Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 9th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 12 -18th of Tevet 5775
Looking for a Leader
So it's that time of year again. The Arabs have stopped killing us for about five minutes or so. It happens every now and again. (Note – how I said have stopped killing us not stopped trying to kill us- you have to read my words like Rashi to fully comprehend their depth- trying I don't think has ever stopped.) So in honor of the occasion and in order not lose that small window of opportunity, my blessed brothers here in this country of ours have quickly decided to call for elections, in order to increase fighting, divisionism, and in general hatred and vitriol between Jews. We don't get these chances often. Usually we have to hide in bunkers together and declare solidarity with our soldiers and support for the Government as we stand united against our enemies who seek to drive us into the sea. We all daven together, attend funerals sadly together, we see hareidi men going out to bring support to our front lines, visiting hospitals, we even have leftists not hugging so many terrorists and actually even upon occasion condemning violence and not calling for us to vacate our homes. We're together and it's kind of awkward for many here. So at moments when we have a break, tragically we fall back to our far too familiar and comfortable traditional default status of Jew vs. Jew. Welcome to 2000 years of exile.
So in honor of the great occasion it I felt it behooves upon me to offer up some of my recommendations for candidates for Jewish leadership. I know many of you are clamoring for me to take that position. But frankly, Jerusalem gets me kind of dizzy, I like it here in Karmiel and I'm scared if I became prime minister I wouldn't have the time to share with you my weekly missives, And then what would you do? Now I know the pickings are slim out there in the running. There's not that many people in office or running for office that you feel you can trust not to sell you, your family and our country down the road for the opportunity to have a photo-op with a US president in the rose garden. Heck, there's probably no one you would even trust to babysit your pet rabbit. That being said I believe that the Torah's wisdom can share with us some really important insight into the types of people that Hashem choose for leadership. Some of their qualities, experience and strengths and let's see if we can kind of like-you know one of the Facebook "see-what-type-of-biblical-leader-you-are" type quiz's that they send you. Plug in the info and see who we come out with it.
So lets' start, as this week's Torah portion does, with perhaps our greatest leader, Moshe Rabbeinu. Would you back his candidacy. What do you think his chances would be of taking office? Now if I were asked to become his political campaign consultant- a job that I think too many Israelis feel they have- I would probably say that we would have to engage in an ancient Palestinian tradition of historical revisionism. Let's start from the beginning. First of all the Jewish people is in a crucial critical moment. We have been persecuted in Egypt for quite a long time now. Babies are being thrown into the Nile, we are being forced and whipped into devastating slave labor and we have lost all hope. It's time for change. Nothing like a good crisis to kick-off a campaign. Enter one Moshe Rabbeinu. Nothing like a new fresh face to step in and save the day. Except, problem one, he's not really a new face. See Moshe is the adopted grandson of Pharaoh. In fact when the verse tells us that Vayigdal Moshe and Moshe became great, Rashi quoting the Midrash notes that he was appointed to be Pharaoh's chief of staff, His Goebbels if you like. Hmmm… that doesn't seem to be something to put on his resume, although there is quite a tradition in this country of party leaders switching parties affiliations and ideologies regularly. It's not something you generally play up, although we can certainly work with it and describe it as an awakening that he had.
OK, what's next? So the Torah tells us he went out to his brothers and in fact gets himself into a street fight with an Egyptian that is beating up a Jew. That wouldn't have been too bad, although it is quite radical, it would've probably played out better if he had just mediated and convinced him to back down, but it certainly shows a sense of willingness to get his hands dirty, which people generally like. But then he actually killed the guy, even worse he buries him in the sand to cover it up. Even worse he gets himself into another fight with two Jews fighting-never a good place to be, and word gets out and he is in fact arrested for the murder of the Egyptian and sentenced to death according to the Midrash. Now we certainly have no important political figures in this country who have gone to jail. And perhaps we might even be able to sell the notion that why should we wait until after they are in office to send them to jail, Moshe served his time before hand already. But murder is kind of a harsh black spot to have on your resume.
Moshe flees before they can kill him and the Midrash fills in the blanks over the next forty years or so of his life. Let's see maybe he can overcome these challenges to making him electable. So first off the Torah tells us that he comes to Midian, and once again it seems this guy can't seem to get off trouble. He sees some women getting harassed by some shepherds and does the whole JDL thing again. The woman that he saves is incidentally the daughter of the Pope of the world at that time, Jethro also a former advisor and collaborator of Hitler/Pharaoh. Moshe marries his daughter, who incidentally according to the Midrash might have been a Kushit or African-american (although there was no American…what do you call them…hmmm Colored…? Negro…? Black? Any politically correct options? ) How do you think that would fly in Boro Park, Lakewood or Bnai Brak? I mean but let's leave the race card alone for a bit, but the Popes daughter?! Really? To make matters even worse for his campaign, the Midrash tells us that he eventually made it big there in Midian and became the ruler of the country there. Imagine the former king of Saudi Arabia running for Israel political office. Now I know former oil magnates make it big in the States, maybe pitch this as the Bush/Obama blend Oil meets African American…hmmmm…
Finally the Torah tells us he ends up as an eighty year old shepherd running around with sheep in the Sinai desert. It is there where he comes to his real "found God..halleluya" moment. Except it also doesn't seem to work out well. Rather than an expectant Moshe who we would hope would stand up for the Jewish people by the burning bush and jump at the opportunity to rescue them from their persecution and near-annihilation. Moshe tells Hashem "Who am I to take to go to Pharaoh and can I take out the Children of Israel from Egypt?" and as Rashi notes Moshe said, "Even if I am significant why is Israel worthy that a miracle should be done for the and that I should take them out of Egypt". I hope they don't have any video of that conversation to release to channel 2. In the following week of discussion about him "running for office" . The Torah spends an inordinate amount of time and ink telling us how reluctant he is to take this job. He offers up his brother, Aharon as a candidate instead, he is extremely skeptical of whether the Jewish people will believe him or not. He almost seems oblivious to the fact that the entire time this conversation is going on "the trains are still heading to the Egyptian Auschwitz".
Perhaps the final faux pas comes when after Hashem finally convinces him to take the job and he comes to Pharaoh and he fails to convince him to release the Jewish people and the work is doubled on the Jewish people and the local Jewish Biblical Times are already condemning this radical that has just stirred up the pot, Moshe loses it. He turns to Hashem and protests.
"Why have you done bad to the people and why have you sent me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name he has harmed this people and you haven't saved your nation".
Now remember this is Hashem here. The Master of the World. Yet Moshe right after the first crisis seems to fall apart and seems ready to head for the door. Can this really be the true leader of the Jewish people. Oh by the way did I mention he had a lisp as well and forgot to circumcise his son on the way into Israel. Ohhh the Jewish tabloids will have a field day with this election campaign. Let the blogging begin.
The truth is I don't think the Jewish people would ever have a more unlikely leader than Moshe (although King David is a very close second). It is perhaps precisely because he is so unlikely though that Hashem chose him and he became the greatest leader of our people of all time. In fact our sages tell us that if not for Moshe we would never have been able to leave Egypt, not ever received the Torah, no other individual who ever spoke to Hashem "face-to-face". The Zohar on a very deep level even tells us that there is a spark of Moshe in each and every Jew; The spark that is in the most unlikely of spots and the spark that will always connect us to the greatest of heights; to our redemption. What is that spark? What does is look like?
The Torah tells us the one thing about Moshe that was unique was that he was the humblest man on the face of the earth. Humility is not a feeling of inadequacy; it's not a feeling of wimpy-ness or a lack of appreciation of one's greatness. Humility is the recognition that I exist, and my power to accomplish is all only because it is the will of my Creator. I am nothing without Hashem and everything with Him. There is no 'God and I' there is only a "Moshe Moshe" -without the hyphen in between- that Hashem calls out to him from the bush as; A Moshe soul up above that has absolute clarity of the existence of Hashem how there is nothing that happens that is not His will, and a Moshe below that mirrors that exact sentiment and who's every fiber is governed by that.
Moshe doesn't see a difference between Egyptian fighting a Jew, a Jew fighting a Jew or some Midianites picking on the Pope's daughter. The will of Hashem is that truth and goodness must prevail. He doesn't even see Jews in Egypt's persecution as being worthy of redemption initially as they are meritless, until Hashem tells him that it is his will to take them out to bring them to Sinai. There's no black and no white, only Hashem. Once Moshe recognized that it is the will of Hashem to take them out he will even challenge Hashem based on his own will. Why then have you sent me, it is your name you told me it is your people. Let the party begin. That's our candidate. That's our leader; The unlikely person who views his entire existence as that of being an Eved Hashem-literally a servant of Hashem who cannot do anything, but for the will of God.
We need a Moshe today. We have had enough politics and poli-shticks, enough agendas, enough campaigns and enough fighting. Ritzoneinu Liros Malkeinu- We want to see our King. Moshe within 50 days of us leaving the lowest place where Jews can fall was able to raise our nation up to the highest level of our entire existence. Because it was never about him, he was nothing and therefore he became everything. We knew that. We felt it and we were thus inspired to the degree where we became the nation of Hashem. We said Naa'she V'Nishma- we will do and we will hear- none of the details of what the Torah said were necessary for us to hear before our acceptance of it. It was the will of God and that's all that counted. Our inner Moshe was redeemed. We were ready to serve our Creator.
Now if we can only get that back again…
Have a Marvelous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
First snow in Jerusalem!
Aharon Razel classic -Sneh Bo'eir-burning bush
If Moses had facebook
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted"-Mae West
"Ani Lo Nimtza HaYom Ani B'Snowfesh"- (I am unavailable today I'm on snowfesh (a new word combining snow and Chofesh (vacation) - an Israeli
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Q. The fast of Yom Kippur was determined by:
A. The Jewish Sages (derabanan)
B. The Torah (deoraita)
D. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
A fascinating Midrash about Moshe-tell me if it sounds familiar- when Moshe first arrived in Yisro's house, Yisro imprisoned him because he was fearful of Pharaoh. Tzipporah would sneak down and bring Moshe food for the next ten years. After 10 years, Tzippora told her father to come look at the man he imprisoned and when he found him still alive. He declared that "I heard about the greatness of the God of the jews. he saved Avraham from the fiery furnace Yitzchak from the knife on the altar and Yaakov from the hands of the angel. He also saved this man from Pharaoh's sword." He ordered Moshe freed and given a haircut and dressed and brought to the house. When Moshe went into the garden to thank Hashem he saw a staff with a sapphire on it stuck into the ground. He removed it and brought it to Yisro to find out who's it was. Yisro was in awe as he explained that he had taken this staff from Yosef after he died and it was predicted that whoever could pull it out of the ground would redeem the Jews from Egypt and no one has been able to do that until now.
The staff our Mishna in Avot tells us was created in the dusk before Shabbos of Creation and given to Adam. It was then handed down to his son Shais and tehn to Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov and Yosef. After Moshe it was passed down to King David and the succeeding kings of Yehudah.
Can anyone say excaliber?
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Connect with Hashem through weather – Most religious Jews that pray three times a day never realize how much of our prayers are about weather, rain snow, sun and all the blessing that it brings. Here in Israel weather is a really big deal. This past year was the worst year for rainfall ever! There wasn’t a water crisis because thank god we have developed over the past years water alternative options such as water purification and desalinization. But tour guides like me that had to bump our backsides on the Jordan river rocks all summer long knew it was pretty bad. Recently I was speaking to a farmer and he told me how good the cold is for the crops as the fruits come out sweeter. Being raised on the song rain rain go away come back another day, it's really wonderful to live in a place where when its raining every one is saying" B"H we need the rain". The ski slopes are opening up on the Hermon now. The schools are out for "snowfesh" and I'm grateful that things look good for my backside this coming summer rafting down the Jordan J.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKES OF THE WEEK
Q: What do snowmen eat for breakfast? A: Frosted Flakes.
Q: What did the snowman and his wife put over their baby’s crib? A: A snowmobile!
Q: What do Snowmen call their offspring? A: Chill-dren.
Q: What do Snowmen call their offspring? A: Chill-dren.
Q: How does a Snowman get to work? A: By icicle.
A blonde driving a car became lost in a snowstorm. She didn't panic however, because she remembered what her dad had once told her.
"If you ever get stuck in a snowstorm, just wait for a snow plow to come by and follow it."
Sure enough, pretty soon a snow plow came by, and she started to follow it. She followed the plow for about forty-five minutes. Finally the driver of the truck got out and asked her what she was doing. And she explained that her dad had told her if she ever got stuck in a snow storm, to follow a plow. The driver nodded and said,
"Well, I'm done with the Wal-Mart parking lot, do you want to follow me over to Best Buy now?"
And the best for last
The Israeli Chariedi school Rebbe gets a call from the principal that he shouldn’t bother to come in as there is only 6 kids in school. The rebbe's response-
"I've got 12 at home…I'm coming in…J"
Answer is B: I can't believe that there is anyone that got this question wrong. If they did they have some serious atonin' to do this coming year… Yom Kippur is not only Biblical but it is the only fast that is Biblical and the punishment for eating is Kares/ being cut off from the Jewish people. In Israel even the most secular Jew observes Yom Kippur not necessarily by attending synagogue but certainly by refraining from work as the entire country is shut down and even highways are empty. The holiest day of the Jewish year is certainly holy for all in the holy land.