Our view of the Galile

Friday, January 30, 2015

To Be a Chasid- Beshalach/Shira/ Tu BShvat 2015/5775

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

January 29th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 15 -2nd of Shvat 5775
Parshat Beshalach
To be a Chasid
His child was sick. The Doctors had given up hope. There wasn’t much more he could do but pray. His friends at the eclectic synagogue that he prayed at, consisting of Chasidim with various Chasidic Rabbis and movement affiliations, all encouraged him to approach their Rebbe for a blessing and for prayers. Not particularly affiliated with any Chasidic movement or rebbe he went to a few of them for blessings. The Vizhnitzer, Gerrer, Bobov, Lubavitcher, Satmar, Pittsburger and Bostoner (he never made it out to the Karmieler J), all received him independently heard his woeful story and all blessed him that his child should have a Refuah Shleima a complete healing and promised to pray fervently for his recovery. He left feeling renewed hope and comforted by their deeply empathetic caring and reception.

Returning from his international “blessing tour” he went back to the hospital to find the doctors standing in amazement at what they described could only be a miraculous recovery. The tumor was gone, his organs were recovering, his son would live a long healthy life. Tears flowing down the father’s face he pledged to give a Kiddush the following week in his shul in honor of this incredible news. The mood, as can be imagined in shul that week was jubilant. As the L’Chaims were passed around the room on the special 18 year old single malt just right for the occasion, the Chasidim began the ultimate debate; which Rebbe should get the credit for the miracle that took place. Each Chasid claimed it was their Rebbe that had stormed the gates of heaven and that had ultimately been responsible for the healing of the young boy. Needless to say as in most good Jewish debates of this sort no resolution was found. One of the Chasidim, of the Satmar affiliation, decided after davening to walk down to his Rebbe, the always sharp and to the point, Reb Yoel Teitelbaum ZT”L of Satmar, and ask him who he thought should get the credit.

The Rebbe heard his Chasid’s earnest quandary and responded in the way that only the Satmar Rebbe was known to answer.
“Which Rebbe will get the credit?” he asked his Chasid “Why that’s simple. The Rebbe with the most Chasidim will ultimately get the credit. Because, after all, he has the most adherents and they will be sure to promulgate the story in their Rebbe’s name the most.”
“But who really gets the credit?” he said wryfully, “That is really the Ribono Shel Olam- The True Master of the Universe; Hashem. But unfortunately He has only ‘vainegeh Chasidim’-too few Chasidim so you may never really hear about it.”

What does it mean to be a Chasid of the Almighty? For that matter what does it mean to be a chasid at all? As a child growing up in Detroit there were not too many Chasidim around (besides Chabad which of course are everywhere-but I mean the big furry hats and long coats type). But every year we would have an annual Stoliner Shabbat (or ‘shabbis’ as they would say it), when a hundred or more Chasidim would come for their yearly pilgrimage to their Rebbe’s grave in Detroit for special prayers. The memories of those Shabbosim are etched in my mind. Loud, fervent, inspired davening, Kiddushes and Friday night Tish when the Rebbe would lead his Chasidim in song while sharing his fruit and his drink with them were all just parts of the other-worldly – or better yet old-worldly experience that I had felt I entered in. Watching the Rebbe and listening to him speaks pearls of Torah (in Yiddish- which I didn’t understand) one could sense a feeling of holy awe that permeated the room. You were connected to something higher than life. You wanted to be there forever.

This week is known as Shabbat Shira- a Shabbat of song. The Torah reading of the week contains in it the song our ancestors sang upon their miraculous salvation and the splitting of the sea. The Talmud tells us that even the simplest maidservant achieved a greater level of spiritual prophesy at that moment than even the greatest prophets. They all became Chasidim of Hashem. And Chasidim sing. There is a special custom this Friday before Shabbos Shira to give food to the birds prior to the onset of  Shabbat. One of the reasons given for this custom is because the power of song is the domain of the birds. We borrow their special power this week and share with them our food.

What is the song of the birds? They are the most transcendent of creatures. They fly across the skies and see the incredible beauty of Creation. Their songs are so close to the heavens because they see the Almighty wherever they fly. When a Chasid closes his eyes and sings he can also fly. His soul soars and he is connected to Hashem, our Father… our Rebbe.

This Shabbos is also always connected to the holiday of Tu B’Shvat the New Year of the trees. Look outside and the trees still look dead and barren. The grass is not green and the fruits are not yet growing. Tu B’Shvat tells us to look deeper. Our sages and Botanists both agree that underground the sap is starting to flow. The Creation and flourishing is just around the corner. The song is slowly starting and we should already begin to sing. A true Chasid doesn’t need to see the fulfillment of the blessing to begin his song. As soon as he knows his Rebbe has heard his plea, he begins to rejoice. He can already hear the song. So as you sit down with your family this Shabbat, teach them the song of this Shabbos. Show them who your Rebbe is. Hashem could use a few more Chasidim.
Have a musical Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz




" Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons For each yields its own abundance

The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!– Ilan Shamir

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  What does the term ‘uqal describe
A.    A type of headdress
B.     A type of obeisance in Muslim prayer
C.     The people initiated into the secrets of the Druze religion
D.    A title of respect for pilgrims who visited Mecca outside the Hajj
In Parshat Ki Tisa after the sin of the golden calf when Moshe was pleading with Hashem that he should not destroy the jewish people the Midrash recites a conversation between Moshe and Hashem and the argument that was presented based on our portion.
Rav Berachia said that in the name of Rav Chiiya Bar Ada of Yaffo who said from the name of Rav Shmuel Bar Nachman that when the Jews came to the bitter waters of Mara Moshe began to have suspicions in his heart " Why were these waters created? What benefit does the world have from them? It was better that they were never created. Hashem saw into Moshe's heart and answered him "Don't think this way, for are they not the works of my Hands? There is nothing I have made that does not have a purpose. Instead I"ll share with you what you should say. Let the bitter become sweet…. This became as teaching in the hands of Moshe which he guarded. When they came to the desert and Hashem wanted to destroy them Moshe turned to Hashem and said "Master of the World, You seek to destroy the Nation of Israel? Was it not You that taught me that one should always pray that the bitter should turn sweet? Therefore now you should aprise the bitterness of your nation and heal them.
Turn the bitter sweet…
Plant Trees in Israel   – Not everyone is able to live in Israel (although they should J). Yet anyone can come here and plant a tree and be part of the rebuilding of our holy land. When Iw as a kid growing up I remember the JNF plant a tree Bar Mitzva gifts they used to give out. But today when one comes to Israel it is a great worthwhile thing to contact the JNF and plant  a tree here. It is a mitzvah (just not in shemitta year), and it really shows our settling of the land, as the trees demarcate that this is our land. It is fascinating to stand in the north of Israel and to gaze into Lebanon from the Galil and see the difference between our country and its green trees that have been planted all over and the empty barren hills of theirs. Planting a tree is a great way that everyone can feel they have participated in the mitzvah of settling our land.


How do trees access the internet?
They log on.
What did the tree do when the bank closed?
It started its own branch.
What type of tree fits in your hand?
A palm tree.
How do you properly identify a dogwood tree?
By the bark!
Where do saplings go to learn?
Elementree school.
What is an Oaks Favorite school subject?
What is every single tree’s least favorite month?
What must trees drink responsibly?
Root beer.
Why do trees hate tests?
Because they get stumped by the questions.

Answer is C:  It's a strange religion the Druze. A break-off islam in the 11th century the Druze believe that Islam lost its way and is really meant to be a more spiritual/mystical religion. Thy believe in hidden and revealed prophets. The holiest revealed is Moshe but the real prophet that was hidden that was behind him was Yisro whom they venerate. Because their religion was persecuted it became sealed and no one can become Druze. In addition Druze have a choice if they want to be religious or not and 90% choose not to. The Uqual are the religious ones-men and women and they are given special honor and are the only ones that are allowed to learn the secrets of the religion and practice the faith. Unlike us the Jewish people that each and everyone of us accepted and are blessed with the mitzvah to learn and keep the Torah and mitzvos! Ashreinu Ma Tov Chelkeinu. Asher Bachar Banu Mikol Ha'Amim- how fortunate are we and how fortunate is our portion that Hashem has chosen us from all nations and given us His Torah!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Facebuker Rebbe- Bo 2015/5775

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

January 22nd 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 14 -2nd of Shvat 5775
Parshat Bo
The Facebuker Rebbe
It was at an AJOP (Association of Jewish Outreach Professionals) convention that I met him a many years ago. The convention was a great place for all of us outreach guys from around the world to get together and commiserate each year of what life out in the boondocks was like. We'd kvetch about fundraising, exchange "war" stories about what life on the "front lines" of the battlefield for Jewish souls was like, and of course share different ideas programs and strategies that we had utilized in order to reconnect Jewish souls to their heritage. My highlight each year was our "Rosh Kollels at Risk" late night sessions, when we would break out the scotch and cigars, chuck off our black hats for a few hours and have a good old fashioned bull session, just like back in the dorms in our old yeshiva days before we became heads of institutions of higher learning. We were going to change the world one Jew at a time. It was our life's work. We were entitled to one night once a year of letting our Payot down.

I'll never forget Dovid though. He was the guy with a constant smile. He wasn't really a Kiruv professional. Just a regular baalabos (Yiddish for working guy- although I always tell people that in Hebrew it translates as the husband of the boss:)), who worked for a payment processing company, that for some reason couldn't stay away from this convention. Every year he had different ideas, different strategies, all types of money making schemes for our organizations so that we could make more money, reach more Jews, connect more souls. He had business cards, TV shows, radio programs, websites, he was unstoppable a "Kiruv hurricane of ideas and enthusiasm. I don't think there was anyone there that didn't get a hug from Reb Dovid. His love for every Jew was palpable. His commitment to sharing the beauty of our heritage with every one of Hashems children was contagious. It wasn't only with non-observant or un-affilaited Jews either. He was connected with so many community organizations, for the sick for the needy, for helping people find their bashert. Even non-Jews were on Dovid's  "hit list". He would hand out cards to people that would make them smile, start random conversations with people he bumped into on line, on the train at work and share with them the enthusiasm he had about living in a God-filled world and some inspiring Jewish Torah thought. He even numerous times helped raise money in times of crisis or tragedies, hurricanes, terrorist attacks for the victims and perhaps even more significantly requested prayers for them. He was a true child of Avraham and he was out to shine Hashems light to the world.

I remember when he excitedly told me about his newest project. He decided to become a "Rebbe" of the largest Jewish population in the world. In fact he told me he was becoming the "Rebbe" of the country with the largest amount of inhabitants on the planet. It seems that this country had been Rebbe-less for a long time and he intended to become it's Rebbe. The name of country- some of you may have heard of it- Facebook. And Dovid Winiarz became the "Facebuker Rebbe".  I don't know how many followers the Chasidim of Ger, Satmar or Lubavitch have. But the Facebuker had over 13,000. And that does not include the 10's of thousands that read his posts, his jokes, his stories that were shared by his followers all across the globe. As I read some of the recent posts and the condolences that were sent to the family after his untimely passing in a car accident this past week on the way to the convention, it was mind blowing to read the stories people shared.

"He just sent me my first pair of tzitit and a mezuzah" commented Mark, "He introduced me to my husband" Stephanie said. "My first Shabbat was only because of our conversations and I haven't missed one since"- remarked David." I was out of job and he helped me find one and he didn’t' even know who I was, I was just a Jew in need coming to the only Rebbe that I felt comfortable communicating with" Allan kvelled. "I just sent him a Shabbat Shalom and he sent me back a "ditto" Sarah tearfully posted "I can't believe, I'll never hear him say it again". I can't believe it either…

There are some that were hesitant about becoming a Rebbe on facebook, social media can be dangerous. The internet is perhaps appropriately called a web, a place and trap which you can fly into and get stuck and die in. But for Dovid it was a no-brainer, As he told me he explained to his Rabbi in order to get his blessing, "There are Jews, that are out there, that are hungry, that won't come to classes and prgrams, but just need a Rabbi, a friend a hug, how can I not be there for them". The Facbuker Rebbe died this week. The world has lost a tremendous light. Hashem took him on the Torah portion that discusses our redemption from Egypt and our last minutes in Exile. I believe in this weeks portion we can find as well the message and legacy that the Rebbe has left us.

This weeks Torah Portion of Bo shares with us the end of the story of the plagues of Egypt. We have reached the final countdown. Hashem tells Moshe to tell the Jewish people to put blood on their doorposts in order that when Hashem comes to smite the first-borns of Egypt, he will see the blood
"And the blood will be for you for a sign upon the houses where you will be, and I will see the blood and spare you, and there will be no destructive plague in you when I smite the land of Egypt."
Rashi notes that the seemingly repetitive phrase of sparing you and no plague in you, will come to include even the Jew that is in the house of the Egyptian at the time of the plague. It's a simple Rashi that one could read through quickly and move onward; however the Lubavitcher Rebbe sees in it the deepest of ideas. Think about it for a second. The Jews were told by Moshe do not leave your houses on this night. The plague will hit, the first borns will die and the blood on your doorposts will serve as your sign before Hashem. You're on his team. And yet there still seems to be some Jews that will decide to go and sit with their Mitzri/Egyptian "brothers" in their Egyptian homes. Perhaps in solidarity. Perhaps because of their assimilated state. Perhaps because they refused to identify themselves religiously in any visible way. There are and were always Jews like that. Yet Hashem tells Moshe. That those Jews as well in the house of the Egyptians will also not be subject to the plague. They are also still my children. They are also My First-Borns, whether they know it or appreciate it or not.

The plague of the First-Borns is different than all the other plagues. It is this plague that Hashem first tells Moshe to tell Pharaoh about.
"Speak to Pharaoh and tell him, My First Born is Israel, and I tell you- send out my children and they shall serve me and if you refuse to send them out I will kill your First Born son."

Whereas the other plagues were meant to teach Pharaoh and the world about Hashem and His power and constant managing of the world. This plague was his punishment for not listening. The plague takes place precisely at midnight, Hashem says. Midnight is the time when the Darkness and the night gets as dark as it can and when it starts to begin to get lighter. Our Kabbalists tell us that midnight is the point when Din and Rachamim, judgement and mercy meet. The Jewish people very likely were just as assimilated and certainly our sages tell us were idol worshippers as the Egyptians were. Yet the difference Hashem tells Moshe from the beginning is that we are his children. We are His First Borns. No matter how much a child sins, disappoints and is disconnected. He is always his father's child. The father will always have mercy.
It's interesting that our Pesach Seder there is a custom that the children steal the Afikoman. It is returned however before midnight to  the father who than rewards his cute little crook and continues the singing and the praise until the end of the seder with.his son by his side. At midnight even the little "gonif"  who just stole from his father an hour ago, finds the mercy and grace. That is the love of a father to a child. That is the love of Hashem to His children.
The Talmud tells us that we are meant to emulate the ways of Hashem. If Hashem can go down to the house of the Egyptian to rescue and pull out one of his children in order to tell him how loved he is, then we must as well. Facebook may not be Egypt, but it is a place where so many are looking for "friends". We need to not only "friend" people but "brother" them, "sister" them connect each Jew no matter where they are to us to our Father. Last Shabbos, the day before Reb Dovid Winiarz, was taken from us he was in shul most certainly as all Jews were when we recited the blessing for the new month of Shvat. The blessing we said concludes

"He who had done miracles for our Forefathers and has redeemed them from slavery to freedom, He will redeem us soon and will gather in all who have been pushed to the four corners of the earths. Chaverim Kol Yisrael-All Jews will then be "friends" and we shall say Amen."
Hashem has taken back the Facebuker friend who is certainly praying before our father for that day to come soon.
Have a friendly Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Dovid Winiarz was a special individual who lived to make the world a brighter place. Never content to just enjoy his own little corner of the world, Dovid was a people person who wasn't happy unless he was doing something for others. Constantly widening his circle of friends with his trademark humor, his genuine smile and his perpetual good mood, Dovid literally lived his life for others.
Dovid died in a tragic car accident on his way to a kiruv (Jewish outreach) convention in Baltimore, leaving behind a wife and ten beautiful children, seven of whom are still single. Dovid spent his life helping others and now it is our turn to perpetuate his legacy by helping his family face the future.
Every penny contributed to this campaign will go directly to the Winiarz family.

(This site charges no fees.) Please give what you can in honor of a man who made the world a better place, each and every day he was in it.

Tizku L'Mitzvos!

The audio recording of the Levaya (funeral) is available here:https://app.box.com/winiarz
**For recurring donations, please use this page:https://www.fidelipay.com/winiarzfamily**

All online donations are going through Bikur Cholim of Staten Island, and are tax deductable.

Checks can be made out to Bikur Cholim of Staten Island and sent to:
Bikur Cholim of Staten Island
23 Niles Place
Staten Island, NY 10314

Please write "Winiarz Family" in the check memo.


The Rebbe for Shabbat.com
Dovid's birthday video speech two weeks ago..



" Count your joys instead of your woes.
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your courage instead of your fears,
Count your laughs instead of your tears.
Count your full years instead of your lean.
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth,
Count on G-d instead of yourself – The Facebuker Rebbe

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  The term Jizyah denotes:
A.    The commandment of charity
B.     The northern Arabian Peninsula
C.     The protected religions
D.    The per-capita tax levied on non-Muslims

The Midrash shares with us the symbolism of the lintels and the doorpost of where the Jewish people were meant to put the blood as representing our forefathers. The lintel represent Avrahams the two doorposts represent Yitzchak and the Yaakov in the merit of our forefathers the children are redeemed although our merits may be insufficient. Additionally the foods consumed Seder night the Midrash tells us are reminiscent of our patriarchs and Matriarchs. The lamb roasting over the fire remind Hashem of Avraham who was thrown into a fiery furnace and saved. The matzos allude to Sarah who baked Matzos for her guests, the three angels, The maror represents Yaakov who was persecuted by his brother Esau and whose life consisted of a succession of tribulations.
It is interesting that we are a nation that is called in tanach by the moniker of Bnai Yisrael, All other nations are called by the country they live in Moabites, Amonites, Egyptians, Americans and Russians. The Jewish people are called the Bnai Yisrael, the children of Israel. Our national identification and title is as children of our Forefathers. Children of our Father,

Explore unique Geological sites   – Eretz Yisrael is truly the place that has everything in it. The Midrash tells us that this was the starting point of the world, so it would make sense that we have every type of geological formation here. Being at the center of the Syrian African Rift has afforded Israel the prestige of having the lowest place on the planet earth.  And one can experience that at the Dead Sea, We have hot springs in Tivera, and Hammat Gader, We have volcanoes, and we have beautiful Craters known as Makteshim down in the Negev -our mini Grand Canyons, but nicer with all types of colored sands and unique formations and rocks as well.


"Whiskey probably won't help your problems, but it's worth a shot."

"What kind of job is a rabbi for a good jewish kid anyway"



Answer is D:  Although today the world suffers most from the terrorism of muslim radicalism, for millennia the Jews suffered much more from our Christian neigbors who killed us massacred us and pillaged us. Under Islam though non-musilims were permitted to live in relative peace. They did have to pay the Jizya though, which was an extra tax on non-muslims. This would show the subordination to Islam and Jews and Christians had to pay it. Until the late 1800's this was common in the muslim world and it remained that way in Persia until the 1900's. Today ISIS is the only ones that would like to see that be reinstated, which if Jews could or non Christians would be able to keep their heads on their shoulders might not have a problem paying. The rationale for the Jizya as described by the 12th century muslim philosopher is
"The intention of taking the jizya is not to approve the disbelief of non-Muslims in Islam, but rather to spare their lives and to give them some time; in hope that during it; they might stop to reflect on the virtues of Islam and its compelling arguments, and consequently converting from disbelief to belief. That's why it's important to pay the jizya with humiliation and servility, because naturally, any sensible person cannot stand humiliation and servility. So if the disbeliever is given some time watching the pride of Islam and hearing evidences of its authenticity, and see the humiliation of the disbelief, then apparently this might carry him to convert to Islam, and that's the main rationale behind the enactment of the jizya".
It would be nice if this was the way they went about things today.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Animal House- Vaeira 2015/5775

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

January 16th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 13 -25th of Tevet 5775
Parshat Vaeira
Animal House
We have rabbits hopping around "our" house. The "our" is just a polite way of saying my wife and children's house that they allow me to sleep in and work on my computer with every once in a while. If it was my house, there wouldn't be rabbits hopping around, jumping up and down my steps, nibbling at my sefarim and books or jumping on me while I am lying on my couch. I have nothing against rabbits…in the fields and pastures where they belong or even on key-chains  (ouch!). I have nothing against animals in general. I eat a lot of Kosher ones regularly and take tourists for rides on a lot of non-kosher ones all the time. They just don't belong in houses. Certainly not my house, but who am I to argue? I've learned long ago there are just some things that don't pay to argue about. And if the Rebbetzin wants rabbits, she can have rabbits. Especially since they were free…maybe that's what it was. The problem is that I think that they are male and female. I guess we'll find out.

The truth is they are kind of cute. I don't have to walk them, or put a bag on my hand and clean up after them; how or why people would do that I will never ever understand. I don't even have to buy them food. I just pick up the leftover vegtables from the supermarket as they throw them out. Tuli and Elka can stay entertained and quiet for a good hour playing with them. That's a good thing. If I had to choose an animal that would be in my house, rabbits aren't that bad of a choice. As long as there's only two…but who knows this is Israel. If the cats in this country seem to reproduce by the thousands overnight I'm scared to find out what the bunnies might do. I guess we'll find out.

This kind of leads us this into this week's Torah portion as the Torah shares with us the beginning of the end of Pharaoh and the Egyptian's houses. All types of animal invasions a lot more dramatic than bunny rabbits hit them. It seems like their house didn't really turn out to be their houses either by the end of the story. Plague after plague the Egyptians entire world came crashing in upon them and in the end we were finally sent free taking with us all of the wealth and spoils and even the clothing of our Egyptian taskmasters. The Parsha begins with Hashem telling Moshe of the big plan to take out the Jewish people and to bring them to the land. In addition Hashem tells Moshe about his plan for Pharaoh.

"And I will harden his heart and will increase my signs and miracles in the Land of Egypt..and Egypt will know that I am Hashem when I stretch my hand on Egypt and I will take the Children of Israel from within them."

Each one of the plagues that were brought upon the Egyptians had a message for them. Our sages and the Midrash have myriads of insights. That's kind of what happens when you have a holiday that entails reciting the story each year with the only rule being that "He who elaborates upon the story of the Exodus from Egypt is praiseworthy". Some of our sages explain that each plague is retribution for each act and persecution that the Jewish nation was put through. Others focus on the different levels of Creation that Hashem is revealing to the world and all its different aspects. Others describe the plagues as different stages of attack of an army, and the more mystical see in them the 10 Kabbalistic Sefirot of Hashem's name expressing themselves in each of the plagues. Whichever way you cut it, Egypt was pretty devastated. It was not fun to be an Egyptian in those days.

Now I'm not such a deep guy. And after quite a few Seders of hearing the same old- same old I decided to shake things up a little by playing a little game. It was called if you had to pick a plague that you had to have if you were - god forbid- an Egyptian which one would you pick? Being that my kids don’t' drink water much Dam/ Blood was their plague of choice followed by Choshech/Darknes. One of our vegetarians had no problem with the Dever/ Pestilence one knocking out all the prime rib and shwarmas in town. I, to get back at her, said that I had no problem with the Arbeh/ locusts eating up all her salad. So there! She reminded me that Pitas come from wheat that grows in the field.  The next game on the list was "Which plague was the worst and the one that you would never want?" You can guess which one my first-born picked J; although her younger sister didn't choose that one interestingly enough. So as not to get too personal we changed the rules of the game and the tenth plague Makkat Bechorot was left out. What was fascinating was that I think that almost everyone chose the Wild Animals plague as being the worst. Lions and tigers and bears oh my!

What I find most interesting about this plague, besides all the gory stories that you can make up to kind of help your children visualize this terrifying plague, is that the name of the plague doesn't really do it justice. For as opposed to all the other plagues which the plague is clearly defined by its name, here the Torah refers to the plague as Arov which can be translated as swarm, mixture or chulent if you like, of animals. Chulent is not a terrifying name. In fact although most interpretations of the plague go with the Talmudic opinion of Rabbi Yehudah that the plague was a mixture of different animals, but many of the commentaries explain it as a swarm of hornets and other flying insects, angry birds of prey, sea creatures or even panthers or wolves that roam the evening. Who knows maybe it was killer bunny rabbits? Regardless the Torah is certainly precise in the name it chose to describe the plague and unlike what all of our Seder guests might have thought it doesn't seem that the objective or even severity of the plague was animals marauding and eating people rather it was the fact that there was a mixture that took place here.

Another interesting aspect of this plague was that the Torah describes the damage caused by the Arov as being Mashchis Et Ha'Aretz Mipnei Ha'Arov the land was ruined as a result of the Arov- The Talmud notes earlier when it discusses the flood that whenever the term Shacheis-ruined is used it is a reference to idolatry and illicit relations. The Midrash over here makes that connection as well and notes that "Just as the Egyptians ruined and mixed up the ways of the world {by engaging in idolatry and illicit relations} so too did Hashem mix animals in ways that were normally prevented by natural law." Finally, and perhaps our last clue is the Midrash that suggests that the plague of Arov came as retribution for the Egyptians sending the Jewish people out to the forests and jungles to get them these wild animals that would be used for their blood-sports which included of course included siccing them on their slaves much to delight of the cheering audience.

I have to give a disclaimer here. I'm not a sports fan. I never really even got the concept or the entertainment value of it. Why would I spend hours on end of my life watching people run, jump, kick and throw a ball into various nets and hoops. One of my more cynical Rabbis once suggested that sports was invented in order to keep big scary gentiles off the streets. I'm not that cynical but I can certainly appreciate where he's coming from. It is interesting though, when you come to think of it though how most of the sports teams are named after animals. The Tigers, Lions and Wolverines and that’s just my home teams of Detroit, where they apparently aren't so successful I remember from my childhood of keeping all of the wild animals off the street.  But check out all the teams, the Bears, the Bulldogs, Panthers, Hornets, Jaguars, Raptors and Bulls all the animals that plagued Egypt. Although I don't believe there's a team called the bunny rabbits. Even more entertaining to me though is to watch the crazy crowds many of them dressed up with all types of face paint like the animals; whiskers and all. Listen to them roar, growl, scream for blood. The large screens urge on the crowds. And they all become animals. One big Arov.

It's interesting to note that Man was created in the Garden of Eden on the same day as the wild animals. We were forbidden to eat animals. We were created as a higher form with the spirit of Hashem our neshoma blown into us by God as opposed to the animal kingdom and we were distinct from them. We were inherently Divine and good and evil/ Ra was on the outside. On a tree, that if we ate from it would merge the two. We would internalize and "know" in the biblical sense good and evil. Godliness and our animalistic nature would become one and we would constantly be driven to pursue the latter. The snake who made the argument that we're all animals convinced us and the rest is history. Mankind sinned and the earth became "ruined before God" licentiousness idolatry, thievery all our baser natures took over. The world was destroyed with the flood and man becomes permitted in the New World to eat animals, to remind us that we are not them. We are holy. We can uplift the animal kingdom, rather than fall to its level.

The slavery of Egypt as in all of our persecutions was about our enemies dehumanizing us. We're animals, were maggots there is no Tzelem Elokim/ Divine spirit that differentiates us. We are at best slightly more developed primates. It is the essence and primary principle of any hedonistic society as well. It's interesting that the word Arov is really a mixture of the two words Ra/evil and Tov/good - (where's the Tet of Tov you ask? The letter Reish and Ayin in mispar Katan meaning that you remove the zeros of the 200 of Reish and of the 70 of Ayin in gematria and you are left with 2+7 which equals 9 the letter Tet-but that’s just a little deeper). Hashem's response therefore was to bring upon them the Arov, the mixture and the herd You want to know what being an animal really feels like? Welcome to the herd. The Arov came into their houses their homes, their palaces. It doesn't make a difference which animals it was. Whether they were engulfed in beasts of prey, a swarm of birds or a pack of rats or a cloud of hornets. The point of the plague was that they were now officially part of the animal chulent. The animals ruined the godly spirit that was on the earth. The Egyptians got a feel for what an world absent of a godly soul-driven human being would be like.

It is on this plague that Hashem says that the Egyptians will learn that the land upon where the Jews reside will be distinguished, the Arov will not be there. I will bring about redemption between My nation and yours. The Jewish homes will not have any Arov/Mixtures. We are of a Divine nature. The blood-sport the pursuit of animalistic desires will not be found in my holy nation. In fact quite the opposite the Midrash suggests.
 "Let the animals come and persecute the nations that persecuted my nation who are compared to animals as it says Dan is like a snake, Yehuda is like a lion Binyamin like a wolf and Yosef is like an Ox."
The tribes of Israel have the ability to raise and sanctify that animal part of us to the highest realms of spirituality. Our homes are not zoos; our entertainment is not feeding and expressing our most animalistic natures. Our teams are not animal names. We are on "Team God"  The Abrahams are playing the Issacs tonight. The Rabbi Akivas against Rabbi Yochanan in the arenas of Torah.We are here to build homes of Hashem, a land so holy that even the animals become inspired by us. To create a world where the prophet tells us.
"A wolf shall lie with the lamb and a leopard with a kid goat and a calf, lion cub and a fatling shall lie together and a small child shall lead them."
All of the world will be as friendly as bunny rabbits. As we are all united in singing the song of Hashem.
Have a Divine Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Smart funny annoying animals!

10 Most deadly animals that kill humans a bit gory

a little taste of the plague of wild animals


"Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve."-Erich Fromm

"Man is a clever animal who behaves like an imbecile. -Albert Schweitzer

" Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time." -C. S. Lewis

and finally…
"There's nothing funnier than the human animal.-Walt Disney

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  Which of the following, among others, does “Laylat al-Qadr” denote?
A.    Accepting the commandment of prayer
B.     The prophet’s night journey
C.     The decree of the destinies (kviat hagoralot)
D.    The last night of the Hajj
By the last plague in this week's Torah portion of Hail, when Moshe warns the Egyptians to bring in their animals in order that they not get harmed and Pharaoh and his advisors refused to listen to him, the Midrash shares with us an eternal parable and message.
The wicked may be likened to the stormy sea. The first wave declares "I will roll up to the shore and flood the world" But as soon as it reaches the sand it breaks. The wave that follows it again announces " I am going to flood the world" but it also breaks at the shore. Each wave makes the same proclamation and never learns from the previous one. Thus pharaoh was conceited and therefore suffered, but Amalek failed to learn from him. Amalek was punished for his arrogance, yet Sichon, Og, Balak, and all the oppressors of the Jewish people did not learn from the downfall of their predecessors.
Some things never change… sigh…
Frolic with Israel's biblical animals   – Yeah, I know they have animals all over the world, but only in Israel can you actually open a Tanach (bible) and read verses that tell you about the animals right in front of you. Of course there is the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem that makes it quite easy. But one can go anywhere in this country and see our biblical animals. Whether it is shepherding in the Shomron, the hyrax and Ibex in Ein Gedi, cows and goats in the Golan Heights, and even griffins- the biblical Nesher at Gamla or in Carmel, Donkey rides and camel rides just like our ancestors. Israel is the place where you can see them all and be inspired.


Top Ten Egyptian Game Shows
10.  Egyptian Idol:  24 contestants vie to worship a sun god
9.    No Deal or No Deal - Pharaoh's personal favorite
8.    $25,000 Pyramid
7.    The Amazing Race - 600,000+ people journey across a sea, a barren desert to reach a mountain top
6.    So you think you can Walk (like an Egyptian)?
5.    Egypt's Got Talent! - lot of snake-to-stick acts to follow
4.    Flavor of Blood
3.    Project Runaway
2.    Extreme Makeover Plague Edition- This family's house was filled with frogs, pelted by hail, ravaged by animals, infested with lice and locusts, and worst of all, their light bulbs never seem to work
1.    Survivor: Firstborn

Young Muhammad came to school in France for his first day. When his teacher asked him his name. The teacher told him that he is in France now and therefor his new name will be "Jean-Pierre" a nice French name. When he came home that day from school and he told his mother that he learned in school that he had a new name Jean- Pierre, his mother slapped him and told him that he was a muslim named after the holy prophet and his name was Muhammad. When his father came home as well he got another slap for changing his name. The next day when he came back to school with to red marks on his cheeks, his teacher asked him what happened.
"See, I became French for only one day and two Arabs started to beat me up already!!"


Answer is C:  OK now that we covered all the easy Jewish questions, we move on to the Islam questions. I decided to skip the three Christian questions because it seems that some of my readership was getting sick of them-as was I, especially during this season. So here's the Islam stuff. La Quadr is the night the muslims believe that the Quran was revealed to Muhammad, It takes place in the last ten days of Ramadan on the odd nights, though not the last day-thus the various tricks in their question. The Muslims believe that on this night Allah decides their faith and can shower them with all types of blessing for the entire year. Many of them stay up and pray these evenings. So how many Jewish hoiday and customs can you find in this holiday that they misappropriated from us. Rosh Hashana, Shavuot…what else…sigh no imagination.