Insights and Inspiration
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FREEDOM QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
The Roman city of Tiverya (Tiberias) was built by -
c) Cassius Gallus
d) Herod Antipas
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
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. .
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
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.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ELIYAHU HANAVI YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
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)
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S CLEANING JOKES OF THE WEEK
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Adir
Adirhu, Adirhu, Bim-hay-ra, Bim-hay-ra….
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Noah.
Noah good reason why this night is different than all others?
Knock, knock Who's There? Anita
Anita eat much more matzah to be yotzei
Knock knock Who's there? Cash.
No thanks, Nuts are kitniyos of Passover
Knock Knock! Who’s there? Leena!
Leena little closer to the left, we recline at the seder!
Knock Knock! Who’s there? Sadie.
Sadie Ma Nishtana already! We've been waiting all year!
Knock Knock! Who’s there? Phillip
Phillip your cup again, it’s time for the second cup of wine.
Knock Knock! Who’s there? Venice.
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 gonna finish this seder faster!
Knock, Knock Who's there? Pudding!
Pudding a little too much charoses on your marror are we?
Knock Knock Who's there? Orange
Orange you going to answer the door? It’s me Elijah I’ve been sitting here for an hour
RABBI SCHWARTZ' S EXAM ANSWER OF THE WEEK
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.