Our view of the Galile

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Schwartz, the Shepherd- Vayeitzei 2013/5774

Insights and Inspiration
from the

Holy Land

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

November 7th  2013 -Volume 4, Issue 6 -5th of Kislev 5774

Parshat Vayeitzei
Schwartz, the Shepherd
"Your mission should you choose to accept it is…" and thus began my foray into my newest cool experience as a tour guide in Israel.  So there I was in the heart of the Shomron, with my newest dear friend David at his farm. We were discussing the possibilities of expanding the educational activities he does there from working with teens at risk, school programs and even some army groups who he has hosted, and opening it up the larger tourist market. As we walked around and he showed me his "pet" camel and donkey as well as his modern day columbarium (a place where he raises doves), I became more and more enthralled by the potential of  a great farming experience in the wonderful frontier in the heartland of our country. He showed me the flour mill around the corner, the modern oil press and the dairy farm up the hill. He explained to me how he generally will show people the process of making flour, olive-pressing fresh oil and then baking the pitas. To top it all off he has a chicken coop where he sends the kids in to get fresh eggs which he makes right there on the spot for them. And then came the mission.

We entered the barn and he stood poised in front of a herd of sheep corralled inside.

"Your job now is to take this herd of sheep right across the yard, 20 feet or so away, and let them graze for about 5 minutes or so, and then bring them back here into the corral".

Seems simple enough, right? I mean I see 6 year old Arab children all over the place doing this kind of stuff. And I'm a rabbi; after all, we're kind of like shepherds, right…? Wrong.

 He opened up the gate door and faster than you could say "little bo peep" they were off. No matter what I tried to do, I couldn't get them to go where the grass was. They were running all over the place except for  the one lawn I was supposed to get them to. I tried to perhaps find the leader and shlep him over there. But there was no leader. Each of them was just bolting away. I tried calling to them, singing to them. "Rabbi had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamd who's fleece was white as snow….". No go. I even started to threaten them with repeatedly using words like Shwarma, pita chumus. Which one of you wants to be supper? Nothing doing. I spoke to them about the significance of the Phascal lamb and sacrifices. Much like my congregants they weren't interested in sermons. It was party time on the farm. Finally after coaxing cajoling and schlepping I got most of them to the gate. But as soon as I opened the door to put them in… they bolted once again. Sigh… I gave up.  If they want to run around like cattle, who am I to stop their fun?

  Dovid'l my good friend, who I am sure will have a very successful career in this truly experience of a lifetime venture, picked up a pail and threw some rocks in it and started rattling it. And what do you know? All of a sudden like nuns to a church bell, like Arabs to the call of the muezzin and like Jews to a  hot chulent Kiddush, they all came swarming. One by one they pranced through the gate, many of them turning their heads and sneering and baaaing at me as they entered. I went home and had some lambchops..so there.

This all kind of ties in to this week's Torah portion, which also seems to spend an inordinate amount of time and ink discussing the various sheep adventures of our forefather Yaakov. Yaakov, after working for 15 years for his really wonderful crook of a father-in-law Lavan, to pay for that special marry a wife and get 1 free (that eventually turned into 4 wives) deal that he cut with him, now decides that it is time to earn a little for himself as well. Lavan, figuring that he has a good thing going, cuts a deal in which the sheep that will be born that are speckled…I mean spotted…I really meant striped…I'm pretty sure I said striped and spotted and speckled… and on and on… 100X he changes the deal with Yaakov for the sheep that will belong to him. Little did Lavan know that Gregor Mendel, the great geneticist, had nothing on our grand-daddy. As the Torah tells us that Yaakov, utilizing visual enhancing sticks during the sheep-mating season, was able to produce whatever the new deal of the day was.  It's a fun Parsha. Nice to know that we Jews could outsmart those that try to take advantage of us. But is it really necessary to have so much graphic detail (20 verses worth!) about sheep?

But the truth is sheep are actually quite important, it seems, to have on your Jewish resume for leadership. All of our forefathers raised sheep. Joseph and the twelve tribes, our greatest leader Moshe was a shepherd, King Saul and David as well. Even the women seemed to get into it as seen by our Matriarchs Rivkah and Rachel. This seems to not only have been a biblical requirement but in fact even a thousand years later the great Rabbi Akiva was shepherd. What's even more fascinating is that in most other cultures and societies around the world, the shepherds are generally on the lowest rung of society. Uncultured, illiterate, crass, pagans and perhaps even a little loony, yet for Jews this seems to be the "b-ewe-t camp" for leadership.
Rav Mordechai Kamenetsky tells the story about the great Tzadik of Jerusalem Rav Aryeh Levin who was standing outside his yeshiva in Jerusalem, with his son, who was a teacher there while the children were on a 15 minute recess break.

"Tell me what you observe about the children playing?" said Reb Aryeh.

"Well," answered Reb Chaim, "Dovid is standing near the door of the school, with his hands in his pockets, he probably is no athlete. Moishie is playing wildly, he probably is undisciplined. Yankel is analyzing how the clouds are drifting. I guess he was not counted in the game. But all in all they are just a bunch of children playing."

Reb Aryeh turned to him and exclaimed, "No, my son. You don't know how to watch the children. Dovid is near the door with his hands in his pockets because he has no sweater. His parents can't afford winter clothes for him. Moishie is wild because his Rebbe scolded him and he is frustrated. And Yankel is moping because his mother is ill and he bears the responsibility to help with the entire household."

"In order to be a Rebbe you must know each boy's needs and make sure to give him the proper attention to fulfill those needs."

There is a beautiful Medrash about our great shepherd Moshe who chased after the sheep that ran away. When he finally caught the sheep that was drinking from a stream he exclaimed "I didn't know that you ran away because you were thirsty, you must be tired as well" and he carried the sheep back upon his shoulders. When Hashem saw this He said

"Moshe, because you are so compassionate to every animal in the flock. You shall also care for my flock, the children of Israel!"

The Jewish people are considered the sheep of Hashem. The Lubavitcher Rebbe notes that the root or base of the Hebrew word for sheep (tzon) is to go out (tzay as in this week's parsha Vayei-tzay). As the flock of Hashem it is our job to go out to wander, to spread the light of Torah unto the world. Yet we need a shepherd to help give us the direction, where to go, how to teach, when to come home, how we could truly succeed in our mission that we accepted. The shepherd we needed though had to recognize that each of is different, some are spotted, speckled, some are thirsty and some just want to run away. Yaakov our forefather who had to raise twelve tribes each on their own path each with their own role, first had to learn the ways of the sheep; the nuances and differences and how to create that one unified herd that would shine the way for the world. The tribes became experts in developing that sensitivity that being shepherds required and the tribes of Israel were born into a nation. But we wandered, we lost our leaders our shepherds. The corral is still waiting for us. We need that rattle perhaps to direct us all home. May we hear that call of the shepherd once again soon.

Sheepbot Shalom,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

(answer below at end of Email)
Where of the following is a wadi flowing from Samaria to the Jordan Valley
a)      Tirtsa
b)      Og
c)      Kidron
d)     Tapuah

(extreme shepherding very cool J)


Itamar-  For those looking to see and do something a little different a trip to the Shomron in the heart of our country is a great idea. The yishuv of Itamar of which many are familiar with the all too many terror attacks that have taken place there (most recently  a year and half ago the brutal murder of the Fogel family H"YD), is also a place of great inspiration of the resilience, determination and the true pioneering spirit of what originally built our country. A day in Itamar should definitely include a trip to the hilltop communities that have grown the length span of the village to 11 KM-the same length of Netanya! The outlook of the three seas (Kinneret, Dead and Mediteranean) a visit to the largest organic dairy in the Middle East for some tastings as well as visit to the modern oil press and flour mill. The highlight, in my opinion, is Nekuda Kafrit  (village point?) where with advance reservations one can have a delicious meal followed by a visit to the farm which has activities that include- shepherding (that’s right a herd of sheep), camel, donkey, a real colambarium/dove-cot, pita making, chickens (egg gathering). One can and should also visit the incredibly beautiful shul and yeshiva  that was built with local stones in memory of the Fogel family, truly inspiring. One truly appreciates the Jewish response to tragedy is to rebuild even stronger and create a house of Torah and peace.
"I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion."-Alexander the Great

"The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year."-Elvis Presley


1) Q: What do you call a sheep covered in chocolate?
    A: A Candy Baa.

2) Q: What do you call a dancing sheep?
    A: A baa-lerina!
3) Q: What do you call a sheep with no legs?
    A: A cloud.
4) Q: What do you get when you cross a sheep and a porcupine?
     A: An animal that can sew its own sweaters.
5) Q: Where do sheep get their wool cut?
     A: At the baa-baa shop!
6) Q:  What is a sheep's favorite newspaper?
    A: The Wool Street Journal

7) Q: Why did the ram run off the cliff?
     A: Because she didn't see the ewe-turn!
8) Q: How can you tell that a sheep has died?
    A: There's always a ewelogy
9) Q: What is a sheep's favorite dessert?
     A: Baaaa-khlava!
10) Q: What has 8 legs, 4 ears, and twice as much wool as a sheep?
      A: 2 sheep
Mary had a little lamb
You've heard it all before.
But did you know she passed her plate
And had a little more?
Answer is A: Nachal Tirtza is the beautiful Shomron river that flows down to the Jordan valley. A great view of this Nachal, the valley and what was once the capital city of the Northern Israel Kingdom in the book of Melachim/Kings can be seen from Har Kabir (that I mentioned last week). The truth is I didn't know the answer to this one and just guessed right by process of elimination (Og and Kidron I knew were in the Dead Sea area and I figured that Tapuach was the name of the nearby junction but not a river/nachal) because we had never really toured this area during our course (although we may have covered it in our classes) because the ministry of tourism does not require or even encourage touring in the Shomron/ West Bank area…Well I do!

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