Insights and Inspiration
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
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE COURSE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(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
RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
" 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
RABBI SCHWARTZES JOKE(S) OF THE WEEK
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."
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE LINK OF THE WEEK
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
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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