Our view of the Galile

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wow Moments- Balak 2015/5775

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

July 3rd  2015 -Volume 5, Issue 34 16th Tamuz 5775
Parshat Balak

Wow Moments

Perhaps my most favorite part of being a tour guide is what I call the "Wow Moment". It is that few minutes when you take your tourists to a place and they are kind of scratching their head, and you know they are asking themselves "Why did he shlep us all the way over here?" I mean it's pretty and all that jazz and perhaps even historical, but was it really worth the extra drive..? Climb…? Hike...? And then you turn the corner and are overlooking a glorious view, or you pull out your Tanach and describe for them that where they are standing is where this story took place, or you ask them to close their eyes and envision something special and meaningful and all of a sudden a change comes over their faces. "Wow!!" "Awesome" "That's incredible" "Amazing". Those are the moments we live for. Our mission has been accomplished. The hike and trek to get out here was worth it. It is a moment you know they will carry with them back to the States. You may even get a tip. Truth is you don't even need one (don't quote me on this- we always like oneJ). The look on their faces is more than enough.

In many ways being an outreach Rabbi was very much the same thing. Watching new students eyes and faces transform before you as you shared with them their first Torah insight, their first real connection to their heritage, their first taste of Shabbos...of chulent JJ, there's nothing better than that. You can actually see how you have opened with a key the hidden treasure that is their soul and it blossoms right before your very eyes. It is a "Wow Moment" of the holiest kind. It is those that I treasure for a lifetime and I thank Hashem for giving me the privilege to be part of and to witness.

We have all read stories, heard inspirational ideas and have had people tell us about incredible visits that they have had to all types of fabulous places. Yet, none of the above has the same impact as the power of sight. Seeing something that is moving connects ones soul with what one sees in the deepest of ways. The images embeds into ones soul and can connect to ones memory in the deepest of ways. It is perhaps for that reason that the Torah warns us V'Lo Sasuru Acharie Li'Vavchem V'acharei Einechem- don't "tour/stray" with your heart and your eyes. The heart is open and looking to connect, the eyes are the receptacles that transplant their images on the soul of a man. One of our great sages once said that he felt this was the most challenging of all mitzvos; Our natural desire is to "tour" with our eyes, to explore the world, to "check it out". Yet as Rashi teaches us seeing can lead directly to the heart coveting, to rest of the body engaging in activity that ultimately will bring man to the depths. The eyes are the windows to our souls for better and for worse.

This week's Torah portion introduces us to what our sages considered to be the "Rebbe" of the bad eye. The Mishna in Avot urges us to be from the Students of Avraham whose traits consist of having a "good eye", as opposed to the students of Bil'am of the eye that sought out bad. The Parsha seems to be full of Bil'am, who is employed by Balak the king of Moav, touring around to see the Jewish nation so that he may place that eye upon them and curse them. This is despite the Almighty's explicit repeated command not to attempt to do so. This is despite the incredible Divine irony of Bil'am’s donkey being able to see the angel that threatens to destroy him with a sword which Bil'am can't see initially. Even when Bil'am comes to different positions and outlooks points on the Jewish people and breaks out in blessing rather than the curses he had hoped to unleash upon our nation, he persists on trying to find a better spot, another sacrifice another opportunity to use his eyes as a tool to wreak destruction upon our people.
If one follows the verses though the third time around Bil'am seemingly finally gets it.

And when Balaam saw that it pleased HaShem to bless Israel, he went not, as at the other times, to meet with enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling tribe by tribe; and the spirit of G-d came upon him.

And he took up his parable, and said:
"The saying of Balaam the son of Beor, and the saying of the man whose eye is opened; The saying of him who hears the words of G-d, who sees the vision of the Almighty, fallen down, yet with opened eyes:
 How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel!

The ultimate "Wow moment" took place for Bil'am. For the first time he states his eyes had been opened. He saw the Jewish people as they really were. Not this fearsome tribe that Balak and the world media were presenting him with. They were a nation whose tents were holy. The Midrash brought by Rashi suggests that Bil'am saw that the Jewish tents were set up with the openings not facing one another "So that one would not see into his neighbors tent". Unlike many of us who prefer tinted windows on our cars so that no one else can see into our car. (As our children fight with one another, or as we yell at them for fighting, or so that we can hide our latest purchases from prying eyes-which is generally what our children our fighting about). The Midrash’s terminology is that they were structured such so that we would not look into another person's tent rather than the vice-vers- others checkin' us out.. What's his is his, no one wanted to covet, begrudge or give a "bad eye" to his neighbor. Each Jew would, as my mother used to scold us (and to fulfill her prophesy I do to my own children as well), "keep their eyes on their own plate". We knew that our eyes were the windows to our souls and we wanted our windows to be faced inwards rather than upon another.

 Bil'am saw that and he said "Wow!"- Ma Tovu-how wondrous and goodly are your tents. His blinded eye that always saw the negative, whose heart could never seem to connect to anything but the curse that he saw was opened. With a little practice and warming up of Hashem putting the right words in his mouth a few times and with that incredible paradigm shifting moment he was able to find the blessing within himself albeit for a minute for the nation that was just moments before his mortal enemy.
It is interesting to note that it is that blessing that Bil'am said at that moment that become the custom of the Jewish people to say as they arrive in shul each morning. Think for a second how bizzare that must be. We have no shortage of poets, lyricists and beautiful texts that we could start off our morning with. Yet from all of that, we chose Bil'am's personal blessing. Bil'am who after that one moment, returned again to his diabolical plot and in fact ended up advising Balak to have the Moabite daughters seduce the Jewish people. This in turn brought down the wrath of God and 24,000 Jews were killed in the ensuing plague-more than any battle, plague or Divine punishment that happened in the 40 years in the wilderness.  Yet is it is Bil'ams prayer that becomes the text of choice to start off our morning. Why?

The answer is because there is no more powerful way to start off our morning, our day, our lives, than with that sense of Wow! How special is our tents, our places of worship, our fellow Jews and our nation. If even Bil'am that archenemy of our people who intended to destroy us, yet when he actually beheld us was so overcome with the beauty and specialness of our nation, than how much more so should our wow be when we see our fellow Jews each morning, when we take our first breath and steps in Hashem's glorious world. We start our morning with that Wow because it is meant to engage our good eye to give us the vision we need to activate our hearts and love for life, for our brothers and sisters and for Hashem our Father in heaven.

This week we begin the three week period of mourning for the destruction our Temple. Our sages tell us that when the temple was destroyed the Divine presence had already departed from it. It was sticks and stones that the Babylonians and Romans destroyed. What caused the divine presence to depart? It was because we had let it go. We were no longer awed by the Temple and the almost unfathomable-to-us-today notion that Hashem had a house that He resided in where we would be able to come and "see" his countenance and glory. It was a nice building of which we had many. Jews also lost their awe and wow of one another. We were a nation divided that coveted, begrudged and even hated, fought and eventually even killed one another. Our good eye was closed and Bil'am's evil eye was rampant. So Hashem took it away. The building destroyed, the fires burnt, our blood flowed. And we, finally, with tears in our eyes, said sadly,"…Wow… what have we lost…what have we done…when can we come back...?

As we contemplate over the next few weeks let us think about that wow that we lost and start to focus on the wows that will bring us back. If we could only see the good in one another, the beauty of our Torah, the joy of our mitzvos, than Hashem will surely return us to our home as He comes back to dwell amongst us. May we very soon share in that biggest "wow  moment" of all.

Have a awe-inspiring Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


New Yackov Shwekey video “I can be”

  A modern day Bilam?

8th day new video “Just like you”
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!!

Der miesteh leben iz besser fun shensten toit.”-  The ugliest life is better than the nicest death

The speed of light is greater than the speed of sound. Which is the reason why many people look smart until they open up their mouths"— Albert Einstien
"The average woman would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think."-Anonymous       
(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
Water Systems from the Iron Age can be found
A.    Hatzor
B.     Gezer
C.     Hurbat Kayafa
D.    Tel Kasilya
Conversation between Bilam and his donkey after the donkey smashed him a few times into the wall to avoid the angels sword that Bilam couldn’t see and Bilam repeatedly hits it, according to the Midrash-.
Donkey- Why are you hittingme that I deserved to beaten this way
Bilam- You made a fool out of me, If only I had a sword I would kill you now.
Donkey- Apparently you can’t destroy me without a sword and yet you are on the way to wipe out the entire of nation of Israel with words?
The Princes of Moav overheard this and started to laugh. They said to Bilam why do you ride this donkey if he doesn’t listen to you..
Bilam responded- Its not my donkey I borrowed it
Donkey-nayyyy- I’m yours
Bilam- she doesn’t usually carry people and that’s why she’s behaving that way
Donkey-nayyyy- You always ride me by day and by night
Bilam was very embarrassed. Our sages would read this and begin to cry- woe is to us from the day of judgement If Bilam the wisest man of all of the nations couldn’t even answer his donkey reproof, what profound shame will we experience on the Day of Judgement when the Almighty Himself will recall all our failures.
Learn about different customs of our many people – If one wanted to experience all of the Jewish Diaspora life and appreciate the different customs that thousands of years of exile have developed in our people one would need to travel all over the world. (Our read Avi and Avi in the Mishpacha magazine-one of my favorite columns) Alternatively you could just come to Israel and see it all here, since the beginning of the ingathering of our exiles. Just here in Karmiel we have a Ethipoian shul, a Yemenite Shul, one for the Indian community and Russian community, We have Chasidim, Litvaks, Bresalvers, Chabad and yes even our very own American Young Israel shul. Each community has its own cuisines, traditions, celebrations. In Israel you can taste them all, pray with them all and celebrate with them all. It’s a pretty amazing thing. Can’t wait till the rest of Klal Yisrael comes home.

Q: What do you call a donkey with one leg ? A: A wonkey donkey 
Q: What do you call a donkey with one leg and a bad eye ? A: A winkey wonkey donkey
 There was a young man named Yankel who bought a donkey from old farmer Farouk for $100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. When Farouk drove up the next day he says, 'I am sorry but I have some bad news - the donkey is on my truck but he be dead.'
Yankel replies, 'Well then, just give me my money back.'
'Can't do that,' burrs the farmer, 'I went out and spent it already.'
Yankel sighs, 'OK just unload the donkey anyway.'
Farouk then asks, 'What are you gonna do with a dead donkey an' that?' I'll raffle him off,' laughs Yankel.
The farmer exclaimed, 'Aargh, you can't raffle off a dead donkey.'
But Yankel with a big smile on his face tells Farouk, 'Sure I can. Watch. Just don't tell anyone the donkey is dead.'
A month later the farmer Farouk met up with Yankel and asks, 'Whatever happened to that dead donkey?'
Yankel answers, 'I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at $2.00 each and made a huge profit.'
Totally amazed the farmer Farouk enquires, 'Didn't anyone complain that you had stolen their money because you lied about the donkey being dead?'
'The only one who found out about the donkey being dead was the raffle winner,' chuckled Yankel, 'so when he came to claim his prize I gave him his $2.00 back plus $200.00 extra, which is double the going value of a dead donkey, so he thought I was a great fellow.'
Answer is A: Three important things to know in order to answer this question. The first is when was the Iron Age, The Second is which of these sites are from that period and the third is do they have water systems that can be seen. So here we go.  The Iron age, which follows the bronze age is pretty much the period of our forefathers through the first temple. Guess what all four cities are from that period of time. Chatzor and Gezer where major cities in the time of Shlomo and Kasilya was a philistine city (by the Israel museum in Tel Aviv) and Kayafa is near Beit Shemesh. Except that the last two don’t have water systems that have been uncovered as I recall. Gezer, I’ve never been to but I believe it actually has the largest water system ever found in the world. Hatzor has one too, though. Hmmm, this is tricky. Well since I never saw the one in Gezer and I knew about the one in Chatzor that was my guess. I was right! Because the one in Gezer was built in the Bronze Age. This was a very tricky question if you ask me about information and distinctions I can’t imagine any one would ever want to know about.

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