Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
May 7th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 26 -18th Iyar 5775
Parshat Behar/ Lag Ba'Omer
Dancing with Hashem
I could swear his feet were not touching the ground as he circled around and around. His eyes were closed heavenward, his curly side-locks (payot) and glistening white beard swaying in the air with his hands stretched out as if they were holding the hands of his Creator. Grabbing anyone to join him in the middle of the circle, Sefardi, Teimani, Chasid, Black hatter, soldier, secular and anglo rabbis from Karmiel :).
"Anachanu Ma'aminim Bnai Ma'aminim-We are believers the children of believers" they all sang with him together. Welcome to Meron. Lag Ba'Omer 5775.
Only Jews could make a holiday on the day that one of our greatest sages Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (the 1st century Mishanic leader) passed way. For many other nations this might be a day of sadness and mourning. In traditional Judaism the period of Omer (the 49 days from Passover to Shavuot) is our period of mourning for the students of Rabbi Akiva- the teacher of Rabbi Shimon- who passed. Yet, on the day of Rabbi Shimon -Lag- the 33rd day- the mourning comes to an end (or is interrupted) as we celebrate the tremendous legacy Rabbi Shimon left us on the day of his passing- the fire and the secrets of the hidden and mystical aspects of the Torah and universe that are found in the teachings of Kabbalah.
As I walked through the jam packed streets of Meron (over a half a million people come over the course of the day) I watch Hashem's children who have picked themselves up from their mourning as they dance and celebrate like crazy. Circles after circles around bonfires. There are 10's of Kiosks and tents that are set up offering free food (kugel, cake, chulent, sandwiches) drinks, wine donated from people and organizations around the world. The rich, the poor there is no difference when it comes to that small mountain top we are all one joined in dance, song, prayer and Torah. The way it should be...it used to be... it will be.
This week we read Parshat Behar. It is named that after the first verse in the Parsha
"And Hashem spoke to Moshe- Be'Har- on the mountain- of Sinai" The Parsha then goes on to detail the laws of the Sabbatical Year and the 50 year Jubilee year and the incredible laws that take place during these years. All land that was sold is returned to their owners in the 50th year. The land cannot be worked, slaves are freed, debts are declared exempt and most importantly the obligation to assist those that are struggling. The Medrash asks the question as to why these laws are particularly singled out as being taught at Sinai? My father-in-law Rabbi Yosef Sorotzkin in his monumental work Meged Yosef, explains the Medrash's response that there have been many attempts throughout history to create societies in which all were equal, where one is not treated any less because of their financial hardships, their social status, where those more fortunate were obligated to care for the more needy. Yet, they have failed. Judaism is different. We are a nation that has its eyes and its memory firmly planted on that mountain where we were born as a nation. The Torah can mandate that I forgive the debts that are owed to me, I do not charge interest on loans I lend, I leave my land- the source of my income barren-giving it a Shabbos, I free my slaves because we remember where we came from. We remember that what made us a nation is how we all stood as one after having left the slave pits of Egypt. We swore we would never forget that unity, that responsibility, that heavenly mandate. We remember the mountain.
Other nations do not have that mountain to look back to. Ideals of equality, sharing of wealth and renunciation of our hard earned possessions and acquisitions fall to the wayside without a recognition of our Divine Benefactor who wishes all His Children to appreciate the goodness, freedom and blessing of having and being sufficient enough to serve Him. We understand with those miztvot that were given to us on the mountain that no matter how desperate and tragic our situation, there will come a time of Jubilee when we return to our ancestral heritage, when our debts are finally forgiven. When we will experience the final Shabbos together with Him. It is with that knowledge that we can pick ourselves from our mourning and dance, we can celebrate the greatest light that explodes from the darkness and we can float and sing and stretch out our hands to heaven to dance with us.
I went inside to pray by the grave of the great Rabbi Shimon and I came out about an hour later and the old Rabbi was still dancing in the middle. I asked someone who he was. He did not know his name as well, but told me that he had been there all night dancing, floating, singing. It seemed from what I gathered that the Rabbi had lost his children and family in a tragedy. Lag Ba'Omer, had become his day. The day when he felt he could dance and pick himself up again. The flames of the bonfire around which he danced were a testament to the flame and spirit of the eternal souls that we have. Just as all our souls are united and forged as one and a spirit of Hashem. So too in drawing every type of Jew together closer to that warm flame in joy he was creating that eternal connection we all shared to dance with Hashem.
From Mt. Sinai to Mt. Miron, may Hashem bring us all together one again on his eternal Temple mount in Jerusalem once again rebuilt.
"Lag" Samayach and have a spectacular Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
a different type of bar yochai song…pretty funny
This one is really funny I thought.. “Wish it was Lag Ba’Omer now”
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!!
“Besser a yid mitun a burd, vi a bord mitun a yid.”
Better a Jew without a beard than a beard without a Jew
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai: "If a man plows in the plowing season, sows in the sowing season, reaps in the reaping season, threshes in the threshing season and winnows in the season of wind, what is to become of the Torah? But, when Israel performs the will of God, their work is performed by others" - Talmud Berachot
“The soul of man is a lamp of G‑d" (Proverbs 20:27). Just like the flame of the lamp strains upwards, seeking to tear free of the wick and rise heavenward - though this would spell its own demise - so, too, does the G‑dly soul in man constantly strive to tear free of the body and the material existence and be nullified within its source in G‑d”– Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(New exam this week these questions are from the most recent tour guide exam-let’s see how I do)
answer below at end of Email
Breccia (Brektziya) is?
A. A Crusader Queen of Armenian descent
B. Pyroclastic ash
C. Sedimentary rock composed of fragmented angles
D. The intermission in Prayer in a Greek Orthodox Church service
.RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
This weeks Parsha tell us of the mitzvah of Tzedaka, helping your brother who has fallen financially. The Midrash tells us of a conversation between Rabbi Akiva and Turnus Rufus, The Roman ruler of Judea in the times of Rabbi Akiva. Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva “Your Torah says that Hashem loves the poor and impoverished. If so why does he not provide for them.”
Rabbi Akiva responded as only a good Rabbi could “If Hashem would provide for them then the rich would have no merit with which to save them from Gehennom/Hell. For only Charity has the merit to save a person from his punishment.”
Ten matters were created each stronger than the other.
Rock is strong but iron breaks it
Iron is strong, Fire melts it.
Fire is strong, but water extinguishes it
Water is strong, but clouds carry it
Clouds are strong, but wind disperses it
The body is strong, but fear breaks it
Death is mightier than all the aforementioned, yet Tzedaka/charity is more powerful as it saves from Death.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Experience the bonding of the thousands of Jews – Lag Ba’Omer is one of those days when you can just stand in awe of the tens and even hundreds of thousands of Jews that all come together ot dance, sing and celebrate together. Food is shared by all, drinks flow like ater, random people are dancing and singing with their brothers thay may have never met but have always been connected to. Am Yisrael Chai! The holiday of us picking up from the ashes of destruction of the deaths of the students of Rabbi Akiva and celebrate life, celebrate Hashem who blows life into his nation and celebrate the unity and shared heritage, history and our rebirth from tragedy. There are those that fly in from all over the world and there are history books and travelogues that go back centuries of Jews that all came just for this special day. Experiencing the joy and the unity here in Israel. You can understand it.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S BARBER JOKES OF THE WEEK
A barber gave a haircut to a priest one day. The priest tried to pay for the haircut but the barber refused saying, "I cannot accept money from you, for you are a good man - you do God's work."
The next morning the barber found a dozen bibles at the door to his shop.
A Muslim Imam came to the barber for a haircut, and again the barber
refused payment saying, "I cannot accept money from you, for you are
a man of God."
The next morning the barber found a dozen Korans at the door to his shop.
A Rabbi came to the barber for a haircut, and again the barber refused payment saying, "I cannot accept money from you, for you are a man of God -" The next morning the barber found a dozen more Rabbis waiting for a haircut.
So the Gentile barbershop moved into town and put up a sign attacking the fancy Jewish barber shop down the block. The sign said, "Why pay twenty dollars? We give haircuts
for two dollars."
The smart Jew got even by putting up a sign of its own stating ,"We repair two-dollar haircuts!"
I was at the Barber a few months ago and asked him “why do u always charge me double? You ought to charge me less because for I don't have much hair!”
He answered me and said “No, no! We don't charge for cutting the hair! We charge
for having to search for it!”
Answer is C: The answer was definitely not going to be the church thing they’re just palying on the word association of break as in intermission. The Crusader Queen was Melisinde so it wasn’t that either. Pyroclastic ash is a close choice because pyro is fire and clast is broken pieces…so it could be…but that’s not the word I remembered for ash. I remembered it was a rock of some sort which of course makes the correct answer C. If you are a tourist and this information interests you… find a different tour guide. Rocks are not my thing. Rolling Stones on the other hand J