Our view of the Galile

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Favorites- Vayeishev/ Chanukah 2013/5773

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

"Your friend in Karmiel"
November 21st 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 8 -18th of Kislev 5774

 Parshat Vayeishev/Chanukah


 Do you have an f-a-v-o-r-i-t-e child (I have to spell it out so the kids don't understand)? "I love you all equally" is of course the politically and parentally correct answer. But really? There's gotta be one that really grabs your heart? That can get away with anything. That just gives you that look, that smile, that reminds you of yourself when you were that age and that can absolutely do no wrong in your eyes. That you can spend all night just watching them sleep- actually as my mother used to say they're all good when they sleep J)  Yes, you love all of your children and you would do anything for any of them. You're proud of them, you thank Hashem for each and every one of them and your world and family would never be same without them. But then there's that favorite one. My kids all assume that it's not them. Being the disciplinarian in the family (ironically enough), I'm mean to all of them equally-according to them, and regularly will have contests to see who will get to be my favorite child. They've all stopped trying to win a long time ago …

Now everyone knows that Tully, the baby of the family is Mommy's favorite. But that's because my rebbetzin just loves babies-she always loved the newest addition the most.  Me, though? They can't figure out. Shani, my oldest and first born of course has her special place and love as being loved the longest in our family. Yonah's our first born boy, the yeshivah bachur, named after my father OB"M. Rivkah is our princess, the studious, always helpful, organized, neat and goes to sleep on her own ( and takes after my wife the most) and Tully our youngest is our little Israeli kid that is of course the youngest in the family. And then there's Elka. My Elka. Maybe it's because she's six (as opposed to my wife my favorite age is 3-6, when I think that we should just freeze them at that age forever). Maybe it's because she looks the most like I did at her age (until I was three and got my first haircut everyone thought I was a pretty little girl). Could be because we are the only ones that share green eyes in the family or it could be because she is named after my Savta (who's yahrtzeit was this past week) that I loved and was closest with( I was her favorite JJ). But, that little devilish grin and twinkle in her eyes, those juicy cheeks and adorable hearty laugh and giggle and that affectionate hug and cuddle that she has in her own special way, gets me every time. Now don't get me wrong. It's not like I went out and bought her a special multi-colored coat and told her to go shepherding somewhere in Shechem. I'm a Rabbi and have read the Torah and learned you're not supposed to do that kind of stuff. Yet, having a favorite? It seems to be part and parcel of our ancient biblical tradition. The question is only what you do with it.

The tradition it seems does not start with Avraham who clearly states that both Yitzchak and Yishmael are equally loved by him. Although, interestingly enough he always seems to stand up for Yishmael, not wanting to send him away, either time and even upon hearing about the tiding that Yitzchak will be born seems to say it should be enough Yishmael should live before You, Hashem. The first time where we see a difference though is when Isaac and Rivkah each seem to have the child that they love.

"And Yitzchak loved Esau because he was a hunter with his mouth and Rivkah loved Yaakov."

 Of course their love for their favorite did not detract from their other child. The Torah goes out of its way to tell us what we know is impossible not to be true, that Rivkah was the mother in the fullest sense to both of her children and Yitzchak blesses Yaakov even after he knows that he "stole" the blessings. Yet they each have their favorite, which sometimes blinds them to the reality of their children's faults.

This week's Torah portion shares with us the next story in the line. "These are the generations of Yaakov, Yosef…and Yisrael loved Yosef from all his children for he was the son of his old age". Once again the Torah, tells us that Yaakov obviously loved all of his children, he just loved Yosef his favorite more. Seemingly this personal love that Yaakov had for Yosef would not have been much of a problem. It was when he made him the multi-colored coat and treated him differently that the brothers hated him. But the question begs itself, certainly for the parentally correct of us who have been raised on Dr. Spock (not the "live long and prosper" Star Trek Vulcan one) what is this favoritism thing doing in the greatest of families and by the greatest of men?

The truth is, the Midrash notes, that when the Torah tells us that the generations of Yaakov was Yosef , although Yaakov had 12 children, it is alluding to something much deeper about the connection between the two.

"It is to teach us that all that happened to this one happened to this one-

This one was born circumcised and so was this one

This one's mother was barren as was this one's,

This one's mother had two children as did this one's

This one had the birthright as did this one

This one's mother had difficulty in birth as did this one

This one's brother hated him as did this one's

This one's brother tried to kill him as did this one's

This one was a shepherd as was this one

This one was hated as was this one

This one was blessed with wealth as was this one

This one left Israel, married a woman from outside Israel and had children there as did this one,

This one had angels accompany him as did this one

This one became great through dreams as did this one

They both went down to Egypt, had famines, brought blessing, died and were embalmed in Egypt

Both of their bones were carried with the Jewish people from Egypt to be buried in Israel.

(PS believe it or not I actually left out a few for brevity…)

Wow! Talk about the apple not falling far from the tree, or walking in your father's footsteps. Does this mean that Elka is meant to go to Detroit, New York, Iowa, Virginia, and Seattle? I believe what the Medrash and Torah are trying to share with us, is the function and idea behind the favoritism of our forefathers. The word love/ahava as we have mentioned many times comes from the root word Hav- to give; a deep emotional and everlasting connection. Unlike the modern idea of love which is about how much I feel about something and how it makes me feel. The Torah reaches into a much deeper level, in which true love comes from the act of altruistic giving and the connection that is engendered as a result of those acts. It is why we can be commanded to love someone, to love Hashem. For love is not just a baseless romantic, chemical or even emotional reaction, rather it is the connection that is developed when giving selflessly to another. To a large degree it is why we are told a parent will always love a child more than the child loves the parent. For the parents love is selfless, we get nothing in return and have no such expectations. Whereas the child's is a response to the love received and in order to receive from their parents. It's interesting that in general this will change when the parents are older and the child gives more to the parents in caring for them selflessly than the parents have to give to their child.

  When our forefathers are described as having a particular extra love of one child more than the other, it is telling us that they have given more to this child than the other ones. Our sages tell us that Yaakov loved Yosef more, as he taught him all of the Torah that he had learned in his younger years. Why Yosef more than the other brothers? For Yaakov saw that Yosef was meant to undergo the same challenges and struggles that he had gone through in life. Their mission was the same. Yaakov was the culmination of our Patriarchs and thus embodying and bringing to fulfillment the role of our forefathers in establishing the tribes of Israel. It was Yitzchaks role to develop Esau and thus his love for him. Rivkah though, who had the prophecy that Esau's role would be fulfilled only when Yaakov was on top, put her energy into Yaakov's development as he would ultimately inherit Esau's role as well. When Yaakov became Yisrael, he had thus completed the Patriarchal foundation on which the tribes would be built. Yosef's role was to bring those tribes together and unite them. It was he who would have the Divine premonitions and dreams of all the tribes together united. It was he who would prepare the land of Egypt for them as they would have to undergo exile for not recognizing his role; as they felt that "we are children of one father", there is no one "unitor". They didn't understand that the multicolored coat was meant to symbolize the incredible tapestry that could be when we are all united.  And it was he and Yaakov that would be brought back with our people to the land of Israel when that first return to our holy land occurred.

 It is not easy being a favorite child as we can see from the Torah. It is certainly not about mushy feelings and getting away with mischief. We are the special, favorite and chosen of all of the nations.

"You have chosen us from all nations, You have loved us and exalted us and sanctified us with your commandments." we say each holiday, each Kiddush, each time we recite the Shema and express our love for our Creator. It is not that Hashem does not love all mankind. They are all His creation, His children. Yet it is in us, His favorite, which He has given and invested so much more in. We are His light upon this world and it is through us that His world will ultimately be lit. As we light our Chanukah candles this week and recite our blessings, we remember the miracles Hashem has done for us, his favorite children.

"Blessed are you Hashem, our God the King of the universe that has sanctified us and commanded us to light the candles of Chanukah…that has done miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time… that has given us life and sustained us and brought us to this day."

May the favorite children finally succeed in achieving harmony with all of our brothers and bring that special Divine light unto the world.

 Have an amazing Shabbos and a de-light-ful Chanukah,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



(answer below at end of Email)

The "language war" began in :
a)  Jerusalem
b)  Rishon LeTzion
c)  Haifa
d)  Petach Tikva


(Lipa… chanukah… it doesn't get better than a rockin chasid)


 Kesem HaGolan-Katzrin- Going to the Golan? This is a great place to truly appreciate and get an overview of this beautiful region of our country. Located in the convenient visitor center in the city of Katzrin with a fantastic array of restaurants (mehadrin café café)  the IMAX film is a multimedia nature experience that will excite all your senses as you feel the wind, water, and sounds and sights of the Golan. After which you can go see an incredible topographical exact model of the Golan as you learn about the ancient and modern history and wars that took place here. A trip to this visitor center can include a visit to wineyr, brewery and olive oil factory as well as a trip to the ancient Talmudic city of Katzrin.



 "Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry."-Bill Cosby

  (Shaniiiii, Yonaaaaaah, Rivkaaaah, Elkaaaaa Tullyyyyy-note Ephraimmmmm doesn't have a vowel because there was never a need to shout… or they knew it wouldn't help…Sooooo …they found alternate ways of getting my attention Ouch! L.


When I was a young turkey, new to the coop,
My big brother Mike took me out on the stoop
Then he sat me down, and he spoke real slow,
And he told me there was something that I had to know;

His look and his tone I will always remember,
When he told me of the horrors of..... Bleak November;
"Come about August, now listen to me,
Each day you'll get six meals instead of just three,"

"And soon you'll be thick, where once you were thin,
And you'll grow a big rubbery thing under your chin;"
"And then one morning, when you're warm in your bed,
In'll burst the farmer's wife, and hack off your head;"

"Then she'll pluck out all your feathers so you're bald 'n pink,
And scoop out all your insides and leave ya lyin' in the sink;"
"And then comes the worst part" he said not bluffing,
"She'll spread your cheeks and pack your rear with stuffing".
Well, the rest of his words were too grim to repeat,
I sat on the stoop like a winged piece of meat,
And decided on the spot that to avoid being cooked,
I'd have to lay low and remain overlooked;

I began a new diet of nuts and granola,
High-roughage salads, juice and diet cola;
And as they ate pastries, chocolates and crepes,
I stayed in my room doing Jane Fonda tapes;
I maintained my weight of two pounds and a half,
And tried not to notice when the bigger birds laughed;
But 'twas I who was laughing, under my breath,
As they chomped and they chewed, ever closer to death;

And sure enough when Bleak November rolled around,
I was the last turkey left in the entire compound;
So now I'm a pet in the farmer's wife's lap;
I haven't a worry, so I eat and I nap;
She held me today, while sewing and humming,
And smiled at me and said;
"Ess Ess little birdy, Chanuka is coming..."


Answer is C: I got this one wrong too! I answered Jerusalem because religious Jew that I am I remembered the great battles in Jerusalem with Ben Yehudah over religious legitimacy of Hebrew (which until today still has many of the old yishuv of Yerushalayim speaking Yiddish rather than Hebrew). The correct answer though is Haifa and the battle was over the school which eventually became the Technion, which was initially funded by the german "Ezra" organization to train and create engineers, technical and professional administrators. The germans felt that the school should be taught in German the "educated" language of universities in the early 1900's. The early Zionists which had already opened up many schools in Israel (starting in Rishon-another trick answer) wanted it in the new "old" language of Ivrit/Hebrew) after many years of fighting, firings, strikes and debates eventually the Ezra organization closed down and the Zionist organizations took over the educational systems in Israel.

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