Our view of the Galile

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Love Lost and Love Found- Chayei Sarah 2013/5774

Insights and Inspiration

from the

Holy Land

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
 October 24th 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 4 –20th of Cheshvan 5774
Parshat Chayei Sarah

Love Lost and Love Found

 Her brother is a crook. Her father is not much better. Her grandfather was a pagan and actually ran a business selling all types of religious paraphernalia. She's kind of young and supposed to be a sweet girl, always helping people out and praying a lot and she's really great with camels. There are rumors though that there are fertility problems in the family. She has an aunt that was not able to have children until very late in life. So whadya say? I mean, I know your son is a very pious man and all. And that you're a pretty well off guy that could afford a lot better. But who are we fooling? He's not young anymore and the truth is your lineage isn't much prettier. And the story about you taking him up and almost killing him, didn't gain any major shidduch (matchmaking) points either. So nuuu..? Is it a match or not? Oh, and I forgot to mention it's probably going to be a hefty dowry to get this girl, so send lots of jewelry to impress.

And thus the first Jewish match was made. I imagine most of the average matchmakers would never have been able to pull of such a match like that; the son of the greatest man of the generation, Avraham, and the daughter of Besuel and brother of Lavan, or as he was named by his victims and relatives as "the swindler". Truth is it's probably a good thing they didn't do too many background family checks on most of our ancestors. We would probably not be too proud. Lots of skeletons falling out of lots of closets. Uncles, brothers, associates and cousins whose pictures we would probably pull out of our family albums and hide from the kids-so they don’t ask too many questions. We have no shortage of black sheep.

The problem is that we have a mitzvah to learn the Torah. So we can't hide that book. And sadly enough without any rose smelling perfume to cover up the stench, or even any Israeli smoky cigarettes or oily shwarma smells to overpower it-all our dirty laundry comes out. We had an uncle named Lot, one called  Yishmael, one named Esau, the leader of our tribes Yehuda fathered a child with his daughter-in-law- incidentally that is where king David came from, and on, and on, and on…It's all out there and there's no fixing our Shidduch resume. Even our great leader Moshe married the daughter of a once idolatrous priest. It's a real mess all around. If any of these people would be living in today's world there wouldn't be enough camels in the world that they could offer to get a shidduch/match. But yet they did find their "Bashert". The Jewish nation was thus born. Perhaps the lesson is to not neccesarily judge everyone by their families. We've all got some baggage.

The truth is though the story of the marriage of our forefather Yitzchak and our matriarch Rivkah in this weeks Torah portion is not a story of a girl from the "other side of the tracks" finding despite the odds her "true love" and running off to build their beautiful tomorrow together. Neither is it a story that tells us that one should not be particular or careful with "checking out" ones prospective spouses family and background. In fact it’s the first time in the Torah where we ever find someone making his messenger take a very graphic and serious oath. "Don't take a girl from the Canaani daughters". Avraham is a big believer in lineage. In fact her lineage is the only really condition that he gives that she be from his family. Not her looks, not her deeds, not her religious observance level, not whether she will cover her hair, light Shabbat candles, not even who she voted for in the last elections, just make sure she is from my family. Or as we say in Yiddish "fun unzereh".

To understand the Jewish concept of marriage the Torah is trying to teach us particularly with this first "shidduch", I believe we have to understand the revolution that took place in the approach to marriage with the advent of Judaism. Maimonides in his work on the laws of marriage begins with a history lesson.

"Before the Torah was given, when a man would meet a woman in the marketplace and he and she decided to marry, he would bring her home, conduct relations in private and thus make her his wife. Once the Torah was given, the Jews were commanded that when a man desires to marry a woman, he must acquire her as a wife in the presence of witnesses. [Only] after this, does she become his wife. This is [alluded to in Deuteronomy 22:13]: "When a man takes a wife and has relations with her.... This process of acquisition is universally referred to as erusin ("betrothal") or kiddushin ("consecration")."

With this law the world changed. People were no longer "living together" as an act of convenience, accommodation, for the purpose of procreation. Marriage was now given a new role. A man would "acquire" a wife. How hard are those words to our 21st (and probably even 20th century) ears to read, to relate to, to respect? But that's what it is. That's what God's description of the ultimate process of marital fulfillment is. Acquisition. Perhaps the way to understand it is by what it is called, rather than the description of its process-Kiddushin- consecration, holiness, sanctification. Marriage which done through the process of acquisition= Kiddushin/Holiness.

But isn't holiness something between God and I? Doesn't it happen in Synagogue? Marriage is about love, respect, shared goals, chemistry, children. Where does Hashem come into this process and what does He have to do with the process of marrying a woman.

To understand it all we really have to go back to the beginning, and I do mean "The Beginning".

"And Hashem said it is not good for man/adam to be alone, I will make him a helper opposite him."

Hashem never seemed to have a problem understanding why he created male and female elephants, dolphins, ants or even plantae (the fancy scientific word for plant life). All of a sudden He creates a single man and says "hey, this is not a good idea" and separates what seems to be this androgynous self-reproducing man/female-like being from one another and makes a female. What made him different from all the other beings? Why were we together and then separated? The answer is that man as opposed to all other beings was created with the spirit of God. He was given a Divine soul. The soul encompassed everything about God both male and female. Hashem Echad- God is one and we were created with that one-ness. The problem is that we were so great that Hashem said we would fool ourselves and begin to think that we were the only beings that would be ruling the world. God in the heaven and Man/God down here on earth. It seems that some of this tendency to think we are God still stuck with men today.  Hashem therefore split us up. He put man/woman to sleep and took a rib from him and built woman.

"He called her Isha/woman because she was taken from Ish/man"

He made Female/Eve to remind the guys that we're not God. We were created to bring the God from heaven down here on earth. We were created to make Kiddushin /sanctification upon this world. The process for doing that is realizing that we are lacking in our soul and our ability to achieve this goal when we are separated, when we are not one again. We reacquire what was taken from us to form the oneness that will bring that Kedusha holiness back.

Until the Torah was given it was an old story. Man meets Girl, they like each other, what a nice coincidence, let's go do what we gotta do together; a partnership of two different beings to meet their individual needs and desires.  This was a pre-Abraham world. This was a world that didn't know that there was a Divine soul in each and every one of us; the world that didn't know and understand that we were put here to bring heaven to earth and earth up to heaven. In the world of Avraham though, each man had to understand that life was not just about happening to meet someone and living life together. Man had to understand that he was lacking the part of his soul that he needed to fulfill his purpose on this world. Marriage is not anything that we "fall into". It has to be a calculated understanding that I am missing something and I need to acquire it back once again. Not only do I need to acquire it, but that  acquisition is something that is the most essential thing in my life. Without her I can't make it happen. I can't be holy, I can't fulfill my holy role. I am Livado-alone just a half of me down here while Hashem is waiting up there.

The acquisition though is unlike any other acquisition. This is not just like a laptop, car, cow or camel. This is my life. It's me... the return of me...it's us. The man makes the aquisition because she was taken from him, but in truth it is a merger. It is rejoining her once again and uniting us into that original soul. Accidental, coincidental, convenient and even mere emotional relationships can come and go. Holy ones that unite the two souls in kiddushin with that higher purpose are as eternal as their life mission and mandate. They last forever.

When Avraham was looking for the mate for his son, the first Jewish shidduch, the only criterion was someone that comes from a place that recognizes it has that Divine DNA. Lavan and Besuel, our Matriarch Rivkah's father and brother, with all their flaws, still possessed that one recognition. They were the children of Nachor who grew up with Avraham. They had within them as did Avraham the potential and spark that would ultimately be ignited. They weren't from the cursed son of Noah, Cham. Rather they were the descendants of Shem. Their offspring would be able to make Kiddushin. The first Jewish wedding is ready to happen.

But what about love? Yes, what about love. Wait my friends, wait. Of course this is love. In fact it is the first time the Torah ever mentions love between a man and his wife. Adam "knew" Eve, Abraham "took" Sarah, But no mention of love. Yitzchak and Rivka meet and finally we have find love.

 "And Yitzchak brings her to the tent of his mother Sarah (OB"M) and acquires her… and she becomes a wife to him… and he loves her."

To quote Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in the 19th century "the more she becomes his wife the more he loves her". Love in its truest sense are once the man and woman connect in that deepest way. The word love in Hebrew ahava has in fact the same numerical value (13) as another word Echad-one.  Love is eternal because it is those two souls that have found one another and have committed to a life of transcendence, a relationship of holiness. They have become one. It's not the beginning of the story. It's the happily and holy ever after.

Have a lovely Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



(answer below at end of Email)

Where is the ANZAC Memorial located

a)      Be'er Sheva

b)      Be'eri

c)      Ramle

d)     Mt. Scopus


Me'arat Ha'Machpela, Hebron-  The oldest Jewish site in the world. That pretty much makes it a cool place in of itself. The first piece of land purchased in Israel. Even cooler. The place where the first was buried,where all our forefathers and 3/4 of our matriachs are buried, it doesn't get cooler. Welcome to Hevron the city that corresponds to earth (of the 4 basic elements of the world) and that is the foundation of the world. Here our sages tells us Adam and Eve are buried as well as the head of Esau. The current building which is on top of the doubled burial caves underneath where there were many archeological clay pots and other testimonies dating back to the early Israelite period, was built by Herod (same guy who built the Temple and you can see the similarities in the huge stones. After that it was built again and again by Byzantines, Arabs and Crusader and Mamaluks. From the period of the Mamluks for about 700 years until 1967 Jews were only allowed up till the 7 step outside. After it was conquered singlehandedly by then Chief Rabbi Goren it has been mostly put under the authority of the Waqf, particularly the access to the underground caves in the portion of Yitzchak and Rivka. Jews have access to those areas only ten days a year one of them being this Shabbos- known as Shabbos Chevron when thousands make the pilgrimage to this holiest of Jewish burial sites.



(In honor of Shabbat Chevron)

 Life in Hebron today the heroes that live there for us


The story of the resettlement of Chevron by the heroic woman who started it all



 Chevron songs



"Your birthday is the day that Hashem decided that the world could not exist without you."-Rebbe Nachman of Breslav



A mother is having a very tense relationship with her fourteen-year-old son. Screaming and fighting are constantly going on in the house. Finally she takes him to a psychoanalyst.

  After two sessions, the doctor calls the mother into his office and says "Your son has an Oedipus complex."

"Oedipus Shmedipus," The woman answers, "As long as he loves his mother."



Answer is B: ANZAC or the Australian New Zealand Armed Corps were a battalion that fought with the British against the Turks in WWI here in the holyland. They were a Calvary brigade (horses) and perhaps the greatest battle they fought was the battle of Be'er Sheva (captured in the movie "The Lighthorsemen"). The Be'eri forest not far from Be'er Sheva was donated by the Australian division of the KKL (JNF) and is the location of the large A shaped Memorial to the soldiers that fell in WWI from ANZAC and from a distance it is also in the shape of a horse. Along the memorial are enjoyable hikes throughout the forest.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dumb Luck Good Fortune- Vayeira 2013/5774

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 18th 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 3 –13th of Cheshvan 5774
Parshat Vayeira

Dumb Luck / Good Fortune

 We Jews don't believe in luck. If you win the lotto tomorrow it was not because you were lucky. It was because Divine providence had ordained that you have adequately completed the portion of your life that was meant to experience the struggles and challenges of living without a few million dollars extra in your bank account, and now you're ready for the next major challenge. No more of the minor challenges like how will you pay your bills, who you should make your $18 check out to at the end of the month, how many days you can afford to have Rabbi Schwartz as your tour guide. You've been there, hopefully passed that and made all the right decisions (particularly the last J) and now it's time to move on to the bigger challenges. How many life changes do you really need to make now that you have money? How many of those previous dreams of things you wanted to do are the right way to spend your money and the wrong way. Will you change the word with your newly divinely "gifted" fortune or not. In a lucky world it doesn't make a difference. Either way it's just dumb luck. In a "God-run" world though it means you're stepping up to the next at bat. Your new game has just begun.

The same is true when it comes to bad luck. Not part of our faith system either. You got stuck in traffic and missed the big sale you were trying to get to- it was because you weren't meant to get there. That great big family picnic that was supposed to take place that got rained out-it was because in heaven it was decided that it was not supposed to happen. Lost your job, car broke down, missed the turnoff on the highway, ate some spoiled kugel- none of this was bad luck. It was just Hashem manipulating the universe in order that you should overcome these various challenges and grow from the experience of God touching you in this 'special' way. There is no such thing as luck or coincidence in a world that has a Creator that actively is involved in everything that happens.

It is funny and sad, or sadly funny… or not... how often we can pray to Hashem and as observant Jew even talk to Hashem as we make blessings all the time, yet when it comes to "the rest of the busy things that occupy our lives" we somehow seem to forget this or His whole exisitence is being controlled and directed in all the things that happen to us. All the things… We make a blessing on an apple before we eat it, but even so we attribute its flavor and texture and price to the "I know where to buy my apples"-psyche. We get annoyed regularly that things "don't work out" or people that "give us a hard time" (in some countries more so than othersL), and yet we fail to see how everything really worked out and the time that people are giving us is exactly the way Hashem divined it to happen. It was and is for us. It was and is from Him. What He decides is what's best for us.

It's that fundamental understanding that really can help us understand the stories of the past and present Torah portions that describe for us the first communications and "tests" that Hashem gave to the "first Jew", our forefather Avraham. The fun started in last week's Torah portion as we see test after test, challenge after challenge, presented to our forefather none of them yielding the expected and perhaps even personally desirous results. Avraham's Aliya to Israel is fraught with danger and calamity. His desire to raise children that know God and inspire the world seems almost never to come to fruition. He is advised to take a foreign Egyptian wife, his maidservant Hagar (OK, our sages tell us she was a princess prior to her self-accepted servitude- after all we Jews always have to marry a princessJ), which is then followed by orders by his wife, Sarah (whose name non-incidentally also means princess) to send her away. To make matters worse he must send away his precious son, Yishmael, whom our sages tell us he loved as much as Yitzchak. Talk about a man with "bad luck"…or not? Finally, to top it all off, as if he wasn't having a bad enough streak, he is told to take his son Yitzchak, who he had waited about a century or so to finally have, who was promised to be his sole inheritor and the fulfillment of all his dreams and aspiration, and bring him of as an offering on "a mountain I will show you.". Nice.

How would you react after all of these things keep happening to you? I know my wife would have me check our Mezuzot (she's very big into that- we do it every couple of months it seems). Others might be running to kabbalists for blessings, prostrating themselves on gravesites of great Rabbis. Some might even think this was Divine retribution for not voting for the right candidate in the last elections (sorry its election season here and I had to put in at least one plug). The less faithful among us though might just right it off as bad luck, as happenstance or as an excuse to reject the notion of an Almighty God who is also our loving Father in Heaven that watches over us. But not our Forefather Avraham. He continues on and on. Nothing fazes him. Because he knows that it's all good, it’s all for him and it's all from Hashem.

It is fascinating to note an interesting law that our sages derive from Avraham's actions.

"All who establish a set place for his prayers the God of Abraham will assist him as it says  'And Avraham arose early to the place where the presence of Hashem stood'. And the terminology of 'stood' is found to be a reference to prayer…"

What makes this lesson so fascinating is the prelude to this prayer of Avraham and its auspicious location. For the place where he prayed and saw the presence of Hashem that this refers to is the first and perhaps most powerful prayer of Avraham; it was the prayer to Hashem not to destroy the people of Sodom. Plea after plea, bargaining chip after bargaining chip the ten verses that describe Avraham trying to convince the Almighty to spare this wicked of all cities, seems to have failed. His prayer is rejected. Sodom will be destroyed. Thousands of people will be killed. All was for naught. If it was you or me, I think we may just want to sleep in the next morning. Take a break. Find a new shul. We tried to convince God, it didn't work. Fuggettaboutit. We went to all this effort to  put ourselves fully out there, and nada?! Sodom is burning like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A mushroom cloud rises above the fire and brimstone (incidentally what is brimstone? anyone?) and the once glorious plains that rivaled the flourishing banks of the Nile in Egypt is now desolate; the really very Dead sea.

But not Avraham. He rises early once again, just like the day before, just like the day later on when he will be commanded to bring up his beloved son upon an altar, and he prays. He prays in the same spot. He prays with the same enthusiasm and fervor as if His prayers were answered and accepted. Because Avraham, unlike us, really really gets it. There is no luck, there is no bad God who ignores our prayers. Hashem has His plans and they are what is best for us and for the world. It's why it's so essential and incredible to have the fortitude to pray in the exact same place. The circumstances might seem bad or good but true prayer, true believing, a true descendant and student of Avrahams knows that the prayer did accomplish. It raised me up to my challenge. I did what I was meant to do, and everything else is just the incredible gracious and certainly Divinely ordained plan of Hashem. When we look out at that Dead Sea we may see destruction. When Avraham looked out and davened he saw the will of Hashem fulfilled and there is nothing better and more incredible than that.

I'll tell you another little secret. When Hashem looked out there He sees something else as well. He sees the prayer of Avraham. Lot, Avraham's nephew, is saved. 'and Hashem remembered Avraham and He sends out Lot'. This old man Lot who gets drunk afterwards and is seduced by his daughters (who assume they are the only ones left in the world-talk about a shidduch crisis..), eventually becomes the grandfather of Moav…who becomes the grandfather of Ruth…who becomes the grandmother of King David…who will be the grandfather of the Mashiach who will eventually redeem us all. How's that for a good prayer? Aren't you glad Avraham got up early the next morning?

The life and times of this first Jew and the challenges that he overcame paved the way for all of us his descendants for all times. There is no word in Hebrew for luck. Jews have Mazel which is  badly translated as fortune more accurately though it means a pouring down or trickling from above. When we wish someone Mazel Tov we are wishing them that they should experience that special connection that our forefather always felt and knew that comes only from above. The most unlucky person in the world is the one who only has luck to rely upon. As a nation that can always rely on Hashem, though we certainly are the most fortunate.

Have a perfect Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


"The Zohar says, when someone is speaking, we only hear 10% of what they are saying...but now we come to the sadder thing,..we only express 10% of what we want to say."-Reb Shlomo Carlebach O"BM

"Sweetest friends, believe me… people who don’t believe in G-d don’t have joy. They have fun. But... More > joy? No. "- Reb Shlomo Carlebach O"BM


(answer below at end of Email)

In which region is Mt. Tzefachot located

a)      The Negev Highlands (Har Ha'Negev)

b)      The Central Arava Valley

c)      The Uvda Valley

d)     The Eilat Mountains (near the city)


A Jew walks into the bakery and orders a bagel. The man behind the counter says:

 "A bagel? That's 20 dollars."

"20 dollars?! Are you mad!?" "Well, its 1 dollar for the bagel, and 19 dollars for Israel."

"Fine. Money for Israel?How can I say no?"
The next day the same guy comes in to the bakery, and orders a challah. The
man behind the counter says:

 "Challah? That's 40 dollars."

"Are you insane?!"

"Sir, its 5 dollars for the challah and 35 dollars for Israel."
The man shrugs his shoulders but he pays the money. The third day, he comes in and orders a cheesecake.

 "Cheesecake? 70 dollars"

"What?! This is absolutely crazy."

"Sir, 10 dollars for the cheesecake, and 60 dollars for Israel"

 At this point he had had enough.
"You are completely mad! This is absolutely absurd and unethical."
"Sorry sir, I am just following the rules." "

"I demand to speak to the owner of the store!"
So the clerk goes to the door and calls out:

"Hey Israel! Someone wants to talk to you!"

Mevo Modi'im-  This Yishuv most famous and connected to its founder Reb Shlomo Carlebach is the place to be this weekend Reb Shlomo's- perhaps the greatest Jewish singer of the last century, 19th Yartzeit. Although Reb Shlomo lived in the States or as he used to say on airplanes flying around the world to inspire Jews with his songs and his love and warmth for Jews from all walks of life, he would spend a few weeks a year at this moshav where many of his followers took up residence and would have hundreds that would join him for Shabbat with endless singing, Torah and the incredible camaraderie that only true Carlebach groupies could appreciate. Each year on Sukkot there is a great music festival that takes place on this Moshav where all the Carlebach prodigals come to uphold his light and legacy and this Shabbat as well will see many Carlebach fans that will come to remember and once again feel the special spirit of our "holiest brother"


(In honor of Reb Shlomo Carlebachs' Yartzeit two great old videos..amazing)

 A classic real oldie…


 a great story


and for the Hebrew speakers really pretty cool a true golden oldie..



Answer is D: Har Tzefachot is a great hike right outside of Eilat (can go up from Holiday in parking lot) and have one of the most awesome views in Israel and one of the only ones where ones where you can see four countries- Israel, Taba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Akaba, Jordan. The other choices are all beautiful hikes down south, but Tzefachot named after the schist metamorphic rock wikipedia claims its not made of… rather it's made up of Gneiss rock…I don't really know the difference. If you want to know get a different tour guide.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Only Here... Lech Lecha 2013/5774

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 10th 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 2 –6th of Cheshvan 5774
Parshat Lech Lecha

Only Here…

 So there he was on the top of his game. An older man, but more active than many his age. Looking back at his life from a persecuted anti-semetic childhood when he rebelled against his father and society and having suffered arrest and being thrown into the fire for promogulating his beliefs to the present Yeshivot and community he had developed, he had certainly come a long way. There were thousands, perhaps even 10's of thousands that had renounced all the pagan lifestyles that the prevalent culture seemed to be ensconced in. The light of God and his ways of peace, kindness, justice and a meaningful existence were shining out to the world There were schools, for  young boys and girls that taught the ways of Hashem. There were neighborhoods and prayer houses that had minyanim one right after the other. The Mikvaot were full, Shabbat the smell of chulent and kugel wafted through the streets, The world was getting more and haymish by the moment. Daily more and more people were coming and joining. It was, in fact the largest (and only) God-fearing place in the world. Everything necessary to serve Hashem and to practice the Jewish faith in the way that it was meant to be practiced could only be found here. At age 75 Avraham Avinu, our forefather Abraham, had built an empire in the name of our Father in heaven like none other before him. And in one moment it was all to come crashing down.

"Lech Lech, Mei'artzech U'Mei'Moladitcha U'Mei'Beit Avicha El Ha'aretz Asher Ar'Eka-
Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, from your fathers' house to the land I will show you."

This is it. The first conversation between Hashem and the father of our nation. For 75 years Avraham had been working on behalf of this Creator, whom he had only intuited existed by examining nature and understanding His ways through his glorious creation. And now after all of his years and dedication His first communication to this loyal servant was to leave all of it behind and to go start anew in a foreign "Goyishe" country, perhaps even the worst in the world, certainly the bastion of idolatry, licentiousness, murder and corruption. What type of place was that for a nice Jewish boy?

Vi'Ehascha Li'Goy Gadol, V'Avarachecha V'agadlah Shimecha, Vi'Heiyei Bracha- And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great and you will be a blessing. Do you really think that this man who went against the entire world and risked his life, scorn from his neighbors and struggled for years to build and develop this incredible Godly world was truly tempted or concerned with making his own name great? His life was about building a world that recognized the greatness of their Creator, the glory of Hashem. Avraham must have felt a little put down by this revelation. "C'mon Hashem, do you really think I was only in this for my glory? What about Your Glory and making Your Name great?"

I've seen many commentaries that ask the question, what was the greatness of this great first recorded "test" of Avraham? After-all if Avraham is a believing person and Hashem has personally commanded him to leave and promised him these incredible blessings, who wouldn't go? The answer I believe is that the test for Avraham was that he was living in a place where he felt was the best place in the world to serve God. There in the Torah center of the world Charan Avraham had built the perfect mini-Jewish Godly world. It was the "Jerusalem of the middle East", it was the Torah center of the world. All of the amenities and necessities for Jewish life were present and the program for spreading God's name to the planet, rectifying the sins of all of the generatiosn previously, Adam & Eve, the generation of the flood, the Tower of Bavel- the world was finally getting it. Avraham was making a difference. And now to pick up and leave. And to go where? Is that really what Hashem wants? How will I be able to teach, to learn, to study, to impact everyone. How will I raise my children? What educational facilities will be there…amongst a bunch of pagans, murderers and adulterers? What of my community? My students…their children? Will they maintain their faith? Will they become a people of God? OK you promised me that I will make a living and have blessing, but will they? Will I have time to study and teach and make Your name great? Isn't Your Glory everywhere? What is the going to a different land business? You need me here. The world needs me here. Only here can I truly bring blessing….

Truth is Avraham was pretty correct in most of his assessment. He wasn't able to study and teach as he had before. The great blessing Hashem promised him was full of famines that forced him to leave Eretz Yisrael-to go to Egypt none the less, childlessness for decades, war against all the nations of the world. Avraham had to become a farmer, a soldier and a wanderer. He had troubles from his wife and his maidservant wife and his child Yishmael. More than his internal family struggles he  had to deal with abductions of family members. Our first Oleh Chadash certainly had a run for his money.

But perhaps most devastating to Avraham was that in fact there seems to be no remnant of all of those thousands of "souls that he had made" in Charan. The yeshivas in charan closed when he left and they seemed to have come with him. But the Jewish people and the nation of God only comes from Avraham's descendants. The souls he made, the communities he developed the flourishing diaspora-style Torah Judaism that he had originally envisioned and built-was gone. In the words of our sages "they returned to where they had originally separated from". Avraham was right. Seemingly the name of Hashem was certainly minimized with his Aliyah to this foreign country. He wasn't able to learn as much. His life became busy and absorbed with starting anew in a foregin place. The challenge and doubts of that initial test of Lech Lecha-leaving the comfort of his spiritual Garden of Eden in Charan to plant and build and war in Eretz HaKodesh, were there for him to overcome each day he remained in Israel. And yet he overcame and passed that test.

For Avraham understood that what Hashem wanted was for him to live in Eretz Yisrael; to build a dwelling place for Him on earth in this country. Hashem had Tzadikim/righteous people before Avraham. Chanoch, Methushelach, Noach, Sheim and Eiver had all been righteous and taught the word of Hashem to the world. It didn't work and didn't last. The only real plan that is meant to work, the only real place where the mission and mandate of making Hashem's name great and living the Torah life and building the world that is meant to be built is "in the land I will show you". You may not be the same full-time Rabbi you were in Seattle.. oops I mean Charan. You may have to work for a living, you may have to become a soldier. You may even have to learn how to create a Divine physical, political and material existence here on this world that might even look like a country and a nation like any other. But from that country that may have all of the machinations and bureaucracies of any other one, the rest of the world will clearly see that spirit of Hashem resides there. It's different. It's Godly. Its ways are the ways of pleasantness and all its pathways are paved with peace and righteousness. They must also be inspired to change. Hashem tells Avraham "I know that you think that there is and will be blessing-yes, even spiritual blessing- in New York… New Jersey…oops I mean Charan where you have worked and toiled and built wonderful Torah communities, but you're wrong. The blessing will only be in the land I will show you. Nowhere else will you accomplish what you are meant to accomplish. From nowhere else will yours or my Name become great.

It is not a coincidence that the first challenge to Avraham from Hashem was to move to Israel. It all starts here. Our first Oleh to Eretz Yisrael taught us that it isn't always easy here. But life wasn't meant to be easy. The decision to move to Eretz Yisrael and even give up what ones perceives to be  his or her spiritual benefits or even the glory of Hashem was the challenge that the Father of our nation passed with flying color. The challenge to return again and again and ultimately remain in the Holy land despite the challenges and despite the lack of ease and comfort  was perhaps the reason why he became the our forefather and model forever. Perhaps it is still our challenge today…

Have a great and blessed Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


"All those who are deeply concerned with the fulfillment of the Word of G-d and His commandments should make every effort to make their home in Israel, especially in these days when assimilation raises its ugly head in the Diaspora and when there are all the means of obtaining a decent livelihood. Now, it is a paramount duty to make the "land of our fathers" the "land of our descendants"-Chacham Ovadia Yosef in his work Torah SheBaal Peh

Napolean would line up his soldiers and tell them if anyone of you don't aspire to be a general, then leave, I Don't want you here I tell you as well ny students, if you do not wish to be the Gadol Hador, the greatest scholar of the generation then leave."- CHACHAM OVADIA YOSEF Z"TL TO HIS STUDENTS


(answer below at end of Email)

The pulpit of the preacher in the mosque is termed

a)      Qibla

b)      Manbar

c)      Mihrab

d)     Manara


(I don't get all of them but hopefully our Sefardic brothers and sisters will..)

You know you're Sephardi when:
1. You are related to everyone you know but you're not exactly sure how
2. You call your dad's good friends `uncle'
3. At your Bar/Bat mitzvah loads of people you don't know came and lectured you on how cute you were as a baby
4. At family gatherings you hear the word "Mashallah" at least 50 times
5. You had a moustache at the age of 10
6. You speak 5 Languages, but you are fluent in none
7. In your home, you have more carpets than rooms
8. You drink arak as if it was water
9. You kiss on both cheeks
10. You have a don in your family. An elder that everyone respects and no-one argues with.
11. If you don't finish the food on your plate your mum gets offended
12. If you finish what is on your plate, you are given twice the amount you started with
13. You get stopped at security for "random checks"
14. After family gatherings your cheeks hurt from being pinched so much
15. You laugh at people who get fake tans
16. You click and clap weirdly (variations include the "double handed two fingers in the air click")
17. Your family reminisces about how life was `back home' but when asked if they want to go back reply "Are you out of your mind!!??"
18. You know how to "kililililili!" (girls only I'm afraid)
19. You're parties always include the standard Arabic tunes
20. People confuse your synagogue with a mosque
21. You wear a half buttoned white shirt with hair sticking out
22. You have more cousins than people in your school.
23. You have had a slipper thrown at you by your mum at least once in your life
24. Your dad is ALWAYS right. Or else...
25. You go through more hair gel than water in one day
26. Half of your family have the same name. They have all been named after a great grandfather.
27. You've grown every goatee possible.


Fantastic English Biography of Chacham Ovadia really worthwhile for those tha have the time and are looking for insights into the great tzadik who passed this week

Part 1


Part 2


 Part 3


Part 4


Part 5


The Hula Nature Reserve-  I had thought I wrote about this before when I referenced it last week when I wrote about the Hula lake but on checking my files we haven't so here it is. The Nature reserve is actually the first national park in Israel's history established in 1964 and was actually the impetus of starting the entire national parks system. After the draining of the swampland that was here in the Hula valley (which formed as a result of volcanic plugs) the country realized that there were mistakes that were made in this first great Zionist project as the ecological environment started to dramatically change for the worse. Birds stopped coming much of the wildlife was facing extinction and the quality of the Kinneret water went down as pesticides seeped down. The nature reserve and lake was then recreated in  years of rain and today one can visit for a beautiful nature hike around the reserve and see the buffalos, fish, otters and of course the hundreds of thousands of birds that migrate. In addition the multimedia 3D movie about the migration of the birds is really fun and cool. For those Hebrew speakers one can take an extended presentation as weel about the wildlife and formation of the valley and draining of the swamp with a computerized Hula valley facts game at the end. A really nice place for a visit or picnic in this season.


Answer is B: the minbar is the pulpit in the mosque comng from the root word nbar which means to elevate. Unlike in Judaism where we call out to god from a lower place (Mi'Maakim- from the depths) In Islam the Imam doing the readings climbs steps to a little tower..located to the right of the mihrab- the place which points the direction(Qibla) to Mecca the direction for prayer. Manara is a nice cliff to visit up in the north in Israel with a cable car ride and has nothing to do with Islam it just sounds Islamic, they just throw it in there to mess with your head.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Plan B- Noach 2013/5774

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 12th 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 1 –29th of Tishrei 5774

Parshat Noach

Plan B

 Well, the Holiday season is over. We seem to find ourselves immediately devoid of rituals, festive services and Holiday meals. We were getting used to all that intense introspective, meditative and, of course, gastronomic fervor, and now….?

 The upcoming Jewish month of Cheshvan (which begins this Friday and Shabbat) is referred to in our tradition as "Mar Cheshvan" or "bitter" Cheshvan. The unseemly nickname has been given to describe our bitterness over a unique aspect of this month. One that our sages tell us is more then the just the disappointing feeling when we post holiday stand on the scale. Namely that it is the only month that has no holidays in it.  Political correctness might require us to sympathize with Cheshvan. After all, just because it may be " Holiday -Challenged" is absolutely no reason to label and scar this month with such a negative sounding title. Yet as in all ancient Jewish traditions if we scratch under the surface we may be able to uncover something about this time so potentially powerful and wise that it not only liberates Cheshvan from any defamatory stigma but adorns it with noble purpose.

 Interestingly enough, the month of Cheshvan is host to the onset of probably the most catastrophic event to occur in the history of mankind. As we look into this weeks Torah portion of Noach we find that the onset of the flood and the destruction of the ancient world (barring Noach, his family and their amazing floating zoo) took place on the seventeenth of this month. The concept of an entire world being destroyed is too horrific for us to even venture to comprehend. But even if we somehow did understand the destruction, we would still be confounded by the creation in the first place – why would an all-knowing and all-powerful Creator create a world that would ultimately have to be destroyed?

 The Creation was a pristine utopian Garden of Eden-like world. The fact that it descended to a level where it was no longer worthy of existence is only because the potential for perfection was in humanity’s hand and the world dropped the ball. G-d, of course, knows quite well how fragile is utopia, that it can be shattered by the actions of humankind. He shared with us this process of happy creation and sad destruction to let us know that in life things will not necessarily remain as buoyant as their beginnings promised that they will not necessarily go as planned. That is how the world operates.

 There is a story that a couple comes to the Rabbi asking for a divorce. The husband complains,

"She is always nagging me, spending money on shopping and frivolous things, and she is consistently criticizing the children and myself ".

 The wife on the other hand expressed her exasperation.

"He is never home, he’s cheap, I have to take care of the entire family myself and I never feel as if we communicate".

 Seeing no sign of reconciliation the Rabbi provides them with a divorce. Much to his surprise six months later the Rabbi sees them back again in his office only this time requesting him to remarry them.

"But what of all the problems, issues and disagreements you have had"

asked the perplexed Rabbi?

"You’re right, Rabbi" they both responded in tandem "but… we slowly realized that for a second spouse it’s not bad!"

 Probably one of the most difficult things in life to deal with is disappointment and shattered expectations. If there is anytime in the year where we may be most vulnerable to that happening to us it is the month of Cheshvan. A month that follows our New Years resolutions, our Yom Kippur clean slate and our rapturous sojourn with God in the shelter of our Sukkah and rejoicing with the Torah. It can’t get any better. It is our personal Garden of Eden.

 But it hasn’t lasted. Cheshvan is here. Our expectations of perfection, which were perfect for last month, can be as devastating for Cheshvan as the flood was for humanity. Unless we recognize that there is the second spouse approach. The post-Flood world we are living in is the second spouse of God; the Plan B of creation and it is that world and those expectations that I believe Hashem has for us in this world. It is the key to creating a real relationship: a relationship not predicated on the honeymoons and holidays of the last month but rather on the realities and yes, some of the bitterness of life. For it is in that world that the rainbow shines and that we are informed that our relationship will never be severed again. And it is in this month of Mar-Cheshvan that we have the ability to tap into the tougher times, darker days to build that second and even greater relationship with our Father who cares for us in Heaven.

Have super Shabbos and a spectacular Rosh Chodesh,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
This week's Insights and Inspirations is sponsored in appreciation of all of those who made our Holiday Season so wonderful, our Baalei Tefilot and Baalie Koreh, those that purchased Aliyot and contributed in our month long appeal. All those that helped out with the building of our Sukkah  and our Simchat Beit Ha'Shoeva and as well as Rabbi and Eliyahu Goldbaum our musical entertainment. It was a wonderful Chag and exciting to be with the so many new Olim who have arrived over the Summer for the first Sukkos as Toshavei Ha'Artez. May we merit to spend many more happy occasions together!

Thank You!


"If you fall I'll be there"- Floor


(answer below at end of Email)

Al-Buraq is:

a)      The veil worn by Muslim women

b)      A Mamluk architectural element

c)      A mythological animal in Islamic tradition

d)     The term for lightning produced by the Foundation Stone (Even HaShtiya)


What happens when a fly falls into a coffee cup in Jerusalem?

The Italian - throws the cup and walks away in a fit of rage

The Frenchman - takes out the fly, and drinks the coffee

The Chinese - eats the fly and throws away the coffee

The Israeli - sells the coffee to the Frenchman, the fly to the Chinese, buys himself a new cup of coffee and uses the extra money to invent a Device that prevents flies from falling into coffee.

The Palestinian - blames the Israeli for the fly falling into his coffee, protests the act of aggression to the UN, takes a loan from the European Union for a new cup of coffee, uses the money to purchase explosives and then blows up the coffee house where the Italian, the Frenchman, and the Chinese, are trying to explain to the Israeli why he should give away his cup of coffee to the Palestinian.
Great recent funny Jewish Father of the bride wedding speech song

The Hula Lake-  We have written before about the Hula nature reserve, the Lake Hula which is just a few kilometers up from the national reserve is under the auspices of JNF (KKL-in Hebrew) and is also a great place to visit and spend a quality afternoon amongst the incredible nature and beauty of the restored lake that dated back to the times of our forefathers when it was called Lake Marom. With the birth of the State of Israel the lake and surrounding swamp were drained for agricultural purposes and to realize the Zionist dream of restoring the land which was desolate to its once flourishing state. The lake however was restored in later years and today is the number 9 spot in the world to watch the incredible bird migration in this season that takes place there. Entrance to the park is free to walk or hike around in addition there is options to rent all types of bikes 1-7 passenger bikes golf carts, and trolley rides. At night time during certain seasons and with prior arrangement one can also take a night tour through the park. As they say in the park it's a great place to visit 500 thousand birds can't be wrong.


Answer is C: Al Buraq the mythological horse that Muhammed rode up to the 7 heavens when Allah supposedly gave him the mitzvah to pray 50 times a day. Muhammed then negotiated Him down to 10 then finally 5 which they still do today. The Burqa is the veil. Mukarnis is the mamluk architechture (those hanging stalagtite like designs in their domes). The word Barak does mean lightning (in hebrew and Arabic) but it is not produced by foundation stone…see how they try to trick you… Incidentally the Muslims refer to the Kotel as Al Buraq because the legend is that Muhammad went up to heaven from the "farthest place" Al Aksa the Temple mount and he tied his horse Al Burak to the wall.