Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 27th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 18 -8th of Adar 5775
Are you a fan of magic shows? What's your favorite trick? I kind of went for the saw the person in half trick. I even volunteered my sister for the job. I thought it would be cool to have two of her. She wasn't buying though. How about the read your mind tricks? Wouldn't that be a handy skill to have. I might actually understand what my wife really means when she asks me a question. "How does this look on me?", "What do you think I should do?", "I'm really fine...It's nothing..". The disappearing rabbit trick wouldn't be a bad thing either. Although the way they have been eyeing my hat lately, I'm not sure what would make what disappear. One of the coolest tricks I've ever seen is when the magician flies through the air after proving he has no strings attached. The cool thing was that unlike my children who have a tendency to jump off high places without really thinking twice, he didn't end up with stitches afterwards.
The Torah is not a fan of magic. Certainly not the Dark Arts Harry Potter stuff and in general even the sleight of hand tricks as well. We do believe in the power to manipulate all types of forces to do the supernatural and the Talmud is full of really cool stories. My favorite and always timely one is the one that happened by the Purim meal of Rava and Rav Zeira. It seems that Rava got a little carried away at his Purim feast and after a few drinks too many decided to explain the laws of ritual slaughtering to his honored guest, in a way that he would never forget. I guess you could say he kind of lost his head in the heat of the moment...ouch! The next morning Rava felt kind of bad so the Talmud tells us he performed the bring the dead Rabbi back to life trick. Amature magicians can pull rabbits out of a hat. The real deals can put dead rabbis back to life in their own hats. The next year when Rava invited Rav Zeira back again though, he politely declined, stating "It's not every day a miracle can happen." Anyone want to join my Purim Seuda this year?
This week's Torah portion, the one that almost always precedes Purim, also has a bit of a disappearing act. The Baal HaTurim notes that this is the only Parsha from when Moshe is first introduced until he gives his final speech in the book of Devarim in which the whole book is really Moshe talking. The commentaries note that the reason for Moshe's disappearance is because after the sin of the Golden Calf, Hashem tells Moshe that he wishes to destroy the Jewish people and start all over again with a new nation starting from Moshe. Moshe puts his life on the line and tells Hashem that unless He forgives the Jewish people then he should erase his name from the Torah. Moshe's ploy works and Hashem forgives us, however since whatever a Tzadik/righteous man says must be fulfilled, Moshe's name is 'erased' from this week's Parsha. And there you have it the disappearing Moshe trick.
The truth of the matter is it is quite interesting when you stop and think about it for a second. This is not the only disappearing Moshe trick in the Torah. In fact the entire Golden Calf story takes place because Moshe does not reappear after he goes up to get the commandments. The people freak out as every good magic show audience would if the volunteer doesn't come back. Taking it a step further it's interesting to note as well that when Moshe dies 'no one knows where his burial place is' the Torah assures us. The final disappearing act for our great leader. What is it with Moshe and disappearing?
Another interesting thing about the choice of the Parsha for Moshe to be 'erased' from,Parshat Titzaveh, is that the Parsha almost always as well falls out as it does this year around the time of Moshe's Yartzeit; the day he so to speak disappeared. One individual that was quite excited by this fact we are told was Haman, of the Purim story. In fact, theMidrash tells us, he was delighted when his plot to kill the Jews fell out on this month because he knew that this must be a bad month for the Jews because Moshe died in it. TheMidrash however tells us, what he didn't know was that he was also born in this month; the same day he died, the 7th of Adar. The question is though, so what? He was also incidentally Bar Mitzvah'd on that day, does that make it any better? The Baal HaTanya though quotes ta concept that is in Kabbala that perhaps shares with us the significance of Moshe's passing and his disappearances. He suggests that when Moshe died he was "re-born" on that same day in each and every Jew. We each have a little piece of the neshoma/soul of Moshe within each of us. It's kind of like a spiritual "where's waldo" game, except exchange waldo for Moshe and all of those people with the red hat and big noses for Jews. (incidentally eifo waldo in gematria = Moshe kaan" Try it...right now...) (OK it doesn't... wanted to see how many of you paused to figure it out :))).
What does that mean? It means that perhaps our biggest failing when it came to receiving the Torah is that although we wanted to hear all of the commandments from Hashem directly, after the first two we copped out. We felt we needed Moshe to intercede on our behalf to interact with the Divine. It was too much of an out of body experience. When Moshe disappeared and didn't come back, we felt lost. How would we ever connect with Hashem. Moshe tells Hashem, "erase me", let them connect on their own. Hashem does so. He erases Moshe on the Parsha of Titzave, the week of his yartzeit and instead he gives each and everyone of us that same power as Moshe, that spark that can always connect without any other intermediary. No one knows the grave of Moshe, because Moshe is inside of all of us. It is the Torah that he taught us that connects us to our Creator. That makes him reappear each and every time we study it and we learn his teachings. Haman thought without Moshe we were done, what he didn't know that Moshe was also born on that same day.
This week we celebrate the holiday of Purim. The book of Esther also has a bit of a disappearing act in it. Hashem's name is not found in the entire megilla. The beauty of the holiday, the only one that was established when we were in Exile, when we had no Temple, the last of our holidays to be established, is that we were able to find Hashem even in the darkness. Even without so much as a Menora to light up the night. We were able to tap into our inner Moshe. We are able to conquer that enemy Amalek that Moshe began the first battle with, and who we only were able to win when Moshe lifted up his hands and we looked up to heaven. On Purim we were able to conquer Amalek though the power of our own faith. The faith that Mordechai reawakened within us. We don't need magic to bring the redemption. The cards have already been played. We have the ace in our souls. We just need to pull it out of our hats. On Purim we have the ability to tap into that magic to make all our externalities and troubles disappear. For some it may take a L'Chayim or two to get there. But that's alright. As long as by the end of the night we achieve the ultimate high, the revelation of our inner spark that will bring the redemption. May it be a high that lasts forever.
Shabbat Shalom, Remember Shabbat Shalom remember Shabbat Shalom remember, (parshas Zachor..get itJ)
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FUNNY YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
Funniest outreach speech ever!
Great Happy video!
New feature of the WEEK!!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
While in the states I picked up a great book with yiidsh quotes and wisdom and I have always wanted to teach my kids Yiddish so here we go each week another great proverb in yiddish maybe you guys will learn it too!!
"Kinder un glezer hut min keyn mohl nit tzu fil"
There can never be too many children or drinking glasses J
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"There are some Rebbes that can bring the dead back to life. My greatness is that I can Resurrect the living" -The Rebbe of Kotzk
"If you build a man a fire, he's warm for a day, but if you set a man on fire, he's warm for the rest of his life. Words to live by..."-someone on facebook
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
The Valley Railway (rakevet haemek) stopped at:
A. Kfar Saba
B. Kfar Yehoshua
C. Kfar Tavor
D. Kfar Kish
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
Remember the battle of Amalek we are commanded for this week before Purim. An interesting Midrash about that amazing battle that teaches a fascinating lesson. The Torah tells us that Moshe commanded Yehoshua to choose men and lead them into battle. Although Moshe was himself also commanded to lead them into battle (as the king/leader of Jewish people). He chose Yehoshua as he comes from the tribe of Yosef (Ephraim to be precise J) and Yosef's tribe has the greatest power against Esav. Yet as a result of Moshe himself not leading them into battle, his hands became weakened during the fight and he required the Aharon and Chur to help him hold his hands up.
I find it fascinating that the Midrash seems to hold Moshe the 80 year old leader of Klal Yisrael personally responsible to go out and actually do battle. Not just sit on the sidelines and daven and inspire the people but to actually take up a sword himself and start shechting some Amalekites-men, women children and babies incidentally. He was wrong leaving it to the soliders. Not saying there's any modern day connotations....or maybe I am JJ.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Dance with random Jews in the street - I'll never forget my first Purim here in Israel. It was the Gulf War, it ended on Purim. The entire country was partying, drinking and celebrating. There is nothing more special than just randomly grabbing a fellow Jew and hugging and dancing together. Today the Breslavers are the king of the random dance. It can be in Meron, Tzfat, the Kotel or in middle of the highway in a traffic jam. We're all brothers and sisters we're living in Israel, our Father in heaven loves us and watches over us. Isn't that worth dancing about? Only in Israel can you really do that any old day of the week.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKES OF THE WEEK
"Rabbi, last Purim I felt just terrible.""
"Why ? What happened?"
"Well, it seems that I neglected to make the required noise during the megillah reading?
" You mean upon hearing Haman's name?"
"No, for the word "mas" (taxes)
"Ah, don't worry, my dear student this question is dealt with by some of our greatest modern halachic authorities and he the modern day understanding of this custom is that only people who actually pay the correct amount in taxes, are required to make noise, therefore, nowadays, he claims this mitzvah does not apply to any Jews at all and certainly not any in Israel...."
Terrible Joke alert-
Rabbi why is there only a Parsha Zachar (male) why not a Parshat Nekeiva (female)?
There is its called Parshat Parah...I will not translate that.:)
Answer is B: The Emek train that used to run through the Jezre'el valley was built under the Turks in the early 1900's it took an incredible 3 years to build (unlike the Jerusalem light rail a fraction of the size which took like 11 years). It's function was initially to connect Haifa to Bagdad adbn Damascus. However in the early years of Israeli settlement in the valley it assisted tremendously in the building of the various kibbutzim and Moshavim there. Kfar Yehoshua was the third stop of the original train. There's a nice museum there today to learn about the train. If that gets you going-excuse the pun. Whats cooler is that currently the train, which was destroyed in 1948 by the hagana to get at the British who weren't letting Jews in to Palestine at the time, is now being re-railed. Should be done in a few years and will connect Haifa to Beit Shean. Cool!