Insights and Inspiration
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"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"
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Q. With which of the following sites is Biblical Sha’arayim sometimes identified?
1. Tel Sokho
4. Khirbet Qeiyafa
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL GEMATRIA OF THE WEEK
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.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
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!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
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
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S IMAGINATION JOKE OF THE WEEK
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.