Our view of the Galile

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Getting it Right-Vaeira 5776/2016

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

January 8th  2016! -Volume 6, Issue 14 27th Tevet 5776
Parshat Vaeira
Getting it Right

It always amuses me, although it is somewhat tragic, how the ignorance of many Israelis about our history and biblical figures can sometimes lead them to making pretty hideous mistakes in what they emulate. One great example is this hotel that I visited in Eilat a few weeks ago with my wife, I say visited because I couldn’t afford to stay there, but the spa was only 90 shek, so that’s where we went while sleeping at a cheaper hotel. {Not that you get the wrong idea, that I just visited Eilat, which is a fantastic vacation city, but it was a business trip as well, as I had to check it out for some upcoming tours I had. Oyyy the travails of being a tour guideJ}. Anyways the hotel was one of the most magnificent in Israel a few blocks long and glorious in every architectural way. Its name troubled me though. It was called the Herod’s hotel. Now I understand that they were naming it after that great King of Israel that built the 2nd Temple which according to our sages “one who had not seen in the Temple of Herod had not seen a beautiful building in his life”. In addition he built the Tomb of our forefathers in Hebron, the glorious port city of Caesarea and other huge edifices around Israel (tour guides on this list can you name them?). Yet, Herod was not a nice person. He was kind of a psychopath. I was wondering as I was looking out at the beautiful swimming pool, if the namers of the hotel knew that Herod had his own children and grandchildren drowned in his pool, because he suspected them of trying to overthrow him. Or as I stood over the beautiful balcony looking out at the glorious view of the Eilat mountain range and the hills of biblical Edom if they knew that Herod’s wife committed suicide jumping off the balcony of his palace rather than being married to that tyrant. (Incidentally he had her preserved in honey after that and would continue to bring her to all State Functions-think about that next time your husband says Honey, can you come hereJ). The man was literally a paranoid murderer, who killed thousands of Jews in the worst possible way. Not someone I would think you should name a hotel after.

And then one can go to the Dead Sea area and be greeted by the Lot Hotel. Also not a great name for a hotel. Again being that this is near the ancient city of Sodom, where Abraham’s nephew Lot lived and which the angels rescued him from before its destruction with fire and brimstone, it was thus named. Yet, let’s see what I would expect to see in a hotel named after Lot. First of all the food is probably pretty salty, the beds might be to short or long and your feet can be stretched or shortened as was the custom in Sodom. In addition I would probably be a bit nervous being my daughters there, as Lot threw his two daughters out to the street to be molested by the local mob. On the other hand the wine is probably pretty good, as the Torah tells us Lot got plastered after his city was destroyed…yet I wouldn’t recommend sharing a room with any family members that night. You never know who you’ll wake up with in the morning.

Sadly, there’s a lot of things like this in Israel. I always get saddened when I meet an Israeli named Nimrod-which the Torah tells us was a great warrior, but our sages tell us that he was the despot king that threw Abraham into the fiery furnace and build the Tower of Babel to rebel against God.. Why not name your child Hitler, or Stalin? It’s not just an Israeli problem, though I remember once being in a Synagogue in Chicago and an individual got up to the Torah to give his newborn daughter her new name. He called her Michaela Yardena, which sounded kind of nice until I put two and two together and realized that the man was a Chicago Bulls fan. Ouch! But the truth is throughout history we see Jews seem to be forgetting our roots, the significance of maintaining our decidedly and uniquely Jewish identities and names and trying to blend in as much as possible. I remember once going to the ancient city of Tzipori, with a Chasidic family and how they noted how strange it seemed to them that the names of those who had dedicated the synagogue mosaic floor 2000 years ago were Plonius and Marcus-decidedly not your typical Jewish names. I reminded them subtly that their names Berel and his wife Fayga were also not really biblically oriented. Ummmmm. But it’s true. Jews in Spain became Pedro, in France became Jean, and in Africa probably Walla Walla Boom Boom. Yeah we kind of forget that the non-Jewish names and countries that we are in will come and go. It is only us that are eternal.

Why do we forget? Why do we try to assimilate? What can we do to counter that? Is there some Divine plan or trick to remember? The answer is of course there is. In fact Hashem commanded us twice a day to remember one story. To have a Seder feast each year with our family and to retell the story of how we became a nation. The lesson that we learned on the day that we were born. The lesson of our Exodus from Egypt.

This week’s Torah portion tells us the beginning of the story of our Exodus. We’re all familiar with it. We saw the movie, sadly enough, Heston’s and the Disney version. We know about the blood, the frogs, the wild animals, lice and hail and we remember the splitting of the Sea. Little kids sing about Pharaoh in Pajamas in the middle of the night. Hashem made a big production out of this. It is certainly memorable, we know the stories and our sages and our parents Midrashic elaborations and embellishments. Yet sometimes we get so caught up in the details we can forget the big picture. We can forget the big question. The elephant in the middle of the room. I think it is the question that we should ask, but perhaps too many of us might have the wrong answer, particularly in our politically correct world. I remember someone once asked me it in Seattle, although they kind of missed the boat, but they came close. Let’s see if we can stumble on it together and maybe than we can have the insight I believe we are meant to in our lives today.

The question I was asked is why were the animals killed, throughout the story? The poor fish in the plague of blood, the frogs-they didn’t seem too bothered about the lice, but the poor sheep and cattle in the plague of Pestilence. Oyy… What did they do wrong? A real good Seattlite question J. Being a Rabbi I kind of responded to the question with what I think is really a better question. We do that sometime, by the way, in order to get to the clarity of the issue and to follow the line of questioning and logic to its ultimate conclusion. I asked and what about the babies and children of the Egyptians, what did they do wrong? Let’s take it a step forward. Was all of Egypt really culpubale for the actions and stubbornness of Pharaoh? There were many of them that were pretty ready to let the Jews go at various points during the plagues. Yet all of Egypt suffered. All of them drank blood for a week. All of them had boils, lice, darkness, they all lost their firstborns. Why? I can understand that sometimes there is collateral damage in a war. If it’s Israel that causes this there is of course world condemnation. If it’s the US then they talk about establishing a commission to investigate, If its Putin, he kind of smiles, and if its Arab against Arab like in Syria today then we all just send them money and supplies. But this is God we are talking about that is inflicting this upon- a decidedly and unquestionably evil nation-but certainly He is not abiding by any type of Geneva Convention laws.

The question, as well guess can be posed, why we had to suffer so long as well? What was the point of all of those Jewish babies thrown into the Nile? The torture, the slave labor, the attempted Genocide? The horrors that our people suffered for close to two centuries is incomprehensible? Why did God allow it? This is not only a question that we are allowed to ask. The Torah in fact at the conclusion of last weeks portion as asking it? Where are You? You have not redeemed your people. The Torah begins this week with the answer to all of the questions above with the answer in a nutshell it goes something like this “I am God-the Omnipotent one and I have heard your cries and I will take you out with great miracles and bring you to the land of Israel So you will know that I am Hashem who takes you out and the land your forefathers dwelled in will be yours as an inheritance.” Got it? All makes sense now? Let’s take it slowly and try to dissect this. After all it is the essence of everything. It’s what we are meant to remember.

We had forefathers, they recognized Hashem as the Creator of the world, but never revealed the ultimate mission of bringing the concept of a God that is above time and space that is running the world with an ultimate goal of it achieving that recognition of its Godliness to the rest of the world. And thus HE has chosen their descendants to be his people that would be charged with bringing that light to the world. That’s the picture. Those people for them to succeed have to realize that they are different than anyone and everyone else. They can be leaders and the most influential people in the world at one point in time, As Joseph was in Egypt, as the Jews were in Spain, Germany, Communist Russia or even the good old US of A. And in the next minute, if they forget their mission, their job, their ultimate real home, they can be thrust into the nile, the inquisition, the Gulag, or the Aushwitzes of history. But ultimately I will take them out. Note the tense of the word that the Torah uses “I am Hashem who takes you out” present/future tense. Always that is our story. When I take you out it will be with miracles that are there to show you that you are not Egypt. They will drink blood and you will not be able to even give them your water, but sell them to them (otherwise it wouldn’t change). Don’t get confused, you are above them. They need to realize that and even more significantly you need to realize that. Their animals die so they must come to you for animals. They’re children will die, so that they may recognize that only through the Jewish people and nation will salvation come, will the light come. We need to realize that even more so.

Hashem didn’t just miraculously transport us from Egypt magically poof “Disapparate”-for all those Harry Potter fans.” To Israel. He extricated us from them with 10 plagues that would teach them and us a lesson that we should never forget. He blew them away. He showed that every aspect of Creation would go against its natural way of working because they all serve Hashem which is above time and “modern” conceptions of right and wrong, just and fair and “proportionate and disproportionate responses”. The only right is what brings the world closer to its inevitable purpose, the only good is when the Jewish people recognize that it is ours to bring that to the world from the country that our forefathers lived in for that is our inheritance and our legacy- the word Morasha/inheritance is also present and future. Evil is whatever stands in the way of that purpose. Whatever detracts and enslaves us, whether it is external forced labor and persecution or it is our internal tendency to stray and abdicate our role and assimilate. Or even worse look to the world for direction or morality, rather than lead and teach them as we are meant to.

Hashem is just and all His ways are just. The story of our birth as a nation is one that is filled with horror and dread. It is what happens to a world that is Godless. It is what happens to a world that the Jewish people had chosen to assimilate and accept the dictates of their society rather than to lead the world. It brought tragedy upon us and it brought tragedy and devastation for Egypt and the rest of the world. We have said “Never Again” many times since then, yet tragically it has happened again and again. It happens daily horrifically today even within the “modern” State of Israel that Hashem has blessed us with returning to. We are home but still need leading. Still not teaching. Still answering to the worlds hypocritical sense of morality that seems to only be slung at us, because we have not given them the alternate and only true sense of morality that we are meant to. We have yet to claim Israel as the country that is our inheritance to bring the name of Hashem and His Torah as the only true theology to the world. It’s why we are here. It’s why we were born. It’s what the world is awaiting for us to do. It’s what our Father is waiting for us to do. I await the day when hotels in the US of A will be called The Avraham Avinu Hotel, that in Saudi Arabia they will be called the Moshe Rabeinu Plaza, that the names Herod, Lot and Nimrod are not only never used in a Jewish context but are even scorned by the rest of the world. A world where the entire United Nations will invite the leading sage to teach them about ethics and morality. A world where evil is finally eradicated. A world where the Jewish People finally and truly Never forgets.

  Have a super duper Shabbos and Chodesh Shvat Tov,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

https://youtu.be/LxLbzolGxr4    – Keeping up the Diet funny videos here’s another great one about a contest “biggest Loser” to raise charity for Autism… Really funny but again gotta be a bit yeshivishe to appreciate to the fullest

https://youtu.be/051OvN2--44   – One of my favorite American Israelis Dov Shurim wh composed the controversial song that was used at the “Jewish hate wedding” as they are calling it in Israel. Offering his insight and response to the claims of Jewish Terrorism. I agree with him. It’s in Hebrew though… Although he breaks into English.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsMUPCBTRRM  Here’s just a great song Elokai that I fell in love with this week. Eitan Katz, really beautiful…


“A nar ken fregen mer frages in a sho vi a kluger ken entferen in a yor..”-  A fool can ask more questions in an hour than a wise man can answer in a year.

However important it is that love shall precede marriage, it is far more important that it shall continue after marriage.
“If someone is too tired to give you a smile, leave one of your own, because no one needs a smile as much as those who have none to give.”
It's not how much or how little you have that makes you great or small, but how much or how little you are with what you have.”
 I see a child enveloped in flames. The bystanders are afraid; they do nothing, or else they are only trying to save the building. I see the child. I rush in. Should I first ask my neighbor whether he, too, sees the child? Should I worry whether, in my haste, I am jostling someone, or perhaps hindering the salvage of the building by running in? Perhaps I am causing a draft, fanning the fire? “‘But,’ you might ask, ‘what if you are too late? What if the building collapses on top of the child in a roaring con – flagration before you reach it?’ To this I reply: ‘Were I to be buried under it, I would at least have done my duty.”
-Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch -Yartzeit this Friday the 27th of Tevet
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) – The last quote above was written by Harav Hirsch when was a mere 27 years old. Yet to a large degree, it was that determination and sense of responsibility for the future of the Jewish people, more than his brilliance, oratory and writing skills that made him into one of the most pivotal figures in Jewish history succeeding in accomplishing exactly that.
Rav Hirsch was born in a unique time in Jewish history. The world was post- Napoleonic renaissance and Jews were rather than being persecuted were allowed to practice their faith freely and were even offered equal rights and opportunities as their gentile neighbors. In that world the “Haskala/Enlightenment” movement began to take hold in Eastern Europe as well as the Reform Movement in Germany. Both of these movements viewed the Torah and traditional Jewish observant lifestyle as being outdated, non-binding and in fact detrimental to Jewish advancement. In Germany the Reform Movement held its inaugural dinner on Yom Kippur Eve with a festive meal that served shrimp and non-Kosher, their Temples had mixed choirs, and introduced organs that were played on the Sabbath in violation of the law. Some Synagogues went so far as imitating the church’s that they were emulating and switched the Sabbath to Sunday (although interestingly enough many had a separate pew seating for men and women for the same reason-as they were emulating the churches. Jerusalem, the notion of a return to Israel and a longing for a Messianic era were all scrubbed from their prayer books and services as they were viewed to be outdated and non-Patriotic. Germany was declared the “New Jerusalem”… if there were ever famous last words…  Much of the above would be an anathema to even the Reform movement today. Thousands of young Jewish children were being swept into the waves of “modernity” and the old Jewish schools were struggling or lacking the skills to fight the battle for the Jewish soul. It is into this world that Rav Hirsch was born and in which he ultimately dedicated his life’s work and blood to transforming.

As a young boy Rav Hirsch studied in some of the greatest Yeshivot in Hmaburg and in Manheim studying at the feet of Rabbi Yackov Ettlinger author of the seminal work Aruch Laner on the Talmud. He then attended the University of Bonn interestingly enough studying there at the same time as his primary antagonist Abraham Geiger. In the university he studied languages, Philosophy and history. He served at various pulpits and became the chief Rabbi of Moravia after publishing his seminal work Horev that explains the ideas and concepts behind the commandments, yet at the same time declaring the essence of them being the word of God and our obligation to adhere to His word. Before the publisher agreed to print the Book though, as he felt that there was no market for it, he requested that Rav Hirsch publish a shorter easier “test work” to feel out the waters. In turn Rav Hirsch came back with one of his most prolific works known as “The 19 Letters” which written as a dialogue between two friends one who is looking for meaning and reasons to embrace his faith and not leave it. The work took Germany by storm and eventually spread throughout Europe and even to Russia. And thus Rav Hirsch became the general and voice of the battle to maintain tradition.

The battle ground was in the city of Frankfurt Am Main. There the Reform movement had established by a community board under the government auspices that had diverted all the communal funds from the traditional Jewish schools, shutting down the Mikvas, the Jewish burial society and canceled the Kosher meals that were being served to Jewish patients in the hospital. Rav Hirsch took over the leadership of the community and established his own independent community Kehillat Yeshurun. He began by reestablishing the Mikva and then began the school and then the Shul. He felt that schools that he founded were of the upmost priority for him. It is there that he taught and developed his weltanschauung-world outlook that really changed the entire orthodox world until today of Torah Im Derech Eretz- Torah with an incorporation of and engagement with the education, knowledge and wisdom of the larger world, seeing it as an expansion of ones appreciation of the supremacy of Torah and its ability to offer relevance and insight to modern times. In the Realschule schools he established Torah was of prominence yet the curriculum included geography, sciences, music, French and English and advanced mathematics. 

Although there were Rabbis and Orthodox leaders that opposed the introduction of this type of revolutionary school system in their community and preferred a path of total disengagement with the world, All agreed that Rav Hirsch, because of the personality that he was and who did what he did purely for the sake of Heaven and the Jewish people single-handily saved his community and reestablished the ability of Traditionally Judaism to stand up to the challenges of modernity and create a Torah Jew that was comfortable and confident in both world.

Rav Hirsch’s legacy stands not just in the works that he authored that are classics, particularly his commentary on the Torah, nor even in the German Kehillat Yeshurun community that is still active according his customs and his worldview today in Washington Heights. To a large degree his path of engagement in the secular society lay the framework for the Orthodox Yeshiva system today in America and  generations of Orthodox Jews that have succeeded in bringing the light of Torah to the world in all areas of the Sciences, Medicine, law and even Technology. Today as all of the other movements who have broken from the traditional path struggle to define themselves and to save their mass hemorrhaging movements with the newer generations. Orthodoxy stands proud as the movement that not only has been the only one to continue the traditions that have been passed on for thousands of years and were given to us so long ago on Sinai, but are the ones that will continue to hold that banner high as an eternal one that speaks to every single generation. And that to a large degree is due to Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch’s leadership. May his memory be blessed.

answer below at end of Email
The Ahmadite movement was founded in
A.    India
B.     Iran
C.     Caucasus region
D.    Istanbul
Sometimes a deeper look at Rashi can reveal a better understanding of something that we may take for granted, something as simple as the translation of a word, that we assume we understand. Take this Week’s portion for example. The Torah interrupts the story of the Exodus with another retelling of the lineage of some of the tribes, at least the first three, and then proceeds to tell us about the house of Levi, their children and how Amram marries Dodato Yoecheved and she in turns give birth to Aharon and Moshe. Rashi on the words Dodato Yocheved says
 “Achot Avohi- Aramaic translation for his father’s sister, the daughter of Levi the sister of Kehat”
Now seemingly this seems to be obvious, after all doesn’t Dodato mean aunt? And isn’t an aunt his father’s sister? And if she is his father’s sister than doesn’t that make her the daughter of Levi and thus the sister of Kehat? What’s Rashi’s problem here? What is he worried that we are not going to figure out that he needs to comment on.
The answer the Sifsei Chachamim notes is that unlike modern day Hebrew, in the Torah dodato an aunt is not your father’s sister, but rather your uncle’s wife. He quotes the verse in Vayikra where it talks about forbidden relationships and there it calls one’s fathers sister-just that- a father’s sister, as opposes to one’s father’s brother’s wife as you aunt, your Dodato. Therefore Rashi needs to clarify it.
In addition Rashi is noting perhaps, that what is the reason why the Torah is going out of its way to tell us that she is his aunt? The answer is because she herself is important. She is the sister of Kehat. Meaning that although there were three brothers Kehat- the bearers of the Ark was the most important and respected brother. Yocheved, Rashi is telling us, was Kehat’s sister, she was also important. That’s the reason the Torah is telling us the lineage of Yocheved to let us know that she was a great person, like her brother.
And I think that’s pretty cool! Never thought that there was a difference in the Hebrew word Dodato. I guess that’s why we need Rashi.


The Perushim take control of Sanhedrin 28th of Tevet this Shabbos – It is a day that is recorded in a work called the Megilat Taanit as a holiday that was celebrated during the 2nd Temple. I twas the best times and worst of times. The Jewish people had their Temple in Jerusalem, the Maccabees and the Chashmonaim had conquered the Greeks and the Jewish Hellenists and restablished the Temple properly as the place of God. It didn’t last too long though by the time the third generation had rolled around the Jews had once again abandoned their commitment to Torah and its values. A new sect arose called the Saducees or Tzadokim that began declaring that there was no Eternal world or reward and punishment, and that the sages and the Oral transmission of the Torah were not binding on the people. They were mostly corrupt Kohanim priests that had taken over the service in the Temple and took advantage of the masses. It was a mess. In opposition to the Saducees were the sages who were called Perushim or Pharisees. They stayed true to the Torah and tried to uplift the people and guide them on the true and just path. The King Yannai or Janaeus, a descendant of one of the Chashmonaim, was married to the leading Sage, Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach’s sister Shlomtzion. The Saducees though eventually corrupted this Kings mind with suspicions that the Rabbis would usurp his power-as in truth the Jewish tradition is that only a King from the tribe of Judah could rule, and Yannai from the house of the Chasmonaim were priests from the tribe of Levi. Ultimately they took control of the Sanhedrin and things were going downhill. There were massacres in the Temple of Pharisee Jews by the King. But ultimately on the 28th of Tevet Shimon Ben Shetach was able to wrest control back of the Sanhedrin by proving that the Saducees really didn’t know much about Jewish law and tradition. It is kind of difficult, as one of my Rabbis once said, if you’re making your religion up as you go along. That day was celebrated as a holiday. Ultimatly Yannai died and his wife Shlotmtzion became one of the greatest Queens and leaders during the Second Temple period heralding in a new era of peace and prosperity and Torah knowledge and service of Hashem.


Jay, Tom and Paul were at a convention together sharing a large suite at the top of a 75-story hotel. After a long day of meetings, they were shocked to hear that the elevators in their hotel were broken, and they would have to climb 75 flights of stairs to get to their room.
Jay said to Tom and Paul, “Let’s break the monotony of this unpleasant task by concentrating on something interesting. I’ll tell jokes for 25 flights, Tom can sing songs for the next 25 flights and Paul will tell sad stories for the rest of the way.”
At the 26th floor, Jay stopped telling jokes and Jim began to sing. At the 51st floor, Tom stopped singing and Paul began to tell sad stories.
“I will tell my saddest story first,” he said. “I left the room key in the car.”

The Following is from Hotels in Tokyo but many could very well have been from Israel.
Funny Hotel Notices In The Lobby

  1. English well speaking.
  2. We take your bags and send them in all direction. 
  3.  In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.
  4. The elevator is being fixed for the next day during that time we regret that you will be unbearable.
  1. In the lift: Do not enter the elevator backwards, and only when lit up.
  2. To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor.
  3. Customers are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 am daily.
  1. Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please.  If you are not person to do such thing please not to read notice.
  2. Please to bathe inside the tub.
  3. Please leave your values at the front desk.
  4. You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.
  1. Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.
  2. Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.
  3. Special today - no ice cream.
  1. For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service.
  2. If this is your first visit to Tokyo, you are welcome to it.
  3. Order your summer suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.
  4. Specialist in women and other diseases.
  5. Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

 And of course my favorite joke…
Yankel’s mother calls his camp after the summer with her complaints. She is furious that her son came home without his towels.
“What type of camp is this?” she yells “What type of children, from what type of homes that takes things that don’t belong to them? I don’t understand how this could happen!”
The secretary at the camp apologized and suggested that perhaps little Yankel had merely misplaced his towels and they would proceed to look for them immediately. She asked the Mom if she could please describe them for her.
Yankel’s mother said “They are very recognizable, they all say Hilton on them….”


Answer is A- Not all Muslims believe in killing Jews. The Ahmadite movement, which in Israel is based in Haifa broke off from Islam in the mid 1800’s viewing Islam as peaceful movement that is meant to incorporate all of the previous religions into its vision of world peace, love for ones fellow man that will eventually herald in the final era of when the One God will reveal Himself to the entire world. The movement was founded in India and today has close to 15 million adherents all over the world. They believe that the Torah and its prophets are true, as well as the founder of Christianity-although they believe he is dead and buried in India and never rose again, as well as Buddha and Confucius are real prophets. Why not? I’m still not sure if I can get my name on that list as well. Maybe. The Muslims of course persecuted and persecute them today all over the world something fierce. After all they kind of spoiled their fun as they explain jihad as a personal battle over ones evil inclination. But wouldn’t it be nice if there more muslims that adopted this mind set. One can only wish….

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