Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 26th 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 21 17th Adar I 5776
Parshat Ki Tisa
There's one thing I never really got about Super Heroes. I can accept the whole radioactive spider thing or Kryptonian planets that they may come from or even some type of chemical occurrence that will cause them to be
super-fast, strong or even green when they’re angry. I'm cool with all that. But perhaps someone can explain to me why it is that when they put on a small little mask some tight leather and a cape or in the case of Superman just slick back his hair and take off their glasses that no one can recognize them. Now c'mon, I've tried those masks on and have lost or broken my glasses plenty of times and even donned a cape (or at least a Tallit quite often) although admittedly I avoid tight leather pants, and somehow no one seems to have a hard time figgering me out. So what's up with this whole mask bit? Am I missing something?
Now I don't want you to get the wrong idea here. I am not a frequent dresser- upper and no matter how long I lived in Seattle it didn’t inspire me to change any time soon, despite the common bizzare attire that you might find on those that seem to be celebrating Purim all year that walk around Capitol Hill. No I'm quite comfortable in my own clothes and have never been particularly tempted to even wear lighter colored pants or colored shirts. Black and white suits me well. Yet, there is that once a year Purim season that I do get involved in that fun creative costume-ish type of mode. It's then when my mind turns to ponder those earth shattering as to the nature of masks and costumes and what makes them tick.
This week’s Torah portion introduces to us one of Judaism's greatest superheroes and lo and behold he too, the verse tells us dons a mask (probably a Tallit as well). For all those who are familiar with our Biblical hero Moses from the Torah rather than from Charlston Heston's depiction you would know, as we are told that post the sin of the Golden Calf when the forgiveness of God was granted as a result of Moshe's super heroic pleas for mercy he came down from the mountain and put on a mask. Now certainly he had no secret identity he was trying to protect so what was the function of this mask.
The verse tells us.
"And it was when Moshe came down from the mountain... and he did not know that his skin of his face shine when he was speaking with them. And when Aharon and the
nation saw Moshe they feared to approach him."
The Parsha then concludes with Moshe's response. That when he finished speaking to them he then placed a mask upon his face and so it would be that whenever Moshe would speak with God he would remove the mask and then speak with the people. After he would speak the word of Hashem to them, he would then place the mask back on.
Now obviously this mask was not to hide Moshe's identity it doesn't even seem to be there to protect the Jewish people from his glowing countenance as he would remove it when he taught them the Torah. Rather Rabbi Moshe Feinstien suggests was to teach a lesson to a nation that sought to idolize (Golden Calf-literally) their leader and at the
same time to teach a lesson to all teachers for all time.
Yes, it is true that Moshe achieved a level of holiness and a relationship with God that the Torah tells us will never be replicated. "Face to face I speak to him" says the Lord. Yet at the same time the nation of Israel have to be able to view their leaders mask-less when it comes to the study of our Torah and teachings. There should be the realization and appreciation that they can also be a Moshe. That the study of Torah is not just for an elite that talks to God and hide behind a mask. It is for all Jews. It is our inheritance, our portion and our legacy. Our greatest leaders came from all parts of society, the wealthy the poor, the convert and even the very young. And so Moshe removed his mask so that they would be able to connect with that ray of light that was
There is also a lesson for our teachers and leaders, Rav Feinstien continues. They, no less than Moshe have to be able to see their students face to face as well. (I don't know what he would say to E-mail Insights, but I do invite you guys every week for Shabbos for face to face time and chulent too ). Without any masks or distance in a way that will connect with them. To understand their needs and challenges for their vantage
point, so in turn they can best be there for them in the ways that are most meaningful.
Maybe that's the difference between our heroes and the comic book heroes. Superheros in Judaism, unlike those caped crusaders, wear masks not to make themselves unrecognizable and to preserve their private lives so that the masses enthralled by their powers will be in even greater awe of their seemingly unattainable powers. No, our heroes, teachers and leaders wear their mask sometimes to cover up and hide that greatness so that the masses will never feel that they can't become heroes themselves. Their job is to teach and develop each of our own unique super powers to show their students their own humanity and mortality. To teach all of us the lesson that in the eyes of our Super- powered Creator all of us can bring down rays of glory and Godliness in our special role in the universe.
Have a Moiridikeh Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S VIDEO OF THEWEEK
http://itvideo.me/watch/?v=exjR_JuVJNE -Tribute to Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Yartzei this week
https://youtu.be/-oCstfrjb_E - Cool Dancing Chasidim catch that beat
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sWcBy-tNqI-Getting into the Wedding mood-like these Chuppa songs?
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“A lustiger dales gait iber alles” Happy poverty overcomes everything
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JEWISH PERSONALITY AND HIS QUOTES IN HONOR OF THE YARTZEIT OF THE WEEK
““Learn well. Eat well. Sleep well. And always smile.”
“It is customary to request forgiveness from the deceased. However, I have nothing to ask you forgiveness for. During the course of our marriage never did anything occur that would require either of us to ask the other’s forgiveness....”
“It’s alright if you quote my thoughts in your own name, just please don’t quote your thoughts in my name”.” -
HaRav Shlomo Zaman Auerbach, zt"l, 11th of Adar this Shabbos (1910 - 1995)-There are great men, holy men, brilliant men and warm friendly sensitive people- a true Gadol a great man a real jewish leader is someone who embodies all of the above. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman was one of those individuals. Fortunate is the generation that merited to have him as its leader.
The future leader of the last generation was the first child to be born in the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood of Jerusalem founded by his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Porush, after whom he was named. (A cousin of my wife’s great grandfather) His father, Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Leib Auerbach, was rosh yeshiva of Shaar Hashamayim Yeshiva, pone of the primary yeshivos of the city. The conditions back then were of abject poverty, many times he was sufficed with some stale bread and a piece of halva. Rav Shlomo Zalman one time told a student, who had missed yeshiva because he was feling ill, that if he had to miss every time he felt ill, the chances are he would never been able to learn at all”. By the age of eleven he was proficient in the entire talmudic tractate of Kiddushin. As a teenager he attended the Etz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He was known for his diligence which is illustrated by an event which occurred while he was in yeshiva. On the day the first automobile rolled into Jerusalem along the Jaffa Road, all the students left their studies to marvel at the horse-less wagon. Only young Shlomo Zalman remained in his chair immersed in his studies. Following his marriage, to his spouse Chaya Rivka Ruchamkin which took place on Purim Meshulash in order not to waste time from learning, he moved in with his in-laws in order that he could dedicate himself fully to his learning..
His first major published work, Meorei Esh, was the first ever written on the subject of using electricity on Shabbat. The work was endorsed by Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski who read it and declared: "Or chadash al Tziyon ta'ir" - "A new light will shine upon Zion" - a quote from the daily morning prayers.
He had a close association with Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, as well as the Chazon Ish and Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach, the two iconic and preeminent leaders of Haredi Judaism of the first and middle segments of the 20th century. He became the pre-eminent halachic decisor of his time in Israel, respected by all streams of Orthodox Judaism. He was unique in his approach to halacha through thought experiments.
In 1949, he took a position as the Rosh Yehivah of Kol Torah, a position he heled until his death. One of his students note that perhaps his greatest lesson, was when he was asked a question during his first class that he gave there Reb Shlomo Zalman got up and said that he had erred, although he later said that he had three different responses, yet the question was stronger than the answers. His salary there interestingly enough was linked to that of the chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, as the Rabbinate had tried to poach him and with the urging of the Chazon Ish the yeshiva countered that they would always match that salary so as not to lose him. Renowned for his lucid classes as Rosh Yeshiva, his thousands of students continue to influence the Torah world today
But perhaps what most defined Rav Shlomo Zalman was his deep love and respect for every Jew. It didn’t matter what their background or religious perspective was. He met counseled and delighted in his interactions with everyone he met. His personal driver still treasures his music tape that Reb Shlomo Zalman gave him as a gift for being not his nahag-driver but rather as his manhig- his leader. He met with troubled children and families. He inspired with his appreciation that the Torah’s ways are of pleasantness that its laws must reflect that. His only periods of outrage when he saw others distorting that. Stories of how some people would allow their parents to carry in the Eruv on Shabbos for them because they would not use it, families that were nervous about relying on leniencies in regards to technology that would assist their families in regards to Shabbos usage, or those that would not rely on the leniencies in regards to the laws of Shemitta at the expense of shaming others, were all things that he decried. He raised his family to visit one another each week to show them how significant it was to have strong family ties. So many children in Jerusalem recall fondly how he would stop and schmooze with them. No one was beyond his scope of caring. This is what made him a Gadol.
After his wife died his health deteriorated. Yet until the end he would attend shul and greet and meet the many that came to him, getting upset when he found that his children were trying to keep people out and limit their access to him. His final acts were writing out checks to Tzedaka for needy families and making sure that his house keeper would get paid enough to sustain her family even after he was gone. An estimated 300,000 - 500,000 people attended his funeral in 1995. He was interred on Har HaMenuchot. Yet his legacy remains strong for all those that he inspired to follow in his ways. Fortunate is the generation that had him as their leader..
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. The Gihon (inverted syphon) in the Amud stream is associated with:
- A. The national water carrier
- Electricity in Naharayim
- Water to Magdala
- The early aqueduct to Tiberias
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL RASHI OF THE WEEK
There are times that to appreciate and fully comprehend Rashi’s understanding of the Pshat one has to really see the entire line of thinking that Rashi has in his understanding of the story being explained. More often than not, what he says in one place will shed light on another place. Not everyone can keep that line of thought but the Rav of Brisk certainly can.
In this week’s Torah portion Rashi has a consistent view that the story of the Golden Calf takes place before the commandment of the building of the Mishkan. On verse 33:11 Rashi gives his view of the timeline. Where he suggests that the 17th of Tamuz the Tablets were broken, on the 18th the Egel was burnt and the sinners judged and on the 19ht Moshe went up to plea on their behalf. The Ramban disagrees with Rashi, however and suggests that the Egel was burned and sinners punished all on the 17th. What is the reason for this debate?
The Rav suggests that this is really based on a previous debate between Rashi and the Ramban on the circumstances for why they were punished. Earlier in verse 32:20 Rashi suggests that three penalites were carried out. Those that had witnesses and that were forewarned were punished by sword as is the ruling for a city that worships idolatry (an Ir Nidachas), those that had witnesses but no warning died in the plague, and those without either were killed when the water they were forced to drink bloated their bellies. The Ramban on the other hand learns that there were too many people to bring to court and as a result this was considered extenuating circumstances and each Jew were told to carry a sword and carry out the judgement against the sinners in order to sanctify the name of Hashem.
The difference between the two opinions, the Rav states is that according to Rashi that the judgement was carried out in front of a court, then then the law that the court cannot issue its judgement for a death penalty on the same day that it is brought. They muse “sleep over” it for a night perhaps there may be a way to find an out for the accused. Therefore Rashi understands that the penalty wasn’t carried out until the following day. The Ramban, on the other hand who explains that the entire procedure was extra-judiciary would not require the overnight, and in fact quite the opposite the penalty must be carried out immediately. Two different views to understanding the story and the applicable laws that would impact the date on when it took place. So much depth when one sees Rashi as not just an independent commentary on the verse but rather as a whole commentator of the entire Torah.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL HISTORICAL EVENT THAT HAPPENED ON THIS DATE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Death of Joseph Stalin- 18th of Adar 1920- There is a joke that was once said, although the names can be changed, that the Rabbi had foretold that Jospeh Stalin would die on a Jewish holiday. When asked how the Rabbi knew that, he answered that any day that Stalin died would become a Jewish holiday. I don’t know about the 18th of Adar being a holiday but certainly the month of Adar is a time to celebrate the downfall of our enemies.
Stalin who polluted the world with his existence from 1878-1953 ranks right up there with Hitler as one of the most evil people of the last century. According to estimates he is responsible for anywhere from 10-60 million deaths under his regime of fear and terror. Stalin, like Hitler, was an anti-Semite and the Jews of the Soviet Union suffered immensely under his rule. Many Jews were forced into slave labor under Stalin upon fleeing Nazi-controlled areas. Jewish refugee children also grew up under horrendous conditions in the Soviet gulag. By 1953, the status of Soviet Jewry had deteriorated even further and Soviet Jews faced a possible genocide. Inexplicably, Soviet dictator Stalin collapsed on Purim. Soon afterward, he died, sparing the Jewish people another Holocaust. It was a miracle!
Stalin’s Final Solution
Stalin’s plan to annihilate the Jews of the Soviet Union, which he formulated immediately prior to his death, remains one of the lesser known facts of history. Not even ten years after the conclusion of the Holocaust, there was a full-scale attack upon Soviet Jews, complete with purges, executions, imprisonments, and the imposed exile of tens of thousands of Jews. In early 1953, the Soviet media alleged that Jewish doctors had conspired to poison top-level Soviet officials, thus increasing the level of hostility directed toward Soviet Jews. The Jews lived in terror under Stalin, especially in the early 1950s. In the midst of the so-called doctors’ plot, Stalin planned to deport two to four million Jews to Siberia and Central Asia, where they would be annihilated as a collective punishment for a conspiracy invented by the Stalin-controlled Soviet media.
During a meeting with top-level Soviet officials, there were government members who did oppose Stalin’s plan. Vyacheslav Molotov, who was married to a Jewish woman, staunchly objected to Stalin’s plans and had the audacity to tell the dictator that such a move would be horrendous for public relations. Another official, Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov, actually went as far as chasing away Soviet agents from his home using a rifle in order to protect his Jewish wife. He then told Stalin that he no longer wished to be a member of the Communist Party. An enraged Stalin responded that only he had the right to determine who was a member of the Communist Party. Soon after that, on Purim day, Stalin collapsed on the floor and died not long after.
Interestingly, on the same day that Stalin collapsed, the leader of the Chabad movement, the Lubavitch Rebbe, lead a Purim gathering. Members of the Jewish community had asked him to pray for the Soviet Jewish community. However, instead of doing this, the Lubavitch Rebbe told a story. He proclaimed, “After the czar fell in Russia, it was announced that the government would be holding elections. The Rebbe Rashab, fifth to Chabad dynasty, sent word to the Chasidim that they were to participate in the voting process. There was one particular Chasid who was completely removed from the affairs of the world; to him the political arena was foreign territory. Nonetheless, having received an explicit instruction from the Rebbe, he set out to fulfill his command. With a sense of awe and reverence he immersed himself in a mikvah (ritual bath), donned his gartel (belt for prayer) and set out for the polling booth. Of course, when he got there, he had no idea what he was expected to do, but some of the more worldly Chasidim helped him cast his vote. Adjusting his gartel, the Chasid did what everyone else was doing. When the votes were cast, everyone cried out ‘Hurrah!’ Taking his cue from those around him he likewise cried out, ‘Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!’”
In this holy man’s heart, he meant to cry out in Hebrew the phrase, “hu ra,” which means “he is evil.” As the Lubavitch Rebbe stated the words “hu ra,” his face shown in such an inspiring way that his Purim gathering also began to shout “hu ra” with regard to Stalin. Soon after that, Stalin passed away. It is as if the Jewish people were praying for a miracle, and they got one.
According to Dr. Alex Rashin, author of Why Stalin Didn’t Murder All of the Jews, Stalin’s death “in itself [is] such a happy end to a huge threat [that] deserves to be remembered and commemorated by all Jews.” Traditionally, Jews believe that whenever the community is miraculously saved from disaster, this date should be celebrated on the appropriate date. Thus, in 1996, Dr. Rashin initiated Little Purim celebrations in honor of Soviet Jewry being saved, a tradition which continues in over 100 synagogues across the United States.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COMMUNIST JOKES OF THE WEEK
(In mockery of Stalin may his name and memory be erased, death day)
A Russian is informing the KGB. “I think my neighbors have suspicious contact with the West.”
KGB agent: “How can you tell?”
Russian: “I hear them eating every night!”
An Englishman, a Frenchman, and a Russian are spending a day at an art gallery. They come across a portrait of Adam and Eve.
The Englishman says, “Look how noble and dignified they are! They seem to be wise and cultured. Clearly, Adam and Eve were English.”
The Frenchman scoffs at this. “Look at how beautiful and sensual they are! They’re so graceful and in love, I’m certain that Adam and Eve were French.”
The Russian man is listening, and laughs at what he hears. “Comrades,” he says, “Adam and Eve have no clothes, no shelter, and all they have to eat is apples- and they are being told that this is paradise! Adam and Eve are obviously Russian!”
Khrushchev was busy denouncing Stalin at a public meeting when a voice shouted out “If you feel this way now, why didn’t you say so then?” To which the Soviet leader thundered “Who said that?”
There was a long and petrified silence which Khrushchev finally broke. “Now you know why.”
Five precepts of the Soviet intelligentsia (intellectuals):
Do not think. If you think - do not speak. If you think and speak - do not write. If you think, speak and write - do not sign. If you think, speak, write and sign - don’t be surprised.
Brezhnev sees a man carrying a watermelon while on a car ride on his way to home. He asks the driver to stop the car and approaches the man. He tells him that the watermelon is looking nice and asks him to sell it to him.
The man replies “Sure, pick the one you want” and Brezhnev asks “How can I pick? There is only one”.
The man replies “Just how we elected you.”
Rabinovich appeared at an October demonstration with a sign:“Thank you Stalin for my happy childhood.”
The party organizer runs up to him. “What are you trying to do? You’re an old man! When you were a child, Stalin wasn’t even born yet!”
“Yes, and for that I thank him.”
“Yes, and for that I thank him.”
Four dogs - Mexican, American, Polish, Russian - are discussing their lives. The Mexican dog says, “the servants used to leave meat out for me, but now I have to bark for it.”
The American dog says, “you have servants in Mexico?”
The Polish dog says, “they feed you meat?”
The Russian dog says, “they let you bark?”
Brezhnev is making a speech to his comrades. A man stands up and asks “Comrade Brezhnev, what would be our war strategy if China attacks us. There are more than a billion Chinese people”. Brezhneve thinks for a minute and replies “We will fight same way Israeli Jews fight with the Arabs - they rely on quality, not quantity”. Another man stands up and asks “Comrade Brezhnev, are you sure we have enough Jews?”
Answer is A - OK anyone out there know what an inverted syphon is? No, don’t feel bad either do I. I’m not an engineer. I’m just a tour guide, remember? That being said I got this right, as I do a lot of these questions by process of elimination. Nachal Amud is up by Meron a beautiful hike with options for a circular hike, or a longer one to Tzfat or an even longer one that goes all the way down to the Kinneret. So once you know that, then you can eliminate right away naharyim as this is nowhere near there. I was not aware of any reason to have an aquaduct going to Tiverya or Magdala as they both sit on the Kinneret, with plenty of fresh water so what would be the point? Which leaves the Movil Artzi-national water carrier, which has its Sapir plant by the Kinneret. Seemingly the way this thing works is that water is pumped from the Sapir plant to the national water carrier and it has to cross over the Amud stream so it is sent down a funnel like tall channel that builds up pressure and speed so that it can shoot up and out over the other side and continue on its path. That’s it.