Our view of the Galile

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Natural Heeling- Eikev 2015/5775

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

August 8th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 38 22nd of Av 5775
Parshat Eikev

Natural Heeling

Yair is a friend of mine. But he’s a bit different than you and I. We live in the city or the suburbs. We have a house. We get our food from the supermarket or lately it seems more often than not at hotels for breakfast, falafel and pizza stores for lunch and some nice restaurants for dinner. Oyy the rough life of being a tour guide. We spend an inordinate amount of time on our phone and computer. We have children that see Dadddy do that and can’t wait till they grow up and do and have all that too. In fact, a few weeks ago I took my little 5 year old Tully along with me on Friday afternoon to Tzfat, and showed him all the sites. What most enthralled him though was all the free drinks and ice creams many of my frequent restaurants and kiosks were giving me and him as we passed by-in appreciation of the frequent customers that I’m there with. At the end of the day Tully warmed my heart when he turned to me and said “Daddy, I also want to be a tour guide like you”. After a few minutes though he began to ponder and turned to me with a more somber and concerned look and asked “Do I have to be fat to be a Tour guide...?” Oyy...Good question, my son... good question.

But anyways, back to Yair. Yair is different. He is not fat. In fact he is skinny. He does not live in a city, suburb or even a house. He lives in the forest. Yaar Baal Shem Tov to be precise. He is married with 5 kids. I believe that he might have a computer. His phone is definitely not anything too ‘smart’. He does have a nice piano though, out there in his small home-made shack in the woods. He also has a hand operated washing machine that he’s quite proud of having made. Food? Well, Yair and his lovely wife Tovi and their children are vegans. They only like to eat what’s natural. Unlike me who also likes natural though I define it as food that doesn’t bite me when I put it in my mouth, they only eat things that comes out of the ground. No milk or cheese either. “Just like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden”he tells me. He does have goats though, but that’s just because he like the sounds that they make. The water they have on good days comes in from a pipe that runs a few kilometers from a natural water source nearby. It gets clogged up, but they don’t need so much. “Vegans, don’t really sweat” he tells me. He does have solar panels that provide some electricity for their lights. He feels like he’s cheating a bit by doing this, and even points out to me that even the energy efficient LED bulbs he has attracts bugs, which natural fire wouldn’t- he claims. Although I remember getting bitten up by all the campfires I used to go to. But maybe because those mosquitos also wanted a taste of those hotdogs or s’mores that I had just eaten, that of course wouldn’t be found in Yair’s ‘natural’ lifestyle. Yet, Yair explains guiltily, that although he’s still cheating with that electricity, it’s because he’s originally a city boy, (raised in Telshe Stone) and his still in the process of weaning himself off of that as well. As I said Yair’s different than you and I.

Is this fair for his children? He asks me is my lifestyle, our lifestyle fair for ours. I visited him this past week and asked him if I could bring anything. He asked for two bags of ice cubes. It was after all 115 degrees outside. I can tell you, though I have never seen children so enthralled with ice cubes though in my life. It would’ve taken me buying my own children a brand new I-Phone with unlimited data and texting to get even half the excitement that filled Yair’s home. Ice cubes... I can tell you that Yair’s children (all but the oldest incidentally born ‘naturally’ in the forest) are some of the truly happiest children I have ever met. Each day they come home from school excited over the different activities that they do. Renovating their bedrooms with newer and prettier stones that they fine, carving out wood, making pottery art taking care of their goats, and running freely through the mountains of the Galilee with their pet dogs. When, their father comes home all of the children come running up to see him and greet him, excitedly showing him all they have done each day. My tourists that I brought with me to visit him, remarked how they only wished their children would look up for a minute from their computers to even nod at him when he walks into their room. So, his words echo in my mind, is our lifestyle truly being fair to our children? Fair to ourselves?

Don’t’ get worried. I’m not going vegan or moving out to a forest anytime soon. It would be hard to write this weekly E-Mail from there. But my visits to Yair never fail to inspire me. His incredible ability to see beyond the “norm” and to actually have the resolve to do something and be different to live and raise his family in what he calls an “authentic, natural lifestyle”. His love and connection to the Eretz Yisrael and how he doesn’t want to taint that with anything “made in China”, any South American beef, or anything to distract him and his appreciation of what the Torah describes in this week’s Torah portion repeatedly as the “good land”, is one of the most beautiful things I can only aspire to feel. I admire his and his wife’s determination to turn off all the noise, all the media and commercial manipulations, messages and alternative distractions and pursuits that I think we can all acknowledge dominate our existence. The noise is so loud, we can’t hear the sound that I hear at night at Yair’s den, of the earth and land and even of Hashem calling out to me anymore. Somehow “natural” seems tempting even to me.

The portion this week is called Eikev. It’s an interesting name for a Parshaas the word literally means heel. Yes, like on the bottom of your foot. The title for the portion comes from the first verse which uses the word in an entirely different way. The verse reads and
 And it shall be Eikev you will listen to my laws and you will observe and perform them and Hashem your God will guard for you the covenant and the kindness which he swore to your forefathers. And he will love you and bless you and multiply you...
The commentaries all struggle to understand the context of the word Eikev here. Some suggest it should be read in exchange for listening to my laws, others understand the word to mean as a result of following the laws and yet others see it as meaning that as soon as you follow my laws. Rashi however diverts from his usual way of interpreting the verse according to the simple meaning and reads the word as heel. And understands that Hashem is telling the people to be diligent about those simple mitzvahs that one might neglect and step on with his heel. I find it fascinating that our holy language of Hebrew this one word can mean all of the various interpretation. The question is what all the other translations of the word have to do with a heel.

The great Rebbe of Sassov suggests an interesting homiletical interpretation. He said if a person will listen to his heel than he will have these laws and he will guard and observe them. I’ve had long hard day hiking in the desert. And I know what my heels are saying to me. But the Rebbe was referring to something else entirely. The heel is the lowest and hardest part of the body. It has the thickest skin. It’s not easy to get through to the heel. But the heel is the part that most connects to the ground, to the earth. If we listen to the heel meaning try to understand what the most natural state of the world is asking from you to do, instead of just marching forward to wherever the rest of the body wants us to go. Than inevitably we will find that we would observe the mitzvos and bring the world to its fulfillment.
I thought about this idea a lot since visiting Yair. He’s listening to his heel. He only wants to connect to Hashem through the holy land of Israel whose cry to him he is listening to. The natural state of the world sings praise to Hashem. How often do we stop to hear that song? Do we let it touch and move our spirits? Are we treading on holy earth with heavy boots and shoes with our earphones plugged in our fingers texting and our minds online? Have we lost our connection to the beauty of Creation that is waiting for our composition, longing for the blessing that we are meant to bring as soon as we bring that song to its incredible climax? The Torah portion ofEikev is replete with this idea. The natural state of the Land and its blessing is dependent on the mitzvos that we do and the sanctification we bring to the land. The rains will fall or not fall based on our heeding our Eikev. We will win or lose our battles and challenges Eikev. Nachmanides notes that the heel is bent and curved. From the bottom it moves up. It is the natural circle of life and the Torah and Mitzvalifestyle in the land is what will allow the earth and blessing to flow.

Perhaps the most poignant idea that I heard about the Eikev, though is one I heard from Rav Moshe Shapiro. He suggested that generation before Mashiach comes is called the Ekvita D’Mashiach, the heels of Mashiach. For the generation before Mashiach may be the toughest and the thickest skinned and the hardest to penetrate and elicit and emotion, feeling or sensation from. The apathy will be overwhelming. Yet there is one thing that can get through to the heel. That he suggests is a little tickle. It doesn’t need any big booms or slaps. One just needs to tickle it with love and laughter and just watch that heel start to kick and jump. Now you know why there’s a joke in my weekly E-Mail J. We have finished our period of mourning for our Temple. We are in what our sages refer to as the 7 weeks of comfort and consoling. It’s the time for healing. It’s the time when we can get out and listen to our heels as we explore the beauty of the world that Hashem has given us. It’s the time when we can bring a smile and a hug to someone who needs it. All we need is that tickle. Mashiach is awaiting our heels.

Have an amazing Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


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 melocheh iz a melucheh, ober men hot nit kain minut menucheh.”-  A trade makes you a king but robs you of leisure.

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”  -Hippocrates

.Healthy is merely the slowest rate at which one can die.”-Unknown

 Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average. Which means you’ve met your New Year’s resolution.” - Jay Leno
(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 Empress that is from the Byzantine period that is connected to building in Jerusalem is
  1. A.    Eudocia
  2. B.     Breccia
  3. C.     Melisinda
  4. D.    Roxelana
The second chapter of Shema ends with a blessing of longevity:
(If you observe the Mitzvot listed above - TefillinMezuzot and learning Torah)...
"In order that your days and those of your children will be long ... on the land that Hashem swore to your fathers to give to them." (Eikev, 11:21).
The Talmud (Brachot 8a) relates that when they told Reb Yochanan that there were elderly people in Bavel, he was surprised, seeing as from the above posuk (verse) it is clear that longevity is restricted to "the land" which refers to Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel), and not the Diaspora. But when they informed him that the elders of Bavel would arrive in shul (synagogue) early to daven (pray) each morning and stay there late into the evening, he understood that it was through their attachment to the shul that they merited old age.
The Kli Yakar answers explains this Midrash with a Talmud in Megilah (29a), which states that every shul is an integral part of Eretz Yisroel. The Talmud quotes Reb Eliezer, who says that the shuls in Bavel will one day be relocated to Eretz Yisroel. In that case, concludes the Kli Yakar, a Jew who davens in shul is actually standing in the Holy Land. Those people who lived in the shul, so to speak, and who grow old, are people who are growing old in Eretz Yisroel. One of the miracles that will occur during the final redemption is that all shuls and batei midrash (houses of study) will be flown to Eretz Yisroel.
Thus, the Kli Yakar concludes, whoever rises early to go to shul and stays in shul late gives more honor to the house of Hashem.Therefore Hashem "prolongs his days ... on the land" because it is as if he spends the best part of his days in Eretz Yisroel.
That Yonah doesn’t think I can come up with each week...
Bentch with Kavana - Now I know that there are some of my readers that may not be familiar with the above terms, but I didn’t know how to write it in English. Bentching is the Yiddish word for blessing and it is commonly used as term for the grace after the meals that we recite and are biblically commanded (in this weeks Torah portion) to do. Why it’s called bentch? Presumably because after eating a nice shwarma in a Laffa Pita or a hefty Jewish Shabbos meal you really can’t move and feel benched. Ouch! Kavana is the intent and the focus one has when reciting the bentching and recognizing that one is thanking Hashem for the delicious meal one has just eaten. This is done everywhere a Jew eats including the Diaspora. But in Israel it is and should be really cool. That is because the commandment to “bentch” is to thank Hashem for the good land He has given us. The half of the four blessings are all connected to the land. The first is on the food how Hashem provides for all his creations. The second one is for the land he has bequeathed as an inheritance to our forefathers. The third blessing is to have mercy on us and Jerusalem and to rebuild our holy city. And the last one that was established after the Jews were permitted to bury the dead of Beitar who had perished in the last attempt to establish Jewish sovereignty in Israel under the Romans in the Bar Kochva revolt. For millennia our ancestors said these prayers thanking and praying to Hashem each time they ate bread longing and dreaming of Israel. And now we can actually thank Hashem for the good land we are actually living in that he has given us. That my friends, is very cool.

It's So Hot....... I saw a chicken lay an omelette!!
It's So Hot....... you can wash and dry your clothes at the same time!
It's So Hot....... I saw two trees fighting over a dog!!
It's so hot...the cows are giving evaporated milk.
It’s so Hot I saw a chicken running of to the Shochet (ritual slaughterer) in order to be put in the freezer already.
Best of all- It’s so hot I saw a Yemenite Jew buy a cold drink (Yemenites in Israel are know for their frugalness J)
Answer is A: This one I found to be fairly easy. I only knew two names Melisinda, who was a Crusader queen about a few hundred years after the Byzantines and Eudocia. Breccia I think is some type of rock and after googling Roxelana I found out she was some type of consort and eventual wife of Suleiman the Magnificent. How I could’ve forgotten that I can’t imagine. Anyways I remembered Eudocia because I recalled that she rebuilt the walls to Jerusalem-the first to do so since Hadrian had destroyed them- based on the verse that it say “Heitiva Birtzoncha es Chomot Yerushalayim. She rebuilt with her desire the walls of Jerusalem”. King David wrote that in Psalms, but she thought it was a prophetic reference to her. She was also pretty good to the Jews, which was not to common back then. And so I remembered her. It also helps that her name rhymes with Sudoku which I like.

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