Our view of the Galile

Friday, September 19, 2014

Up Close and Personal- Nitzavim/Vayeilech 2014 5744

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

September 19th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 45 -24th  of Elul 5774
Parshat Nitzavim/VaYeilech
Up Close and Personal

I almost missed it. The road between Tzefat and Meron is quite curvy and as I was coming across the 
bend by the Birya forest, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something that looked strange. I stepped on my brakes hurriedly, very carefully made a U-Turn and sure enough my eyes did not deceive me. There they were. What they were doing there… I wasn’t sure. But this is the mystical mountains of Israel and I knew that there most certainly was going to be a good story or at least a worthwhile E-Mail that as your “man on the ground” I was obligated to investigate.

So I got out of my car and slowly and quietly made my way over to this strange sight on the side of the road. They were a very mixed crowd of about 20 women. There were older and younger women. Some were obviously very religious with head coverings and wigs. Others were younger with rings and piercings dressed more “street –like”. Some seemed were more put together women and some who seemed like they could use a hand-out. Yet the diversity of the women was not what caught my eye, rather it what each of them was doing that seemed very bizarre. For each one of them was standing next to their own tree, with their eyes closed in some type of meditation and hugging the tree for dear life. Now I come from Seattle and New York and have certainly seen quite a few strange people and things in my life. But the range and the diversity of these women coupled with what seemed like either some biblical styled tree worship or some type of science fiction mind morphing alien abduction definitely took the cake.

I approached one of them and asked what was going on and was shhhh’ed away back to my corner. All of a sudden a woman who seemed to be leading this group shouted out some type of command that unfortunately I did not understand and could not make out. But within a second I was shaken to my core when each woman let out a deep guttural scream, almost tarzan-like on the tops of their lungs for a full 30 second or so.

AAAAAAiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!! OYYYYYYYYYYYY!

It was suddenly very quiet again. Each woman went back to her silent intense tree-hugging meditation and then once again three minutes later with even more intensity.


This continued one more time and then they all smiled at each other hugged and embraced and made their way back to their bus that was parked there.

I couldn’t restrain myself anymore. I walked over to the “leader” and asked her what this was all about.  Was this some environmentalist thing, some far out eastern religion, or maybe some type of candid camera thing that my reaction was being filmed for? She smiled at me and explained.

Actually”- she said “this is a very Jewish thing. You see these women have all suffered some type of tragedy. Some have lost their children, others are from abusive relationships and others have sunk to the bottom and are in so much pain they could barely pick themselves up. We are a support group for these women and we have found that one of the most effective means of helping them is by utilizing the great wisdom and insight of Rebbe Nachman of Breslav”.

Rebbe Nachman advises that when one is so overcome and overwhelmed and feels that he or she has nowhere to turn; they should go out to the forest, a place of quiet, solitude…of holiness. There in the forest one should feel the life force that flows from the heavens, the earth and the trees. One should contemplate how each leaf and each branch rises up and is cared for and loved by the Master of this Divine universe. And then one should pour out all of their pain and woe to our Father who has never left our side and who sits and joins us in our sorrow or loss and our hurt. That knowledge and personal connection is the essence of their relief. Hashem is not just a concept and ideology or a global manipulator. He is a personal God who is there to hold our hand and bring us up and closer to His presence.

The great 18th century Chasidic Rebbe, Reb Yackov Yitzchak of Peshischa, known as the Yid Ha’Kadosh in this week’s Torah portion shares with us this very powerful idea. We learn hownn Moshe in his final speech to the Jewish people warns them to heed our special covenant that is being made with each individual.

“ Your leaders, tribes, elders, officers, each man, infant, woman,  convert in your camp from the wood chopper to the water carrier… those who are standing here today and those that are not here with us today…”
Perhaps there is amongst you a man, woman, tribe, family or tribe whose heart is turned away from Hashem our God… “Pen Yeish Bachemperhaps there is within you a root that bears poison and bitterness…”

The Yid Hakodosh reads the verse, that the root that bears the poison and the bitterness is actually the “perhaps” itself. Pen -Yaish Bachem- There is doubt within you. That is what the source of your pain is. That is the root which will fester and grow and it, and it is from there that all sadness, sorrow and sin result.

I walked away from the bus somberly. It was not them who were taken over by aliens rather it was me. Alien thoughts, foreign reliance’s, a forgetfulness of the essence of who I truly am and the world I truly exist in, but fail to see and appreciate. But most of all the powerful love and caring that my Father has for me.

This week each of us will stand by ourselves before Hashem. “Like a sheep passing underneath the rod- Hashem counts and brings us close to Him as he decrees the upcoming year’s outcome for us. Our prayers for the New Year should not only be for ourselves, but for all of Klal Yisrael, for Eretz Yisrael, for Jews that are in pain and for all those that need relief, comfort, redemption and salvation. But our prayers should not be like those of the past. They should not just be read as an organized book of prayers and rituals. Rather they should be conversations of the most personal and deepest nature to our Father who is yearning for us to be close to Him. Who stands with His pen poised to give us all that we need and could possibly hope for if we only were able to really deeply tell Him how badly we want it, how much we need it. How real He is us to us and how much we need this year to be better and different…closer…home…peace…returned.

Have a fantastic last Shabbos of the year,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

" If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix.."
“If you won't be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for?”
" It is good to make a habit out of looking at the sky."
Rebbe Nachman of Breslav

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q. The fortress Herod built on the northwestern part of the Temple Mount was named for:
1.        Marcus Agrippa
2.        Augustus
3.        Sebastus
4.        Marcus Antonius
 A nice reminder this week we begin, as every year in the Ashkenazic community, to recite Selichot the extra supplications  to get us in the mode and increase our teshuva before Rosh Hashana, The gematria of the words that start off this weeks parsh "atem nitzavim hayom"- and you shall stand up today is the same as "La'amod La'Selichos-to arise for selichot! Hows that for a nice reminder..


Biriya- in the heart of the second largest forest in Israel right outside of the city of tzefat lies this small little hilltop and fortress that in the 1940's captured the heart and soul of our soon to be fledgling nation. The yishuv of Birya mentioned as the home of various tana'aim in the Talmud and also the place where Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote his first volume of Shulcah Aruch- the code of Jewish law on Orach Chaim was abandoned in the 17th century until the jews started to return here with the assistance of Baron Rothschild and P'IKA(Palestine Jewish Colonization Association) who purchased the land in the 1890's and was first settled unsuccessfully in the 1920's.
In 1945 with the British limiting Jewish purchase of land in Israel and emigration, the Jews fought back by occupying hilltops and establishing Jewish settlements. Birya, being one them, was occupied by 24 young men from the Palmach as a training camp for young recruits. However the British after finding an illegal arms cache expelled the Jews from the settlement. This being the first time the British had thrown Jews out of a settlement raised uproar amongst the Jews. And on the 11th of Adar a few days later (taanis Esther that year) thousands of Jews who pretended to be going to their annual pilgrimage to Tel Chai detoured to Birya and reestablished the camp. The next day after many of the groups had left. The British once again came with tanks and threw the Jews out. But the Jews would not be stopped and that Friday evening and Shabbos the Jews returned for the third time from Rosh Pinna and Tzefat- even getting permission to bring food on Shabbos as the Rav of Tzefat felt that it was a dangerous area that protected the city from the arabs around them. And the British finally caved and allowed 20 men to remain and work the ground. Jews celebrated that Purim throughout the country and until today each year Purim of Birya is celebrated as youth groups from around the country relive that great moment when it was clear that the Jews were willing to do whatever it takes to never give up the land. Today one can visit the beautiful forest see the short film of the history of Birya in the visitor center and explore the old homes of this early Yishuv
Whistling Rosh Hashana
A Cute Rosh Hashana reminder video
beautiful Rosh Hashana song
Problem at The Shul (Synagogue)
Rick wanted to get into the Shul [synagogue] In Gants Hill, London on Rosh Hashanah, but without a ticket they don't let you in.
Rick pleads, 'Look, I just want to give a message to Morris in there.'
The man at the door says, 'Sorry sir, you've got to have a ticket.'
Rick replies, 'Just let me in for one minute, then I'll be right out.'
'Alright,' says the man at the door, 'but I better not catch you praying.'
Holiday Visit
Just before Rosh Hashanah, Becky moved and her grandson called to get directions to visit her in her new apartment.
“When you get to East 33rd Street and park, come to the entrance door at 970. I’m in apartment number 32 on the 8th floor. At the lobby door, you’ll see a big panel of buttons. With your elbow, push button 32. I will buzz you in. Come inside; the elevator is on the right. Get in, and with your elbow hit 8. When you get out, go to the left. With your elbow, hit my doorbell.”
“Grandma, that sounds easy, but why am I hitting all these buttons with my elbow?”
“You’re coming empty-handed?”

Answer is D:  Antonia was the name of the fortress built by Herod on the ruins of pevious Hashmonean fortress. It was from this fortress that the Titus and the Romans captured the Temple mount and destroyed the Bais Hamikdash. In the words of Josephus who described Jerusalem in the period of its destruction "the Temple overlooks and controls the city and the Anontia overlooks and controls the Temple He who controls it controls all three". Yes the Marc Antony is the same of the Julius Caesar and Cleopatra who was buddies with Herod and as they studied together in Rome (Herod was sent there by his father to learn in "yeshiva" gymnasium.) Its good to have buddies in Rome I guess..

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Who's on first? - Ki Tavo 2014/5774

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

September 11th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 44 -16th  of Elul 5774
Parshat Ki Tavo
Who's on First?
Ahhh... there's nothing like firsts. For a tour guide like me that loves sharing the beauty and inspiration that our Holy Land possesses there is nothing more exciting than "First Timers". The awe and wonder that they have for every little step, every hill, stream, every nook and crannie that our forefathers certainly tread upon, every ancient building or stone that connects them to our ancestors, each story and each lesson are all a whole new world that opens up new vistas in their souls. And I get to be part of it. No there's nothing like first timers. Their tips are usually better as wellJ.

The truth is it's not just visitors to Israel. All firsts seem to hold a special place in a person's heart. Out first day in school, our first baseball game, our first love, (although for some those are sadly one and the same) our first born child, our first time in a new place, the first time cracking a new book, a new phone-actually scratch the last one I've been sitting for two hours trying to figure out how to work this new gadget my bro sent me. There's something magical about the first time. The newness and as of yet untapped potential, the excitement and anticipation are probably all part of the first time experience and why it is so meaningful and unforgettable. The question is what happens afterwards. Is it all downhill from there?

Now I have to give full disclosure here. I am a first born, as is my wife and of course we therefore had the first born child on both sides of the family and even the first born son after her. So I do have a bit of a prejudice for firsts. But if one would take biblical look at the whole first born thing. It doesn't seem to be that they faired very well. We are told that the first born sons who were meant to work in the Temple were replaced by the Kohanim from the tribe of Levi (The third born tribe!) Esau was the first born of Yitzchak and he lost it all to Yaakov who we come from. Yishmael the first born of Yitzchak as well didn’t make it to the final cut when it came to inheriting the land-I wish someone would tell them that already...L. And if we go back to the beginning of time we are introduced to the first born son in the entire world Cain. Yep he also became the first murderer-fratricide no less and since then it seems like it's all been downhill.

What makes me think of firsts and firstborns this week, besides that fact that my firstborn just started here first week in Seminary? This week's Torah portion of course, which spends an inordinate amount of time describing the mitzvah ofBikkurim the first fruits that are brought to Jerusalem by Jews from all over the country in the times of the Temple. This mitzvah which began Shavuot time would go all the way until Sukkot and for some crops even until Chanukah. Meaning tourism would be booming in the holy city. The Mishna describes the almost daily scene of Jews gathering sleeping in the city streets and then announcing their journey down to the holy city as they would gather more and more people along the way. When they would come to Jerusalem they would be greeted as they carried their wagons and golden decorated baskets with birds hanging down chirping from the sides up to the Temple Mount. They would approach the Kohen/priest there and offer their fruits and would recite an entire text that for those who read this weeks Torah portion should sound very familiar. The text that is read, is what we recite by our Pesach Seder that describes our journey that started with our "Saba" Lavan who tried to kill our grandfather Yaakov (his son-in-law; and thus starts another vicious Jewish cycle) all the way down to the persecution we suffered in Egypt and our ultimate Exodus and redemption. Yup Pesach story Haggada comes from here, the Mitzvah of the first fruits.

Now although this is a mitzvah of 'firsts' it is interesting that it is also one of the last mitzvahs in the Torah. The mitzvahs that follow include writing a Torah and gathering the Jewish people for the Hakhel ceremony where the Torah  is read for everyone. So one can say, that this is the last ritual mitzvah for the average Jew and it seems to be somewhat out of place here, during this last speech of Moshe. Not only is it the last speech but it is in fact, the Torah tells us said on his last day of life. Hayom Hazeh- this day you became a nation, this day you were commanded to fulfill all of the mitzvos, this day Moshe commanded the elders and the people. This day seems to be the repeated motif of this Parsha although seemingly we were commanded about 40 years prior to this on Sinai. The mitzvah of Bikurim itself seems to be talking in the first person as if the person himself experienced all of Jewish history that he relates, although the truth is in the times of the Temple he was probably a millennia away from those things. It is for this reason though that this text is selected for the Pesach Haggada as opposed to the actual narratives themselves in the book of Shemos/Exodus because here it me living the story. The Arami tried to kill my father, we went down to Egypt, they were wicked to us, they placed on us hard work, we cried out to Hashem...and Hashem heard us and He took us out and he brought us to this land flowing with milk and honey. I, me , us we seem to have gone through a time warp with this mitzvah. Which in truth is what are meant to feel on Passover, but yet I believe it goes even deeper if we examine this last, first, mitzvah.

We are commanded to take the Raishis Pri Adama- which is translated as the first of all fruits yet the word raishis really means as those of know the beginning of all fruits, like the first word in the Torah. Bereishis- in the beginning, in fact the Medrash notes that the entire Torah is called Raishis- the beginning and the Jewish people are also referred to as Reishis- the beginning and of course we have this mitzvah as well which is about the beginning. So let's start at the beginning- it’s a very good place to start, I'm told.

The truth of the matter is we really can't start from the beginning, because there really is no beginning. Hashem was always here. It's one of the benefits of He has of being infinite and beyond space. He's always been here and will always be as well. So there goes the beginning. We can start however with the letter B. or Beit Bereshis. After Hashem always existed he started creating the world. But our finite minds can't grasp the infinite and pre-creation existence. We think in the here and the now. We understand the world based on what we see and we perceive. In what Jewish philosophers call the world of Yeish the world of existence as opposed to the world of Ayn- the world of the infinite.

It kind of stinks to live in a world of the finite. Things die, moments of joy are precisely that- moments. We get old, the past is gone and the present is fleeting. Even the firsts quickly fall to the wayside. Yet Hashem never created us to live merely in finite world. He created us with a soul that strives toward the heavens. In the same way that gravity is there to pull us down physically, the soul is there to pull us up; to long and to really connect with the infinite, with the Ayn with our Eternal Creator. The more we tap into that spiritual world the more we become timeless, we become eternal. We become the same person that left Egypt as our ancestor, the same one that received the Torah on Sinai and the same Jew that came to this holy land for the first time. Today! For when we are connected to that first and we recognize that the first is only a continuation and a connection to the eternal than we have truly gone back to the beginning. Back to the eternality of our souls and our infinite existence.

This is the lesson of the farmers of Bikurim and the last mitzvah that Moshe teaches us that connects each one of us right back to our beginning. Each farmer who had worked and plowed, planted, and reaped pauses after all of that labor and says none of this is really my creation. There is nothing more dangerous for a farmer after all that work than to say say that it is all my hard work. Its all mine.It stops and ends here. To live in the world of Yeish and build a country of Yeishand to miss out on the infinite the eternal. our farmer rather turns his head upwards and taps into that raishis and recognizes all of this is from above. My firsts are merely my connection to my Father above, to my ancestors before me and to my Divine mandate on this world. It is this mitzvah more than any that the Torah tells us will fill you with the greatest joy. It is the first that lasts forever. Because it is the first that goes back to the start. On a deep spiritual level perhaps that is what is so magical about the first time of anything.  It brings us as close as we can get to eternal and the sense of beginning of where it all begins and He who is beyond all that is.

It is no coincidence that we read this Parsha right before the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana. Interestingly in Hebrew the new year is not called the Shana Chadasha which would be the literal translation. Rather it is called the Rosh the head of the year. The Rosh or head is also from the same root as Reishis. It is the beginning. The place of thought of the human mind the place that connects us and allows us to discern our spiritual exisitence. Similarly the Head of the year is not the time where we start a new year rather it is a time when we can begin again repeating our cycle of spiritual growth. In fact the word Shana actually mean repetition. There is no year, there is no beginning. On Rosh Hashana we move beyond time. We have the ability to not only erase the past but to change it into a different reality through the process of teshuva, returning...returning to the beginning. May each of us merit to see a year that brings us back once again to that glorious beginning that we have been longing for.
Have a Spectacular Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

As we approach the High Holidays I would like to take this opportunity to offer to all of you my faithful readers who enjoy our weekly insights and would like to show your appreciation at the end of the year as well as perhaps fulfill some of your last minute Ma'aser tithing obligations to share with you the chance to contribute to our Holyland Insights Blog. All contributions go to helping us with the expenses and programs of our synagogue the Young Israel of Karmiel that brings together Jews from across the spectrum from Chariedi, Daati Leumi, Ashkenaz, Sefard, Anglos and Israelis and even some of our secular neighbors. (that makes about 8 people..just jokingJ). We certainly can use your help and assistance and your contribution will mean a lot to assisting us in continuing and expanding our programs.
Your donations can be made via paypal on our blog holylandinsights.blogspot.com
Or for a US tax deductible receipt checks can made out to
American Friends of IYIM (International Young Israel Movement) and mailed to me
Rabbi Schwartz
10 Eshel, Karmiel, Israel 21681

For those of our readers that are member or attendees of our shul please feel free to contact me and drop off your contribution as well. We have very few members that pay us monthly dues as our synagogue is open to all. Yet each person that davens with us is part of our Karmiel family and could certainly feel comfortable contributing on either a monthly or an upfront annual basis for the year as well.
Todah and Shana Tova!
"The first time I see a jogger smiling I'll consider it."

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God's gift, that's why we call it the present.

"I'm Jewish. I don't excercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor."-Joan Rivers OBM

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q. A luxurious latrine from the Byzantine Period was found at:
1.      The City of David (Ir David)
2.      Akko
3.      Bet She’an
4.      The Hisham Palace (Khirbet al-Mafjar)
The laws of Bikkurim the first fruits we are meant to bring to Jerusalem are not clear as to how much to bring our sages tell us that it is 1/60th of ones new fruits. The Baal Haturim suggests that a hint can be found when it says that one should put their fruits Ba'teneh in a basket. The gematria of the word basket is 60. In addition the letter Samach which equals 60 is not found in the entire portion that discusses the Bikkurim. How's about dem apples?? JJ


Beit She'an- Located south of the Kinneret in the Jordan valley the ancient city of Beit Shean consists of the older upper and Roman/byzantine lower city. The upper city/Tel sates back to the pre Israel Egyptian era. Which is kind of cool as one can see the idolatrous temples of ancient Egypt (even a dog fighting with a lion-see this week's Torah portion how the dogs which the Egyptians thought would protect them from plague didn't bark by the final plague). This upper Tel is also the site where Tanach tells us King Saul and his Yonasans heads were hung on the gates of the city by the philistines after they died in battle in by Gilboa (not far from here). It was eventually destroyed by King David built up as an administrative center by Shlomo and destroyed by Tigleth Pilasar and the Assyrians. The lower city was built up by the Hellenists and eventually the Greeks and was one of the Decapolis-10 cities that made a truce in the Roman Empire (the only one in Israel) and became known as Schitopolis. In the city one can see a classic Roman bathouse, temples, theater, monumental building and fountains, "pleasure area", shops and most fun for the kids... an ancient public bathroom. The was destroyed by and earthquake and went downhill from there in the subsequent arab and mamluk periods. Interestingly enough the city is mentioned as one of those that were exempt from Shvi's because the residents were very poor and it was not resettled during the 2nd Temple period. Today however it has the status of the rest of Israel.

The classic who's on first with Abbot and Costello
and the sequel

A man calls his wife as she is driving the first time on the highway and tells her
"Be careful, honey, I just heard on the radio that there is someone driving the wrong way on the highway"
"Somebody?!" she says "there are about a hundred people driving the wrong way here!"
One day, shortly after the birth of their new baby, the mother had to go out to do some errands, so the proud First time father stayed home to watch his wonderful new son.
Soon after the mother left, the baby started to cry. The father did everything he could think of, but the baby just wouldn't stop crying. Finally, the dad got so worried he decided to take the infant to the doctor.
After the doctor listened to all the father had done to get the baby to stop crying, the doctor began to examine the baby's ears, chest and then down to the diaper area. When he opened the diaper, he found it was indeed full.
"Here's the problem," the doctor explained. "He just needs to be changed."
The perplexed father remarked, "But the diaper package specifically says it's good for up to 10 pounds!"


Answer is C:  Beit She'an is the correct answer although it is a tricky question. The city of Dovid does have an ancient "toilet" but that is from the first temple period. Akko doesn't have one that I know of although there is a Talmud that talks about the bathouse of Akko (and how Rabbi Gamliel would go there with the statue of Aphrodite there claiming that he was there first!) the last place I've never even heard of but it sounded Arabic and in fact it is near Jericho which is why I never heard of it and the latrine there is from the Arabic periods. Beit Shean though is certainly the most popular and famous!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure- Ki Teitzei 2014/5774

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

September 5th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 43 -15th  of Elul 5774
Parshat Ki Teitzei
Choose Your Own Adventure

As fervent readers of my weekly musings know ( and by those I mean the ones who noticed I didn't send one out last week…mom J), I used to be an avid reader…before my life became too crazy to find any spare moments for my favorite pastime. Thank God, Hashem at least has created us with the need to use the "facilities" still, so I still remember how to turn pages and catch up on some of my backlog of "must reads", much to those waiting's consternation.
But I can say that my love affair with reading started in my youth, each week my mother would take me to the local Oak Park Library and I would pick out books and would then disappear in my room for hours. Entertained by the imaginary worlds and stories of heroes, villains, kings and princes, battles and of course all types of magical creatures, talking animals and mystical worlds and beings my imagination flourished. As I got older and went to yeshiva they taught us that all of this was a waste of time and of course contraband in the rigid world of intense Talmudic study. I could certainly understand this being that we had so many high expectations for our spiritual growth and to build up our Torah knowledge base as we were meant to in our yeshiva years. So I had less opportunity to reach into my imagination to those wonderful worlds Although I wasn't always the best at keeping all the rules. Yet I do believe that all that reading and the ability to envision and picture worlds and realities beyond what we experience in the physical world gave me a step up in appreciating much of the many messages and parables and beautiful midrashim that our sages utilize in explaining so much of our reality as it relates to the our loving though not visible Creator in heaven.
Perhaps one of my favorite series of books was called the "choose your own adventure" series. The books were basically different stories that every few pages gave you a choice. "If the prince goes into the forest then turn to page 46, if he returns to the castle turn to page 37". And thus the entire book would consist of different stories based on the different choices you would make for the hero. I found these books addictive as I would read them again and again each time with different endings and different plotlines. How cool! In my Yeshiva days as well, although reading books was contraband, I will never forget how I was once approached in a dark hallway by a friend of mine from an older class and asked if I want to join a group of guys that would get together once a week to play a new game that had come out and was an upcoming fad. The game, for those old timers that might remember, was called Dungeons and Dragons and just like those books that I would read it was basically a fantasy game without any board but just a "Dungeon Master" who would narrate the players who were all different mystical figures- I think I was a dwarf…I kind of liked that short, fat, roly-poly hero image- as they embarked on various adventures together. All of your moves in this game, played without a board-just a bunch of geeky guys sitting around in a basement- was based on choices we would make and of course the roll of the dice on how those decisions impacted our consequences or rewards. We searched for treasure together, rescued princesses, killed dragons, each late Thursday night we would sneak down into the basement of our dormitory and disappear into these fantastic worlds. It only lasted about 7 or 8 months the game until word got out and we were busted. But those were the days as the saying goes. Interesting enough some of those original "dunegeoneers' ended up becoming pretty respected roshei yeshiva, community leaders and rabbis themselves-all who shall remain nameless of course to protect the guilty's current positionsJ but you know who you are…It's good to have a little leverage on some important peopleJJ). Although I think I'm the only one (and probably the least likely if you would have asked my Rabbis then) that ended up as a Kollel rabbi, Rosh Kollel, community rabbi and most importantly to you of course a tour guide. I guess that running after your imagination and following your life's choices in different directions may be a good exercise in expanding your horizons and bringing you to new uncharted frontiers. Although it might also take to you Detroit, Iowa, Virginia, Seattle and Karmiel Israel as well. Hmmm maybe I should've listened to my Rabbis.
This lengthy introduction is of course necessary to get you, my beloved and patient readers, to get in the right frame of mind for this week's Torah portion which probably more than any Parsha in the Torah plays out like a choose your own adventure book. With more mitzvos the any other Parsha in the Torah, the Torahs commandments in the Parsha are not merely just random recitations of disparate laws, but rather there is a process to them. As Rashi notes, if you do this than this will happen and if you do this then this will occur. The following is just a short selection of the concept but in truth it is truly amazing to examine this parsha beyond the first chapter or two and you can see that the theme runs throughout the portion.
Mitzva 1) you go to war and find a non-jewish women captive that you fall in love with the process of marrying here and taking her as a wife
Mitzvah 2) A man has a two wives one he loves and one not so much he can't give the first born rights to the beloved wife son
Mitzvah 3) when a man has a son who is "wayward" bring him to elders of the city and "justice" is done to him to remove the evil from our people. (I spare the gory details of what our sages teach us is really more of a hypothetical case)
Mitzva 4) what to do with the body of one who is put to death by stoning
Can you get the gist of the slippery slope of the choices being made by our soldier in his "choose your own adventure"? Marrying for the wrong reason an inappropriate person, the impact it has on one's family, his children and ultimately himself
On the flip side of the coin the Torah tells us about the mitzvah potential
Mitzva 1) if one finds a bird send away the mother before taking the eggs
Mitzva 2) when one builds ones own house make sure you put up a gate on the roof so that no one will fall and hurt themselves
Mitzvah 3) when you have a field don't mix species between your vineyard and other seeds
Mitzvah 4) don't plow with your oxe and donkey
Mitzvah 5) wear tzitzis/fringes on your garments
And here once again Rashi notes that these are not just random mitzvos but rather descriptions of processes. If you show you care and respect the "home" of the bird as you are walking on the road, than you will have your own home. And if you show that you fulfill the mitzvos of taking responsibility for your home, than you will have a field and then oxen, donkeys and even nice clothing. Turn to page 37.. turn to page 43… and keep following the book to the happy ending at the end of the parsha of the destruction of the ultimate evil of Amalek and the promise of Hashem giving us our rightful protion in Eretz Yisrael.
The truth is that it is truly an amazing parsha if you examine it in this light. Have fun with your family this Shabbos and crack open a mitzvah mentioned and look at the following and/or proceeding one and you are bound to find some connection, some if he does this than it can lead to that. It is a Parsha that at face value can just be a random reading of laws, but just scratch the surface and engage in what our sages suggest is the concept of Doreish Semuchim deriving a teaching from the close proximity between two mitzvos and new worlds can open up before you. Worlds that are not magical or fantasy filled but worlds of spirituality and the paths and journeys that we can travel on.
We read this parsha as we approach the holiday of Rosh Hashana in the month of Elul the last calendar month before the New Year. We are told that it is a time when the "King is in the Field" Hashem our Father, our Creator and who's Kingdom we are meant to proclaim to the world is nearby…next to us... right here in the trenches...in our workplace, his Shofar is blasting every morning. He is Semuchim/close to us and we are meant to be Doreish Him, to seek him out. We are meant this month more than any in the year to examine our adventures, our missteps, the paths that we took this past year and where they have led us to. Are we closer or farther? Have we achieved the goals we have set for ourselves or are we wandering in the dark cellars still looking for the light that is shining so brightly if we could only start climbing the stairs.
 Have a Majestical Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz 

"Logic will get you from A-Z, Imagination will get you everywhere." - Albert Einstien
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.” - Albert Einstien
"Jewish imagination is paranoia confirmed by history"

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q. With which of the following sites is Biblical Sha’arayim sometimes identified?
1.         Tel Sokho
2.         Azeka
3.         Ekron
4.         Khirbet Qeiyafa

The Gaon of Vilna once told his students that each and every Jew is hinted to in the Torah and can be found there. They asked him where his name was found and he said that it is in this weeks Torah portion the words Even Shleima Tiyehe Lach- One should have (measuring) stones that are complete (so one would not cheat) the words Even Shleima are an acronym of his name Eliyahu BEN SHLoMO and even more interesting is the words that follow it VZedek Tihyeh Lach- and justice will be to you is gematria 270 the same as his mother's name Treinah.


Davidson Center- Jerusalem– It's right there at the edge of the Kotel and as you enter this fantastic museum you are as the sign says going down 20 feet and going back 2000 years. The museum is fantastic in that it truly gives you as sense of the archeological digs that took place in this most holies of sites and what the temple looked like as well as the coins found there. There are also great short films that depict what life was like back then particularly during the holiday season when all would come here. After the museum one enters onto the actual ancient streets and roads of the outside of the temple mount walls. You can feel the destruction as you look at the rocks hurled down from the top that remain embedded in the streets. You can think of what life must have been like in this busy metropolis with all of the mikvas for those that would bring sacrifices and shops that must have been here. One can see the remains of the arches Robinsons and Warrens and hope that one day soon we will merit to go up and return to our Temple rebuilt..hopefully this Sukkot!

So this is the new Yiddish song that’s taken over the Chasidic world lately-I'm kind of getting into it Lyrics translated below
and heres everyone you can think of singing it cuteJ

דער אייבישטער זאגט אונז קינדערלעך אנוכי הסתר פני ביום ההוא, אבער די רבי זאגט
ואפי’ בהסתרה שבתוך ההסתרה בוודאי גם שם נמצא השם יתברך
גם מאחורי הדברים הקשים העומדים עליך, אני עומד
Hashem says "tell our children 'I will hide my face on that day' but the rebbe says that even in the hiddenness within the hiddenness Hashem Blessed is He is also certainly found there. Also behind the difficult things that stand upon you…I stand…I stand …I stand

Several weeks after a young man had been hired, he was called into the personnel director's office. "What is the meaning of this?" the director asked. "When you applied for this job, you told us you had five years experience had worked on presidential campaigns and was awarded industry medals for your work and now we discovered that this is the first job and position you have ever held?!"
"Well" said the young replied "in your ad you said you wanted someone with imagination!"
A sister and brother are talking to each other when the little boy gets up and walks over to his Grandpa and says, "Grandpa, please make a frog noise."
The Grandpa says, "No."
The little boy goes on, "Please...please make a frog noise."
The Grandpa says, "No, now go play."
The little boy then says to his sister, "Go tell Grandpa to make a frog noise." So the little girl goes to her Grandpa and says, "Please make a frog noise."
The Grandpa says, "I just told your brother no and I'm telling you no."
The little girl says, "Please...please Grandpa make a frog noise."
The Grandpa says, "Why do you want me to make a frog noise?"
The little girl replied, "Because mommy said when you croak we can go to Disney World!"


Answer is D:  There are so many archeological sites in Israel and most of them are stones, walls, buildings, pottery, in Khirbet Kayefiah they found writings that go back to the times of King Saul on an ostracon as well as remains of what may very well be the palace described as shaaryaim which means two gates as there is a double gate entering the city. The other sites all relate to David as well with battles against Goliath in Azeka, And Philistines in Socho as well as Ekron which was a major philistine city.