Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
December 18th 2015 -Volume 6, Issue 11 6th Tevet 5776
The Roving Rabbi
So I turned 45 this week. I’m halfway to 90. This is a good thing. 10 years ago I was only halfway to 70. My lifespan is increasing every year Bli Ayin Harah pooh pooh pooh as my grandmother would say J.
With my diet who knows? (19 pounds down- thank you very much.) But a birthday is definitely a time to reflect. Although with our exciting life I think I would need a year just to reflect, and that would be on all the trouble that I have gotten myself into, let alone all the good times, great tours, wonderful people and many blessings that we have experienced. I won’t even start on all the great meals and chulents. I’m on a diet remember.
One thing I can tell you is that it’s been exciting. New places every few years. Although that certainly was never in our plans, Each place we lived. OK. Maybe we were never really staying in Brooklyn forever. Too many Jews L- says the man who now lives in the Jewish country of Israel. I figure if I have to live with so many Jews I may as well get a Mitzva for doing it, here in Israel. But seriously. Many people that I share our life-story with, seem to have two responses. First they don’t believe that I’m only 45 as it would seem to be able to live in New York, Iowa, Virginia, Seattle and Israel, I would have to be at least 60. The second thing they wasn’t to know is how much the therapy bill for my children is. My daughter Shani, for example when we moved here was graduating elementary school in Detroit, where she boarded for 7th and 8th grade. We took an ad in here yearbook. It said on behalf on the Bais Yackov of Brooklyn, the Des Moines Jewish Academy, The Hebrew Academy of Tidewater, the Torah Day School of Virginia, the Seattle Hebrew Academy, The Menachem Mendel Seattle Cheder, The Torah Day School of Seattle and the Bais Yaakov of Detroit we would like to wish you Mazel Tov on your graduation from Elementary School. Not bad, huh? Even here in Israel she went to the Neve Chava High School in Karmiel for two years and then switched to the more American High School in Ramat Beit Shemesh to finish up her High School education, finishing up her education never being in the same school for more than two years. And she still turned out pretty amazing. It must’ve been her grandmothers and Tanta Rivky’s endless prayers for her.
But the truth is we really never planned to move or change so much. My wife always wanted a really stable life. But life is a funny thing, especially when you are involved in G-d’s work. Each place we lived in we felt that we had a job to do. We were sent and placed there to accomplish. We were accomplishing tremendous things. And then one day, it became clear for all types of reasons, that we were meant to move on. Things that were jut bizarre. Things that were out of our hands. The trip was over and it was time to pack. To find the next spot. To start all over again. That is the life of a Schwartz. It wasn’t always easy. In fact most of the time it was pretty hard. We had made great friends. We were just beginning to see many of the fruits of our years of labors and efforts. And then poof, it was time to move on. Why is that? As my mother would say “Do I have ants in my pants?”- (Pardon all the mother quotes this week- she’s in the holy land so I’ve been getting my healthy share of Toras Imecha, (My mother’s Torah) to make up for lost time.)
The answer to that question I believe can all be attributed to my Bar Mitzva Parsha this week; Parshat Vayigash which of course I learned by heart, after practicing it only a million times. There’s a powerful lesson in the story of not only Yosef, but also in the accompanying backstory of Yaakov his father.
Let’s take a look at Yosef first. As a young man and boy he has dreams of uniting his brothers, of leading them of providing for them and for them to recognize that as they prostrate themselves to him. Instead he is hated, he is thrown into a pit. He’s the opposite of a leader he’s a slave. Yet he takes in his new role and he sees this as the hand of Hashem. He has a new job a new shlichus, He’s the servant of the chief executioner of Egypt. Not exactly what he had planned. Later on just when he was getting good at his job and truly inspiring Egypt. Wadda Boom Wadda Bing he’s maligned, becomes the object of scorn and scandal and he’s in Jail. New job description- head of all the prisoners. Teach Torah and God and love of your fellow man to all of the lowlifes of Egyptian society in prison. Again not really the original plan. But hey, this is where he was placed. Then he must have a job there and he steps up to his new task. Once again he is flourishing and doing amazing. And wadda boom wadda bing he gets promoted and now he’s in Pharaohs palace. New job economic adviser to Egypt. Provide wheat for the entire world. Raise your two children in G-d forsaken Egypt and far away from your brothers, your father your land where it was all supposed to take place. But again Yosef rises to the occasion. Is it any wonder if this was my Bar Mitzva parsha that I would turn out the way I did.
Perhaps even more amazing than Yosef is the story of his father Yaakov. His whole life is one challenge after another. He is raised with his psychopath brother, Esau, and has to flee to another country, again far from his life’s mandate and dream, which is to realize the prophecy and his life’s mandate to become a Goy Gadol- a great nation in the land promised to Avraham, his grandfather. And yet he is stuck by his uncle the crook in Charan, He’s busy with goats and sheep and learning all of their mating habits. From over 20 years. He finally makes it back to Israel, and the challenges do not end. His daughter is kidnapped, his wife dies, and finally his beloved Yosef disappears. Over the last thing he is the most inconsolable. Can the dream and promise ever be fulfilled without Yosef; without all 12 of the tribes. It is devastating to him. And yet in this week it all comes together. He finds out Yosef is still alive. He sees the wagons that Yosef sends him and the food he sends for him and he realizes that Yosef was able to pick himself up in whatever situation and to continue to serve Hashem.
Yet he gets a devastating message. Hashem appears to him and tells him that he must go down to Egypt.
“And Hashem appears to Yisrael in the a night vision and he says ‘Yaakov Yaakov’ and He said Hineni-I am here
And He said ‘I am the G-d, the G-d of your father. Don’t be afraid of descending to Egypt, for I shall establish you as a great nation there. I shall descend with you to Egypt and I shall also bring you up. And Yosef shall place his hand on your eyes.”
Poor Yaakov. His whole life was about building a nation in Israel, and here it comes the news. Change in plans. You must go down to Egypt. The opposite of Israel, the 49th level of impurity. He is 130 years old. All of his children are finally together. The dream and all he had gone through his whole life finally has a chance to be realized. And yet he is given a new job, a new country, a new mission. Hashem tells him he will make him a great nation there in Egypt. But really who wants Egypt? That’s not what he was gunning for. That’s not what his life was meant to be about.
Yet Hashem tells him two things that will give him the strength and inspiration to do what he needs to do. First he speaks to him as Yisrael , but he calls to him as Yaakov. He in fact calls him twice in an endearing way. You are Yisrael that can overcome anything even an angel and yet you are Yaakov that still has the power and mission to raise up from the heel. Don’t worry. I am with you. I will go down with you. I will give you the power to go up from there. To raise up the entire Egypt. Rashi notes that Yaakov, never comes back to Israel. Hashem’s promise that he will be brought back up is a reference to after he is dead. He will be buried in Israel. The entire world, the Torah tells us in next weeks Parsha ultimately came to that funeral. Millions of people. The entire world that Yaakov uplifted, with his descent to Egypt. He was able to do that because as Hashem told him in the conclusion of that vision. That Yosef will place his hands over his eyes. Yosef, who as well continually transformed each mission and challenge wherever he was ‘sent’ in to a fulfillment of a new mandate in the service of Hashem. Yosef will help you close your eyes to your previously pre-conceived vision of the how things are ‘supposed’ to work and show you how one must always take on new missions wherever one is placed. Wherever Hashem sends you.
The Parsha next week begins and “and Yaakov lived” When Yosef is meets Yaakov again in this week’s Parsha it says Yaakov’s spirit lived again. In fact his response at that time is that I should Yosef before I die. It is then that Hashem gives him that nightly vision. Yaakov. I’m not ready for you to die. You will live. You will have a new life. It may not be the life that you thought, that you had planned. But it is the new life that I have for you. And Yaakov lives. In fact the Midrash tells us something fascinating, that Yaakov never dies. It doesn’t’ use the word and Yaakov died rather he expired. The spirit of Yaakov lives on. The ability and capacity that truly defines the Jewish people to pick up again and again and replant and rebuild and to take on once again the newest mission that Hashem places before us is the source of life that is in each of us. It is what defines us. It is the secret of our eternality. It is why we are called after him Bnai Yisrael- The children of Israel.
So there you have it a biblical psychological analysis of the life and time of tour friend here in Karmiel. I have no plans of ever leaving Karmiel and certainly not Israel. I pray every day that this is the last stop for the Schwartz family. There’s so much we want to do and accomplish here. There’s so much life that is waiting to be lived here. Yet, when people ask me if this is our last stop. I have gotten old and experienced enough to say, who am I to say? I’m just a shliach, a servant in the service of my Creator. He gives me my itinerary. I just go with the flow. May it be the will of our Creator, Our Father in heaven that he continues to keep the blessings flowing as well as I continue to experience life and live in His service.
Have a happy Shabbos and may the Schwartz be with you J.
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S VIDEO OF THEWEEK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJfzOJPH_Sk – Obama Chanuka Israel and Star Wars
https://youtu.be/EsxB2P9m5cQ – Lipa and Obama and the Yamaka Chanuka
https://youtu.be/aVz1kBnIDd0 - May the Schwartz be with you
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Der koved iz fun dem vos git im, un nit fun dem vos krigt im..”- Honor is measured by him who gives it, not by him who receives it.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JEWISH PERSONALITY AND HIS QUOTES IN HONOR OF THE YARTZEIT OF THE WEEK
.“You gave through your servants the prophets when you said: 'The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples. By their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other.” Ezra
“Now honor the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”- Ezra
“Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance”-Ezra
“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”-Nechemia
“But if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.”-Nechemia
Yartzeit this Weds the 9th of Tevet
Ezra and Nechemia (2nd Temple )- Another reason given for the fast of the 10th of Tevet is because it is also meant to commemorate those two prophets and heroes of the Jewish people who began the era of the “return to Zion” Ezra and Nechemia. Seventy years after our Exile from Jerusalem. The Jews were able to get a grant from Darius (possibly the son or grandson of Queen Esther), to rebuild the Temple. Ezra led the 42,000 returnees back and began construction of the Temple. The vast majority of Jews however chose to remain in comfortable Babylonia and Persia, although they were quite happy to make their “alimony” payments and support for the Temple structure. Y’know take my money and leave me alone. The ones that went with him were mostly the shleppers, former slaves as well as Kohanim and Levi’im. The Jews that rebuilt the Temple which was a small wooden structure rejoiced although the ones that had seen the former Temple wept. The process was stopped in the middle because of attacks from the Shomronim, Samarians that lived there. Until it was renewed again when Nechemia, who was an adviser to the King Cyrus was able to get a reprieve and approval and even financial support to rebuild the Temple. The Temple was completed incidentally on Chanuka, although a few hundred years before the Chanuka story happened.
During the years, the Jews began to intermarry and were quite ignorant of the laws. Even the child of the Kohen Gadol had a son that was intermarried- as we read in last week’s Haftorah. Ezra and Nechemia called the Jewish people together and through his inspiration and the reverence with which he was held created a mass ceremony where the Jews gathered and undertook once gain to observe the Torah and leave their foreign wives and commit to the Temple and the service of Hashem. They also were successful in ridding the Temple of the corruption that was prevalent and the persecution of the poor, declaring all previous debts void and providing them with lands and homes as well as exemptions from taxes. The Talmud tells us that Ezra was so great that the Torah could have been given through him as it was through Moshe. Nechemia, is also credited with building the walls around Jerusalem- Not to be confused with the walls of the old city today as Jerusalem back then was the city of David to the Temple Mount.
.RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
The prayer of Chana is considered a prefiguration of the.
C. Pater Nostra
D. Ava Maria
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL RASHI OF THE WEEK
Rashi didn’t have any extra ink. There is nothing that is written in his commentary that was written arbitrarily, without what Rashi felt was a need to explain something in the Pshat that one wouldn’t’ understand without his commentary. So when you find a Rashi that seems to just be merely translating something, you’re missing something. He’s not a Hebrew artscroll. He’s a commentary and making a comment.
This week is a great example. The verse tells us that all of the nations of the world come to Egypt to buy wheat from Yosef. And the verse says
“And Yosef gathered all the money that was to be found in the land of Mitzrayim and Canaan for the purchases that they were purchasing and Yosef brought all the money to Pharaoh’s palace.”
Rashi explains on the words the purchase that they were purchasing
“They would give the money to Yosef”
Now that would seem pretty obvious, wouldn’t it? I mean how else would Yosef get the money? We know that he was the one in charge. What is Rashi trying to teach us that we might be missing on our own?
The Minchas Yitzchak notes that the lesson that Rashi is trying to point out is that they gave the money to Yosef. The nations that came wanted to get into Yosef’s good graces. They brought money not necessarily just for the wheat, but for Yosef. “They gave the money to Yosef”-not Pharaoh. This was your typical middle Eastern under-the- table Bakshish, bribe money. Yet Yosef went out of his way to bring all the money to the house of Pharaoh. Nachmanides in fact explains that this is the whole reason the Torah is telling us this story about the financial dealings of Egypt. To show how Yosef acted ethically and honorably even beyond what he was obligated to do in his dealings with Pharaoh.
If only all of us and particularly our elected representatives would have that same moral fortitiude.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL HISTORICAL EVENT THAT HAPPENED ON THIS DATE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Targum Shivi’im- The Septuaguint -8th of Tevet the 3rd century BCE – It was about a hundred years or so before the story of Chanuka. Alexander the Great had brought the Greeks to Israel and given them their own autonomy there. When he died his Empire was divided by his generals the Syrian Greeks in the north and the Ptolemaic Greeks in Egypt. Generally the Jews fared better under the control of the Ptolmeys in Egypt. Sometime under the rule of Talmay II the Talmud tells us that 72 sages were brought in to translate the Torah and the books of the prophets into Greek. The Greeks wanted to examine the Torah to see if there was anything that they found to be offensive. According to Talmud each of the sages were placed in a separate room and were asked to translate it. Miraculously enough each one of them-without prior consultation made various changes from the original text in order to obviate any confusion that the Greeks might have. The Torah was written so that its content might be open to a great variety of possible interpretations. The Torah was given in the Hebrew together with a prescribed method for interpreting its words, verses and letters; thereby eliciting the wide range of meaning which scholars see in them. There is no language whose words are as rich in possible connotation as is Hebrew, the holy language. For example, the sages translated "We will make Man" with "I will make Man" so that the non-Jews would not say that there are more than one God. All 72 sages translated all of these difficult verses with the same variation. A Rabbi of mine once said the bigger miracle might have been if they had all been in the same room and came out with the same text….
The sages saw in this day, despite the miracle that occurred to be a day of great tragedy and declared it a national fast day, which is commemorated two days later together with the fast of the 10th of Tevet. It even describes how three days of darkness fell upon the earth after this translation was made. The reason why they felt it was a tragedy was in the words of the Talmud
“To what may the matter be likened? To a lion captured and imprisoned. Before his imprisonment, all feared him and fled from his presence. Then, all came to gaze at him and said, 'Where is this one's strength?”
In addition the sages felt that the Jews would now even more so assimilate into Greek culture viewing the Torah as just a historic translated text rather than the holy book it was meant to be.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S STAR WARS JOKES OF THE WEEK
Luke and Obi-Wan walk into a Chinese restaurant. Ten minutes into the meal, Luke’s still having trouble with the chopsticks, dropping food everywhere. Obi-Wan finally snaps, “Use the forks, Luke.”
Q: Which program do Jedi use to open PDF files?
A: Adobe Wan Kenobi
Q: Which website did Chewbacca get arrested for creating?
Q: Why did Anakin Skywalker cross the road?
A: To get to the Dark Side.
Q: What do you call Chewbacca when he has chocolate stuck in his hair?
A: Chocolate Chip Wookie
A: Chocolate Chip Wookie
Q: Why didn’t Luke cross the road?
A: Because he got a ticket for Skywalking.
A: Because he got a ticket for Skywalking.
Q: Which Star Wars character uses meat for a weapon instead of a Lightsaber?
A: Obi Wan Baloney
A: Obi Wan Baloney
And last but not least
What do Jewish Star Wars fans play with? Droidles.!!
Answer is A- So the Christians, never being quite original theological thinkers, believe in this concept call prefiguration, which in a nutshell is the concept that everyone in the “New” Testament is a reincarnation/Gilgul of someone in the Old Testament. It’s how they were able to steal a lot of concepts from us. One of my Rabbis once told me, that a great sage was once asked how is it that Christianity, which is based on such blatant falsehoods able to survive for over a thousand years? Isn’t there a concept in the Torah called “Sheker Ain Lo Raglayim-That falsehood has no ‘legs”-it doesn’t have any sustainability?” And he responded that sinceit is based on the truths of the Torah so therefore despite its distortions and obfuscations it can still hang around. It closer to the truth than paganism. Well anyways I don’t’ even have patience to Wikipedia these things for you, so Ill work off my memory. Benidictus is like a thanksgiving prayer on redemption, Pater Noster or how its more commonly known as the “Lords Prayer” is like our Avinu Malkeinu. And Ava Maria or Hail Mary is a blessing on women and children. The correct answer is Magnificat which is stolen from the prayer of Chana for children in Tanach. In the church of visitation in Ein Karem in Jerusalem its all over the walls there in every language. And there you have it, more than you would ever want to know about this subject.