Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
March 20th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 23-19th of Adar II 5774
Post Purim Parah Pictures
'Twas the night after Purim, when all thro' the house,
not a father was stirring, as he was out cold on the couch.
The bottles were empty the liquor cabinet was bare,
I hoped that all the s'nickers would now longer be there."
So much for trying to parody Clement Clarkes "holiday" poem, I thought as I drifted off to sleep. I awoke to the morning paper. I opened to the section with all of the Purim pictures from around the world. "Wow! They got these out pretty quick", I thought. But imagine my surprise as I started to peruse the pictures one by one. It seems that I had entered into an incredible world.
The first one that caught my eye, was of the great leader of the Hareidi world from Bnai Brak, Rav Chaim Kanievsky. It seems that he and Rav Shteinman, as well as Rav Shmuel Aurbach all got together and brought Shalach Manot to none other than Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet, the two leaders of the parties that had instituted what has been described as "draconian" decrees against the Yeshiva world and its students. "It's Purim", they said "and at least for a day let's put our differences behind us". I turned the page and saw another incredible display. This time it was of secular Israeli soldiers and their parents. They were coming to all of the Yeshivot and even Kollels and they were also bearing little baskets full of Purim treats. "We may not agree and certainly having difficulty appreciating that your Torah study has any value to us or do we see it as any reason why we should be serving as you study. But on Purim we just want to be together, to remember we are a family. Happy Purim".
I continued turning pages in awe. There were pictures of the Agudas Yisrael bringing Shalach Manot to the heads of the Reform movement. The Jewish Theological Seminary of the Conservative movement brought a bus to Lakewood Yeshiva to sing and dance together by the Purim feast. The Women of the Wall were dancing together with the Women for the Wall in the ladies section of the Kotel and in Robinson's Arch. Satmar (both of them), Chabad, Belz and Hesder Yeshiva boys were all joined in one big circle clasping hands, sharing Purim baskets, and passing the bottle around. Left wing "Peace Now" Tel Aviv university students were embracing settlers from the West Bank and carrying their children on their shoulders. Russians, Ethiopians, Ashkenazim, Sefardim all dressed up as one another could been seen in the various pictures exchanging their own special ethnic foods as they sat down to the Purim feast at one another's homes.
The pictures seemed to be unreal, but they did not look photo shopped at all. Was I dreaming? Was I so drunk that I missed this unbelievable event? I pinched myself….and then I woke up. I was still on my couch. Bottles and costumes were still strewn over the floor. I went to Shul to look at the paper. Sadly, there were no pictures. It kind of made me want to start drinking again…start dreaming again…it would be worth the hangover. But I think that I would have to get more than just me drunk to make that dream real. To ever see that day.
But then I thought.-always a dangerous thing-if this is the way I feel, the way that you feel, imagine how Hashem must feel. Imagine how He must feel for over 3000 years, Purim after Purim, with us never really giving Him the Shalach Manot He is waiting for. I'm a parent-at least once in a while- and I pretty much know that there is nothing more upsetting, frustrating, aggravating and depressing than when your children don't get along with one another. When they fight, when they yell at one another, when they don't realize how painful it is for a father or mother to see how petty they are being. True, there are sometimes real issues that have to be dealt with and rectified. But c'mon, one day a year…one day a year can't we at least pretend that there is so much more that unites us than divides us. Is there not even one day that we can at least give our Abba a little bit of nachas. Just smile for the picture…
This week we read Parshat Parah, the third of the four supplementary Parshiyot that we add in this season surrounding the holiday of Purim and preceding Pesach. It is kind of a downer Parshah, and seemingly does not have much to do with either Purim or Pesach. It discusses the Red Heifer that would be brought in order to purify the people from their tumah/impurity that comes as a result from coming in contact with the dead. Our sages tell us that we would read it in order to warn the people, who would be obligated to partake in the Pessach offering, that they would have to purify themselves first, by means of the sprinkling of the ashes of the cow mixed with hyssop, cedar and red wool.
It's certainly a strange mysterious mitzvah that we are told is a Chok- a law who's deepest reasons are beyond our understanding. Yet our sages do note that there is a connection between the mother cow coming to clean up after the excrement of its child; the golden calf (Note how it does not say the father cow does this-just pointing this out J). It's a downer of a Parsha because we just celebrated Purim a few days ago and here we are remembering that we are still Tamei-un-pure. There is still death. There is still the sin of Golden calf. Why couldn't we wait a bit before bringing this back on? In fact if we truly wanted to remind the Jewish people practically to purify themselves before Passover why not read it the week before Pesach? Why do we first we read this parsha (which always follows Purim) before the Parsha we read next week; the parsha of Chodesh? Chronologically the burning of the calf took place on the 2nd of Nissan whereas Rosh Chodesh was the establishing of the Mishkan. Shouldn't the Chodesh reading be first? The Jerusalem Talmud in fact asks this question and it answers rather cryptically because "It is the purity of the Jewish people". Huh?
It is interesting that this year the Torah reading of this week's Torah portion begins by telling us about the final day of the establishment of the Mishkan (the Yom Ha'Shmini- the eighth day). We are told about what should have been a celebratory day was in fact marred by the tragic death of Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon. When the leap year falls out this way bringing these two parshas together we have the benefit of this extra insight, and we can appreciate how quickly a day of rejoicing can turn into a day of tragedy and mourning. It seems that whenever we get so close to that time of redemption, we are quickly thrust back to a profound wake-up call that we are not there yet. The message I believe being that we haven't begun our purification. Just being saved from Pharaoh in Egypt, from Achashveirosh in Persia is not the end of the story. We need to get ready for that final day. We have to begin to work on taking that salvation and moving it to the next level. Only then can Pesach come. Only then can we read about the Parsha of Chodesh, the power Hashem has given us to establish His holidays.
We are meant to be partners with Hashem. When we were leaving Egypt the first Mitzvah we were told was that it would be us that would establish the Jewish months, the times when the holidays would fall out. Yet, we failed our Partner. We forgot that all the miracles we had experienced were for us to sanctify Hashem's name. We looked for a replacement leader for Moshe- as if it was he who took us out of Egypt. And we made a calf of gold, of our own making. A false god that would distract us from our purpose. The moment when we stood together as one man with one heart and heard Hashem speak the words "I am Hashem who took you out of Egypt" was lost.
Hashem forgave us for this sin, yet on the day of the building of the Mishkan that tragedy came back to haunt us once again. Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon, who himself had been involved in the building of the calf, brought a "foreign fire" to the Mishkan. Once again the opportunity of finally doing it right failed. Hashem's name would be sanctified only in their death. "With my close ones I will be sanctified and I will be honored before the entire people". That impurity, which is really just a term that describes distance from Hashem, a blocking of our connection, of our ability to connect to His holiness that is within us, is the outcome of our failure to achieve the greatness that we are so close to realizing. If we do not see Hashem in our moments of redemption and exultation,n than his name will only be seen in the tragedy and aftermath.
Purim was the next time when we experienced that opportunity. We had not only been saved from near genocide, we even had a queen in the palace. The truth though that is not told in the Megilla is even greater. Following the great victory and the nullification of the plot of Haman, the Jews were given an opportunity once again to return to Israel, to rebuild the Mikdash. This is it; the moment after the salvation when we could finally sanctify Hashem's name. When we could all get together, when we could finally go home. But the megilla ends with a different story. Achashveirosh raises taxes. The Jews pretty much decline the opportunity to leave. The great Ezra goes with a few thousand of his shleppers and rebuilds the Mikdash and in 127 countries of the Persian Empire the Jews pretty much decide that they would honor the great salvation with a holiday instead. "And the Megilla will be read in each and every city and in each and every country; any place where the word and law of the king applies". The Jews remained divided amongst 127 countries and cities and oblivious to their ultimate mission. We chose to remain servants of Achashveirosh.It is for that reason that our sages tell us we do not recite Hallel on Purim-we decided to remain servants of Achashveirosh. Yes, we should drink and we should celebrate and have fun…but remember it's not about Purim in England, America, Johannesburg, Canada and Persia. It's not just about celebrating that the Jewish people will always be eternal and that Hashem will always be there for us. It is about purity. It is about getting back together with one another, with our Father in Heaven…in our home Yerushalayim.
It was only a dream. But it doesn't have to be one. It wasn't meant to be one. We are so close to the redemption. So close to becoming pure. There are so many tragedies and crazy things going on the world. People dying, children… decrees, wars. Hashem is sadly being sanctified with tragedies. He wants us to stop dreaming. To wake up from our drunken stupor. The party is over, the purity can begin. Let's all smile for the picture..Have a terrific Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
This week's Holyland Insights and Inspiration is sponsored by our dear friend from Virginia Irene Ullman. It is so good to have you back on our list! May the merit of th Torah study and inspiration from our weekly insights bring you much blessings and merits…hopefully enough to bring you here to Israel so we can see you soon…
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S QUOTES OF THE WEEK"You cannot make puns about kleptomaniacs. They take everything. Literally."-Anonynomous
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL AND FUNNY YOUTUBE CLIPS OF THE WEEK
Just in case you thought my dreams can't come true. Take a look at this link for someone who is not just dreaming but who is working on bringing us all together
Pretty amazing and inspiring-the Shabbat project
I thought this was pretty funny and clever- the funniest Purim video for 2014 I've seen yet
Purim Safety Rules
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Nimrod's fortress is-
a) A fortress in the lower Galile that was built by the Crusaders
b) A fortress in the upper Galile that was built during the early Arab Era
c) A fortress on the foothills of Mt. Hermon that was built during the Ayubi period
d) A fortress in Jerusalem built in the Ottaman period
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEKKing Solomon, the wisest of all men, said in Koheles (7:23) "I thought I could become wise; and it is far from me." What is 'it' referring to? Our Sages say the only thing in the world that was beyond the grasp of King Solomon was the parah adumah/ the red heifer. Paralleling that oral tradition, the Ba'al HaTurim points out that the gematria of "v'he rechoka"- and it is far = 341 = parah adumah.
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-Nimrod's Fortress- I generally don't like to go to many non-Jewish related spots in Israel. But Nimrod, the nemesis of Avraham who through him in the fiery furnace (who interestingly enough according to the medrash was the father of his servant Eliezer) they tell me is actually much to my consternation being used as a Jewish warrior name. Kind of sad if you ask me. But regardless he has nothing to do with this fortress which was built several thousand years later in the 13th century by Saladins nephew, the Druze just decided to name it after him because it was just so big and hey why not.... But the truth is this is really a fun place for kids to run around. There are towers and dungeons and water cisterns and you can peek out the Keeps and pretend you are the fierce Mamaluk Bilik 2nd in command to Beibers who was fortified and built up this fortress and then of course was murdered by Beibers son. They had a habit of doing these things. The views though from this great fortress over the Banias and the Hermon where it is located are truly breathtaking. So if your in the hood anyways and the kids are getting a little antsy this is really a great place to see something a little off the beaten track.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TERRIBLE COW JOKES OF THE WEEK
1) Q: Why don't cows have any money? A: Because farmers milk them dry
2) Q: What do you get if you cross an angry sheep and a moody cow? A: An animal that's in a baaaaaaaad moooooood.
3) Q: Why did the cow cross the road? A: To get to the udder side. Q
4) Q: Where do cows go for lunch? A: The calf-eteria.
5) Q: What kind of milk comes from a forgetful cow? A: Milk of Amnesia
6) Q: Where do Russians get their milk? A: From Mos-cows
7) Q: What do call a cow that has just had a calf? A: Decalfenated
8) Q: What do you call a sleeping bull? A: A bull-dozer.
9) Q: What do you call a grumpy cow? A: Moo-dy
10) . Q: What is it when one cow spies on another cow? A: A steak out. Q:
11) Q: What do you call an arab next to a cow? A: Milk Sheikh!
RABBI SCHWARTZ' S EXAM ANSWER OF THE WEEK
Answer is C: OK here's some geographical information The Galile is the center north of Israel. The upper and lower are divided by route 85 which runs right by Karmiel. The Hermon is up on top of the Golan by the Syrian border. Now some Arab information. The Ayubis were the family Salaadin who conquered the Crusaders also known as the later Arab era. Saladin incidentally had a very good doctor (The Rambam). Now although when Mark Twain came to Israel he thought this was a Crusader Fortress. He was wrong it was built by the Ayubis and later fortified by the Mamluks to protect Damascus from any Crusader attacks. So the answer is C Ayubi and Hermon. Whoever answered Jerusalem should be ashamed of themselves.