Our view of the Galile

Thursday, February 27, 2014

House of Love and Prayer-Pikudei 2014/ 5774

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 28th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 20-28th of Adar I 5774

House of Love and Prayer

What do you call your Shul? How do come up with a catchy name that really hits the essence of the congregation that you are trying to establish? I’ve always found old shuls, their histories and their names to be fascinating. In Seattle where I lived pre-aliyah, we had the Bikur Cholim synagogue and the Sefardic Bikur Cholim both founded by Jewish societies that were dedicated to the mitzvah of visiting the sick. Ezra Bessaroth (Help in times of trouble) was dedicated by a group that would raise funds for their brethren back in the needy community of Rhodes in the early 1900’s. My shul known as the West Seattle TLC, was an acronym of  the Torah Learning Center, as well as a play on the Tender Loving Care-( not Totally Love Chulent as some might suspect). Currently my shul, the Young Israel of Karmiel, is part of the International Young Israel Movement, which some have said is neither Young or in Israel and Old America might be a better name for the movement. But we're changing that with every new young family that moves here, each day.

I spent some time researching Synagogue names, as they reflect the heart and aspirations of their founding members and many times provide insight into the history of the various Jewish communities. In early New York you can find synagogues as varied as the Lechet Yashur-straight walkers’ shul, the Nefutzoth Judah- refugees or expansion of Judah Shul, The Tifferet Mizrach- Splendor of the East, Sefardic synagogue and the Chevra Kadisha – Jewish Burial Society or Chevra Shomer Shabbat- Shabbat observers’ shuls. My favorite Shul name was established By Reb Shlomo Carlebach in San Fransisco in the wild hippy late 60’s the House of Love and Prayer. And perhaps the two greatest mission statements I’ve seen were the Beth Hakenesseth Anshei Mieletz: "Composed of a mixed element from the standpoint of age - ranging from 21 up to heaven", and the Wall Street Shul on Maiden Lane: "Synagogue organized by Judge Benjamin E. Greenspan in 1929 for the purpose to help business people of Wall St., not to forget the Almighty God and to remember they are only human beings." I wonder what the Wall Street Synagogue would be called today?

This week as we complete the reading of the 2nd book of the Torah Shemos/Exodus, we read about the conclusion of the building of our very 1st house of worship; the Mishkan or Tabernacle. The agenda for the building of this house for Hashem, was that following the debacle of the sin of the Golden Calf, Hashem had forgiven His people and would once again be there amongst his nation.  But who would head up this building campaign? Presumably after 200 years of building pyramids in Egypt there were plenty of architectural talents available. But this was to be not just a nice fancy palace. This was to be a home for God. To build it required a special talent one that it seemed only one person of the millions solely possessed.

Moshe said to the Jewish people,

 “See Hashem has proclaimed by name Betzalel the son of Uri the son of Chur from the tribe of Judah”.

Who is this Betzalel? The Torah doesn’t tell us much about him. Yet the early Tosafot commentaries note that it does tell us one seemingly extraneous but very important detail- he was the grandson of Chur. O.K., now who was Chur? Well rewind in the Torah a little bit. We  are told that Chur was up on the mountain with Aharon as second in command, holding Moshe’s hands during the battle of Amalek. The Medrash also tells us that during the sin of the Golden Calf, and the panic that arose prior to it when Moshe did not return on time, Chur tried to dissuade the mobs who were trying to make the Golden Calf. For this great act he was murdered by the people. And thus the Israeli method of dealing with the political opposition was born. It's all been pretty tame since then.   * Note to self- never try to break up a good  (or bad) party, particularly one that has calves and dancing. This also helps explain why Aharon went along with the program and tried to stall it, rather than to try and stop them.

So stop and think about this for a second, Rav Henoch Lebowitz suggests. Out of everyone in the Jewish people who would you think would be the last person to want to build this temple? Can you imagine the feelings of Betzalel? Here this people, this mob, murdered my grandfather a few months ago. If they would have listened to him they would have never needed this building. Hashem was in their midst. And now God wants to forgive them?! As if it didn’t happen!? What would we say? Could we do it?

But Betzalel could. It could only happen if Betzalel would. He was able to forgive. He loved the Jewish people and Hashem so much, and he understood that without a place of forgiveness and hope where our relationship with Hashem could and would be restored and renewed, than there would be no point in our existence. All the miracles of Egypt and all that his grandfather had died for would be for naught. And so Betzalel led the campaign, and the original house of love and prayer was first established. Hashem now motivated by this incredible act of love and forgiveness would reciprocate in kind to his repentant children.

The book of Shemos concludes with the blessing of Moshe to our nation that all our work should be blessed with the Divine presence. Yet just as in that first handiwork of our ancestors, we have to be able to build and to dedicate our homes and all that we do with that same degree of love and inspiration that we wish to see it blessed with. A little TLC can build a great Torah Learning Center and a lot of love and forgiveness can build the ultimate House of Hashem.

 Have an inspired Shabbos and happy Adar for the 2nd time!

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 





 "Thank you for flying Delta Buisness Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the buisness as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride"- Delta Pilot

"Delta Airlines is pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"

""In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks wil descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite."".- Unknown

 "As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly amoung the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

 And my favorite from Southwest-" Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City the flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "That was quite a bump, and I know what y'all are thinking. I'm here to tell you it wasn't the airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it wasn't the flight attendant's fault, it was the asphalt."


 Eretz Israel Museum-Tel Aviv- This week is Parshat Shekalim and a great place to see one of the most amazing ancient coin collections in this important museum in Tel Aviv. Built right around an ancient Philistine site (see that also fits into the Q of the week Tel Qasile), the museum has many of the ancient finds of this country including idols, glass displays, a flour mill, and famous four room house from biblical times.It also has a great Planetarium and all types of timely seasonal displays. The Man and his Work section teaches and shows finds of all types of ancient crafts we read about from weaving pottery making, jewelry making. I'm not personally a big museum guy but if you enjoy history and love everything Israel this is a great place to visit.


 the Medrash says that Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem, if the Bais HaMikdash is destroyed where will Hashem's Shechina rest. Hashem answered that it will rest on the Tzadikim/righteous of each generation. The Gemara in Succah (45b) says that each generation has 36 tzaddikim that greet the Shechina every day.

Rav Shlomo Levenstein in Chaim Shel Torah says there is a hint to this in the first words of Parshas Pikudei. Pikudei according to many commentaries means "missing" or "lacking". Eileh is gematria 36. "Eileh Pikudei HaMishkan". What will happen with the Divine presence when "Pikudei HaMishkan", when the Mishkan is missing, asks the Torah? Eileh, the Shechina will rest among the 36 tzaddikim



(answer below at end of Email)

The coastal cities where the Philistines dwelled are

a) Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod

b)  Ashkelon, Gat, Ekron

c)  Ashkelon, Yaffo, Ekron

d)  Gat, Ashdod, Beit Guvrin


RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKES (collecting and airplanes) OF THE WEEK

Flying High

An elderly Jewish couple are sitting together on an airplane flying to the Far East. Over the public address system, the Captain announces:
 "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am afraid I have some very bad news. Our engines have ceased functioning, and this plane will be going down momentarily. Luckily, I see an island below us that should be able to accommodate our landing. Unluckily, this Island appears to be uncharted; I am unable to find it on our maps. So the odds are that we will never be rescued and will have to live on the island for a very long time, if not for the rest of our lives."
 The husband turns to his wife and asks,
 "Esther, did we turn off the stove?" and Esther replies, "of course."
 "Esther, are our life insurance policies paid up?" "Of course."
 "Esther, did we pay our UJA pledge?" "Oh my G-d, I forgot to send the check!!"
 "Thank Heaven! They'll find us for sure!!"

The Big Squeeze
The local bar was so sure that its bartender was the strongest man around that they offered a standing $1000 bet.
The bartender would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and hand the lemon to a patron. Anyone who could squeeze one more drop of juice out would win the money. Many people had tried over time (weight-lifters, longshoremen, etc.) but nobody could do it.
One day this scrawny little Jewish fellow came into the bar, wearing thick glasses and a polyester suit, and said in a tiny squeaky voice "I'd like to try the bet" After the laughter had died down, the bartender said OK, grabbed a lemon, and squeezed away. Then he handed the wrinkled remains of the rind to the Jewish fellow.
But the crowd's laughter turned to total silence as the man clenched his fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass. As the crowd cheered, the bartender paid the $1000, and asked the little Jewish man "What do you do for a living? Are you a lumberjack, a weight-lifter, or what?"
The Jewish fellow replied: "I work for the Jewish National Fund."



Answer is A & B:      The Philistines or as we know them from the Torah the Plishtim who are in no way connected to the Palestinians (a term that was taken for the Arabs by themselves after the British mandate who thus named the country). The original Philistines came from Asia Minor in the times of the Avot our Patriarchs. They invaded Israel and settled here but were mostly seafarers. Certainly not arabs. They built 5 cities Ashkelon, Gat, Ekron, Gaza and Ashdod. So I'm not sure who wrote this question but both  A and B seem to be correct so if anyone knows differently let me know. If not I'll just write it off to another brilliant Ministry of Tourism "fashla"


Friday, February 21, 2014

The Wedding of the Century-Vayakhel 5774 2014

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

February 21st  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 19-21st of Adar I 5774
The Wedding of the Century
 It was the Oscar's of the Orthodox world. I stood outside the lobby and watched as Escalade after Escalade pulled up with one great Rabbi after another exiting and making their entrance. It was truly a who's who of the holy Jewish world. Unlike the Oscars though, these modest and humble leaders of many of the great Torah institutions across the United States and Israel seemed to be oblivious to the grandeur and pomp surrounding their arrival. They entered, they smiled and awaited the arrival of the true king and queen of the 
evening; the chasan and the kallah, the bride and the groom.

 There were over 1400 invited guests to what was certainly the wedding of the century. The hotel was transformed into a Jewish wedding hall. The full length swimming pool was gone, covered by a glass floor and carpeting with fresh white rose petals all along. The 40 foot wall on the side of the hotel featured a live stream of the proceedings going on under the Chupa so no one had to strain to see what was going on. Times Square had come to LA. The orchestra with its million piece band (OK I'm exaggerating a little here) was playing songs composed in honor of the Simcha by the father of the Bride. All eyes focused on the young couple at the start of this holiest moment of their lives. The groom places the ring. Harei At Mikudeshet Li- You are betrothed to me according to the laws of Moshe and Yisrael. The Ketuva is read, A song to remember Jerusalem is sung. A glass is broken… MAZEL TOV!!-da dada da da dum Ohd Yishama B'arei Yehuda U'VChutzot Yerushalayim- Once again there should be heard in the cities Judea and Jerusalem the sound of rejoicing and happiness the sounds of grooms and brides… I got homesick…for our real home. The Jerusalem of old...  for the sound, splendor and glory of this hotel in Los Angeles, but in Yerushalayim. In our Temple  once again rebuilt.

The wedding continued. The ballroom was in what was formerly the parking garage -the hotel ballroom was too small- but you could never tell. It was as if a magical ballroom fell out of the sky. Chandeliers, wall to wall carpeting and a dance floor, curtains, tables bedecked with beautiful white roses and food described in the menu with words I couldn't even understand and that looked too good to eat… though I managed to overcome that hurdle quite quickly. It was truly the wedding of the century. The band struck up the music, all feet came to the dance floor and the dancing was endless. Rabbis, Yeshiva, students, friends family, the wealthy, the not so wealthy, the simple people, the beggars, we were one large family celebrating with my dear friend as he married off his first daughter. I don't believe there was ever a wedding like this in the history of Klal Yisrael. I joked that the last time there was such a party it was by the Purim feast of Achashveirosh in Persia and I asked if they would be bringing out the vessels of the Temple. I was corrected though by the person sitting next to me (MBD!). "These are the real vessels of the Temple…Torah, Tzedaka, Love and brotherhood and most significantly of course Simcha/joy…".

 So many dignitaries from all over the country came, just to share in his joy and to wish Mazel Tov to one of the most generous and philanthropic families in the Jewish/Torah world. I'm sure there were some cynics that may have felt it was overdone. But knowing my friend, whose biggest joy in life is to bring joy to others and to sanctify Hashem's name in all that he does, this was meant to be a simcha for Klal Yisrael, for the Jewish people and as such, the Jewish people deserve nothing less than the absolute best. I don’t think that there is a day in my friends life that he does not hear of someone's tzuris; an institution that can't pay its bills, children that need to be healed, Torah that needs to be taught, Jews that need to be inspired, widows, orphans, medical institutions, needy families. I can't imagine what it is to hear this day in and day out. His always generous response, his warm smile and his assistance has raised the banner of Torah and philanthropy to the most personal of levels and all those that came wanted to share in his joy as much as he has inspired them and shared in theirs.

It is after this wedding that I sat down to write this E-Mail and as I turned to this week's portion I was struck as I am each year of how repetitive it is. The Parsha once again recounts for us the building and assembling of all of those parts of the Tabernacle. Once again we read about the Menora, the Ark, the Table and the Altars. It is truly amazing when you think about how much of the Book of Shemos/Exodus is not about the Exodus or even Sinai. Teruma, Tetzave, Ki Tisa, Vayakhel and next weeks conclusion Pikudei are all about the Mishkan the temporary dwelling for the Shechina/Divine presence as we wandered in the wilderness and until the Temple was built. Its cubics and gold, and copper and curtains and dimensions. We got it the first time. Why does the Torah, which is usually so conservative about its words and details spend so much time on this. Why did it have to tell us about it again?

The answer I believe is that in the entire history of the Jewish people this was the first and only project that was an entirely Jewish endeavor and that all of us participated in as one. The first and second Temple were built with the assistance of gentiles, Hiram the king of Tyre and Cyrus of Persia respectively. We've had other campaigns and even wars where parts of our people participated, and as in most Jewish things, parts didn't and perhaps even opposed them. The Mishkan which came as a response to what was certainly the greatest Jewish failing, the sin of the Golden Calf, which was according to our sages and the reading of the text was only a small minority of the Jewish people which participated, was meant to bring the people back together again. It was meant to reunite them with their Creator…with our beloved. It is devastating to think about. After centuries we finally leave Egypt, slavery persecution and attempted genocide. We left with wonders, miracles and signs and became the holiest nation together at Mt. Sinai where we received our Eternal mandate and the Divine revelation. And then…. Idolatry, murder of our leader Chur, breaking of the Tablets and Jew takes sword against their own brothers to remove the evil from amongst the people, and that holy Shechina has departed. It was the best of times that became very quickly the worst of times.
The Mishkan was the solution. We each joined together with our half shekel coins and we built…we donated...we contributed. We did it for Hashem. We did it for one another. We did it because we realized that only as one nation united can we reflect the one-ness of our Creator. That culmination begins this weeks Parsha tells us with the word Va'Yakhel Moshe and Moshe gathered the nation together. It was the day after Yom Kippur. We had been forgiven. It was time to begin and build again. It was time to do it together. It's a story whose every detail needs to be reiterated.

King Solomon writes in Shir HaShirim- Song of Songs-Tzeina U'Reina  Bnos Tzion Come out, daughters of Zion and see King Shlomo with the crown with which his mother crowned him on his wedding day and on the day of the rejoicing of his heart"  Our sages tell us that the day of his wedding is the day the 2nd tablets were given, Yom Kippur, and the day of the rejoicing is the day the Temple was built. It is fascinating that they understand that day the Torah being given is not the original giving of the Torah which took place on Shavuot, but rather when the 2nd Tablets were given. After we had fallen, after we had almost lost it all. But when we were able to pick ourselves back up again. The Mishkan and Temple seems to have only been built and called the wedding day and the day of rejoicing only once we had overcome challenges and struggles and even failures together. We were able to find joy out of the tragedy. We were able to recognize and celebrate that we are truly an eternal nation and no matter how far we can fall we will rise once again. There will be a wedding we can celebrate at. There will be a Jewish home for the shechina that we can build. There will be singing and dancing once again in the streets of Jerusalem. May that very soon be the next wedding of the century when we celebrate finally Simchas Olam. 

 Have a majestic Shabbos!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 


" People say it's not ambitious, but it is actually quite ambitious wanting to help people.
Prince William
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give"--Winston Churchill



  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hVYLo6dcoc


Kichu me'itchem Teruma La'Hashem- take a contribution from amongst yourselves for Hashem
Kol Nediv Libo- Yi'vieiah- All who is generous of heart should bring it.
Our sages tell us that all the gifts which included jewelry and gold and silver were only permitted to be brought when both the husband and wife agree and desired to do so.
The Baal Haturim points out that the gematria of Libo Yivieaha-literally his heart (masculine) she should bring (feminine)
Is the same gematraia as the words Libo Hu V'Hi-the heart of his and hers.
A house of peace can only be built with contributions that come from Shalom Bayis!

(answer below at end of Email)
The Nabatean cities in the Negev
a)  Shivta, Ketziot, Nitzana, Ovdat
b)  Be'er Sheva, Ovdat, Mamshit, Nitzana
c)  Shivta, Nitzana, Ovdat, Mamshit
d)  Nitzana, Ovdat, Arad, Shivta

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S "TOP OVERHEARD RECHNITZ WEDDING JOKES" OF THE WEEK (If you don’t get them-you just aren't his friendJ)
1)      "Aren't there takanos (/religious guidelines in order to insure the modesty of the affair) in the religious community limiting the amount of guests allowed to be invited to a wedding? "
a)      there were only 400 guest the other 1000 people were collecting
b)     he received a heter me'ah rabbanim (permission from 100 rabbis)
2)      Arnold Schwartzenegger was invited but did not attend- he was scared that he would have to pick up the brides father on his shoulders.
3)      The Mir Yeshiva will be instituting monthly tests on the kuntras/sefer –that was put out by the grooms father.


Mamshit- Located in the upper Negev who would ever have thought that if it were up to Ben Gurion this might have been the capital of Israel. This was part of his lifelong dream of populating the Negev. This Nabatean city is one of the most beautiful in Israel and is a UNESCO recognized heritage site along with its counter parts (Nitzana Shivta and Obdat) as part of the Spice Trail. The Nabateans, which were descendants of Yishamael that are mentioned in the Torah as passing by and purchasing Yosef from the pit (Bereshis 23:14 "These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam") major period of development was from the 4th century BC when they were tribes of nomads trading in spices and incense from africa to between China, India, the Far East, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. They were pagans who's laws included the prohibition to drink wine, plant trees of houses by punishment of death. Thus maintaining their nomadic lifestyle for centuries traveling through the desert on their 62 day journey covering on camels about 25 miles per day. Eventually however with their wealth and later Hellenist and Roman influence they built cities and converted to Christianity. In mamshit which was a capital city of the negev the Palestina Teretzia of the Romans one can see beautiful remains of the rich mans quarters, the roman stables, ancient churches and pagan nile temples with mosaics. Definitly a cool place to see and feel what life in the desert was like.

Answer is C The Ministry of tourism loves the Nabateans a few centuries of nomad arab spice traders that built cities and way stations here in Israel coming up from Africa. The Nabatean cities are actually a UNESCO recognized site Israel. All the cities are in the Negev south of Israel. Eventually the Nabateans became Christians (it paid for them) and they built nice palaces that still exist 2000 years later and are pretty cool to see. If your into that type of stuff. Personally I prefer Jewish sites. Although I don't mind a little incense here and thereJ  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Old Spice- Ki Tisa 5774/2014

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

February 14th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 18-14th  of Adar I 5774

Ki Tisa
Old Spice

 I sat there on the bus from my yeshiva in Har Nof to the Western Wall. (This goes back about 20 something years or so…Ouch it hurts even to write that.) It was a long bus ride and I made myself comfortable. In front of me sat two Israeli pre-teen agers and their giggling piqued my attention. Seemingly they were laughing over a new purchase that one of them had made. Out comes the surprise from that brown paper bag and lo and behold it was one of those speed stick deodorants.  Frankly, I never found deodorant to be particularly humorous but it seems that these two girls had never seen anything like this before in their lives. One of them started rolling that stick up and they both found it to be absolutely hilarious. They rolled it down again and just couldn't stop cracking up. Finally one of them started to roll some on the side of the bus seat. The other one started smelling it and they just found this so so funny. It was like they had discovered America. I hope they eventually learned how to use it properly. Welcome to civilization Israel.

 I slowly began to understand how that genius Israeli mind must have developed so many powerful weapons out of nothing. Imagine what some aerosol cans of deodorant can do in the untrained hand. I can just see two Israeli military minds unveiling their latest military purchase; "Right Guard". "See eet says dees is dah right gard to protect us from the Arabs with weeth." Walla…our arsenal is complete.

I think back to that bus ride often. No, I don't mean when I am sitting next to a passenger that hasn't discovered deodorant yet. I just move my seat in those cases. I think about it when I travel around Israel and visit the ancient bathhouses, hot springs or the beautiful streams and I talk to some of my tourists about the bathing habits of the ancient world. It is hard to believe or even imagine that baths were not a common occurrence. Washing oneself on a regular basis was unheard of, certainly in the winter months before the advent of personal showers and heated water. Sure there were rich noblemen that had slaves prepare water for them. But until the advent of indoor plumbing in the mid 19th century the world must have been a pretty smelly place. In fact the Talmud tells us that when one would go to the bathhouse in ancient times they would be prohibited from any strenuous activity, for it was deemed dangerous to one's health. A bath was a full day affair. Steam baths, cold water followed by hot water and of course a good massage and beating followed by a dose of perfumes. There was no jump in the shower for two minutes, grab a quick bar of soap and shampoo and head off to work. So people used to go only very occasionally and in general were not too clean.

The Jewish people were of course always different. We were always a little more meticulous about bathing. At least once a week for Shabbat and of course regular mikva going as well. We are even commanded to wash our hands before a meal and afterwards. So we always had a greater hygienic code than our gentile neighbors. In fact some suggest that when the Black Plague hit during the middle ages wiping out most of Europe, the Jews had an overwhelmingly lower casualty rate than their filthy, smelly neighbors did. This of course gave them an excuse to kill us with swords and pogroms instead. Not that they ever really needed any major excuses. Yet although we were perhaps cleaner and maybe even better smelling than our neighbors we certainly were a far cry from today's western civilized world. I open up my bathroom cabinet and I imagine what my great-grandparents and ancestors would have thought. Toothpaste, mouthwash, Q-Tips, soap, conditioner, body wash, shampoo and some other stuff that my teenage daughter uses that I still haven’t figured out what they are for (shhh..my teen-age son as well-he's also a clean twice-a-day shower type of kid). So we have advanced...right? At least in the way we smell… or don't. But I think that they had some other things going for them that perhaps we don't.  Maybe it was the smell of the Divine.

Which of course brings us to this week's Torah portion. See what I did. The Torah portion which starts off with the collecting of the half-shekel coin for the building of the Tabernacle-we'll save that for Parshat Shekalim- then introduces the Parsha that primarily discusses the sin of the golden calf with three interesting laws. The first being the making of the Kiyor, or laver (does anyone know what that means? Why do they even bother translating it into something no-one knows.) which is basically the large bathtub-like water tub that the Kohein would wash and purify himself in before doing the service. The second being the anointing oil that was mixed with spices (myrrh, cinnamon aromatic spices and cassia (anyone??)) to anoint the Kohein and all the vessels in the Temple with. Finally discussed as well, are the laws of the making of the incense/the ketoret, which would be brought daily on the special golden altar and in the holy of holies on Yom Kipppur by the Ark of Covenant. Hmmm water, anointing oils, sweet smelling incense…wasn't that a great intro? Not only mine, I mean, the Parsha's? What does all this have to do with the Golden Calf?

It's even more interesting that at the end of last week's Torah portion, which primarily discusses the making of the Priestly garments, already seems to discuss the anointing oil and the making of the incense altar, as what seems to be the conclusion of the discussion of the building of the tabernacle. Yet it seems to go over it and elaborate about it again in this week's Parsha.

 Truth is, out of all of the things in the Tabernacle, the Ketoret/ incense perhaps gets the most coverage and discussion. It is what will later be the cause of the death of Aharon's two sons who bring it improperly. It becomes the source of contention and eventually the challenge during the fight of Korach and his not-so-merry men. It is also what Aharon uses to stop the plague that sweeps through the camp in the aftermath of that fight. And of course of here once again it is mentioned as the conclusion of the Tabernacle building and description.

On a more mystical level there is a tradition that the recitation of the Ketoret portion and the ingredients and process that went into making it is a good omen (segula) for wealth. In the times of the temple, the merit to prepare the incense was done by lottery and could only be done once in one's life. Rabbi Eli Mink suggests that the custom to recite the Ketoret daily in our morning service before we recite our songs of praise (Psukei D'Zimra) was because our prayers are in place of the offerings and the Ketores was brought before the daily offering was brought. Even more fascinating he writes that the custom to recite it a second time at the end of the prayer service developed during a period when there were rampant plagues and it was added to the service to halt the plagues. Today many in the Sefardic and Chasidic communities have a tradition to recite the Ketoret verses from an actual hand written scroll. In Ashkenazic communities the ruling of the Rama was not to say it during the weekday, for fear that one might be in a rush and by mistake leave out one of the spices in his recitation-which if it is in place of the offering would not be such a good thing. Shabbos though nobody's in a rush-(although from the amount of time people spend looking at their watches during my sermons one would never know..:) and so we can recite the Ketores from within our siddur with all the necessary concentration.

What is it about the Ketores that makes it so special? Rav Gedaliah Schorr in his great work Ohr Gedalyahu writes that Ketores has 11 spices within it. The 11th spice Chalbina, or as Rashi translates it as Galbanum, was a putrid smelling spice. You know the no-deodorant kind. {*Incidentally, fun Galbanum facts- it grows plentifully on the slopes of Iran, Must by Cartier and Chanel 19 both use it in their perfumes. Hippocrates said it was very curative, but a bit mixed with oil was would be enough to kill a snake. Best of all, if it is steam distilled it smells like a fine malt-giving L'Chaim on a beer new meaning}. This spice, Rashi quoting the Talmud tells us, was included in order to teach us that even the sinners of Israel shall be counted amongst us for prayers and supplications. For even the holy Ketores was only complete with this spice. Rav Shorr thus suggests that this is in fact the power of the incense; to bring together all the different parts of the Jewish people into one heavenly aroma. The more skeptical commentaries suggest that we have to have 10 good smelling spices for the 11th to have its power as well. Meaning a Minyan of Kosher non-sinners, but between me and you where are we gonnna find a group like that?

 But regardless, the essence in fact of the Tabernacle was "in order that they shall know that I am Hashem their God who took them out of Egypt to dwell within them". The Mishkan wasn't to serve God. It wasn't to bring offerings, and it wasn't to give a nice cushy job to the Priests. The function of the Mishkan was for us to recognize that there is Hashem residing in each and every Jew. The function of the Mishkan was so that we could bring that heavenly Ketores, that incredible incense, before Hashem that shows him that we recognize that even the Chelbana has a holy aroma to it and can be brought before Hashem. On a deeper level perhaps we are told that in the "original sin" of Adam in the garden of Eden the sense of smell was the only one that was un affected-that did not get tainted. The ears heard the temptation of the Snake. The eyes saw the tree, the hands, plucked the fruit, the mouth tasted. Only the sense of smell, the nose which Hashem had originally blown the spirit of life; a piece of Himself in each of us, remains untainted and pure as the day we were created. Talk about a Jewish noseJ.

The power of the Ketores to break the plague is that we remind Hashem and ourselves that even after we sin we still have the Divine residing amongst us when we join together with our fellow Jews. Together we smell terrific. We smell Godly. Perhaps it is why the recitation of Ketores is also a tremendous omen for wealth. For who is truly wealthy? Our sages tell us, he who is satisfied with his lot. Once one recognizes that within him dwells the Divine spirit. That Hashem is there amongst him even if he falls, even if he fails than one can't help but be overwhelmed at the tremendous fortune he has. All is from Hashem. There is no greater wealth.

It is perhaps why as well that this portion is the introduction to the story of the golden calf, the portion called Ki Tisa, when you shall uplift the Jewish people. For there was perhaps no greater sin and no greater falling to take place in the history of our people than when 40 days after that tremendous revelation at Sinai we, or at least a portion of our people, started to sing and dance before a calf of gold who we declared as the new leader of our people.  A calf?! Made of gold?! Really???! The sin, our sages suggest, came from the fact that we had thought that it was only with Moshe, only with a leader that could go up the mountain, could we ever communicate and connect with God. We didn't see Hashem within us. We didn't believe any mortal could actually house the Divine. Who me? Hashem within me? Can't be…can't be… so we created as supernatural being. But we were wrong. We forgot that even the Chelbana can smell good and can bring a heavenly smell before our Father in Heaven.

We may be a lot cleaner and smell a lot nicer today than our ancestors did. We've got deodorants, body washes and all types of things to make us smell nice. Yet perhaps we need to focus a little more on the holy smell that is meant to emanate from us as well. Our forefathers in the times of the temple would wake up each morning to the smell of the Ketoret. Our sages relate that even the goats in Jericho would smell from the aroma of the Ketoret and brides in Jerusalem had no need for perfume because the heavenly smell permeated the air. They didn't need deodorant back then. Because if we smelled good in heaven and we were all connected in the most spiritual and holy of ways, appreciating the godliness found within each of us, than we smelled good down here as well.

There is one last thing that I left out just in case any of you actually cracks a chumash and reads the Parsha as well (always a good idea). The last portion before the reading of the Golden Calf this week right after the Ketores is a reiteration of the mitzvah of Shabbos. Shabbos as well fits with this theme. For on Shabbos we truly experience the smell of Gan Eden; the heavenly aroma of us returning once again each week to that Divine spark and moment when we were created and through which we can be re-created anew. Not to mention the aroma of the chulent (you need I had to get it inJ)). May we soon merit to experience a time that everyday smells like Shabbos.

 Have an aromatically blessed Shabbos!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


 "Success is a great deodorant. It takes away all your past smells. "- Elizabeth Taylor

"Common sense is like deodorant...The people who need it most never use it. ".- Unknown


 he end of the Parsha tells us that Moshe's face was lit up up after the golden calf and the writing of the 2nd tablets. It is interesting to note that there are 17 more words in the second tablets than the first tablets (go check them out in Exodus20:2-14 and Dueteronomy 5:6-18). 17 is the gematria of the word Tov (9+6+2). The first time the word Tov is found in the Torah it is a reference to the great light that Hashem created in the world on the first day of creation. That light our sages tell us was too great too be revealed and was hidden away for the righteous. Rav Tzadok HaKohein suggests that it was that light that was hidden in the tablets Hashem had written as man had achieved the ultimate state of revelation. When Moshe carved the second tablets that light was not put into it. Instead of the light words took their place. We would have to struggle to understand and connect, rather than just tap into the light. What happened to the light? The Tov? The 17? It remained with Moshe. So he shined. Interesting as well that when Moshe was born they saw that he was Tov- Rashi there notes the whole house was filled with light! Now you know why..


(answer below at end of Email)

Water cisterns become a widespread phenomenon in Israel

a)  The Neolithic period

b)  The Chalcolithic period

c)  The Iron age

d)  The Bronze age


7 Holy cow, you're golden!

6 What's your sign? Taurus?

5. Forget breaking the 2 tablets, you just broke my heart

4 Didn't I see your profile on pagan-date.com?

3. Sorry, are you single or did you also just donate your ring?

2. Forget the gold, my heart just melted

1. Seems they named that cow-statue after me. Hi I'm Goldberg




   And the whole prayer for those looking for a segula-read along?


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Answer is C:  The Iron age is pretty much the period of when our forefathers left Egypt and first inhabited the land as a nation. This includes the period of the judges and the first kings of Israel. It is in this period that we find the proliferation of water cisterns in the land. The difference between a well and a cistern is that a well taps into underground water system, whereas a cistern is a means of collecting a preserving the water that falls in the winter to last for the other seasons. It is done by plastering the inside of the cistern as well as digging it in a strategic location, preferably at the bottom of a hill range where the rain that falls can be directed into the cistern. The other periods are all before the Jewish people came to Israel asn we know that nothing really important happened until we got hereJ