Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
August 8th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 40 -12h of Av 5774
It was 1991. I was a Yeshiva student in Jerusalem and we were about to be under attack. Sadaam Hussein had ignored the ultimatum given to him by the US of A whose mantra then interestingly enough wasn't proportionality and restraint, rather it was one of "shock and awe". Over 35,000 Iraqis died in that 5 week battle 4,000 of them innocent civilians men women children, infants that weren’t being used as human shields to launch missiles from and over 75,000 wounded…but who's counting when it's not the Jews. It was a glorious day for General "Stormin' " Norman Schwartzkopf when we finally liberated that important ally of the United States in the Middle East, who has always been there for us…Kuwait. But, I digress…Back to the beginning of the war and my Yeshiva days.
Anyways, we were the brave ones back then. Many of our friends went home for fear of the upcoming war. We had that "I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home" song playing on our answering machine. We weren't going anywhere in Israel's time of need. We didn't want to miss the fun. They had disbursed gas masks to all of us in case of those terrible WMD's that they were sure to launch at us. We knew that they were somewhat problematic when my roommate lit up a cigarette and started smoking through one of them, without any problems. But we knew that we had to prepare regardless. We were given instructions on how to prepare a sealed room that we could run to in case of attack. We taped up the windows. Again that "roommate" of mine got a little carried away and wrote Kahana Chai and Jewish stars with the tape. I was charged with the most important task. I was put in charge of shopping and stocking our sealed room, with the necessary sustenance we would need to survive a prolonged stay in those rooms. I was like Yosef in Mitzrayim biblical Egypt. All eyes were on me to make sure we were going to have what we needed to survive.
So I did my duty faithfully. All eyes were upon me when I returned from the supermarket. As I unpacked the kegs of beer, the all-important sunflower seeds and of course those gooey chocolate rugelach everyone knew that we would be fine. The yeshiva bochur's comfort food had been taken care of. My mission had been accomplished. The food sat there for a full week until that first air raid siren went off. It was a long week that beer and seeds almost didn’t survive in an apartment of hungry yeshiva guys. But we made it. Five minutes after the sirens went off though the party began. It took about a half hour until we got the all clear signal. By then we were ready to come out. The food was gone. The party was over.
It's been many years since that night. But I still think back to it whenever I partake of some good beer, seeds and rugelach, which isn't too infrequent. It's an interesting thing this comfort food thing. According to Webster's comfort food is "food that is prepared in a traditional way that is satisfying as it brings back feeling of nostalgia for family and friends." Did you know that according to a 2005 study, consumption of comfort food in men is triggered by positive emotions and in women by negative emotions; mostly college age women incidentally. I don’t believe they interviewed yeshiva guys in that study. They probably would have been introduced to many of the comfort foods of the stress filled battle fields of the yeshiva world. Chulent, Kugel, chickpeas, matias herring with salt crackers, feeling better already aren't you? It's what gave us the strength to make it through another day in the trenches. It's how we survived. How we stayed in shape. A circle is also a shape.
This week, following what is hopefully the end of the war in Gaza is of course non-coincidentally, called Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Comfort. It is a well needed Shabbat. One that is certainly hard to imagine for the parents, fiancées, children and loved ones of the 64 soldiers that died sanctifying Hashem's name in their dedication and sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish people and this land. It is hard for all of us as we have passed another day of mourning, of Tishah B'Av, without the Temple being rebuilt once again. Still in Exile. Still without our Father in His home. It is the beginning of the 7 week period of comfort that will conclude with the High Holidays. With Rosh Hashana.. with us asking again for a sweet and better New Year. The Shabbos is called Nachamu/ Comfort after the first words of the Haftorah that we read from the prophecy of Yirmiyahu, in which Hashem promises he will comfort our people.
The word Nachaim in Hebrew which means comfort in its most common form and in the context the Prophet also is used a term for regret. Upon deciding to bring the flood to the world it says Hashem regretted that he created Man because of his immorality. Interestingly enough as well when the Jewish people left Egypt it says Hashem did not take them the quick route through the Philistines (Gaza…?) because perhaps the people will nacham/ regret and head back to Egypt at the first sign of war. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirch explains that the word in reality means a shift of perspective, a complete change of feelings from the way one felt about something until this point.
“Up until now one had considered something to be right and took pride in that reality, and then suddenly he finds out that one has to be ashamed of it: regret, remorse. Similarly, real consolation is only such, that brings the conviction to one who has suffered pain and grief, that this too leads to ultimate good and everlasting happiness… which awakes the consciousness that if one were able to see through and over all the results and consequences as Hashem can and does, one would not alter what has happened even if one could."
How does one deal with loss, with, grief, with disappointment? How can anyone ever be consoled after a loss or a tragedy that can never be brought back. The answer is only through Nechama. Only through a paradigm shift, taking a different path and seeing things differently than we may have seen them before. I read a story once about a woman who lost a child and who refused to be consoled. She wouldn't leave her home, she stopped talking to her friends, her life was frozen. Yet once she met a woman who herself had lost her family and children in the holocaust and she told her words, the first words, that gave her the nechama and direction that she needed. When she asked her how she stopped crying for her loss the brave holocaust surivivor told her in words that pierced her heart
"Oh, I cry! But I learned that there is no point of crying over the past. I learned to take advantage of my tears and to use them to cry for others. Whenever I cry I think about those who need salvation and I pray for them with my tears.”
Then she put her arms around her and said, “No one should tell you to stop crying. But use your tears and learn how to cry! Use your tears to pray for everyone you know who is suffering”.
Comfort food can only get you so far. Its perhaps one of major causes of obesity in America today. People are looking to drown their worries, sorrows and stress in the quick fix and distraction of some tasty morsels. Hashem tells us after Tishah Ba'Av- Nachamu Nachamu Ami- I will doubly console my nation. I will give you a new direction. Your tears and mourning will not be in vain. They have never been in vain. They are what will ultimately bring the redemption. The Skolyer Sebbe notes that the word nachaim comes from the same root Chinam free, for nothing, baseless. We are told that Tisha B'Av became a night of historic mourning because we cried in vain upon hearing the evil speech of the spies before that filled us with dread and a lack of faith to enter the land of Israel. Our temples were destroyed as well we are told because of Baseless hatred/ Sinat Chinam, the infighting amongst Jews, lack of appreciation of how precious each Jew is before Hashem, how we can only bring his true revelation when we can honor and respect that godliness in each and everyone of us no matter how different they are from us. The rebuilding of the Temple is when we can take that Chinam that free, meaningless god absent existence and change it into Nachem, into comfort into consolation, into a new direction. Comfort food is good, don’t get me wrong. Especially free comfort food. But we need soul food. We need Hashem. We need peace, and a return to our home. May the consoler of all of the mourners of Zion console all those families who have provided their heroes upon the altar of His Temple as he allows us to finally see the pathway to the Geula that they have forged with their blood for us.
Have a soothing, relaxing and peaceful Shabbat,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERETZ YISRAEL QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"The recent challenge could not have been clearer. Saddam Hussein was the villain, Kuwait the victim. To the aid of this small country came nations from North America and Europe, from Asia and South America, from Africa and the Arab world, all united against aggression.
Our uncommon coalition must now work in common purpose to forge a future that should never again be held hostage to the darker side of human nature.
Tonight in Iraq, Saddam walks amidst ruin. His war machine is crushed. His ability to threaten mass destruction is itself destroyed. His people have been lied to, denied the truth. And when his defeated legions come home, all Iraqis will see and feel the havoc he has wrought. And this I promise you: For all that Saddam has done to his own people, to the Kuwaitis, and to the entire world, Saddam and those around him are accountable.
All of us grieve for the victims of war, for the people of Kuwait and the suffering that scars the soul of that proud nation. We grieve for all our fallen soldiers and their families, for all the innocents caught up in this conflict. And yes, we grieve for the people of Iraq, a people who have never been our enemy. My hope is that one day we will once again welcome them as friends into the community of nations.-” –President George H Bush at the end of Gulf War
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
A hypocaust is the:
- Name of the Greek god of medicine
- Running surface in stadiums
- Warm water room in the bathhouse
- Underfloor heating in the bathhouse
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
The gematria for Nachamu is 104 and nachamu twice is 208 which is also the gematria of Yitzchak. We are told that our first exile to Egypt began with birth of our forefather Yitzchak, but interesting enough his name is the gematria of nachamu nachamu that foretells of the eventual redemption of the Jewish people. Yitzchak who's name means he will laugh is the counter to Yishmael our final enemy. On Yitzchak it is said Az Yimaleh Schok Pinu, when Mashiach comes then we will have the final laugh…
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
De Karina Chocolate factory, Ein Zivan- Willy Wonka has nothing on the holy land. Up here in beautiful Golan heights one can have a great afternoon at the De Karina chocolate factory. As you enter you are struck by the delicious aroma of that ultimate 'comfort food" and struck by the beautiful and delicious looking chocolate sculptures. Afterwards you can take a tour of the factory with a brief film and demonstration of how to make chocolate. The best part of all though is the end of the tour when you have tastings of all different types of truffles and when you can make your own chocolates and designs and then of course buy all types of hot chocolate drinks milkshakes at their little cafe. A truly yummy afternoon!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Shlomo Carlebach singing Nachamu Nachamu
Maccabeats singing Nachamu Nachamu
Nachamu composed by my good friend Rabbi Yossi Lowenbraun
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKE OF THE WEEK
So the thrifty Teimani Jew (Israel's stereotype for a cheap guy) is eating in the restaurant… and eating… and eating…He finishes his meal and is waiting there by the table. The waiter approaches him and asks him if he can get him anything else. The young man replys that he is fine- thank you. When asked if he wanted the bill. The young man responded that he is waiting still for something. When the waiter asked him what it was. He looked up to the sky and said….the siren…
Answer is D: The Romans loved their baths… It was a great way to get away for the day or a few days and chill out, take care of business and oh yeah wash off all that blood. The hypocaust system was basically an underground heating system with this little circular mini-pillars that would raise up the floor where fires could be lit that would heat the water that would flow on top into three rooms. The Caladarium-the hot room, the tepidarium- luke warm room and the frigidarium- you guessed it the cold room and also where are word refrigerator comes from...so there.