Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 12th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 45–8th of Tishrei 5774(hooray!)
"Another" One Lights the Dust
It was Shabbos, it was Yom Kippur, in what was probably the most religious city in the world, imagine Meah Shearim, Lakewood, Boro Park, or Karmiel J, and suddenly, right in middle of what was sure to be an inspiring Drasha the ruckus began. Students came rushing into the Synagogue right in middle of the great Reb Meir's speech to inform him that "his" Rabbi was cruising around on his horse powered…uhhh horse (they didn't have cars back then), right outside of the Shul. It doesn't get too much more sacrilegious than that. Yet unlike many Rabbis might act today, Rebbe Meir, sometimes more familiar by his last name Baal Ha'Nes, the Talmud tells us, left his services in the capital city of Tiverya and went for a nice Yom Kippur stroll alongside his Rebbe, Elisha Ben Avuya while he was trotting along on that Yom Kippur horse.
His Rebbe asked him what he spoke about that Yom Kippur, he shared with him some of his ideas. Elisha in turn negates them all telling him that "his" Rebbe, the great Rabbi had better and deeper insights. ( fro more on Rabbi Akiva see last year's Yom Kippur E-Mail http://holylandinsights.blogspot.co.il/2012/09/yom-kippurs-mystery-man-tour-vayeilech.html- why not make a donation while you're there as well JJ)
Finally they reach the point of where you can't walk on Shabbos anymore, and Elisha halts telling his student Rebbe Meir to return. Rav Meir tries to get his Rebbe who had turned to heresy to come back with him…to return…to do teshuva…to have back once again his Yom Kippur, that he had left just a few years before when he gave up his observant lifestyle and declared "war" on Torah Judaism. But to no avail. Elisha declared it was too late.
"Once I was riding my horse on Yom Kippur that was Shabbos outside of the holy of holies and I heard a voice from heaven exploding and announcing 'Return my repentant children-except for Acher/that other one…me."
And with that they parted ways; Rebbe Meir back to his shul and Acheir, the heretic, to his war against the children of Israel. The Talmud tells us that one of Acheir's most vicious attacks was in the 'cutting the saplings down', which they explain was destroying the youth of Israel. Our sages relate how he would go into the yeshivot and convince the children to leave by telling them that they were wasting their time. "You will be a tailor, a shoemaker, a builder (a doctor, a lawyer or a tour guideJJ). There's no point in staying and studying…it's not who you are...what you will be..." It is hard to imagine how someone who was the teacher of thousands of students at one point, and was the Rebbe of the great Rebbe Meir one of the greatest sages of all time, could fall so far, could be filled with such malice. How did it happen? What was the cause of this great downfall?
While our sages suggest that Acheir 'fell off the Torah wagon" when he witnessed what he perceived to be a tragedy that countered the promise of the Torah for longevity, as he observed a young boy commanded by his father to fulfill the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird before taking the eggs, fall off a tree and die. Elisha himself suggests that he was doomed from the get-go, from the day of his Brit Mila. At the festive meal on that momentous occasion with all the scholars of the city gathered for the celebration his father upon witnessing the glorious holy fire of Torah coming from the sages studying Torah, dedicated his son for what was ulterior motives to be also becoming a Torah scholar.
"If this is the power of Torah, those glorious flames, I will dedicate my son to be a sage as well."
Rav Soloveitchik in a piercing insight suggests that it was that moment that Elisha felt that he became Acheir…another one…someone else's dream…someone else's expectations. Elisha ben Avuya was gone and all that he learned and studied was only to become the Acheir that others had created the role for him to fill.
It is fascinating that despite who Acheir was, Rebbe Yehudah HaNasi includes Elisha Ben Avuya as one of the sages that he felt was worthy of quoting in the great tractate of Mishna, Pirkey Avot-Ethics of our Fathers.
Elisha Ben Avuya said: "He who studies Torah as a child, to what can he be compared? To ink written on fresh paper. And he who studies Torah as an old man, to what can he be compared? To ink written on paper that has been erased."
Paper that has never been written on has all the possibilities in the world before it. There are no pre-conceived agendas, no roles to fill or drawings to live up to upon it. The world in all its newness is full of potential. It is a book ready to be written. That is how Torah can most powerfully develop that soul and can bring it to its essence. As one finds their own personal connection and fulfillment in its holy words, one carves out the piece, the art, the holiness the spark that only they can, that only their unique individual soul was created to bring to the world. Once that paper has been written on already, Elisha says, than it is no longer the same. It is erased paper, the smudges of another, of an Acheir are all over it.
Acheir, gave up hope on himself, because he heard a voice from heaven that said all can return except Acheir. But it's not true. Teshuva/repentance/returning to our essence and to our Father is for everyone. It's a mitzvah. The Torah says it works and there are no exceptions. What was this voice? The answer is that the voice was saying that Acheir can't return…Elisha though…if you re-connect to your core, to that original holy spark that was never tainted and could never be tainted because it is the Hashem in each of us, of course you can always come home. Elisha Ben Avuya, that once great sage's, mistake was that he had for too long identified himself as Acheir. He didn't see Elisha Ben Avuya anymore. He was only the other that was defined by everyone else and ultimately even by himself.
It's been a year since last Yom Kippur. It's a lot of time. A lot of time to sin, a lot of time to lose sight of who we are and who we wanted to become as we stood before Hashem last year. We stand before our Father, our King once again and we tap ourselves on our chest as we recite our confession and all of those things that we said we didn't want to do anymore…turns out they are right back there again weighing down on our minds, our hearts and our souls. We all struggle with the Acheir that we have become that we are not proud of but that so defines us the whole year round.; the business man, the busy man, the no-time-to-grow man, to learn, to refine ourselves,the rush through our prayers person, the person who becomes too self-absorbed to care for those that need help…that reach out to us. We're not the parents, we want to be, the spouses, the leaders, the Jews or the nation of God that we so desperately hope is still part of us. We desperately hope that we haven't totally become that Acheir that we don't even recognize our holiness and potential anymore. But have no fear…Yom Kippur is here. We can return. We can all become. All except our Acheir. We have to leave him behind. Our Acheir has to go. Return my repentant children-except for Acheir the voice from heaven is exploding and telling us on this holiest of days. Leave the fake you behind. It is the day to become real once again. It is when we can go back to a new fresh clean sheet of paper, and crumple up that one that we have been erasing all year around. Our Father is waiting.
The Talmud says that when Elisha Ben Avuya was on his death bed Rebbe Meir once again came to him and begged him to return. Rather than argue though this time Elisha asks Reb Meir, can I still return? Is it still possible? Even for me. Rebbe Meir responded with the verse that suggests that even until the last bit of one's soul one can come back. That small pure untainted spark is still there. One can always return. Elisha than begins to weep and he dies. For the first time perhaps Elisha became that youth with a clean paper. His dying message with those final tears to us was that soul will always have that final word and come out. The Acheir we create will always be temporal, it will never be able to fully remove the real us. The spark of Hashem is what raises us from the dust to the eternal greatness that we can become. It is what brings light to the world and to us. Our light. The light we were created to shine. Reb Meir smiled upon Acheirs death the Talmud concludes and said "It appears Rebbe has done Teshuva". May we as well merit to be sealed in the book of eternal life as we return to Hashem once again.
May we all be signed and sealed for a good year,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"If all of Israel would observe two Shabbatot then the redemption would come immediately.- Talmud
"The two Shabbatot that the Talmud is referring to is when Yom Kippur which is called Shabbat falls out on the Shabbat the power of the convergence of these two holy days and their observance by the people of Israel is what will herald in the Messiah"-Reb Yeshaya HaaLevi Horowitz the Sh"lah Hakodesh
RABBI SCHWARTZES JOKE OF THE WEEK
A priest and a rabbi are discussing the pros and cons of their various religions, and inevitably the discussion turns to repentance.
The Rabbi explains Yom Kippur, the solemn Day of Atonement, a day of fasting and penitence, while the Priest tells him all about Lent, and its 40 days of self-denial and absolution from sins.
After the discussion ends, the Rabbi goes home to tell his wife, Deborah, about the conversation, and they discuss the merits of Lent versus Yom Kippur.
Deborah turns her head and laughs.
The rabbi says, 'What's so funny, dear?'
Deborah's response, '40 days of Lent - one day of Yom Kippur...so, even when it comes to sin, the goyyim pay retail.....'
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE LINK OF THE WEEK
Getting into the Sukkot mood already with the great Etrog Scene from Ushpizin
I love this song of the week and it’s a pretty funny video as well..well different..Ushpizin-Atah Kadosh
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Holiday Stores, pretty much any city in Israel but especially Jerusalem- This is probably one of the coolest times of year to be in Israel as almost anywhere you go, you know you are in the holiday mode. Sukkah stores are abound on any major cities street corners, children are pedaling decorations of all types for the Sukkas, Men are standing on street corners with magnifying glasses examining Etrogim as the diamonds that they are for the mitzvoth that we will fulfill with them. Before Yom Kippur stores are carrying pills to make the fast easier, white kittels and the squaking of chickens that are used for Kapparot and then slaughtered and dispersed to needy families are all over the place. As one looks around the neigborhoods those little huts are popping up all over the place as every Jew tries his hand at carpentry. When one walks through these holy streets you can feel the excitement of the upcoming Chagim and one can imagine being whisked back in time to the Beit Hamikdash when that same palatable holy energy filled the streets as well before this great pilgrimage holidays. How fortunate are we that after 2000 years of Exile the streets once again are filled with these sounds of joys. May we merit to see the Temple once again complete that joy on Har HaBayit yet this year