people. The Fransiscans who were not a military order and were charged with protecting the holy sites were not much better-at least in Spain being the ones behind the inquisition and all, but I don’t believe they were established in Israel until after the Crusader period. Which of course leaves the Carmelite who were pretty hooked on Eliyahu Ha'navi seeing in him the heralding of the "Messiah" and being reincarnated as some early Christian "fathers of the church". Ironically enough right where Eliyahu had his miracle with the prophets of Ba'al where he destroyed their idols and idolators they have built a church with a big statue of him which I'm pretty sure he will take care of when he comes back. But over all unlike Eliyahu they were a pretty peaceful lot and they were establishe during the crusader period so I guess they are the right answer.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lost and Found- Ki Teitzei 2013/5773

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
August 16th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 42–9th of Elul 5773

Parshat Ki Teitzei
Lost and Found

It was a nice thing this Jewish outreach gig that I worked at my years in America. I was able to continue my Jewish learning studies, give some classes, but mostly it was about meeting people, having coffee and sharing our Shabbos table with the so many of our brothers and sisters that were sadly deprived of genuine Jewish experiences growing up. In many case many of our students and members had never really "done" anything Jewish until later in their lives. For some reason the generation after the holocaust left many of the new immigrants with a fear of appearing too Jewish. Many of the old generation, the "greeners",due to the perilous and traumatic times that they lived under, themselves were deprived of a meaningful Jewish education. An education or an upbringing that gave them an understanding or appreciation of what it meant to be a Jew…what a Shabbos was…why their heritage was so special and worth continuing. In the darkness of post-war Europe it was hard to see the light. It was my job and privilege to restore that appreciation of our treasured heritage to the many who had never experienced it. It was a job no like other. And I loved it.

I used to tell my students that sadly, I was raised religious and observant. It was all natural to me. I couldn't eat a pork sandwich or flip on a light switch on Shabbos if I wanted to. My body just wouldn't do those things. (Lashon Ha'Rah and some good gossip though for some reason wasn't the same thing…even us FFB's have to have some challengesJ). Yes, I was raised observant, but yet my soul still wanted to feel Jewish… I wanted the inspiration, the excitement, the newness and vibrancy of Judaism. Don't get me wrong. I loved being religious, I just knew that it could be fun, exciting and inspiring as well, and for that reason I went into the Jewish Outreach business. There's no way to be excited about Judaism like selling it…sharing it… and living it with a community that is hungry for all the delicious "chulent" that Judaism has to offer. And to be able to get a salary, provided by generous donors that also wanted to see our siblings afforded the opportunity to taste the joy of their heritage, was like icing on the cake, or wickles on my chulent. (You can tell that it's getting close to Shabbos and the aroma wafting out from my crockpot is starting to get to meJ).

It's been about three years since I left the world of Jewish outreach. I miss those days. I miss the 20-30 people at our Shabbos table, my Sunday morning "breakfast club" Krispy Kreme and Torah classes, my college campus lunch and learns and all our holiday and social gatherings. I love Israel and I love my shul and I certainly get all excited when we have one of our Chiloni/secular neighbors pop in and ask to be Bar-Mitzvahed or for a Shabbat Chatan, but it's not the same. So now I'm trying to get "high" being MeKarev/bringing close my other religious born colleagues as I share with them some of my excitement from the past. Yet every so often I close my eyes and picture myself with a bunch of newbies once again; davening in English, breaking their teeth on some of the chhhhet sounding words, swaying awkwardly, but talking to Hashem in the most real of ways. I miss them. I long for the "me" that I found with them.

This weeks Torah portion, Parshat Ki Teitzei, shares with us an even deeper insight into a subtle mitzvah that adds an additional dimension to the "Kiruv/Outreach lifestyle" that seems to be not just for Rabbis. The Torah commands us in what at first nod seems to be a basic ethical concept.

You shall not see the ox of your brother or his sheep cast off and hide yourself from them; you shall surely return them to your brother.

A simple enough mitzvah it seems. After all it is your brother's sheep and we all know the golden rule. Love your fellow like yourself. So go give it back to him. Yet the language is still kind of strange. The 'cast off" sheep. Don't hide yourself. It could've been said a lot easier.

The Torah than continues and raises the bar a notch

If your brother is not near you and you do not know him, then you shall bring it inside your house, and it shall remain with you until your brother's inquiring about it, then you shall return it to him.

So now we are getting a little more serious. We're not just picking up a sheep or an ox and bringing it to the barn down the block. We've gottta take it into our home. Huh? My barn? Maybe. but it's kind of strange that it mentions bringing it into our house. And now it's someone that I don't even know! He may even live in Iowa, Virginia, or Seattle. And it stays in my house until he inquires about it! Who says he's coming? Oh… the Torah says he will.  How does it know that he's coming looking for it?

Finally, the Torah concludes with its last instruction.

"And so you shall do for his donkey, and so shall you do for his garment, and so shall you do for any lost article of your brother that becomes lost from him and you find it; you are not able to hide yourself."

And once again the Torah seems to be repetitive. The Talmud derives of course various ideas from the each of the listed objects. Yet here the Torah really seems to stretch itself with the statement that "I am not able to hide myself". Seemingly I am able to. I am just prohibited from doing so. What is going on with this mitzah?

Enter Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar the great 17th century sage and author of the Ohr Ha'Chaim. He sees in this mitzvah as being a hint to perhaps the greatest and most important of all mitzvos; the return of Hashem's holy sheep...his children…our brothers and sisters to our Big Brother up in heaven. Perhaps they appear as if they are cast off. As the Torah tells us that in the Exile we will be cast to the far corners of the earth. Perhaps they themselves cast off their owner, their master their God. We cannot hide our eyes from them. We have to return them. They have a home, they just feel cast off. We must provide them with that home.

And if they are not just sheep, perhaps they are strong like an ox, stubborn like a donkey. Maybe they are just lost on the outside. It is just their outer garment. Any loss of your brother. As much as he is missing of your brotherhood. We must return it to him. We bring him in our home. Again and again and again, the Talmud says even 100 times, until he searches you out. The brother, the Torah guarantees us, will come out. He will eventually search for what he has lost; what he has been missing. We cannot hide and He will not hide. That inner spark, our holy brother, will be seen and will return.

The great commentary the Holy Alshich of Tzefat adds to this idea. He notes that the Torah uses the term "we are not able to hide ourselves". He suggests that the mitzvah is in fact to achieve a level where we cannot turn an eye from a brother or sister's lost object. We should actively be involved in returning until it becomes our second nature. Kind of like me not eating a ham sandwich, or like putting on teffilin daily or making a blessing before I eat. They are all things of a second nature. Similarly the mitzvah of returning our family to Hashem is one that we must make a second nature. For if that is the commandment when it concerns his physical object how much more so is it to return to Him his holy soul that is lost…his Shabbos…his royal, holy legacy and his extraordinary destiny.

We are approaching the High Holiday season. Each day in Shul the custom is to blow the Shofar to awaken our souls. "Wake up sleepers from your slumber". Hashem is calling out to us to return to him and to stop hiding ourselves in the cover of our busy hectic lives. He not only seeks the return and Teshuva of His religious and Orthodox sheep. He wants the entire flock to come home. Our "Brother" is searching us out. It behooves upon us to not only return to Him but to stopping hiding from the so many of our nation that don't even know they are lost. Don't even know what treasure they possess. We can't hide any longer. Return we shall return to Him.

Have a bountiful Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



 (answer below)

(can you believe we actually need to know where Johns parents lived?)

Which were the first four churches built in the days of Constantine and Helena?

(a) The Church of the Ascension, the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Church of Nativity

(b) The Church of the Annunciation, Getsemane, the Nea Church, Haga-Sion Church             

(c) The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Eleona Church, The Church of Nativity, the Church of Abraham at Alone Mamre                                                                                    

(d) The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Church of Peter Gallicantu, Dominus Flevit, The Church of Santa Anna





" Have affection for a fellow Jew and G-d will have affection for you. Do a kindness for a fellow Jew and G-d will do a kindness for you. Befriend a fellow Jew and G-d will befriend you."- R. Menachem Mendel of Horodok


One day a fundraiser for a Jewish institution came to the home of John McLaughlin.

"We have you down for a $500 pledge," said the fundraiser.

"But that's impossible," said McLaughlin. "I didn't make a pledge. And besides, I'm not even Jewish!"

"I'm sorry," said the fundraiser, "but our institution never makes mistakes. Are you sure you aren't Jewish?" "How can I prove it to you?" said McLaughlin. "I go to church every Sunday, my mother used to direct the Christmas play at school every year, and my father, alav hashalom, is buried in a Catholic cemetery."





IF you were excited to do kiruv/outreach and invite some fellow jews oer here are some hilarious videos of what to do from the always funny Rabbis Salomon and Millstien

Let me know which are your favorites…


and some more






Har Gilboa- This glorious mountain range that serves as the border between the West bank Shomron region and the Beit Shean and Jezre'el Valley, is a great and cool place to visit. With its wonderful hikes, great rappelling (in Hebrew they call it snappelling) rocks and incredible views of the Jezre'el valley and the West Bank (you can even see the border fence) a visit to Gilboa can be a full day event. One can also bring your trusty Tanach along and read about the tragic death of Shaul and Yonasan and Dovids subsequent eulogy "O' how the mighty of fallen…". In that eulogy Dovid curses the mountain range that dew and rain should not fall and nothing should grow. Even the great work of the Jewish National Fund.in planting trees on this mountain range still has left many bald spots where one can appreciate that ancient curse. There are also great 4X4 and jeep trails along the mountain route that enable you to really appreciate the agriculture and all the various yishuvim that bear the name of the family of King Shaul. There is even a great "Ski Resort" (fake snow of course) where one can feel like you are in the alps (almost..ok maybe not so much..) as well.


Answer is C- This one was not that hard since I knew that she built the church of Abraham in Alone Mamre and this was the only one with that choice. But in truth the mother of Constantine who was his inspiration for converting to Christianity thus changing the history of the world from the Pagan Roman Empire to the Holy Roman/Byzantine Empire, was focused on biblical sites for her churches. I just found it ironic that Abraham who our sages tell us broke all of the idols that of his father Terach should have a church with all types of icons built in his honor. I imagine when Mashiach comes and the resurrection of the dead takes place Avraham will take care of that once again.

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