Our view of the Galile

Friday, June 19, 2015

This Land is My Land- Korach 2015/5775

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

June 20th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 32 -2nd Tamuz 5775
Parshat Korach
This Land is my Land

I enjoy it when people send me their comments about my weekly blog. I look forward to them. Someone’s reading what I wrote. Cool! I know that there are over 1600 people that receive this each week. But really it’s looooong. Too long, if you ask me. Who has time for this? Certainly not my kids when I read it by my Shabbos table each week. SO I never know who’s reading it or not. Certainly I hope more than are offering to sponsor it each week J. So when I get your comments, or feedback it inspires me to stay up late Thursday night after an exhausting day of touring, or to beg off from helping my wife get ready for Shabbos because “ my audience is waiting for my E-Mail”. Thanks you for that excuse JJ.

Now even more than the regular feedback I get, I like even more when someone actually addresses something I wrote, even more so when they have in issue with what I wrote. And they didn’t’ even unsubscribe. Really cool! It means that you actualy do more than just skip down to the jokes, or the Youtube clips. I appreciate those comments so much I decided to dedicate this week’s Email to one of them and share it with you. Of course it will tie into the Parsha. But you usually skip past that part. Y’know as soon as I write the sentence “This Week’s Parsha” is your weekly cue to head down to the jokes.
So here’s the letter from my dear friend R.
“Hello Rabbi Schwartz, I just read your Dvar Torah from last week. As always, my family enjoys your weekly DT and your amusing sense of humor.”  This is always  a good way to start of letter to me. Not only complimenting my DT but my humor as well. Also avoid any criticism of my grammar and spelling or lack thereof.
However, within this weeks remarks, you wrote:  Thank God it’s not America or something similar.”  OK so the exact quote, not that I disagree with the context and your inference, merely for clarity purpose was “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.”

R. Continues- “Perhaps you meant to say something very positive about Israel but this remark came across as a pejorative and denigrating comment about the country in which you were born and the country that if it did not exist, Israel would not exist.  With all its faults, it is still one of , if not THE greatest countries on earth.”

R. I feel your pain. I hear your patriotism. I’ll address them. But before I do. I must take umbrage as well. Israel existed long before 1948 and even before 1776 as ancient as that may seem to most Americans. If you don’t believe me come I’ll take you on a tour. Israel has existed and even the State of Israel would exist with or without the great US of A- where I was born and which I truly love and appreciate and which has done a tremendous amount for this country since it’s founding. Some presidents and State Departments more and some less. OK maybe not State Departments…oops did I just do that again… But our continued existence is certainly not dependent and has never been dependent on the grace of any country, rather it is the Grace of God. Hashem, who promised this place to us and wants all of us here. Here in what is really THE GREATEST COUNTRY on earth. How painful it is to hear a fellow Jew say otherwise.

R. concludes “I am only writing this, because, when you visited her, you also made some “off the cuff” remarks that seemingly “dissed” the American Shabbos experience as well.  I know you love the State of Israel and I understand your desire to share that love with others. But I would think it is probably safe to say that there may have been other times your remarks have been somewhat disparaging of the US. I wish you continued success in all that you do and look forward to reading more of your Divrei Torah.”

Thank you R. I look forward to your comments as well and visiting again if you’ll have me back J. Again just for clarities sake for our readers who are eagerly reading our communication. When I visited I mentioned something that I have said quite often and share with my tourists and audiences and possibly even said in one of these weekly missives. What I said was that after I returned to America a few years after making Aliya I felt that Shabbos in the States wasn’t the real deal. There were people that were Shabbos Observant, that went to Shul, that even ate chulent. But it just felt artificial to me. What I described it like was Splenda. In Israel You really feel it in the air, the streets, in one prayers. It’s the place were most meant to observe the Shabbos. The country becomes transformed and it really feels palatable. That was my comment and I stand by it. Does this disparage the United States of America. I don’t think so. America isn’t a place where Shabbos is supposed to be felt in the air. It would be like saying that Chinese food, in America isn’t the real chop suey, Or that California wines are not as good as a real French Bordeaux and their beers aren’t German Lagers. Spirituality and God in America exist and are even good. Bur for a Jew who’s soul knows better, only Eretz Yisrael is the real deal.

Notice how I used the words Eretz Yisrael. The Land Of Israel. Say it a few times and close your eyes while you do and you will feel your heart start to stir and your soul start to long. You know I’m right. I didn’t say the State of Israel, though. And to be honest, I admit, in many ways I believe that the United States, my birthplace and a country that I do feel very connected with has a lot over the State of Israel. In fact when I used to bring groups here all the time we would visit Rabbi Wein, the former head of the OU and a Rabbi and Jewish leader and historian for many years in the America. My tourists would ask him what they could do for Israel and he would give the same response every year. The one thing Israel needs more than anything else, he would say, is a Western mind-set. A western mindset on every issues almost. Whether its security- the US wouldn’t let anyone throw missiles on them repeatedly (note the last gulf war around 80,000 civilian non-combatants-meaning innocent men, women and children were killed. You know what the US said at the time “Shock and Awe!- I’m just saying..). Whether it’s on concepts of transparency in government, ethics. Concepts of pluralism, respect for diversity, ethics of working, education, customer service. There are a myriad of things that the State of Israel could improve upon and needs an “American” mindset on. So if you want to help Israel, he concluded. Move here. We need you.

In my statements and in my E-Mails I rarely address the State of Israel- which don’t get me wrong I love and appreciate as well, despite its not yet recognized full potential and glaring failings.  I talk about Eretz Yisrael. I also don’t speak about America, in general as well. I speak about Jews in America. Jews sense of connection to America- as “the greatest country on Earth. Jews disconnect with the soul of our people, with our history, our Divine mandate and the place where we are meant to see it all fulfilled. It’s that for which I write about. It’s that about which I hope to inspire…or at least provoke.

Which of course brings us to this week’s portion- cue to exit now and skip to jokes. This week the Torah goes to great lengths to tell us the story of Korach and his congregation that make a mistake of picking a fight with the wrong prophets; Moshe and Aharon. Korach claims that the entire nation is holy so why is it that Moshe chose someone else to lead my family. He starts a fight with various claims that eventually lead to heresy in the Torah being revealed to Moshe. The Midrash describes two cases that he utilizes to prove that the Jewish people do not even need a class of leaders. A garment that is entirely made out of the blue Techelet, should not need any strings upon it as it made out of the entirely blue string that reminds one of Hashem. The other case he mentions is a house that is full of Torah scrolls should not require a Mezuza as it is full of Hashem’s name. In a nutshell what Korach is arguing is that we do not need a Kohen class or perhaps even a Levi class or a leader or a prophet. We’re all created equal and we all heard Hashem on Sinai. Holiness is in all of us. This is quite a spiritual argument. One may disagree but he certainly seems to be someone who wants to see the holiness in each Jew and connect to Hashem.  

What is quite perplexing is that Korach’s compatriots in his fight are perhaps two of the biggest trouble makers in Jewish history; Datan and Aviram. It is they that snitched on Moshe, it is they that went to go pick up the Manna on Shabbos, by the splitting of the Sea they also tried to instigate the people to return to Egypt. These are not good people to have on your team. These two lay the claim squarely not only at Moshe’s feet but even disparage the holy notion of Israel. “It’s enough you have taken us out of land flowing with milk and honey (Egypt!), to have us die in this wilderness... You have not brought us to a land of Milk and Honey nor given us a field or vineyard.” They conclude that even if their eyes will be poked out they would not make go up to the land- they would not make Aliya. How painful is it to hear a Jew say those words. How tragic is it when a Jew calls another country. Any other country a land of Milk and Honey. It is these guys that Moshe prays to Hashem to kill in a way that the world will know forever. With Korach Moshe tries to get him to see the error of his ways. But these two clowns Moshe demands everyone leave the house of these wicked people. What is Korach doing hanging around with these guys? What can he possibly have in common with them?

The answer I believe is that in the same way that Korach didn’t understand why there was a necessity and that part of the Divine plan was for there to be an intermediary of a Kohen, a Levi, a prophet and a Moshe between Hashem and the people. Someone who can connect us as we remain down here to Hashem up above. The argument that we do not need a particular country to have that special connection as well is that natural progression as well. America- I mean Egypt is also “flowing with milk and honey”. There’s Yeshivos here in the wilderness, in the Diaspora. Synagogues that are much nicer than those supposed vineyards and fields that have yet to be realized in Israel. Hashem, Judaism and living meaningful Jewish lives can happen anywhere without any special Rabbi, intermediary or place. That was the mistake. That was the common denominator.

Judaism was never meant to be a religion. It was designed and is meant to be a mission. It is not about my personal spiritual fulfillment or my connection with Hashem even. It was and is about bringing the world to its fulfillment, creating a home for Hashem here on this earth and raising this world up to him. There is spirituality and physicality, or as the works of Kabalah and Chasidut describe the notion of raising up the sparks of holiness that are hidden amongst the hiddenness of the world. We are made up of a human earthy physical nature and a Divine soul that was sent here to raise the world up. The Kohen, the Prophet, the Levi and particularly Moshe are all meant to be the bridge between Hashem and us. We bring them our fruits, our offerings. They bring us Hashem’s word assist us with our atonement. We remain in the physical world but we lift it up through them. Similarly Eretz Yisrael is the place that serves as the bridge to shine Hashem’s light out to the rest of the world. The land is like our Kohen. We are meant to live in it practice Mitzvos here, create a functioning physical society, with Kings, Courts, Farmers, Computers Hi-Tech, even Rabbis, lawyers and tour guides. But all who live a life that has a Shabbos that testifies to our Creator. That observes the Shemitta year, that gives its tithes to the poor, that wear Teffilin and that keep Kosher. In a nutshell that live a life that proclaims out Hashem’s name in everything that we do. In the land that was we were meant to do it in.

Korach doesn’t see that slippery road. And in the end as the Midrash notes he joined Datan and Aviram who said they would not “go up” and instead they went straight down- in a great lesson in watch what you say. They become swallowed up by the earth, because having destroyed the bridge to heaven the only thing that remains is the gateway to Gehenom.

We enter the month of Tamuz. The summer is here. Many have vacation and time that they can spend with their family. When I lived in the States I would take my summers and travel all over. Camping out in the hills of Montana and Oregon. Rafting in the West Viriginia, Disney World, Blue Ridge Mountains, Wisconsin Dells, Minneapolis, The Big Apple, New England and even down South. From California to New York Island, the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. But as much as I loved it and was enthralled by the beauty of my former home. I realized unlike Woody Guthrie  in his song, this land is not the land that was made for you and me..
Hoping all of the Jewish people realize it soon as well.
Have a authentically awesome Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


This Land is Mine the Jewish version with Andy Williams cool!

Awesome new song! Arrangements by my favorite arranger Yitz Berry J

And another cool song and video Shwekey classic Eis Rikod!

While in the states I picked up a great book with yiddsh 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 falsheh matba’ieh farliert men nit..”-  One never loses a counterfeit coin.

“"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."- George Bernard Shaw .”.

" 'My country, right or wrong', is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a 
desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober'.- G. K. Chesterton

"When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home."- Sir Winston Churchill

(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 study of Archeology
A.    The digging of old civilizations
B.     Excavation of ancient artifacts
C.     The study of the societal remains and physical artifacts of ancient cultures
D.    The study of the past solely through the examination of earthenware

Staying on the theme of Torah punishments and the Midrashic descriptions. This week the Midrash describes Korach, Dasan and Aviram being swallowed up by the earth with their tents and their entire families. The Midrash notes that although their children may not have done anything wrong. Yet when it comes to Machlokes/Fighting than the inevitable result is that will seep down and impact ones children and family as well. The midrash notes that all they had were swallowed up as well It says even if they possesions in other places they were also swallowed up. Even their clothing at the laundromat. Another Midrash suggests any document that had their names on it automatically was erased. Again the consequence of fighting is that there will be no memory left of you. The Verse tells us that Moshe prayed that Korach should be swallowed up alive. The Midrash quotes a story of on of the great Talmudic sages Rabba Bar Channa who Eliyahu Hanavi (Disguised as an arab) showed him where they were buried. He saw two holes coming up from ground and he stuck in some cotton on a piece of wood that came out singed. When he listened he heard them saying the words. “Moshe Emes VToraso Emes. Moshe is True and his Torah is true “. The AriZl Sais this is the reason why Moshe requested that they should be swallowed alive so that they would be able to repent even after being swallowed. He notes te words Tzadik KaTamar Yifrach the Righteous will sprout out like a date palm the last letter of each word TzadiK KatamaR YifraCH spell out Korach who will arise when Mashiach come as a date palm having done Teshuva.
Pray your deepest Prayers. –Hashem is here, Hashem is there Hashem is truly everywhere the song goes. But everywhere else, the joke goes, it’s a long distance call here in Israel it’s a local call. I had the privilege this week of having a tourist that came to Israel for the sole purpose of praying. This is the country where they feel most connected to Hashem. You are in the Kings Palace over here. You just don’t get that sense anywhere else. Whether it’s to find your Bashert, prayers for fertility, health, parnasah and salvations. Or merely, or perhaps most significantly to ask Hashem to help you feel closer to Him, more god-fearing, more righteous. This is the country to do it in. Every religion has their special place to pray. But we are the only ones that have an entire country, whose entire existence and creation was to serve as the place where man could best connect with his Creator. Isn’t that cool?

Signs you are in America
a pizza can get to your house faster than an ambulance.
-- there are handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.
-- Sick people must walk to the back of the drugstore to get their prescriptions, while healthy people can buy cigarettes in the front.
-- Banks leave both vault doors open, but pens are chained to the counters.
-- Expensive cars sit in the driveways and useless junk fills garages.
-- people use voice mail to screen calls and call waiting to catch every call they might miss.
-- Drive-Up ATM machines feature Braille lettering

True Story-On a recent trip to Washington, D.C.my friend overheard a patriotic father pointing out a well-known building to his son.
"You see that triangular-shaped octagon over there? That's the Pentagon.

Another true story- An American tourist last summer asks me quite innocently: "It's the 4th of July tomorrow. How do you guys celebrate it here?" OYYY.. I love America..

Answer is C: There’s not to many places you can drive in this country that archeological digs are not taking place. Thousands of years of almost every major civilization in history lived here. Universities from all over the world send their archeological teams here and this is the country where doctorates are made in early studies. Archeology does have digging and excavating and does examine pottery but the best answer is the Answer C. This is a pretty easy question. Shame if you got it wrong.


  1. In support of your claims that Israel is unique, I submit this: My husband -who is not Jewish but is not anything else either - made his first visit to Israel. He stayed at a Dan hotel for 10 days, enjoying the breakfasts and the pool. He returned to his very Jewish wife and rebbetzin daughter exulting, "I'm ready to make aliyah! There is something holy in the air there!" If you can feel it at the pool in a luxury hotel, it must be real - not Splenda. [By the way, just sent you a check and a short letter. I'm planning to visit Karmiel under my real name.]