Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 3rd 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 36-5th of Sivan 5774
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
I am at a loss for words this week. So much going on so many feelings. So difficult to move forward. So difficult to envelop oneself in the many distractions of life, even a tour guide like me in the busy season. I sat by the Torah reading this morning as they read about the diabolical plot of Balak the namesake of the parsha and king of Midian as he tried to engage Bilaam the evil prophet to curse the Jewish people…to harm us. Hashem prohibits Bilaam from cursing us. "Do not curse the nation- for they are blessed.." and a tear flows down my eye. We are blessed it is true, but the curse seems to have befallen us. The nation of Hashem is mourning yet the world can't seem to stop cursing us.
As I found myself at a lack of words, a lack of jokes and funny comments and so desperate for inspiration, I came across Just a letter from Shlomo Katz, a holy singer, one of Reb Shlomo Carlebachs Chasidim, I share his words with you today. As his touched my soul. And I pray that just as our Father in heaven turned those curses by Bilaam so long ago into blessings, so he should finally grant comfort, consolation to all those who mourn our losses with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
And here's Shlomo's thoughts…
As the day was nearing an end, the anguish, helplessness and anger based upon the news of our three boys - reached new boundaries. My davening throughout the day was a mixture of mumbling and crying, perhaps ignoring what my heart really wanted to say and ask of G-d. It was nearly 5pm, I decided I had to go to the mikve. It is a minhag (ritual) to immerse oneself in purifying waters on the day of the passing of the righteous In an attempt to rise above the inevitable confusion and darkness, which are still lingering on, I grabbed a
towel and the key to the local mikva here in Efrat, in search for a few moments of solace.
As I drew closer, I couldn’t make any sense of what my ears were hearing. It was a sound of a large group of men, crowded in the mikve… and all this on a late Tuesday afternoon? This made no sense. Walking in, I suddenly saw a sea of exhausted eyes. It was a group of chayalim, soldiers who have been stationed here for the past few weeks. These boys (yes ‘boys’, they all looked like they weren’t a day older than 20) have been working endlessly to find our three boys, and are now continuing to search for the murderers who are still believed to be in the area north of Chevron, just a 15 minute drive from our home in Efrat. 15 minutes…
These soldiers have been sleeping in an empty building in Efrat, with no showers. So they all piled into the small mikve complex, waiting on line to use the showers there. The shower area was almost pitch black, as they didn’t know where the light, which runs through the shower area, was located. As soon as I turned it on for them they saw me, wondering what I was doing there at that time, possibly a tad embarrassed from the whole scene.
I quickly asked them if they needed anything else besides the lights. Towels, shampoo, soap? ‘Hakol Sababa Achi, Toda’, ‘everything is great bro, thanks’, they smiled graciously.
And here I thought I came to purify myself by immersing in the mikva water. The site before my eyes was more powerful and purifying than anything I knew of. A group of very tired and physically dirty soldiers who have been risking their lives for the past few weeks – IN THE NAME OF AM YISRAEL IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL.
But what continues to strike me deepest is that these young brave warriors have no idea how holy they are. I sure don’t either, but they definitely don’t.
I was immediately brought back to a Shabbos table I recently had the privilege of being part of in Cape town, just a few weeks ago, which drove home this point in the most profound way. I was in South Africa for a very inspiring conference, and had the privilege of dining my Friday Night Shabbos meal by a very sweet local family, who was also hosting a young man named Rom. Rom is an Israeli who is currently motor biking his way up from South Africa to Israel. Yes, I couldn’t believe it either. With an Israeli flag on the bike’s tail, a mandolin and minimal clothing, Rom has been traveling the world. While sharing with us a bunch of his collected tales from his recent adventures, he then stopped and changed gears. Rom began telling those around the table that he comes from a completely secular kibbutz near Netanya. He kept on talking about how he, his family and his friends don’t believe in anything, and keep absolutely nothing when it comes to religious observance.
The rest of us around the table couldn’t hear of it anymore. I interrupted him in the middle of his speaking, asking him if he was in the army. He proudly yet very discreetly shared that he was in a very elite and dangerous unit for nearly 4 years. ‘You mean to tell me that you were willing to sacrifice your own body for the Holy Land on a daily basis for four years’ I began crying out to him, ‘but you feel you are not holy because you are not classified by the orthodox standards as an observant Jew?’ And a small tear began to form in his right eye.
He had no idea how holy he was.
The truth is we don’t know how holy we are either.
We have very little sense of who we are.
The moment we begin to forget, we are temporary reminded when tragedy strikes.
And boy has tragedy stricken us these days.
For some very confusing reason, we only remember what we are made of when we feel our hearts break open. We are so beyond angry, upset and frustrated. Despite our desire to pour out the wrath of heaven onto our enemies, our heart is so broken knowing that nothing will bring home Gil-ad, Eyal and Naftali.
As friends have begun to share and seek comfort from one another, the same words kept coming out of each other’s mouths. ‘I can’t explain it, my heart is literally broken. I feel like my heart broke’. I was immediately reminded by a beautiful song written by Neil Young, ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’, and things began to sink in.How is it that three boys, who were alive for approximately another 10-15 minutes from the moment of being kidnapped… how is it that their story (which is really our story) has broken our hearts in such a traumatic way? What is it which Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali have forced us to return to?
Whether we like to admit it or not, we are a people of love. Many articles have been written in the past few
days, people pouring out their hearts in such a courageous way. Some of these articles call upon Am Yisrael to focus more on the current unity rather than the payback. As much as it’s hard for me to admit – these calls comes from love. However, in the heart of the matter, calls for revenge – can come from love as well. Once the love becomes the focus of it all, we will be able to permanently take care of our enemies.
Master of the World (who I have such a hard time asking anything of these days), when someone thinks differently than me – how do I remember they still love me and that I really do love them? How do I see holiness in a room of soldiers wherever they might be? What a shame it would be if we quickly got back to our daily routines, forgetting the light which these precious boys brought down on Am Yisrael. These three boys had the unfortunate merit to crack open our hearts – reminding us who we are and what we are made of.
We are made of love.
It’s the love for these three families, a love developing so quickly and naturally, which defines our true beings. What wouldn’t any of us do to be the smallest source of comfort for Bat Galim, Iris, Racheli and their families?
But how can you love someone who you know so little of? Maybe it’s simply because love has very little to do with knowledge. How does one know when it is their heart which is breaking open? When you don’t know how to think or act, and all your left with is simply ‘being’ – it is your heart that has broke. Love is ‘Being’. If your heart is broken… turn off all social media for a few seconds. Embrace this moment which rarely rises upon the surface. Just for a second. Let yourself feel the pain of the brokenness and as hard as it may be, thank the One above for being part of a people who are love.
Because only love can break your heart.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S INSPIRING QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"They are a nation that dwells alone" - It will live in an insulated land without much intercourse with other nations, living its "internal" national mission as an am [people] as a national social body, and will not seek its greatness as goy [nation] among goyim [nations], not as a powerful imposing national body among the other individual nations.-- Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsh on the verse in this weeks portion
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
The Rededication of the Temple in the period of the Hashmonaim and Maccabees was
a) 164 BCE
b) 169 BCE
c) 171 BCE
d) 174 BCE
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
In Bilaam's curse which Hashem turned into a Blessing He said that we will be a nation that lives alone and will not be reckoned with the other nations. Many of the commentaries see this as a prophecy for when the Jewish people will achieve a state (or State?) when we no longer feel the need to assimilate or follow the rest of the world and look to them for guidance rather we become the light for them. Interestingly enough the Gematria of the words Lvadad Yishkon/ and he dwells alone= 420 and it is the same gematria of words Yemei Hamasiach/ the Messianic Era- 420
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Jordan River Rafting- It's been a bad year for water in Israel this year. Perhaps one of the worst. Yet we don’t' hear much about it because thank god we have developed many alternate forms of drinkable water with Israel's top modern technologies of Desalinization and water purification. But the one place you do feel it is on the rafting tours up north. The upper Hatzabani river places are sadly all but a lot of backside scraping and raft schlepping along the now shallow river that last year was full of water and even hard to stand in the current. The Jordan river though is still very full and a really great place to go. Jordan River Rafting by Gadot not only has the most water this year but there are all types of fun activities such as jeeping, bike riding and even paintball that can be done there as well. For those that like a current though it may not be for you as the water is fairly still and requires paddling to get down it. But for little kids and adults that just like to lounge out on a lazy river, theres noting like sitting back on your raft down the river our forefathers once used to frolic about on as well.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Powerful and appropriate Clip if only the rest of the world would get
The WEST WING J Proportional response
Answer is A: It's pretty crazy that you have to remember dates. I can barely remember my wife and kids birthdays forgot about what year they were born in and I should remember the Chashmonaim secular year 2000 something years ago? But I actually did J the revolt started in the year 167 and after three years of fighting the Greeks (and our fellow Hellenist Jews who supported them -shhhh we don’t like to talk about that) in the year 164 BCE it was rededicated. Walla!