Our view of the Galile

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Don't Ask- Chukas 2014/5774

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

June 27th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 35-29th  of Sivan 5774
Parshat Chukas
Don't Ask
One of the more frustrating stereotypical accusations made against the Jewish people is that “They all ways answer a question with a question”. Why would anyone say that? Do we always answer a question that way? And even if we did is there anything wrong with it? Oops.

Perhaps one of the reasons why we are this way is because we have a deeply ingrained nature to find the truth and to clarify it. The responsibility of being the nation chosen by God to preserve and deliver that truth to mankind has to a large degree embedded itself into our natural psyche of communication as Lukshen (noodles) to chicken soup. So we ask and ask and ask again to clarify and to achieve the ultimate understanding of all aspects of everything. Yet there is wisdom about asking questions the first part of which is to understand from whence the question comes.

There is a story about Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik who had student from the Volozhiner Yeshiva in Lithuania who had left the yeshiva and the path of an observant lifestyle. In those times in the early 1900’s it was unfortunately not uncommon. It was a very turbulent time. Judaism was under assault. There were some very precocious minds in Volozhin. Not everyone withstood the temptations of the Haskalah, of Socialism, of Communism, and the other "isms" that were prevalent in that era.

Many years later, Rav Chaim happened to be in another city and this wayward student came to see him. He said to his old Rebbi, "I have so many questions about Judaism, so many questions of faith. Will you sit down and talk to me about them?"

Rav Chaim responded, "I'll be glad to sit down and talk to you about your questions. I'll talk to you the whole night. But first you must answer one of mine: When did you first develop your questions before you smoked your first cigarette on Shabbos or after?” the student answered that the questions had developed after his Shabbos desecration. “If that is the case”, Rabbi Soloveitchik responded. “Than your questions are not really questions they are excuses and answers to rationalize your behavior. I can answer questions but for answers there are no solutions”.

Very often in the work that I do I meet many individuals with questions. People honestly searching to discover answers to difficulties, problems and issues that challenge them in the modern world. I also meet quite a few individuals that have answers that are presented in the form of questions. Most typically those questions revolve around times of tragedy and catastrophe and of why bad things happen to good people. It is very rare to find someone troubled with the philosophical issues of why good things are happening to them. It seems that it is only when things go south that many “questions” arise.

This weeks Torah portion is called Chukas which means Laws or decrees without explanation. It describes the fascinating purification process of the sprinkling of the ashes of the Red Heifer that was undergone to extricate oneself from the impurity of having come in contact with death. Although many commentators give various explanations to the symbolism and meaning of various aspects of the process, the aspect that many point to as the unexplainable or decree is, that the process is one that makes Tamei or unpure the Kohain (priest) who performs it and it makes pure the one who is being sprinkled upon. How is it possible that the same act that brings purity should come from a process that makes the Kohen impure?
The answer

“Gezeirah Hi Milfonai Omar Hashem, V’ain lecha Reshus Le’Harher Acharehea”- It is a decree from before me God says, and you should not attempt to question it.

I find it significant that it is particularly here in dealing with the issue of how one extricates oneself from the spiritual morbidity and Tumah that accompanies one who is beset with the tragedy of a death, that Hashem chooses to declare a Chok or decree that is beyond the comprehension of man. Shouldn’t this be the one area where we should have an explanation? Where the questions of how can I move beyond this tragedy, or how can a loving God ever do this to me, be answered.

The answer my friends I believe is a very powerful one. It is that our questions are not really questions they are expressions of grief. They are answers to rationalize the pain and the distance we experience upon coming in contact with tragedy. This is not a time for questions nor is it a time for answers. It is a time for the recognition of the truth that is ingrained in us from the moment we receive our first sweet breath of fresh air provided for us by our loving Father in Heaven. “It is a decree from before me”, Hashem says, that purity and connection can come out of that which feels most distant, from that which feels so lonely. It is here more than anywhere else where the process of healing is described and premised on the concept of Faith. For many other Mitzvos we are encouraged to explore, understand, question and discover answers. For the Parah Adumah the Red heifer whose process is to relieve one from the sense of death and its accompanying Tumah it is only through acceptance first that the healing can begin.

Yes, we are a people of questions. It is perhaps those questions that have kept the study of Torah and the vibrancy of its lessons so alive three thousand years after its being given. Yet what truly makes us a people is our ability and capacity to recognize when not to ask, rather to accept. We live in a world and in a country particularly (at least I do…) where there are so many terrible things that happen. Innocent children, crying families, a nation praying for the return of our boys. How? Why? What are we supposed to do? What can we do? But sometimes questions should not be our response. When we recognize that sometimes the areas that are most difficult to come to grips with, are truly only the decree from the same loving Hashem who shares with us in our pain. The process of an even greater connection will then be an imminent result. And isn’t that something we all hope to achieve? May Hashem have mercy on his children and continue to watch over us and may the merit of our faith in His salvation soon bear the fruits of our ultimate redemption.

Have a Shabbos that is full of joy and a Chodesh that brings us only rejoicing

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 

May it be Your will, HaShem, my God and the God of my forefathers, to fill the flaw of the moon that there be no diminution in it. May the light of the moon be like the light of the sun and like the light of the seven days of creation, as it was before it was diminished, as it is said: ‘The two great luminaries.’ And may there be fulfilled upon us the verse that is written: They shall seek HaShem, their God, and David, their king. Amen-Kiddush Levana- the prayer for the sanctification of the new moon.

The Rosh Chodesh sin offering is brought as an atonement to for Hashem for minimizing the moon as it says a he goat sin offering for Hashem- Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish- 4th century Talmudic sage (ponder that amazing statement…)

(answer below at end of Email)
The Chalcholite area of Ein Gedi has
a)  a closed building surrounding a spring that served as a temple to their water god
b)  a small fortress that served as a factory to produce their spices
c)  an area that has two rooms and an open courtyard and a circular structure in the middle
d)  a building where copper ritual prayer paraphernalia were found


Words of strength and faith from Rachel Frenkel mother of one of the boys

 Return again by Reb Shlomo Carlebach in prayer  of our three sons return

Bring back our boys song beautiful and heartwrenching

Please keep in mind in your prayers, in whatever charity or good deeds you do or whatever Torah you learn the names of our three sons

1. Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah
2. Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim
3. Eyal ben Iris Teshurah
as well as all our brave soliders who are out there in the trenches looking for them. May Hashem see them returned quickly to us. 

The Portion begins with the word Zos Chukat HaTorah these are the laws of the Torah. It then continues with the mitzah of the Red Heifer. The Kotzker Rebbe notes that the Gematria of the word Zos- This is 408. Interestingly enough in the month before Rosh Hashana when we recite the Psalm of L'David Hashem Ori we also say B'Zos Ani Botay'ach- In this I believe? He suggests that the this is what three things Tzom/fast= 136 Kol/voice= 136 and Mamon/money=136 those three words are found in many machzors above the list of  three things that can alter ones heavenly decree that may not have been so good Teshuva/repentance, Tefila/prayer and Tzedaka/charity  3x 136=408 or Zos. Similarly King David says that those are the three things he has faith in and our parsha as ell beings that the 408 of Zos or these three things which fulfill the commandments between man and God and his fellow man as well as between man and himself (which is the reflective nature of prayer).


Madrasa/Beit Tzaida- If you like water and have little kids this is the place to come. One of the most beautiful national parks in Israel this   which is a continuation of Nachal Daliyot that flows from Gamla down to the East side of the Kinneret, is a great and easy 45 minute to an hour hike all through knee high water. The park does have an entrance fee however along with it comes changing rooms, bathrooms and theres evena kiosk where you can buy ice cream afterwards. Madrassa is part of a larger park which is called beit Tzaida which is the largest fresh water park in Israel (7000 dunams), which was an ancient canaani and Israel city through the periods of the 2nd Temple and the Jewish revolt. But it’s a great place to really see the beautiful nature this country has to offer and its lots of fun!
Two five year-olds are playing in a sandbox. One is Jewish, the other is Catholic. The Catholic boy says to the Jewish boy, "Our priest knows more than your rabbi!" To which the Jewish boy replies, "Of course he does, you tell him everything."
Once there was a maggid, an itinerant preacher, who traveled from town to town in a horse drawn cart with no companion other than his faithful driver. This maggid was very wise and learned and would always end his sermon by fielding questions. People would ask him questions involving obscure and profound talmudic reasoning, but no matter how difficult the question, the maggid's agile mind always produced a learned answer equal to the question. One day the maggid's driver said to him, "I have traveled with you for many years, heard you preach and heard you field every imaginable question, and though I haven't your learning or wisdom, I think that I could deliver a sermon and field the questions as well as you. It has long been my dream to stand up there and preach like you. The next town we are going to is one we've never been to before. If we traded clothes, no one would no that I wasn't the preacher and you the driver. Just this once, let me try."The maggid agreed and when the driver preached he did indeed preach an excellent sermon. When it came time for the questions the driver found himself fielding every kind of question. That is, until a young boy asked a question that he had never heard before. It was such a profound and complicated question that the driver had no idea how to even begin to answer."Well," said the driver turned maggid, "I can't believe anyone would ask such a question. That question is so simple that even my driver can answer it." "Driver!" he yelled out. "You heard the question. Now come up here and answer it!"

Answer is C:  I Love Ein Gedi. It’s the perfect place to tour easy hike, gazelles, cute hedgehogs running around and even some king David Tanach and of course the waterfalls. The Chalocholite temple though is the part of Ein Gedi though no real tourists ever go to. It’s a few hour hike that is not fun all the way to the top to see the thousands of year old group of rocks in a circle which was some type of temple a long time ago with two rooms a nd a courtyard. Hooray! Stick to the bottom its a lot more fun…

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hasbara- korach 2014/5774

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

June 20th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 34-22nd of Sivan 5774
Parshat Korach
Yaakov sits on top of a mountain that overlooks the Lebanese border in the small village Misgav Am. It is a glorious lookout. He is a hero and a special person who made Aliyah here in the 50's and fought in many battles in Israel. He may not be the most observant person, but he is certainly holy. And one thing about him is that he tells the truth. The whole truth. The real truth. Whether the "politically correct" student groups that I am fortunate  to bring to visit him there like it or not. It's important for them to hear the truth and form the mouth of Yakov it couldn’t be any clearer.

"Hi Kids",  Yaakov begins. Welcome to Misgav Am. You are here today to hear me speak. I'm not here to hear you guys speak…I'm old enough to be most of your grandfather and perhaps even great grandfather. I will be sharing with you the truth today. It is my world the bubble I live in…that we live in here in Israel. You may have heard other things on campus, you may have heard terms, like settlers, peace process, two state solutions, BDS. Its all baloney. I really don't care what lies they spread about us over there. I'm here and you’re here and today is your chance to hear the truth. If you have something to say keep it to yourself. If you have any difficulty understanding what im saying feel free to ask and I will explain. But don't come here preaching to me. You don't live here and you don’t' understand as of yet the truth."

And with that Yakov begins. And I've got a smile pasted on my face from ear to ear as some students begin to squirm. They don't even know what's coming.

"I hate arabs. They want to kill me. They want to kill my family. They've tried many times. They refuse to recognize my right to live in my country in peace. Anyone that wants to kill me or my children or my family- and that includes all of you. I will kill them first. If anyone will tell me I don't have a right to live in my house, or in my country or if they tell my brother or sister that they do not have right to live in their house or country are my enemy. I am not Christian. I will not turn the other cheek. I will shoot their cheek before they can shoot mine. 

Are there Arabs that don't want to kill me or are not terrorists- a word which by definition means someone who attacks innocent civilians-men women, children, babies and 16 year old boys? Yes. I won't kill them if they are not interested in killing me. But do they recognize my right to live here at all? Do they support the violent uprising and terrorist attacks and celebrate and disburse candies when we are in mourning or in pain after one of their murderous attacks? If they do, than I hate them. If they are willing to accept the fact that we are here to stay and will truly respect that and wish to live side by side as two people who are connected with an ancient tie to this land who hopefully love their children, the betterment of their lives and society, than I welcome them with open arms. I don't like to kill. I don’t' like to hate. Just say the words that you will be my friend and that we can live together and I will be the first to join you. But I haven't heard it, although I dream and hope and fantasize-but never fool myself that there are many of them that do want that. As Benjamin Netanyahu once said 'The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.' It's as simple as that. Now you have the truth.

It is amazing to see what the truth can do to people. All of the propaganda and mishegas disappears. It's a simple as that. But yet, but yet, the world doesn’t' seem to get it. They never really have. Perhaps it's because we don’t get it. We're scared to say it. We don't like the looks that we get. The cold shoulder they might give us. The labels they may place upon us. So we let them take us for a ride. Take our children, bomb our cities and manipulate the press and world opinion. We need an office of Hasbara or propaganda. Israel in fact had one from 1974-1975 when it was dismantled because we felt it was too communist or Nazi. (it was restablished under the foreign ministry in 2009, but not as independent office). We need to tell the truth. That’s what we are here for. When we don’t' we end up 6 feet under.

Talking about 6 feet under... Welcome to this weeks Torah portion. This week we read about Korach and his camp. They are perhaps the greatest threat that the Jewish people faced in our forty years in the wilderness. One great Jewish leader with many of the members of Israels leadership and two trouble makers publicly challenge Moshe And Aharon. So what's the big deal, you ask? I mean haven’t Jews always been challenging our leadership? This is not the first time Moshe is challenged. Even Hashem has been challenged. Need I remind you of the golden calf, the spies of last week, idolatry and licentiousness by story of Balak and Bilam.  What makes this fight so significant. Why is this the only time, the only time, Moshe who is willing to do anything for this people and repeatedly goes to bat for them comes up with the punishment and challenge for them. The land swallows them hole…I mean wholeJ. In fact this is the only incident in the entire Torah where there is a negative commandment- 'thou shall not be like Korach and his congregation' that is attached directly as a result of the story. Theres no negative commandment not to violate Shabbos like those that did, or to commit adultery like those that did or desire food and complain against god or even worship golden calves. Yes those are all prohibitions but they are not connected to the story. Not fighting and loving your neighbor is also a commandment, Yet the great classic work of the Sefer Mitzvot HaGadol counts being like Korach as a separate independent mitzvah. What makes what seems to be merely a political fight about spiritual appointments (who would serve in the temple) so dramatic.
The answer, is that this was a fight about the truth. If you examine the verses one can see the deterioration of the fight from a mere political fight to the spreading of disinformation and lies that become the core of what is truly the greatest threat to our people. It begins with a questioning of Moshe and his prophetic appointments to the positions of leadership of the Levi and Kohein. Moshe after attempting to reason with them offers a divine solution placing in Hashems hands the revelation for the people of whose incense Hashem will accept.  That's fine an easy peaceful solution. Things deteriorate however when Datan and Aviram get involved. The false propaganda begins to take wings.

 "Is it not enough that you took us out of land flowing with milk and honey (Egypt) to kill us in the wilderness, you wish to rule over us as well. We have not been brought to a Land of milk and honey and you have not given us a portion of fields and vineyards. Even as you will poke out our eyes we will not go up to the land."

And there you have it. We have no right to the land of Israel. Egypt is the land flowing of milk and honey. They are willing to die for their "self-righteous" but truly evil principles. They pretend that they are out for the moral good, with statements of the entire people are holy and we do not need leadership and in the process their venom threatens us to destroy the most important thing that we have as Jews; Our belief that Hashem revealed himself to us and our forefathers and promised us the land of Israel as our ONLY and rightful heritage and that all that Moshe has told us, the entire Torah is truth and directly commanded by our Creator, our Father in Heaven, who took us out of Egypt and gave us a Divine mandate to share his glory and love with the world. We can survive sins; be they sins of the flesh, of desire, of gossip, of idolatry even and even questions of faith that come from fear as we saw by the spies or by the golden calf. We can't survive though as a nation if we allow ourselves to buy into the propaganda that Moshe is not true, the Torah is not true and that Israel is not our land. Without those truths we are not a people. We are not a nation of God, Hashem's Divine mandate can't be completed. We can't continue to be our worst enemies.

Imagine a country of Israel, where the prime minister would get up and say. There is a creator of this world who promised our forefathers this land in order to build a world and society that would recognize and bask in his Divine glory, so that the whole world may know His greatness and in the process their own greatness. This Land was always meant to be that place for us. It is meant to be a land where Shabbos is celebrated, where the Sabbatical year no one will work their fields. It's meant to be a land where idolatry and false gods have no place whatsoever. False gods are wrong a mistake, because we haven't shined long enough. We've allowed it to flourish. It's good for tourism. This is a land dedicated to Hashem where evil is eradicated and murderers, terrorists and spreaders of hate are destroyed. It's a land where Hashem's laws are supreme because it is the Divine reason why we are even here. We don't look to the UN or other "democratic" societies from where to take our values, ethics and laws. We are here to build a society to that will teach them how they can achieve the ultimate goodness and self-fulfillment. We believe that all men have the potential for greatness and were created in Hashems image and are loved by Him as a Father to His son. We believe the Torah way is the only way to best achieve that human dignity and that it is our responsibility to bring that vision to the world. All that challenge that view are either uninformed because we have failed in our mission or because there are evil people that are determined and even willing to sacrifice themselves so that our mission, Hashem's mission, will not come to fruition. If they are uninformed or uninspired we need a Ministry of Hasbara to explain that to them, if they are evil they must be destroyed.

I write this week in pain. I write in anger. I write after a sleepless week worrying about our children. I write with fear and trepidation. I write with disappointment. So many questions unanswered. How? Why? Where is the world? Where are us? Where is our faith, our sense of responsibility to our people, to our Father in heaven. Why have we let evil flourish for so long. When will finally get it? When we will stop looking to the world for permission, for our values, for what we are permitted to do to build this country. When will our own Jewish brothers and sisters stop pointing fingers at one another in accusation and instead start pointing our fingers up above to show the world the reason why we are here. For how long will we fail in our mission to inspire those that do not appreciate the truth of the Torah the beauty of our connection to Hashem and our intrinsic spiritual and divine connection to this special land? How much more pain must we suffer through until we hear the call…the cry from above? When will we be able to hug our children once again? When will our Father be able to hug all of us once again?

I don't have answers. I have hopes. I have prayers. I have tears and I have you and everyone else I love and I meet. We each can make a difference. We are all ministers of Hasbara. We are all Yaakov on top of mountain. We all have one truth we can share. May  Hashem watch over all of young boys, our soldiers and bring us to that great day soon as we say in our Rosh Hashanah service when the righteous will see and rejoice and those of straight hearts will sing and the pious with song will celebrate and the depths will open and all evil will be consumed like smoke. May it happen this week.

Have a Shabbos that brings all of us salvations and our prayers answered.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 
The land of Israel is not some external entity.
It is not merely an external acquisition for the Jewish people.
It is not merely a means of uniting the populace.
It is not merely a means of strengthening our physical existence.
It is not even merely a means of strengthening our spiritual existence.
Rather, the land of Israel has an intrinsic meaning.
It is connected to the Jewish people with the knot of life.
Its very being is suffused with extraordinary qualities.
The extraordinary qualities of the land of Israel and the extraordinary qualities of the Jewish people are two halves of a whole-
Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook

(answer below at end of Email)
The El Amarna letters were
a)  written in  hieroglyphics in Canaan and sent to the king of Egypt
b)  written in hieroglyphics in Egypt and sent to Eretz Yisrael
c)  have words of praise written upon them
d)  were written in Cuneiform in Canaan and sent ot the king of Egypt

OK what is the word in this weeks Torah portion that has the highest value Gematria of any single word in the Torah? Hint the Gematria is 1500.
In listing Korach lineage it traces him back to Levi. The Medrash says that Yaakov requested that his name be left off the list and it should not be traced back to him. The fight according the Ibn Ezra was when the first borns/bechor job in the temple was given over to the Levis (as a result of  their sin by the golden calf. The gematria of Bechor is 228 Levi is gematria 46 228-46= 182 which is the gematria of the name of Yaakov. The commandment as well thous shall not be like Korach and his congregation the words Lo tihyeh-it shall not be as well equals the gematria of 182 once again Yaakov who requested that he should not be part of that dispute.
Answer to largest gematria value= tishtarerr you shall rule over us.


Lavi forest- I'm sure many of you have stayed or at least heard of kibbutz Lavie a wonderful hotel on the kibbutz in the lower Galilee not far from Tiberias. The religious Kibbutz is most famous for making exquisite Synagogue furniture that they ship all over the country. But did you know that in the forest right outside of the kibbutz you can have the opportunity to "plant-a tree" in Israel. The forest is a KKL/JNF forest and it is currently being forested (nice word to make up). By planting a tree you have the opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah of settling the land of Israel by showing that it is ours, also the trees help the environment and demarcate Jewish owned land. But most of all it is really a great experience for the family to really to connect with Israel in a meaningful way. You can contact the JNF who really have done a tremendous job of caring for our beautiful country.

A song composed by my good friend SY Rechnitz upon hearing of our kidnapped boys
Shomer Yisrael Guardian of Israel, Guard the nation of Yisrael and do not destroy the remnant of Israel who recite Shema Yisrael

10.   League wouldn’t accept Iranian or Syrian strikers on their team
9.    Firing katusha missiles aimlessly into stands didn’t technically count as scoring goals
8.     Thought the league would, as usual, make it so that Israel was the only team who couldn’t use their hands
7.     Confused headbutting with just being buttheads
6.     Every time the team was being demolished, they thought calling it a tie would be considered a win
5.     Terrorist tunnels screwed up all the decent practice fields
4.     Their tagline: “Bend it like Bin Laden”
3.     Major defense was to line up innocent civilians in front of their goal
2.     Coach is hiding somewhere in Iran
1.     No one from the UN was on the Referee staff  

Answer is D:  Borrrrring.. ancient inscriptions found in Egypt from Canaan. This is from about the time of the Jews coming to Israel the 14th-13th century BC. It's jewish significance is that it has one of the earliest mentions of a people called the Habiru's-maybe us and also mentions early cities of  Israel Jerusalem, Shechem, Meggido and Ashkelon. Yipee!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bad Tourists- Shealch 2014/5774

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

June 13th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 33-15th of Sivan 5774
Parshat Shlach
Bad Tourists

Don't let the title fool you. There really is no such thing. Tourists are always a good thing…especially the ones that I am lucky enough to guide. We spent a lot of time in tour guiding school learning how to be a good tour guide. They  taught us a lot of information. We covered everything from geology, botany, wildlife, thousands of years of history, archeology architecture and even other religions. We also spent some time on how to be a good tour guide how to present information, how to plan itineraries, know where the bathrooms are, where the good restaurants are (I didn't really need them to teach me thatJ) and fun activities to do are. Sadly though the one lesson that they didn’t really give to us but I think is a worthwhile lesson to learn is how to teach people how to be good tourists. You can be the best tour guide in the world but if your tourists don't know how to be good tourists you may have a hard time giving them the maximium experience that they deserve. There aren't really any bad tourists. But not everyone is a good one either.

So what does it take to be a good tourist in Israel. The first thing is to realize that you're not in America. I usually say thank God after that sentence. And you should too. Don't let all the signs in English here fool you. Actually the signs are pretty much a dead giveaway being that for some reason they can't seem to be able to spell properly and they have some type of fetish with the letter "Q" that they just love to stick randomly in the names of cities here. A not- good tourist, will consistently start sentences with the words "But in America we have______" fill in the blank. This is not America. You came here to experience your country. Think of it like your home. When you visit someone else's house you never say "but in our house we have…." Why not? Because you’re there to visit their house. Here you're actually coming to visit your own house and your own country and therefore you may feel that you can compare it to your place back in the States, but it will just take away from the experience of you appreciating this to be your real home. Your better off thinking of it as if this the time-share your visiting for a vacation. You wouldn't focus on the things that you are missing there or some of the amenities you may not have. Just take in the vacation. I know this feels like home and it's easy to complain at home. But if you want to be a good tourist and get the most out of your time here…don't.

A second thing that you should do if you really want to be a good tourist is to give yourself a spiritual experience while you're here. You wouldn't go to France without tasting the wine, or Italy without having a pizza or some pasta, or Poland without visiting a gas chamber. (sorry about that one…but it's true). You want to see what the best or worst the country has to offer and what really defines it. Israel is the Holy Land. So try to get holy here. You can probably do a lot of fun things in a lot of places. But it is really only here that you can do truly holy things. Whats really great is that here you can make most things holy and spiritual experiences. The countryside, the historic sites, the people, even the fun activities be they jeeping, rafting, rappelling scuba diving all can and should be opportunites to appreciate this special land that Hashem promised us and whose "eyes are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end". Taste the country, the Jewish food, the wines make blessings and experience the fruits that Hashem has blessed more than any other in the world. All Blessings we make are meant to conjure up the land of Israel. Now you are tasting it that should be awesome as well. Totally Godly awesome.

The last tip perhaps to being a good tourist is to come here with the right attitude. Israelis are different than you. They react different; they have different priorities, different backgrounds and different values and expectations. They can be frustrating at times, ridiculous, rude and perhaps even seem aggressive. They did serve in the army….all of them…for you to have Jewish country to visit (see it even rubbed off on meJJ). So it's somewhat natural for them perhaps to behave and treat you differently than the polite 75 year old retiree in Walmart that thanks you for shopping there and gives you a little smiley sticker as he double bags your groceries. See but there's something else as well. That differentiates him from the guy in Walmart. The guy or girl over here are actually your brother and sister. We're family. And although it may be hard to believe it anyone of them would give their life for you although they may not let you get ahead of them in line or in the parking lot, and each one of them truly cares about your health, your family, you children and will pray for you celebrate with you and in times of tragedy mourn with you. We're Mishpocha. We feel it here between ourselves and we feel it with all Jews that visit us whether they say it or act that way or not. Family isn't always the politest to one another. In fact they're usually more polite to non-family members (which is why the Christians that come here never really complainJ). But it sure is always nice to know that you have them there for you.

What makes me talk about tourists this week? Well it is actually the Torah portion of the first Jewish "Tourists" that came to the land. Although we have gone through half of the Book of Shemot and the entire Leviticus and plenty of Bamidbar our Parsha takes place a mere year after the Exodus as we are about to approach the land of Israel. Moshe sends in 12 individuals, the leaders of the tribes to ______ the land. Now if I asked you to fill in that blank I'm sure most of you would write spy out the land. However if one looks at the verses, not once is the word spy which would be Li'Ragel used to describe their mission. In fact as opposed to spying the commandment was for them to Tour the land or pass through (the Hebrew word in fact is La'tour". Go for a pleasant trip, was what they were meant to do. Sure, see all the sites and the big cities and the people there and the fruits and lands. Find out all that fun information because it should get you excited about the land and the great miracles that will take place there. Be  "good tourists".

Sadly though the men did not have a great tour guide that really gave them these important tips. They went to spy on the land. They went to see if it was worthwhile and comparable to that super place they had in the desert where they would sing God Bless Amer…I mean the wilderness..each day as they raised their flags. They missed Tip one. They also seemingly forgot about the the spiritual experience that would take place in Israel. No longer would life be about the great classes that Moshe and Joshua would give in the Desert and the glory of God in the tabernacle their ew job would be finding spirituality in everything. In the field, in their work, on their trips, in their future falafel stands.  Yup they didn't realize that tourists have to look for the spirituality in everything. Finally Finally, they forgot the last tip. They saw this country as a place inhabited by a strong powerful people that seemingly they felt they would never be able to get out of here. They forgot. That it is our home. They're just babysitters here until we go back to the land promised to our forefathers…to our family. They forgot the power that a family united has to bring down the Divine assistance necessary to restore us to our land. The forgot that a family homestead is one that you can never walk away from.

It is interesting that the end of the Torah Portion when it teaches the mitzvah of Tzitzit, the fringes we wear on our fur cornered garments, it tells us that we wear the so that we shall not "tour after our hearts and our eyes which we tend to stray after". Life as well even outside of the land of Israel even when we cannot go to Israel has a challenge of us being "good tourists" too. We can keep our eye on the heavenly ball, and remember we are here to maximize our experience on this world. To connect to the essence of our souls and our existence, to lift ourselves up higher each day and to rejoice in our family and in the world that will connect us to eternity. Or we can be not such good tourists. We can stray after negativity, temporary short quick fixes, meaningless and frivolous sparks or the pursuit of things that we know will never make us happy but somehow the world seems to be on a non-stop trajectory to achieve. Our tzitzit remind us that we are covered. There are commandments that give us direction. 613 of them the Torah (wonder if it as well has anything to do with the word Tour) But it truly is the ultimate guide book for life; the tour-guide book for a meaningful existence…A Roadmap back home.

The punishment for the failure of the spies and the Jewish people is that we were told that the day when we needlessly mourned will always be a day of mourning. The Temples were both destroyed on that 9th day of Av. Each time we truly did not really appreciate what the temples were, what our homeland was…what we were meant to be here. The sin of being spies instead of tourists here, of negatively interacting with the country and our land as opposed to building it into a home where Hashem's presence shines out to the world still hasn't been fully rectified. So come on and be good tourists and give your good friend here a visit. Your Father wants to see you.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 


“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

“Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.” – Yogi Berra

(answer below at end of Email)
The Negev Brigade Memorial Monument was created by
a) Yigal Tomarkin
b)  Danny Caravan
c)  Natan Rappaport
d)  Batya Lashinsky

Our relationship with the Land of Israel is meant to be one of desire, like a man to woman. It is interesting that the description of the land is always Chalav and Dvash. Chalav is milk which is produced by a woman that is given to her child to nurse. The Gematria of Chalav is of course 40 which was meant to take place after Moshe's 40 days and 40 night and after the 40 days that the spies were sent to the land which turned into 40 years. Dvash who's Gematria is 306 is the same Gematria as Isha/woman. The land is like a woman with milk for us to nurse our elixir of life from it. Its also why Jewish man call their wives honeyJ


Negev Brigade monument- We are told that the spies entered the land from the Negev to spy out the land. In 1948 the Negev was the site of many dramatic and heroic battles and defended the fledgling State from its attacks from Egypt and Iraqi armies. The Brigade with great heroism conquered much of the Negev for us in that war and defended the Jewish settlements there. The monument completed in 1968 built on a hill overlooking Beer Sheva consists of a large tower that is meant to commemorate the watch towers and the water channels and pipelines that they protected. Inside are engravings of the soldiers and their personal diaries as well as verses and songs that commemorate their sacrifice for us.

The Shadchan! I loved this song when I was dating and love the video even more J

Yeshiva University decides to create a crew team. Unfortunately, they lose race after race. Every day, they practice for hours and hours but always come in dead last. Finally they send Yankel to spy on the Harvard team.
Yankel shleps off to Cambridge and hides in the bushes off the Charles River from where he secretly watches the Harvard team practice. After two days, he returns, satisfied.
“I figured out how they do it,” says Yankel to his eager teammates. “They have eight fellows rowing and only one fellow screaming!
3 spies, a French one, a British one, and an Israeli one, are captured by Al-Qaeda. TTop of Form
he terrorists tie each of them up and put the brit and the Israeli in a locked room. They take the Frenchman to a room for 6 hours, torturing information out of him. When they finish with him, they take the Brit to the room, who lasts 12 hours. They finally take the Israeli into the room, but as much as they torture him, they can't get any information out of him. the Brit and the Frenchman ask him how it goes and he says "I couldn't say anything." they ask him why and he says "my hands were tied!
Bottom of Form


Answer is A:  We have art in Israel. We have monuments. And we have what to remember. Frankly I'm not a big art person and I don’t get most scultpures. And really did not have much interest in who made them. I got this question wrong. But anyways I've heard the names above and here's some of their most famous works for those interested. Tomarkin a german born jew raised here under the British mandate designed the famous Shoah Letekuma holocaust memorial in Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv in Rabin Square. Rappaport was a holocaust survivor who's sculpures of the Ghetto uprising and the last march are famous in Yad Vashem as well as his scrolls of fire in the Jerusalem hills. He even has one in Liberty State Park in New Jersey that faces the Statue of Liberty and is of a US soldier taking out a holocaust survivor. Batya was came to Israel at age 10 in 1910 and was perhaps the earliest Jewish Zionist sculpture most of her sculptures are about early Zionism and deal with kibbutzim. Her sister was the wife of the 2nd president of Israel Ben Zvi. And finally Danny Caravan who made the famous negev monument also designed the famous tower of tears monument in Latrun. And now you know as much as I do on the subject.:)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Life of a Fish- Naso/ Shavuot 2014 5774

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

May 29th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 32-29th of Iyar 5774
Parshat Naso/Shavuot
The Life of a Fish
So I sit in the dentist’s office. I hate dentist’s offices. Not dentists, just the endless wait until the usual lecture, tsk tsk, probing, and the bill. Let’s just get it over with already. And I stare at these fish. These rather boring toothless swimming creatures are starting to make my head spin. Maybe that’s what they're here for. To lull me almost hypnotically into a numb sense of unawareness of the amount of time I’m spending here and to relax my tensions into a smooth fish-like calm.

But I’m a Rabbi and always working. So I think about the relationship between fish and the Jew. No! Not just Gefilte fish, (they’ve started eyeing me suspiciously now) rather the very famous parable of our great sage Rabbi Akiva comparing the Jewish people to fish. 

The Talmud tells us that after the destruction of the temple and the debacle that was the Bar Kochba revolt, the emperor Hadrian issued decrees prohibiting the study of Torah. Rabbi Akiva the great leader of the Jewish people however continued his lectures and teaching at the mortal risk of being captured and prosecuted for the “crime” of teaching Torah. When asked why he would risk his life for such an idle foolish thing like the study of these ancient works. Rabbi Akiva told the story of the fish.

 A fox was once walking alongside a river, and he saw the fish going in swarms from one place to another. The fox said to them: "From what are you fleeing?"
The fish replied: "From the fishermen's nets that seek to trap me."
The fox slyly said: "Why don’t you join me here on the dry land away from the danger where we can dwell together” (he was also thinking gefilte fish)
The fish replied: "Are you the one that they call the cleverest of animals? You are foolish! If we are afraid and insecure in the water, in the environment that provides our very lifeblood, how much more afraid would we be when out of our element?"!"
 Rebbe Akiva explained: "So too with us Jews. It is written: '[The Torah] is your life and the length of your days.' Without it we are like fish without water. We will surely “die”.

A nice parable, yet as in all of the Talmud’s stories there are even greater lessons that can be gleaned from examining the metaphor a little closer. Rabbi Zev Leff notes a unique characteristic of fish in water. He notes how interesting it is that although the fish are surrounded by water when it begins to rain, as the droplets hit the surface, the fish ascend to the top of the water in a frenzy, to hungrily receive yet another drop and another, never content with the endless supply of water that engulfs them. So, too, the Jew possess an innate drive never to be content with the status quo, but rather to hungrily ascend and acquire new horizons, new levels, in Torah learning and personal growth.

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky notes another interesting thing about fish (too many Rabbis sitting around dentist’s office J). As per my observation that fish are rather boring looking creatures. That is however only true of fish that are in water. But have you ever seen a fish out of water? Many of us not knowing what was truly going on might observe that fish hopping, skipping jumping or as the vernacular might go ‘partying” and say
 “Wow now that fish is really living! Look at him go! That’s a fish that really knows how to have a good time”

Yet for the more experienced fisherman amongst us we know that hat we are truly witnessing is a death. The last fatal desperate gasps for a life that can never be sustained without water. So too, is the Jew without Torah. That natural longing and drive for fulfillment can lead ones path to it’s proper realization through the more subdued life of consistent Torah study and the simpler small acts that will draw one closer to our Creator the source of life. Or it will unfortunately be drawn to that illusory perception of life and living, one that may have a very short term allure of the excitement and the party but yet ultimately is one that will never give that breath of life ones soul it so desperately is seeking.

This week we will celebrate the Holiday of Shavuot. It is the day, 3326 years ago, when all of us stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai and were gifted with the Torahs Chaim- the Torah of life. It is not a holiday that is celebrated with menorahs, sukkas, matzahs or any other symbolism. Rather it is holiday whose only symbolism is the Torah, its study and the Jew. The Torah is our life force, it requires no symbolism. All that it is necessary for us it’s incredibly blessed recipients, is to take a deep fresh breath for our soul and tap into it’s incredible wisdom that  has sustained and preserved our people, for as long as fish can swim.
Have an amazing Shabbos and an inspirational Shavuot ,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 

"No good fish goes anywhere without a porpoise"-Lewis Carrol

"Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream".-W. C. Fields

(answer below at end of Email)
Which one of these churches is not located in Nazareth
a) Church of the Wedding
b)  Church of the Annunciation
c)  Church of Joseph
d)  Church of the Synagogue

On Shavuot perhaps the only ritual/custom of the day is that of eating dairy (hopefully cheesecakeJ!)  Why?! Why not? The gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew word for milk, chalav, is 40. We eat dairy foods on Shavuot to commemorate the 40 days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving instruction in the entire Torah. (Moses spent an additional 40 days on Sinai, praying for forgiveness following the Golden Calf, and then a third set of 40 days before returning with a new set of stone tablets.)
The numerical value of chalav, 40, has further significance in that there were 40 generations from Moses who recorded the Written Torah, till the generation of Ravina and Rav Ashi who wrote the final version of the Oral Torah, the Talmud.
Further, the Talmud begins with the letter mem – gematria 40 – and ends withmem as well.

Grave of Rambam/Maimonides and.., Tiberias- It's always kind of bothered me that this great and much visited site is known only as the Rambam-that great early 13th century sage-'s grave. When in fact right next to the Rambam are many great sages that were indisputably greater and more significant than the Rambamas they preceeded him by over one thousand years. For example the great sage Rabbo Yochanan Ben Zakkai who pretty much singlehandedly saved Jewish life and Torah by getting permission from the Roman leader (Vespasian-ignore what I wrote last week by mistake that it was Hadrian..sorry about that blunder and thanks to those who pointed out the correctionJ) as well as his five students that Torah was built from and who form the core of the oral tradition Mishna as well as great sages from the times of the Talmud as well. The tradition of the Rambam who lived and died in Egypt being buried there goes back hundreds of year with the story being that Suleiman who was king did not allow the Rambam to leave Israel and upon his death the Rambam was placed on a camel which brought him to Tiverya where it stopped next to the graveof Rabbi Yochanan as a sign he should be buried there. Some suggest that it was because the Rambam and the other sages buried in Tiverya wished to be eventually resurrected in the city where our tradition tells us the Sanhedrin will once again be re-established. Along with the Rambam his father Maimon and his grandson Reb David Hanagid are also buried there. As well the 16th century sage Rabbi Yeshaya Halevei Horowitz known after his work the Shela Hakadosh is buried there as well (My wife's ancestor!). Many are familiar with his special prayer that was recited Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan (Today!) for children. Perhaps most fascinating though is this great 14 arches edifice built on his grave that stands out and can be seen from all over Tiverya that corresponds to the 14 books of Law called the Yad (gematria 14) Chazaka- the powerful hand. What makes it so interesting is that Maimonides writes in his work "And righteous people do not have monuments built upon their graves for their words are their monuments….and one should not visit graves of the righteous" (Laws of Avel/mourning 4:4)..hmmmm talk about irony…


What did the fish say when he posted bail? "I'm off the hook!"
 Why don't fish like basketball? Cause they're afraid of the net
What do you call a fish with a tie? soFISHticated
 What do you get when you cross a banker with a fish? A Loan shark!
What do sea monsters eat? Fish and ships.
Why do fish always know how much they weigh? Because they have their own scales.
What did the magician say to the fisherman? Pick a cod, any cod!
 Q: How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh? A: Tentacles.
What was the Tsar of Russia's favorite fish? Tsardines!
What is a dolphin's favorite TV show? Whale of fortune!
What do you call a big fish who makes you an offer you can't refuse? The Codfather!
If you think of a better fish pun. Let minnow.
Men are like fish neither would get in trouble if they kept their mouths shut. Instead of a cat, buy your kid a fish. It's easier to flush
Answer is A:  Yeah Nazareth is a pretty Christian city and even the beautiful Jewish section Nazareth illit has difficulty getting over the hurdle of that lousy non-jewish name….although in the times of the Talmud it was a Jewish city and all the J stories that take place there… he spoke in a synagogue they threw him out his parents lives there yadda yadda all take place there. The wedding though where he disobeys his mother (naughty boy) and turns water to wine or something like that takes place not far from there in Kfar Kanah a mostly arab village today..