Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
November 27th 2015 -Volume 6, Issue 8 15th Kislev 5776
The Dance of Life
His name was Nicky Imber. His great Uncle was none other than Naftali Herz Imber who composed Israel’s national anthem “Hatikva”. He was born in1920 in Vienna and as a young child he was already recognizable as a budding artist prodigy. He attended the Academy of Arts there and as the Nazi party began to take power he began to draw caricatures for the student newspaper there mocking the Nazis. When the War started he was taken to Dachau in the Anshluss, but it wasn’t long before he plotted his escape. Using his skills as a sculptor he carved himself a mask of the face of a Nazi guard using bread and sand and stole himself a uniform and miraculously walked out the front gate unnoticed. He tried to gain entrance to Palestine which was under the British, but they stopped his ship and he was put in a detention camp at Mauritius, an island off of France.
For the next 40 years Nicky traveled the world and created famous sculptures, even making it to the Vatican where he restored 3000 Year old Greek Sculptures for them as well as fixing Michelangelo’s famous “David” sculpture. But perhaps his most lasting and significant legacy for him was the beautiful and meaningful sculptures he made in none other than the city of Karmiel, Israel, creating its Holocaust Memorial Park entitled “From Holocaust to Resurrection”. His larger than life depictions of people being led to the trains and exile, the survivors and camp prisoners in their uniforms with their yellow stars and the young mother holding high her child in the air as she celebrates coming to the Holy Land.
In the city of Tzfat one can see many of Nicky’s sculptures. He donated them there the proceeds of their sales going to support young artists of the city. The sculptures that have always been the most meaningful to me are the ones that has of Jews from before the war. The images that were ingrained in his brain of the Europe that once was. Many of them of Rabbis, children, young couples walking, yeshivas students arguing over a page of Talmud are fascinatingly enough just sculptures of their heads without their bodies. When Nicky was asked why he made them that way he responded in words that have always sent chills down my back and tears to my eyes.
“I wanted to sculpt them for their eternality. The Nazis, our enemies, have throughout the generations tried to destroy us. But the one thing I learned in the camp is that they can take everything from us, but they can never take what we have learned; what is on our minds. Our Torah, our knowledge, our faith in Hashem, that is the eternality of the Jewish people. That is what is forever.”
I have thought of those words the past few weeks as I am still basking in the afterglow of our Hachnasat Sefer Torah that we had in Karmiel in our shul. Is there another nation in the world that takes their book of history, their book of laws and commandments and dances with it in the streets? Young, old, men, women, religious, secular, Sephardic, and Ashkenazic it doesn’t make a difference. The Torah connects us all. The celebration of a new scroll is the celebration of all of us. One of my Rabbis once explained this way the Psalm of King David that we recite each morning Chukov UMishpatav LYisrael Lo Asah Ken LChol Goy UMishpatim Baal YiDaum Halleluya- His laws and decrees He gave to Israel, He did not do this to any other nation and His laws He did not make known to them Halleluya.” The Rabbi asked but isn’t it true that all nations do have laws. In fact perhaps even their laws are based on our laws, our Ten Commandments, our justice system and morality that we taught to the world? Why does it say that He did not make it known to them? He responded that the word YiDaum- He made known to them refers to the biblical knowledge as in Adam “knew” his wife. It refers to the Jewish peoples inherent connection on an emotional and spiritual sense to the Torah that is like a bride to a groom. We are betrothed to the Torah. When we danced in the streets with it, we danced under a chupah. We celebrated like it was our wedding day. Another bride had come into the world, and it is the simcha of the Jewish people.
This week we read the story of our forefather Yaakov who returns after 20 years in exile to the Holy Land. As he returns he finds out that his brother Esau, the reason why he fled in the first place so as to avoid being killed by him, is coming to “meet him”. Yaakov, who became fabulously wealthy by his uncle and four times over father-in-Laws house, decides to send Esau some presents to hopefully pacify him and he sends with him a message of peace.
“Im Lavan Garti Vaychar Ad Atah- I have sojourned with Lavan and have lingered until now”-Rashi explains the significance of this message as Yaakov telling him I didn’t become a dignitary I remained a immigrant, it doesn’t befit to you to hate me for those blessings that our father gave me that I will rule was not fulfilled in me. Rashi then shares another interpretation based on Gematria, noting that the word Garti-sojourn is the same numerical value as Taryag-613. Telling Esau I have lived with Lavan and yet I fulfilled the 613 commandments and I did not learn from his evil ways. The two interpretations of Rashi seem to go hand in hand. Yaakov assures Esau. Becoming rich, becoming a millionaire, the blessings of the fats of the earth were never part of my agenda. I remain a stranger, a Ger. I am consumed with one thing and one thing only obeying the commandments, studying the Torah, remaining the “man of the Tents” that I was before this whole cycle started.
Later on as well, when Yaakov gives his gifts to Esau, Esau declines stating he has no need from them because he has much. Yaakov counters however and states “Yeshi Li Kol”- I have everything. I don’t need anything else. All I have is with me. When he leaves Esau the verse tells us “Yaakov comes Shalem-complete to the city of Shechem in Canaan.” Rashi again notes he was complete in body as he was healed from his injury and limp, he was complete in his money that he did not lose anything of which he acquired, and finally and perhaps most significantly he was complete in his Torah, in his study. He never forgot anything that he had learned in the two decades that he had left his father’s house. For Yaakov the ultimate completion is only if he is able to maintain his connection with his Torah.
Each of forefathers we are told represent a different aspect of our connection with Hashem. Avraham, our first Patriarch represents Chesed-Kindness, charity, hospitality. The love and newness of each morning is connected with the morning prayer of Avraham that recognizes the kindness of Hashem each new day. Yitzchak, second father, initiated the prayer of Mincha each afternoon. He represents the power of service and prayer to God. It is not only about recognizing the the kindness of Hashem each day in the morning. It is about staying faithful and being loyal and committed to him as we go about our daily activities. It is finding Hashem in the fields. In the wells we dig and in the journeys we take as well.
Yaakov, the last of the Patriarchs, is the man of the night; the Jew who lives in darkness and in exile. He represents, our sages tell us the pillar of Torah. The Jews eternal connection to Hashem which shines greatest even when there is no Temple for the service and sacrifices that bring us close to Hashem, even when we perhaps might not even be able to perceive the kindness of the morning of Abraham. The Torah is that light for us. Within each letter every Jew can find his place. Each person can reveal the essence of his soul and the light of his Creator as he studies its holy words. The scroll and its letters are the same that have been studied by our people from the time it was given thousands of years ago. Just as it is forever so too is our people.
I attended another Hachnasat Sefer Torah a few days before our own. It was in Har Nof, Jerusalem and it was dedicated in memory of my childhood friend Aryeh Kupinsky (HY”D- may Hashem avenge his blood), who was murdered while praying in his synagogue in the morning last year by animals who have no respect for life and thrive on their culture of blood and death. There were thousands of people that attended the streets of Jerusalem were full of our nation celebrating in the dance of the Torah, our dance of life. I went over to Aryeh’s parents and was at a loss for words. What do I say? Do I wish them Mazel Tov as is traditionally done upon the occasion of this dedication. But their son was killed. He’s gone. His wife and the orphans he left behind can’t possibly be celebrating. What could I say? But then I saw them. Aryeh’s children, his brother, his father all gathered in a circle together singing like there’s no tomorrow.
“Baruch Hu Elokeinu SheBaranu Lichvodo ViHivdilanu Min Hatoim VNoson Lanu Toras Emes VChayei Olam Nata BiSocheinu”- Blessed is our God who created us for His honor and differentiated us from those that stray and He gave us the Torah of truth and eternal life He implanted within us.
They were singing louder and louder. “Eternal life He has implanted within us”. Aryeh is not gone. His life and his teachings, his chesed and his dedication are all teachings in the Torah that formed him That made him who he was and that will continue to be a light and inspiration to all those that will read from that Torah and be inspired. The Jewish people will be forever. Am Yisrael Chai. They may be able to take our bodies, kill our young, massacre us in the streets and curse us in the media and condemn us in the halls of the United Nations. But they can never take our Torah. They can never take the eternal words and light that we will ultimately share with the world away from us. We were dancing the dance of the Torah and the dance of life. It is a dance that we hope very soon the whole world will dance soon with us.
Have a thankful Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S VIDEO OF THEWEEK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbw9eHe9i-Q – ONCE AGAIN IN CASE YOU MISSED IT LAST WEEK-Our Hachnasat Sefer Torah Dedication in Young Israel of Karmiel produce by Yonah Schwartz!!!
https://youtu.be/fg51la8Yayc – Maccabeats new Chanuka video and song cool! I like Latkas J
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrIjzUK0FKg –The incredible story behind the vote of UN November 29th 1947 that led to the State of Israel
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVv7K-TqRcY – Original Bilvavi song of Rav Hutner
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Besser ain freint mit gekechts aider hundert mit a krechts.”- Better one friend with a dish of food than a hundred with a sigh.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JEWISH PERSONALITY AND HIS QUOTES IN HONOR OF THE YARTZEIT OF THE WEEK
.“ When it comes to community work, one must accept upon himself three resolutions: never lose one's temper; never get tired; and never want to win. I have seen you over the years and have noticed that in the face of adversity, you have not gotten angry. Over the forty years that you have been in communal service, you have never gotten tired either. Now you must pass the most difficult of tests in communal endeavors. You must learn that it is not crucial to win - it is only crucial to try” -Rav Hutner in a letter to Rabbi Moshe Sherrer after a resolution that would’ve helped Yeshivos failed to pass the US Supreme Court
“The nurse asked me in the hospital if the pillow she arranged for me was “Noach Li (comfortable for me) I responded that I have almost reached Lech Lecha.”- Reb Hutner in his final days
“The power of Teshuva is the greatest innovation since the Creation of the world”
"Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh l'hadar k'vodo, uv'mishkan mizbeach asim l'karnei hodo, ulner tamid ekach li es esh ha'akeidah, ulkorban akriv lo es nafshi, es nafshi hayechida- I will build a tabernaclee in my heart to glorify God's honor. And I will place an altar in the tabernaclee dedicated to God's divine rays of splendor. And for the eternal flame I will take upon myself the fire that fueled the Binding of Isaac. And as a sacrifice I will offer Him my soul, my unique soul”.-Song and Poem composed by Rav Hutner (* Schwartz trivia-my wife walked down the chupah to this famous tune J).
Yartzeit-20th of Kislev this Wednesday
Rav Yitzchak Hutner (The Mittler Rebbe-Son of Baal HaTanya) (1906-1980)- The saying goes they just don’t make them like they used to. Rav Hutner certainly fits that category of Jewish leaders and scholars who’s weltanschauung and breadth of knowledge and spirit was something so unique that is so sorely missed today. Born n Warsaw, Poland, to a family with both Ger Hasidic and non-Hasidic Lithuanian Jewish roots. As a child he received private instruction in Torah and Talmud. As a teenager he was enrolled in the Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania, headed by Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, where he was known as the "Warsaw Illui" ("prodigy").
Having obtained a solid grounding in Talmud, Young Yitzchak joined a group of the Slabodka yeshiva that established a new yeshiva in Hebron. In his personal diary he wrote of that period of time “Six months have passed since I came to Slabodka. I have changed much during this short period. Life is rich in problems. The multi-colored flow, the multiplicity of contradictions and conflicts allow for awesome questions which touch the soul and burn to the depths and all of life from the womb to the grave ...and when I came to Slabodka all the diverse questions and problems were upon me...and as long as I lack an all-encompassing worldview I cannot become a musari.”
He studied there until 1929, narrowly escaping the 1929 Hebron massacre because he was away for the weekend, on his way to see Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook who he felt drawn to and learned much from. He was taken by the multidimensionality of Rav Kook (his integration of different schools and approaches) by his total mastery of both the nigla (revealed) and the nistar (hidden) segments of Torah, by his sensitive, refined character, by his poetic nature, and by his fresh, dynamic spirituality. Rav Hutner has been quoted as declaring that “had I not met Rav Kook I would have lacked 50% of my being.” Perhaps the most important thing he learned from Rav Kook was the need to communicate the Nishmas HaTorah, the soul of the Torah, including the whole gamut of non-halachic Torah: Jewish thought, musar, kabbalah, and Chassidus.
After the pogrom in Hebron in 1929, Hutner spent some years as a wandering scholar. First, he returned to Warsaw, from there going to study philosophy at the University of Berlin, but not for degree purposes; he was not interested in degrees or the jobs they could offer, but rather in the actual material that the university taught him. He befriended two other future rabbinical leaders then studying in Berlin: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, later to become Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University in New York City, and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson who would become rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch in Brooklyn. The three were to retain close and cordial personal relations throughout their lives, though each differed from the other radically in Torah weltanschauung (hashkafa). Nevertheless, each developed a unique bridge and synthesis between the Eastern European world-view connecting it with a Westernized way of thinking. This was a key factor enabling them to serve successfully as spiritual leaders in the United States of America.
By 1935 the couple had emigrated to Brooklyn, New York where r, he soon joined the faculty of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School (RJJ) and eventually he got a job teaching Mesivta Chaim Berlin High School until he became Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin's senior rosh yeshivah. Under Rav Hutner's charismatic leadership, Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin grew from relative obscurity to prominence, and with it grew his reputation in the world of Torah scholarship. Rav hunter felt very strongly that students should try to blend the worlds of Torah with a secular education that would help them support their families. At one point in time he worked to create a College associated with the Yeshiva, however when Rav Aharon Kotler objected he relented. In the late 60’s he began to fulfill his dream of returning to Israel by starting a yeshiva here. He began to take many trips here. Fascinatingly enough he describes a meeting he had back to back with Rav Amram Blau of the Netirei Karta whom he was close with and Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook of the Mizrachi religious Zionist movement. He took pride in being able to blend all the worlds.
In 1970 his flight to Israel was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. He was held hostage along with 40 other Jewish passengers as all of Israel prayed for their release. They were released 3 weeks later however he was very weakened having lost almost 40 pounds during that period. In 1979 he finally moved to Israel and he passed a little over a year later there. He is buried on Har Hazeitim Mt of Olives in Jerusalem. May his memory be blessed.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Jericho is found in Area
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL RASHI OF THE WEEK
In the Rashi mentioned in the Torah portion above Rashi makes an interesting statement “I lived with Lavan and observed the 612 commandments and di not learn from his evil ways. The commentaries note that every word that Rashi uses to explain the Pshat is significant. Seemingly all that Rashi had to say was that Yaakov was observant of all the commandments. If he observed all of the commandments wouldn’t that then preclude him from learning from the evil ways of Lavan? Isn’t it redundant to than have to add in that he didn’t learn from him? The answer our sages say in a very powerful message is that it really isn’t enough. We see from Rashi that one can be observant of all of the commandments but still be impacted and influenced by the evil ways of Lavan and the society in which they are enmeshed. Just because one is Shomer Shabbos doesn’t necessarily mean he appreciates the spirit and holiness of Shabbos. Just because one doesn’t rob or steal doesn’t mean that he treats his neighbor’s money with the same care and responsibility as his own. Just because one prays three times a day is no guarantee that he or she is or will be more connected to Hashem in the times that he is not in the synagogue. Yaakov tells Esau, and Rashi goes out of his way to point this out, that not only was I fully observant but I also did not learn or lower my standards in the way I lead my life because of the influence of living in Lavan’s society for 20 years. Halevai we should be able to say the same.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL HISTORICAL EVENT THAT HAPPENED ON THIS DATE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
United Nations Vote of November 1947 that led to the State of Israel –In Israel the date is known as the Kaf Tet B’November- the 29th of November. Intereting how it is a blend between the Hebrew and the English date. The Jewish date is the 16th of Kislev this Shabbos being 68 years since that historic vote. After WWI the British to a large degree but the French as well were in control of “Palestine” formerly part of the Turkish Empire in order to monitor it for its independence as the other countries all eventually declared after that war. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon. The British prior to WWI had already promised the Jews their own State although their population back then was less then 60,000. However by 1947 the Jewish population had increased almost tenfold to close to 600,000 (interestingly enough that was the number that the Torah tells us were the original Jews that came to Israel the first time around when we left Egypt 3000 years before). The Arabs though numbered more than twice that amount though. By that time the British has already realized that staying in Palestine was untenable and they turned the matter over to the UN that sent out commissions to decide what to do. The recommendation was to recognize a “Two State solution” with Jerusalem as an international city. The borders of said Jewish State was pretty much from Haifa down the coast till Ashdod the Jezreel Valley and the Eastern Galilee from like Tzfat and east and of course lots of desert in the Negev. The Arabs would have the entire center of the country and most of the Jordan valley. To give you a sense what this border means from the Arab border of the West Bank to Netanya-Israel’s thinnest part is 8 Miles or as an Israeli who used to be stationed on the border told me one cigarette to light up at border and put it out in Sea, In former President Bush’s words its smaller than the top of Dallas Fort Worth airport from top to bottom.
Yet the Jews were still happy with opportunity of what they saw as the beginning of the right to have a country of our own. There was a lot of lobbying that went on in order to get the 2/3 majority that was needed in the UN to get that vote. (see the YouTube clip above for some of the interesting behind the scenes stories). But eventually it passed. The UN has voted to recognize two states in Palestine. The Jews declared Statehood and celebrated the Palestinians till today have not declared Statehood. Should they declare it would be recognized as per the resolution from 1947. They have not declared yet because as back then they are not ready to declare any borders that would recognize the State of Israel to exist. Although there are tragically some Israelis that would be happy with a little coffee shop in Tel Aviv that they could hang an Israeli flag from and sing Hatikva from and call their State and give the rest back. The Arabs won’t give up one inch and they still do not have a State. Maybe its worthwhile to learn from them. But I digress. This vote was a huge thing. Jews throughout the world celebrated and danced. Some even saw in it Messianic resonances. The vote and subsequently the British departure led to the War of Independence and to the declaration of our Jewish State on Heh Iyar 1948, a few months later.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JEWISH THANSGIVING JOKES OF THE WEEK
Top 6 ways you know you’re at a Jewish thanksgiving dinner
6. Your grandmother asks for the gravy by requesting “the turkey schmaltz”
5. Leftover vegetable kugel is suddenly titled “stuffing”
4. Your neighbor comes over to borrow your hat and jacket for his Pilgrim outfit
3. Someone accidentally starts singing shalom aleichem
2. Someone shares a really bad gematria dvar torah connecting Pocahontas and Hashem
1. It’s Friday night.
Top six changes if the pilgrims were Jewish
6. Indians' “How” greeting would have been answered with “I've been on a vashtinkina boat for 2 months, How do you think?”
5. Holiday of Succot would be renamed Teepees
4. Thanksgiving dinner was supposed to be veal, but there were Turkey shabbos leftovers.
3. Jewish geography would be used as the great ice-breaker, “Which Pocahantas? From Queens?”
2. Pilgrims become automatic Members of the Tribe
1. Plymouth Rock suddenly claimed as the Muslims third holiest site
Answer is A- The infamous handshake with former prime minister Yitzchak Rabin and terrorist Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton in Taba Egypt in 1995 known as Oslo II created the transfer of lands of the West Bank that were captured from Jordan in the six day war to the Palestinian authority. I emphasize captured from Jordan as there was no such thing as Palestinians back then. The Arabs then were Jordanians. The agreement divided up the West Bank into three areas Area A would be fully under Palestinian authority (who we armed) control.both civil and security, this is about 18% of the West Ban including the cities of Shechem, Yericho, Bethlehem, and Hebron. Entry into this area is forbidden to all Israeli citizens. And as the red signs say at the entrance way can be dangerous to your life. Nice… Area B is shared between the Palestinian authority and Israel in regards to security and is about 25% of the West Bank. It consists of about 450 Arab villages and no Israeli settlements. Area C is everything else and is the remaining 60% or so that is under Israeli control fully and includes Esat Jerusalem. Israel was meant, according to the accords to retreat from Area C and transfer it to Area B over time it did retreat from some but returned and retook it after Operation Defensive Shield when the Arabs had the second intifada in 2002. Because pretty much they really are not too good at keeping peace agreements that are based on us just giving them land for nothing. But I digress..