Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
November 21st 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 5 -28th of Cheshvan 5775
A Kaddish Tour
The theme of our trip with my tourists this past week became a Kaddish tour. Phil and Martin two brothers were here in Israel a few months after their mothers passing and they wanted to be able to see and walk and explore the land that their father of blessed memory had never been able to come to. For Martin this was his first time in Israel. Tears streamed down his eyes as he landed here and they didn't stop flowing until he headed back. Over the course of the trip we davened in holy places in which all of them Kaddish was recited for their mother. The grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron, Rabbi Akiva in Tiverya, Kever Rachel in Beit Lechem and The Churva shul in Yerushalayim. When we finally came to the Kotel, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, Martin said he felt the presence of his parents looking down upon him. After we davened Shacharis Martin asked me if we could go up to the Temple Mount and say kaddish there. This was certainly not something that I would do this week and although there are many religious Jews that do go up based on the rulings of their Rabbis, my mentors and guides have always felt it is problematic and I still await the day when Hashem gives us back out Temple to once again go up and kiss that holy ground.
But a tour guide can't just say no. We have to have an alternative. As a rabbi, as well, I saw Martin's longing and knew that holy inspiration had to be channeled it needed to connect with the holy spheres. So I told Martin that I would take them to another place- a place I said that I believe is even more powerful. We got into the car and made our way to Har Nof, the once idyllic city that I spent my yeshiva years in Israel studying and where my wife and sisters went to seminary in. But there were no children playing on the streets. The city was quiet, in mourning and in shock. Police vans and reporters lined the streets, it was here that my childhood friend, Aryeh, and Aliza's close friend Chaya Levine's husband Kalman, were massacred while davening the day before in their Tallis and Tefillin. As we entered the shul and passed the bullet hole ridden front doors. I paused and wiped tears and told them the following.
"I cannot take you to the place of the Beit Hamikdash, it has been destroyed and we are still in exile. Mashiach is still not here and we have not yet reached the eternal promise of peace when the 'wolves' will lie down with the sheep and spears and axes will be turned to plowshares. But I can take you to the Mizbayach- to the most recent altar laid before our father in heaven upon which four sacrifices were brought yesterday morning. This is our Holy of Holies today. Here we will say Kaddish and sanctify our Father's name. May these be the last sacrifices that he takes from us that we are not bringing to him on the altar in the Beit Hamikdash."
I remember Aryeh growing up. His parents lived a few houses down from us. We played ball together. Cops and Robbers. He was always the Cop, I always preferred to be the robber… robber/Rabbi they sound the same J. I don't know if there was a day that either he wasn't at my house or more usually I was at his. (His parents had less restrictive TV rules J.) When he told me his parents were moving to Israel, when he was eleven years old. I couldn't believe it. Who was I going to play with? Who was going to be there for me? But move they did. His parents Bracha and Shlomo the week after the newborn babies Bris moved to brand new community of Kiryat Arbah. They wanted to raise their children with their love and passion of Eretz Yisrael. With a life that was not just full of learning Torah, doing Chesed/kindness and praying for the day that we would return home, but to grab the opportunity to be part of that return. To live in that critical strategic area, up the block from and overlooking the tombs of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron. Their children would be able to learn the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, to practice kindness and observe the mitzvos in the land that for generations we always longed for. My friend Aryeh was a testimony of the success of that plan.
My former neighbors who moved to Har Nof a few months ago and who are preparing for their sons Bar Mitzva, told me they spoke to him the other day. It seems that Aryeh had bought a few small freezers for his own family simcha and then decided to use them as a way of helping others. With some small advertisements in the local newspapers he advertised his newest Gemach (kindness fund) of which he had many. This was a freezer fund anyone that needed one to borrow for their family occasions and simchas had to just call him and he would bring it over for them to use for as long as they needed and pick them up when they were done. He told my neighbors that he was so overwhelmed with responses and requests he was looking to buy a few more. Aryeh was just full of love for his fellow man. Each Purim he would get dressed up as a clown to be the crossing guard for the kids. He was someone that was full of thoughtfulness and joy of life and he was also a man of tremendous faith. When his young daughter passed away in her sleep just a few years ago suddenly, I remember talking to him, I couldn't stop crying as he comforted me and told me of all the kindness organizations he would start and open in her memory. How she would continue to live on in the inspiration she left. He was a Torah scholar, who worked in computers to support his family. But if you asked him what he did, his learning was always the way he defined himself. Completing tractate after tractate and always making sure he was doing right not only in the eyes of Hashem but in living a life that would bring us together and sanctify Hashem's name in this world. That was the Korban/sacrifice Hashem took this week. That was my friend.
How does this happen? How could it be? How does Hashem take a Jew and father of 10 like Kalman Levine, who davened at sunrise every morning and just came to the shul to ask the Rabbi a question in his Torah study that has been troubling for a few days? Or a Rabbi like Rabbi Twersky who inspired so many of his young American students with his personal love and caring for each of them, whose love of Torah and everything transformed the lives of hundreds of young men eternally? Or Aryeh, whose last acts on this world before he was brutally murdered was to daven to our Father in Heaven in the Talis and Tefilin that he wore every day of his life since he got them, and then to throw chairs and shtenders at his attackers in shul as he yelled for others to leave and escape. It doesn't make sense? It can't be.
In this week's Torah portion we read about or elderly Patriarch Yitzchak, who was himself tied up and lais out as an offering before God. The Torah portion tells us that in his old age as he came to bless his sons his eyes were blinded. He was thus able to be deceived into giving the rightful firstborn blessing to Yaakov our forefather, rather than Esau who had sold it to him for a pot of soup. Our sages tell us that Yitzchaks blindness came from the tears of the angels that fell upon his eyes when they saw that emotional and tragic scene of Avraham standing over his son Yitzchak with his knife willing to offer him up to sanctify God's name as per Hashem's specific command to him in that most powerful of trials of Avraham's faith. The tears of angels…
One of my teachers once explained, that in heaven there are no tears. In heaven all is clear. The Divine plan is understood and revealed. It is all good. For the angels to cry they had to come down to this world. A world where hiddenness of the Divine reigns, a world of pain and tragedy as mankind struggles to reconnect, through our faith and belief, with our Creator; a world where evil and murder is as much of a free choice as love and kindness. It is only in this world where angels can cry. And it is those tears that could even blind our Patriarch Yitzchak into not seeing the murderous hatred of his son Esau, as he looked in him for that Divine spark. While not fully appreciating the power of the goodness and even leadership of the simple Torah scholar, Yaakov, who dwelled in the tent and his ability to build a nation and transform the world with his ways of kindness and his steadfast commitment to Torah and its ways. Yitzchak was looking with the angels of heavens eyes where all is good. Yet here in this world we are left with our mortal confusion, our pain, our tragedy our existence which all too well knows the hatred of our enemies and the animalistic depravity with which they will go about trying to destroy us.
Martin asked me if this is what life in Israel is like. A rough question for many tour guides. But my heart is what gave him the answer that I don't believe he was expecting but encapsulates the essence of the Jewish people.
"Yes" I told him. "This is what life in Israel is about. Not a day goes by in this country that we do not feel connected to one another in the most powerful and intimate of ways. Not a day goes by in this country when we are not reminded that we are still in Galut/Exile and that we must still long and pray for that eternally promised day when the Shechina will finally return. Not a day in this country goes by that we are not forced to turn to our Father and to ask him 'When?' 'Why?' 'How much longer?' 'How much more?' Many times we are connecting to one another through happy occasions-through the bar mitzvahs we saw at the Kotel, through the acts of kindness that we experience, through the sounds of Torah that ring out once again from the sound-waves over the radio and the halls of synagogues and study halls and through the prayers that are always offered on behalf of one another. On other occasions we are connecting to our Father and to our family in tragedy, in war, in apprehension about our children, our soldiers, our sick. But we are always connected. That is what life here is all about. And if you ask me that is what the life of a Jew is supposed to be about."
In other countries it is possible to disconnect, or at least to delude oneself that there is an existence as a Jew that is possible without Hashem. That what happens to the people living in the Land of Israel will not affect their day-to day lives. That one can change the channel and escape from the tragedies and the intensity of events that transpire a world away. Here in Israel there are no other channels. We are always on prime time. It is the place where there is always Kaddish, where our lives are that of Kedusha/holiness, in life and in death. May Hashem bring comfort to all of the Jewish people and may these be the last sacrifices that Hashem takes from us, rather than us bringing to Him from our Temple Mount with the Temple rebuilt.
Have a Shabbos that reminds the world what the peace and tranquility of the Divine looks and feels like,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Our Father Our King act for the sake of those who were murdered for your holy name
Our Father our king act for the sake of those who were slaughtered for your Oneness
Our Father our King avenge the spilled blood of your servants"-Ancient prayer composed by Rabbi Akiva the great leader martyred by the Romans
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Q. Which of the following Israeli presidents was involved in the study of Jerusalem, the Land of Israel and Jewish communities in the east?
A. Chaim Weizmann
B. Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
C. Zalman Shazar
D. Yitzhak Navon
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
"And Yitzchak said I am old and do not know the day of my death"-There ae seven things that are concealed from a person
1) The day of his death
2) The day when Hashem will comfort Zion (the time of the final redemption)
3) The full severity of Hashems judgement
4) The business in which he will succeed
5) Another person's thoughts
6) Whether a child being carried by a woman will be a male or female
7) The time of the downfall of Edom (the last kingdom which we will be subjugated under, which follows the arrival of Mashiach)
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Connecting with your family – Everybody has a cousin in Israel. And if you don't I'll find you one. But here we are all Mishpacha. Go to the Western Wall and you will dance and sing with Bar mitzvah boys. Go to Shul in the morning and you will meet a total stranger and join them for their childs Bris. Pop into a wedding hall on any evening and dance with a bride or groom the celebrants will be happy to see you. You're family. On the other more tragic end most Israelis have at one time or another paid a Shiva call or gone to a funeral of a family they didn't know of a fallen soldier, a hero , a martyr a victim of terror. We're family. We're there for one another. Try it. Other opportunities to connect is strike up a conversation with anyone. On a bus, in a cab on line in the supermarket. We are all related and we love to find those connections. Even most meaningful, give some charity to someone, help out and volunteer in a soup kitchen, make hospital visits, connect with the less fortunate. They are also our family and appreciate it the most. You’re here for an Israel experience this is the ultimate.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Kaddish recited by the 5 year old orphan of Aryeh Kupinsky HY"D at his fathers funeral
the Jewish response from Rabbi Yackov Haber
I'm not a big expert on the Bible Codes but I found this interesting on the Har Nof massacre
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S SAD JOKES GOING AROUND THIS TRAGIC WEEK
ISRAELI GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT
At this time in order not to incite any of our arab residents to violent it is advisable no to go to har habayit (temple mount), har hazeitim (mt of olives), har homa (jewish neighborhood) and har nof. At this time it is only permitted to ascend har HaMenuchos (the cemetery)…
Things you might hear Israeli Ministers say
Hanan Zuabi-They are not terrorists they just wanted to convert they brought axes fro the circumcision
Finance Minister- I have given orders to cancel all Synagogue governmental grants and I have requested that the police shut them down immediately all synagogues that threaten the security of our citizens.
CNN NON-BIASED HEADLINES OF THE PAST
Answer is C: Ben Zvi the second and longest serving Prime minister of Israel (11 years-until his death) was one of the signers of the declaration of Israel's independence. He lived in a small simple house in Rechavia to reflect the austerity of the people and his times setting the tone for Presidents role since then as a non-political figure head that represents the people. His main interests were Jewish history and the land of Israel and particularly eastern Jewish alternative civilizations and cultures and lost tribes writing works on the Karaites and Samarians (shomronim). His face appears on the bill of every 100 shekel today in Israel.