Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 13th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 16 -24th of Shvat 5775
(A golden oldie from back in Seattle as I am in the States now for a Simcah was last week as well and couldn't send out an Email…sorry..and touched that so many of you noticed..)
The Whole Truth
Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God? It was just another day in the Seattle Municipal Courthouse, that I recall from a few years ago when I lived in that city. Can someone explain to me why everyone who comes into court to fight a traffic ticket thinks they are auditioning for Law and Order? Why absolutely no one that I have watched take that oath on the stand had any intention of telling the truth.
It's almost like those security airport questions. Has your luggage been out of your sight at all since you packed it? (I can barely keep track of my three kids you think I'm watching my luggage). Or has anyone given you any packages to take? (I'm going to Israel , darling is there anybody I know that hasn't given me something to take is a much better question to ask!) Yet I remember sitting and watching each defendant try to explain "how the light was really yellow", "how my car really stopped fully- the officer just didn't see it", "how I know I was sober I only had one drink at noon". It was going to be a long morning… as I waited my turn. So I started preparing the Torah reading for the weekly Parsha instead.
The weekly portion of Mishpatim seemed quite timely here in the courthouse. It contains a significant portion of the gamut of Jewish law; Damages, Torts, Witnesses, indentured Servants. It also contains holiday laws and sacrifices, Shabbat and Sabbatical year laws, Kosher laws, Witchcraft, Bestiality, respect for parents, Charity and caring and sensitivity for the poor and the orphans. The Parsha it seems is a virtual "chulent" of all aspects of Jewish law. In fact the first word of this Parsha "And these are the Laws which you shall place before them" the Midrash understands to be a continuation of the previous portion. Just as the previous Ten Commandments and laws mentioned were from Sinai, so too all of these were given at Sinai too. The Whole Truth.
Reb Elya Meir Bloch, the founder and Rosh Yeshivah of Telshe Yeshivah in Wickliffe Ohio in the early 1940's, explains the message of the juxtaposition of these laws and the Torah's need to relate them to their Sinai source. He suggests that there are those people that look at being religious or observant in terms of the degree of their ritual performance. How Kosher they are, their Sabbath observance the sacrifices they may bring. Unfortunately their business dealings may not always be done with the fullest honesty. "Business is Business". The not-always- such "white" lies and the disregard for the moral implications of ones business and ethical practices for the sake of the "bottom" line instead of the "higher" road. To those the Torah goes out of its way to say "AND these are the laws". Your business practices are just as Sinai oriented and Divine as "I am the Lord your God". In fact they are a result of them. One who is not upright or observant or yes, even religious in their business practices the Talmud states is denying that God is the one who provides for all needs and stating that his livelihood as comes a result of any of man's manipulations. Thus the demand is always for Nothing but the Truth.
The opposite is true as well. The premise of the Torah, of Sinai, is that all of the ritual laws and observances were said at Sinai together with Thou shall not steal or murder. Judaism declares that there is no difference as to the source of the mitzvah to observe the Shabbos or the Kosher laws to those that speak about social justice and caring for the poor and freeing slaves. Traditional Judaism always understood that there is the only one unchanging Truth. It was not something that man created that could be further amended with the consistently changing times, desires and morals of the prevailing culture. When our all-knowing Father declared His system of the purpose and fulfillment of life to our grandparents at the foot of the mountain as being Eternal, He really meant it. So help me God.
There are many amazing stories of our great leaders and teachers who lived and strove their entire lives to abide by the truth. They understood what the great Chasidic master Reb Zusha homiletically understood in the mitzvah of this parsha -Midvar Sheker Tirchak- From matters of falsehood -be distanced. Reb Zusha explained it as being read as not just a warning but rather as a consequence; one becomes distanced when one is not living the truth. The early 12th century commentary Rabbeinu Bachya explains that is the understanding of the verse in the Ashrei prayer Karov Hashem L'Chol Koruv L'Chol,-Asher Yi'Kreoo'Hu B'Emet- God is close to all those who call out to him. Those who call out to Him and are of Truth.
I recall hearing a story once about Rav Bengis one of the leaders of the Eidah Charedis in Jerusalem who was asked to sign a letter of protest to the Israeli government back in the day when there was a move to forcibly draft Jewish women in the Israeli military service. When the letter that was brought to him, signed already by many of the great Rabbis of Israel of the time he sat and read it quite a few times before putting down his pen closing his eyes and beginning to cry. His student fearing that perhaps the Rabbi was conflicted about signing asked him what was his hesitation. He responded to the question in a lesson of truth that we can strive for.
"I have no hesitation about signing my students" the Rabbi said. "It is important that this letter which will protect the modesty and sanctity of our daughters be sent out. Rather my hesitation stems from the line the concluding line that one Rabbi wrote that says Hachosmim Bi'Dema- tearfully signed by the following Rabbis."
"I have as of yet not shed tears on this matter and therefore it would be dishonest of me to sign unless I had. I therefore had to pause and contemplate the severe ramifications of this conscription in order to sign the letter in truth."
How often do we sign our letters Sincerely Yours or Yours Truly? Do we really mean it? How often do we satisfy ourselves with larger and less tangible aspects of good that makes us comfortable and distance ourselves from the little more difficult truths that are just as significant and are all part what it means to be a nation of God -a Nation of Truth.
We took an oath 3,327 years ago to live to that truth; the whole truth and Nothing but the truth.
How do you plead?
Have a marvelous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
FUNNY LIE DECECTIVE-KIDS ON A FAKE LIE DETECTOR…
AND A SECOND ONE
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“I know you think you believe you understand what you thought I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is exactly what I meant.”- Richard Nixon
“Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns- the ones we don't know we don't know.” ― Donald Rumsfeld
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Q. In which century did most of the Circassians arrive in Israel?
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
I'm at a wedding this evening and there is a fascinating Midrash about the protocol for a wedding based on the verse mentioned above about falsehood and a discussion between the two schools of Shamai and Hillel.
"How does one dance before the bride? Beit Shammai says describes the bride as she actually is. Beit Hillel says 'A beautiful and graceful bride.'
Beit Shammai said to Beit Hillel: Say she is lame or blind; we say to her, 'A beautiful and graceful bride'?! But the Torah said, 'You shall distance yourself from matters of falsehood'!
Beit Hillel said to Beit Shammai: According to your view, one who made a poor purchase in the market – should one praise it before him, or denigrate it before him? Surely we would say, he should praise it before him. Beit Hillel therefore says, One's disposition must be pleasant towards people.
Beit Hillel also argues do we not have here 'beautiful' in terms of her conduct? Perhaps when we compliment the bride we mean 'beautiful in family background, graceful in her conduct' – for we do not presume one to be not nice!
Beit Shammai responded: Is it written, 'You shall distance yourself from sheker [falsehood]'? Rather it says, 'mi-dvar sheker' ['from MATTERS of falsehood'] – implying even plainly if the comment is subject to various interpretations.
Beit Hillel responds: Regarding what does the Torah say, 'Mi-dvar sheker tirchak'? Only because of the continuation of the verse, 'do not bring death upon those who are innocent and in the right'; but to sustain life rather than kill– this is permissible."
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Appreciate Israel currency – They make the money in ths country to look like monopoly money so that its easier to spend. But jokes aside it is pretty amazing that we are using shekels and it has become a world currency and it s the same types of coins that we find used in the Torah. Israels historic coins and bills are packed with Jewish history references many of them that are replicas of coins used in the times of the kings of Israel and during the Bar Kochva revolt there are some great museums including the Israel museum and other places in Israel where you can trace the history of Israels ancient coins and monetary system which is pretty amazing. Today thank God n addition to the cheap airfares to Israel that you can get the exchange rate is almos 4 to 1 for a dollar. So you have no excuse…come visit!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKES OF THE WEEK
A guy gets pulled over for speeding 88 MPH in a 45 zone. The cop askes for his drivers license and the guy says, "I'm sorry officer, but my license was suspended after my 5th DUI."
The cop askes for his registration and the guy says, "It's in the glove compartment, but it's not in my name because I stole this car in a car jacking and I killed the woman that owns the car and stuffed her in the trunk and the gun I used is in the glove compartment." At this point the cop tells the guy to keep his hands in sight and he radios for back-up.
When a supervisor shows up, the cop tells him the story and he walks up to the guy in the car. The supervisor asks to see the guy's drivers license and the guy hands it over and it is valid with the guys real name and information.
The supervisor asks for the registration and the guy says, "It's in the Glove compartment." The supervisor tells the guy to keep his hands in sight and walks around to the passenger side and opens the glove compartment. There is the registration in the guys name and everything seems in order.
Next the supervisor asks the guy to get out and open the trunk. The guy opens the trunk and the only thing there is a spare tire.
At this point the supervisor tells the guy what the other cop had told him. The guy says "I'll bet that lying cop. told you I was speeding too!"
Answer is A: The Circassians, or Tcherkessim- as they call them here in Israel, is another one of those interesting minority religions/cultures in Israel. They were brought here by the Turks from the Northern Caucasus where they were being massacred and expelled by the Tsar in Russia. The Turks as the sick man of the Ottaman Empire saw in them srong fighters that would protect their borders. And moved them up to the Galile. They're religion is Sunni Muslim but they are quite different than the typical muslims, their mosques are shaped like churches and they are very well educated both men and women have equal rights and they have a language with like 60 letters in it. Almost all of them serve in the Israeli army and since they came around the same time as the first Aliya of Jews from Russia they built great relationships with the Jewish immigrants that last until today.