Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 23rd 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 24 -4th Iyar 5775
Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim/Yom Ha'atzmaut
There's a lot of holy people in Israel. Approximately 6 million and 251 thousand give or take how many were born or died over the last few days in Israel alone, 162,000 more than last year. 32,000 are even holier as they moved to Israel in the past year. We're still waiting for the close to 7 million Jews not here yet to join the club. I've got a Falafel waiting for you and there's a Temple that we need your help to build. I was never really good at construction so I could use a hand.
Now, I know what you're thinking. The numbers I just gave you are of the total Jewish population. But not all of them are holy. I'm sure we can think of quite a few that don't necessarily earn that title. In fact come to think of it I don't know if we can count of more than handful that we would call holy people. How many do you know? I know Holy Bagels, my father used to always refer to "Holy Toledo" and I'm even familiar with holy guacamole and mackerel. But holy people? Jewish people? Yes. I mean all of us. Don't believe me? Check out this week's Torah portion it tells us again and again. Be Holy for Holy am I Hashem your God. We are holy because He is Holy. If you believe Hashem is holy than. And if he isn'tthan who is? Than know that we are holy as well. Not just "we", as in the Jews that are just like me. Rather the entire nation is holy because our holiness derives from Hashem's presence within us. In fact the Me'or VaShemesh, the great Chasidic Rebbe understands the above verse as explaining why this Mitzva and command was meant to be given to "all of the nation of Israel" together, as opposed to other commandments that were given and taught through the hierarchy of Moshe to Aharon to the elders and down. This Mitzva was meant to be given to everyone so that they would understand that each and every one of them are holy because it derives from Hashem.
I recall a lesson I once heard from one of my teachers. He told me that when he was a child he had a classmate that would always get on his nerves. And as is wont to happen in such cases, his Rebbe came over to him and suggested that he start take him as a study partner, a chavrusa in learning. When he told his Rebbe that he would agree to learn with anyone else, but this one guy...he just couldn't take him. His Rebbe asked him if he also has a problem with God. "What!" he answered aghast, "How can I have a problem with Hashem?"
"But doesn't Hashem get on your nerves some time?" The Rebbe persisted. "Doesn't he do things that upset you, things that just don't seem right, seem fair?"
"Ummmmmm... but He's Hashem. I can't get mad at Him. It's for my own good, it's for me to grow."
"Ah ha" said his Rebbe in words he will never forget "Than why would you feel differently about someone who is in the image of Hashem..."
What is holiness? The word in Hebrew translates as separate, different. We use it as a way to differentiate from the mundane, the profane. Hashem is holy because, He's not part of the physical world. He placed in each of us His spirit of life, our "holy" soul that allows us to transcend our mortal and physical existence and to connect to Him. The Jewish people as whole are holy because as Hashem says I have separated you from the nations to be holy to me. The word holy/ Kadosh is also used as a term to define the relationship between a husband and wife. We are wed to Hashem. All of us. As a betrothed bride is entirely committed to her groom and can't have part of her that is "still single"; still in a relationship outside of her husbands. We are entirely as a nation Mikudeshet. Separate. Holy. My hand, my arm, my pot-belly, my great sense of humor and my not so great parenting skills are part of the package. And my neighbor, the liberal, the ultra hariedi bearded rabbi, my knitted Kipa flag waving storekeeper and the Ethiopian, Russian and even French immigrant who break their teeth trying to ask me for directions are all part of Hashems holy nation. Yes, thatShnorrer that keeps hitting you up for money while your trying to pray is holy, yes that guy or lady from the "evil" or corrupt political party that you campaigned vociferously against is holy. Yes, even even the slimiest dirt-bag of a self-hating Jew that is an abomination to everything that the Torah represents is holy. All of us have that spark of Hashem that is holy. "Gather them all together and tell them that" Hashem says. So they know that about themselves and they know that about each other. For I am holy and so are they. If you have a problem with them. You have a problem with Me.
I know it's hard to wrap you're (and my) brain around this concept. But I'll make it easier. I'll show you how even though we may not see it. There are others that see it. I'll name one. I'll tell you a story. It was July 1944. The end of the war. Things were going bad for Germany. They were losing thousands on all fronts. The US was in, The tide had turned. But they had an important job to do. The testimonies in Yad Vashem describe how on July 23rd the 1651 remaining Jews of the island of Rhodes were piled onto two coal barges to be sent to Athens and from there to the cattle cars that would take them to the death camps of Aushwitz/Birkenau. The war was being lost, the man power and boats were almost certainly needed but they were dedicated to this "higher purpose". Along the way the boat stopped of at the island of Kos where another 120 Jews were picked up. The trains were still waiting for them. Yet that was still not enough. Word came to the boat from the Nazi "High" Command. There was one more stop to be made. The coal boats made a detour. There was one Jew on the Island of Leros. One Jew. It was worth the stop. They understood he was holy. He must be eradicated.
I don't know who that one Jew was. Imaginably living alone on some foreign Greek island far away from any of his co-coreligionists, he wasn't what we might consider mainstream or maybe even religious. But he was certainly holy. They understood that if one Jew survives in this world so does God. So the trains could wait. They could do without the coal and the boats. Soldiers could die and the war might even be lost. But if they could just destroy one more piece of the Divine that resides in this world then they have one. They understood that the loss of any Jew is the death of an entire world of holiness. It's a lesson we need to learn as well.
Today is Yom Ha'Atzmaut. The State is 67 years old today. Someone told me that it is retirement age in Israel as well. There are many Jews that celebrate the birthday today. Some see in it the flourishing of the Redemption. Others who see the State as a sorry excuse for what the kingdom of Hashem on this planet that is meant to serve as an inspiration to the rest of the world of how a world directed by Hashem that lives life and is run according to his commandments, don't celebrate it. There are others that are ambivalent. Personally I'm grateful to be living in a country that my ancestors always dreamed of and prayed for with more Jews than any other single place in the world. Where 75% of the people that live here
are my brothers and sisters. Are holy.
The Jewish people are coming home. The full holiness of Hashem's presence in this world will only shine out when we are all here. Our betrothed is waiting for His whole bride. His Holy Bride. We need to just realize how holy each and everyone are. How holy our home is. Then will we be able to celebrate not just the beginning of the sprouting of our redemption but the culmination of it.
Have a holy Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
What Olim Like about Israel
Israeli Chutzpa Workshop
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!!
"Nein rabonim kenen kain minyen nit machen ober tsen shusten yoh..."
Nine rabbis cannot make a quorum but ten shoemakers can
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"The prime defense against calamity is love and unity. When there are love, unity, and friendship between each other in Israel, no calamity can come over them. ...Even if they worship idols, but there is bonding among them, and no separation of hearts, they have peace and quiet" -
Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Halevi Epstein, Maor VaShemesh
What is your question?Bury me next to any Jew, And I only hope that any Jew will not be embarrassed to be buried next to me as I will be proud to be buried next to him."
-Reb Menachem Mendel Vitebsk, great 18th century Chasidic Rebbe who made Aliya to the city of Tiverya upon being asked who he would like to be buried next to.
Eliminate the Diaspora, or the Diaspora will surely eliminate you."
- Ze'ev Jabotinsky
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Ben Gurion's Tomb overlooks:
- A. Nahal Tsin
- B. Nahal Avdat
- C. Nahal Paran
- D. Nahal Mamshit
.RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
At the end of Parshat Acharey Mos the Torah warns us not to sin with sins of immorality for the land of Israel will not tolerate it and will vomit us up as it did to the other nations that lived here prior to us. The Midrash gives a beautiful parable that reflects this idea. Captives were taken to a labor camp. The prisoners that were accustomed to poor and simple backgrounds were able to consume the unappetizing and less than sanitary prison food. Those had a more refined background and were raised in wealth and affluence couldn't digest the food and vomited it up. Similarly the Land of Israel is one whose essence is refined. It is the palace of the King. Immoral and dis"tasteful" behavior causes it to expel them. So how do you guys living in poor and simple countries feel about that?
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Have Fun Climbing through Water Tunnels - I know this doesn't sound so exciting but its actually quite a bit of fun and historical. There are quite a few places in Israel where there are tunnels of historical significance. Like 3000 or so years old. The city of David has a great tunnel dug in the times of Chizkiya/ Hezekia during the first Temple period almost a half mile long that you go through with flashlights and almost waist high water. Theres Park Alona along the Coast line as well which is from the second Temple period and was part of the water aquaduct system to casarea. There's another Hasmonean period one by Armon Hanetziv in Jerusalem as well. In the Gush Etzion area there is the Biyar one as well. There's probably more that I'm not remembering please send em in to me if you think of anymore. Regardless I don't know of anywhere else in the world where one can have this type of experience water, history, underground ancient tunnel all only in my favorite country!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TERIBBLE YOM HAATZMAUT JOKE OF THE WEEK
On an invitation to a Yom Ha"Atzmaut celebration at the Prime Minister's residence:
You are cordially invited to join us at our annual BiBi.Q...
Q. What is the name of the dance we do on Yom Ha'Atzmaut?
A. The Indepen-dance
As the siren sounds on Yom Hazikaron/ Israel's Memorial Day, the "Palestinian" asks the Israeli what the siren is for. He answers " It's our memorial day when we remember all of our fallen soldiers that have died in our wars." The then asks "well what about our fallen fighters" The Israeli answered "we commemorate them tomorrow!" (Israel's Yom Ha'atzamaut/independence day)
Answer is A: How appropriate the week of Yom Atzmaut the question is about Ben Gurion Israels first Prime minister and the declarer of our Statehood. Ben Gurion, BG or the Zaken/Old Man as he was fondly called was the longest serving PM of Israel although Bibi's getting close. He was our first and he kept coming back although his dream was always to live in Sdei Boker and work on a kibbutz (socialist that he was) and make the Negev flourish. In the end he is buried over there not overlooking Masmshit the nabatean city he wished to make the capital of Israel instead of Jerusalem. Not Paran or Avdat either but right over Nachal Tzin wher one can see the southern Biblical borders of Israel from the glorious outlook of his grave.