Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
March 28th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 24-26th of Adar II 5774
Parshat Tazriah- Chodesh
The Primordial Mars and Venus
One of the most challenging experiences of my rabbinic career was while I was still living in Brooklyn and my Rosh Yeshiva (dean of the yeshiva) prevailed upon me to begin offering personal one-on-one premarital counseling to fresh, young, newly engaged yeshiva students. The age old tradition in which a young man would be initiated into the “ways of marriage” encompassed more than just the Halachic (legal) aspects of Jewish family life. I was being charged with taking these young men, who for the majority of their lives had primarily interacted with members of the same gender, and introducing them to the delicate and intricate world of male-female relationships. Having been newly initiated myself (and actually still trying to figure it out) I generally tried to present sample challenges to the young men (of which I had learned firsthand), asking them how they would respond in each scenario and then I would promptly show them how wrong they were. They were inclined to approach their relationship with their brides- to- be as an extension of all that they had experienced thus far in their interactions amongst themselves.
So, whereas in the Study Hall if someone would present a critique of your analysis of a piece of Talmud (or actually about anything) it would be understood that this was an invitation to engage in a heated debate in pursuit of achieving the ultimate truth of the concept in question with no intention of slighting the other party personally, in marriage it’s a very different universe. Here, as much as an opinion may be well-conceived and accurate, that’s not the point. The focus is more on listening and empathizing than on launching a spellbinding display of logic that would all but flatten the other party.
In a similar vein the concept in the yeshiva world of respecting another’s feelings meant, paradoxically, that one wouldn’t become all mushy and expressive of the “inner self” when addressing an issue. That was a “no-go” area, unless you really wanted to humiliate the other guy! If one ever approached someone with something that was emotionally troubling them, the greatest relief would come from a one-liner of casual dismissal like “It’s alright” or “it’s no problem”, immediately diffusing the issue. The typical yeshiva male would thereby feel satisfied and reassured, and actually quite thankful that he did not have to be emotional for too long. The female world was obviously going to be very different for them. For, in my experience the two most dangerous phrases that one can say to a woman (and possibly to a man after being exposed to the beauties of this approach long enough) is “it’s not a big deal” or “there’s nothing wrong”. For in that simple statement of misguided innocent reassurance lays an incredible amount of insensitivity and invalidation. Although many of the young men were quite skeptical of my presentation and each one thought that their bride was different, that “she is really one of the boys”, the grateful thank you letters that arrived (usually at least 5 months later) bore testimony to a newfound appreciation of the fundamental concepts that I had imparted to them.
These significant differences between men and women are not newly discovered, even if they are freshly minted in the form of Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus and other such reincarnations. Rather, that ancient work of Jewish wisdom, The Torah, in this week’s portion of Tazriah, describes from the earliest moments the diversion of paths and processes that the genders will have.
" When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male then she will be Tamei (unpure) for seven days …and on the eighth day he shall be circumcised
And if she gives birth to a Female she shall be Tamei for two weeks …
And at the end of the days of her purity for a son or a daughter. sacrifices are brought and she becomes purified".
The great Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, the leader of German Jewry in the early 1800’s, noted the significance in the process of spiritual rejuvenation for a woman after undergoing one of the most incredibly grueling physical experiences, that of giving birth. The process, he suggests, is one of establishing her role of motherhood in spiritual terms by focusing on creating in her children the prerequisites for their own Jewish development. Incredibly the process is different for the little boys than the little girls. Whereas the male is mandated to be circumcised after one seven day period, in the case of the female, the mother is mandated to resolve the impurity by waiting through the extra seven days, bringing the process to its fulfillment. The path for the boys, (as is typical of all male energy) requires action in the most physical of ways (and I’m sure you agree that circumcision is the cutting edge of real action). In contrast, in keeping with the intrinsic feminine character, regaining equanimity for a girl requires patience and introspection.
To put this concept to practice in modern relevant terms, I will share an obviously imaginary example of the difference of approach to problem resolution: Pesach cleaning in the Schwartz house. If it were left to the good (very male-like) Rabbi, a blitz of energy akin to a bomb strike would descend on the Schwartz household just before Pesach when the realization would dawn that chametz must follow emergency evacuation procedures. My wife, on the other hand has had the tremendous wherewithal to recognize that lists should be made, jobs should be assigned, schedules should be set up (starting 3 weeks ago) and then the problem can be resolved in the least hectic of ways. Action vs. patience and thoughtfulness. We are different. Equal, sincere, devoted but very, very different.
We live in a world where unfortunately, the chances of finding a marriage partner with whom one can establish a stable happily married are very bleak. I was recently shown a frightening statistic that said that 20% of marriages will be happy ones. The estimate is based on a 55%- 60% divorce rate, with only half of all those that remain responding that they would consider their marriages happy and fulfilling. There are many books that have been written and solutions that have been offered and there is probably much wisdom in all of them. Yet the fundamental precept that the Torah makes us aware of is that for a man and woman to truly come together and create an environment that will be successful there has to be a basic appreciation of the differences that we have. When we are able to recognize the innate nature and strengths that God, the Divine Matchmaker, gave each of us and to utilize each others strengths to complement and complete our own, then we will be on the track to creating the home where the Divine presence and the aura of all that is pure will eternally reside.
Have a terrific Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S MARRIAGE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"Marriage is the bond between a person who never remembers anniversaries and another who never forgets them."- Ogden Nash.
"Love is blind and marriage is the Institution for the Blind"- James Graham
"My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me"-Winston Churchill
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FUNNY PESACH YOUTUBE CLIPS OF THE WEEK
John Stewart pesach yiddishisms pretty funny joke-will never look at seder plate the same way
I thought this was pretty funny and clever- the funniest Purim video for 2014 I've seen yet
Stuff people say at the Seder (you have to be frum and slightly yehshivish to appreciate this one
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
The "polish cave" is located in-
b) Midbar Yehudah
c) Lower Galile
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
In this weeks Torah portion in describing the spiritual phenomena of tzora'as the Torah prohibits shaving it off and and says one must shave around it. The word V'Hisgalach has a large GIMMMEL in it. (Leviticus, 13:33. Also see Rashi’s commentary). Many of the Chasidic masters connect this large Gimmel who's gematrai is 3, of course with the Jewish custom of Upsherin; waiting until the 3rd birthday for a Jewish boy to have his first haircut, which similar to the process of metzora is cutting the hair and in the process leaving over the payot/sidelocks and not cutting them thereby introducing the boy to the mitzvah of not shaving the corners of his head. Three is also the age of stability our sages tell us where a table with two legs is not balanced but a three legged one achieves that balance and can begin to have things placed upon it. The letter Gimmel also means to bequeath and the child can now start being bequeathed his beautiful heritage. Finally it is interesting that this is verse 33 and that the custom for the upsherin according to the Ari'zl (whose son was the first to have his haircut and from where the custom developed) took place on the 33rd day of Omer/Lag Ba'Omer, of course in Meron!
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Maresha/ Beit Guvrin- a fantastic excavated city in the foothills of Judea Maresha/ Beit Guvrin is a city that was given to Caleb in biblical times this was his reward (like Joshua's last week cool place of the week) for not speaking evil by the sin of the spies. The city was eventually destroyed by the destruction of the first temple. Yet it was later relocated on a neighboring hill and built up as an Edomite city (Idumeans). They were eventually conquered by the Chashmonaim kings and forcibly converted to Judaism-(the only time in Jewish history this occurred which led to tragic results-which culminated in the descendants of one of these converts becoming the king of Israel-Herod- who was not such a nice guy…
Today Beit Guvrin is a fantastic site where one can explore ancient underground caves, quarries and columbariums-which are pigeon raising nesting areas underground where they were used to help fertilize the land for planting. There's also a great amphitheater where gladiators fought (and many people were killed) as well as oil and wine presses and the former great city ruins.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOP TEN DAYLIGHT SAVINGS JOKE OF THE WEEK
TOP TEN THINGS THAT HAPPEN AT DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
1. The timer on the coffee pot isn't set right, and there is no coffee.
2. You try to fix the clock on the microwave and set the timer instead – you wonder why a microwave needs a clock anyhow?
3. You decide this is really all a secret plot by "morning people" to get "night people" out of bed earlier.
4. The clock in your car has the right time for the first time since last October.
5. You arrive for Shul an hour late - just as everyone else is leaving.
6. Your computer clock sets itself ahead, but you forget and set it ahead again.
7. Half the office arrives an hour late, saying they forgot to change the clock. You secretly wonder why they did not arrive an hour early in October.
8. You take a two hour lunch break and say you forgot to change your wristwatch. ("getting even time.")
9. You go to bed at your regular time, but you’re not sleepy yet, so you stay up an extra hour.
10. You wonder where all the energy is that we are conserving because you sure could use some of it.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ANNIVERSARY CARTOON OF THE WEEK
RABBI SCHWARTZ' S EXAM ANSWER OF THE WEEK
Answer is A: Here's an interesting piece of history. After Stalin broke his deal with Hitler he freed the Polish prisoners and Ander's army was formed to fight against the Nazi's. As they trecked from the Southern Border of Russia through Iran, Iraq to Palestine and eventually fighting the Germans in Italy and North Africa they picked up Jewish orphans and refugees and brought them to Palestine where 4000 of them remained. One of those soldiers was none other than Menachem Begin, who founded the Irgun fighting forces against the British that led to the founding of the Jewish State and ultimately becoming the prime minister of Israel. The cave located in Maresha is an ancient water cistern that they camped at and carved a Polish eagle and the words Warsaw in that can still be seen today.