Our view of the Galile

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Faithful Forces- Masei 2014/5774

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

July 24th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 38 -26th  of Tamuz 5774
Parshat Masai
The Faithful Forces

He was a doctor. Not just any doctor but "The" doctor and Royal physician to the great world leader in the 12th century, Salaadin. But that was just one of the incredible milestones in the life of the Rambam. Although just the Jewish doctor thing I'm sure would’ve made any Jewish mother proud. The Rambam as he's called, which is an acronym of his name Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, was perhaps one of Judaism's greatest scholars and halachists. His works on the Talmud and Mishna and on Jewish thought and philosophy are the quintessential definition of the word "classic". His trailblazing codification of Jewish law set the path for centuries of Jewish law books that followed that were accessible to the layman. But unlike many academics or scientists that may be better in a lab, hospital or with a pen and paper in a closed room, Maimonides took a leadership role as the chief Rabbi of Egypt and with that responsibility he wrote letters, advised and counseled Jews from throughout the Diaspora in troubled times. It is no wonder that on his grave in Tiberias it states truthfully from Moshe (Moses) to Moshe there has not been any other Moshe {like this one}. We need leaders like that today.

As we enter week three of our battle for survival and peace here in Israel, I chose to study Maimonides perspective on war. In yeshiva the term is Inyana D'Yoma- the timely matters of the day. I found his description of the speech that would be given to soldiers when they would go out to battle to be inspiring. He describes any battle that is for the safety of the Jewish people to be one of an obligatory nature. A Milchemet Mitzvah, one in which we are obligated to reach out for peace but ultimately if our enemies make the foolish (or Divinely ordained) mistake of pursuing their attack on Hashem's chosen land and nation, than we are obligated to go to war. In the case of a battle for our defense there are none of the usual exemptions of newlyweds, a new house a new vineyard and certainly none of the unconscionable "conscientious objectors". It’s a fight for our lives and as the Talmud puts it even a groom from his chupah must go.

So there they are, gathered on the battlefield and the Kohein specially anointed for battle gets up in front of the army wearing his special garments. He reads from the Torah and declares

"Shema Yisrael- Listen, Israel, today you are about to wage war against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted. Do not be afraid. Do not panic and do not break ranks before them. God, your Lord, is the One accompanying you to do battle for you against your enemies to deliver you"

The Rambam then continues with the obligatory laws an mindset that a Jewish soldier in the army of Hashem must have.

"Once a soldier enters the throes of battle, he should rely on the Hope of Israel and their Savior in times of need. He should realize that he is fighting for the sake of the oneness of God's Name. Therefore, he should place his soul in his hand and not show fright or fear.
He should not worry about his wife or children. On the contrary, he should wipe their memory from his heart, removing all thoughts from his mind except the war.

Anyone who begins to feel anxious and worry in the midst of battle to the point where he frightens himself violates a negative commandment, as it is written 'Do not be faint-hearted. Do not be afraid. Do not panic and do not break ranks before them.'

Furthermore, he is responsible for the blood of the entire Jewish nation. If he is not valiant, if he does not wage war with all his heart and soul, it is considered as if he shed the blood of the entire people, as ibid. 20:8 states: 'Let him go home, lest he demoralize the hearts of his brethren like his own.' Similarly, the prophetic tradition explicitly states: 'Cursed be he who does God's work deceitfully. Cursed be he who withholds his sword from blood.' 

 In contrast, anyone who fights with his entire heart, without fear, with the intention of sanctifying God's name alone, can be assured that he will find no harm, nor will bad overtake him. He will be granted a proper family in Israel and gather merit for himself and his children forever. He will also merit eternal life in the world to come as it states: 'God will certainly make my lord a faithful house, for my lord fights the wars of God and evil will not be found with you... and my lord's soul will be bound in a bond of life with God.".

Wow! Now that's a speech. Last week I wrote about the IDF, Israel's Divine Forces. This is what it is all about. Fighting a battle for Hashem, with the knowledge that only his help will save us. I have watched some incredible videos that I have included this week (Rabbi Schwartz's Youtube clips of the week below) of our soldiers before they went into Gaza. To hear them singing of their faith in Hashem, their lack of fear as a result of that faith and the mitzvah to rejoice in the fact that we are believers the sons of believers brought tears in my eyes. It is amazing to think that for over two thousand years from the times of Bar Kochva we have not had the ability to fulfill this mitzvah as delineated in the Rambam; to have an army that will stand up and defend our people, our land, our light and our Divine mandate. And now once again we have returned. And in ways that the world still can't appreciate we are shining our light in how we do battle, how we fight for not truth, justice and the American way but for Hashem, his people and the Torah way. It is truly awe inspiring.

In the North here where I live though it is quiet, although I have neighbors that are in Gaza, friends who have lost friends and relatives already. There is no one that is not living on a 24 hour news cycle. There is no one who is not thinking and praying for our soldiers that they come home soon…whole…There is no one who hasn't shed a tear at the tragic losses we have suffered at the hands of these murderers who want nothing more than to wipe us off the map as so many have wanted to before them. Yet we are not on the front lines. Many of you are not on the front lines as well. Yet the Torah tells us in this week's portion that one does not have to be in war to be a soldier. Our very lives are all charged with a mission and journey that is meant to be done with that same fortitude and determination as our boys in green.

"These are the journeys of the Children of Israel that left the land of Egypt according to their legions., under the hands of Moshe and Aharon. And Moshe wrote their going-forths according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem and these are their travels according to their going-forths..."  
Thus begins the final parsha in the Book of Bamidbar, the book of our wandering in the wilderness until we came home. The Book concludes with the note that Moshe wrote all of their travels down and by Hashems word they were added to the Torah. The next 46 verses reads almost entirely like one of those direction lists on your GPS. They traveled from here and camped and traveled from there and camped. We are also introduced to many new places that we have never heard of before. The commentaries all try to understand what the significance of adding this travelogue to the Torah is. Rabbeinu Bachaya one of the great 13th century sages understands that each one of the places named really define the mood of what took place there. That attitude they had when they camped in the place became actualized in their experience there. There are places name called Mt. Shefer- the pleasant Mountain, Miska- sweet. On the other hand there are places called Charada- fear, Dafka- pushed down, Mara- bitterness. In the words of Rabbeinu Bachaya

"This is to teach us that everything is dependent on what our connection and attitude is towards Hashem. When we were pure and directed towards Hashem his mercy would protect us and when we went with thoughts of sin the attribute of justice came against us."  
It's all about how much we can make all of our journeys Hashem focused. Yet he concludes with an even more powerful message.

"The reason why the verse repeats the travels according to their going forths is because this is a reference to final redemption as well. We will be redeemed once again just as we were redeemed from Egypt and these travels and challenges will once again fall on many of the Jewish people until we are finally redeemed."

Our lives, our challenges, our journeys they are all part of Hashems plan for his people. Just as Moshe wrote the travelogue of the Jews and their fears, trials and successes that defined the places they were at, those same trials and challenges are before each of us in the battles we go through. Hashem incorporated that travelogue in the Torah, in the book that concludes our wandering before we come home to let us know that we are still traveling that same path. We are almost home. We can define the rest of that journey by our faith, by the sweetness we find in the celebration in life and by the pleasantness of Hashems ways, the Torah, the way we treat our friends, our neighbors, the world. We are all soldiers, we are all on that journey together. Some of us are in the front lines, but it is the merit of all of us that will turn this battle into the final war, the last leg before we come home.

It's hard to think about this as being the final battle and journey. It's just Gaza. We're shmoddering them, rightfully so, but the end? Mashiach? Hashem returning? Is it possible? Rav Avraham Kook the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine in the 20's said. That whenever there is war in the world and particularly in Israel the bells of Mashiach are ringing up in heaven. It is our faith and belief that will win this war and it is our faith and belief that turn those ringing bells into the final Shofar blasts that we await. May Hashem watch over our brave soldiers and give all of us the strength and faith to be the army Hashem is waiting to bring back once again to His land.

 May we truly have a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 


"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."– Yoda

"The whole world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is not to fear at all.” Rebbe Nachman of Breslav

"It is job of God to forgive terrorists. It is our job to arrange the meeting" An Israeli soldiers T-Shirt

(answer below at end of Email)
 In which of the following streams was the Nile softshell turtle population rehabilitated?
  1. Alexander
  2. Ammud
  3. Shekhem (Nablus)
  4. Tirtsa

The Parsha this week tells us that upon coming to Israel we are meant to set up 6 cities of refuge and 42 cities for the Levi that would also serve as places of refuge. Everything in the Torah has its message for each jew and in each time. We are told that when one is in caught under the temptation of the Yetzer Hara/ the evil inclination one should recite the Shema. Interestingly enough Shema also has the power of that refuge. The six words of Shema and the 42 words of the first chapter of Shema have the power to protect us when we are faced with our own mistakes.


Tel Arad- Located on the border between the hills of Chevron and the Negev Tel Arad is a fantastic archeological site to really get a feel for what life was like when the jews entered the land. The Torah tells us of the Cananite king who came out to fight the Jews from here and when standing by ancient walls of the former cananite city one can imagine looking out and seeing our ancestors from a distance. Remains of the Cananite cit and even their temples are still there in the lower city to explore. But just as fascinating is the upper Israelite city from the period of the first temple with its elaborate water tunnels and lookout towers and most interesting is the mini temple that was there and the altar or Bamah that has been uncovered. It seems as our prophets tell us that the Jews who were to lazy to shlep up to Jerusalem built their own temple here that was seemingly dismantled. Truly a cool place to visit with your tanach in hand.

These videos are why we will win…why we have won.. I can't watch them without tears of pride just pouring down my face…




Answer is A:  Turtles are cool. At Rosh Hanikra they have a cool film that shows them laying their eggs in the beach and then they hatch and hundreds of them run down to the water to avoid predators. Really cool. Nachal Alexander just north of netatanya flows down from the Shomron and was the largest home of them in the country. In the early 90's we had big rains and flooding and most died. Over the last few years we have repopulated it somewhat. A trip down there is great for the kids to see them.

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