Our view of the Galile

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Holy Prophet- Kedoshim 5774/2014

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

April 25th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 27-25th of Nisan 5774 
(9th day of the Omer-one week and two days!)
Parshat Kedoshim
The Holy Prophet

We do not have creepy, fat, old men with beards and red suits coming down our chimney to stick things in our socks. That's the other team. We don't even have a chimney. We also do not believe in bogey men, whatever they are, or bunnies that hide eggs on our front lawns-not that we have any of those either. (front lawns-I mean, eggs we have plenty of, we bought way too many for Pesach). We believe in Hashem, who watches us and protects us and we are pretty much not into these mythological figures that are there to somehow frighten or trick children into behaving. I'm good with this. Which is why I had difficulty understanding why in middle of our Pesach Seder our little Elka, (my little Elka J), was hiding underneath the table. At first I thought it was where she hid the afikoman, but the look of terror on her face was telling a different story. No amount of kosher for Pesach chocolate which always seems to work to resolve any major issues in life and put a smile on her face (mine as well) seemed to work. Finally my wife, who seems to understand my children a lot better than I ever will claim to, got the story. It seems that my daughter was suffering from Eliyahu Hanavi phobia- the fear that some ancient prophet with a long white beard and donkey was going to visit our Seder and drink some wine. Not that we have any shortage of wine by the Schwartz Seder and not like Elka even likes wine. She was scared, I was getting tired, we still needed to sing songs and "who knows one?" it and make lots of animal noises by Chad Gadya. The Schwartz Seder was in jeopardy
What was I to say? Obviously, we could not tell her Eliyahu was not coming. That would be heretical on Pessach night, the night when we pass down our age-old traditions. We had already resolved, using my Rabbinic acumen and training that it was not necessary to sneak around the back door and dress up like Eliyahu and scream "BOO!" when they kids opened the door, as this seems to be a more recent Jewish custom (perfected by my father) without any basis in anything besides frightening and tricking children-see other teams customs above. We even agreed that we did not have to shake the table and spill out any of the wine from Eliyahu's cup while the kids weren't looking to get them to believe that he really came; also a later custom and frankly a waste of good wine. So what was left? To convince her that Eliyahu was a nice prophet that loved little children, didn't really seem to be the way to go either, although the story of him bringing a child back to life might attest to that, I didn't think the resurrected dead child thing would give her any less nightmares.
Meantime, our little 4 year old Tully was getting all antsy already. He was excited to meet Eliyahu. He even told Elka that he would protect her as he would open the door and she could go upstairs. Interestingly enough that seemed to work. Daddy, Mommy and her older brother, 15 year old Yonah weren't protection enough for her, but Tully our little Israeli, all brave and ready was all she needed. She knew that only a fearless Israeli raised kid could deal with this situation. Tully after all kills the cockroaches in the house and will chase the cats away as his mother and sister cower behind one another. He's kind of like King David with the slingshot in that way, forget about a donkeys jawbone. So Elka went upstairs. Tully opened the door. Yonah jumped out and said "BOO" dressed with his jacket over his face and a hat covering his eyes. And Tully laughed and laughed. We even got to shake the table and show him the wine Eliyahu had drunk. When Elka came back down, Tully told her. "Elka, it wasn't scary. Eliyahu even looks like Yonah...". And so another Schwartz Seder comes to happy ending. Next Year in Jerusalem, hooray!
As we continued the holiday, I had a chance to ponder Eliyahu HaNavi a bit more and his special place amongst our Pesach holiday. One of our traditions is that Eliyahu who was taken to heaven alive in a fiery chariot was told that he must always return to the Jewish people, whom he maligned, accusing them of not observing Hashem's covenant. He will be present at all Jewish circumcisions and Pesach Seders, which interestingly enough historically no matter how far we have fallen from religious observance, seem to be two rituals that we have never abandoned. Although one might think they would be the first to go. In addition the last prophecy in the Books of Prophets tell us that Eliyahu will be the harbinger of the ultimate redemption heralding in Mashiach and the Messianic era. Pesach being the time of redemption it's no wonder he's there.
 Throughout our history there has always been a tradition as well of Eliyahu revealing himself to individuals, generally holy ones, and assisting them in some mystical way. The Talmud is replete with stories of him and one of the traditions of the Schwartz family Seder is the story of my great Uncle Henry (Hershel) and my grandmother Bubby Zeldy O"BM being visited by him, assisting them in escaping the inferno that was to be Europe during the Holocaust. Who is Eliyahu and what is he really all about?
There is a story that I was recently reminded of, as I read a great new book by my friend (and former chavrusa/study partner) Rabbi Yechiel Spero. It is the story of a simple Chasid whose greatest wish was to see the great prophet Eliyahu himself. As every good chasid, does he went to the Baal Shem Tov and asked him how he may merit such a revelation. The Baal Shem Tov instructed the Chasid that if he was truly serious about his request, he should travel to a small village two days travel away and bring with him a large basket filled with food for the weekend. Dutifully the Chasid followed his orders and as he came to the small village in time for Friday night services he hoped for an invitation for a place of lodging. Much to his dismay though, no invitation was forthcoming so he knocked on the closest door with a mezuzah where he was greeted by a young widow with small children. He offered them his basket of food and spent Shabbat there with them, all the while on lookout for that heavenly prophet. When Shabbos was over and much to his disappointment he didn't meet any one that even resembled anything close to Eliyahu, he returned back to the Baal Shem with his failure.
The Baal Shem Tov however told him that he must try once again if he wanted to see the great prophet. So off again he went with his basket of food, arriving at the town and stopping off once again at the widow's house where he spent Shabbos with her children, waiting and waiting…But to no avail. Returning once again dejected, the Baal Shem Tov told him that the third time is "Gleeda (ice cream)". {He didn't really say that, it's just an Israeli maxim, whose meaning I have yet to understand, but kind of a more positive outlook than the" three strikes and you're out" American adage}. So off he went the third time. This time he figured maybe he should wait around in shul a little longer. Maybe Eliyahu would then pop in. But after waiting another hour he decided it was time to head on over to his usual place of lodging. As he reached the door though, he overheard the young child talking to his mother.
"Mommy, we don' have anything in the house to eat. I'm so hungry… What will we do?"
His mother answered him in words that pierced our Chasid's heart.
"Don't worry, my dear child. The past two weeks we also had no food and Hashem sent Eliyahu HaNavi to us to bring us a full basket of food. I'm sure he will come again this week…"
This week's Torah portion begins with the commandment to Moshe to
"Speak to the entire congregation of Israel and tell them they should be holy, for I Hashem their God is holy."
Rashi notes that this Torah portion and it's commandment contain most of the principles of the Torah and it was therefore read in front of the entire nation gathered together. The Torah's tips for holiness though might be somewhat counterintuitive to the modern day "spiritually seeking" ascetic viewpoint. There are no commandments to make random fasts, or meditations or to dip oneself in ritual baths frequently, practicing abstinence and being a vegetarian. Sorry to disappoint. The laws and directions here to becoming holy are pretty basic. "Don't steal, don't lie, don't curse, don't seek revenge, revere your parents, give charity, pay your workers on time, respect your elders, Don't gossip, don't hate your brother in your heart and of course love your friend as yourself." How are you ranking on the holiness scale?
How does all this make me holy? The answer suggests that great 19th century sage, the Chatam Sofer, is that holiness doesn’t' come from separating oneself from society and hiding in some cave somewhere and meditating on oneness of God and the universe. Holiness means recognizing that there is holiness already in each and every one of us. We are charged to treat our neighbors our friends, our employees, the world with the dignity of being in the presence of the Holy one Blessed be He, Hashem. We are meant to see ourselves as already being holy beings. Moshe was commanded to make this statement unique by gathering all of the people together so that even the lowest rungs of society, the sinners, the idolaters, the gossipers would all know that they also possessed that holiness. They would know it and the most righteous would know it about them as well. We all have the power to be Eliyahu HaNavi. We can all bring Mashiach today.
Pesach has ended, but it is not over. On Pesach we began the process of counting up to the ultimate function of our Exodus; to receive the Divine Revelation on Sinai and in the process achieving that highest level of human holiness possible. We became one with our Creator. We received His spirit within us and we were commanded to reveal that inner spark to all of mankind. Eliyahu came to our Seder to tell us that we are up to that task. Only holy people can experience that revelation. We don't need to hide under the table. We just need to appreciate our holiness enough to open up the door.
Have an absolutely Divine Shabbos and enjoy your Chametz Challah J!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 

"In a sense, we have all wandered away from our true selves. Birth is the beginning of our soul’s journey, sent off from its divine source to live in an unnatural state, a land of materialism. Throughout our lives, therefore, we crave to be reunited with our real selves. We search for our soul, for the G-dly spark within ourselves. We long to reconnect with our source”."- Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe

(answer below at end of Email)
The "Pools of the Arches" in Ramla was built by -
a) Haron Al Rashid
b)  Ibn Tulun
c)  Baybars
d)  Salaadin

"You shall love your fellow as yourself, I am HaShem' (V'yikra 19.18)

The end of the verse 'I am HaShem' is difficult to understand.  Why is it necessary for the verse to add this as a summation of the mitzvah? Rav Mendel of Kassov suggests that  the Gematria of  the word 'ahava/love' Alef=1 Heh=5 Beit=2 Heh= 5 is the same  as the Hebrew word for 'one' [Echad] - 13. This is to tell us that each person is supposed to love his fellow completely as if they were really one person. If he loves his fellow in this manner, and his fellow loves him in the same way, than together they have made the name of HaShem. This is because two times 'ahava' [2 x 13] has the same value of the four-letter name of HaShem [26]. This is the meaning of 'You shall love your fellow as yourself, I am HaShem.' When a Jew loves another completely and they
are as one, then they complete the name of HaShem. 


Amat HaTaninim, Beit Chanina-I had the opportunity to visit this neat little place over Pesach right in between Zichron Yakov and Hadera near the coastline. Its' really a great little place for families with little kids (although Pesach it was quite swamped). They have two crocodiles over there that are pretty neat to watch, a little pond and paddle boats, little train ride through the swamp/nachal that was once full of crocodiles. There are little water slides and fun sprinkler/watergun shooting things there as well for the little kids and they aoffer all types of activities by pre appointment making pitas and crafts. There is also a great little campground there. The spring is here so go camping and see our cool country!


Reb Shlomo's classic "you never know..you never know"

 Awesome and rare clip of the Kotel on Pesach from 1913

Zaidy and his little granddaughter  (let's call her Elka) were sitting talking when she asked, "Did Hashem make you, Zaidy?"
"Yes, Hashem made me," the grandfather answered.
 A few minutes later, the little girl asked him, "Did God make me too?
 "He most certainly did,sweetheart" the grandpa answered.
For a few minutes, the little girl seemed to be studying her grandpa, as well as her own reflection in a small mirror. Her grandfather wondered what was running through her mind. At last she spoke up. "You know, Grandpa," she said, "Hashem's been doing a lot better job lately." 

It was a small town and the Catholic Priest, the Protestant Minister and the Jewish Rabbi were very good friends. Of course, there was a lot of kidding and joking between them all year long.
To their surprise one year, the Priest and the Minister received a Christmas card from the Rabbi. It read:
"Roses are reddish, Violets are bluish When the Messiah really comes You'll wish you were Jewish."

Answer is A:  If you have not yet visited the pools of the arches it’s a really neat place to see it is one of the oldest remains from the Abassid Arabic period in the 8th century  more than 1200 years ago! It served as a water reservoir that was filled by an underground spring and was connected with aqauducts. Today it’s a cool place to take the family indoor boating through the glorious arches and ceilings that encase this pool. I know that probably most of the names don't have meaning to most of our readers and truth is I can't even tell you what the first two are known for. However the correct answer is A Good old  "Harry"..


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Of Mouth and Men-Acharey Mos/ Shabbat Hagadol, Pesach 2014/5774

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

April 10th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 26-10th of Nisan 5774
Parshat Acharei Mos/Shabbos Ha'Gadol/Pesach
Of Mouth and Men
It's all about the mouth. You may have heard people accuse us Jews of having a big mouth. It's true, but not in a negative way. Big as in great, big as in totally awesome, big as in it's like the essence of the entire universe, and I don't only mean New Yorkers. Although they perhaps contribute more to the mouth=universe equation. Maybe that’s why they feel sometimes that the entire world is really located between the George Washington Bridge and the Verrazano. But it truly is all about mouth. Let's take it from the beginning.
In the Beginning Hashem said- get that, He spoke- Let there be Light, Let there be trees, sun, moon, animals, a whole new world. And there was, and it was all good. Pretty awesome isn't it? But let's not miss the subtlety here. The world was created with the power of speech. Hashem didn't spit and there was water, or plant trees, or form animals. He said and they were. Except, of course for one creation; namely Man. Us. Man was formed from earth by Hashem and then the spirit of life was blown into him. The famous Targum defines that spirit, as the power of speech that differentiates man from all of creation. Holy speech. Speech that can create and sustain the universe. Or god forbid destroy it.
Adam's put in the garden. First job? Give names to all the animals. Use that Divine power of speech to give meaning and direction to all of creation. It is yours to uplift. Job number two? Eat from all the fruits of the garden, of course except for one. But the commandment was in fact to eat. Use that god given mouth of yours to raise up creation by ingesting it. Taste the sweetness of the universe. It was made for you. All for that holy mouth of ours.
But we failed. Eve tempts Adam. He eats, she eats…it's a bad start.  He blames her She blames snake. They both don't fess up to Hashem. The mouth has destroyed. Everybody out of the pool…
Fast forward about 2000 years. The world has another chance. Avraham and Sarah are teaching the world once again about our Creator. Hashem promises Avraham that his descendants will have the opportunity to once again restore light to the world. Yitzchak, Yaakov, 12 tribes, things are on the right track and then once again our mouths fail us. Yosef brings back evil words about the brothers to Yaakov (according to the Medrash, interestingly enough it is about them eating stuff he assumed they were not supposed to be eating). He tells them dreams that fail to inspire them. He's sold by them to Egypt. We leave Israel and our first exile begins. But there is hope. Moshe is born, fascinatingly enough our greatest leader to be suffers with a speech impediment. Yet ultimately he will be the only man in the history of the world, whose words and speech in the entire fifth book of the Torah are considered as if they are words of Hashem. He goes out to his brothers but sadly once again we become our own worst enemies as one Jew "snitches" on him. Our big mouths once again do us in. It is only years later when the men who spoke evil about him are through that Moshe can come back and the redemption can begin.
In that great first meeting with Hashem by the burning bush at age 80 Moshe is given his marching orders. It's time to engage in speech with Pharaoh, with the Jews, it's time to bring the people home. Of course the issue Moshe raises is his speaking disability. Hashem assures him though that his speech impediment will not be a problem. Aharon his brother will be with him and through the two of them the Peh/Mouth will be restored.
It is truly amazing when one looks at the text at how much of this conversation revolves around the power of that Peh.
Mi Sam peh L'Adam- who gave a mouth to man (or perhaps Adam?)
V'Samta Es HaDvarim B'piv And you shall place the words in his mouth
V'Anochi Eheyeh Im Picha V'Im Pihu-and I will be with your mouth and his mouth
Hu Yi'hiyeh Licha La'Peh V'Atah Tihiyeh Lo Lei'Lohim- he will as your mouth and you will as his master. (Exodus/Shmos 4:10-16)
Just in case you still had any doubts that it all comes down to the mouth. Our nemesis in the whole Egypt story is none other than an individual named Pharaoh, whose name in Hebrew is spelled with the letter Peh in the beginning and the letter Heh in the end which spell Peh or mouth. However those two letters are separated by the word Ra-evil. The power of the mouth is se"PEH"rated by evil. There is nothing more that Pharaoh fears during this entire saga than the Jewish people engaging their mouths and speaking/praying to Hashem. He raises the work load so that they shouldn't cry out. He refuses to even let them go for three days to pray even after the plagues begin to take their toll. Seemingly a minor request, unless you understand that when it comes to Israel any request is a big deal-some things never change.
If you think about the plagues as well many of them all come down to the mouth. Dam-Blood in their drinks, their water, the basic staple of life. But the Egyptian will not be able to use their mouths to even drink as long as they enslave us. (Aside this is an interesting thought to ponder as we read the Jewish prohibition to ingest blood in this week's Torah portion-I just had to write those words "this weeks Torah portion" and somehow connect this to our parsha…J) Frogs-noise loud croaking, truly a creature that utilizes its mouth in the service of Hashem. Lice as well for that matter are really about sucking and chewing whatever they leech on too, like little mouths hooked up all over your body. Animals similarly roars, screeches and ain't much scarier things than looking in the mouth of a lion or bear. The fifth plague though is perhaps the most interesting as it is the plague of pestilence, which is about dying animals, yet it is called Dever which also means speech. And so on and so on...you figure out the rest. What I find to be perhaps one of the best parts though is when Pharaoh starts to come around. He asks Moshe to pray for him (9:28) (10:17), and at the end he even asks for a blessing (12:32). The wicked mouth himself finally has recognized the incredible power that the Jewish Peh has.
And so we celebrate the holiday of Pessach. The holiday that is really all about the mouth. In fact our sages tell us that the word Pesach is a combination of two words Peh and Sach the mouth speaks. It is the only holiday where we actually have a biblical mitzvah to eat something specific. On this evening we will make the blessing Asher Kidishanu B'mitzvosuv V'Tzivanu Al Achilas-who has sanctified us with His Mitzvas and commanded us to eat. Eat Matzah. In the times of the temple we would make the blessing to eat the Pesach lamb and our rabbinic blessing is as well on the eating of Marror. We are returning to our status in the garden. Our eating is a mitzvah. It is also the only holiday where we are commanded to talk and tell stories. The story; to each child according to whom they are and the level at which they are at. Unlike all other mitzvos where we just merely have to do the mitzvah, tonight we have to explain, why we eat matzah, Pesach, Marror. What it's all about. He who increases speaking about our Exodus this evening is considered praiseworthy; as opposed to the general rule of which silence is golden and a sign of wisdom (my mother likes to remind me of that one quite often). We talk, we sing, we praise, our mouths reign supreme. We have removed the sin and curse of Adam of "by the sweat of your brow, you shall eat bread" by ridding ourselves of all bread and we have achieved the knowledge that "Man does not live by bread alone, rather by what comes out of the mouth of Hashem does man live.(Duet/Devarim 8:3)" He is our mouth. It is His kiss of life that we sing about in the Song of Songs on Pesach. We can return on our Seder night once again to that garden-like experience where our mouths sanctify Creation in our eating and our speaking.
This Shabbos is called Shabbos Ha'Gadol  the  "Big" Shabbos. Some explain the special name of this Shabbos is because it is customary that the Rabbi gives a long speech discussing the laws and insights of the holiday. Getting that mouth up and running-or at least get a feel like what your children will feel like if you talk too long J. Others describe the great miracle that took place on this Shabbos which was the 10th of Nissan as the Jews took the "deity" of the Egyptians the lamb and tied it to their bedposts in preparation of the Pesach sacrifice. Before Hashem redeemed us, we "redeemed" Him by destroying their idolatry and making our 1st Seder with unwavering faith in His redemption. But perhaps the most basic reason for calling it Shabbat Ha'gadol is because of the Haftorah we read this Shabbos, the last chapter and last prophecy in the books of Prophets that foretells of the great "Big" day.
"Then the ones who have feared Hashem spoke to one another and Hashem listened and heard… Behold I will send Eliayhu Ha'Navi before the "big" and awesome day and he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the children to their fathers…"
 May our mouths merit this year not only to tell the story of Pesach, drink the wine, eat the Matzah and Marror, but may we also eat that Pesach lamb and holiday sacrifice as we sing the praise of Hashem on that big and great day.
Have a big, great and awesome Shabbos and exhilarating Pesach
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 

"Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged."-Ronald Reagan

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others" –Nelson Mandela

"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."- Jean-Paul Sartre

(answer below at end of Email)
The Roman city of Tiverya (Tiberias) was built by -
a) Herod
b)  Hadrian
c)  Cassius Gallus
d)  Herod Antipas

Dough in Hebrew is EESA-whose gematria is ayin=70 yud=10 samach=60 heh=5 total 145
Chametz/leaven in gematria is chet=8 mem=40 tzadik= 90 totalling= 138. The difference between the two is of course seven, which is not only the seven days of pesach, but in Hebrew actually zayin the 7th letter means weapon. The seven days of pesach when remove the Chametz from our dough is our weapon our sages tell us with which to battle the yetzer harah our evil inclination. .


Tiberias-Old City-One of the four "Holy Cities" of Israel (can you name the others?)that correspond to the four basic elements of the world, Tiverya which sits on the Kinneret corresponds to of course water. The lowest city on the planet (the Dead Sea is the lowest place but no cities there), Tiverya was one of the greatest cities of Torah in the history of Israel. It was here that the 1st Talmud was written (called the Jerusalem Talmud, in memory of the destroyed city), here was the last resting place of the Sanhedrin and here is as well was the finalization of the debates between the schools of Ben Asher and Ben Naftali regarding the cantilation and vowelization of the Torah. A stroll through the old city by the boardwalk of Tiverya today one can see the ancient Ottaman city with remains of its Christian, Muslim and Jewish quarters, the old synagogues of Reb Chaim Abulafia, Chabad, Karlin, the old shul of the Shela Ha'Kadosh (under the Greek orthodox church) as well as remains of the Shuls from the 4th -6th century the period of the mishna and Talmud. The boardwalk itself is fun to stroll down and see the large Kinneret shaped meter that measures the water level of the Kinneret as well as the shops, restaurants and Coney Island like attractions (much to my annoyance- haunted house and all). All in all a visit to Israel and certainly the North is incomplete without visiting this always fun and cool city.


My new favorite song of this holiday season..just beautiful "Chasal"

Funny stuff people say at the Pesach Seder (yeshivish people will certainly appreciate this)

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Adir
Adir who?
Adirhu, Adirhu, Bim-hay-ra, Bim-hay-ra….

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Noah.
Noah who?
Noah good reason why this night is different than all others?

Knock, knock Who's There? Anita
Anita who?
Anita eat much more matzah to be yotzei

Knock knock Who's there? Cash. 
Cash who? 
No thanks, Nuts are kitniyos of Passover 

Knock Knock! Who’s there? Leena!
Leena who?
Leena little closer to the left, we recline at the seder!  

Knock Knock! Who’s there? Sadie.
Sadie who?
Sadie Ma Nishtana already! We've been waiting all year!

Knock Knock! Who’s there? Phillip 
Phillip who?
Phillip your cup again, it’s time for the second cup of wine.   

Knock Knock! Who’s there? Venice.
Venice who?
Venice they going to serve dinner at this seder – I’m starving

Knock knock.Who's there? Honey bee. 
Honey bee who? 
Honey bee a dear and bring over the cup for washing our hands

Knock, Knock! Who’s There? Howie
 Howie who? 
Howie gonna finish this seder faster! 

Knock, Knock Who's there? Pudding! 
Pudding who? 
Pudding a little too much charoses on your marror are we?

Knock Knock Who's there? Orange 
Orange who?
Orange you going to answer the door? It’s me Elijah I’ve been sitting here for an hour

Answer is C:  Herod Antipas (or Antipater) was an interesting individual in the history of the Israel and possibly the world. The youngest son of Herod- the "King of the Jews" who built the temple and other monumental sites in Israel and who was not the greatest father figure, having killed most of his other sons as well as thousands of others, his son Herod Antipas took his place as ruler of the Galile. Trying to live up to his fathers reputation he built the city of Tiverya as the capital of the north and was actually pretty good to the Jews allowing them to build the Torah capital of the north there. He is perhaps most famous though for having John the Baptist killed (he got kind of insulted when john condemned his divorce from his marriage to marry his brothers wife). He is also the Herod in the new testament who handed over the founder of Christianity (JC) to Pontius Pilate refusing to judge him.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Never Lonely Man of Faith- Metzora 2014/5774

Insights and Inspiration

from the

Holy Land

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

"Your friend in Karmiel"

April 4th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 25-4th of Nisan 5774
Parshat Metzora
The Never Lonely Man of Faith

"And the waitress is practicing politics, as the business men slowly get stoned, Yes, they'e sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it's better than drinking alone…" I always loved that image of a bar or smoky nightclub a bunch of people sitting around, drinking, commiserating, soaking up their worries, their trivialities, kvetching about their families, their jobs, the government…whatever. I don't seem to be alone in appreciating that scene, in fact one of the longest running TV shows, "Cheers" was precisely just a show about that; a bunch of shleppers sitting around in a local tavern. But one needs not popular culture to recognize and appreciate the scene and the people at your local tavern. There are stories abound of great Chasidic Rebbes, perhaps most prominent among them Rebbe Nachman of Breslav, who would frequent these places in order to mingle with the "amcha", the plain old working man Joe or Yankel and to take great lessons and insights from the simple Shikkur/Drunk sitting behind the bar nursing his vodka. Today I don't that think society would accept that from any great Rebbes, but who knows maybe one day…

The truth is I've never really done that scene, personally. Yes, I know it's a glaring omission on my resume of accomplishments. But I'm just more of a happy-go-lucky people person that, thank god, has never really been in a lonely situation that required the therapy of a local watering hole. Between, Yeshiva, work, family life, Torah study, touring around and having fun as well as being a Rabbi that thank god has many people that I am fortunate to spend many quality hours with assisting, I really don't get that loneliness sense that Reb Billy Yoel described so poignantly above. But I have seen it among sadly too many people. It is perhaps one of the most tragic things that a Rabbi has to hear. "I don't feel I have anyone" "I feel so alone" "Nobody cares". Widows, divorcees, older singles, new immigrants, homeless people, there are so many out there in every community that wake up every morning and go to sleep each night after spending an entire day without any meaningful human connection, without a sense that there is no one out there on this planet to whom their existence has any meaning. It is heartbreaking and it is certainly not Jewish. Perhaps it is for that reason that our holy books repeatedly tell us that it is to these people that Hashem is most closest. He is their father, their love, their protector, their confidant. With Him they are never alone.

This week we read the Torah portion of a Jew that has been mandated to be isolated. The Metzora, the one who has been afflicted with the spiritual malady that is reflected most similarly to leprosy, is ordered to spend a week or two or three or until he is cured alone outside of all the camps of the Jewish people. Alone. By him or her self. No human contact. Not even sharing a drink called loneliness with other Metzora's. There wasn't even a bar called the White Lepers down at the corner where he could just go to bond with others, "where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came." 
He was in time-out. How sad…how tragic...

Our sages tell us that the reason for his Tzora'as is antisocial behavior that include primarily gossiping/Lashon Harah, stinginess and arrogance. "He has separated with his negativity speech between man and his friend so shall he be separated and isolated." How lonely it must be for him at his Shabbos table, at his home alone at night. Yet that recognition is meant to heal him. For all alone with no one else to turn to, one begins to contemplate Hashem, one begins to think about how important it is to have someone. How life without social contact, without a society within which I can make my spiritual impact is really not living. It is for that reason our sages tell us that a Metzora is like a dead person. As one comes to that recognition than one begins to appreciate that we all have a purpose. We all have a connection with Hashem. My friends, the Jews on my block, the people who I have mistreated or perhaps even worse ignored. Each one of them have a spiritual purpose in this world just as much as I do. In that light there's never any room or point for negative talk, to feel better than others or to hold back from giving and sharing. We're all in the same Divine boat of this world and we are all here to bring forth that glory that can only happen when we are all together.

There is an interesting relationship between the purification and re-entry into the camp and another in individual. Sacrifices are brought and blood is placed upon his ear, his thumb and his toe and then he returns to the camp. In a previous E-Mail we focused on the toe (which is thank god doing better-if you missed that one you can read it here­ http://holylandinsights.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/toe-tally-awesome-tetzaveh-57742014.html - why not make a donation once you're in the neighborhood J), yet here it is the ear that catches my interest, particularly as we approach the holiday of Pesach. The Torah tells us about a Jewish slave who wishes to remain in servitude longer than the six year term that the Torah mandates. We are told that he is brought to the doorpost V'Ratza Adonuv es Ozno Ba'Martzeah.- and the owner pierces his ear with the needle. Our sages connect that this refers to his right ear as we learn this from the Metzora (fascinatingly the words are very similar the Mar'tzeah/ Metzora), and the reason why the ear is pierced "for the ear that heard on Sinai that "the Jewish children are My slaves" that went and took another master for himself should be pierced. Why does one want to remain a slave? Why would someone refuse his opportunity for freedom? It is because he has forgotten that he has a Divine mandate and purpose to reveal that special Sinai knowledge and light to the world. He feels he is somewhat a second-class citizen. He erroneously believes that there is even such a thing as second-class citizen in Judasim. He forgot what he heard that we are all first class. We are all equally servants of the Almighty. The blood on his ear, just as the blood on the Metzora's ear is to remind him of that moment on Sinai. When we stood together and all equally heard and accepted our love, responsibility and commitment for one another as we join to serve Hashem. Perhaps the ear piercing as well is done by the doorpost, as well as the Metzorahs ear sprinkling by the door way to the Tabernacle to help them recall that first doorpost long ago in Egypt that we placed our Pesach sacrifice blood upon. When we left the slavery of Egypt behind, when we made our first Pesach Seder.

Pesach is around the corner. In another week and a half we will be sitting down to our Seder. Yet before we begin our main mitzvah of the evening of re-telling and reliving the story of our Exodus and of our leaving the servitude of Pharaoh for the Divine service of Hashem, our sages added in a little paragraph. We raise our matza and recite. "This is the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate in Egypt. All who are hungry, come join us and eat, all who are needy come make Pesach with us, This year we are slaves, next year we shall be free, this year we are here, next year we shall be in Eretz Yisrael." How amazing is this short paragraph. How essential it is to all that will come this evening. Our sages understand that we cannot possibly convey to our children the essence of our freedom unless, if there is another Jew that still remains needy…that still feels alone. I am not really free of the Pharoah Egypt 2nd class slavery, if I have a brother or sister that has not been redeemed with me. I can't fully complete the purpose of my redemption, the revelation of the spark of Hashem in each and everyone of us, if there is somewhere a Jew that has yet to experience that freedom, that spark. Let's not wait until our Seder to make that statement. We all sadly, know someone that is alone, someone who has yet to feel appreciated for that special spark that they possess. To paraphrase my friend Gershon Veroba "Let's share in that spark we call holiness and with that we will see that new day."

Have a friendly Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 


"Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing."  

 "If your house is really a mess and a stranger comes to the door, greet him with, "Who could have done this? We have no enemies."

 " Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance? "- Phyllis Diller


 Here comes Pesach Blues…funny just to keep you smiling and something to hum to this week


(answer below at end of Email)

A "Minbar" is a Arabic term for -

a) A prayer niche facing east

b)  the eastern wall

c)  the lectern used by the Mukhtar

d)  The prayer steeple on top of a mosque


The gematria of the word Metzora is 400. Our sages tell us that one of the spiritual causes of this form of spiritual leperosy is one who is a Ra Ayin one who has a bad eye or stingy. Interestingly enough Efron the person in the Torah who sold Avraham the burial plot of Sara was referred to as well as a Ra Ayin asking the exorbitant price of you guessed it 400 shekel silver (thus setting the tone for overpriced real estate values in Israel eternally). His name Efron which is written without the Vav also equals 400. Interestingly enough as well Esav chases after Yaakov with 400 men again out of jealousy and dissatisfaction with Yackov's' fortune. 400 being that magic number.


Eilat/Taba Crossing-We are told to remember leaving Egypt. Well in Eilat our border with Egypt every Pesach the chief Rabbi of the city goes down to the border and sings the song of the Sea. The only jewish community to be able to do that in the world. Our border with Egypt is actually an open border and Israelis can even enter without a visa. The reason is because in 1948 this was on egypts side of the border in 1956 we took it back until 1957 and in 1967 it was again in Egypt's hand after the Yom Kippur war Egypt maintained it as well but in our peace agreements with Menachem Begin and Sadat it was the last thing to be settled because Israel realized that it was on our side of the Ottaman border. And in 1988 it was finally ruled in Egyptian hands with the conditions that Israelis can enter with ease. Mnay due their duty free-shoppiing there and over a million cross each year. In the times of leaving Egypt before Mt. Sinai the 9th through 13th stop of the Jews were all around this area. Technically becoming the first part of modern day Israel we entered before we entered 40 years later by Yericho.


Yankel goes to see his supervisor in the front office. "Boss," he says, "we're doing some heavy Pesach-cleaning at home tomorrow, and my wife needs me to help with the attic and the garage, moving and hauling stuff."

"We're short-handed, Yankel" the boss replies. "I can't give you the day off."

"Thanks, boss," says Yankel "I knew I could count on you!"


 Shaina is a less than fastidious housekeeper. One evening her husband returned home from work, walked into the kitchen and teased her, "You know, dear, I can write my name in the dust on the mantel." Mom turned to him and sweetly replied, "Yes, darling, I know. That's why I married a college graduate.


An enthusiastic door-to-door vacuum salesman goes to the first house in his new territory.He knocks, a real mean and tough looking lady opens the door, and before she has a chance to say anything, he runs inside and dumps cow patties all over the carpet.He says, "Lady, if this vacuum cleaner don`t do wonders cleaning this up, I`ll eat every chunk of it."She turns to him with a smirk and says, "You want ketchup on that?"The salesman says, "Why do you ask?"She says, "We just moved in and we haven`t got the electricity turned on yet."



Answer is C:  Here's a brief lesson in Arabic terms for things in a mosque that you will never need- unless you become a tour guide and than you must know it until you pass the exam and can immediately afterwards delete them from your memory- the niche in the wall in which they pray is called a michrab (called that way because people would leave their swords cherev in Hebrew there as a mosque is of course a place of peace). The wall that faces towards mecca is called kibla which is the direction of prayer-interestingly enough originally mohammed had them praying to Jerusalem until he made Haj (the journey to Medina) and then he allowed them to pray in both directions until he switched it wanting to differentiate his new religion from the Jews. The minaret from where the Muezzins call out to prayer 5 times a day from is called a Mad'aana (wonder what she has to say about that) because that is where there Ad'ahan (which means listen like the word ozen in Hebrew ear or Chazan/cantor) it includes the phrase "prayer is better than sleep" which is kind of nice. The lectern or raised platform where the Imam speaks from is called the Minbar which is similar to the word L'avor to pass before similar again to Hebrew where the cantors job is to pass before the congregation La'avor Lifnei Ha'Teiva. Now that you know this you can delete it from your memory.