Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 10th 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 2 –6th of Cheshvan 5774
Parshat Lech Lecha
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."
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
*******************************************************************RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"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
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
The pulpit of the preacher in the mosque is termed
RABBI SCHWARTZES JOKE OF THE WEEK
(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.
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE LINK OF THE WEEK
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
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.