Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 4th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 25-4th of Nisan 5774
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...
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S PHYLLIS DILLER CLEANING QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FUNNY PESACH YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Here comes Pesach Blues…funny just to keep you smiling and something to hum to this week
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE 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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
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.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
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.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S CLEANING JOKES OF THE WEEK
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."**************************************
RABBI SCHWARTZ' S EXAM ANSWER OF THE WEEK
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.