Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
November 15th 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 7 -12th of Kislev 5774
Pack it in
I have conceded. It has taken me almost 20 years of marriage but I have finally accepted that I can no longer reasonably expect to go on vacation or a trip with my knapsack, extra pair of underwear and toothbrush. For what was for the first couple of years one of the most frustrating events of our marriage has now become something that I not only accepted as a necessity but as an opportunity to stand back and appreciate how many things we have that we need to go away for a weekend. Diapers, wipes, Shabbat shoes, weekday shoes, shirts, pants, extra changes just-in -case, toys, books and that’s before we even start with kosher food and all the accoutrements. Ok, maybe I haven’t totally conceded…After all it’s only a weekend. I’m sure you guys out there are relating. But I have learnt at least one lesson. No matter how much we do pack and prepare; there will always be that one really important thing that we forgot on the way to the airport.
Well, don’t feel bad. It seems that this week’s Torah portion may be able to help us out once again. You see our story picks up with our forefather, Yaakov, on the move once again as he returns home with his family. And what do you know, the text tells us that after transporting his family and possessions across the Yabok stream, Yaakov remained alone. The Midrash explains that Yaakov appeared to have returned by himself to fetch the small jugs that he had forgotten behind. Given that this was before the times of the strict recycling laws and that Yaakov’s rather impressive financial portfolio of sheep hardly made him desperate for a few small containers, one has to ask the question men have asked for eternity: Is it really worth going back for that?
The Talmud, troubled with the necessity of Yaakov’s return for what seems to be a triviality, particularly in the face of the upcoming danger of his “reunion “ with his murderous brother Eisav, derives a peculiar yet intriguing lesson. “ We learn from here that the righteous treasure their valuables even more then their own bodies “. Is that supposed to be a good thing? Doesn’t righteousness preclude worrying about the mundane? Shouldn’t they be above that?
The answer as stated by the Ari Z”L (one of the greatest 18th century Kabbalists) is that to be able to recognize the gift of God in even the small things in life can only happen when one is truly righteous. Yaakov understood that if he possessed small jugs it is only because God had felt he needed them. To him these were not merely convenient containers for leftover lamb stew, they were divine gifts from a Creator that watches over and takes care of his every need. To leave them behind would be to turn his back on the most valuable possession he had: his relationship and his appreciation for his Maker.
There are so many things in life that we know we shouldn’t take for granted: Our homes, our spouses, our health and our families and we even make an effort at certain times to express our thanks and appreciation for these gifts that we have. But what about the small stuff? What about the diapers, the shoes, the pillows, the sale items at the market, the thumbtacks for our post-it notes? Do we view them as gifts from God? How much more powerful would our lives be if we had the ability to perceive the incredible love that is present in every aspect of our lives. If we are able to incorporate that, we will not only be well packed for this weekend but hopefully for life.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
The first "communal neighborhood" built in Jerusalem was:
a) Mishkenot Sha'ananim
b) Machane Yisrael
c) Nachalat Shiv'a
d) Beit Dovid
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
(Tunisian Synagogue Akko)
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Ohr TorahTunisian Synagogue, Akko- The coolest Shul in the world can modestly on rechov Kaplan street but its glorious building inside is a testimony to the pure love of its founder, who is still there daily , may he live long and be healthy the 87 year old, Ben Tzion Badash. After arriving in 1948 from Tunis, Ben Tzion received the empty land from the new Jewish municipality to build a shul, and until today the building continues. The shul which boasts 4 floors of wall to ceiling mosaics is truly a work and testimonly to a love of everything Jewish and Israel. Every tree, plant, flower, fish, bird and coin that have been found in Israel are depicted there. Stories from Tanach of our forefathers, the prophets and kings of Israel, The Temple, the city of Akko and the four "holy cities" of Israel and ancient maps that show the land in different eras as well as an entire room dedicated to the communities of Europe. The glorious ladies section has pictures of our matriarchs, a ketuva and the blessings that a woman makes. The main sanctuary has beautiful windows depicting the different armed forces of Israel and the crowning glory is the silver Ark doors that are dedicated to the community of Tunis, The martyrs of Akko, the holocaust and Israeli soldiers that have fallen in the various wars. A visit to the shul (the morning hours or for afternoon and evening services) one can meet with Ben Tzion hear his life story and receive a blessing of a true simple tzadik who is an inspiration to us all. (see youtube below to hear ben zion and see shul)
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I was addicted to hokey pokey, but I turned myself around"-good bumper stickers..
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKE OF THE WEEK
A mother goes into her son's room. "You've got to get up for school Bernie."
Bernie pulls the blankets over his head. "I don't want to go to school."
"But you have to," his mother said.
"I don't want to. The teachers don't like me and all the kids make fun of me."
Mother pulls the blanket back a little, "Bernie, you don't have any choice. You've got to get up for school."
"Yeah," say Bernie, "Give me one good reason!"
"You're 52 years old and you're the principal!!!"
RABBI SCHWARTZ' S EXAM ANSWER OF THE WEEK
Answer is B: I got this one wrong! I answered Mishkenot Sha'nananim which I knew was the first settlement outside of the walls. However that walled in community right across the Mt. Zion was built by Moshe Montifiore and not "communal". The right answer Mahane Yisrael by the Mamila pools was started by the mugrabim (north Afircan and Morrocan Jews) under the leadership of Rav Doid Ben Shimon known as the Tzuf Dvash who dedicated his life inspiring love for Eretz Yisrael and charity work for the poor. The neighborhood established in 1865 had about 30 families two synagogues, mikva and communal water cistern. After the Ravs death the community was abandoned and rebuilt several times. The other two choices were the next two communities that were built outside the walls of the old city in the mid 1800's.