Our view of the Galile

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tis the season of….presents- Vayigash 5775/2014

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

December 26th 2014 -Volume 5, Issue 10 -4h of Tevet 5775
Parshat Vayigash
Tis the season of….presents
 It's a time for presents. Yes, it's that time of year again. In fact since Thanksgiving's Black Friday people across the US of A have been buying, buying, buying presents. It's even become a national event. I'm humbled by this great gesture. After all not everyone's birthday turns into a national occasion to buy presents for me. Even though the non-Jewish world has every right to celebrate my birthday and to buy me presents. I mean imagine the tremendous darkness and lack of chulent that there was in the world before I was born and then moved out to all of these "goyish" cities/States like Iowa, Virginia and Seattle and shared that special Schwartz Yiddishkeit with them. But even the Jewish world it seems has chosen to begin to incorporate present giving into their Chanuka celebrations in honor of my Hebrew birthday as well. I think the Jews are also happy that I ended up moving to Iowa Virginia Seattle and even Karmiel where I am not interacting with too many Jews and therefore only having a limited amount of damage. Regardless it's really quite touching all the same.

What? You say that the presents are not for me? The holiday season isn't about my birthday? They're about some other Jewish kid! Hey, why does he get a big party and not me? What did he do? Who died and made him god? And I thought that fat Rabbi in a red suit with a white beard was about what I would look like if I continued to eat latkas and if I did my own laundry. And I thought the nativity scene was what Maimonides Hospital looked like 44 years ago? Oh well..sighhh.. Anyways for those that want to celebrate my birthday the address where to send your donation is below. Trust me it will be put to a good cause. It will certainly make this Rabbi happy and is a much more worthwhile way to spend your holiday. Your kids have enough electronics already. Your husband enough ties, your wife enough jewelry and your co-workers enough…I don't know what you get them. But have you ever met a Rabbi in Israel with enough donations?

Now besides the world getting into the present mode this week, The Torah portion as well shares with us the story of exchanging presents. How do you like that tie-in J? Yup this week's portion Parshat Vayigash-my Bar Mitzvah Parsha, (pretty cool that I got a Parsha that talks about presents how's that for a not-so-subtle hint) talks about the reunion of Yosef and his brothers. This is in fact the first time in the  entire Torah where we have all twelve tribes together. All our parents. One big (happy?) family. And thus the first Jewish family reunion started. There is food of course. All are seated around one big table. There's talk of family back home, there are tears, favorites, accusations, a fight almost breaks out, lots of invoking of Hashem's name, you know your typical Jewish holiday meal.It ends of course as all of these things usually do with a "let's do this again real soon" and of course Yosef giving his brothers presents for the road. But like all Jewish things and particularly Torah things there are always hidden messages in the presents that are given so let's go through them and see what we can glean from them. Maybe even get some ideas for our own present giving this Rabbi Schwartz birthday season.

So here we are Bereishit chapter 45:21-23 Yosef sends wagons (in Hebrew the word is Agalot) and food for the way. Food is of course very important. Somebody has to take the leftovers. And thus the custom of a "little something for the road" has begun. And then interestingly enough Yosef gives each of the brothers a set of clothing. This is interesting. No, and I don't mean that of course when anyone is coming to Israel they should bring a suitcase of clothing with them back, although my wife would certainly appreciate it. Perhaps another Jewish custom started J. No I mean to think a little bit about the significance of clothing to these brothers. 22 years previously the last time Yosef saw his brothers, was when they took off his clothing and threw him into a pit and then sold him down to Egypt. The brothers then took Yosef's famous colored coat and dipped it in blood and showed it to their father Jacob. Hmmmm is there a subtle message in this clothing giving of Yosef? Perhaps it is the ultimate way of him showing his forgiveness and no hard feelings. Perhaps, the clothing is a sign of redemption for the brothers. In fact the word for clothing is Chalifot- to change, to turn over a new leaf and put on a new garment. It's interesting to see how in previous portions we are told the story of Yehudah who has to redeem his garments that were given away in the story of Tamar and how Yosef himself runs away from the wife of Potiphar as she was seducing him leaving his garments behind. Yosef has worn many clothes since he was thrown in the pit. The slave garb, the prison garb and now the royalty garb. The gift of clothing is that we can change ourselves the same way we can change our garments.
Moving on to the next gift we see that Yosef does something strange in that his brother Binyamin receives 5 changes of clothing and an extra 300 coins. Now yes Binyamin was his only full brother, the only other child of his mother Rachel. But really? Do you want to play this favorite game once again in front of the brothers? Haven't you learned? Is there anyone more than Yosef that has learned this lesson? 

The answer our sages tell us was that Yosef was symbolizing to the brothers and to the Jewish people in the future that there will come from Binyamin a Jewish leader by the name of Mordechai. Mordechai will stand separate from all of the Jewish people in the story of Purim. They will all be politically correct and go to Achashveirosh's party and he will refuse. They will bow down to Haman and wish him a happy holiday season (sorry I couldn't resist) and he will stand tall and proud and say I bow to no one but Hashem. Haman will incite the king against the Jews because of this Mordechai and trust me the newspapers at that time were calling him a religious fanatical provocateur. They will accuse him of trying to be holier than though at the expense of the Jews. Kind of the same way that the brothers in Egypt accused Yosef of being. Yet in the end Mordechai will walk out with 5 garments that the King, Achashveirosh (and our sages tell us that all references to the king really mean Hashem in the megilla), dresses him in. Yosef in his gift to his Binyamin is telling the brothers to remember this lesson in the future. Interesting as well Mordechai himself changes his garment to sackcloth prior to wearing this royal garment. We all need a fresh change of our clothing to reveal our truest essense. The 300 coins, you ask? Mordechai in gematria is 274 if you add the name of Hashem which equals 26, you've got 300 and thus the coins gift.

Finally and perhaps most moving is Yosef's gift to his father. He sends him "like this" ten donkeys loaded with the good of Egypt and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread and food. See back then like today one couldn't get white tuna fish in Israel or wickles (thanks Howard for bringing me some), no Jay's potato chips or Topor's pickles either. (by the way it's pretty cool that those are the only things that I can think of that we can't get here...and I don't miss the Tuna that much eitherJ). So we can understand the food thing. But what's with the donkeys? The Sfat Emet shares two beautiful insights. The first he suggests is that what does it mean in the verse when he sent him "like this"? It seems extraneous. So he explains that Yosef was fearful that Yaakov would be upset when he found out what took place. So Yosef sent him the donkeys to signal to him that this is all a divine plan. The brothers of Yosef who did what they did are merely 'like donkeys' carrying the good of Egypt. This was all Divinely orchestrated. We are Hashem's donkeys, just actors in his plan for us to carry out the good that is in Egypt.

The second message is that Yaakov years earlier had told his brother Esau when he explained to him when he would join him and what his possession were "Yeish Li Shor V'Chamor- I have an ox and a donkey" the commentaries explain that Yaakov was referring to Yosef who is symbolized as an ox and Yehuda of whose descendant will be Mashiach that will ride on a white donkey. Yaakov was saying that I will join you when Mashiach Ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David (from the tribe of Judah) will come. Yosef sent his father the wagons and the donkeys to let him know that although the Exile to Egypt is no starting with his coming down to Egypt, the redemption is already prepared and on its way as well. The ox and the ten donkeys have reunited. Mashiach Ben David will be able to come. Now that's a present!

The lesson of the presents, I guess is that we are meant to get close to one another. Mashiach is around the corner. If Yosef and his brothers can reconcile with one another, then we certainly should be able to give presents and gifts of meaning to one another. Our Father is waiting and longing, just as Yaakov was so long ago, for the return of his children. For them to get together once again. To come back home again. We need new clothing. We need to remove the ones of fighting, hatred, and resentment. We need to see ourselves as mere donkeys of Hashem rather than trying to manipulate the world as if it all rests on our shoulders. Yosef tells his brothers don't get angry don't get upset…it's all from Hashem. We have to start believing that more and more. We await that reunion when we will say Shema Yisrael Hashem Echad as Yaakov did. May Hashem give us the present that we have all been waiting for.
Have a really merry Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Archie Bunker

Keeping kosher for Xmas…it is so unbelievable that 70% of Jewish homes look like this…

"Roses are reddish, Violets are bluish, If it weren't for Xmas, Wed all be Jewish.. " Benny Hill

"There are three stages of man: he believes in Santa Claus; he does not believe in Santa Claus; he is Santa Claus." Bob Phillips

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  Ethiopian immigrants were brought to Israel in:
A.    The return of Ezra and Nehemiya and the Magic Carpet (marvad haksamim)
B.     A’aleh BaTamar and the Ofira Operation
C.     The “Solomon” and “Moses” operations
D.    The Hiram and Tarshish operations
This weeks Yaakov finally comes down to Egypt and is reunited with his son Yosef. When he is introduced to Pharaoh, Pharaoh asks him how old he is. He responds quite lengthily that he was only 130 years old however the days of his life have been few and evil; he did not achieve the happiness that his forefathers had. The Midrash tells us that Hashem reprimanded Yaakov saying
" Are you complaining about the evil that befell you? Did I not save you from the hands of Lavan and Esau? Did I not return Dina and Yosef to you? And yet you grumble and complain? I will diminish your years by the number of words you uttered against me! Hashem therefore shortened Yaakov's years by thirty three the number of words (in Hebrew) when he voiced his complaint. Instead of living until 180 years like his father Yitzchak  he died at age 147.
Think about that next time you kvetch….
Experience ancient Jewish life – One of major industries today is of course tourism…B"H. And perhaps one of the great tourist experiences that one can have here is getting a feel of what the lives of our ancestors were like here. So whether it is getting dressed up in ancient clothing, making oil, pitas, wine as they did or riding on camels, donkeys or even taking a trip to experience some of the ancient farming methods or even shepherding, one can really get a sense of what life its simplicity, its challenges, and even its holiness as they connected to Hashem in ways that were so much more basic than we live today. In recent years more and more places take you are opening that are offering these experiences. You just have to find the right tour guide of course that can not only take you there but bring you back thousands of years as well in the process.

Admiring the Christmas trees displayed in his neighbor's windows, Yankel asks his father, 'Daddy, can we have a Hanukkah Tree?'
'What? No, of course not,' says his father.
'Why not?' asks Peter again.
Bewildered, his father replies, 'Because the last time we had dealings with a lighted bush we spent 40 years in the wilderness.'

Mr. Goldstein was awarded the job to paint the local Catholic Church and Convent.
 After several days on the job, the Mother Superior called him into her office.
 "Mr. Goldstein," she said I would like you to please change three things in the performance of your job.
 Number one, please remove your painter's cap when you enter the sanctuary. Number two, please refrain from washing the paint off your hands in the Holy Water. and Number Three. Please stop calling me MOTHER SHAPIRO!!!!!
Q. What does the Jewish Santa Claus say?
 A. Ho! Ho! Ho! Anybody wanna buy some toys?

Answer is C:  Since the founding of the State of Israel one of the primary objectives has been to increase Aliya and offer a safe haven for Jews from all over the world. Operation Tarshish although I have never heard that name until I googled it was used for the Russian Aliya to Israel and from my search seems to be a Christian organization that coined it to send jews home. Ezra and Nehemia the two leaders who brought the Jews back from Babylonia in the second commonwealth were the names used for the operation in the 1950's to bring Iraqthi jews to Israel close to 130,000 of them! Aaleh b'Tamar was the term coined by the Yemenite Jews who came here in 1881 which in hebre was the year Taf Reish Mem Bet the same letters as the word Tamar from the verse in Song of Songs by Solomon. 2,500 Jews came then when they heard that Baron Rothchild had purchased lands here. Not sure what ofira has do with it (be happy to know if someone else can share it with me...but it could just be a trick). Hiram was a military operation in the 48 war. Magic Carpet was in 49 as well when about 45,000 Yemenite Jews were airlifted here. Which then of course leaves us with Moses and Solomon which were the Ethiopian Aliyot (Joshua as well). In 1985 Moses brought about 8,000 and Solomon in 1991 brought another 14,000. Incidentally this past year saw the largest Aliyah in the past 10 years with over 25,000 Jews come back home!! So what are you waiting for?

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