Our view of the Galile

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Place to Call Home- Matos/Masei 5775/2015

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

July 17th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 36 1st Av 5775
Parshat Matos/Masasey

A Place to Call Home

Do you know those moments in life when you relive vicariously some of the most incredible experience and events of your life? All those amazing feelings and emotions come flowing back with tremendous in a wave of déjà vu. Like when you’re standing at a friend’s wedding Chupa. The bride and groom walking down the aisle-and it was just you not so long ago right there. Or by a young man’s bar mitzvah as he makes the final bracha on the Torah for the first time and everyone shouts out “Mazel Tov!” and everyone throws candies. It was just me there- Where has the time gone? Holding a new born baby, sending your child off for school for the first time, the first day of camp, a bris… OK maybe not the Bris. But everything else is pretty amazing.  As a tour guide who gets to spend quite a bit of time with families that are experiencing Israel for the first time, I recall my first times visiting these sites, our holy and most beautiful places Hashem has given us, anew each day. It is one of the most beautiful experiences, one of those gifts that Hashem gives us when we connect with another’s Simcha. It really becomes our Simcha, our celebration. That most perfect moment of our lives comes back to us and we didn’t even have to prepare or pay for it. It just happens when we connect with another in their most special of times.

I had the fortune of experiencing that this week. This past Tuesday I woke up at 4:30 AM and drove to the airport where along with hundreds of others I welcomed in 221 new Olim to Israel, 32 families, 53 singles, 95 children, two sets of three generations, the oldest Olah was 90 years old the youngest 4 months old. This is just one flight of the estimated 4000 immigrants coming this year on the 53rd  Nefesh B’Nefesh flight since 2002 that has brought over 45,000 Jews in that time. The Jewish people are coming home. As I watched my Brother and Sister in Law and their 5 children come off the plane waving a sign that quoted the prophecy of Yirmiyahu  “V’Shavu Banim L’Gvulam-And your sons have returned to their border” tears filled my eyes. The Israeli army band playing Haveinu Shalom Alaichem and Yerushalayim, The dignitaries that welcomed us, the waving flags overwhelmed me. It was just 5 years ago that the Schwartz family came off that plane. It felt like yesterday. The yesterday that all of my ancestors waited and longed for thousands of years for. The days are coming, the morning after the long night has begun. My tears of joy were the tears of millennia of prayer and hope transformed into tears of joy, tears of redemption.

 I thought of Rabbi Akiva and the sages who sat mourning the destruction of the Temple as foxes scampered out of its ruins and our people were taken into exile. The Rabbis cried as imaginably did Rabbi Akiva as well, yet he broke out into laughter and rejoicing. When asked why, he responded Jewishly with the question as to why they were crying. When they told them it was because they saw the fulfillment of this precise moment and vision in the prophecy of Yirmiyahu, foxes and all. He told them it was precisely why he was laughing.
“Until I didn’t see the prophecy that Zion will be plowed to the ground I feared that we would not see the fulfillment of the prophecy that “Once again Old men and women will once again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, the streets will be filled with young boys and girls frolicking, So says Hashem Lord of Hosts- If to the remnants of Israel this may seem amazing, In my eyes is it amazing?”
I was crying and laughing the tears of Rabbi Akiva.

There are never coincidences in Jewish life and particularly not in our weekly Torah reading. Every year at this time of year the week before Tisha B’Av when we mourn the loss of our Temples and the destruction of Jerusalem, we read the Torah portion of the conclusion of the book Bamidbar, our wandering in the wilderness and the promise and mitzvah that we would inherit the land. It is amazing that as we sit down and are mourning our temple and our Exile each year, we are meant to read the portion of our obligation to return to Israel.  Nachmanides in this weeks Torah portion on the verse in the Torah Bamidbar 33:50-57 is so beautiful and so timely. The verses themselves give us the mandate and historical significance of all we were put in this world for.
Speak to the children of Israel and tell them, when you cross over the Jordan to the land of Canaan, and you shall Vhorashteminherit/drive out the land from all those who dwell in it and destroy all of their temples and idolatry and their altars you shall demolish. Vhorashtem-And you shall inherit/rid the land and dwell in it, because it is to you I have given the land Lareshes to inherit it. And you shall settle the land according to the lottery of your families….And if you shall not Torishu inherit/drive out the land from the dwellers that live there and the ones that will remain will be as needles in your eye (ouch!!) and thorns in your side (ouch ouch!!) and they will terrorize you on the land you are dwelling on it.
I have bolded the words that keeps repeating itself in this verse which is the root word Rash. Rav Smason Raphael Hirsch describes this root as connected to the taking possession or removal of one person or thing from another. A Rash is a poor person who has lost everything. LiGareish means to chase out our divorce. Midrash is the derivation of one thing from another Yerusha is inheritance and on a more pleasant note Tirosh is wine which comes from the removal of the wine from the grapes. The question here and in fact debate between Rashi and the Ramban in our verses above is precisely about the above usage of the word. According to Rashi the above is a description of how we will be able to live in the land. If we chase out the other nations, then and only then, will we be successful in  settling the land and fulfilling our mandate (which we have yet to do) and the consequences if we do not (which we still suffer from). One is not obligated to settle the land according to him, although it is the purpose of our existence, rather the Torah is telling us how we will be successful in having an eternal dwelling place there. And you shall dwell there is a conditional promise rather than a commandment. Nachmanides- the 13the century sage Ramban, who ultimately moved with great sacrifice to Israel and attempted to restart the community in Jerusalem, disagrees vehemently with Rashi and he understands the verse as obligating us to inherit the land.  In his words-
“This is a positive commandment to inherit the land given to us by Hashem to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, and not leave it in the hands of other nations or in desolation… And those that interpret the verse as a national mandate or a promise (are mistaken) as can be proven by the fact that to conquer the land is a battle that is a mitzvah… and this mitzvah is repeated numerous times in the Torah and if you shall go conquer another land such as Shinar or Ashur you will violate this commandment..
All agree however that there is a mitzvah that will be fulfilled in living in the land of Israel. The question is if one is obligated to do so or not.

It is an interesting terminology the word that is repeatedly used being “to inherit the land”. Generally we understand inheritance as being a passive thing, yet here the Torah seems to not merely to tell us to  conquer the land, and not merely to throw out our enemies, but it should be a process of inheritance- re-connecting with something that has been promised to our forefathers and us long ago. What is the significance of this idea?

The answer I believe can be found in the eyes of all of those coming off the plane this week, in the eyes of the thousands that have come over the past decades, in the hearts and prayers of two thousand years of the life of the wandering Jew who gets thrown out and killed and persecuted in country to country to country and then finds a new place to live and new place to aspire to greatness a new place to become wealthy powerful, “successful” and influential, and even a new place to build to Torah, Yeshivot, and a flourishing Jewish life…until the cycle repeats itself. Generally to the incredible shock at how could this ever happen to us here? Again? But? But? But? This was supposed to be different? We are more advanced. They love us. They need us. It’s all true but the problem is none of those other places were meant to be our inheritance. None of those places were ever our home.  

It never fails to amaze me how many Jews I know are drawn to the communities and perhaps even more perplexing to the cemeteries in Europe, to seek out their roots, our history, where our family once came from. That’s not where we came from. That’s not where any of your or my ancestors wanted to be. That’s not where we are meant to feel any, and I do mean any, nostalgic or emotional and even spiritual connection. No more so than the slimy Motel 6 you may have spent a night in on a business trip that ultimately went bad. The only thing and place that is meant to be meaningful is the land that was promised to us our inheritance. Eretz Yisrael, the land of our forefathers. The only place that was ever truly meant to be ours.

Imagine you have a piece of land that or an heirloom that belonged to your favorite grandfather. Something that was passed down for generations. And someone came and desecrated it. They drew a swastika on it. They built house of ill repute. They turned it into a landfill. What would you do about it? Would you be able to rest until you were able to restore it to its former glory? How many cemeteries are people investing in fixing up in god-forsaken Poland and Lithuania? How many monuments are we building there and how many more Holocaust museums shall we invest in? While all the while the Temple Mount has a Mosque upon it in which “the thorns in our side and the needles in our eyes” call for our destruction? Israel is not just our homeland. We are meant to feel that we are here because it is our inheritance. One doesn’t share their, the land, home or house that their grandfather bequeathed them with a stranger and foreigner let alone a terrorist. One doesn’t talk about a two tiered inheritance state. One doesn’t rely on other people or the nations of the world to affirm our right to restore my grandfather’s homestead the way it used to be. All of those discussions and negotiations can only take place in a land that we conquered from foreigners, not a land that has always belonged to me that others have just been squatting in.

Not everyone is a hero enough to come do what it takes to restore our homeland, the land of our heritage. But even those who cannot should certainly never be able to sleep at night restfully as long as they know it is still remains desecrated. It still remains bereft of its children and its former glory. It still waits to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. Our sages tell us that he who mourns the Temple and Jerusalem will merit to see its rebuilding. Mourning doesn’t just mean having an itchy chin for three weeks, not listening to your favorite CD, or even buying new clothes, swimming or even not eating meat for a week (all customs of this three week and intensified 9 day period of mourning). Mourning means that your world feels incomplete. Mourning means remembering the person you once loved and cared for and realizing how empty the world is without them. When one truly mourns than one can receive the greatest inheritance. You can rebuild. You can resolve to do everything in your power to restore that glory. To bring it back. To assure that you and your descendants will continue to have that inheritance for eternity. Tziyon/Zion Jerusalem is waiting for us all to come home.
Have a Shabbos of eternity and a Chodesh that truly is Menachem our Av-that consoles our Father,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Classic Hillarious clip of Olim Chadashim with Uri Zohar and Arik Einshtien

  Olim Chadashim in army learn hebrew

Entebee Raid in Cartoon!
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!!

Durch shveigen ken men nit shteigen.”-  Through being still one cannot grow

Don’t give up on your dreams… Keep sleeping"— Anonymous
" When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.- Mr. Fred Rogers ( Of Mr. Rogers neighborhood and the world of imagination
This is a good deal”- Neville Chamberlain to Hitler, Bill Clinton to North Korea, Barak Obama to Iran

“Words Matter”- President Obama to Bibi Netanyahu in regards to the two state solution

“Death to America, Death to Israel.” ― Ayatolla Alli Khammein

(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
Hezekiah, the King of Judea is mentioned outside of the Torah on
A.    The El Amarna writings
B.     The Tel Dan inscription
C.     The Sancheirev Prisms
D.    Mesha Stele
The Midrashim on living and leaving Eretz Yisrael are so beautiful and meaningful. The Talmud tells a story of Rav Yehudah Ben Besiera, Rav Masya Bar Charash, Rav Chanina Bar Ahai, Rav Yehoshua and Rav Yonatan who were all leaving Eretz Yisrael. When they arrived at tehri destination they rent their garments and wept as they recalled Eretz Yisrael quoting the verse of dwelling in the land and they said “The Mitzva of living in Eretz Yisrael is equal to all other mitzvos combined. The Talmud takes it a step further with the statement “It is better to live in Israel, even in a city that is the majority non-jews (which can’t be too good for your children’s education) than to live outside of Israelin  acity that is mostly Jewish.For he who lives in Israel is as if he has a God and he who lives outside of Israel is as if he is living without a God. To prove this is not even just nice philosophical ideas the Talmud concludes with a even more fascinating and actual halachic monetary difference. “If a man wishes to live in Israel and his wife does not he may divorce her and not be obligated to pay and of his Ketuva money. Similarly if she wishes to live in Israel and he does not He must divorce her and pay her Ketuva. The opposite is true if they live in Israel as well and he wants to leave he must pay and if she wishes to leave than he does not have to pay. My recommendation though is to stay married and either move here and stay here. It’s nice to live with a God J
That Yonah doesn’t think I can come up with each week…
Greet new immigrants – This is a country of immigrants.  Less than 70 years ago right after WWII and the devastation of the holocaust this country had less than a half a million Jews. Today we are almost on the precipice of being host to the largest Jewish population on the planet. Who wudda thunk? Answer- Hashem and every believing Jew since the time of our exile. Today with Nefesh BNefesh there are thousands coming from, what should hopefully be the last bastion of Jewish life in the Diaspora, North America. There is nothing more amazing and cooler than going to participate in one of their programs and welcome these new Olim back home. But that’s not the only place where one can do this. Every community in Israel has welcoming commitees and buddy families that help welcome the new Olim, preparing them meals assiting them with integrating into Israel and their new homes. I don’t think any other country in the world has the excitement and enthusiasm and certainly not the sense of fulfillment of prophetic return that these new immigrants have that exudes from their very being. It’s truly remarkable to be part of the that.

Abe a new Oleh to Israel and was excited about moving here. As soon as his plane landed, he got a taxi to take him to his hotel. The taxi driver was very friendly and told Abe all kinds of useful information.
Then Abe asks the driver, "Say, is Israel a healthy place?"
"Oh, yes, it really is," the driver answered, "When I first came here, I couldn't say even one simple word, I had hardly any hair on my head, I didn't have the energy to walk across a small room and I even had to be helped out of bed every day."
"That's a remarkable story, truly amazing," Abe said, "so how long have you been here in Israel?"
"I was born here."
David leaves London and makes aliyah (emigrates) to Israel. As soon as he settles down in Tel Aviv, he goes to see the local optician.
"I’m having trouble reading," he says, "maybe you could check my eyes?"
The optician agrees and sits David in front of a large eye test chart. "Can you read the letters on the bottom line?" he asks.
"No," replies David.
"So how about the next line up?" asks the optician.
Squinting, David replies, "No, I still can’t read them."
"OK," says the optician, "let’s start at the top line. Read out the letters please."
"But I can’t," says David.
"Are you perhaps a teeny bit blind?" asks the optician.
"Certainly not," replies David, "it’s just that I’ve never learned to read Hebrew."
When Jacob was finally given an exit visa by the Russians and allowed to immigrate to Israel, he was told he could only take what he could put into one suitcase. At Moscow airport, he was stopped by customs and an official shouted, "Open your case at once."
Jacob did what he was told. The official searched through his case and pulled out something wrapped in newspaper. He unwrapped it and saw it was a bust of Stalin.
"What is that?" he shouted at Jacob.
Jacob replied, "You shouldn't ask 'What is that?' - you should ask 'Who is that?' That is our glorious leader Stalin. I'm taking it to remind me of the wonderful things he did for me and the marvellous life that I am leaving behind."
The official sneered. "I always knew you Jews were mad. Go, and take the bust with you."
When Jacob arrived at Ben Gurion airport, a customs officer said, "Shalom, welcome to Israel, open your case, please!"
Jacob's case was once again searched and not surprisingly the bust was found. "What is that?” asked the officer.
Jacob replied, "You shouldn't ask 'What is that?' - you should ask 'Who is that?' That is Stalin the bastard. I want to spit on it every day to remind me of all the suffering and misery he caused me."
The official laughed, "I always knew you Russians were mad. Go, and take the bust with you."
When Jacob arrived at his new home, his young nephew watched him as he unpacked. Jacob carefully unwrapped the bust of Stalin and put it on the table. "Who is that?" asked his nephew.
Jacob replied, "You shouldn't ask 'Who is that?' - you should ask 'What is that?' That is five kilos of gold."
And for the one that didn’t yet make Aliya…
Benjamin, a young Talmud student who had left Israel for London some years earlier, returns to visit his family.
"But Benjamin, where is your beard?" asks his mother upon seeing him.
"Mother," he replies, "In London, nobody wears a beard."
"But at least you keep the Sabbath?" his mother asks.
"Mother, business is business. In London, everybody works on the Sabbath."
"But kosher food you still eat?" asks his mother.
"Mother, in London, it is very difficult to keep kosher."
Then silence, whilst his elderly mother gives thought to what she has just heard. Then she leans over and whispers in his ear, "Benjamin, tell me, are you still circumcised?"


Answer is C: OK I know that many people don’t know their Tanach and biblical history too well. I didn’t even when I just had a yeshiva education. But it’s time to learn. Chizkiya was the King of Judea during the conquest of Sancheirev of the northern ten tribes of Israel. Sanchereve exiled the North and sieged Yerushalayim Pesach Seder night and the prophet Isaiah/Yehsaya promised that nothing would happen. The next morning the entire army of Sancherev was dead. Wadda boom wadda bing. If you know the story than you can guess the answer. The prisms of Sancherev actually tell about the conquest of Sancherev and how he came down to Jerusalem and sieged the city to the point where Chizkiya was “like a trapped bird”. He kind of left out the rest of the story. I wonder why? But the fact that he left it out in of itself is pretty telling. As every other place he conquered such as Lachish he quite graphically describes. It’s cool when archeology affirms the Torah and the narratives of holy books. Not that we need them to of course.

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