Our view of the Galile

Friday, January 1, 2016

Then and Now- Shemos 2016/5776

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

January 1st  2016! -Volume 6, Issue 13 20th Tevet 5776
Parshat Shemos
Then and Now
I’m not a fan of the secular New Year, not that anyone ever asked me. Historically from what I have read, it was traditionally a time when Jews were killed for supposedly killing the Christian “savior”. So it might be a time when some Jews would want to get drunk. I hear that. Maybe like Purim. But the difference is we were saved from Haman not from Pope whatsisface . Yet I understand the urge for people to have a time when they might want to reflect on the past year. We do that on Rosh Hashana, our gentile brothers should have a day too. They even blow horns, if my memory of living in the Diaspora serves me correct at midnight. Yet reveling on the moment of their reflection doesn’t’ necessarily seems like kind of the wrong way to do things. But who am I to ruin a good party? Maybe they should bring some Breslavers to Times Square to help them out. Those guys can party any day of the year.

But the truth is there is quite a bit to reflect upon over the past year. Recently someone sent me a very cool E-Mail with what the world looked like in 1915 one hundred years ago. Its really pretty amazing. Here I’ll include a few things from back then, of course with my comments and poignant reflections included
The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.- wow and I knew there was a reason I was feeling old
Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only- today in Israel you can buy a refrigerator in some gas stations…why I don’t know
Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub- no comment about the smell on some of the buses here that makes me kind of wonder what the percentage here is?
Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone-this is probably true today as well as most people have cell phones- the Schwartzes have a telephone that no one seems to answer in the house though
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.- Like Jerusalem during Rush hour or 7:00 AM-9:00 PM
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower-What is it today?
The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour. The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year. A dentist $2,500 per year. A veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year. And, a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.- and people still didn’t move to Israel… Oh yeah there was no Israel back then either. Wonder how much Hi Tech paid back then?Rabbis? Tour guides?
More than 95 percent of all births took place at home …-hmmmm and this was before Obamacare you say?
Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools.- Maybe that’s why dentists got $2500 and veterinarians got $4000 and that’s probably why people were having babies at home
Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee was fifteen cents a pound- how much coffee can you make with a pound of sugar and coffee. And what are the eggs for?
Most women only washed their hair once a month, And, used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.- Aha now we understand the eggs…
Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country.- so they moved to Israel.
The Five leading causes of death were: 1.   Pneumonia and influenza 2. Tuberculosis 3. Diarrhea 4. Heart disease 5. Stroke- Number 3 was probably as result of all that coffee and eggs, and it really must have been bad with that slow traffic.
The American flag had 45 stars. The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.- Then Donald Trump was born.
Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented yet.-I could live without all of those. Corona comes in a bottle.
There was neither a Mother’s Day nor a Father’s Day.-And then there was Hallmark
Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write- But did they text my kids would like to know.
And, only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach, bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!” - So that’s how they got by. I wonder if they told them that it also helps with not noticing the smell of your wife’s hair.
Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help…I wonder how much he or she got an hour? Ahhh the good old days
There were about 230 ‘reported’ murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.! Which is most surprising of all. I think there were probably a lot more, but nobody had a telephone to report them with…

Jokes and snide comments aside, you have to admit this is pretty amazing. The world is truly moving at a very fast pace. Faster than possibly it ever has in its advances in technology, medicine, and in making the world a more productive and comfortable place to live. One can barely even imagine what life was like a mere hundred years ago. At the same time though the world has certainly deteriorated since that time. Divorces, suicides, 10’s of millions of people who have died in wars, the breakdown of society and its morals. Hollywood, Television, the internet, the honest coverage of the news media (one of my personal pet peeves), forget about the deterioration of what once used to be the bastions of our education the universities and colleges which today are pretty much centers of liberal anti-Israel rhetoric that cost three arms and 4 legs. Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all back then? Reflect.

While your reflecting though. This week’s Torah portion gives a bit of insight as well to a dramatically changing world. The Jewish world. Our ancestor’s world. The land of Egypt where it all started. The Book of Shemot-which is thus called because it begins with a list of the names of the tribes of Israel and the 70 souls that came down to that country concludes 210 years later with approximately 2-3 million Jews. We are told that 600,000 men between the age of 20-60 left Egypt. If we double that for women and then add in everyone over 20 and over 60 we’re looking at a pretty huge birthrate. The Torah tells us that in fact the Jews were “fruitful, and multiplied very very much. The Midrash tells us that they had 6 babies at one shot. And if you do the math from 70 to 3,000,000 in 210 years its pretty much the only way you can come to that number. And so from a small family of the descendants of Yaakov the nation of Israel was born. 2 centuries that’s all. How much did we change in that time? How different were they from their forefathers?

The Torah gives us mixed messages about this people of ours. On one hand, we are told that the Jews in the beginning were certainly a large influential part of Egypt. This is not surprising. After all our grand-daddy Yosef saved the entire country in the first book of the Torah we just concluded and through his economic policies- we Jews are always good at that- raised them to the status of the world empire they became. Our Rabbis and even the Torah tells us that the Jews were also idol worshippers. The sea didn’t want to split for them for that reason initially and the Jews had to sacrifice the Pesach lamb, the idol of Egypt that they had worshipped in order to merit leaving. We were assimilating. Something that we have a tendency to do, when we find a gentile that doesn’t want to kill us…at first.

On the other hand the Torah calls this book of our people the Book of Shemos. The book of names and our sages tell us that the Jewish people, who may have been assimilating into the culture of Egypt, still maintained their Jewish names and identities. Yankel stayed Yankel and Leah never became Cleopatra. This was of course before the Torah was given so we didn’t really have Torah and Mitzvos, commandments to keep us separate, so our names became our distinctive identity. We kept them for 210 years. I don’t know if that ever happened again in the any of our histories of Exile throughout the millennia.

It was more than just our names though. The Jews despite their assimilation and despite their eventual persecution kept something else the same over the 210 years that we were in Egypt. They kept their belief that they would one day be redeemed and they kept their faith in God. The Torah tells us how the midwives- Shifra and Puah- or as Rashi says Yocheved and Miriam “feared God” and they saved the Jewish children. The Jewish people cry out to Hashem from their pain and suffering. The Jewish taskmasters take blows and put their own lives on the line for the Jewish people that had turned into slaves. They feared Hashem. These two things are not disconnected. They all come from the first exile into Egypt that set the tone for our people there. None other than Yosef. In fact the story of Yosef is the precursor to our story in Egypt.

Yosef, is taken from his family and his roots and thrown into a strange country. Yet he always longs and awaits the day he will return. Years in prison and yet he still believes in his redemption. As well Yosef is the man who consistently repeats the phrase “I fear Hashem”. He says it in the house of Pharaoh. He says it in prison. He says it to his brothers when he is reunited with them. In fact it is Yosef who tells his children in his final command that Hashem will redeem his people from Egypt and bring them back to Israel. His request is only that they bring him along. The bones of Yosef would one day come out with them. If they remember Yosef, if they remember his fear of Heaven, they would also remember that they would be redeemed.

The story of our Exile to Egypt begins with the statement and a new king arose in Egypt that did not know Yosef. The king forgot Yosef and perhaps the Jews forgot Yosef and thus the slavery began. And then we remembered. The midwives remembered, the people suffered and remembered. It came together. The time for the Exodus could now happen. Two long but short centuries in our Jewish history. Centuries of forgetting and remembering. Centuries of assimilation but always having that reminder that our names are our souls are unique, are different, are here to lift up the world.

 I once heard Natan Sharansky speak and he described that when he was in the prison in the Russia he received a Tehillim/Psalms from his wife Avital that he would keep with him. He wasn’t that learned and he was unfamiliar with the term that King David kept using “the fear of God”. He didn’t understand why one would fear God. Hashem was loving. Hashem was our father. Why should there be fear of him. He said one day it came to him. The fear of God meant that one was fearful of losing that Godliness that is in each of us. That image of God that we are created in. That is what Yirat Elokim is to him. Not remembering where we came from and what we are here to do. The word Shemot our names really shares the same root as Neshama- our souls. Our name as this book is called is really just describing our essence. Will we remember Yosef and long for the redemption and fulfill what we are here to do. Or will we be like Pharaoh and forget.

We’ve come a long way in the past century. There’s probably more Torah being studied than ever before in the Jewish world. There’s more classes, more programs, more organizations dedicated to kindness and charity and to assisting Jews in fulfilling the Mitzvot better. We have our Jewish identities, certainly in the Orthodox Jewish world, but even in the secular and non-Orthodox world. The question is though, do we still have the fear of Hashem. Are doing our commandments with the intent of fulfilling our purpose, of remembering Yosef, of longing for our redemption. Or are we just doing them because they feel as comfortable on us as our names do. Are they external names or are they our essence.  A hundred years ago, I still have a romanticized notion of the Shtetl Jew who may not have had as much learning as knowledge as we do today. But his faith was something that I can only dream of aspiring and one day achieving.  A New Year is not necessarily a Jewish day to reflect and look back at the past year. But the truth is every day is a day that we should be looking back and reflecting. Our sages tell us Masai Yagiyu Maasai LMaasei Avosai- When will my deeds achieve the level of the deeds of my ancestors. If we look back then God willing Hashem will bring us in the year 2016 or 5776 years from my Creation to the final redemption.

  Have a resolutely amazing Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://youtu.be/ooNVCMh_hFU   – Happy New Year to the Jews from Nasralla

https://youtu.be/Dknow5_mv0E      – Cool inspiring video of Oleh-not exactly your typical Jew…

https://youtu.be/5pIi9YkGXH0 A hilarious clip on Jewish exercising and working out in honor of my 22nd pound loss J- you really gotta be yeshivish to appreciate fully but if you are you’ll laugh your head off…


Az me ligt oif der erd, ken men nit fallen..”-  If you lie on the ground, you cannot fall..

Anyone who decides to be engaged in Torah [study] and not to work, and will be supported by Tzedaka - this person desecrates God's name degrades the Torah, extinguishes the light of our faith, brings evil upon himself and forfeits life in The world to come Any Torah which is not accompanied by work will eventually be nullified and will lead to sin. Ultimately, such a person will steal from others.
“Man's obsession to add to his wealth and honor is the chief source of his misery.”
I will destroy my enemies by converting them to friends.”
“It is well known among physicians that the best of the nourishing foods is the one that the Moslem religion forbids, i.e., Wine. It contains much good and light nourishment. It is rapidly digested and helps to digest other foods.” Rambam -Yartzeit this Friday the 20th of Tevet
Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon- The Rambam/Maimonides (1135-1204) – If one did not know that Maimonides was the name of a man, one would assume it was the name of a university. The writings and achievements of this twelfth­century Jewish sage seem to cover an impossibly large number of activities. The Rambam was the first person to write a systematic code of all Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah; he produced one of the great philosophic statements of Judaism, The Guide to the Perplexed; published a commentary on the entire Mishna; served as physician to the sultan of Egypt; wrote numerous books on medicine; and, in his "spare time," served as leader of Cairo's Jewish community.
Not that the Rambam had much free time in his personal description of his day he describes it a follows “My duties to the sultan are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning, and when he or any of his children or any of the inmates of his harem are indisposed, I dare not quit Cairo, but must stay during the greater part of the day in the palace. It also frequently happens that one of the two royal officers fall sick, and I must attend to their healing. Hence, as a rule, I leave for Cairo very early in the day, and I do not return to Fostat until the afternoon. Then I am almost dying with hunger. . . I find the antechamber filled with people, both Jews and gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and bailiffs, friends and foes-a mixed multitude who await the time of my return.
I dismount from my animal, wash my hands, go forth to my patients and entreat them to bear with me while I partake of some slight refreshment, the only meal I take in the twenty­ four hours. Then I go forth to attend to my patients, and write prescriptions and directions for their various ailments. Patients go in and out until nightfall, and sometimes even until two hours or more in the night. I converse with and prescribe for them while lying down from sheer fatigue; and when night falls I am so exhausted that I can scarcely speak.
In consequence of this, no Israelite can have any private interview with me, except on the Sabbath. On that day the whole congregation, or at least the majority of the members, come to me after the morning service, when I instruct them as to their proceedings during the whole week; we study together a little until noon, when they depart. Some of them return, and read with me after the afternoon service until evening prayers. In this manner I spend that day.”
And yet he still managed to become perhaps one of the most influential Jews and sages of all times. Born in Spain he fled the country from the Arabs there to Morocco, Israel and ultimately to Egypt where he lived until his death, as he was not allowed to leave the service of the Saladin the sultan of Egypt. Yet from that place in Egypt his word carried throughout the Jew world. His letters to the Jews of Yemen and to another country that had suffered persecution became classics in understanding and giving faith and hope to a down trodden persecuted people. His works and influence in Egypt saved the city which was under the influence of the Karaites a break off heretical fringe group of Jews that threatened the spirituality and future of our people, almost entirely ridding them from the city. There is almost no serious student of Torah today that does not study his works, this is despite the great opposition many of them faced during his lifetime when many of them were excommunicated and even burnt in the streets of France.
On his grave in the city of Tiberias, where he had ordered he be taken to and buried upon his passing, it is inscribed that “From Moshe until Moshe there has not been another Moshe that has come”. The Rambam, it is said chose to be buried in Tiverya for our sages tell us that when Mashiach comes the reestablishment of the Sanhedrin, which ended in that city, will occur once again. The Rambam wishing to be part of that. May we see that day soon.

answer below at end of Email
Id Al Adcha- “the holiday of the sacrifice” is celebrated
A.    The New Moon of the month of Ramadan
B.     The evening of El Kadyr
C.     The night before Haj
D.    The end of Haj
As we have noted in the past Rashi always tries to give us the simplest explanation of a verse. That’s his cardinal rule. In this week’s Torah portion though Rashi seems to go out of his way in his discussion of the story of the midwives who the Torah tells us was Shifra and Puah and Rashi tells us that they were in fact Yocheved and Miriam; the mother and sister of Moshe. The question one has to ask when reading this Rashi is why he feels it necessary to divert from the simple reading and bring in the words of our sages instead and to clarify the text. The answer I believe can be seen in Rashi’s continued interpretation upon the verse that the midwives feared Hashem and He made for them houses. Rashi understands that the “person” that made them the houses was Hashem. After-all why would Pharoh make them houses. And if it was Hashem what type of houses must it be talking about? Spiritual houses, or as Rashi says the houses of priesthood and the house of Levi that would come out of Yocheved and the house of the house of kingship that would come out of Miriam (who married Caleb from the trine of Yehudah). So therefore Rashi is forced to understand that the midwives were these two women as these two were the only people that received this gift from Hashem historically.
Interesting enough the Rashbam- Rashi’s grandson who also, like his Zaydie, tries in his commentary to stay true and explain the simple meaning of the Pshat, learns differently then his grandfather. He explains the verse as referring to Pharaoh as the one who built houses for theses midwives. He understands the verse as saying that when Pharaoh saw that the midwives were god-fearing and that there were many children being born despite his decree then he made “houses to make sure that they would not go to the women to help them give birth” basically putting them under house arrest. Seemingly the disagreement between the two is Rashi understands the “and he made houses for them” to be going together with the previous verse that “Hashem did good to the midwives and the Jewish people multiplied”. While the Rashbam understands that it is going on the next verse “and Pharaoh commanded to all of his nation to throw the male sons into the river”.
Two interpretations both in the simple explanation of the Pshat. Rashi, a bit more midrashic but certainly more widely known and accepted. But yet his grandson more textual even outdoing Rashi perhaps in sticking with the text.  
A real eye-opener in terms of how each generation can innovate and read in the pats of their ancestors but with their own insight.


Earthquake in Tzfat and Tiverya 24th of Tevet 1837 this Tuesday – The whole thing took about ten minutes and in that short time the history of Israel was changed for the rest of time. From the 1500’s until the earthquake of 1837, the city of Tzfat was certainly the most significant city in Israel if not in the entire Jewish world. It is there that the Kabbala of the Ari”ZL was developed, there the songs of Shabbat of Lech Dodi and the Shabbat meals songs were composed, the Classic works of the Shulchan Aruch of Jewish Law by Rav Karo and the sermonics of Rav Moshe Alshich were written and taught. And in ten minutes it all came apart. The earthquake that hit in this volatile area, due to its location on the Syrian African rift was 6.5-7 on the Richter scale over 2000 people were killed in just Tzfat alone and another 700 were killed in Tiverya. 2000 people is like 9/11 almost but in fact worse for the entire Jewish population in Israel at that time was less than 10,000. The equivalent of that would be close to 80 million people dying in 9/11 in the US whose population is 250 million.
There were many miracles that took place. The story is the told how Rav Avraham Avritch sent a message to all of his students to come to the synagogue and hold on to the Ark and pray right before the earthquake hit. That being the only wall that was miraculously saved in the synagogue. Similarly the wall of the Ark of the main synagogue of Tzfat that housed the holy Torah scroll of Rav Abuhav was the only surviving wall. The Alshich synagogue- known as the Baal Teshuva or penitent synagogue where the originally returnees to Judaism that had converted to Christianity during the Spanish inquisition once prayed was the only synagogue entirely spared.
Yet the tragedy shook up the entire Jewish world. The Chatam Sofer who lived at the time saw the earthquake and its devastation as being “the shame of Zion and Yerushalayim that had been abandoned by tis people” who had chosen to move to Tzfat and left our capital and holiest city of God in ruins and uninhabited by Jews. It was Jerusalem’s tears and shame that had caused this heavenly judgement.
From that moment on Jews first began to move back to Jerusalem and the old Yishuv and return to our holy city first begins to start. To a large degree it is the tragedy of the earthquake that led to the building and return to Yerushalayim that we have until today. May we soon see the completion of its rebuilding with the completion of Hashem Temple on His mountain.


“My New Year’s resolution for 2016? I will be less laz.”— Jim Gaffigan

“Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average. Which means you’ve met your New Year’s resolution.”— Jay Leno

God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
The good fortune to run into the ones that I do,
And the eyesight to tell the difference.

2011: I will get my weight down below 180 pounds.
2012: I will follow my new diet religiously until I get below 200 pounds.
2013: I will develop a realistic attitude about my weight.
2014: I will work out 3 days a week.
2015: I will try to drive past a gym at least once a week.

“New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” -Mark Twain

Cindy was taking an afternoon nap on New Year's Eve before the festivities. After she woke up, she confided to Max, her husband, 'I just dreamed that you gave me a diamond ring for a New Year's present. What do you think it all means?'
'Aha, you'll know tonight,' answered Max smiling broadly.
At midnight, as the New Year was chiming, Max approached Cindy and handed her small package.  Delighted and excited she opened it quickly. There in her hand rested a book entitled: 'The meaning of dreams'.
Answer is D- Again not my favorite topic Islam is required knowledge for any tour guide in Israel. Its really not that difficult religion to understand as most of it was soledn from us anyways and distorted but hey, originality has never been one of their strong points. So they believe that the story of The Akeida of Yitzchak- the binding of Yitzchak by Abraham who had been tested and commanded to sacrifice his son really happened to Yishmael Abrahams other son their ancestor. The Id is the celebration of that act of faith that is preceded by their Haj journey going to the mountain where that occurred which is not as we believe in the Temple Mount in Jerusalem but rather in Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Every Muslim is obligated to go there at least once in their life. The Holiday is celebrated by slaughtering and eating animal and sharing it them with friends, family and the poor. That’s it.

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