Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
March 13th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 20 -22nd of Adar 5775
Israel Store-yBeing raised in America one gets used to a certain type of shopping experience Stores are there to serve you. Wal-Mart’s has its greeters with their little smiley stickers that cheerfully welcome you their store. The customer service desks are exactly that. There are refund policies. Social loyalty programs. It’s nice. We take it for granted. At least until you make Aliyah….
Here in Israel the laws of the Shuk reign supreme. There are no prices on items. It’s not about how much it costs but how much you can pay. Convenience stores are generally inconvenient, opening and closing at their own whims and hours. Supermarkets expect you to bag your own items, pay for your shopping cart and buy what you need quick and get out of the way very fast, so that someone else can move along the line. Perhaps most frustrating to many is the tease you get when you call a company’s customer service line and are delighted to hear “Press 3 for English”, only to find out that it is really just a ploy to push you to the end of the line and delay your being answered another 10 minutes. Only then to be connected to an Israeli that doesn’t speak a word of English- although she could ask her friend who speaks Russian to help out.
But on the other hand, and of course you knew I would ask you to look at the other hand there are many special things that you experience here in your shopping that you don’t get other places as well. Most stores will extend you credit if you are a little short. They’ll watch your kids while you run out for a second. Many times you can be lucky enough to catch a Minyan in your grocery store. It’s nice to see the man behind the counter learning a Jewish book, playing Jewish music or just even talking our ancient language.
Even more touching though, is that more often than not if they see you purchasing something they’ll recommend you buy a cheaper alternative or one on sale that may even be of a better quality. Many times I was even told don’t buy it today wait until tomorrow the prices are going down. It’s funny, how Israelis respond to you in this way. They aren’t –God forbid trying to offer you customer service- it’s just that their natural instinct of seeing you pay more than you should or being put in a bind for a silly reason overcomes their natural shuk instinct to take advantage of you. Whereas in America in general there is a concept of maintaining customer loyalty with good service excellent refund policies, and in general a helpful demeanor, here in Israel there is no long term vision or agenda about getting you to become a repeat customer; they feel that they’re doing you a favor selling to you in the first place. Rather the help and perks you get are more of a sincere family nature; they are more about one Jew helping another.
I read a story this week that really encapsulates this attitude. There was an older Yerushalmi carpenter who struggled daily to build bookcases for a living in a neighborhood where people barely had money to put food on their tables. One day an older American retiree came into his shop and asked him if he would build him a living room shelving unit that was comparable to the nice ones that he used to have in America. After taking the elaborate order for this rather ostentatious unit the carpenter asked who he was purchasing it for. When the American informed him that he had recently moved to Israel and wanted to retire and live his last years here in Israel similarly to the way he did in the States. The carpenter refused to build it for him. Though he was desperate for the business, he couldn’t bring himself to complete the order.
He explained to the would-be customer,
“If a young couple comes to me and asks for a strong, sturdy, beautiful piece of furniture, I look at them and think that this young, happy couple is just starting out, with many years ahead of them. I am thus more than happy to build them the stuff of their dreams. But you are already older. You should know by now how temporary life is. How can you build yourself furniture like what you’re describing to me?”
Customer service? Not so much. An incredible shopping and learning experience that you can’t get anywhere else? Definitely.
This story sheds light on perhaps the greatest lesson of this weeks Torah portion. We have spent so many weeks discussing the building of the Mishkan. Yet once again the Torah recounts for us in full detail the donations of all the particular materials that each Jew gave to the building campaign. What is perhaps most remarkable is that this building is only meant to be a temporary structure. It should have lasted for a mere few weeks until the Jews arrived in Israel and built their permanent Temple. Yet the outpouring of money and donations was unparalleled to any other campaign since then, The Torah tells us that there was enough money and even extra. Does it make sense that for such a temporary structure, there should be such a huge campaign? Even more perplexing is that this Mishkan was meant to be atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf. Can it be that by merely donating money to the “synagogue coffers” the Jews can rectify perhaps the most grievous sin of all of Jewish history? How does one thing fix the sin of the other?
The answer is that it was precisely the process of donating as much as they could for a temporary dwelling, that they were able to begin the process of undoing the roots of the problem of the Golden Calf. The Calf was created because the Jewish people took a long look at their future. How will we make it in the Wilderness without Moshe our guide and our leader? Who will provide for us? What will become of us down the road? We need a long term plan and the Golden Calf was created to provide and fill that role. What Hashem was telling the Jewish people was, don’t worry about the big picture. Rather you put your all into doing the right thing for the here and now. Build me a home that is temporary, with all that you can and I will reside in it. You need not fear or worry about what will come tomorrow. Your job is to make sure that everything is being done right and to the utmost for today.
Interestingly enough, that “temporary” Mishkan and its vessels lasted longer than each of the Batei Mikdash Temples. The Tabernacle was with them their entire sojourn in the Wilderness. It was in Gilo, Shiloh and rebuilt in Nov and Givon and lasted about 480 years. The temporary merited longevity. The building that was donated with a mindset of doing the right thing in the here and now ended up being the place that they called the home of Hashem for the longest period of time.
The lessons of that campaign 3000 years ago still ring true for us today. Are we focused on long term projects at the expense of missing out on opportunities to do chesed and achieve spiritual goals today? Are we too focused on our “permanent” homes in our temporary existence and forgetting our eternal lives and our connection to the transcendent? Maybe we spend too much time checking out prices and finding the best deals and worrying about how we’re being treated. The Israeli shopper is certainly not looking for the “shopping experience”. They are more focused on the living experience. Maybe it is because the people here feel life and time are more fragile and precious. Perhaps it is the lessons engrained so long ago in psyche of that temporary Mishkan. We all have our “Golden Calf” weaknesses fears and projects that hold us back. That may be preventing us from contributing, from growing or from becoming as great as we could be. May Hashem give us the wisdom and strength of faith to let us move beyond them and create an Eternal life.
Have a Divine Bovine Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FUNNY COW VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
Check out that tongue!
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!!
“A beheyme hot a lange tsung un ken keyn brokhe nit zogn”
Even though a cow has a long tongue, it can’t recite a blessing.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE COW QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"When a cow laughs, does milk come out her nose?” ~Author Unknown
"Scientists tell us that the fastest animal on earth, with a top speed of 120 feet per second, is a cow that has been dropped out of a helicopter.” ~Dave Barry
“Sacred cows make the best hamburgers.” ~Mark Twain
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Which of the following was the earliest Jewish neighborhood?
A. Neve Tsedek
B. Neve Shalom
C. Ahuzat Bayit
D. Kerem HaTeimanim
.RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
The Mishkan was completed be being built on the 25th of Kislev , The Midrash tells us, however that Hashem wanted it to be erected on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. However to make it up to Kislev, Hashem gave it the holiday of Chanukah instead. For almost three months, the midrash says Moshe would put it up and take it down. All of the scoffers made fun and said that moshe would never be able to bring the Shechina down. When the first of Nissan came everyone else tried to put it together, but were unsuccessful. Moshe finally came and merely touched the beams and wadda boom wadda bing it came together. Pretty amazin!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Kibbutz experience – This is the only where real socialist societies still take place. Sure the Kibbutz movement is pretty defunct and mostly privatized, yet there are still many young teen-agers and young adults that come here and join the kibbutz pick bananas, oranges or take care of cattle. Most get pretty burnt out after a while and get back to their nice comfortable capitalist lifestyles. But its definitely a cool thing to do and experience. Work without getting paid having to share responsibilities, watching how group decisions take place and to a large degree a loss of privacy and autonomy for the group. It’s not an easy life but to a large degree its an interesting one, your needs are taken care of and you are part of a community and society for better and for worse. One thing si certain there’s really not too many other places in the world where you can try out this lifestyle and certainly none where you can do this at a shomer Shabbat place. For a taste of the ideologues that started this country a Kibbutz is certainly a place to get that feel.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COW JOKES OF THE WEEK
“Why was the calf afraid? He was a cow-herd
Why wouldn’t anyone play with the little longhorn? He was too much of a bully!
What sound do you hear when you drop a bomb on a cow? Cowboom!
What would you hear at a cow concert? Moo-sic!
What’s a cow’s least moosical note? Beef-flat!
What do cows do for entertainment? They go to the mooooovies.
What do cows like to do at amoosement parks? Ride on the roller cowster
What kind of cows do you find in Alaska? Eski-moos!
There were these two cows, chatting over the fence between their fields. The first cow said, "I tell you, this mad-cow-disease is really pretty scary. They say it is spreading fast; I heard it hit some cows down on the Johnson Farm." The other cow replies, "Hell, I ain't worried, it don't affect us ducks."
Who’s old enough to get this one J?
There was a herd of cattle all standing on a hill when an earthquake struck. All of the cows fell down, but the bull remained standing. The farmer noticing this went out and asked the bull, "Why didn't you fall down like the rest of the herd. The bull replied, "We bulls wobble, but we don't fall down."
Cows go who?
No, silly. Cows go MOOOOOO!
Answer is A: First thing to do is figure out what these things have in common. Most of you if not all of you don’t know… That’s because you didn’t go to a tour guiding course like I did J or if you did you may have deleted that information. But anyways the above except for one are early neighborhoods outside of yaffo that led to and eventually became the development of Tel Aviv. Neve Tzedek was the first in 1887. It was established by religious Jews after the success of the neighborhoods that were built outside of Yerushalayim. Acutally called that after the verse in yirmiyahu (31:22) “ So Said Hashem god of Hosts, they will again say in the land of Yehuda and its cities, when I return their returnees. Hashem will bless his Neve Tzedek-His abode of Justice, the Holy mountain..”. The community was established to offer more affordable housing and fresh air for the returning immigrants as Yaffo was overstuffed within the walls. Rav Kook was first chief Rabbi there. The Teimanim came afterwards in early 1900’s from the Yemenite Aliya. And Ahuzat Bayit was the predecessor to Tel Aviv. Neve Shalom has nothing to do with the question, they’re just hoping you get confused between that neve tzedek but it also helped me figure out the right answer because I realized that they were trying to trick me although I wasn’t sure if tzedek or teimanim was first… cool!