Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
March 20th 13th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 21 -29th Adar 5775
Parshas Va'Yikra/ HaChodesh
Post Bechirot/Elections Analysis
It’s over thank God. And not soon enough if you ask me. After two months of electioneering, endless phone calls, unsolicited text messages, and being accosted by signs, teen-agers and bumper stickers wherever I have gone, I pretty much have had enough of Israeli politics to last me for a long time. It’s a shame that they can’t seem to keep a government for more than two years here without it falling apart. At least my friend who works in the sign publishing company is happy. On the other hand, with a seemingly endless supply of corrupt and self-interested motivated politicians with none of them really with the power or guts to do what needs to be done here without selling out to either other local coalition parties or foreign influences and fear tactics. It seems that this process and vicious cycle will continue until Mashiach comes… or I run for office. At least it’s over for now I hope…pray… One good thing that has come out is that at least my prayers three times a day for Hashem to return us to the leaders and judges of old and to restore us to the Temple and Jerusalem have been stronger during these past weeks.
But of course even when it’s over its not really over. There are all the post-election analyses. If he wouldn’t of run, had we responded better, if only we would’ve promised this, lied more about that, paid off more thems and campaigned harder in the cemeteries (This year it seems that many of the dad were the largest voting bloc), or had more rabbis praying more days at more graves in Uman or offering more blessings and curses, than we would’ve done better. I have a bit of my own post-election analysis although that of course is not what this E-Mail is about, despite the title. We pretty much had a right-wing government before and will have one again after the only change perhaps is that the “religious” parties regardless if they will be a part of the Government or not lost about 4 or 5 seats because they could not all get along and all the infighting and the Arab parties gained about 4 or 5 seats because they all united. How pathetic is that... Not much need for anymore commentary, I say.
I always like to read the Parsha with current events in mind. Not always international or Global events but even my personal ones like in-grown toenails and bunny rabbits hopping around my house. Maybe that’s why you like reading them as well. It’s interesting people asked me who I would vote for and I answered tongue in cheek that Ani Bocher LMi Shebachar Bi- I voted, or chose, He who chose me. Asher Bachar Banu Mikol Ha’Amim- Hashem chose us from all other nations. He chose me, so I choose or vote for Him. (Although, I did vote for a party as well-parties unlike elections are a good thingJ). The word Bechirot which in Hebrew means elections also means choices. Perhaps one of the fundamental concepts of Judaism is the notion of Bechira Chofshi- Free will. What separates mankind from the all of the other Creations is idea that we are created in the image of Hashem. Not image in that we look like God. Hashem doesn't look like me or anyone else. Rather, our great Jewish philosophers explain, that just as Hashem has the ability to choose, and to create and to effect change in the world based on those choices, He has given us that power as well. We have total free-will to make choices and those decisions ultimately will determine what our fate will be. That’s a pretty powerful idea, and one that even today many may not agree with.
There are psychologists that debate whether all our decisions are based on either nature or nurture. Those two choices pretty much say we are either born or ingrained by our upbringing with a certain nature, predilection or tendency and therefore we are pre-programmed for the decisions we will make. That pretty much would wipe out the notion of free-will if it was true and certainly excuse a lot of terrorists, ghetto youth or spoiled rich kids for their behavior. Judaism does not deny that each of us are born and raised and possibly even programmed with a whole set of personality challenges and with inclinations that will confront us in our lives. Yet, it in no way ultimately excuses our behaviors for not overcoming those challenges. Perhaps even more than the fact that it doesn't excuse our “mistakes” and misdeeds, it challenges to utilize those failures to grow even more, even higher, from them. Nature or nurture is a question of why I am, Judaism is far more concerned with who will I be? The answer to that question for every single human being, in that you will be as great as the choices you make when you exert that spark of godliness, that image of God within you. You can be limitless, just as He is, or you can be as small and as finite as a pile of clay without any breath of life blown into it. The choice to choose or not is yours.
This week we begin the third book of the Torah. The Book of Vayikra is unique in that there is almost narratives in the book. It’s laws and descriptions of that relate to the Temple for the large part. Sacrifices, Purity, agricultural laws all the things that always excited you when you started learning Torah. Right? OK maybe not so much. Yet fascinating enough our sages tell us this book is the one that little children should first start learning when they start to study. Yup. Not the story of Creation, or the cool plagues in Egypt, or even the story of giving of the Torah in Sinai. Start with sacrifices. Kids love that kind of stuff. Slaughtered birds, and cows and sheeps and all types of leprosy and blemishes. This is where you should start learning with them from. Which begs the deep and penetrating question. Huhhh???
The answer our sages tell us is “Since the korbanot (sacrifices) are pure and the children are pure, let the pure come and deal with the pure."
I think this might even be more troubling for people. I mean, they’re pure they’re innocent. You want to buy them a goldfish, puppy hamster or bunny rabbit (although I advise against the latter), not slaughter them a sheep or goat…and skin…and gut and roast and then even eat them. As my phone app say whatsapp? The answer I believe is that perhaps one of the most fundamental lessons we can teach children and that they still grasp in their purest of states, before they start seeing Disney films of talking animals or reading Grimms fairy tales, is that we are not animals. We are different we have souls. We can make decisions, develop meaningful relationships, show appreciation. We are meant not only to contemplate our existence, but to develop our futures and elevate the world to an existence that knows its Creator and the soul that lies in each of us. The pure get this. The pure can appreciate that. The pure should learn the Book of the pure.
What are Sacrifices? Sacrifices, make one basic statement. My choices and actions have meaning. Every choice I make is an eternal life decision. I see an animal be offered up and I’m impacted by watching its life go out of it and its being brought to Hashem, and think that it is in place of me. Its what happens to me if I do not change my ways. Poof…smoke. I’m just a dead animal. When one has something significant in one’s life recognize it comes from Hashem, who is watching over us bring a thanksgiving or a peace offering. The pure get this. As we age we think we accomplish everything on or own. The only thing we can accomplish though is our choices. Our Bechirot…
Vayikra is the all about post-bechirot analysis that all of us are meant to make in our lives. The important choices that we make are not in the ballot boxes, rather they are in our day to day lives; our hour to hour and minute to minutes. Did my thoughts and actions bring more Godliness into the world? In to my life? Did the way I treat my community, my neighbors, my family elevate me and express a Godly soul. The Temple of Hashem, may it soon be rebuilt, is and will be the place for those analysis. Even more significant is that it will be the place where I can re-cast my vote and my choices and rectify perhaps the wasted votes I may have had. The pundits and the polls got it right. Every vote counts. Every vote for Hashem, every act that we do unlike the Knesset or US elections actually change the world. (Unless of course, you’re of the opinion that voting in elections is also a mitzvah than it would be as well-see quote of the week below). We celebrate the new month of Nissan this coming Shabbos. Our sages tell us that just as in Nissan we were once redeemed, the redemption will come once again in Nisan. That certainly is something our vote will definitely count for.
Have a peaceful and relaxing without a thought or worry about Pesach cleaning,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
Lego Pesach commercial funny
Here Comes Pesach Bluesc
New feature of the WEEK!!
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“ A shlekhter sholem iz beser vi a guter krig.”
A bad peace is better than a good war.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE COW QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"Last night Benjamin Netanyahu apparently defeated Barack Obama… and the Palestinians,”-John Stewart
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Which of the following is an educational institution whose design was inspired by the Jerusalem Temple?
A. The Hebrew University campus at Giv’at Ram
B. The Haifa Technion
C. The Mikve Yisrael Agricultural School
D. The Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium in Tel Aviv
.RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
The bird offering differed from the other animal sacrifices in that it was not slaughtered rather its neck was merely slit with the really long fingernail of the Kohen. The Chinuch explains this Mitzva as a lesson to teach you that the bird offering was brought in general by a poor person who could not afford a Cow, goat or sheep. One should act swiftly when taking care of the needs of a pauper and not delay him at all. Therefore the lengthier process of slaughtering is replaced with the quicker process of Melika. In addition the place on the neck did not need to be searched for. Think about that next time a poor person asks you for help. Hashem, overlooked details of slaughtering to hurry him back on the road to help him out. So should we…
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Participating in the Elections – Yeah, you can do this in whatever country you live in. But there’s nothing like Israeli elections. 74% voter turn-out means that 3 out of the 4 people on the bus have a strong enough opinion to actually get out and vote. (I think the US was 58% in the last elections). The other 24% probably also have strong opinions as to why they are not voting. In Israel, what makes it exciting is that there are so many different parties most of them probably not fully representing your opinion-after all you’re Jewish. Each party will pull out everything they can to get you to vote for them. Each one of them will spend time convincing you how your vote will make a difference and change the world. The truth is in Israel because of the system and the minimal thresholds and the per seat representation the votes actually do have more meaning and significance. The Elections here have the bad, the ugly and the really tragic, as it brings out all the divisiveness amongst our people. Yet as someone who tries to find the good in everything-and then tell his tourists and faithful readers about it. It is truly inspiring and moving how passionate Israelis are about trying to do their most to better the Jewish people and country-each in their own way. We are not apathetic. The Jewish people care and understand how much needs to be fixed and how important each of us are in being part of our future. Israel politics are like no other because it’s the future of the world. And that is cool…
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ELECTION JOKE OF THE WEEK
The Israeli was sitting Shiva for his father and it was election day. He was torn on one hand he knew that while he was sitting Shiva he should not leave the house. On the other hand his Rabbis told him that it was mitzvah to vote. Not knowing what to do he went to take a nap and his father appeared to him in a dream and told him to vote. He objected telling his father that he was still sitting Shiva. His father responded “Listen a few hours ago, I voted-even check my ballot, If I could vote you can J.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FUNNY ANECDOTE OF THE WEEK
The Chazon Ish in the 1950’s gave a strong speech about how it was a mitzvah to vote in the upcoming elections. One of his students approached him after the speech and asked his Rebbe if the Rav felt that it was truly a mitzvah. When the Chazon Ish affirmed his decision, the student asked if this was a mitzvah just like eating Matza? The Chazon Ish responded “No, it is a mitzvah like eating Maror! JJ…
Answer is D: The Alma Mata of none other than this past election loser Yair Lapid as well as former Prime Minister Moshe Sharret and Natan Alterman and many other famous early and modern Zionist leaders and politicians. It was built as the first “Hebrew” High School in Israel. Its prfessors included Ben Yehuda who established the modern Hebrew language. The design of the building was blasphemously meant to imitate the Beit Hamikdash of Shlomo in Jerusalem. This was a new temple for the new Jew “modern Jew”; one that would replace the Temple of old of Sacrifice with the vision of Theodore Herzl, a Temple of Knowledge, Science, Art and Culture. The design with the two pillars of Yachin UBoaz on the outside and the gateway like the Temple was meant to send that very message. The truth of the matter In the Technion in Haifa as well blueprints were submitted for that design and the Hebrew U in Jerusalem as well in its choice of location on Mt. Scopus overlooking the Temple Mount. On the dedication of the Hebrew U building Ushiskin was quoted as saying to Albert Einstien “Professor Einstein , Opposite this place you see Mount Moriah . Three thousand years ago one of the greatest leaders of our nation, King Solomon ,built a house of prayer to the God of the world , and when he inaugurated the house he prayed that this house will be a house of prayer for all nations. And we pray now, that this house, the Hebrew University, that we dedicate here on Mount Scopus, shall be a house of knowledge for all nations”
At least he prayed…