Our view of the Galile

Thursday, May 1, 2014

This Land is His Land-ThisLland is my Land-Emor 2014/5774

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

May 2nd  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 28-2nd of Iyar 5774
 (17th day of the Omer-one week and two days!)
Parshat Emor
This Land is His Land-This land is my land

Ahmed had been there since the beginning. He remembered the 6 Day war and the Egyptians leaving the area and the Jews slowly beginning to develop the sand dunes in Gaza, a place they called Katif. All of Ahmad's friends laughed at these silly Jews who thought that they would actually grow anything in these wretched sand dunes that had never produced anything jelly fish and sun burns, but Ahmed held his tongue. It's not a good idea to laugh at or underestimate these Jewish infidels. Somehow or another they beat us in the last two fights wars, despite what Al-Jazeera might say. Better to watch and wait and see. Who knows? Maybe they know something about this land that we don't.

Ahmed was right not to laugh. Within a decade Gush Katif was producing 320 thousand tons of agricultural products annually and over a half billion shekels annually in sales. 65% of Israel's organic products and 90% of its revolutionary bug-free vegetables were the pride and joy that testified to the miracle and blessing experienced by the brave settlers who built a glorious empire in those once desolate sand dunes. The Arab population also flourished along with the settlers success. Thousands of Palestinian employees like Ahmed worked the greenhouses together with their generous and kind Jewish owners and they as well saw success in their endeavors. But then the terror started. The missiles began to fly.  Cars, house, once peaceful neighborhoods and even school buses filled with children became fair game for the bloodthirsty animals that only sought death and destruction. The first and second intifadas reigned hell upon the residents of Gush Katif, yet still their resolve only became stronger. They would remain, they would persevere. They knew that their return after centuries to the former stomping grounds of Samson, King David and over 2000 years of Jewish life that once flourished in this area was a Divine mission. And there was no backing down from something like that.

But we did. In perhaps the blackest moment of our 60 year history on the tenth of Av, the day when the Temple burned down, the once proud Jewish army expelled 15,000 Jews from their homes. Their one proud shuls were destroyed and desecrated their fields and greenhouses were handed over to uor enemies. Ahmed, was never one of the fanatic ones, but he was also not one to miss an opportunity. He knew these fields. He knew the technology and methodology the Jews had used to build and grow their agricultural kingdom. He took over the farms of his former owners and he started to dream about the fortunes that would soon be his. "Oh the pitas and hummus he would eat, the camels he would buy, the wives he would marry (sorry I couldn't resist J)…" . But something happened. It didn't work. The sand went back to being sand. Jelly fish, sunburns and all. Nothing grew. The party was over. Ahmed called his former employees, now living in some makeshift  caravan somewhere that nobody really seems to care about, and asked him if he could give him some tips. What were they doing wrong? They hadn't changed a thing. My friend Yossi of Gush Katif told them. The land is our beloved, our harp, our betrothed and bequeathed it will only play, sing and respond to that special caress that our Jewish souls can bring it. I'm sorry Ahmed.  But like the Israel Post Office, most Israel Bureaucrats and politicians and the guy that is supposed to finish fixing my shower he installed a year and half ago the land is on strike, not working and pretty much not interested in you. It's never good to underestimate the Jews and our special country.

This week the Torah portion is one of the most read ones as the bulk of it concerns itself with the Jewish holidays and the sacrifices that are brought. Perhaps most fascinating is the description of the period of time that we are currently between Pesach and Shavuot that we call the Omer period. What makes it so fascinating is that the way we relate to this time on our calendar as a time of mourning for the students of Rabbi Akiva and the various tragedies that took place in this time frame during the Crusades and the Chimlininsky Pogroms, in the times when we had the Temple it was entirely different. It was a period of celebration. Maimonides describes the awesome scene that would take place the 2nd Day Pesach which would be celebrated even if it fell out on Shabbos. The various Jewish communities would go out to the field with three large sickles and in an elaborate ceremony they would wait until it was clearly evening (remember this was perhaps the only ceremony to ever be held even on Shabbos during the night-a real Kabbalat Shabbat) and then they would declare that it was 1) night 2) a sickle and 3) that it was permissible to chop. The barley would be chopped taken to the Temple, gorund made in to flour and baked and waved around the altar and voila we could finally all go home and have our Kosher for Pesach matzah ball soup (the customs of g'brokst were not in the Temple as evident from this sacrifice which would be mixed with oils and liquids) What a Pesach party! With this cutting of the Omer all the new grain that would be chopped would then be permitted to be eaten. The Omer period and the counting that took place after was  celebration of being able to buy the new wheat. Oh yeah and a count up to the receiving of the Torah as well. But the Torah strangely seems to leave that second fact out.

Shavuot is in fact seemingly the most important holiday and yet once again the Torah seems to focus on the field… the land. It is noted as the day when the two loaves of bread would be brought in the temple nice warm Challah that would be waved as well from the new crops. It's what makes the day holy. Not what we might think and what we have focused on from all years from kindergarten and up about the revelation of Hashem to us as a nation, the exuberant Naaseh v'Nishma-we will do and we will listen" response that we unanimously gave, or even the perhaps the once in our long history when we all stood together "as one man with one heart". The holiday is about the culmination of the mysterious Omer count- the process of us being able to farm and cut our barley, wheat and grains of the new agricultural year and ultimately bring some freshly baked challah to the Temple.

Rav Kook the first chief Rabbi of "Palestine" in the 1920's in an incredible essay suggests that these ideas are perhaps most revealing of one of the most powerful principles of Judaism. The Torah, the commandments, the holiness and the Divine spirit are not neccesarily only to be found in the Temple, the study halls or even in the houses of prayer. Our connection to Hashem and our mandate on this world is to raise up the holiness from the fields and farmlands as well. Hashem didn't just give us Eretz Yisrael as a convenient pretty place to live (I know a great tour guide if you don't believe me J), or as a place of refuge where we could live and worship in peace without anyone trying to kill us. Eretz Yisrael is given to us so that we may show the world that Hashem runs every aspect of Creation. He can be found in the field while we sweat and plant, harvest and reap, He's found during the week as much as He's found on Shabbos. Our holiest job is building, not a temple or study hall for Hashem, but rather a work place that sings out to the world the sanctity of our Creator and our people, acres and acres of fields where people, stop to pray, dedicate the corners and the droppings to the poor and bring their first fruits and grains to the Almighty. We are meant to build a mini-world in this Holy God gifted land that will shine out to the rest of the planet. Where all will learn and know that the Almighty fills the world. And they will see that we are only here and able to partake in all of His blessing when we sanctify our day-today lives by showing that our simplest ability to even eat that most basic staple of life-a good pita-only comes after we first sanctify that first barley crop to Him. It's why we wave it in all directions of the universe. It’s why we even do this on Shabbos. For just as Shabbos is that ultimate sign of Hashem having created the world. This is the sign of His continuous running of it.

Every day that I am here in Israel, I am privileged to feel that special blessing and connection. It's no wonder why the land doesn’t work for the other nations that have tried for millennia to grow something here and failed. The land only produces holy fruit and it only produces for holy farmers. This week the country celebrates perhaps one of the most misnamed holidays on the calendar. The 5th of Iyar 1948 when Israel declared its Independence was truly a miraculous day. We had come home. Hashem had brought us back. The land would start producing. We now for the first time had the opportunity to become fully dependent on Hashem. In Galus sadly enough we more often than not felt independent of Him. How scary that exile feeling and hiddenness of Hashem's hand it was…it still is. But once we have been blessed to return, we need to bring that Omer offering. We need to tell the world that it is all His. How incredible and cool it would be to have an Israeli Dependence day- the day that we tell the world that even the bread on my table and the barley I feed to my cow it is all holy and it is all from Him.

Don't get me wrong. I love a party and certainly believe that it is amazing that the Jewish people celebrate and rejoice in the fact that we are back home, even those that have not yet made the move. Those that recite the Hallel on the day as well, certainly note how all of the prayers and psalms of Hallel are about how Hashem should save us and how nothing is possible without Him. But it is perhaps appropriate as well that this day falls out during the Omer period. For there is no better time to realize that we are still not there yet. We still must count until that final day when even Ahmed will sing this land is our land, for it is Hashem's land.

Have an spectacular Shabbos, a meaningful Yom Hazikaron and an awesome BBQ this Yom Ha'atzamut.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 


"I had faith in Israel before it was established … I believe it has a glorious future before it – not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization"
-Harry S Truman former president of the United States (I couldn't agree moreJ)

(answer below at end of Email)
Dolmens are -
a) Burial monuments from 2300 BC
b)  A Temple from the 18th century
c)  A Karstic geological phenomena a valley without outlet
d)  A unique Roman architectural specific to the Roman era

(I can't vouch for the veracity of this one from blogger yeranen Yaakov but its still pretty cool and who knows?)
In Parshat Emor, it talks about Sefirat Ha'omer-
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת, תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם; וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה, לַיהוָה
"And you shall count for yourselves the day after Shabbos (Pesach) from the day of your bringing the waving of the Omer measurement (of barley); 7 weeks, complete from the day after the 7th week 50 days. And you shall bring a new offering for Hashem."

Perhaps, it's telling us the following as a Remez/ hint to our redemption.
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת-And you should count from the day after the original Shabbat of Creation  

מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה- From the day you collectively - as souls within Adam (the first Man) - brought the sacrifice that Adam Harishon brought on the first Sunday after he was created (as per the Rif on Ein Yaakov on Avoda Zara 8a)

שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָהThe Gematria of  the next verseof 7 complete weeks is 2580 -
In Gemtaria if we multiply this number by two (based on the concept that  have a mitzvah to read each verse twice-Shnayim Mikra) we get 5700
The next word Ahd-until  would be another 74 years to give us 5774 (this year!!)

מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת, תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם- עַד-From the day after the 7 week (from Pesach) count 50 days

וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה, לַיהוָה
We will again all bring a new Korban Minha to Hashem then with Israel God willing redeemed…

Rujm-El Hiri, Golan Heights- This is definitely a cool place in Israel, although it is best appreciated from an airborne view of the site. Israel's "Stonehenge", is this ancient prehistoric monument of concentric circles (4 of them) the tallest outer circle being 8 foot tall and about 520 feet in diameter. In the middle is a 15ft high dolmen but what the structure with about 42,000 baslat stones that scientists estimate could’ve taken close to 100 years to build is a mystery. Is it a burial monument? A solar calendar? An astronomical lookout? A landing site for aliens (sci-fi geeks come out there every year during the solstice)?. Jewish tradition is of course that this area biblically known as Bashan was the home of giants. The most famous being Og of course who was killed by Moshe. In fact in Hebrew the site is known as the Galgal Refaim-the wheel of giants. Was Og buried here? Perhaps Goliath some suggest. Guess we'll never know…

During Sefira the custom is not to listen to any instrumental music thus the development of cool acapella genre of jewish music here's a few cool clips…

Armon-Ya- Tzemach tzedek song

 Maccabeats Dror Yikra- my kids love this one (can you do the table cup thing?)

The Sunday school lesson had just finished and the rabbi asked if the children had any questions. Little David quickly raised his hand.
"Yes, David? What question would you like to ask me?"
"I have four questions to ask you, Rabbi. Is it true that after the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, they then received the Ten Commandments?"
"Yes, David."
"And the children of Israel also defeated the Philistines?"
"Yes, David, that's also true."
"And the children of Israel also fought the Romans and fought the Egyptians and built the Temple?"
"Again you are correct, David."
"So my last question is, Rabbi, what were the grown-ups doing all this time?"

As you may know, in a slalom race the skier must pass through about 20 "gates" in as little time as possible. Well, it happened that Israel had the fastest slalom-skier in the world, and the country had great expectations for an Olympic gold medal.
The day of the final came, and the crowd waited in anticipation. The French champion sped down the course in 38 seconds. The Swiss was clocked at 38.7 seconds, the German at 37.8 seconds, and the Italian at 38.1 seconds. Then came the turn of the Israeli. The crowd waited, and waited...SIX MINUTES!
"What happened to you?" screamed his trainer when the Israeli finally arrived. Replied the exhausted Israeli: "Which of those guys fixed a mezuzah to each gate
Benny from Haifa passed away and was sent ‘below’. He was amazed, however, to discover lush vegetation, running streams, waterfalls and beautiful lakes everywhere. Everyone seemed happy.
“You look surprised,” said a resident.
“Yes, I am,” replied Benny, “I expected hell to be very dry and exceedingly hot. Like a desert. But all I can see are trees full of all kinds of fruit, beautiful flowers, lots of vegetables, lush grass and water everywhere. This is not hell”
“Well,” said the resident, “it used to be like you thought, but then the Israelis started to arrive and they irrigated the heck out of the place!”

Answer is A:  One of the more interesting things in Israel are the pre-Jewish historic sites. Some of the worlds oldest evidence and finds of "pre-historic" stone age (think Flintstones") are found all over Israel but particularly in the North and the Golan area. Dolmens are found in the Golan heights and were ancient burial tombs. A hike near Gamla in Israel one can see many of them over there. They are found all over the world however interestingly enough the majority of them are found in Korea. But like everything in the world Israel doesn't get left out of anything interesting.


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