Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
June 12th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 31 -25th Sivan 5775
Don't let the title fool you. There really is no such thing. Tourists are always a good thing…especially the ones that I am lucky enough to guide. We spent a lot of time in tour guiding school learning how to be a good tour guide. They taught us a lot of information. We covered everything from geology, botany, wildlife, thousands of years of history, archeology architecture and even other religions. We also spent some time on how to be a good tour guide how to present information, how to plan itineraries, know where the bathrooms are, where the good restaurants are (I didn't really need them to teach me thatJ) and fun activities to do are. Sadly though the one lesson that they didn’t really give to us but I think is a worthwhile lesson to learn is how to teach people how to be good tourists. You can be the best tour guide in the world but if your tourists don't know how to be good tourists you may have a hard time giving them the maximum experience that they deserve. There aren't really any bad tourists. But not everyone is a good one either.
So what does it take to be a good tourist in Israel. The first thing is to realize that you're not in America. I usually say thank God after that sentence. And you should too. Don't let all the signs in English here fool you. Actually the signs are pretty much a dead giveaway being that for some reason they can't seem to be able to spell properly and they have some type of fetish with the letter "Q" that they just love to stick randomly in the names of cities here. A not- good tourist, will consistently start sentences with the words "But in America we have______" fill in the blank. This is not America. You came here to experience your country. Think of it like your home. When you visit someone else's house you never say "but in our house we have…." Why not? Because you’re there to visit their house. Here you're actually coming to visit your own house and your own country and therefore you may feel that you can compare it to your place back in the States, but it will just take away from the experience of you appreciating this to be your real home. You’re better off thinking of it as if this the time-share you’re visiting for a vacation. You wouldn't focus on the things that you are missing there or some of the amenities you may not have. Just take in the vacation. I know this feels like home and it's easy to complain at home. But if you want to be a good tourist and get the most out of your time here…don't.
A second thing that you should do if you really want to be a good tourist is to give yourself a spiritual experience while you're here. You wouldn't go to France without tasting the wine, or Italy without having a pizza or some pasta, or Poland without visiting a gas chamber. (sorry about that one…but it's true). You want to see what the best or worst the country has to offer and what really defines it. Israel is the Holy Land. So try to get holy here. You can probably do a lot of fun things in a lot of places. But it is really only here that you can do truly holy things. What’s really great is that here you can make most things holy and spiritual experiences. The countryside, the historic sites, the people, even the fun activities be they jeeping, rafting, rappelling scuba diving all can and should be opportunities to appreciate this special land that Hashem promised us and whose "eyes are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end". Taste the country, the Jewish food, the wines make blessings and experience the fruits that Hashem has blessed more than any other in the world. All Blessings we make are meant to conjure up the land of Israel. Now you are tasting it that should be awesome as well. Totally Godly awesome.
The last tip perhaps to being a good tourist is to come here with the right attitude. Israelis are different than you. They react different; they have different priorities, different backgrounds and different values and expectations. They can be frustrating at times, ridiculous, rude and perhaps even seem aggressive. They did serve in the army….all of them…for you to have Jewish country to visit (see it even rubbed off on meJJ). So it's somewhat natural for them perhaps to behave and treat you differently than the polite 75 year old retiree in Walmart that thanks you for shopping there and gives you a little smiley sticker as he double bags your groceries. See but there's something else as well. That differentiates him from the guy in Walmart. The guy or girl over here are actually your brother and sister. We're family. And although it may be hard to believe it anyone of them would give their life for you although they may not let you get ahead of them in line or in the parking lot, and each one of them truly cares about your health, your family, you children and will pray for you celebrate with you and in times of tragedy mourn with you. We're Mishpocha. We feel it here between ourselves and we feel it with all Jews that visit us whether they say it or act that way or not. Family isn't always the politest to one another. In fact they're usually more polite to non-family members (which is why the Christians that come here never really complainJ). But it sure is always nice to know that you have them there for you.
What makes me talk about tourists this week? Well it is actually the Torah portion of the first Jewish "Tourists" that came to the land. Although we have gone through half of the Book of Shemot and the entire Leviticus and plenty of Bamidbar our Parsha takes place a mere year after the Exodus as we are about to approach the land of Israel. Moshe sends in 12 individuals, the leaders of the tribes to ______ the land. Now if I asked you to fill in that blank I'm sure most of you would write spy out the land. However if one looks at the verses, not once is the word spy which would be Li'Ragel used to describe their mission. In fact as opposed to spying the commandment was for them to Tour the land or pass through (the Hebrew word in fact is La'tour". Go for a pleasant trip, was what they were meant to do. Sure, see all the sites and the big cities and the people there and the fruits and lands. Find out all that fun information because it should get you excited about the land and the great miracles that will take place there. Be good tourists".
Sadly though the men did not have a great tour guide that really gave them these important tips. They went to spy on the land. They went to see if it was worthwhile and comparable to that super place they had in the desert where they would sing God Bless Amer…I mean the wilderness...each day as they raised their flags. They missed Tip one. They also seemingly forgot about the the spiritual experience that would take place in Israel. No longer would life be about the great classes that Moshe and Joshua would give in the Desert and the glory of God in the tabernacle. Their new job would be finding spirituality in everything. In the field, in their work, on their trips, in their future falafel stands. Yup they didn't realize that tourists have to look for the spirituality in everything. Finally Finally, they forgot the last tip. They saw this country as a place inhabited by a strong powerful people that seemingly they felt they would never be able to get out of here. They forgot. That it is our home. They're just babysitters here until we go back to the land promised to our forefathers…to our family. They forgot the power that a family united has to bring down the Divine assistance necessary to restore us to our land. They forgot that a family homestead is one that you can never walk away from.
It is interesting that the end of the Torah Portion when it teaches the mitzvah of Tzitzit, the fringes we wear on our fur cornered garments, it tells us that we wear the so that we shall not "tour after our hearts and our eyes which we tend to stray after". Life as well, even outside of the land of Israel, even when we cannot go to Israel, has a challenge of us being "good tourists" too. We can keep our eye on the heavenly ball, and remember we are here to maximize our experience on this world. To connect to the essence of our souls and our existence, to lift ourselves up higher each day and to rejoice in our family and in the world that will connect us to eternity. Or we can be not such good tourists. We can stray after negativity, temporary short quick fixes, meaningless and frivolous sparks or the pursuit of things that we know will never make us happy but somehow the world seems to be on a non-stop trajectory to achieve. Our tzitzit remind us that we are covered. There are commandments that give us direction. 613 of them the Torah (wonder if it as well has anything to do with the word Tour) But it truly is the ultimate guide book for life; the tour-guide book for a meaningful existence…A Roadmap back home.
The punishment for the failure of the spies and the Jewish people is that we were told that the day when we needlessly mourned will always be a day of mourning. The Temples were both destroyed on that 9th day of Av. Each time we truly did not really appreciate what the temples were, what our homeland was…what we were meant to be here. The sin of being spies instead of tourists here, of negatively interacting with the country and our land as opposed to building it into a home where Hashem's presence shines out to the world still hasn't been fully rectified. So come on and be good tourists and give your good friend here a visit. Your Father wants to see you.
Have a marvelous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
Top ten signs you’re an american tourist
Probably one Israels worst tourism campaigns..
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!!
“Got iz a foter; dos mazel iz a shtif-foter.”- God is a father; luck is a stepfather.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAVORITE QUOTES OF THE WEEK
““The other day I went to a tourist information booth and asked, 'Tell me about some of the people who were here last year.” ”.
~ Steven Wright
~ Steven Wright
“"There's nothing American tourists like more than the things they can get at home." -- Stephen Colbert
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
The following animals are from the amphibian species
A. Newt, Salamander, Tree frog
B. Turtle, Frog, Toad
C. Tilapia, Carp, Eel
D. Catfish, Salamander, Hula Painted frog
.RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL MIDRASH OF THE WEEK
This week’s Torah portion is a lesson that all parents try to teach their children. Actions have consequences. The spies who spoke badly about the land of Israel were punished according to the vivid description of the Midrash that their tongues stretched and came out of their mouths and worms came out of them which climbed down into their navels and then ate them up from the inside. Cool! Now you see why I liked Midrash so much as a child J. The Iyun Yaakov explains that this is Mida Kneged Mida that their tongues spoke evil and thus the worms came out and they spoke about Israel which is considered like the navel of the world. So now I live in a belly button. Hmmm…
On the other hand the Midrash tells us that Yehoshua and Calev who spoke positively about the land inherited the portion of the other ten spies in Israel. Yehsohua however more than Calev also received their portion in the world to come. The reason suggests the commentaries suggest is that Yehoshua came from the tribe of Yosef, who had a natural tendency and challenge with speaking Lashon Hara as seen with his brothers. So since it was even harder for him to overcome this challenge-Which according to the Midrash seems to run in his blood, he was rewarded spiritually with their portions in the world to come-which interestingly enough is symbolized by the addition of the letter Yud to his name which in Gematria is 10- he absorbed the ten spies portion.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL THINGS TO DO IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
See Shmita fields. –The year is almost half way over and it is really amazing to drive around the country and see fields that have all types of crops growing on them all covered with grass and weeds. There is big signs that hang over these fields. “THIS FIELD IS OBSERVING SHEMITTA”. How amazing and inspiring it is to think of these incredible farmers that give up their entire livelihood for a year. That see their 6 years hard worked fields become wild and unkempt. Imagine if there was a mitzvah to leave your office hefker/ ownerless for a year, anyone could come in and take what they wanted. Your clients, your computers, your office chair. To a large degree this is what Shemitta is. The only way this is possible for someone to do is if he truly believes that his livelihood comes from Hashem. That we are only here in this land for one primary reason and that is to declare this faith in Him to the world. And they are doing exactly that. As am I when I point this out to tourists all week long. This is more than just cool this is totally awesome!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ZELIG ARMY JOKES OF THE WEEK
Zelig joined the Israeli army. After his months of training he had come to his final exam. His commanding officer asked him
“Zelig, What would you do if you are on the front lines and three enemy soliders starts shooting at you?”
“I would shoot back” said Zelig
“And if 10 soliders came out and started shooting at you what would you do then?”
“I would shoot back” Zelig once again responded
And if 100 soldiers came out and started shooting at you what would do?”
“Excuse me” Zelig asked “But why am I the only one in this Army…”
The next question Zelig did even worse on. The seargant told the troop the plans to conquer Iran.
“Wait a minute” Zelig said “ How many soldiers do they have?’
“Close to a million” the Officer said.
“Forget about it” Zelig responded “We don’t have anything to do with that many prisoners.”
Finally after serving a few months Zelig had enough. So each day he went to the Camp Psychiatrist’s office and started looking through papers on the floor and the garbage. Each day the Doctor asked him what he is looking for and Zelig would say that he’s looking for his paper, he needs his paper. Finally convinced that he was losing it. The Psychiatrist wrote him his mental condition exemption papers. Zelig got up and announced. “These were the papers I was looking for J”
Answer is A: And now for the wildlife part of our tour guide Exam. Ok What’s an amphibian? They are animals that can live in both the water and the ground. And start off in the water which unlike reptiles they need to breed and start their lives in until their lungs or air-breathing skin develops. So if you know this than it shouldn’t be to hard. C & D are obviously wrong because they have fish choices. A turtle is kind of tricky but it is not considered an amphibian as it needs to have air to breathe and does not lay eggs under water. So the correct answer is A. This is also very important information for you to know before you come to Israel. As I will not be talking about amphibians and reptiles anatomy and breeding on any of my tours. J