Our view of the Galile

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment