Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 7th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 36-13th of Tamuz 5774
It has been a surreal week… a surreal month…Missiles flying over my (our) country, terror unleashed on our children, an indifferent world that is once again silent, more concerned about the 5 or 6 silly or frustrated Israeli teenagers that write graffiti on a mosque or the mentally unstable ones that commit horrific acts than the barbaric acts of the thousands terrorists that are using their own children as shields and that use hospitals and schools as launching pads as they try to once again commit genocide against our nation. Peace seems impossible. Jewish casualties seem inevitable and god forbid worse. But yet I still believe it can happen. How? Why? When? With who? I have some of those answers, some ideas, some suggestions. I'm somewhat of an Israeli by know and having an opinion comes with your citizenship. But I do agree that it seems impossible. But this is a country of impossibilities and we are a nation that has always seem to beat all the odds.
Those were some of my thoughts as I started writing this E-Mail and I came across this E-Mail I wrote four years ago. It was my last West Seattle TLC E-Mail. The E-Mail when we were leaving our lives in the United States (although many in Seattle would prefer to live in Canada J- its in fact why they moved so far away (to the left) from everyone else in the country) and we were moving to Israel. Interestingly enough it started off the same way… as you can now read it. Perhaps the impossible can come true.
" It has been a week… a month… of the unreal coming true. Every box we pack, every piece of bureaucratic red tape that we cut through, every piece of our Aliyah puzzle that comes together, we get one step closer to seeing this un-real and truly remarkable dream come true. We always had hoped and dreamed that we would make it to Israel . Would it be before Shani gets married (weddings are cheaper thereJ)? When I retired from the Rabbinate and my outreach work (I don’t really see that as something we can ever leave-watch out IsraelJJ). Who knew when that day would be? Just a “someday” that we hoped and longed for like all Jews…a someday soon that is now coming much sooner than we could have ever dreamed possible.
How does the impossible dream happen? The truth is most of the things that we write off as being impossible are really just at best improbable and beyond our imagination to achieve. As one great quote I read put it “ In truth everything is theoretically impossible until it is achieved”. As children, Hashem gifts us with tremendous imaginations. We believe in talking animals, dolls that speak, fairy tale lands and heroes tht swoop down from the sky and save the day. But as we get older we lose our imagination. We get stuck in the “real world”. We’re pragmatic, limited absorbed with the necessary here and now and we don’t have the energy or even the belief to pursue the elusive dreams that might have been the light and essence of our souls. We made them impossible and we gave up on ever seeing them fulfilled.
But we Jews are supposed to be different. Afterall we are the impossible Nation. There’s no logical reason or way we should still be around. After all we have never gone a century without someone trying to wipe us off the map someplace. We haven’t gone a century sadly enough where we ourselves haven’t tried to assimilate and disappear and leave the chosen-ness to someone else. It’s impossible to imagine that after 2000 years of Exile from Israel we now have returned again. It’s impossible to believe how 60 years after the Holocaust and the destruction of most of Torah Judaism and its scholarship. Thjat there is more Torah being studied and published then probably any other time in our history. We are the impossible dream come true. So if our existence is a dream anyways, doesn’t that make everything possible?
This week’s Torah portion has quite a few disparate portions to it yet after scratching the surface a bit, there seems to be this link that revolves around these impossible dreams. The Torah portion begins with the epilogue of last week's unforgettable story. Hashem rewards Pinchas, who against all odds and the mass revolution that was taking place as Israel engaged in immorality with the Midianite women, picked up a spear killed the leader of the revolt and halted the destruction of the Jewish people. Hashem rewards him with the impossible reward; he is made into a Kohen. Now although his father and grandfather were Kohanim (Aharon and Elazar) since he was born before their anointment and only those born after the anointment were to be Kohanim- his lot was to remain a simple Levi like the rest of his tribe. Yet, nothing is impossible. In reward for him standing up to an impossible situation and desecration of God (as his entire tribe did after the Golden Calf) he merited to achieve the impossible the only Kohen ever to earn the gift of Priesthood.
The Torah then continues and lists of the numbers of the tribes of Israel , a survivor in the aftermath of the Divine plague. Fascinatingly enough when you examine the numbers of the tribes of Israel, one notes that there is one tribe that stands out as having the largest amount of children, the unlikely tribe of Dan. Now what makes Dan so unlikely to have the largest tribe? Well if you go back to the original numbers of the tribes of Israel that and their children, you will note that many of the tribes had many children, Binyamin had 10. Yet, Dan of all the tribes had one lonely son; a son named Chushim whom the Medrash tells us was deaf. Imagine, what the neighbors would say? Poor Dan, will never amount anything. Who knows if this son will ever get married? What will become of their family? Yet here we are just two generations late and Dan is the largest of all tribes. Impossible. Not for Hashem who always looks after the impossible and least likely.
Next up we have the daughters of Tzelafchad who approach Moshe asking for a portion in the land. Their father was a sinner who was put to death in the wilderness. The Law is clear that only the male heirs get a portion. Israel is a small country and everything is already called for. But… what happens? The impossible. Hashem adds a law to the Torah in their honor. They may inherit. Their love of the land of Israel , and their dedication to pursuing that dream within the bounds of the system, as far as they could go and as impossible as it seemed, earned them it. Dreams come true.
We then are told about Moshe. The greatest leader of the Jewish people, who may not enter the land with us. Who will replace him? Is it possible to find someone. What will become of the people without their great shepherd who advocated and sacrificed and inspired them for so many years? Hashem said fear not there is a replacement. Yehoshuah, your servant, will lead. He will fill those big shoes. He will perform miracles and salvation as you did. The people will be alright. The impossible leader to find is already there. I am with him. He will succeed.
And then the Parsha concludes with perhaps the greatest impossibility of all and the secret to our capacity to supersede our limited expectations. We are told of the various daily, weekly, monthly and holiday sacrifices and services. What is so impossible about a sacrifice you ask? It is a mind boggling notion if you think seriously about it. Here we are mortal flesh and blood bringing a cow or a sheep to the Creator of the entire world as a gift. Huh?! Is there a shortage of hamburgers up in heaven? How can we even expect to approach the Almighty in any way? The answer is, it is impossible. But yet, Hashem has told us to do it. Why? Because he wants us to feel close to him in the only way we know how; through sharing our blessing with him, communing with gifts, and worshiping in His Temple…His home.
Not only does he want this once in a while. But Hashem wants this daily, twice daily. We are his children. He wants us close. He wants us to know that we can transcend this world. We can face everything and accomplish anything. Nothing is impossible, when we are with Him. The world is limitless and it is for us raise ourselves and it beyond.
We have no Temple anymore. We have no sacrifices, and perhaps that’s why we have lost our dreams. But we still have one thing. We have our deep inner longing that won’t die to come Home. This week "might" begin the period of mourning for the destruction of our Temples, our Palace for God. I hope it doesn't... The Talmud tells us that the fact that we mourn something that has been taken from us for 2000 years and still hope for its rebuilding and our redemption is the merit that we need to get it back and come home again. It is impossible to mourn something from so long ago. But we are the Nation of the impossible and we know that within that mourning all of our hopes and dreams lie. I know I am certainly dreaming of the Holyland and our Temple. I return to our country but it is still missing its heart. Perhaps if we all just dream and think, wish and hope, and even plan and long than Hashem will make that final impossible dream come true."
That was four years ago. I have returned. The impossible became a reality. May we also soon see the impossible reality of peace in our country. The impossible reality of the continued safety of our brave soldiers and citizens on the front lines (which seemingly have now come to include Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) despite the thousands of missiles raining down upon us and the malicious and barbaric hatred of our people by our enemies and may we soon…so very soon see all of you that have not yet made it here home again as we once again all celebrate in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and our Temple.
May this Shabbos be one that brings peace quiet and tranquility to all of Israel
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S QUOTES OF THE WEEK
Two Jews- three opinions…but one heart-Anonymous
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
What sort of a spring is En Mabu’a in Nahal Prat (Wadi Kelt)?
a) A gravity spring
b) A fault spring
c) A thermal spring
d) A rhythmic (intermittent) spring
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
There is an interesting medrash that Pinchas upon seeing the plague that struck the Jewish people because of the immorality saw the letter "Mem" filled with blood hovering over the Jewish people. The Mem which in Gematria is 40 could refer to the 40 year sojourn in the desert that was going to be for naught if we would have been destroyed. But on a deeper lever The Megaleh Amukos explains that Pinchas in Gematria is 208 together with the 40 it equals 248 which correspond to the limbs of the body and also to the name Avraham who was the symbol of the covenant that we would inherit the land and the circumcision that was being desecrated by the immorality that was going on with the Midianite women. Pinchas grabbed a spear in Hebrew the word is Romach which is 248 and restored the peace by correcting the desecration of that Bris. It is therefore and cool as well that our sages tell us that Pinchas is connected to Eliyahu Hanavi who attends every Bris!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Air Force museum- Be'er Sheva As our boys in the sky are kicking serious Hamas posterior. Its cool to present this awesome museum. A tour through the outdoor museum of airplanes from the establishment of the State in 48 until modern times is truly a walk through our history as a nation. There are great stories about each plane and their different achievements and how we acquired them and it fills you with pride and an appreciation of our ingenuity and how Hashem has helped us despite all odds. The conclusion of the tour is sitting in the 747 airplane that was the control center for the Entebbe raid and watching a great short film about all of the different milestones of our air force. Really really a great place to visit for the family.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Red Heifer/ Parah Aduma born?
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S LATE NGHT ISRAEL JOKES OF THE WEEK
"An Israeli man's life was saved when he was given a Palestinian man's heart in a heart transplant operation. The guy is doing fine, but the bad news is, he can't stop throwing rocks at himself." —Jay Leno
"More rockets were fired into Israel today. Israel responded by bombing more targets inside Gaza. Now there's talk the U.S. might send some troops over there to help with border security. That's when you know the people over there are in trouble, when they start asking our advice on border security." --Jay Leno
"This morning the Vatican weighed in on the crisis. The Vatican came out and condemned Israel's attacks on Gaza ... which is great, because all day yesterday, the Jews and Muslims were asking, 'What do the Catholics think?'" --Conan O'Brien
Answer is D: There are many springs in Israel. It is one of the most beautiful parts of our country as the Torah tells us it is a land of rivers and springs. Most are as a result of the underwater aquifers that are formed by the various rivers that pour underground and then come up. There lots of fun to swim in. The correct answer is that it is rhythmic spring which means that the water just comes out every so often in spurts as it fills up underground. There is another like that in Israel that I am aware of anyone else know where it is? Hint… in Jerusalem.. still guessing..in the city of David..correct it is the Gihon spring.