Our view of the Galile

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tis the season of….presents- Vayigash 5775/2014

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

December 26th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 10 -4h of Tevet 5775
Parshat Vayigash
Tis the season of….presents
 It's a time for presents. Yes, it's that time of year again. In fact since Thanksgiving's Black Friday people across the US of A have been buying, buying, buying presents. It's even become a national event. I'm humbled by this great gesture. After all not everyone's birthday turns into a national occasion to buy presents for me. Even though the non-Jewish world has every right to celebrate my birthday and to buy me presents. I mean imagine the tremendous darkness and lack of chulent that there was in the world before I was born and then moved out to all of these "goyish" cities/States like Iowa, Virginia and Seattle and shared that special Schwartz Yiddishkeit with them. But even the Jewish world it seems has chosen to begin to incorporate present giving into their Chanuka celebrations in honor of my Hebrew birthday as well. I think the Jews are also happy that I ended up moving to Iowa Virginia Seattle and even Karmiel where I am not interacting with too many Jews and therefore only having a limited amount of damage. Regardless it's really quite touching all the same.

What? You say that the presents are not for me? The holiday season isn't about my birthday? They're about some other Jewish kid! Hey, why does he get a big party and not me? What did he do? Who died and made him god? And I thought that fat Rabbi in a red suit with a white beard was about what I would look like if I continued to eat latkas and if I did my own laundry. And I thought the nativity scene was what Maimonides Hospital looked like 44 years ago? Oh well..sighhh.. Anyways for those that want to celebrate my birthday the address where to send your donation is below. Trust me it will be put to a good cause. It will certainly make this Rabbi happy and is a much more worthwhile way to spend your holiday. Your kids have enough electronics already. Your husband enough ties, your wife enough jewelry and your co-workers enough…I don't know what you get them. But have you ever met a Rabbi in Israel with enough donations?

Now besides the world getting into the present mode this week, The Torah portion as well shares with us the story of exchanging presents. How do you like that tie-in J? Yup this week's portion Parshat Vayigash-my Bar Mitzvah Parsha, (pretty cool that I got a Parsha that talks about presents how's that for a not-so-subtle hint) talks about the reunion of Yosef and his brothers. This is in fact the first time in the  entire Torah where we have all twelve tribes together. All our parents. One big (happy?) family. And thus the first Jewish family reunion started. There is food of course. All are seated around one big table. There's talk of family back home, there are tears, favorites, accusations, a fight almost breaks out, lots of invoking of Hashem's name, you know your typical Jewish holiday meal.It ends of course as all of these things usually do with a "let's do this again real soon" and of course Yosef giving his brothers presents for the road. But like all Jewish things and particularly Torah things there are always hidden messages in the presents that are given so let's go through them and see what we can glean from them. Maybe even get some ideas for our own present giving this Rabbi Schwartz birthday season.

So here we are Bereishit chapter 45:21-23 Yosef sends wagons (in Hebrew the word is Agalot) and food for the way. Food is of course very important. Somebody has to take the leftovers. And thus the custom of a "little something for the road" has begun. And then interestingly enough Yosef gives each of the brothers a set of clothing. This is interesting. No, and I don't mean that of course when anyone is coming to Israel they should bring a suitcase of clothing with them back, although my wife would certainly appreciate it. Perhaps another Jewish custom started J. No I mean to think a little bit about the significance of clothing to these brothers. 22 years previously the last time Yosef saw his brothers, was when they took off his clothing and threw him into a pit and then sold him down to Egypt. The brothers then took Yosef's famous colored coat and dipped it in blood and showed it to their father Jacob. Hmmmm is there a subtle message in this clothing giving of Yosef? Perhaps it is the ultimate way of him showing his forgiveness and no hard feelings. Perhaps, the clothing is a sign of redemption for the brothers. In fact the word for clothing is Chalifot- to change, to turn over a new leaf and put on a new garment. It's interesting to see how in previous portions we are told the story of Yehudah who has to redeem his garments that were given away in the story of Tamar and how Yosef himself runs away from the wife of Potiphar as she was seducing him leaving his garments behind. Yosef has worn many clothes since he was thrown in the pit. The slave garb, the prison garb and now the royalty garb. The gift of clothing is that we can change ourselves the same way we can change our garments.
Moving on to the next gift we see that Yosef does something strange in that his brother Binyamin receives 5 changes of clothing and an extra 300 coins. Now yes Binyamin was his only full brother, the only other child of his mother Rachel. But really? Do you want to play this favorite game once again in front of the brothers? Haven't you learned? Is there anyone more than Yosef that has learned this lesson? 

The answer our sages tell us was that Yosef was symbolizing to the brothers and to the Jewish people in the future that there will come from Binyamin a Jewish leader by the name of Mordechai. Mordechai will stand separate from all of the Jewish people in the story of Purim. They will all be politically correct and go to Achashveirosh's party and he will refuse. They will bow down to Haman and wish him a happy holiday season (sorry I couldn't resist) and he will stand tall and proud and say I bow to no one but Hashem. Haman will incite the king against the Jews because of this Mordechai and trust me the newspapers at that time were calling him a religious fanatical provocateur. They will accuse him of trying to be holier than though at the expense of the Jews. Kind of the same way that the brothers in Egypt accused Yosef of being. Yet in the end Mordechai will walk out with 5 garments that the King, Achashveirosh (and our sages tell us that all references to the king really mean Hashem in the megilla), dresses him in. Yosef in his gift to his Binyamin is telling the brothers to remember this lesson in the future. Interesting as well Mordechai himself changes his garment to sackcloth prior to wearing this royal garment. We all need a fresh change of our clothing to reveal our truest essense. The 300 coins, you ask? Mordechai in gematria is 274 if you add the name of Hashem which equals 26, you've got 300 and thus the coins gift.

Finally and perhaps most moving is Yosef's gift to his father. He sends him "like this" ten donkeys loaded with the good of Egypt and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread and food. See back then like today one couldn't get white tuna fish in Israel or wickles (thanks Howard for bringing me some), no Jay's potato chips or Topor's pickles either. (by the way it's pretty cool that those are the only things that I can think of that we can't get here...and I don't miss the Tuna that much eitherJ). So we can understand the food thing. But what's with the donkeys? The Sfat Emet shares two beautiful insights. The first he suggests is that what does it mean in the verse when he sent him "like this"? It seems extraneous. So he explains that Yosef was fearful that Yaakov would be upset when he found out what took place. So Yosef sent him the donkeys to signal to him that this is all a divine plan. The brothers of Yosef who did what they did are merely 'like donkeys' carrying the good of Egypt. This was all Divinely orchestrated. We are Hashem's donkeys, just actors in his plan for us to carry out the good that is in Egypt.

The second message is that Yaakov years earlier had told his brother Esau when he explained to him when he would join him and what his possession were "Yeish Li Shor V'Chamor- I have an ox and a donkey" the commentaries explain that Yaakov was referring to Yosef who is symbolized as an ox and Yehuda of whose descendant will be Mashiach that will ride on a white donkey. Yaakov was saying that I will join you when Mashiach Ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David (from the tribe of Judah) will come. Yosef sent his father the wagons and the donkeys to let him know that although the Exile to Egypt is no starting with his coming down to Egypt, the redemption is already prepared and on its way as well. The ox and the ten donkeys have reunited. Mashiach Ben David will be able to come. Now that's a present!

The lesson of the presents, I guess is that we are meant to get close to one another. Mashiach is around the corner. If Yosef and his brothers can reconcile with one another, then we certainly should be able to give presents and gifts of meaning to one another. Our Father is waiting and longing, just as Yaakov was so long ago, for the return of his children. For them to get together once again. To come back home again. We need new clothing. We need to remove the ones of fighting, hatred, and resentment. We need to see ourselves as mere donkeys of Hashem rather than trying to manipulate the world as if it all rests on our shoulders. Yosef tells his brothers don't get angry don't get upset…it's all from Hashem. We have to start believing that more and more. We await that reunion when we will say Shema Yisrael Hashem Echad as Yaakov did. May Hashem give us the present that we have all been waiting for.
Have a really merry Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Archie Bunker

Keeping kosher for Xmas…it is so unbelievable that 70% of Jewish homes look like this…

"Roses are reddish, Violets are bluish, If it weren't for Xmas, Wed all be Jewish.. " Benny Hill

"There are three stages of man: he believes in Santa Claus; he does not believe in Santa Claus; he is Santa Claus." Bob Phillips

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  Ethiopian immigrants were brought to Israel in:
A.    The return of Ezra and Nehemiya and the Magic Carpet (marvad haksamim)
B.     A’aleh BaTamar and the Ofira Operation
C.     The “Solomon” and “Moses” operations
D.    The Hiram and Tarshish operations
This weeks Yaakov finally comes down to Egypt and is reunited with his son Yosef. When he is introduced to Pharaoh, Pharaoh asks him how old he is. He responds quite lengthily that he was only 130 years old however the days of his life have been few and evil; he did not achieve the happiness that his forefathers had. The Midrash tells us that Hashem reprimanded Yaakov saying
" Are you complaining about the evil that befell you? Did I not save you from the hands of Lavan and Esau? Did I not return Dina and Yosef to you? And yet you grumble and complain? I will diminish your years by the number of words you uttered against me! Hashem therefore shortened Yaakov's years by thirty three the number of words (in Hebrew) when he voiced his complaint. Instead of living until 180 years like his father Yitzchak  he died at age 147.
Think about that next time you kvetch….
Experience ancient Jewish life – One of major industries today is of course tourism…B"H. And perhaps one of the great tourist experiences that one can have here is getting a feel of what the lives of our ancestors were like here. So whether it is getting dressed up in ancient clothing, making oil, pitas, wine as they did or riding on camels, donkeys or even taking a trip to experience some of the ancient farming methods or even shepherding, one can really get a sense of what life its simplicity, its challenges, and even its holiness as they connected to Hashem in ways that were so much more basic than we live today. In recent years more and more places take you are opening that are offering these experiences. You just have to find the right tour guide of course that can not only take you there but bring you back thousands of years as well in the process.

Admiring the Christmas trees displayed in his neighbor's windows, Yankel asks his father, 'Daddy, can we have a Hanukkah Tree?'
'What? No, of course not,' says his father.
'Why not?' asks Peter again.
Bewildered, his father replies, 'Because the last time we had dealings with a lighted bush we spent 40 years in the wilderness.'

Mr. Goldstein was awarded the job to paint the local Catholic Church and Convent.
 After several days on the job, the Mother Superior called him into her office.
 "Mr. Goldstein," she said I would like you to please change three things in the performance of your job.
 Number one, please remove your painter's cap when you enter the sanctuary. Number two, please refrain from washing the paint off your hands in the Holy Water. and Number Three. Please stop calling me MOTHER SHAPIRO!!!!!
Q. What does the Jewish Santa Claus say?
 A. Ho! Ho! Ho! Anybody wanna buy some toys?

Answer is C:  Since the founding of the State of Israel one of the primary objectives has been to increase Aliya and offer a safe haven for Jews from all over the world. Operation Tarshish although I have never heard that name until I googled it was used for the Russian Aliya to Israel and from my search seems to be a Christian organization that coined it to send jews home. Ezra and Nehemia the two leaders who brought the Jews back from Babylonia in the second commonwealth were the names used for the operation in the 1950's to bring Iraqthi jews to Israel close to 130,000 of them! Aaleh b'Tamar was the term coined by the Yemenite Jews who came here in 1881 which in hebre was the year Taf Reish Mem Bet the same letters as the word Tamar from the verse in Song of Songs by Solomon. 2,500 Jews came then when they heard that Baron Rothchild had purchased lands here. Not sure what ofira has do with it (be happy to know if someone else can share it with me...but it could just be a trick). Hiram was a military operation in the 48 war. Magic Carpet was in 49 as well when about 45,000 Yemenite Jews were airlifted here. Which then of course leaves us with Moses and Solomon which were the Ethiopian Aliyot (Joshua as well). In 1985 Moses brought about 8,000 and Solomon in 1991 brought another 14,000. Incidentally this past year saw the largest Aliyah in the past 10 years with over 25,000 Jews come back home!! So what are you waiting for?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chanuki-yearnings- Mikeitz Chanuka edition 2014/5775

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

December 19th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 9 -29h  of Kislev 5775
Parshat Miketz/ Chanuka

 I have always thought it to be a strange holiday. I would probably say it is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented one as well. In America, Chanukah has served Jews as being the Jewish response to the other team’s mid-winter holiday. “A festival of Lights-Instead of one day of presents we have eight crazy nights” to quote an unfortunately ignorant put-on-your-yamaka-its- time-for-Hanukah assimilated American Jew. They light their tree, we light our Menorah, They drink eggnog, and we eat latkas and doughnuts. They’ve got reindeers, sleighs and chubby guys in red suits sliding down chimneys and we have dreidels, Chocalate Gelt, Greeks and Maccabees. Not a great response and frankly I wouldn’t mind a little eggnog.

 Here in Israel, there is no other team to compete with. Yet it is still a confusing holiday to figure out. For most Israelis, tragically, Maccabee has a greater association with basketball or with healthcare than it does with Chanukah. (It is the name of the Basketball league and also the large health care provider). For many Israelis it is a holiday that celebrates Jewish military prowess and the guts it took for us to stand up to the world power of that time. Although clearly that was never the intent of the establishment of the holiday and in truth Jews historically have never celebrated military victories, viewing them as necessary evils to maintain our survival and miracles of God, rather than expressions of Jewish might.

 I have also read articles written by secular Israelis how Chanukah is a celebration of the victory against religious coercion. Again, a very strange conclusion to come to, being that the Greeks/Hellenistic Jews were really quite pluralistic; they were open to all religions and cultures. The battle of the Maccabees, quite the opposite, was for the right to have an exclusive religious Jewish practice in Israel and the Temple. Not something necessarily the average secularist would seem to find cause to celebrate.

  And perhaps best of all The Coalition of the Environment and Jewish Life’s “Light Among Nations” projects sees in the miracle of Chanukah and its energy efficient oil that lasts eight days, an opportunity to replace each of your light bulbs with a more energy efficient one. You may even win the Green Menorah award. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

  At the other extreme you have the Yeshiva/Chareidi World that sees in Chanukah (and in general all Jewish holidays to a certain degree) a celebration of the power and dedication to Torah and the service of Hashem which brings miracles to rescue the Jewish people. The Menorah of course symbolizes Torah and Light. And the pure oil, a symbol of the uncontaminated-by-foreign-culture holy foundation which the Temple and Jewish service must be dedicated with. It is a message I was raised on in my Yeshiva upbringing and it somewhat works for me. Yet this year here in Eretz Yisrael, as a resident and Oleh, I feel I must find something different. Something new…yet something old. An idea from those days- for this time.
As I went to buy oil to light with, I asked the person in the store if he had any Shemen Zayit for my menorah. He gave me a strange cutesy Israeli look when I asked him that question though-although he clearly knew what I was referring to- and corrected me in that perfect Israeli way.

 “Ein Lanu La’Menorah- Lazeh atah tzarich Koehin Babeit Hamikdash. Yesh Lanu Rak L’Chanukiya.” We don’t have any oil for the Menorah… for that you will have to see a Koehin at the HolyTemple. We only sell oil for a Chanukiyah.”

What the curly locked gentleman was pointing out to me- besides of course that he was smarter than me and more fluent in common Hebrew terminologies- no duh…- was that the term Menorah is really a reference to the seven branched candelabra that was specifically used in the Beit Hamikdash. Chanukiyah- our eight branched “menorah” (9 counting the Shamash) is not the same thing. In fact the Talmud teaches us that it is prohibited to create a Menorah, or any Temple vessel for that matter, as they may not be used outside of the Temple and its service. In fact our 8 branched Chanukiyah is really only a more modern innovation. Halacha only mandates lighting the oil or a candle. It can be done on soda cans, bullet casings, or even on top of ice cream sundaes. In earlier times a Chanukiyah was not even used.

As I went to light my Menorah that evening (I can’t get into the habit of calling it that yet). It struck me for the first time… I wasn’t lighting the same thing as the Temple. My Menorah was a cheap spiritual imitation of the original. Here I stand in Israel not too far from the original temple, yet I’m still not there yet. I began to long for the “real” light. I think I began to finally understand what Chanukah was supposed to inspire us to feel.

 This week's Torah portion, and the Torah portions that always surround the Holiday of Chanukah contain the story of Yosef in Egypt. It is perhaps one of the most powerful and memorable stories in the Torah. Brothers’ fight, Yosef gets sold down to Egypt, the first Jew to really be entirely engulfed in a foreign society. Yosef, as the Jews in the times of the Maccabees, as Jews in almost every era of our history was faced with the greatest challenge that has threatened our people. The threat of assimilation. The forgetting of where we came from. Of our fathers home. Of what it used to be like and how we were meant to be.

 Of all our forefathers Yosef is the one who cries the most. He cries when he first sees his brothers. He cries when he they don’t recognize him. He cries as he interviews Binyamin and when he is reunited with his father. The Midrash says that just as Yosef appeased his brothers through tears, so too, will God redeem the Jewish nation through tears. What are the tears of Yosef? The tears of Yosef are those that recognize how long it’s been since I’ve been home. The tears of Yosef are the tears that question if we have become too Egyptian to even be recognizable to our own people…. to our family… to our Father. Have we become so happy with our 8 branch Chanukiyot that we have forgotten that there is a 7 branch Menorah that we are still meant to be yearning to light?

  I look into the lights of my candles and I think about those days; the battles that were fought not far from my house, to insure that we didn’t become “strangers” in our own land. I think of all my confusing Chanukahs of past and how it seems so clear over here that we’re almost back again. I imagine the joy and rejoicing of what that small group of Maccabees who were brave enough to turn away from doing what everyone else was and who looked inward and backward to where the Jewish people needed to be and took that leap, when they finally saw those candles lit once again. And then I sing my Maoz Tzur- the song that concludes and has more meaning and clarity than ever.

Bare Your holy arm
and hasten the End for salvation -
Avenge the vengeance of Your servants' blood
from the wicked nation.
For the triumph is too long delayed for us,
and there is no end to days of evil,
Repel Edom in the nethermost shadow
and establish for us the seven shepherds.
 Hakeim Lonu Roeh Shivah- Return us to that Menorah that has only 7 which symbolizes all of our forefathers. Chanukah need not be confusing. We are told that the light of our Menorahs are the same light that was in the Mikdash, the Temple. Gaze into it. Long for it. Celebrate its return and pray to see it once again soon. It’s simple enough. May we celebrate it together soon.

Have an fantabulous Shabbos and stupendous Chanukah,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Christians explain Chanuka-funny

Mattisyahu chanuka video "miracle"

Eating doughnuts the right way!


"Most Texans think Hanukkah is some sort of duck call. " Richard Lewis

"In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it "Christmas" and went to church; the Jews called it "Hanukka" and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy Hanukka!" or (to the atheists) "Look out for the wall!" "Dave Barry

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  In which battle was the following command given: “corporals retreat, commanders stay and provide cover” (tura’im yisogu, mefakdim yisha’aru lehapot)?
A.    Kastel
B.     Ammunition Hill
C.     Tel Hai
D.    San Simon
The verse says that when Yosef's brothers returned to Egypt Yosef asked them "How is your father, the elder of whom you told me about. Are they still alive? - the midrash suggests that Yosef was not only asking about Yaakov his father but also "the elder" their grandfather Yitzchak. The brothers answered though, just about Yaakov "our father is still alive". From their lack of response Yosef understood that their grandfather had passed away. From here the Midrash derives that one should not respond to a question directly that would entail sharing sad news, rather one should be silent or give and indirect response.
The Medrash shares a story to convey this idea. Rebbe Chiya Bar Abba met a man coming from his home in Babylonia and inquired how his father was.
The man replied "Your mother instructed me to find out how you were"
"I asked you about my father," said Rebbe Chiya, "and you answered me about my mother".
"I am able to respond about the welfare of the living-but not of the dead" said the man.

Feel Jewish holidays in the air and the streets – Aren't you sick of trees, santa and jingle bells? In Israel you get to feel the Jewish experience of a holiday. Chanuka lights in each window, chanuka songs playing on the radio and street corners, the smell of doughnuts coming from local bakeries..much better then roasted chestnuts and eggnog, trust me. The truth is all Jewish holidays in Israel one has that experience. Whether it is Sukkot all over and the Lulav/Etrog market places, Purim costumes, Passover Matza factories and vessel koshering and Chametz burning sites and even Lag Ba'Omer bonfires that cover the country. We live in a Jewish country- our home,  and this is how and where we should be spending our holidays. As each of the city buses say during these season Chag Samayach!

For those that can't resist the temptation of doughnuts remember that doughnuts are just recycled challa rolls.

Chanuka is the only time of year when an Israeli with white powder under his nose will get told "btayavon" (with a hearty appetite) by a police officer

סופגניה… שתי דקות של אושר ושנתיים בחדר כושר :)

Q. Why did the baker stop making doughnuts?
A. He was fed up with the hole business
 And last but not least the famous classic..
As the plane settled down at Ben Gurion airport, the voice of the Captain came on:
"Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened until this plane is at a complete standstill and the seat belt signs have been turned off."
"To those of you standing in the aisles, we wish you a Happy Chanukah."
"To those who have remained in their seats, we wish you a Merry Christmas."


Answer is B:  The battle of the Kastel on the road to Jerusalem were some of the most intense and heroic. This key point and former roman and crusader fortress called Belovouir overlooking that protected the road to Jerusalem and which the arabs used as point from which to attack Jewish convoys and travlers to Jerusalem. Operation Nachshon was convened to conquer the hills and free Jerusalem of its siege. The castel was taken by forces of the Palmach and Abed Al Khadr Husseini the head of the arab fighting legion was killed trying to take it back. The arabs furious about their loss retook the fortress and the officers of the Palmach that made the decision to retreat sent the young officers and trainees back first while they stayed to cover them all of them eventually falling in that battle. But we came back and took it back again and the castel remained in our hands. Cool place to visit as well.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Right Question The Light Question- Vayeishev 2014/5775

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

December 12th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 8 -20th  of Kislev 5775
Parshat Vayeishev
The Right Question The Light Question
So there I was, home for Pesach vacation from Yeshiva in Israel, a young 20 year old Ephraim Schwartz. The thing I missed the most about the States while in Israel was of course my parent's car and then of course my Seven Eleven coffee and slurpees and Jays potato chips, oh yeah and my parents too. Ummm… and siblings? Well, anyways there I was driving around in my parents car right before the holiday and right around the corner from my parents house (Church and Balfour, for you Detroiters). I see a police cars standing at the corner staking out the stop sign and waiting to catch people that would run it. Not me of course. So I come up to the Sign, stop and then continue around the corner home and whadaya know? The police car puts on its lights and sirens right behind me and tells me to pull over. I pull into my parents driver, quite perturbed and as I get out of my car I see the lady officer come out of hers. Grrrr…I did not like lady cops. They never went for me. They brought back memories of my third grade teacher who always was out to get me.
"What seems to be the problem Office?" I asked with the sweetest most innocent smile I could muster.
"You ran that stop sign" she said not smiling and with a heavy Russian accent. Uh Oh Russian and a woman I was not going to come out of this alright.
"I did not run the Stop sign" I responded " you were sitting right there, Why would I run a stop sign in front of you?" I asked trying to impress her with my incredible Talmudic logic.
                                                                                                               "Maybe you didn't see me" she said.
"You were sitting right there! And besides I am wearing new glasses and I am actually just coming from the optometrist." I said in my "so-there" type of voice that never wins you any points with officers of the law and usually in general as well.
But then she turned to me and in what sort of shook me out of my comfort zone as she asked.
"Are you Jewish?"
"Huhhh…Ummm, yeah…" I mean I was wearing my Yarmulke quite proudly and was wondering where this conversation was going.
"Have you ever been to Israel" she asked
"Actually I just came back" I said even more perplexed
"Will you be going back there?"
"YES…" I said proudly as I prepared myself for a discussion of the Arab- Israeli political discussion and how as a Jew I feared nothing and how this was our promised land and no one should be able to keep us away. I was ready to get a ticket for being a Jew and someone who loved Israel. Like the Maccabees before me I was prepared to put myself up on that altar. But then she threw me for another loop.
"Would you be able to bring a package back there for me to my family?"
And there you have it. A good old MOT (Member of the Tribe), just trying to get some mail to the holy land.
"Sure" I smiled and said. We began to schmooze and it seems that she had family that had just moved to Israel and the few packages she sent never got there. So she decided to stakeout some nice Jewish boy in the "hood". And she found one. Aren't we a resourceful people?
I thought of this story this week as I read another story about and a beautiful insight from the Sanzer Rebbe. It seems that there was once a non- and perhaps even anti-chasid (called Mitnaged) that was a Yeshiva student that heard about the Rebbe's great knowledge and erudition and he decided to engage the Rebbe in that ancient yeshiva-guy tradition and sport of  some good old fashioned Talmudic jousting. When he came to the Rebbe though, the Rebbe began to tell him about some of his needy families that he needed the Mitnaged's assistance with in raising money for; families that couldn't put food on their table, widows and orphans that required some clothes and shelter. The mitnaged, thinking that he had the Rebbe and who felt he was merely trying to avoid a "real" discussion told the Rebbe that he had not come for the Rebbe's blessing, nor to assist the Rebbe he was there to "talk in learning" with him, obviously a much higher calling.
The Rebbe though responded in of course the typical Jewish way, by not answering the individuals request but instead by telling him a Torah insight that pretty much answers it for itself.
The Rebbe said, if it is learning you want to discuss, perhaps you can answer me this question that has been bothering me for many years but only now I am beginning to understand. This week's Torah portion shares with us the story of our forefather Yosef who had been sent out by his father Yaakov to find his brothers shepherding in Shechem. Along the way as he gets lost he bumps into a ' man' and the man asks him what he is seeking. Yosef gives the famous answer 'I seek my brothers, please tell me where they are shepherding.' (famous as they were made into a beautiful song you can listen to below on my VIDEO CLIPS OF THE WEEK). The 'man' tells him in his ominous words 'they have traveled from there,' which of course can be understood simply but as well as can be understood by our sages as telling Yosef that they have traveled from their 'brotherhood' with him that he was so desperately seeking. Words that Yosef just wouldn't accept and whose fatal warning he couldn't allow himself to heed; a message of their nefarious plot to kill him and eventually to sell him as a slave to Egypt.
Rashi, quotes our sages and tells us that the mysterious man who had come to give Yosef that warning was none other than the great angel Gavriel/Gabriel, seemingly sent by Hashem. The Rebbe, turned to the Mitnaged and asked him the following question. How did our sages know that this angel was the angel Gavriel? Why, in last week's Torah portion we are also told of a mysterious 'man' that meets Yaakov in the middle of the night and begins to wrestle with him. When Yaakov, who wins this battle albeit with an injury to his foot, asks the 'man' to bless him he reveals to him that he is in fact an angel and must return to heaven and refuses to tell Yaakov his name and instead tells Yaakov that he would from hereon in be called Yisrael because 'you have striven with the Divine and man and have won'. Over there Rashi tells us that the mysterious man/angel was none other than the protector angel of Esau or the Satan. Why and how over here, do our sages know and suggest it was a good angel and there a bad one.
"Ummmm…" said the dumbfounded Mitnaged, quite wisely is you ask me…
"I'll tell you", said the Rebbe "when one meets a Jew and the first thing he asks him is ' what are you seeking?' What can I help you with?What can I do for you? That can only be a good angel; that is in fact the greatest angel. On the other hand an angel that comes to wrangle and wrestle with you, that when you ask for help or ask for a blessing says that’s not what I'm here for, sorry I have to go…. That, my dear friend is an angel of Esau."
This week we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah. It is a holiday that celebrates how a little bit of our light can shine away all of the darkness. In a world of hedonism that failed to see God and that worshipped their own human bodies and flesh a group of Maccabees got up and said that our job is bring the light of Hashem back into the world. We will fight and even be willing to sacrifice our lives, not for our Jewish independence or for religious freedom as some historical redactors would like to portray the story, but rather because as Jews we have a responsibility to do whatever we can change and transform the world into a holy place; a place that can see the light of Hashem that shines through in everyone. One that can fan that flame to its ultimate glory. We light our menorah to commemorate that miracle of Hashem that tells us that all we have to do is light that spark and that He will continue to give it power to burn eternally (6 days being the physical world, 7 days being the physical and spiritual world and 8 days transcending even this world for eternity-just figured I'd throw in a little kabbalistic thought for those of you that hung in here so long  and haven’t scrolled down to the jokes yet J).
The light of Torah is not meant as something to wrangle with people about. It's not meant to establish one's scholarly status with, it's not even something of which who's study is meant to just leave us a satisfied with an inner sense of fulfillment and spiritual meaning. It's a light that is meant to teach us how to interact with the world and to share with them the beauty of a God-filled existence is. A world in which we ask what we can do for you, rather than what we can get from you. A world where the ancient tradition of Chanuka was to give charity to Torah institutions rather than to receive gifts under a tree or bush. Even the custom of playing Draydel was meant to remind us no matter which way the top spins there are miracles that we are meant to reveal in the world.  We may be splitting the pot, gaining, losing or just staying the same financially as that draydel spins but ultimately it is all a miracle. It's all from Hashem. And we can never stop spinning. Our game is always on.
Have an fantabulous Shabbos and stupendous Chanukah,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Cool song and video fromt his weeks Parsha es Achai Ani mivakeish (I am seeking my brother)

Chanuka video Ari Goldwag great song

Aish.com Lights video alos pretty cool!

"Never wrestle with a pig, you'll both get dirty and the pig likes it" George Bernard Shaw

"Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly" Anonymous

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.   The peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed in:
A.    1993
B.     1994
C.     1995
D.    1996
Yaakov saw in Yosef a continuatuion of himself. Not only were their facial features similar but the midrash tell us that their life histories were marked by a striking resemblance her are just a few…
"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.
Believe it or not I left out a few… let's see if you can think of any

Eat doughnuts on Chanukah –  In America we always ate latkas/potato pancakes. Here in Israel though the custom is to eat heavily fried doughnuts. The main thing, I guess, is to show those Greeks that used to glorify the human body that we really don't care that much about ours and we eat lots of greasy fattening food to prove it…oh yeah and something to do with oil lasting eight days. Actually many of the doughnuts here can do the same thing if you stick a wick in them and watch them burn. But jokes aside they really have the most delicious doughnuts all over this country. Although I do miss my Krispy Kreme now and again… Jelly doughnuts are of course the traditional way to go, but chocolate, vanilla cream and caramel are all great and easily found alternatives as well. Listen truth is for all of those that remember me back in the States you know I am a Latka man and purist at that-no sour cream for me. But when in Israel do as the natives and bite into your jelly doughnut and enjoy.

Barack Obama walks into the bank to cash a check.
 "Good morning, Ma'am," he greets the cashier, "could you please cash this check for me?"

"It would be my pleasure, sir. Could you please show me your ID?"

"Truthfully, I did not bring my ID with me as I didn't think there was any need to. I am President

Barack Obama, the president of the United States of America!"

"Yes, sir, I know who you are, but with all the regulations, monitoring of the banks because of impostors and forgers, etc, I must insist on seeing ID."

"Just ask anyone here at the bank who I am and they will tell you. Everybody knows who I am."

"I am sorry Mr. President but these are the bank rules and I must follow them."

"I am urging you please to cash this check."

"Ok, this is what we can do Mr. President: One day Tiger Woods came into the bank without ID.
To prove he was Tiger Woods he pulled out his putting iron and made a beautiful shot across the bank into a cup. With that shot we knew him to be Tiger Woods and cashed his check. Another time, Andre Agassi came in without ID. He pulled out his tennis racquet and made a fabulous shot, making the tennis ball land in my cup. With that spectacular shot we cashed his check. So, Mr. President, what can you do to prove that it is you, and only you, as the president of the United States?"

Obama stands there thinking and finally says, "Honestly, there is nothing that comes to my mind. I can't think of a single thing I'm good at."

"Will that be large or small bills, Mr. President?"

Answer is B:  Out of all of our neighbors Jordan, the former "guardians" of Jerusalem and the West Bank until we came back home and relieved them of it in 1967 have probably been our least worst enemy in the area that have not really tried to kill us that much. In fact before the Yom Kippur War it is well known that King Hussein cam in specifically to warn Prime minister Golda that they Egypt and Syria were going to becoming for us. We share many things with the Jordanians- the Jordan river for one thing, a mutual dislike of the Palestinians and they're self created miserable existence and failure to create any type of life for themselves. Jordan in fact wiped out thousands of them in Black September 1970. Our official peace agreement was reached in 1994 with Jordan with Rabin and Hussein signing by Arava crossing and Bill "shalom chaver" Clinton smiling away. 1993 incidentally was first Oslo creating Palestinian authority conceptually with Palestinians and 1995 the second dividing the West Bank into regions and 1996 is when they first started violating it with suicide attacks…