Our view of the Galile

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Very Good Day-Yom Kippur /Shabbat Shuva 2015/5776

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

September 17th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 44 3rd Tishrei 5776!
Parshat Vayelech/ Yom Kippur

A Very Good Day

Have you ever have a really bad day? You know the day that nothing seems to go right. Your alarm went off late, you slip in the shower, there was of course no hot water, can’t find your keys, car won’t start, you get pulled over by a cop, splashed on by a passing car, miss your meeting, lose money in the stock market, find out someone close to you died or is sick and then come home to a screaming house, fighting children and a wife that looks frazzled because the fuse kept blowing and the drain you were supposed to fix exploded. Supper is of course not ready, you burn yourself boiling some water and then you finally lie down to sleep and forget the day ever happened and the baby starts crying… Ever have one of those? I can’t remember if I did or didn’t, I certainly blocked it from my memory if I did though. I can think of some bad things that have happened on some days. Not on any tour days of course. Days that I wish I could take back some not great things have happened, some not great things that I might have done or said. Just lousy regrettable things.

How about really fantastic days. The alarm went off just on time, boiling hot water in the shower, your wife was waiting downstairs with a surprise breakfast and your coffee was ready by the time you came down, the keys were right where you left them. You put on your seatbelt a minute before you passed by a police officer that was pulling people over for not wearing them. Your stocks went up, you just heard some great mazal tov’s from some friends and family of yours. Your boss congratulates you on closing some fantastic deals and gives you a promotion, you win a free trip to Israel with a complimentary great tour guide. Finally you come home and the kids are all in their pajamas, their homework is all done, they were just waiting at the door for you to give you a Layla tov kiss and hug. Dinner is ready, it’s your favorite and you and your wife can spend some quality time sharing in the delight of a truly excellent day….Nahhhh, I can’t remember one of those either. But one can hope and pray right?

Most of my days are pretty much the same. Usually some great things happen, sometimes lousy things happen but most of the time thank god they’re not too dramatic. Although some people have told me that the best days of their life is touring with me, I really believe that any day exploring Hashem’s country is a good day, if not an excellent one. How about Hashem’s days? How do you think His days have been? His year? This past Rosh Hashana was the commemoration of certainly one of the most siginificant days in all of His history. It’s the day that His-story and ours began. How would you describe that first Friday of Creation 5776 years ago?

It is interesting when one goes back to the beginning- a very good place to start- that after each day of Creation, Hashem looks at what He Created and “saw that it was good”. Day One, Light and Dark-Good. Day Two, heavenly waters and earthly water are separated-doesn’t say it was good and our sages tell us that it was because nothing was really created there was just a division. I’ve been saying since fifth grade that division is not good. Multiplication I could handle, forget about fractionsJ. But jokes aside, a day that nothing is created is not called good. Day Three- whadaya know the earth is revealed and oceans are formed and the plant life starts growing- two times good. We’ve got beaches and palm trees! Fourth Day- Sun, Stars, Moon, Celestial orbits- also good. Fifth day- Birds and Fish- good again. And then we come to Friday, Rosh Hashana. How would you rate that day?

The first part of the day seemed to be going pretty good. Lions and Tigers and Bears OM-H (Oh My Hashem), rabbits, cows, deers and camels too. Hashem sees all that and says…good. The Talmud then gives us the hour to hour of the rest of the day
First hour- Hashem gathers all the dust from the world and forms man
Second hour- He’s a Golem- a soul-less being, maybe a Neanderthal, I don’t know? Interesting that man is the only creature created in stages like this without a soul
Third hour-he forms his limbs, eyes, ears, nose
Fourth hour- He blows into him a soul
Fifth hour- He stands up on his feet-now you know why it isn’t easy to get up in the morning.
Sixth hour- Man gets to work, naming all of the animals- giving meaning to the world, bringing the name of Hashem down here.
 Seventh hour- Hashem creates woman Chava- unlike her husband who was created pretty much as the lowest species without a soul initially, She was created from the highest species in Creation, man. And she hasn’t forgotten where we come from and she comes from sinceJ
Eighth hour- They have twins! Mazal Tov! Kayin and his twin sister.
Ninth Hour- Hashem commands us not to eat from “The Tree”
Tenth Hour- We do…oops
Eleventh Hour- They were judged
Twelfth hour- Man and his wife and their cute little twins- the purpose of the entire Creation are chucked out of the garden, Death comes to the world, Painful Child birth- no more just popping out twins and going out for some fruit tastings an hour later. What a day…What a day.

How would you describe that day? Good?! Imagine you spent a whole week planning this perfect universe and it all comes crashing down. Truth is everything was going great until Hashem gave us that one commandment. Sure it was only one commandment but still, Adam was pretty much running around doing what he was supposed to before that. So how would you describe that day.

Here’s how Hashem describes it- after all is said and done “And Hashem saw all that he had made and behold it was….drumroll…. VERY GOOD- TOV MEOD! Really, very good. Can you imagine that? If a day like that happened to me or you we might consider it the worst day of our lives. But here we have the first time in the entire Creation where Hashem says something is very good. Not only that but that is the day that Hashem we should commemorate each year. It is the New Year.

Rav Mordechai Alon shared a beautiful insight that we see from here. Hashem could create everything and it is all Good. Hashem can create only Tov. But Man has the power to create something even more powerful- Teshuva. The ability to sin and then to return to Hashem is Tov Meod. That is what was created at the end of the sixth day. That is what made it into the most amazing day of Creation and of His-story. The Midrash gives many interpretations of what the Meod, the very is. Good is the good inclination- Meod is the evil inclination, Good is Gan Eden-Meod is Gehenom, Good is good is the angel of life- Meod is the Angel of Death. The first six days of Creation Hashem created a good world, a perfect world. Yet it was lacking in one thing. The capacity for man to sin, the free choice that has with it significant eternal consequences, the ability for Man to bring the world to it’s lowest level and yet at the same time to raise it to an even higher level than the perfection that it was created as. The Baal Ha’Tanya used to tell his Chasidim That Tov is Tzadikim/the righteous-Tov Meod- is Baalei Teshuva- those that return to Hashem after having sinned. That is why Rosh Hashana is such a special day. That is why Yom Kippur the week following, was considered the happiest day on the Jewish calendar. It is our chance to elevate the world to the highest levels. Its why right after Yom Kippur, we enter into the holiday of our happiness, Sukkot, when we enter with Hashem in this mini-world that we have built to spend it together with Him, just as we were together in the Garden of Eden. It is all very good days.

Last week in the Torah portion, we read about the mitzva of Teshuva. For this Mitzvah which I have commanded you today is not hidden from you. It is not up in the heavens…not on the other side of the sea… Ki Karov Elecha Hadavar Meod- For it is close to you-yes that’s right Meod- very much. It is what we were created to do, to bring the Meod, into the world, to raise it up with our return to Hashem. It’s a simple process. Come to Shul on Yom Kippur think about your life, think about the mistakes you’ve made this year, think about the bad days you had- the ones that you made bad. The ones that you don’t ever want to have or make again. Say you’re sorry. Resolve that you will make this year better. Make a plan to make it a better year-not just lip service- remember we can do it. It’s why we’re here. Our mistakes and sins are not meant to hold us back they are meant to be the building blocks of the a very good world. They will lead us to that Sukkah of King David that awaits her children to return to her. We can make this year, “The Year”. It is very very close to us.

Have an inspiring first Shabbos of the year- Shabbat Shuva- the Shabbos when we return to the beginning and may we all be sealed for a very good and sweet year,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://youtu.be/A_6F34CodeA  –A cute and funny? Yom Kippur video what do you think?

https://vimeo.com/2811238     A beautiful golden oldie song and moving video “It happened Yom Kippur” about the Yom Kippur war

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rMRHHh8hm-c#t=114    Kol Nidrei with MBD 25 years ago and Yaron Gershovsky on Piano

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 mentsh lernt fri tzu redn un shpet tzu shvaygn..”-  A Man learns to speak early and to keep silent late.

.Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.  Mark Twain
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you” - Lewis B. Smedes

 “When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me”- Emo Philips

(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
An Israeli author that was murdered in the pogroms of 1921
A.    Yosef Chaim Brenner
B.     Chaim Hazaz
C.     Chaim Arlozoroff
D.    Chaim Nachman Bialik
We think of Yom Kippur as an intense serious day of introspection. In the times of the Temple the Mishna tells us it was quite a different day. It was a day of rejoicing, a day when the girls would go out dressed in white and try to “solve the Shidduch crisis J” each pitching their own benefits. Here is the text of this fascinating Midrash.
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: Israel had no greater days of joy than the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur. On these days the daughters of Israel would go out dressed in white which were all borrowed in order not to shame anyone who didn’t have [a suitable white dress]. … The sons/daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards. And what would they say? Young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose for yourself. Don’t set your eyes upon beauty; rather, set your eyes upon family. [For] grace is false and beauty is vain; a woman who fears the Lord she will be praised. And the verse further states: “Give her from the fruit of her hands and let her deeds praise her in the gates” ….
The Mishna also notes the significance of the day as being the day that the Torah (the second time around was given-
So too, Scripture says: “Go forth O you daughters of Zion and gaze upon King Shlomoh [i.e., the Holy One, the King of Peace] crowned with the crown His nation made for Him on the day of His wedding and on the day of the gladness of His heart” (Songs 3:11). On the day of His wedding refers to [Yom Kippur] the [day of the] giving of the Torah [i.e., the second Tablets], and on the day of the gladness of His heart, refers to the building of the Holy Temple [inaugurated on Yom Kippur], may it be built speedily in our days 

Even more fascinating is that Rashi notes that it is for that reason that Yom Kippur was chosen to be the day of forgiveness for Hashem had forgiven us for the sin of the Golden Calf on that day.
So he will forgive us for all generations on that day.
That Yonah doesn’t think I can come up with each week…
Yom Kippur in Israel – For those that have never been here it is truly amazing. This is a day that one can truly feel the holiness and sanctity of the day. Most Israelis are not necessarily fully observant. Although the majority consider themselves traditional. Yet on Yom Kippur a wopping 65-75% of the population attend a synagogue and fast. Wow! The highways are empty. Little kids can be seen riding bikes on them. Each year prior to Yom Kippur the newspapers are full of talk about asking forgiveness and making amends. The television talk shows have Rabbis and Jewish leaders on them to talk about the upcoming days of awe. And even billboards sneak in something about Yom Kippur  and the New Year as well.To a large degree the sense of the specialness of the most holy holiday of the year on the Jewish calendar if I had to describe it in a bad analogy that is pretty much the opposite experience it’s the “winter season atmosphere” in all the streets of America. Yeah, just the opposite. Israel’s in no way in the perfect shape that it is meant to be. And Yom Kippur here is still not that amazing day it will be God willing when the Temple is rebuilt and all of Hashems’s children are here. But it is certainly an incredible taste and a merit for the State of Israel that unlike the Diaspora counterparts which sadly is hemmoraging so many of our brothers and sisters to assimilation and intermarriage. Here that pinteleh yid- that Jewish spark is still burning bright.

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. 
 The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost." 
God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this?
Let's say we have a man-making contest." To which the scientist replied, "Okay, great!" 
 But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."
The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.
God looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"
One day, Eve was walking in the garden with the Lord. She said, "Lord, the garden is wonderful, and the animals and birds provide such joy, but I am still lonely sometimes." 
"No problem!" the Lord replied. "I will make you a man for a companion. He will desire to please you and to be with you. But I have to warn you, he won't be perfect. He'll have a difficult time understanding your feelings, will tend to think only of himself, and will stay out late with his bowling buddies." 
 "What's bowling?" Eve asked.
 "Oh... never mind. I was just getting ahead of myself, sorry." 
 "That's OK. I think I can handle this 'man'," Eve replied.
 "Great, I'll get right to it!" God said, and started grabbing some mud and shaping it.
 Suddenly, the Lord stopped and said to Eve, "Oh, there's one other thing about this man I'm making for you." 
"What's that?" asked Eve.
"You'll have to tell him he was here first."
Teacher: "Who were the first human beings?"
Kibbutznik Student: "Adam and Eve."
Teacher: "And what religion was this Adam and Eve?"
Student: "Socialist, of course."
Teacher: "And how do you know that they were Socialist?"
Student: "Easy, they had no roof over their heads, no clothes to wear, and only one apple between them, yet they still called it paradise!"
A doctor, a civil engineer, and a Politician were arguing about what was the oldest profession in the world. The doctor remarked, 'Well, in the Bible it says that God created Eve from a rib taken from Adam. This clearly required surgery, so I can rightly claim that mine is the oldest profession in the world.'
The civil engineer interrupted and said, 'But even earlier in the book of Genesis, it states that God created the order of the heavens and the earth from out of the chaos. This was the first and certainly the most spectacular application of civil engineering. Therefore, fair doctor, you are wrong; mine is the oldest profession in the world.'
The Politician leaned back in his chair, smiled and said confidently, 'Ah, but who do you think created the chaos?'
Answer is A-So which is the Chaim that was murdered. Interesting isn’t it how they do this thing all with the name Chaim. OK, So I guessed this one correctly. Bialik I knew wasn’t killed. Truth is he didn’t even come to Israel until the mid 1920’s. Hazaz I had never even heard of, he died of old age anyways in 1973. Which leaves Brenner and Arlozoroff, both who were murdered. Arlozoroff though was more likely assassinated by Jews and he really wasn’t an author. He was the controversial Zionist leader that negotiated the ha’varah agreement with the Nazi’s during the war that brought many Jews- and their money to Palestine during the beginning of the war. He was fiercly opposed by many of the Zionists for various reasons as well as some of his other political views and he was assassinated in 1933. Brenner, was killed along with 7 others in the riots and pogroms that took place in Yaffo where he lived in 1921. The animals hung their bodies from the gates of the cemetery there. May Hashem avenge their deaths.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Above Average- Nitzavim/Rosh Hashana 2015/5775

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

September 10th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 43 26th Elul 5775
Parshat Nitzavim/ Rosh Hashana
Above Average
*Please don’t miss our special message at the end of this e-mail
How do you feel about being an average person? Having an average life. Going about doing average everyday things on an average amount of days of the year. You know what an average life is. Going to school, getting in some trouble, having good days and bad days, but nothing too good or too bad most of the time. Getting married, having an average amount of kids- some easy and some hard times with them. Sure every once in a while something extraordinary will happen to you, you’ll even do some amazing things, go to some amazing places, maybe even take some amazing tours with an amazing tour guide if you’re lucky. Average people have and do that type of stuff as well. On the other had average people all have crises at some point, undergo some significant losses perhaps even god forbid have some tragedies or a beset with incredible challenges. It’s the average thing to do. It all balances out though if you put them all together to one big average ordinary life. How does that sound to you? Not bad? Could be worse? A little boring, perhaps?

Let me phrase it a different way. We’re standing at your funeral, hopefully after 120 years-although the average mortality rate is 78.88 if you’re from the States (just two years more than Syria) and 81 if you’re from Israel, Monaco leads with an average of 89-. But that’s for Goyim J. So we’re standing there by your funeral and we’re deciding what to put on your gravestone. What should we say at your eulogy? How does this sound. Yankel, was pretty average. He even had an average name J. He lived a pretty unremarkable life. Pretty much did and lived like everybody else did. Sure he lived a little longer. But overall he was a pretty nice person, who did some really great things every so often and he has a pretty nice family he leaves behind. We’ll miss Yankel. At least those of us that knew him. You know the average people that he used to hang with and do average things with. What do you think about that ceremony? How about your gravestone that will say “Here lies Yankel an average Jew who lived an average life”? How does that make you feel?

Now the truth is if that ceremony and gravestone bother you. Don’t worry. By the average person most Rabbis, family members and other experienced eulogizers will make you sound like you were an extraordinary human being that changed the world in some remarkable way or another. And will speak about how the impact you made and the void that will be left upon your departure will forever be felt. The problem is that although everyone in the crowd might be buying it. If your life was truly average and unremarkable, then you might be feeling a little uncomfortable attending that funeral and hearing everyone go on and on, when you know it’s really not true. I mean in general your own funeral is never a fun thing to attend, but it particularly can’t be that enjoyable if they’re making you out to be someone that you aren’t.

Now how about the opposite. How do you feel about living a truly extraordinary life? How do you feel about being the person that truly changes the world in a really significant way? How do you feel about living absolutely each day not just averagely but remarkably? Can you even imagine yourself as being the person that doesn’t just have some good days and some bad days, but that hits every single ball that’s thrown at you out of the park? Out of the atmosphere? You’re the yeshiva guy that’s Torah is really holding up the world. Not just like in the Mashgiach in yeshiva mussar schmooze way. But really. You’re the father or mother that have inspired your children and watched them transform the world. You’re the guy that works- not just 9-5, but each day has inspired the people who work with you to become better human beings to see Hashem and the beauty of a His Torah values in all that you do and have begun to incorporate that lifestyle into their own. You are a daily role model for all of those that come in contact with you. People, kind of point you out to their friends when you walk down the street and say ‘Check him/her out, can you believe it?! He/She are like the most amazing person around.’ Not that you in any way are looking or need that kind of recognition, appreciation or accolades. Incredible people with truly meaningful incredible lives never do. But you are that amazing and incredible. You are truly an extraordinary person living an extraordinary life. How does that feel on you?

Why am I asking all of these questions? Can you guess? In another few days the King of all Kings, our Creator, our Father in Heaven, will be sitting in front of two Books. The Book of the Tzadikim/The Righteous and The Book of the Reshaim/the wicked. On Rosh Hashana Hashem will write each person into one book or the other. If you don’t make it into either, you enter a category called the Benonim-the middle ones…the average. But unfortunately-wait, delete that- fortunately you can only stay that way for a few days. By Yom Kippur, He makes a decision. His decision is based on your decision. He didn’t create us and certainly didn’t choose us to be average. He created each and every one of us and imparted us with His holy Neshoma/Soul, the spark of His holiness in order that we fulfill our ultimate purpose here. And it’s no small task. It’s not a task for the average guy or girl. The only way we can do it is if we really believe that we can do it. We are special. We have unique gifts each and every one of us that no one else in the world can accomplish. Average is for other people. Not for us.

No matter the year the Parsha that is always read before Rosh Hashana is Nitzavim. The portion begins

“You are standing today, all of you, your leaders, your tribes, your elders, your officers; each man of Israel. Your infants, your woman and the converts who is in the midst of your camp, from the wood chopper to the water carrier, for you to pass into the covenant of Hashem, your God and His oath that Hashem has forged with you today. In order to establish you today as a people to Him and that He be a God to you…. Not with you alone…but whoever is standing here to today before Hashem and with whoever is not here today”

These verses that we read, the words that Moshe tells us on the last day of His life are meant to be read as if it is today; a few days before Rosh Hashana when we are told, just as the verse tells us that we are passed before God, each and every one of us, like sheep under the staff of the shepherd. We are being entered into an oath. For those of you to have been privileged to see a swearing in ceremony of the new chayalim into the IDF, you can appreciate this. It is perhaps one of the most moving ceremonies, here in Israel. Each soldier receives a Tanach and recites this oath
"I swear and commit to maintain loyalty to the State of Israel, to her laws, and authorities. To take upon myself without conditions and without reservations the responsibilities of the IDF.
To obey all the commands and instructions given by the commanders and to dedicate all my strength and even to sacrifice my life for the defense of the homeland and the freedom of Israel."
The soldiers than all scream out together as one. Ani Nishba! I swear! The feeling of unity, determination and single-minded determination is palatable. Hatikva is played and tears flow. It is a an incredible taste of a team of young men and women who have spent the months and years training for this moment. The bulk of their training and boot camp really revolves around one thing, an officer once told me. The Israeli army is not a place for mediocrity. It’s a place for excellence. For extraordinary commitment, dedication and sacrifice. We can’t afford to have average soldiers in this neck of the woods. Each Israeli soldier knows how important he is and it is why the army understands that we must go to the end of the world to save or rescue one of our boys. It’s why the officers of the Israeli army are the last to leave the battle field because they understand that the smallest officer is just as significant as the greatest general. We are all extraordinary.

That’s what Hashem is looking for us to realize and say each year. Are we prepared to take the oath above and replace the words State of Israel with the words Hashem the King of All Kings who we will maintain our loyalty to? Do we commit to take without conditions and reservations the responsibilities of what it meant to be a nation of Priests? Can we commit to heeding all of the commandments and instructions that our loving Father gave to us in His holy Torah that are only there to make us the most remarkable that we can be? Will we be able to love Hashem, as we recite in Shema twice each day, with all of our hearts, our resources and even it means sacrificing our lives? If you are ready to scream “Ani Nishba” with all of your mind and with tears flowing down your eyes, tears of joy at how special we are, how special you are, than you are not ordinary or average. Than you will not have to wait until Yom Kippur to be inscribed into the right Book. There is no Book for average people, because we weren’t created to be average. Hashem needs the best and we deserve to become that best.

Rosh Hashana is the time when we stand most of the day in shul and pray. Although it is the day that Hashem will decide the books that we will be written in. The book of life, of health, of merits, redemption, salvation, forgiveness, livelihood. We all have personal requests, needs and desires, for the many that need their soulmate, for those that are trying to have children, people who have undergone challenges. There is no shortage of things that we have to pray and beseech the Almighty for. But that it is not what the bulk of our prayers are about. Maybe average people would only pray for their small little world. An extraordinary nation, those that wish to be counted amongst the Tzadikim, to be inscribed in that special Book, pray primarily that we are successful in accomplishing our mission of becoming the nation that transforms the world. The righteous pray for us to be worthy for the task in front of us. We pray that we can inspire the entire world as we say in our prayers
V’Al Kein Nikaveh Lecha”- and therefore we beseech you Hashem our God to see readily in the splendor of Your might..to establish the world with the Kingship of Sha-dai and all flesh will kneel and bow before You…all will recogniza and acknowledge all the worlds inhabitants that to you every knee should bend and every tongue shall swear”
Ani Nishba- the whole world will take that oath. We are here to make it happen. V’Ameich Kulam Tzadikim- Your entire nation is righteous. We are all Tzadikim. May this be the year that starts with us recognizing it and that ends with us celebrating that final day, we have been waiting for.

Have an extraordinary Shabbos and may we all be blessed with a sweet magnificent New Year,
Shana Tova,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKz_Y4UPPZ0I’m in love with this song so moving  and so touching Da’ay.. I also love to hear Rivi Shwebels voice.

https://youtu.be/tC8qf-qs9H0    just beautiful Shaka Chama song and story behind song with prayers for a bright new year

https://youtu.be/K_kW_h32PA0- An absolutely amazing story and message The waiter, the service and the prayer! Cool!

https://youtu.be/afttkaVb_eo   - One of the most moving parts of the High Holiday Davening is these words when the Chazan asks Hashem to give him the right words to praise Him and pray to him. This song captures it- Ochila La’El

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!!

Goldene keylim vern ka mol nit shvarts.”-  Golden dishes will never turn black

. Od Tireh Od Tireh, Kama Tov Yihiyeh Bashana Habaa- We will still see we will still see how good it will be the coming year”  Nurit Hirsch- great old Jewish song
“I'm the greatest thing that ever lived! I'm the king of the world! I'm a bad man. I'm the prettiest thing that ever lived.”-Muhammad Ali
 “In the land of the skunks he who has half a nose is king.”-Chris Farley
 “Ah, if I were not king, I should lose my temper.”- Louis the XIV
And finally the only one that got it right
“You had better have one King than five hundred.”-Charles II
(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
Jewish Settlement Before the “First Aliya” was in
A.    Ruchama, Bene Yehuda
B.     Gai Uni, and Motza
C.     Petach Tikva and Sharona
D.    Yemin Moshe and Neve Tzedek
Rosh Hashana is the day that Avraham was commanded to bring his son, Yitzhak up to the altar and offer him to Hashem. We read the portion on RH and one of the reasons why we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana is to remember that rather than sacrificing his son to Hashem, Hashem told Avraham that he didn’t have to and Avraham brought a ram who was caught in the bushes by its horns instead. This is the fascinating Midrash on that story.
Hashem saw that the children of Yitzchak will eventually sin and said I will judge them on that very day Rosh Hashana and if you will want me to find a merit for them and remember the binding of Yitzchak. They should blow the shofar of this ram.
That entire day Avraham saw the ram running from bush to bush and getting ensnared in trees, fields and bushes, from one to the other getting stuck and then getting free. Hashem said to him, So wil be your children they will get entangled in their sins and under the kingdoms of Babylonia, Medea, Greece and Edom. Avraham said ‘Will it be this way forever?’ Hashem responded “ They will eventually be redeemed with the horns of this ram. As it says “And it will be on that day, the great Shofar will blast out and the those that have been lost from the land Ashur and those that have been pushed away from the land of Egypt and they will bow before Hashem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem”.
It started up there on that mountain, where the Akeida, binding of Yitzchak took place and ultimately it is there once again that we will return with that shofar blast. May it be this year.
That Yonah doesn’t think I can come up with each week…
Swearing in Ceremony for soldiers – Usually done at the Kotel, these ceremonies are an incredibly inspiring site to witness. Young 19-20 year old boys becoming men. Men who proudly declare that they would readily give their lives for another, men that would travel to the ends of the world to protect any Jew in need. Men that are committed to being part of the most ethical and moral army on the planet earth, despite the daily challenges and provocation that would challenge the best of us to fall to the level of the animals that seek to prey on our innocent civilians. Dressed in their green military uniforms these young men stand tall and proud knowing more likely than not they will all see”action” More likely than not they regardless of what they do and how much they go out of their way to treat our enemies with respect, they will ultimately be condemned. More likely than not they will have a comrade and brother that might be injured or god forbid worse. And yet they march together as one. They lift their heads up high for the Jewish people and they feel proud and feel it is their honor, duty and privilege to be able to bear arms for the defense of our nations. The family members that look from the crowds at these young men, their children, their brothers and their sisters, their friends wipe tears from their eyes and offer their prayers to our Father in Heaven to watch over and protect these defenders of Israel. These Kedoshim. You will as well, when you come to one of these inspiring ceremonies. Of that Ani Nishba.

Brisket is not the same as Corned Beef!

If you are not Jewish, I cannot even begin to explain it to you.

This goes back 2 generations, 3 if you are over 50. It also explains why many Jewish men died in their early 60′s with a non-functional cardiovascular system and looked like today’s men at 89.

Before we start, there are some variations in ingredients because of the various types of Jewish taste (Polack, Litvack, Deutch and Gallicianer). Sephardic is for another time.

Just as we Jews have six seasons of the year (winter, spring, summer, autumn, the slack season, and the busy season), we all focus on a main ingredient which, unfortunately and undeservedly, has disappeared from our diet. I’m talking, of course, about SCHMALTZ (chicken fat).

SCHMALTZ has, for centuries, been the prime ingredient in almost every Jewish dish, and I feel it’s time to revive it to its rightful place in our homes. (I have plans to distribute it in a green glass Gucci bottle with a label clearly saying: “low fat, no cholesterol, Newman’s Choice, extra virgin SCHMALTZ.” (It can’t miss!) Then there are grebenes – pieces of chicken skin, deep fried in SCHMALTZ, onions and salt until crispy brown (Jewish bacon). This makes a great appetizer for the next cardiologist’s convention.

There’s also a nice chicken fricassee (stew) using the heart, gorgle (neck) pipick (gizzard – a great delicacy, given to the favorite child), a fleegle (wing) or two, some ayelech (little premature eggs) and other various chicken innards, in a broth of SCHMALTZ, water, paprika, etc. We also have knishes (filled dough) and the eternal question, “Will that be liver, beef or potatoes, or all three?”

Other time-tested favorites are kishkeh, and its poor cousin, helzel (chicken or goose neck). Kishkeh is the gut of the cow, bought by the foot at the Kosher butcher. It is turned inside out, scalded and scraped. One end is sewn up and a mixture of flour, SCHMALTZ, onions, eggs, salt, pepper, etc., is spooned into the open end and squished down until it is full. The other end is sewn and the whole thing is boiled. Often, after boiling, it is browned in the oven so the skin becomes crispy. Yummy!

My personal all-time favorite is watching my Zaida (grandpa) munch on boiled chicken feet.

For our next course we always had chicken soup with pieces of yellow-white, rubbery chicken skin floating in a greasy sea of lokshen (noodles), farfel (broken bits of matzah), tzibbeles (onions), mondlech (soup nuts), kneidlach (dumplings), kasha (groats), kliskelech and marech (marrow bones) . The main course, as I recall, was either boiled chicken, flanken, kackletten, hockfleish (chopped meat), and sometimes rib steaks, which were served either well done, burned or cremated. Occasionally we had barbecued liver done to a burned and hardened perfection in our own coal furnace.

Growing up Jewish

If you are Jewish, and grew up in city with a large Jewish population, the following will invoke heartfelt memories.

The Yiddish word for today is PULKES (PUHL-kees). Translation: THIGHS.
Please note: this word has been traced back to the language of one of the original Tribes of Israel, the Cellulites.

The only good advice that your Jewish mother gave you was: “Go! You might meet somebody!”

You grew up thinking it was normal for someone to shout “Are you okay?” through the bathroom door when you were in there longer than 3 minutes.

Your family dog responded to commands in Yiddish.

Every Saturday morning your father went to the neighbourhood deli (called an “appetitizing store”) for whitefish salad, whitefish “chubs”, lox (nova if you were rich!), herring, corned beef, roast beef, cole slaw, potato salad, a 1/2-dozen huge barrel pickles which you reached into the brine for, a dozen assorted bagels, cream cheese and rye bread (sliced while he waited). All of which would be strictly off-limits until Sunday morning.

Every Sunday afternoon was spent visiting your grandparents and/or other relatives.

You experienced the phenomenon of 50 people fitting into a 10-foot-wide dining room hitting each other with plastic plates trying to get to a deli tray.

You had at least one female relative who penciled on eyebrows which were always asymmetrical.
You thought pasta was stuff used exclusively for Kugel and kasha with bowties.

You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven.

You were as tall as your grandfather by age seven and a half.

You never knew anyone whose last name didn’t end in one of 5 standard suffixes (berg, baum, man, stein and witz).

You were surprised to discover that wine doesn’t always taste like cranberry sauce.

You can look at gefilte fish and not turn green.

When your mother smacked you really hard, she continued to make you feel bad for hurting her hand.

You can understand Yiddish but you can’t speak it.

You know how to pronounce numerous Yiddish words and use them correctly in context, yet you don’t know exactly what they mean. Kaynahurra.

You have at least one ancestor who is somehow related to your spouse’s ancestor.

You thought speaking loud was normal.

You think eating half a jar of dill pickles is a wholesome snack.

Your mother or grandmother took personal pride when a Jew was noted for some accomplishment (showbiz, medicine, politics, etc.) and was ashamed and embarrassed when a Jew was accused of a crime as if they were relatives.

And finally, you knew that Sunday night and the night after any Jewish holiday was designated for Chinese food.
Zei gezunt!!

Answer is B-This is also a not very easy question at all. Before the “First Aliyah”-which began in 1882 and mostly consisted of religious families fleeing persecution from Eastern Europe. Jews until that time pretty much lived in the four holy cities-(Tourists of mine that are reading this name them now please…) Jerusalem, Chevron, Tzfat and Tiverya. There were some settlements that started out of these cities before the Aliyah came the question is which. So process of elimination. Petach Tikva was founded before but Sarona wasn’t Jewish it was German Templers. So X that one. Ruchama in the South and Bene Yehuda in the Golan were both the first Jewish settlements in those regions but they were both founded after and during the Aliyah Rishona and Sheniya. Yemin Moshe and Neve Tzedek which were Jews moving out of the old cities of Jerusalem and Yaffo were also started in the Aliyah Rishona. Which leaves Gai Oni and Motza both which were purchased before the Old Yishuv and even settled but the truth is they were both abandoned and only resetteled after the Aliyah Rishona Gai Oni becoming Rosh Pina of course and Motza becoming a settlement rather than just a stop off point on the way to Jerusalem that it was. Incidentally Motza is mentioned in the Talmud as the place people would get their Aravot from to use on Sukkot in the Temple and walk around the Mizbayach altar with them, which our custom of circling the Bima on Hoshana Rabba comes from.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Fruits of His Labor- Ki Tavo 5775/2015

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

September 4th 2015 -Volume 5, Issue 42 20th Elul 5775
Parshat Ki Tavo
The Fruits of His Labor
*Please don’t miss our special message at the end of this e-mail
I had spent two years in my tour guiding program. Five hours a week of class, a weekly tour from 7 in the morning until it got dark out. Each tour didn’t’ have any of the fun stuff we do with tourists, no jeeping, rafting or chocolate factories. Rather the tours where all the historical, archeological and nature sites as well as visiting all the other “religious” sites that the wonderful State of Israel continues to host here. Each tour required us to submit a 20-30 page paper on everything we had seen and done. Thank God for cut and paste and Wikipedia J.

Finally after the two years we had to undergo two exams, a written and an oral given by a tribunal from the Ministry of Tourism whose objective is to trip you up and see how you respond when provoked. And then it was finally over. I had my license. I was legal. I could now, not only tour the individual lucky families, who were technically illegal to guide without a license and who were of course all my “friends and family” in case I ever got stopped, but I could lead group tours. College Students, Birthright trips, Synagogue groups, all bookings that come from agents that of course only use licensed guides. I missed my college students and the outreach work, classes and Lunch and Learns I used to run. I was finally back in the game. You can imagine my excitement when I got my first call to lead a group of students on a tour of the city of Tzfat. Tzfat was one of my favorite places and the students were from the University of Michigan! Being a native Detroiter, I pulled out my U of M baseball hat and suited up for my tour. I was ready. Watch out world Ephraim Schwartz is here to inspire the day. At least that’s what I thought

When I got on the bus I was a bit taken aback. Every single student took out their I-pod thingies and stuck their headphones in their ears. I was pulling out every joke, every story, I even started to dance and sing. Nada, Gurnisht, Bupkas. Turns out this group was in Israel at least 4 times already, all of them had done Tzfat already each time, this was pretty much a learning trip and they really weren’t interested. And thus my first tour had its ignominious beginning. At least they were interested in shopping and eating, two things that I was more than happy to assist them with. Needless to say I came home with my very big balloon busted. My wife all excited for me, saw my face when I came home and did her best to console me. A nice hamburger and beer later I was doing just fine. I’m easy that wayJ. Thank God my next group was some newbies, first-timers, students from Texas who were enthused about every step and breath they took here in the Holy Land. But I’ll never forget the first. It was like Hashem was telling me “You think you’re so hot, Thank Me, we’ve been doing quite fine before you got here”. It was a healthy wake-up call for an over-exuberant beginning.

Now if you think, having all of your ideals and hard work and the final realization of your goals come crashing down are difficult for a new tour guide. This week’s Torah portion tells us that the truth is that’s the way every real new beginning is meant to start; with a pause and realization that it ain’t should never have been about us. Rather it’s all about and comes from Hashem. The Mitzvah that this week’s portion begins with is the Mitzva of Bikkurim, the first fruits. Bikkurim, is perhaps the Mitzva that has the longest time frame of any other mitzvah the entire year. Each year from the holiday of Shavuot all the way through Sukkot almost 6 months Jews would come to the Temple bearing their wagons loaded with fruits as a gift to the Kohanim, the priests who served in the Beit Hamikdash. These wagons would be adorned with gold jewelry, bells and even chirping birds. The people of Jerusalem would come out to greet the Bikkurim Pilgrims and they would be escorted up through the Southern Gate of Jerusalem to the Temple itself. Pretty amazing isn’t it.

But let’s think about the other side of the coin. For months this poor farmer labored. He had to clear his field, plow it, get some money for seeds, plant each one and then pray and pray for rain of course. Finally when it started to grow one can imagine the joy and excitement at those first buds sprouting out from the ground, the first fruits finally ripening off that tree. It’s all come together. All my hard work had paid off.  It’s time to reap what I have sown. WAIT! Not yet. That first pomegranate, Jaffa orange, fig or grape it’s not for you. Take it to Jerusalem. You mean I can’t taste that first one?! Nope. OK, you say, I understand that Hashem has a portion in that, after all he did make it rain. Am I supposed to bring it as an offering to Him? Nope, just give bring it to Jerusalem and give it as a gift to the Kohen. The Kohen! You mean the guy that doesn’t work all day that is already taking his tithe and my first born animals and the first shearing of the wool…He seems to be getting a lot of my firsts already. Why the Kohen and why my firsts?! I’m more than happy to give charity, but can’t I enjoy the first fruits of my labor? Isn’t that what I toiled for?

The answer, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggests, is precisely the so that I should truly realize and appreciate what we are really toiling for. Sure it’s good to eat and enjoy what we have worked hard to produce. But imagine if what we were working for was not merely our own bellies and satisfaction. Imagine if our labor was to produce something special for the King of all Kings to enjoy. All our sweat, all our tears all our endless hours in the fields, the office, the tour guide buses were in order bring Hashem’s glory further and further into the world and to elevate the universe with our deeds. The first symbolizes the function of what we are working towards. Everything after that is Shirayim, leftovers. This last Mitzva in the Torah for each individual Jew is that when we come into the land of Israel and are finally finally able to be in the place where we can transform the universe from and shine out the light of His Glory to the world from, than bring the first fruits to the Kohen. The function everything you are working for is for Me. Not only that but I don’t even want you to burn it on the Altar. I wanted it to be enjoyed, just the way you made it. The Kohen is my representative, to eat it in holiness. To take a big bite out of that juicy new fruit and taste all the hard work that you put in it for me. Your fruit is holy for Me. You, the Jewish people, are the First of all nations, the first of my handiwork, my First-born. It was you I thought about when I planned the world. Now when you bring the world to its fulfillment, I want you to realize that your Firsts are precious to me. Ani L’Dodi VDodi Li- I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.

We are a little over a week before Rosh Hashana. Our prayers for a good and sweet new year begin with our Selichot supplications this Saturday night. We’ve all had ups and downs this past year. Our prayer for this coming year are that it should only be better, only filled with more blessings only be sweeter. We will ask Hashem to grant us health, a good livelihood, a year that we can see the fruits of all our labors come to fruition. Yet before we engage in all of our prayers for the New Year, we read the portion of Bikkurim that teaches us that the secret and objective of all that we are asking for is so that we may serve Hashem, that we can bring His Holy Name to this world. Even the mundane activities that we do our business, our families, our children, our social interactions are all opportunities to achieve and bring holiness to our world. To turn it into His world. The fruits of our labor are sweet to Him. If we pray for Hashem to give us all that we need to deliver him all of those special fruits. Who knows? We may even very soon be heading up with wagons to the Temple rebuilt.

Have a Majestic Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Dear Friends, readers, and fellow lovers of Israel
I turn to you before this High Holiday Season to assist us in supporting our local Shul and programs here in Karmiel. With the help of Hashem our community is growing, we have welcomed over 30 families over the past few years and 7 just this summer alone. We ae creating a dynamic community that welcomes Jews from all backgrounds and brings together our families with our shared love of Eretz Yisrael, Torah and the Jewish people. Our Shul’s expenses are thousands of Shekel a month and all of our funding comes from grassroots support. Twice a year we come to you before Purim and before the High Holidays and ask and offer to you my dear readers who enjoy our weekly musings and inspiration and ask you to join us and support our efforts. Every donation and contribution gives you and your family the added merit of helping to build our community in Israel, to assist new Olim settle in Israel, and of course to have a portion and show your appreciation in the weekly insights and inspiration that reach over 1600 Jews all over the globe each week before Shabbos
You can contribute in three easy ways

1)      The easiest click right now on our link to our blog http://holylandinsights.blogspot.co.il/ and contribute via paypal on our website.
2)      You can mail a check made out to American Friends of IYIM (International Young Israel Movement) for those that would like a US Tax Deduction to either
Abraham Schwartz
25441 Gardner
Oak Park, Michigan, 48237

Or for those in Israel to
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
10 Eshel
Karmiel, Israel, 21681
3)      For those that would like an Israeli tax deduction Checks can be made out to
Tenuat Yisrael HaTzair HaChadasha or IYIM
And mailed to my address above


Once again I wish to thank you in advance for your support and for all those who have expressed their appreciation and gratitude throughout the year with your E-Mails, sponsorships and dedications.
May Hashem bless all of us with a blessed and sweet New Year.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


http://www.aish.com/jw/s/I-Am-Israeli.html?s=show   If you haven’t seen this yet. It’s a must see “I AM AN ISRAELI”

https://youtu.be/j4d-jcr4DfI   - Rabbi Pesach Krohn (like you’ve never seen him) and Rabbi Senter and everything you wanted to know about bees and honey and great cartoon

https://youtu.be/TAy8PaExmdM - 6 New Songs by my good friend R’Shlomo Yehudah Rechnitz in honor of his daughters wedding

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!!

Parnosseh iz a refueh tsu alleh krenk”-  A good livelihood is a cure for all ills

. The first time you marry for love, the second for money, and the third for companionship.” Jackie Kennedy
“The first time I sang in the church choir; two hundred people changed their religion.”-Fred Allen
“The first time I see a jogger smiling, I'll consider it.” –Joan Rivers
Of course women don’t work as hard as men, they get it right the first time”- Anonymous (probably a Jewish wife though J)
(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
Tanzimat are
A.    Privileges granted to European Consuls
B.     Laws of the property ownership of the Ottamans from the 18th century
C.     Laws of Suleiman the Magnificent
D.    The Ottoman’s reforms in the 19th century
We read this week the long series of curses that will fall upon the Jewish people if they do not follow the Torah. Tragically we have seen all of them come to pass throughout our history. Nachmanides in the 13th century describes already how he had already seen them come to pass in his days. What can we say 750 years later? One of the curses described is that we will be groping about in noon as a blind person gropes in the darkness.
The Midrash quotes Rabbi Yosi who said “All my life I puzzled over this verse. Why in the dark? A blind man can’t find his way even in the day time. Once in the dark of night I met a blind person carrying a torch. ‘Of what use is is torch to you, my good man’ I asked him ‘since you cannot see?’.
He explained ‘As long as O carry light, other people will notice me and hopefully will warn me of ay pits or obstacles in the way’
Similarly Rabbi Yosi derives that if we will not heed the Torah we will become a generation when we will not merit to have leaders that will be able to show us the way out of the darkness and that will be able to help us alleviate the suffering that we will endure. We will be like blind men in the dark with no one else to help us.
That Yonah doesn’t think I can come up with each week…
“Siyurei Selichos”- Selichos Tours – For centuries as Jews approached the High Holidays there has been a custom to rise up early in the morning and to recite supplications called Selichot-poems of repentance and beseeching Hashem for mercy and grace before our Days of Judgement and Awe. Sfardim customarily begin from the beginning of the month Ashkenazim from any where from 4 days to a week and a half before Rosh Hashana from Saturday night. In Israel though this period of time in recent years has become popular for Selichos tours in various communities , where Jews from all backgrounds and certainly many many non-observant Jews utilize this time to have tours of Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues through the night that culminate in the recitation of Selichot afterwards. The most popular place is of course in the old city of Jerusalem where the tour culminates with a mass recitation at the Kotel where thousands gather each night and early morning. But the tours have expanded to Tzfat  Bnai Brak, Akko and even Tel Aviv/Yaffo. I think it’s amazing and cool that Jews can all come together in prayer and unite in the common bond that we all share that we know that there is a day of judgement, there is a Father in heaven that listens to our cry and our prayer and that we know that regardless of what we have done all year, He is waiting for us to return to Him. How cool is that!

When life gives you lemons ask for salt and tequila
When life gives you lemons unless it gives you sugar and water you’ll have pretty lousy lemonade
When life gives you lemons, gift wrap them and give them to somebody as a gift.
When life gives you lemons construct a crude electrochemical battery
When life gives you lemons squirt them make someone’s paper cut hurt really bad
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Use the profits to buy an assault rifle. See if life makes the same mistake again.
If life gives you lemons, ask for the receipt so you can exchange them for oranges.
When life gives you lemons make grape juice and sit back and watch the world ask how you did it.
If life hands you lemons, ask 'Where do you get all these lemons from?' Actually, don’t ask. You really don’t want to know…
If life stole your lemons, he gave them to me.
When life gives you lemons learn to juggle
When life gives you lemons regularly, you'd better get a taste for sour fruit. 
When life gives you lemons, alter their DNA and make super lemons.
When life hands you lemonade, don’t try to make lemons
When life gives you lemons, ask yourself how exactly an anthropomorphic personification of something immaterial like life can give you a fruit. Unless it isn’t…
When life gives you lemons, drop them, then you will have lemon drops.
When life gives you lemons, you've got potential for a lemon quote. 
If life gives you melons, your dyslexic
Finally the Israeli Version When Life gives you chickpeas…make Chummus

Dogbert-"well, look on the bright side, you know, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade"
Dilbert-"I'm allergic to citrus"
"well, look on the bright side, you know, when life gives you lemons, swell up and die"
Answer is D-Arab words have never been my thing and the Ottomans who were here from the 1500’s until World War I which were perhaps one of the longest “occupations” of our land were never the most interesting to me either. Or to most tourists as well. That being said I had no clue to the answer to this question. So let’s go through it together the privileges to European consuls were called the “Capitulations” and pretty much was the sick man of Europe trying to save itself by allowing the Europeans all types of benefit in trading. Jews did well getting those documents that offered them these benefits. Next the Laws of property ownership known as the Majala were the laws that defined property ownership which led to the establishment of the legal registration of all properties called the Tabo. This was interestingly enough in force until 1969 Israel’s Lands Law superseded the previous Turkish and British Law although in Yehudah and Shomron many times the old law still applies. Suleiman who lived in the 16th century was also known as the Law maker and he wrote the canons which pretty much institutionalized Sharia law throughout the Empire. The correct answer therefore is D which was a whole series of reforms the Turks tried to institute to save themselves and modernize before the World pretty much took them over. And there you have it more than you even needed to know about the Turks!