Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 29th 2015 -Volume 6, Issue 3 16th Cheshvan 5776
Parents disagree sometimes. We have an important role in life as Jewish parents. We are raising the next generation of our holy nation. It is they who will succeed and bring the world to its ultimate fulfillment on the slight chance that we don’t achieve that in our lifetime. Slight chance… of course. So charged with that important task, it's understandable that two very different people with two very different backgrounds and upbringings would have differing opinions on what is the best way to raise these children. How to discipline them, when they should go to sleep, how much emphasis should be put on their home and school work, what extra-curricular activities they should participate in, what is considered a healthy meal and what types of influence they should be exposed to.
In the Schwartz family for example on the above issues without naming sides here, so as not to influence anyone's opinion here, there is one parent who believes in corporal punishment and yelling at their children when they get on
his their nerves, who believes
fundamentally in that wise adage of he who spares the rod spoils the child.
Feels that bed time is when they conk out on the couch as long as they are not
bothering him them. Believes that homework is very important and that
the child should develop early on skills to do it on their own so that they
will be better equipped to handle challenges in life-for the parent will not
always be around to help them with it and that what would happen…? That same
parent see's nothing wrong with chips, pizza and leftover chulent as containing
all the basic elements of a nutritious meal and has no problem with
extra-curricular activities that do not cost money like playing with lego (as
long as it is cleaned up and not left all over the floor-all the time and
running up and down the street a lot of times which is very good exercise and
does not have to be boring and is really not that concerned about scary violent
movies particularly Star Wars and Harry Potter which contain very spiritual
elements and the secrets of the universe. The world is a scary place and it's
about time they started getting used to it.
Then there's the other parent. Parent number two believes that it is important to talk to one's child repeatedly in soft and caring voice-even though they're not paying attention. Corporal punishment should only be used as threat in the least scary of term in only the most extreme situations and can be couched in innocuous phrases such as "you just wait until Parent one comes home". They also feel that bed-time should be a time of bonding with stories of educational value despite the fact that the rest of the house is falling apart and they might have to run a clothing sale the next day and parent one has no clean socks in his drawer. Meals should contain things like protein and stuff that grows from the ground preferably green and our children should take lessons in Piano, violin, art, karate and/or tai kwon do (which the other parent seemed to thing was some Chinese dish) , little league and horse therapy. Money is no object when it comes to offering our children the opportunity to find their hidden talents-as deeply buried as they may seem. The other parent does not appreciate violence of any nature either. It is from the dark side.
So how do you resolve these types of conflicts between two seemingly well-intentioned adults who want only the best for their children? In the Schwartz family it took some time and years until this was worked out. But it was finally decided that the parent that remembered when the children's birthdays were, how old they were and how many hours they sat in painful labor bringing them into this world should have more of a say than the other parent despite the fact that the other parent might have Rabbinic ordination and years of Talmudic wisdom and is really an excellent tour guide. There was some objection at first, but after a few vegetarian dinners and nights on the living room couch offered the right motivation. As long as I don't have to do the homework and can have my pizza and chips.
It seems that this disagreement about how to raise Jewish children really goes back to the beginning of our people-hood though. This week's Torah portion spends quite a bit of time and ink describing the first set of Jewish parents and their challenges and disagreements. Certainly when we study and learn about our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, who were the greatest individuals of all mankind, we can never attribute our petty foibles to their great and spiritual challenges and discussions. After-all Hashem never appeared to me and you. Yet the Torah means for us to learn from them. So let's take a look and see what we can find.
So we have Avraham, who in last week's portion was promised children that would become a great nation and yet his wife and life-partner Sarah remain barren. Sarah comes up with a kind of a novel out-of-the-box approach and recommends that her husband take their maid servant Hagar (no not the horrible guy from the cartoon) to be his wife, perhaps that will change their "karma" and she will then have children. Incidentally our sages tell us that Hagar was no simple cleaning lady, she was in fact the daughter of Pharaoh in Egypt that had tried to take Sarah to be his wife. So this was a girl with a royal upbringing. Which perhaps might explain why right after she immediately becomes pregnant she started acting like a JEP or Jewish Egyptian princess that she was-sorry I couldn't resist. Sarah-whose name actually means princess, obviously realizes that this is a problem and in no uncertain terms tells her dear husband that something must be done and Avraham after close to a century of marriage knows better to argue with the woman and Hagar is pretty much made to feel uncomfortable enough to flee. An angel appears to her and tells her to go back home, obviously this Hagar was not a simple person as well. After-all Sarah wouldn't just choose anyone to be her husband's wife.
Part two of this story takes place in this week's Torah portion after Sarah gives birth to Yitzchak and she begins to notice that Hagar's little Bar Mitzvah boy Yishmael is beginning to go down a path that would not be the best influence on little Yitzchak. Our sages note that when the Torah tells us that Yishmael was "playing" with Yitzchak the word playing was merely a polite euphemism for idolatry, murder and illicit relations. Not the best kid to have around in the home of someone who is destined to be by the end of the Parsha the pure offering to God and the grandfather of the tribes of Israel. In quite a memorable speech and with no room for any uncertainty Sarah tells Avraham
"Send away this maid servant and her son, for the son of this maid servant will not inherit with my son with Yitzchak."
It is not easy to miss the subtlety over here. Remember Yishmael is also Avraham's son. His oldest and first born child after 90 years of waiting. To the wife that his wife had given to him. Yet Sarah is quite clear. This is her son; the maid servant's son. As special as she may be she ain't your real wife and he ain't your real son. This is not what we are here to do. If you missed that the Torah is quite clear in the next verse
"And this matter seemed very bad to Avraham in regards to his son".
Now Avraham pretty much knew his children's birthday as well as Sarah did so there had to be another way to work this thing out. So Hashem steps in and who does He side with?
And Hashem said to Avraham 'It should not be bad in your eyes on the lad and on your maid-servant. All that Sarah says to you listen to her voice because it is through Yitzchak that will be called your seed.
O.K. so first of all note Hagar is not your wife, she is your maid-servant. Second of all the child is called the lad but Yitzchak is your real seed. And in case you didn't get it and feel bad Hashem continues
"And also the child of the maid-servant I will make a great nation for he is your seed"
Yishmael is not your child. He is the child of the maid servant, he is your seed though-although unlike Yitzchak your seed will not be called through him. But he will be great because of those good genes you gave him. Avraham, now having clarity on the situation rises the next morning and fulfills this test as well that Hashem placed before him and puts his faith in Hashem and sends Yishmael and Hagar out camping. Interestingly enough once again angels come rescue them for Hashem heard the crying of Yishmael and even more fascinating and quite the incredible epilogue of the story after passing of Sarah Avraham remarries Hagar and Yishmael himself is noted to have done Teshuvah and comes back to bury his beloved father. The extent of his Teshuva is so remarkable that one of our greatest sages-who's buried right up the road from us in Karmiel is none other than the great high priest Rabbi Yishmael Kohein Gadol. It seems that it became an acceptable and even righteous name to name ones children. Although I haven't heard it given recently…
Our sages though note something interesting about this first argument between parents about the raising of this first Jewish child. The first thing though to note is the special relationship between Avraham and Sarah. By none of the other Forefathers and Mothers does it refer to them in the same way as the Torah does Avraham and Sarah. For repeatedly Sarah is called Eishet Avraham Sarah the wife of Avraham. Rivka, Rachel, Leah are never referred to as the wife of_____ yet Sarah in almost every chapter is always connected to Avraham as his wife, his spouse, his partner. What's also fascinating as well as we don't as well find by the other Forefathers any fights or arguments about the raising of their children. Sure they each had their challenges. Esau was no picnic and neither were the 12 tribes and the Fathers and Mothers certainly had different approaches and opinions on how to raise them. Yet it is only by the husband and wife team of Avraham and Sarah that the Torah shares with us that there was disagreement and even conversation and communication about how to deal with the raising of their child. Lesson one perhaps you have to be a team a dedicated husband and wife and then it is alright to disagree about how best to raise the children. Perhaps that is even the only way that critical communication can happen.
But what were they arguing about. What was the essence of their debate? Did Sarah, the paradigm of kindness, who welcomed every guest into her home night and day-pagan or not and who even gave this woman who was the daughter of her oppressor to her husband begrudge her? It doesn't resonate and the Torah which never hesitates to share the flaws of our great people doesn't make any mention of any jealousy. And Avraham, what was he thinking? Did he not recognize that Yitzchak was his son that was meant to inherit him, and that having Yishmael who was certainly a pretty bad and perhaps even dangerous kid around needed to be sent to some rehab center somewhere? What's the real story here?
So once again our sages shed some light unto this story as they note that Hashem commands Avraham to listen to all that Sarah said to him-hinting that there was another conversation that took place. And they share with us that Avraham told Sarah I understand that you want me to send him away. But what will all the people say? Avraham who was preaching kindness for so many years sends away his oldest son and the wife that he raised to such heights! It will be a desecration of Hashem's name. And we are here to honor Hashem's name to create a world that honors Hashem. Sarah counters this argument but Yitzchak is the one with who the nation will come from and it is critical that he not be connected in any way to the desecration of Hashem's name that Yishmael is causing. Let Hashem once again judge and tell us what the right path to take is. And it is here that Hashem steps in and tells Avraham that just as in the last incident when Hagar had to be sent away, listen to all Sarah says for it is through Yitzchak that your descendants and that nation will come.
It is truly an amazing portion and insight into the building of the Jewish name from these two great individuals who for years had been focused on spreading the word of Hashem and His light to the world. Avraham-the man is focused on the big picture. We have a job to do. We may have to curtail our own spiritual perfection and environment with some less savory for Yishmael is also my son…also Hashem's son. We have to do whatever we can to increase Hashem’s glory despite the challenge. Sarah, though understands that the big picture of reaching out to the world is no longer the priority. The priority is creating a family and a nation that will inherit the legacy and fulfill the destiny of Avraham. In this case the purity of that family and the danger of any influence that would detract from Yitzchaks ability to grow to be the second of the Patriarch is what is of paramount concern. It is only after that is accomplished that Yishmael and Hagar will be able to once again return and only then can they achieve the greatness that they are meant to achieve and become.
It is not easy raising Jewish children. But our forefathers and mothers have set the path for us. One thing that is certain and that is found by all of our Patriarchs is that there are challenges involved. There are doubts, there are two paths that can be taken and there are sometimes conflicting priorities that have to be weighed. Yet when faced with those challenges ultimately we have to recognize that we are never alone. We are engaged in holy work, perhaps the holiest work and therefore we know that we have Hashem that is there to help us and guide us. Perhaps the greatest lesson is in how we have to know to turn to Him when faced with those challenges and question. Our Father in Heaven has quite a bit of experience with children that don't always turn out the way he wanted them to. Yet He is still there for us. For it is through us and our children that ultimately His name will be sanctified.
Have spectacular Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S VIDEO OF THEWEEK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQmRItglAlg –Meir Kahane highlights-what are your thoughts?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frY0VkSxpkc – Shlomo Carlebach (Yartzeit today) tribute concert HASC
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kfn_SG7Z3Ys&list=PL9w_0PxsHZzNYIQNpDLqGGNzUxla2dKUJ – A really old Carlebach concert from the good ol days..
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
Der vos hot nit farzucht bittereh, vaist nit voz zies iz.”- “He who has not tasted the bitter does not understand the sweet.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JEWISH PERSONALITY AND HIS QUOTES IN HONOR OF THE YARTZEIT OF THE WEEK
.“ One of the great problems with Americans is that - being a decent people - they assume that everyone else is equally decent”
“The banding together by the nations of the world against Israel is the guarantee that their time of destruction is near and the final redemption of the Jew at hand.”
“I know that elections must be limited only to those who understand that the Arabs are the deadly enemy of the Jewish state, who would bring on us a slow Auschwitz - not with gas, but with knives and hatchets”
“For so long as the Jew has even one ally, he will be convinced - in his smallness of mind - that his salvation came from that ally. It is only when he is alone - against all of his own efforts and frantic attempts - that he will, through no choice, be compelled to turn to G-d.”
“"I prefer a powerful and proud Jewish State that is hated by the entire world than an Auschwitz that is loved by one and all"-Rabbi Meir Kahane
Yartzeit-18th of Cheshvan this Shabbos
Rabbi Meir Kahane (1932-1990)- Perhaps one of the most radical Jewish figures and personalities in the last half century, Rabbi Kahane a Jewish visionary and activist was murdered on this date while he was leading a demonstration in New York urging Jews to make Aliya. According to some researchers he was the first American victim of the then beginning of Al Quadia of which his assassin (later convicted in the World Trade center bombing in 1993) was a member.
Raised in Brooklyn New York, Meir was a student of the Mir Yeshiva where he was very close with the Rosh Yeshiva RAv Kalmanovitz from whom he eventually received his semicha. In the 50’s after his marriage he became a pulpit Rabbi in Howard Beach Jewish Center, where he was involved in Jewish outreach work with many of the youth as well as raising the standard of Jewish observance in the congregation. He also became very active in his fight against Commuism and for assisting Jews leave Russia. In the 60’s he founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL) which was dedicated to training young Jewish men in self defense. The JDL was conceived on five principles.
Love of Jewry- One Jewish people, indivisible and united, from which flows the love for, and the feeling of pain of, all Jews.
Dignity and Pride:-Pride in and knowledge of Jewish tradition, faith, culture, land, history, strength, pain and peoplehood.
Iron:-The need to both move to help Jews everywhere and to change the Jewish image through sacrifice and all necessary means—even strength, force and violence.
Discipline and Unity:-The knowledge that he (or she) can and will do whatever must be done, and the unity and strength of willpower to bring this into reality.
Faith in the Indestructability of the Jewish People:-Faith in the greatness and indestructibility of the Jewish people, our religion and our Land of Israel.
With the founding of the JDL Kahane became more radical arrested and convicted of plotting bombing of Soviet UN missions as well as attacking their officers.
In the early 70’s Kahane immigrated to Israel and started a political party based on the principles of Israel being run by Torah Law, the transfer of arabs for compemsation out of Israel proper, the banning of mixed Jewish and arab schools and culture clubs as well as intermarriage. He argued that democracy is incompatible with a Jewish State for it is religion blind and that eventually it would be feasible that there could be a greater arab population than Jews thus negating the Jewishness of the State. In the early 80’s, after being arrested 64 times for incendiary behavior, he finally won a seat in the Knesset. He refused to take the regular oath of service quoting from Tanach instead. He would regularly speak in Knesset challenging and mocking the other members. Eventually as no one would come he would speak to an empty room. As his popularity grew and it was estimated that it was even feasible he would win many seats in the Knesset his party was banned as being “racist”. This made him the first and only party to be thus banned, although all of the arab parties which have called for the death of Jews have been not considered racist when this was brought to the Knesset election committee. After that he dedicated himself to his yeshiva that he founded, his writings of many works and public lectures.
I was in Israel for the funeral of Rabbi Kahane. There were over 150,000 people there the chief Rabbis and many other eulogized him many referring to him as a modern day Maccabee. May his memory be blessed and May Hashem avenge his blood.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Answer below at end of Email
Q. Zarit, Shomra, and Shetula are found in
A. Upper Galil
B. Lower Galil
C. Western Negev
D. Adulam Strip
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL RASHI OF THE WEEK
Just three short words in Rashi and a whole world of insight into Pshat can be understood. This week in the Torah portion we are told of Lot welcoming in the angels into Sodom and we are told that he bakes matzos for them. Rashi then makes the startling and perplexing statement “It was Passover”. What makes this Rashi so perplexing is that Pesach hasn’t even been invented yet? There’s not even a Yitzchak who gace birth to Yaakov who gave birth to the 12 tribes who would go to Egypt yet. What’s going on? In addition Rashi’s style as we note was not to be Midrashic but the simple understanding of the facts. The truth is there are many similarities if one considers this Rashi between the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and our Exodus from Egypt. Here are just a few
1) Lot stands by the doorway protecting the angels inside similarly in Egypt the blood is put on the doorway to protect the Jews inside.
2) They Sodomites are struck with blindness which is like the plague of darkness
3) Hashem hails down upon the Sodomites
4) Lot is told to flee and not hesitate as the Jews are told as well
I’m sure there are many more if you consider this- that’s your homework. But Rashi seems to be telling us that it was Pesach- meaning that this is a conceptual Pesach that is happening here. And to look out for it in the text. And so we did.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL HISTORICAL EVENT THAT HAPPENED ON THIS DATE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Establishment of Mishkenot Shaananim – It’s hare do imagine when one comes to Yerushalayim that until 150 years ago there was nothing besides the Old City. Everything else that you see was just empty hills and valleys. It all started this week in the year 1860 with the establishment of Mishkenot Shaananim. For those of you who have visited yerushalyim it is the little walled village with those up and down tops kind of like puzzle pieces right across the valley across Mt. Zion. The Baron Moses Montiefiore bought the land in 1855 with the $50,000 grant that was left in the will of Judah Touro a wealthy American business man who left the money for the Jews of Jerusalem.
The Jews in the old city at that time were living in terrible poverty and sickness. In addition many Christians and churches were asserting more and more control over the old city. The idea Montifiore had was to move Jews out to these nice home each with their own small yard. And he built them a windmill in order to provide them with income. He built 16 apartments and then later added 4 more. In addition he had two shuls, one Ashkenaz and one Sfard and a Mikva. His idea was that the poor of Jerusalem could come here and live nicely. His initial plan was that each family would live there for three years and then another family would rotate and come eventually all of the poor would be able to spend time living there. The problem was no one wanted to come. They were scared of the arabs and didn’t want to leave the safety of the old city. Eventually Montefiore offered a stipend for those that came and people started to come. Other neigborhoods opened after that one but Mishkenot Shaananim was the first.
Today you can visit the neighborhood. It is very upscale and artsy. The Jerusalem Music Center is located there and you can visit the windmill and even the carriage that Montifieore you would travel in is there as well.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FLOOD JOKES OF THE WEEK
A lawyer and an engineer were fishing in the Caribbean. The lawyer said, “I’m here because my house burned down, and everything I owned was destroyed by the fire. The insurance company paid for everything.”
“That’s quite a coincidence,” said the engineer. “I’m here because my house and all my belongings were destroyed by a flood, and my insurance company also paid for everything.”
The puzzled lawyer asked, “How do you start a flood?”
Q: What detergent do Flood victims use to wash their clothes? A: Tide!
A charity music single has been released in aid of the arabs suffering from the flooding in Israel...
“Raindrops keep falling on Ahmed.
“Raindrops keep falling on Ahmed.
I was in Geula waiting for ages for a bus. Then what do you know, two float past at once.
You all know this one but I can’t do flood jokes without including it…
It had been raining for days and days, and a local river crested, flooding many houses. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house. As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me."
So the man in the rowboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him. The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. "Climb in!" shouted a man in the boat. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me."
So the man in the speedboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him. The waters continued to rise. A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the helicopter went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him. The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned.
Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to God. "Heavenly Father," he said, "I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?"
God gave him a puzzled look, and replied "I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"
Answer is A- Hard and easy question. To be honest I wasn’t even sure what these things were. Are they trees, plants, or cities kibbutzim or settlements. But once you know that they are settlements, actually moshavim to be precise, then all you have to know is one of them and where it is and your alright. The only one I recognized is Zarit and it is up in the Upper Galile. In fact all three of them are here in my neck of the woods or hills to be precise. (Karmiel is the border of the lower and upper Galil). Each one of them are pretty close to the Lebanese border and the largest one Shetula has 333 residents. Why the heck anyone would need to know this is beyond me.