Our view of the Galile

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Parenting 101- Vayeira 2015/5776

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

October 29th 2015 -Volume 6, Issue 3 16th Cheshvan 5776
Parshat Vayeira
Parenting 101
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


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQmRItglAlg  –Meir Kahane highlights-what are your thoughts?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BKzL2i0aWA His last speech-“so you shoot the messenger”

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..


Der vos hot nit farzucht bittereh, vaist nit voz zies iz.”-  He who has not tasted the bitter does not understand the sweet.


. 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.

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
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.

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.


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.

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.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Smarter Path- Lech Lecha 2015/5776

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

October 23rd 2015 -Volume 6, Issue 3 10th  Cheshvan 5776!
Parshat Lech Lecha
The Smarter Path
“The road is smarter than he who walks upon it.” I kept hearing those words again and again race through my head. It was like one of those “ear worm” songs that you can’t seem to get out of your mind. The words that our tour guide instructor hammered into our brains just kept repeating themselves and I stayed the course.

So there I was all alone in the middle of Mt. Carmel. I had come here to prepare for a tour that I was supposed to be doing the following week. It was meant to be a two hour hike with some college students. Rule number one for me obviously is not to take someone on a tour or hike to a place that I haven’t been to recently. Things change, trails shift and it is a tour guides responsibility to make sure he knows where he’s going. It was a about three years since I had done a hike on this mountain so I went to scout it out. I brought water, my hiking shoes and was looking forward to a nice little hike. The problem was once I got there the information booth was closed and I wasn’t sure how to do the hike, being that there were a few different trails some 6 hours and four hours which weren’t circular. Meaning it wouldn’t’ bring me back to my car. The only one that would it wasn’t clear to me where to start and end it from. So I figured I’d try a different hike instead. Why not? Right?

So I headed down to the bottom of the mountain for a hike that promised to be circular as well and that would stop off at a beautiful “bat” cave. All you had to do was leave the red trail and go down to the blue trail and it would take you to a nice spring and a straight trail back to the car. 2 hours back and forth. Not big deal. Sounds simple. But like all things in this country nothing ever is.

My first clue should have been that I was starting from the bottom of the mountain. Which would mean that I have to go up. OK I’m used to climbs. But it couldn’t be that bad. Right? Wrong. It was pretty steep. Where was this cave? So I kept going. following the red trail. It was beautiful. It would have been nice if there was some shade along the way, but how much longer could it be? After about an hour and a half I realized that I would be coming back a little later than I thought I saw the cave up ahead and so I decided to call my wife and let her know that she shouldn’t worry. I probably should have caught my breath before I called. But I just wanted her to know I was fine. The last thing I wanted was for her to call the search parties and helicopters. It really wouldn’t be good for business if tomorrows headlines were “The search for the lost Tour guide.” Of course trying to reassure my wife when I’m half out of breath on the top of a mountain that everything was all right was about as successful as convincing my doctor that a little bit of chulent wouldn’t be breaking my diet. I told her that I had water and that I should hit a spring soon and would call in about an hour and a half or so when I was done. And then my phone died. Oops.

About 10 minutes later I arrived at the cave. It was beautiful. But I didn’t see any blue trail. The red trail continued and whoever the practical joker that made this trail was, thought it would be funny to see me crawl on my belly through the dark to get to the other side of it. Of course, it would have been helpful to have a flashlight but my phone was dead. But clearly the red trail was going through the cave. So I got down and started crawling when I got to the other end. Still no blue trail. I thought I saw a cement building that might have been the spring down below. But then the words of Noam are instructor started up. “The trail is smarter than he who walks on it.” Stay the course. So I did. Another 10 minutes. Still no trail. Maybe if I cut across that little hill it would lead me to the spring. “The trail is smarter” Of course I had no watch so I couldn’t tell how much time had passed. I had visions of my wife calling people. Should I just climb down by the cave and try to find the spring? No. I will stay the course, but this time follow it back. I’m a tour guide, not an adventurer. I will just follow the path back. And I did.

It took about an hour or so. I still had water and was fine. Nothing happened, besides me deciding not to ever bring a group of students to this hike. I got in my car. And of course did the next important thing. I headed to the first Shwarma store and picked up the necessary nutrients in a laffa of course with a beer. Hey, I needed to hydrateJ. Then I called my wife. She was very relieved to hear me. She told everyone to stop saying tehillim and then she asked me to hold a second so she could call off the park authorities that she had already contacted when she couldn’t get through to me. Just in the nick of time! No headlines. I was only a half hour later than I had told her. I told her she had nothing to worry about I learned the lesson of staying the path. It didn’t matter. She didn’t’ think that I would listen to the path. Hey, since when have I listened to anyone? She’s right of course. I’m not complaining. It was nice getting relieved hugs and kisses from my family when I got home. They love me. Maybe I should do this more often.

This week’s Torah portion we are introduced to the Jewish story of the Torah. Bereishis was creation. Noach was the world civilization post-flood. And now the story of the Jewish people begins with out first Patriarch and forefather, Avraham. We start our story of Avraham though a little bit late in the game. He is already 75 years old when Hashem first appears to him. The Midrash tells us stories and stories about little Avraham. His “origin story”. He broke his father’s idols, he was thrown in a fiery furnace by Nimrod and miraculously saved. He opened up school and taught humanity about Hashem. He would give people food and teach them to thank God for it. He had thousands of students. Yet none of this is relevant to the Torah in teaching us about Avraham. Our story begins with the command for him to go on a journey, a long hike. To leave behind everything and go to the land that Hashem would show him. Our story begins with this journey.

It is interesting to note, that in truth the journey that Avraham is being commanded had already started many years before hand. At the conclusion of last week’s Parsha the Torah tells us that Terach began a journey to the land of Canaan. Yet he landed in Charan and decided to call it quits there. He left the trail. It was nice in Charan. It was perhaps an alternate place where one can serve Hashem without going to Israel. It was fine for world that was before Avram was meant to become Avraham. Our first story of Avraham comes when Hashem tells him to pick up that journey. To not leave half way and find another route. More than that some of early sages note. The Jewish story starts with a command. A directive. A God that tells us what to do. A trail that he is blazing for us. The story of Avraham begins not with him voluntarily and intellectually convincing and teaching the world of the Omnipotence of its Creator, not even with his willingness to sacrifice his life and get thrown in a furnace for a belief that he understood from examining the world. Its admirable to be willing to die for ones beliefs. It’s noble to dedicate one’s life to sharing ones faith with the unknowledgeable. But that’s not what Judaism is about. There are many people that do that daily around the world and who dedicate themselves selflessly to causes that they believe in. Here in Israel tragically we have a whole nation of our cousins that seem willing to do that, daily. Judaism is about something else entirely. It’s about listening to the command from God, perhaps even against your own “better” judgement. It’s about taking the journey that he sent us on. And staying that path. The path and way of Torah.

There is something though inside of each of us that wants to go off that path. To try a different route. To cut through a few bushes and find the short cut the way back to where we need to go. But the path is always smarter than the person that walks upon it. It’s a divine path. It’s a journey that our ancestors began and we are privileged to live in the generation that will god-willing see its completion. If we stay that path Hashem promised our first Patriarch, then he will make our names great. Those who bless us will be blessed and those who curse us and seek to destroy us will get their just rewards. Hold the course. The end is almost there. It’s right there in the clearing. The path is smarter. Take it from an experienced tour guide.
Have spectacular Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

https://youtu.be/NF5Lo8x_BS4   –Shabbos Project singing together

https://youtu.be/nwQas8WuqVM    – Kever Rachel history

https://youtu.be/-_llTjTPxto   Simcha Leiner Rachel Mivaka moving

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXhYn1lZNbI   – and the classic London Boys version I grew up with

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k67yR0hsiwoFinally an adorable version of Abie Rottenbergs Mama Rochel with Shwekey singing and a class of children performing


Dos lebn iz nit mer vi a Cholem, ober vekt mikh nit oif!.”-  Life is not more than a dream- but don’t wake me up…

Another new feature of the week. Decided to feature not just a quote but a important Jewish personality whose yartzeit falls out each week
. What is the lesson of the Holocaust? As you know, during the Holocaust, the people were transported in the worst possible, inhumane way by railcar. They thought they were going to a work camp. We all know they were going to a death camp. After hours and hours in this inhumane corral with no light, no bathroom, cold, they arrived at the camps. The doors were swung wide open, and they were blinded by the light. Men were separated from women, mothers from daughters, fathers from sons. They went off to the bunkers to sleep. As they went into the area to sleep, only one person was given a blanket for every six. The person who received the blanket, when he went to bed, had to decide, 'Am I going to push the blanket to the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it toward myself to stay warm?'"
 "It was during this defining moment that we learned the power of the human spirit, because we pushed the blanket to five others. Take your blanket. Take it back to America and push it to five other people."-  Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel –as told over by Howard Schultz CEO of Starbucks upon his visit with him.
Yartzeit-11th of Cheshvan this Shabbos
Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel-Rosh Yeshiva of Mir in Jerusalem (1943-2011)- The great Rosh Yeshiva of the largest Yeshiva in Israel who it is estimated had over 25,000 students in his lifetime and who suffered from Parkinson’s disease for the last 20 years of his short life stands as a symbol of greatness and inspiration to todays American Jews. Born in Chicago and attending co-ed modern Orthodox Jewish Day Schools, Natie Finkel, the star centerfielder of his baseball team was inspired by his trip to Israel to meet his illustrious family there, the great Rosh Yeshivas and leaders of the Slobodka and Hebron Yeshiva. He returned to Israel where he studied for many years under his uncle. He eventually married his 2nd cousin and when his father-in-law passed in 1990 he took over the responsibility of the Yeshiva.
The Yeshiva had about 1200 students at that time. Under his tenure the Mir Yeshiva expanded to close to 6000 yeshiva with branches and Kollels all over Israel. Despite his sickness and weakened state he would repeatedly travel to raise the necessary funds for the Yeshiva. It is estimated he raised over a half billion dollars to support the Yeshiva and through its expansion. Despite his trips and his own personal rigorous Torah study schedule, Rav Finkel made sure to learn the names and be the father of each student that crossed the doors of his yeshiva. He studied personally with over 80 students a week anyone that wanted to study with him he would set up time for. Although his disease was very painful he refused to take medications for fear that it would stifle his learning slur his speech or cause memory loss and jeopardize the teaching that he lessons he lived to give. Story after story of the personal anecdotes each student had about how he cared for and inspired them, how his classes and lessons will always serve to inspire them. Many of the students themselves following in his path to inspire the next generation and pass on his legacy. His funeral was attended by over 100,000 people from all walks of Judaism and Israel. He is buried in Har Menuchos in Jerusalem. Yet his legacy and spirit lives on in the great Yeshiva and his student that continue to share his teachings.

Answer below at end of Email
Q. A Monument that is connected to the War of Independence is
A.    Yad L’Yud Daled (the fourteen)
B.     The Bell Tower by Ramat Rachel
C.     The Negev Brigade
D.    The Valley
(Each year we’ve focused on a different aspect of torah two years ago we did the gematria/remez of the week, the past year midrash. This year i decided to focus on the simple pshat/understanding-which of course is best understood with rashi who defines his classic commentary as “only coming to explain the simple understanding.-pshuto shel mikra- so this year, i hope to bring you each week a fascinating ….
This week the Torah introduces us to the journeys of Avraham-or actually Avram at that time still. After he came to Israel he went to Shechem first. The place where the Jewish people as well would come to and then the Torah tells us
“And Avraham journeyed on, going and traveling to the South.”
Rashi’s comment in explaining this verse (12:9) is that Going and Traveling- “at intervals. He would dwell here for a month or so and then travel from there and pitch his tent in another place”
Rashi as we know is coming to explain the simple meaning of the text- Pshat. How and why does Rashi feel it necessary to explain that going and traveling is that he spent a month in each place, why can’t it mean he just wandered?

The Maharal explains that Rashi si troubled by the word “traveled” One only travels from a place that one is a resident of that place. The Talmud tells us that the minimal amount of time for one to be considered a resident is 30 days; a month. Thus Rashi in understanding the simple meaning of the text is explaining that the Torah by telling us that Avraham traveled from each place that he stopped off in, had to have been there at least a month.

The reason and lesson of this is perhaps is that although Avraham was heading South, he felt it important to become part of the community that he passed through. We find a similar lesson that when Avraham traveled once again he stayed in the same places that he previously stayed. To show his appreciation to each place he stayed in. One that moves to a community for how ever little he may be there, shouldn’t wait to be part of the community. Even after one month he or she can and should be a part of contributing to that community. As the Baal Shem Tov used to say, If Hashem brought you some place it is for you to accomplish something there.

Two years ago we did cool places in Israel, last year we did cool things to do in Israel, this year we will try to cover cool things that happened on this date in Israel.
Passing of UN Resolution 3379 “Zionism=Racism”  – Yeah it wasn’t the first time or the last time our favorite world organization passed a resolution against the State of Israel. But it was certainly one of the most blatant and anti-semitic resolutions ever passed. It was the period of the Cold War between Russia and the United States and after Israels victory in the Yom Kippur War. Victory is actually not the right word as we had close to 2000 deaths and thousands of casualties. But we survived. The United Nations had already welcomed Yasser Arafat and the PLO to the UN and granted them observer status and this was the next step in delegitimizing the Jewish State.
Some of the more touching language of the resolution included the statements that
“any doctrine of racial differentiation or superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous”
“that the racist regime in occupied Palestine … have a imperialist origin, forming a whole and having racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being"
“…severely condemned zionism as a threat to world peace and security and called upon all countries to oppose this racist and imperialist ideology,…Determines that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”.

The resolution sponsored by our 25 Arab neighbors was passed with another 72 countries including Russia, China, Brazil and Mexico with another 32 absentations which included Argentina, Greexe, Japan, Jamaica and Venezuela.
The 35 countries that stood up for Israel were of course the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden and others.
The Israeli Ambassador Chaim Herzog made his powerful speech to the UN at the time condemned the council
"another manifestation of the bitter anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish hatred which animates Arab society. Who would have believed that in this year, 1975, the malicious falsehoods of the 'Elders of Zion' would be distributed officially by Arab governments? Who would have believed that we would today contemplate an Arab society which teaches the vilest anti-Jewish hate in the kindergartens? … We are being attacked by a society which is motivated by the most extreme form of racism known in the world today"

He then took the resolution and ripped it up making the statement

“On this day 37 years to the day of Kristalnacht, For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper and we shall treat it as such."

It took 16 years until this resolution was repealed and George H Bush was president and the cold war was over and the US had just won the first Gulf War. The world had an agenda to get Israel to join the Madrid Peace conference and we made it conditional on the repealing of the resolution. The repeal was sponsored by 90 countries and passed with 111 the same 25 arab countries of course opposed it.
When it was passed President Bush then made the statement

We should take seriously the UN charter's pledge "to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors." UNGA Resolution 3379, the so-called "Zionism is racism" resolution, mocks this pledge and the principles upon which the United Nations was founded. And I call now for its repeal. Zionism is not a policy; it is the idea that led to the creation of a home for the Jewish people, to the State of Israel. And to equate Zionism with the intolerable sin of racism is to twist history and forget the terrible plight of Jews in World War II and, indeed, throughout history. To equate Zionism with racism is to reject Israel itself, a member of good standing of the United Nations.
This body cannot claim to seek peace and at the same time challenge Israel's right to exist. By repealing this resolution unconditionally, the United Nations will enhance its credibility and serve the cause of peace.”
Too bad they have forgotten that pledge once again.


I’ve actually heard quite a few of these by my tourists on my tours. You know who you are…  You just couldn't make them up; yet, on the other hand the things that people moan about are unbelievable.
  1. A small deer came into my camp and stole my bag of pickles.  Is there a way I can get reimbursed?
  2. Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.
  3. Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands.
  4. Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.
  5. Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the area of these pests.
  6. Chairlifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them.
  7. The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.
  8. A McDonald's would be nice at the trailhead. (Kosher one of course)
  9. Too many rocks in the mountains.
  10. The places where trails do not exist are not well marked.

A lawyer invites his cousin from the Czech Republic to come and stay with him in Canada. The Czech cousin arrives, determined to enjoy himself. Soon they decide to go rambling. They're right out in the middle of the forest when a big grizzly bear appears. The bear hugs the poor Czech cousin to death and then eats him.
The lawyer runs to the nearest village and tells everybody what has happened. The villagers form a search party and return to the forest. They come across some bears and ask the lawyer to identify the one that killed his cousin.
'It's that male bear over there.'
They kill the bear and rip open his stomach, but there is nothing there. They decide to kill the female bear nearby, and when they rip open her stomach, they find the poor Czech cousin.
So it all goes to show: 'Never trust a lawyer when he says the cheque is in the mail.

Yankel and Ahmed were on a camping and hiking trip.
They had gone to bed and were lying there looking up at the sky. Yankel said, "Ahmed, look up. What do you see?
"Well, I see thousands of stars."
"And what does that mean to you?"
"Well, I guess it means we will have another nice day tomorrow. What does it mean to you, Yankel?"
"To me, it means someone has stolen our tent."

Yankel and Ahmed, two hikers on a trail came around the bend to find an enormous brown bear about 85 metres up the trail.
The bear spots the two hikers and begins running towards them at a full tilt.
Yankel drops his backpack, sits down, throws off his boots, and starts lacing up a pair of running shoes.
Ahmed says to Yankel 'What are you doing? You will never be able to outrun that bear.'
Yankel replies, 'I don't have to outrun the bear...............................'

Answer is C-There are too many monuments to fallen soliders in this country. We shouldn’t have that many fallen soldiers. But this is the fate of our tiny country surrounded by enemies. So here we go with the monuments above. Yad LYud Daled near Nahariya is for the 14 soldiers that died attacking the British on the “Night of the Bridges” Where the Palmach in response to the British refusing to let the Jews into Israel, blew up all the bridges leading in to Israel thereby preventing them from coming is as well. This was the only place where there were losses. Ramat Rachel Bell monument was dedicated for the soldiers that died in the 6 Day war conquering Jerusalem. The Valley monument was for the soldiers that fell in the war of attrition to terrorists that came in from Jordan in the early 70’s as well as for all terror victims. Which leaves the Negev Brigade in the South not far from Be’er Sheva that remembers the battles of the Negev in holding off Egypt in the 48 War of indepence. May all of the soldiers who gave their lives on behalf of the land and the people- our Kedoshim/Our martyrs memory be blessed and may Hashem avenge their blood.