Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
December 12th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 8 -20th of Kislev 5775
The Right Question The Light Question
So there I was, home for Pesach vacation from Yeshiva in Israel, a young 20 year old Ephraim Schwartz. The thing I missed the most about the States while in Israel was of course my parent's car and then of course my Seven Eleven coffee and slurpees and Jays potato chips, oh yeah and my parents too. Ummm… and siblings? Well, anyways there I was driving around in my parents car right before the holiday and right around the corner from my parents house (Church and Balfour, for you Detroiters). I see a police cars standing at the corner staking out the stop sign and waiting to catch people that would run it. Not me of course. So I come up to the Sign, stop and then continue around the corner home and whadaya know? The police car puts on its lights and sirens right behind me and tells me to pull over. I pull into my parents driver, quite perturbed and as I get out of my car I see the lady officer come out of hers. Grrrr…I did not like lady cops. They never went for me. They brought back memories of my third grade teacher who always was out to get me.
"What seems to be the problem Office?" I asked with the sweetest most innocent smile I could muster.
"You ran that stop sign" she said not smiling and with a heavy Russian accent. Uh Oh Russian and a woman I was not going to come out of this alright.
"I did not run the Stop sign" I responded " you were sitting right there, Why would I run a stop sign in front of you?" I asked trying to impress her with my incredible Talmudic logic.
"Maybe you didn't see me" she said.
"You were sitting right there! And besides I am wearing new glasses and I am actually just coming from the optometrist." I said in my "so-there" type of voice that never wins you any points with officers of the law and usually in general as well.
But then she turned to me and in what sort of shook me out of my comfort zone as she asked.
"Are you Jewish?"
"Huhhh…Ummm, yeah…" I mean I was wearing my Yarmulke quite proudly and was wondering where this conversation was going.
"Have you ever been to Israel" she asked
"Actually I just came back" I said even more perplexed
"Will you be going back there?"
"YES…" I said proudly as I prepared myself for a discussion of the Arab- Israeli political discussion and how as a Jew I feared nothing and how this was our promised land and no one should be able to keep us away. I was ready to get a ticket for being a Jew and someone who loved Israel. Like the Maccabees before me I was prepared to put myself up on that altar. But then she threw me for another loop.
"Would you be able to bring a package back there for me to my family?"
And there you have it. A good old MOT (Member of the Tribe), just trying to get some mail to the holy land.
"Sure" I smiled and said. We began to schmooze and it seems that she had family that had just moved to Israel and the few packages she sent never got there. So she decided to stakeout some nice Jewish boy in the "hood". And she found one. Aren't we a resourceful people?
I thought of this story this week as I read another story about and a beautiful insight from the Sanzer Rebbe. It seems that there was once a non- and perhaps even anti-chasid (called Mitnaged) that was a Yeshiva student that heard about the Rebbe's great knowledge and erudition and he decided to engage the Rebbe in that ancient yeshiva-guy tradition and sport of some good old fashioned Talmudic jousting. When he came to the Rebbe though, the Rebbe began to tell him about some of his needy families that he needed the Mitnaged's assistance with in raising money for; families that couldn't put food on their table, widows and orphans that required some clothes and shelter. The mitnaged, thinking that he had the Rebbe and who felt he was merely trying to avoid a "real" discussion told the Rebbe that he had not come for the Rebbe's blessing, nor to assist the Rebbe he was there to "talk in learning" with him, obviously a much higher calling.
The Rebbe though responded in of course the typical Jewish way, by not answering the individuals request but instead by telling him a Torah insight that pretty much answers it for itself.
The Rebbe said, if it is learning you want to discuss, perhaps you can answer me this question that has been bothering me for many years but only now I am beginning to understand. This week's Torah portion shares with us the story of our forefather Yosef who had been sent out by his father Yaakov to find his brothers shepherding in Shechem. Along the way as he gets lost he bumps into a ' man' and the man asks him what he is seeking. Yosef gives the famous answer 'I seek my brothers, please tell me where they are shepherding.' (famous as they were made into a beautiful song you can listen to below on my VIDEO CLIPS OF THE WEEK). The 'man' tells him in his ominous words 'they have traveled from there,' which of course can be understood simply but as well as can be understood by our sages as telling Yosef that they have traveled from their 'brotherhood' with him that he was so desperately seeking. Words that Yosef just wouldn't accept and whose fatal warning he couldn't allow himself to heed; a message of their nefarious plot to kill him and eventually to sell him as a slave to Egypt.
Rashi, quotes our sages and tells us that the mysterious man who had come to give Yosef that warning was none other than the great angel Gavriel/Gabriel, seemingly sent by Hashem. The Rebbe, turned to the Mitnaged and asked him the following question. How did our sages know that this angel was the angel Gavriel? Why, in last week's Torah portion we are also told of a mysterious 'man' that meets Yaakov in the middle of the night and begins to wrestle with him. When Yaakov, who wins this battle albeit with an injury to his foot, asks the 'man' to bless him he reveals to him that he is in fact an angel and must return to heaven and refuses to tell Yaakov his name and instead tells Yaakov that he would from hereon in be called Yisrael because 'you have striven with the Divine and man and have won'. Over there Rashi tells us that the mysterious man/angel was none other than the protector angel of Esau or the Satan. Why and how over here, do our sages know and suggest it was a good angel and there a bad one.
"Ummmm…" said the dumbfounded Mitnaged, quite wisely is you ask me…
"I'll tell you", said the Rebbe "when one meets a Jew and the first thing he asks him is ' what are you seeking?' What can I help you with?What can I do for you? That can only be a good angel; that is in fact the greatest angel. On the other hand an angel that comes to wrangle and wrestle with you, that when you ask for help or ask for a blessing says that’s not what I'm here for, sorry I have to go…. That, my dear friend is an angel of Esau."
This week we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah. It is a holiday that celebrates how a little bit of our light can shine away all of the darkness. In a world of hedonism that failed to see God and that worshipped their own human bodies and flesh a group of Maccabees got up and said that our job is bring the light of Hashem back into the world. We will fight and even be willing to sacrifice our lives, not for our Jewish independence or for religious freedom as some historical redactors would like to portray the story, but rather because as Jews we have a responsibility to do whatever we can change and transform the world into a holy place; a place that can see the light of Hashem that shines through in everyone. One that can fan that flame to its ultimate glory. We light our menorah to commemorate that miracle of Hashem that tells us that all we have to do is light that spark and that He will continue to give it power to burn eternally (6 days being the physical world, 7 days being the physical and spiritual world and 8 days transcending even this world for eternity-just figured I'd throw in a little kabbalistic thought for those of you that hung in here so long and haven’t scrolled down to the jokes yet J).
The light of Torah is not meant as something to wrangle with people about. It's not meant to establish one's scholarly status with, it's not even something of which who's study is meant to just leave us a satisfied with an inner sense of fulfillment and spiritual meaning. It's a light that is meant to teach us how to interact with the world and to share with them the beauty of a God-filled existence is. A world in which we ask what we can do for you, rather than what we can get from you. A world where the ancient tradition of Chanuka was to give charity to Torah institutions rather than to receive gifts under a tree or bush. Even the custom of playing Draydel was meant to remind us no matter which way the top spins there are miracles that we are meant to reveal in the world. We may be splitting the pot, gaining, losing or just staying the same financially as that draydel spins but ultimately it is all a miracle. It's all from Hashem. And we can never stop spinning. Our game is always on.
Have an fantabulous Shabbos and stupendous Chanukah,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FUNNY VIGILANTE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Cool song and video fromt his weeks Parsha es Achai Ani mivakeish (I am seeking my brother)
Chanuka video Ari Goldwag great song
Aish.com Lights video alos pretty cool!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES "BEFORE KILLING SOMEONE IN A MOVIE" OF THE WEEK
"Never wrestle with a pig, you'll both get dirty and the pig likes it" George Bernard Shaw
"Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly" Anonymous
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Q. The peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed in:
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
Yaakov saw in Yosef a continuatuion of himself. Not only were their facial features similar but the midrash tell us that their life histories were marked by a striking resemblance her are just a few…
"It is to teach us that all that happened to this one happened to this one-
This one was born circumcised and so was this one
This one's mother was barren as was this one's,
This one's mother had two children as did this one's
This one had the birthright as did this one
This one's mother had difficulty in birth as did this one
This one's brother hated him as did this one's
This one's brother tried to kill him as did this one's
This one was a shepherd as was this one
This one was hated as was this one
This one was blessed with wealth as was this one
This one left Israel, married a woman from outside Israel and had children there as did this one,
This one had angels accompany him as did this one
This one became great through dreams as did this one
They both went down to Egypt, had famines, brought blessing, died and were embalmed in Egypt
Both of their bones were carried with the Jewish people from Egypt to be buried in Israel.
Believe it or not I left out a few… let's see if you can think of any
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Eat doughnuts on Chanukah – In America we always ate latkas/potato pancakes. Here in Israel though the custom is to eat heavily fried doughnuts. The main thing, I guess, is to show those Greeks that used to glorify the human body that we really don't care that much about ours and we eat lots of greasy fattening food to prove it…oh yeah and something to do with oil lasting eight days. Actually many of the doughnuts here can do the same thing if you stick a wick in them and watch them burn. But jokes aside they really have the most delicious doughnuts all over this country. Although I do miss my Krispy Kreme now and again… Jelly doughnuts are of course the traditional way to go, but chocolate, vanilla cream and caramel are all great and easily found alternatives as well. Listen truth is for all of those that remember me back in the States you know I am a Latka man and purist at that-no sour cream for me. But when in Israel do as the natives and bite into your jelly doughnut and enjoy.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKES OF THE WEEK
Barack Obama walks into the bank to cash a check.
"Good morning, Ma'am," he greets the cashier, "could you please cash this check for me?"
"It would be my pleasure, sir. Could you please show me your ID?"
"Truthfully, I did not bring my ID with me as I didn't think there was any need to. I am President
Barack Obama, the president of the United States of America!"
"Yes, sir, I know who you are, but with all the regulations, monitoring of the banks because of impostors and forgers, etc, I must insist on seeing ID."
"Just ask anyone here at the bank who I am and they will tell you. Everybody knows who I am."
"I am sorry Mr. President but these are the bank rules and I must follow them."
"I am urging you please to cash this check."
"Ok, this is what we can do Mr. President: One day Tiger Woods came into the bank without ID.
To prove he was Tiger Woods he pulled out his putting iron and made a beautiful shot across the bank into a cup. With that shot we knew him to be Tiger Woods and cashed his check. Another time, Andre Agassi came in without ID. He pulled out his tennis racquet and made a fabulous shot, making the tennis ball land in my cup. With that spectacular shot we cashed his check. So, Mr. President, what can you do to prove that it is you, and only you, as the president of the United States?"
Obama stands there thinking and finally says, "Honestly, there is nothing that comes to my mind. I can't think of a single thing I'm good at."
"Will that be large or small bills, Mr. President?"
Answer is B: Out of all of our neighbors Jordan, the former "guardians" of Jerusalem and the West Bank until we came back home and relieved them of it in 1967 have probably been our least worst enemy in the area that have not really tried to kill us that much. In fact before the Yom Kippur War it is well known that King Hussein cam in specifically to warn Prime minister Golda that they Egypt and Syria were going to becoming for us. We share many things with the Jordanians- the Jordan river for one thing, a mutual dislike of the Palestinians and they're self created miserable existence and failure to create any type of life for themselves. Jordan in fact wiped out thousands of them in Black September 1970. Our official peace agreement was reached in 1994 with Jordan with Rabin and Hussein signing by Arava crossing and Bill "shalom chaver" Clinton smiling away. 1993 incidentally was first Oslo creating Palestinian authority conceptually with Palestinians and 1995 the second dividing the West Bank into regions and 1996 is when they first started violating it with suicide attacks…