Our view of the Galile

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!

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