Our view of the Galile

Thursday, March 6, 2014

That's what its all about..hey!-Vayikra 2014/5774

Insights and Inspiration

from the

Holy Land

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

"Your friend in Karmiel"


March 7th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 21-5h of Adar II 5774


And that's what it's all about…Hey!

My fifth grade grammar teacher is now on my weekly E-Mail list. I'm in trouble. As readers of my weekly missives (fancy word), you know that grammar isn't always my thing. I still get my thens and thans mixed up (spell check doesn’t fix that one or (won either). I'm not, the greatest, at figuring out where, to put a comma; or a semi-colon for that matter; either. Sometimes I do that …three dot thing because I think it looks really cool-others I use that line in the middle –I think its called a hyphen-I mean it's with an apostrophe,;'" another thing I get wrong. Yet for some reason, you guys still stick with me. Maybe you also didn't do so good (I mean well- I knew that) on your fifth grade grammar assignments and appreciate that one can still become a world famous writer like me. But she will certainly not be happy. She also will probably not unsubscribe. I'm in the back of the classroom once again. Mom, get ready to sign my E-mail at the end so I can bring it in. And you thought you also passed that stage with me already …

On that last sentence though, one thing that I do remember from my grammar classes was that you should never start (commenceJ) a sentence with the word And. I think about that silly rule all the time; particularly when I start my sentences with an And. And, of course, is a conjunction that is used to connect two ideas, thus it makes sense that one should not start a sentence which is meant to be a new idea, with a joiner word. Yet, if the alternative is a really long run on sentence (another grammatical sin I am frequently guilty of-besides using these parentheses things way too often), than why not just stick a little period in there and start a new sentence. Who gets hurt?  

In fact in my very quick google search on the topic I came across this little quote. R.W. Burchfield has to say about this use of and:

"There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with And, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues".

from The New Fowler's Modern English Usage
edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996.
Used with the permission of Oxford University Press.

Take that. I am vindicated. Now if I can only find someone that says that messing up commas and semi-colons is fine as well.

The truth is though one does not need to come on to R.W. to exonerate me. (Come on to- is "yeshivish-speak", which I also frequently engage in. It is a grammar within itself-that after a while of intense utilization destroys any chance one has of ever winning the Nobel Prize in Literature-although Artscroll and Feldheim might still publish you…I hope. Worse comes to worst you certainly could get a weekly column in one of the Jewish weekly newspapersJJ-C'mon it's almost Purim I'm allowed to have some fun.) Back to the Email and the Parsha. Once again, the truth is that one merely has to turn to our weekly Parsha the beginning of the third book of the Torah and of course it starts with the word And.

 Vayikra El Moshe-And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him.

It's a good thing Hashem didn't have my fifth grade teacher editing His book. Besides the fact that it starts with And, it also uses the He, without first introducing who the He is. The truth is though the 2nd and fourth book of the Torah also starts with the grammatically inappropriate And. In fact most of the Parshiyot start with the word and. (I estimate at least 90%-but feel free to count and let me know). So there! But even more troubling is that this Book of Vayikra really starts in an awkward place. For it seems to be a direct continuation of the end of the last book that we just concluded, the Book of Shemos. This leads us to another interesting and perplexing question as we examine the ending of that book; an ending that is also very counter-intuitive.

The Book of Shemos has been a great story; the exile to Egypt, the slavery and persecution that are followed by the miraculous Exodus, 10 plagues, splitting of the sea and ultimately the Divine revelation and receiving of the Torah on Sinai. The book then continued with our downfall by the sin of the golden calf and the return of the Divine presence as we build the Tabernacle/Mishkan for Hashem's returned presence. What a great story, a wonderful outline for any Hollywood movie. Yet what is the grand finale? The last few verses?

And Moshe could not enter the Tent of Gathering because the cloud {of glory} rested upon it and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan….

And when the cloud went up from the Mishkan the children of Israel would travel on all of their journeys

And if the cloud of glory did not go up, they (the Jewish people) would not be allowed to travel unless it went up

And there you have it. Isn’t that just the perfect ending? Huh?!! What a downer! Moshe can't enter. The Jews can't travel. Why end a book on this note? In fact the beginning of our Book Vayikra is really just a continuation and picks up right here in middle of this narrative. AND Hashem calls Moshe- who was not able to enter- and He speaks to him. One doesn't have to be a fifth grade teacher to realize that there is something very strange going on here.

The answer, I believe, is perhaps one of the most powerful in Judaism. The message and the grand finale of the entire story of our Exodus and our Redemption to become Hashem's chosen nation is that we are utterly powerless to do anything without Hashem. How powerful is that! We can't travel. We can't begin any of our journeys in life unless directed to by the Almighty. Even more than that. The great Moshe himself, who  brought the plagues down on Egypt, who split the sea,  who went up to heaven and brought the Torah down for us and performed all of the miracles in the wilderness and who even alone erected the Mishkan for Hashem, couldn't even enter it without the calling of Hashem. Being free and being redeemed was never about having our personal independence. The story of our redemption was us leaving the servitude of Pharaoh and becoming entirely dependent and connected to our Father, our King in heaven. Does this sound intimidating? Does it make you feel small and weak? It shouldn't. In truth perhaps one of the most empowering ideas that we shared with the world is that Hashem controls everything. We can make decisions, we can make choices and we are responsible and rewarded for all of those choices that we make. But ultimately only Hashem can make things happen and can carry out His will. When we follow the ways that He has directed us to, than what we are doing is not our own, rather it is the will and plan of the Creator of the Universe. Every mitzvah I do it's because Hashem allows me to do it. Every transgression it's because He allows me to do it. The Divine presence is with me in all that I do. I'm never alone. Hashem is always with me. This is the conclusion of the Book of Exodus. This is the Book of Shemos-our names. Hashem is found in the heart and essence of our very identities.

Lest you think that if this is true than what does it really make a difference what we choose? His Will will be done regardless. The answer lies in the beginning of the next Book; our book of of Vayikra. And Hashem called to Moshe. Our Chasidic Masters tell us that it is not just to Moshe, but to each and every Jew in all of their journeys that the last Book concluded with that Hashem calls out to. To the little Moishele inside of each of us that experienced that Divine revelation. Hashem calls out to each and every one of us. He calls us, as Rashi describes in the most intimate of ways. He beckons us to enter His holy abode and to become His partner in Creation in fulfilling the master plan of the universe. It is with this and that the Book that is dedicated to our sacrifices and service of Hashem begins. It starts with a personal invitation to enter.

There is an interesting law when in our daily morning prayers. Our sages tell us that one is not permitted to interrupt between the blessings of redemption that we recite after the Shema and the Amida/Shemona Esrei blessings of prayer, "in order to connect redemption to prayer". Yet, interestingly enough, our sages added in one sentence that we do recite in between the two.

Adonai Sefasai Tiftach U'Fi Yagid Tehilateicha- Hashem open my lips and my mouth shall recite your praises.

I heard an idea from a Rav once that explained that the source for this is the last few verses of the Torah Portion mentioned above. Shemos was the book of redemption, Vayikra that of service and prayer and in between the two we have the V'Lo Yachol Moshe and Moshe was not able. The Jews were not able. This is the transition between the two. How do we understand and connect to Hashem? By, 1) recognizing we are truly not able to even open our mouths without Hashem's help and then 2) appreciating that we are invited. He wants to hear from us. He rejoices in our song and our prayer. We are His and He is ours.

As we get closer to the holiday of Purim, we are meant to increase our happiness and joy. We don't always live in the happiest of worlds. There are wars, struggles, challenges and so many minor and major annoyances and distractions. The path to happiness though is through the relief and appreciation that we have Hashem who's pretty much running the show. We don't have to worry or sweat. We can just celebrate that He is always there for us. And that's good no matter how you start the sentence.

Have a spectacular Shabbos!

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 


 "I demand that my books be judged with utmost severity, by knowledgeable people who know the rules of grammar and of logic, and who will seek beneath the footsteps of my commas the lice of my thought in the head of my style"- Louis Aragon French award winning author (I agree)


Really beautiful!

and part II with Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz




(answer below at end of Email)

 The aqueducts that are next to Kibbutz Lochamei Ha'Ghettaot (Ghetto Fighters) was built by

a) Jazzar Facha

b)  Crusaders

c)  Beibers

d)  Suleiman Facha

**Thanks to all those that took the time to respond to last week's question of the week. As I realized on Shabbos (when I read the E-Mail to my family) the question was which were the philistine COASTAL cities the key word is coastal and of course Gat and Ekron are not on the coast so the correct answer was A- Ashdod Askelon and Gaza. It was nice to know that at least some of you read all the way to the bottomJ)


 "When a person among you brings an offering to G-d-Korban La'Hashem-, you should bring your offering from animals—from cattle, or from flocks.”

The Chassidic work, Zera Baruch  discovers that the two key Hebrew words of this verse—“korban lashsem-an offering to G-d”—have the numerical value of 408.  That is also the numerical value of the three Hebrew words “tzom (a fast), kol (voice) and mammon (money).”

These three terms can be found in our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy above the corresponding words: “teshuvah(repentance or return), tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah (charity).

For one’s repentance and return to the right path to be complete one is required to fast on Yom Kippur. Raising our voices in prayer, petitioning G-d to forgive us, is indispensable to getting close to Him. Sharing our money with the needy—giving charity—is crucial in getting G-d to be charitable towards us and erases any negative decrees against us that may have resulted from our errant behavior and that may have caused us to become distant from him.


 Ghetto Fighters Museum-Lochamei Ha'Ghettaot- On the road up from Akko to Nahariya this museum can't be missed right next to the aqueducts. The museum, the first holocaust museum in the world, established in 1949 right after the Shoah is a powerful place to bring the family for an alternate to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The museum has two main sections one that chronicles the story of the ghetto fighters (who founded the museum and the kibbutz where it is located) and the partisans as well as the Jewish attempts to fight against the genocide. The second part the Yad LaYeled, childrens museum was built to tell the story of the million and a half children that perished and the story through their eyes. In a building constructed in the shape of a tree stump that has been chopped off the story from pre-war down a spirally darker gloomier spiral staircase from hall to hall ultimately leading below ground is truly powerful. In addition the story of Janus Korcak and the orphanage he ran in the ghetto is told as well. Not neccesarily the place you may want to visit in Adar but certainly a place to go any other time of the year when one wants to appreciate and be inspired by the past.



Q: "What letter of the alphabet has got lots of water?"
 A: "The C" 

Q: What begins with T, ends with T and has T in it?
 A: A teapot 

Q: What five-letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it?
 A: Short 

 Q: Is there a word in the English language that uses all the vowels including "y" ?
 A: Unquestionably! 

If Horrible and Horrific are the same things, then why are terrible and terrific opposites? 

Grammar walks into a Bar

 (now let's see how many of these do you really know what they are?)

Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They Drink. They Leave

 A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves

. A dangling modifier walks into a bar. After finishing a drink, the bartender asks it to leave.

 A Question mark walks into a bar?

Two Quotation marks "walk into" a bar.

 A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking a drink.

The bar was walked into by the passive voice.

The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

 A synoynm ambles into a pub.

 A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to drink.

 A hyperbole totally ripped into this bar and destroyed everything.

 A run on sentence walks into a bar it is thirsty.

 Falling slowly, softly falling, the chiasmus collapsed to the bar floor

. A group of homophones wok inn two a bar. 


Answer is D:  Suleiman Facha was the builder of the famous aquaducts that most people mistake to be Roman right outside of Akko on the road to Nahariya. But he lived almost 1200 years after the Romans and ruled Akko in the early 1800's right after Napolean destroyed the old aquaducts that were there. The Aquaducts actually run from the mountains of the western galilee all the way into Akko. I spent Pesach last year by the remaining pools in Manof today a youth center (and great Pesach getaway in Akko where those Aquaducts used to drain inot right by the Bahai gardens in Akko.

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