Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 19th 2014 -Volume 4, Issue 45 -24th of Elul 5774
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.
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 Bachem- perhaps 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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE REBBE NACHMAN QUOTES OF THE WEEK
" 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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(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
4. Marcus Antonius
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
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..
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Whistling Rosh Hashana
A Cute Rosh Hashana reminder video
beautiful Rosh Hashana song
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FIRST TIME JOKE OF THE WEEK
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.'
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.'
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..