Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
August 23rd 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 43–17th of Elul 5773
Parshat Ki Tavo
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)
or if you would like you can send a charitable donation to the International Young Israel Movement and send it to
Ephraim Schwartz 25441 Gardner
Oak Park Michigan 48237
Or in Israel to
Karmiel, Israel 21681
Thanks so much for your support!
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE COURSE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(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?
RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under." – Ronald Reagan
RABBI SCHWARTZES JOKE(S) OF THE WEEK
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!
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE LINK OF THE WEEK
Ronald Reagan humor at it's best-now that was a president!!
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
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.