Our view of the Galile

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Stop Eating!- Vayechi/Tenth of Tevet 5775/2015

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

January 1st 2015!! -Volume 5, Issue 11 -10th of Tevet 5775
Parshat Vayechi
Stop Eating!

 I'm hungry. It's weird; I can go many if not most days without eating until dinner time. I just need my coffee in the morning and I'm all set. Yeah, of course if my tourists want to stop for lunch, or they dilly dally in their hotel by breakfast than of course I will join them. It would be rude otherwise and who am I to turn down an Israeli hotel breakfast. But, the honest truth is I would much rather skip breakfast and even lunch and just be busy running around and showing them Hashem's holy land; their Holyland. Now dinner that's something else….But yet here I sit in the early afternoon in front of my computer and I'm hungry. The reason of course is because it's a fast day. I can't eat. That makes me hungry. I'm googling food jokes for you. I bought cheese danishes already. They're downstairs on the counter. Away from Elka and Tully who have been eyeing them way too dangerously. They're not fasting. The danishes are mine.
Over all though it's not that bad of a fast. It's the shortest one on the Jewish calendar. I meant to get up and get a coffee even before the fast; before 5:02 AM. I missed it, but thank god no headache…yet…It'll be over before I finish this E-Mail perhaps. Then I can have my cheese Danish. Am I the only one out there thinking like this? What do you think about on a fast day? Oh yeah… I forgot something bad happened today. Unlike our holidays where they tried to kill us, we won, let's eat our fast days are about that they tried to kill us, they did, let's not eat. It feels sinful to be thinking about food (danishesJ) on a day that Jews died. Maimonides tells us that the point of the fast day is for us to increase our Teshuva, our sins that have causeed this destruction. I guess we have to do something to distract ourselves from the food,  so let's talk about the what happened today. What are we meant to do Teshuva for? Who died? Why am I not eating? What is this fast of the tenth day of Tevet all about?

The truth is it's kind of a strange fast day. The Talmud tells us that on the tenth of tevet the Romans sieged the city of Jerusalem. OK, a siege is a bad thing. But the truth is compared to the other fasts that surround the destruction of the Temple this seems kind of minor. The 17th of Tamuz the walls were breached., the massacres began, the 9th of Av of course both temples were destroyed. Even the fast of Gedalia right after Rosh Hashana the last hope post-Temple of Jewish life in Yehuda and Yerushalayim died when one Jew assassinates the leader of the remaining community of Israel. But a siege? We've had plenty of those. And no fasts. Even more fascinating the Talmud tells us that the tenth of Tevet is more severe than any of the other fasts in that if it would fall out on Shabbos (which it doesn’t' as we arrange the calendar so it does not) one would fast even on Shabbat. In fact as opposed to all the other fasts we actually fast it when it falls out on Friday and it is not postponed. The reason is because the verse in Yechezkel (24:2) that describes the day we are told
 "Son of man write  for yourself -this day; This very day the King of Babylonia has reached Jerusalem this very day"

Wow! This very day…Those words in Hebrew B'Etzem Ha'Yom HaZeh, are used on very siginificant moments. The day we left Egypt, the day Hashem brought the flood, the day Moshe died as well as the holiest and most important fast day of the year Yom Kippur. The Abudraham, the 14th century halakhist derives that the prohpeht is telling us that this day ad Yom Kippur would even be fasted on Shabbat. Can you imagine? No chulent! What is it about this day, which in truth is only a day time fast unlike Tisha B'Av which begins the night before and in which we can't wash or even greet people as we are in mourning, the tenth of tevet seems kind of mild.

This morning in one of the extra fast selichot supplications which we added in it mentions a few other events that happened on the 8th and 9th of Tevet. Seemingly there is a connection between them and the fast today. We are told that on the 8th of tevet during the first Temple the Greek King Ptolmey ordered 72 Rabbis into separate rooms and had them translate the entire Torah. Miraculously they all made changes from the literal text that would avoid any mistaken interpertations and they each independently made the same adjustment. (There are those that are more cynical that suggest the miracle would have been greater if you had put them all in the same room and they came out with the same translation in agreement). Although this was a great miracle the Rabbis saw in this a reason to declare a fast day of mourning. Again, the question is why? I'm sure all the newspapers at the time heralded the miracle and advancement of Jewish scholarship. 

The next day is the 9th of Tevet, yesterday, which was a declared fast day because it was the day of the death of the great leader at the beginning of the 2nd Temple Ezra the Scribe. This as well seems perplexing. We do not have a ny fast days for any great leaders. Not Abraham, Not Moshe. Not Joshua not King David, why Ezra? In addition, it's not like he died a tragic death or was killed. He seemingly died of old age. It's sad, yes. We lost a leader, but it happens. That's life…or death. Why the national day of mourning for all of history?

The answer, I heard from one of my teachers, is that all of these days are precisely connected. Who was Ezra? Ezra was the great leader who was given the job of getting the Jews to come back to Israel after 70 years of Exile in Babylonia and Persia and to rebuild the Temple. And you know what? The Jews didn't come. They ignored his call. They were quite comfortable in America, I mean Persia J. They were happy to send donations and contributions, don't get me wrong, but really? Israel? Aliya? The Temple? We'll come visit on our vacation time. But we have Torah and Yeshivos and schools and our community here. In the words of Rabbi Yehudah Halevi the author of the Kuzari who describes that period.

" Alas, King of Kuzar, you have exposed my point of disgrace! Indeed, this sin prevented the fulfillment of that which God had destined for the Second Temple… For Divine Providence was ready to rest upon [the Jews] as at first, if they had all willingly heeded the call and returned to Eretz Yisrael. However, only a minority took heed, while the majority–including the most prominent among them–remained in Babylonia, acquiescing to exile and bondage, just so that they would not have to part with their dwellings and businesses… If we would be prepared to draw near to the God of our forefathers wholeheartedly, He would save us as He saved our ancestors in Egypt. But since that is not the case, our utterances of “Who restores His presence to Zion,” etc. are like the chirping of the birds, for we say these things without proper intent. (Kuzari 2:24)"
The fast of Ezra is the fast of the complacency of the Jews. We didn't heed the call. We didn't see the opportunity.
Similarly, the 8th of Tevet when the Torah was translated. The Jews heralded it as a great thing, a miracle! Now our neighbors can read and learn about us. Now our own children will be accepted into Greek culture, gymnasiums and universities. The UN will smile upon us. We are a nation like every other one. Our Torah is an accepted religious books and they might even start lighting Menorahs in their Greek White Houses next to the other "traditional" winter holidays. The Jews, failed to see that this was the beginning of the end. The Torah lost its neshoma, it's soul. The headlines the next day blared "We have made it!" what we didn't realize was that we had really lost it.

Which brings us to today, the tenth of Tevet. It was a regular day in Jerusalem. Everyone clicked on their news apps and whadaya know? The king of Bablylonia has laid siege on Jerusalem. Oh well. Any missiles fall? No. Any injuries? No. Ahhh.. Baruch Hashem Thank God! I guess that's just life in Israel. We should really hold new elections for a new king that will do something about these pesky attacks and sieges.Now back to work. The restaurants and stores all remained opened. Life continued… for the next THREE YEARS! And it got worse and worse. And we seemed to have failed to hear the message. To see the impending doom. We had to much faith that "Jerusalem will never fall" Hashem will never let us lose the temple and the holy city. He needs us as much as we need Him. We continued to eat our danishes….

And then it happened; The 17th of Tamuz, Tisha B'Av and the even the fast of Gedalia. It was over. We are without a home. The prophet tells us that we should remember "this very day". The day we didn't listen. A day that looked and seemed like any other. Write it down and remember that there are no simple days in Israel, not while the Temple is destroyed. Listen for the messages and the cries of Ezra for us to come home, to stop assimilating and looking to the world for light. If the only way we'll wake up is to even take away our chulent on Shabbat- so be it. Stop eating and start fasting. We need that return. We need to hear the call to fix the problems and to start repairing the fighting and lack of commitment to Hashem, His Torah and His land. We need to stop chirping like birds and start meaning and acting on the hopes and dreams of all of our ancestors. That's why we are not eating today and that's why we are not yet home yet.

This week, the book of Bereishis concludes with Yaakov and Yosef's last request to be taken out of Egypt and buried in the land of Israel. The reason was to remind all of their generations. We need to come home. Next week we begin the Book of Exodus, redemption. May it truly herald in the final redemption. I don't want to fast another day. I want all of us finally home.
Have a happy new Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
Very funny, cool patents of and eighty year old man

David Gabay cool video Ani Ani

Simhat Chatanim cool video entertaining!

"Happy New Year"- The Rebbe of Apt- the famed Ohev Yisrael
"Rebbe, why are you wishing your fellow Jews a happy New year on the secular holiday? His students asked.  
"For when Hashem sees how the Goyim/gentiles celebrate their New year with parites and drunkenness,  He remembers how His children, the Jewish people sat on their New  Year in white Kittels and in shul praying tearfully and crowning Him. He than rips us any bad judgement against us. It is a second New Year for us…Happy New Year!!!"

(answer below at end of Email)
 Q.  When are phylacteries (tefilin) put on?
A.    Every day
B.     On religious festivals
C.     On Shabbat and Rosh Hodesh
D.    Every day, except for Shabbat and festivals mentioned in the Torah
Yaakov commands Yosef to take him out of Egypt and bury him in Israel. Our sages teach us that He who is buried in Israel will be the first to rise in Ressurection of the Dead. The jews buried outside of Israel will roll through special tunnels that Hashem will create to be brought to life here in Israel. Yaakov wanted to be spared that pain of rolling so he requested to be buried here. Another reason the Medrash gives for Yaakov's request is because he feared his descendants might began to consider Egypt their homeland. (Can you imagine that being in a country for 200 years and forgetting that Israel is your home….??!!:)) They would reason if Egypt is not holy , Yaakov would not have been interred there. (kind of like Uman) Yaakov wanted his descendants to forever be conscious that there stay in Egypt was only temporary.
Another reason given is Yaakov feared that the Egyptians would idolize his remains, as the famine had come to an end when he arrived in Egypt. Furthermore Taakov saw that the ten plagues would fall on Egypt and the earth would be turned to lice which would infest all corpses. Finally the Midrash teaches one last lesson that Yaakov wished to be buried next to his anscestors who were righteous, so I may arise in good company when the right time comes. From here the Midrash derives that "One should make arrangements to be buried next to Tzadikim/righteous people in order to be together with them in the time of Resurrection".
Purchase some great Jewish souvenirs and Judaica – You're coming to visit you'll take lots of pictures, post lots of selfies, but you want to take back something meaningful with you. Something that will always connect you to your Holy land. From incredible artwork in Tzfat, funny jewishy T-shirts (my two personal favorites being Guns and Moses, and America, don't worry Israel is behind you.) to more meaningful Judaica items like Teffilin/Phylacteries, mezuzot, or Talitot that will constantly be used. You can even buy incredible jewlery all made here in Israel ( I've seen cool stuff made out of ancient Roman glasss-which is kind of cool that they tried to kill us and we are wearing them as jewelryJ), the traditional chai necklace or more popular hamsa's. The main thing is you spend money here in the holy land and bring back something meaningful and Jewish that you will always be connected with. Anywhere else you get a souvenir it’s a keepsake. In Israel it's a mitzvah!

Patient:Doctor! Doctor! I feel like a pastry-based dessert!
Doctor:Well, this is a sur-pies!

My friend's bakery burned down last night. Now his business is toast
Stir-fry cooks come from all woks of life.
There was a cook that had mushroom for improvement.
He got angry at the Italian chef and gave him a pizza his mind.
The father who worked as a baker was a real breadwinner.
A baker always put too much flour in his bread because he was a gluten for punishment
The baker had ten children and there was always a bun in the oven.
The Yo-Yo Diet Guide to the Jewish Holidays
Rosh Hashanah - Feast
Tzom Gedalia - Fast
Yom Kippur - More fasting
Sukkot - Feast
Hashanah Rabbah - More feasting
Simchat Torah - Keep feasting
Month of Heshvan - No feasts or fasts for a whole month. Get a grip on ourselves.
Hanukkah - Eat potato pancakes
Tenth of Tevet - Do not eat potato pancakes
Tu B'Shevat - Feast
Fast of Esther - Fast
Purim - Eat pastry
Passover - Do not eat pastry
Shavuot - Dairy feast (cheesecake, blintzes etc.)
17th of Tammuz - Fast (definitely no cheesecake or blintzes)
Tish B'Av - Very strict fast (don't even think about cheesecake or blintzes.)
Month of Elul - End of cycle. Enroll in Center for Eating Disorders before the High Holidays arrive again.

Answer is D:  The hard part of this question may be what are phylacteries. A strange meaningless word for Tefillin that are of course Jewish males are obligated to wear each day as sign on our arms and head that we remember Hashem and all of his commandments. On Shabbos and holidays that are already a sign we do not have to wear Tefillin. The wearing of Tefillin is the traditional rite of passage for Jewish males upon becoming Bar Mitzva. Inside of the Tefilin are four Torah portions of Shema and the mitzvah of the first born. In many archeological sites we have uncovered ancient Teffilin identical to the ones we wear today from thousands of years ago, which is pretty cool. There are usually a few questions like this which are no-brainers to most orthodox Jews. Its sad that for too many Jews in Israel this is a difficult question on the tour guide exam..

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