Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 30th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 17-30th of Shevat 5774
Confessions of a Global WarmerI confess, I probably have a big carbon footprint. I used to drive a GMC suburban and before that minivans and station wagons. We go through lots of and lots of garbage in the Schwartz home and pretty much until I moved to Seattle, where you have to pay for the garbage you throw out, per size of your can-while recycling was free, I never really recycled either. (Even then, once I'm confessing my sins already, I used to throw some garbage in the recycling bin…hey it was free and the neighbors would give me these bad looks if my garbage was too full and my recycling not full enough; c'mon you mean to tell me you never padded your recycling bin…). We also, as you know, go through lots of chulent in the Schwartz house and those after-effects can’t be too good for the environment as well.
The truth is I never really bought into this whole environmental thing. I am a skeptic by nature (excuse the pun) and Global warming, greenhouse emissions, sustainable energy, biodegradable and organic cornflakes just all seemed like a scam to me. I mean really is the planet really going to blow up or flood because of my deodorant or soda bottle. OK so we have a lot of garbage and waste and landfills emit gases, I know, I used to live near Staten Island and it smells. But we're smart we'll figure out a way to fix this carbon planet warming thing, if it really is happening. Meantime just leave me alone with my saturated fats and MSG preservatives and keep that corn syrup coming.
Oh… I think we've moved from the planet thing to my diet by now. But you see it's all the same thing to me. Its stuff that my wife, who is much more environmentally and health conscious (which is not saying much, I know, as I'm pretty much admittedly delusional on all of these things) nags me about. I'm sorry- corrects me about. We have three cabinets full of remedies and ancient Chinese herbs. There might even be a little old Chinese lady there as well in the back of my cabinet refilling them all the time for all I know because it just grows every day. All the cereals in our cabinet are grown by hand by some guy in Oklahoma whose cows have never seen a hormone in their life, whose grains have all been watered with natural spring water and who has taken an oath never to litter and to pay double minimum wage for American labor only. The final straw for me was when I came home one day and saw her with this spiral rolled up wax paper thing in one of my kid's ears on fire sucking out the "ear-ache" in a "natural way. Actually that one worked. Truth is there really isn't a final straw. I've given up. She's trained me. A few times of having to go back to the store to return the "poison" items or the non-healthy stuff has taught me to not change the shopping list. If I must buy something different-separate receipt, eat it in the car and chuck the guilty planet damaging wrapper in my neighbors garbage before I come home. Yet somehow she always knows. She's got this radar about me. I married a smart one.
I've changed a bit since moving to Israel though. I actually have started to care a lot more about the planet. Well, maybe not the planet, but certainly about the land of Israel. I tour a lot. I love this country. Litter has started to bother me. When I hike I pick up bottles and trash. I even glare at people that leave things around. I started to care about water usage. I turn off my shower when I soap. I still can’t stand the fact that I have to wait for hot water till that solar powered Dood switch heats it up for me, but I respect it. I even started eating salads-besides chummus and techina J. When I visit agricultural places in this country and see how incredible the things that we grow are and how much care is put into maintaining their healthy natural state, I marvel and am proud. Forests, trees, cows, sheep, desert growth, the Dead Sea rehabilitation efforts, so much effort and energy is put into trying to keep and restore this country as close as possible to the pristine way that Hashem created it and meant it to be, it inspires me. I guess before I moved here I really never connected in that way with the world and with nature. Truth is maybe I never really connected that way with myself.
Now what does all this have to do with this week's Torah portion, you want to know. I'm not sure. That's what happens when you digress. But let's try to reconstruct the thought process together, in an organic way, of course. This week's Parsha of Teruma is one big long description of the building of the sanctuary/tabernacle for Hashem. V'Asu Li Mikdash V'Shochanti B'Socham-Make for me a temple and I will dwell amongst them( the Jewish people) Like all that I show you, the structure of the tabernacle and the structure of the vessels and so you should do." The portion then goes through elaborate details on how to construct the Mishkan, the exact measurements and designs are all given. The commentaries all seem to struggle though with the notion that all of this as the verse says was shown to Moshe on Sinai,. Why was it so necessary for Hashem to give Moshe that vision in advance? When it comes to the making of the Menora the Torah even explicitly says "and you shall see and make the form that you are shown on the mountain" Rashi quotes the Talmud that tells us that Moshe struggled with the construction of the menorah in particular and in fact Hashem told him to throw the block of gold in fire and wadda-boom-wadda-bing the Menorah popped out by itself. Ding! Like a gold plated pop-tart J. What was so difficult about building this house of God? Moshe had the best architects in the world with him all under the leadership of Betzalel, who had extra- divine wisdom granted to him. He had a team of people that had been building pyramids for centuries. "My grandfathers grandfather was building these things before you were out of your papyrus Egyptian diapers" was I'm sure the response of most of the people that signed up for the jobs. This was a pretty small and modest wooden portable structure with a few gold, silver and copper vessels and some fancy tie-dyed woolen skins on top. Did Hashem really need to show Moshe up on the mountain how to build this thing?
The answer I believe is that Moshe's difficulty wasn't as much with the construction as it was with his understanding that this would be a place where Hashem's glory could truly reside. Anyone can build a building-well at least anyone with a bit of training. The Jews could build pyramids for Pharaoh. But a house for Hashem?! What does that even mean? My children sing a song (at least the older ones did in the States when they were little-I'm not sure if there is an Israeli version of the classic Uncle Moishy) Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere. Up-Up ,Down- Down, Right Left and all around, Here- there and everywhere that's where he can be found-(repeat until Daddy yells at you to be quiet already your giving him a headache). If Uncle Moishy is right, how can we confine Hashem to a place? He's everywhere.
To that Hashem tells Moshe, let me show you Moshe the answer is here on Mt. Sinai. The answer is that I brought you and this nation out so that they may serve me on this mountain. The answer is that I will dwell amongst them-as our sages explain within each and every one of you. You're right Moshe. Man alone cannot build me a building to dwell in but the objective isn't to have merely a building for me, the objective is for me to dwell within each Jew. The Temple/Tabernacle is to be the place where we return to that moment on Sinai, when none of us doubted that Hashem could be found in each of us. We heard Him say "I am Hashem" our souls were one with their Maker. He wasn't just here there and everywhere. He was within each of us. We were godly. If we were Godly then we could reveal that godliness in the world. The Mishkan would be the place where we tapped into the Hashem that is in each of us and after we recognize that we would see the Hashem that we could build and reveal out of the wood, the gold, the nuts, the bolts, the sheep and tachash skins and eventually shine that light out of Hashem's glory that is found in the entire world.
I'm still not an environmentalist. I really don't believe that we are risk from melting icebergs in Antarctica. It will probably take a lot to convince me of the efficacy of little pellets called dung-poo-gan for rashes and that Melaluca laundry detergent will save our planet (although my wife sells it if you want). But I do believe that we are meant to look at the world as the Temple of Hashem. We are meant to look at our bodies as the Mishkan that hosts the Shechina/the Divine presence. That's pretty heavy. (OK no jokes now…J). No, I really mean it. The way that we treat the world and interact with it, has to be one in which we consider not merely how we can get the most bang out of it for ourselves, but rather are we treating it the way that shows respect and awe of the Divine presence that resides in it. Does that mean recycling? Does that mean not wasting resources? It certainly means not littering. What a different world it would be if we looked it at that way. The way it really is. Hashem is there. In the rocks, in the trees, in the oceans and in our backyards.
It is true as well for our bodies. The way we/I should be treating them. Hashem is within us. Is all that we imbibe or ingest fitting for the person that has within him or her the spirit of Hashem? The King of all Kings. Our Creator. The source of all holiness. I had a Rebbi once who pointed out to me how bizarre it would seem to be standing on line at the ice cream store and imagine if you would see Reb Chaim Kanievsky (one of the great elder Rabbis of our generation) standing in front of you in line. Can you imagine him turning to the ice cream guy and saying "I'll have some chocolate and vanilla mixed- the soft ice cream and sprinkles and crunch with caramel and hot fudge on top. You can hold the whipped cream though". It wouldn't just be bizarre it would be unimaginable. Not just because he wouldn't know how to get to an ice cream store and certainly wouldn't know what to order. But because he would recognize that an order like that is for someone that is absorbed with the physicality of his existence, our basest animal side and is totally disconnected (at least at that moment) from the fact that there is the holiest spirit in the world residing within every breath that we take.
We are meant to eat and to enjoy this world but it is with a sense of uplifting our soul. Of bringing honor and glory to the spiritual essence of what we truly are. But we forget that... We don't have a temple to remind us of holy we are. Our sages tell us that when the Divine presence left the Temple it continues to reside in the study of the Torah, in the places of Jewish law, in our sanctuaries our synagogues and yes even still within each and every one of us. When we study and read Torah portions like this and all of the upcoming ones. We should remember about our holy spirit, we should look at the glorious heavenly world that is around us and perhaps just perhaps we may merit to reveal a little more Godliness that will shine out to the world. At least creating that Godly handprint in all of his creation.
Have an exquisite Shabbos and a Spectaculous Rosh Chodesh,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"The way to come to love and fear God is by contemplating God's amazing words and creations and seeing the infinite wisdom expressed in them. This will bring one to love God and want to praise and glorify God. One will experience tremendous longing and yearning to know God's great name."- Maimonides
"The energy contained in nature, in the earth and its waters, in the atom and the sunshine will not avail us if we fail to activate the most precious vital energy: the moral-spiritual energy inherent in humankind, in the inner recesses of our being, in our mysterious, uncompromising, unfathomable and divinely inspired soul".- David Ben Gurion
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
Hashem commands for the Jewish people to "take for me a donation- Vi'yikchu Li Teruma"
Seemingly the proper term should be to give to me. Our sages teaches that one who gives ultimately will receive. The gematria for
Vi'yikchu Li Teruma
130+ 40+ 651= 821
Fascinatingly enough also equals
Shefa Bracha V'Hatzlacha = an abundance of blessing and success
450+ 227+ 144= 821
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
The "Transfiguration" of the J-man (Christianity) in front of his disciples Peter, James and John takes place on which mountain
c) Mt. of Olives
d) Har Ha'Kefitza / Mt. Precipice
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKE OF THE WEEK
This 85-year-old couple, having been married almost 60 years, died in a car crash. They had been in good health the last 10 years, mainly due to her interest in health food and exercise.
When they reached the pearly gates, the angel took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen, master bath suite and Jacuzzi.
As they oohed and aahed, the old man asked the angel how much all this was going to cost. "It's free," Peter replied. "This is Heaven."
Next they went out back to survey the championship golf course in the backyard. They would have golfing privileges every day, and each week the course would change to a new one, representing the great golf courses on Earth.
The old man asked, "What are the greens fees?"
The angel's reply, "This is Heaven -- you play for free."
Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisines of the world laid out.
"How much to eat?" asked the old man.
"Don't you understand yet? This is Heaven, it's FREE!" The angel replied with some exasperation.
"Well, where are the low-fat and low-cholesterol tables?" the old man asked timidly.
The angel lectured, "That's the best part -- you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven."
With that the old man went into a fit of anger, throwing down his hat and stomping on it, and shrieking wildly.
The angel and his wife both tried to calm him down, asking him what was wrong. The old man looked at his wife and said, "This is all your fault. If it weren't for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here 10 years ago!"
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S SIMPSONS YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Global warming solution from the Simpsons
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Machon Hamikdash/Temple Institute- Jerusalem- The temple institute is somewhat of a controversial place but it certainly is cool to visit. The institute which is dedicated to rebuilding the Temple on the Mount and encourages visits to the Temple mount has taken upon itself the recreating of the vessels and garments as described in halacha that were used in the Temple. To date over 90 such objects have been made including the garments of the Kohen. Regardless of whether or not you approve of their agenda it is still a pretty cool place to see and get a feel for what the temple was like and the tabernacle as well from their models. May we merit to see the Temple rebuilt again soon.
RABBI SCHWARTZ' S EXAM ANSWER OF THE WEEK
Answer is B: Whenever I have these Christianity questions I debate whether to share them with you.. But I just want to give my faithful readers who have made it this far a taste of the silly information the Jewish ministry of information requires us to know to get our licenses (don't get me wrong-I know that there are tons of Christian tourists and they are probably even the majority so I get it but I just wish that tour guides like me who pretty much are here to show Jewish Israel-whether it's to Jews or gentiles could opt out of this stuff). Anywasy Tabor is where they claim the big miracle where Moshe and Eliyahu and you-know-who all morphed together with some heavenly light…yada yada.. Precipice is where the Jews threw him off a mountain and he didn’t die. Karantal is where he stayed forty days and nights (sound familiar-I wonder where they got that from?) as satan tried to tempt him. And Mt of Olives is where he camped out before he went to be killed and where he wept.