Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 12th 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 1 –29th of Tishrei 5774
Well, the Holiday season is over. We seem to find ourselves immediately devoid of rituals, festive services and
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!
RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"If you fall I'll be there"- Floor
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
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)
RABBI SCHWARTZES (sad but too true) JOKE OF THE WEEK
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.****************************************
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE LINK OF THE WEEK
Great recent funny Jewish Father of the bride wedding speech song
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
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.
RABBI SCHWARTZES EXAM ANSWER OF THE WEEK
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.