Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
June 13th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 33-15th of Sivan 5774
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S YOGI BERRA TRAVEL QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
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.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
The Shadchan! I loved this song when I was dating and love the video even more J
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TERRIBLE SPY JOKES OF THE WEEK
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.:)