Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
March 4h 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 22 24th Adar I 5776
Curb Your Enthusiasm or TMI- Too Much I-spiration
(I wasn’t sure which title I liked better J)
My mother wasn’t the first choice of references for me when I was dating, and matchmakers would call to get information about me. Not that she didn’t love me or even praise me and build up my self-esteem. Quite the opposite, she knew me too well. And when I was deserving of praise, I got it. And when I didn’t I got that too. We’re just a brutally honest family. We’re not really big on false platitudes. We Schwartz’s say it like it is. Although my mother, tells me sometimes I take that a little too far. Perhaps the greatest Mussar she would tell me is “Siyag LChachma Shtika”- a fence around wisdom is silence”. A rabbinic way of saying shut up and sit down before you get yourself into more trouble. And there I go again…
I remember when a matchmaker called up my mother to ask her for information about me. One of the questions she asked was if I was strict about drinking only milk that was Chalav Yisrael, a basic law that one’s milk has have ben milked or at least observed by a Jewish supervisor to insure that no non-Kosher milk would be mixed in, although there are many that rely on the leniency that government observers of the FDA are sufficient. My mother in her inimitable honest fashion told the Shadchan that although her son was a very religious boy, it kind of ends by his stomach. Ouch! Well that one didn’t work out. When I finally met my Bashert, with whom I share an anniversary this week- Mazel Tov, Rebbetzin-, I remember my future Mother-in-law approaching my mother and telling her how much she was impressed by me. She noted how that although many young men find it uncomfortable to refer to their future in-laws as Mom and Dad, I didn’t have much problem calling her Mom. My mother’s inspiring glib response was “Did you feed him? He calls anyone that feeds him, Mom!” As I said brutally honest. But perhaps a little TMI- too much information.
This week’s Torah portion seems to be the opposite of the message above, as the Torah which generally adopts the policy of less rather than more information goes to a great degree of what seems like repetition in repeating once again all of the contributions of the Tabernacle and all its vessels. It’s a little like Déjà vu. Didn’t we do this already two parshiyot ago? The truth is that in Teruma the Torah just tells us about the commandment to Moshe to raise the funds for each of these vessels and the Mishkan. This week’s Torah portion tells us how it was carried out. There are differences and nuances that are notable between the two. Yet the Torah probably could have just said the standard, “And the Jews did as Moshe or Hashem commanded them” rather than reiterate it all. Obviously the Torah wanted us to note the differences between the command and the fulfillment of the commandment.
What strikes me though as most fascinating of all though is the incredible success of this first capital campaign. Everyone comes running with money, the men, the women are pounding down the doors to bring even the copper from their mirrors. In fact even the leaders of each tribe who had offered to underwrite any deficit and were disappointed to find out there was none ended up bringing precious stones. Amazing! Probably the best campaign ever. Then for the first and perhaps only time in Jewish history they realize that there is too much. “Marbim Ha’Am L’Havi- The people have exceeded to bring- more than we need to work with. Ever here any Jewish organization tell you that before? Too much money! Moshe responds by telling the people and sends a proclamation out in the camp. ‘Enough, no one shall bring more to the work of the contribution of the Mishkan.’ The Torah tells us though in a very strange term. Va’Yikaleh Ha’Am L’Havi- the nation held back from bringing. The root of the word Va’Yikaleh interestingly enough is Keleh-jail- a word too many Israeli politicians are familiar with-there I go again brutally honest. It is certainly an interesting term to use her. The people literally had to almost incarcerate themselves to prevent them from coming and giving more money. I’ve been a fundraiser in the past. That seems to be a little bit getting carried away.
What’s wrong with a little extra money? I’ve never met a Jewish organization that ever halted it and said we have too much. There’s always a little something more we can do with the money. A new project, improvements on some other structures, maybe start serving a chulent Kiddush after prayer services, a little better variety of herring. Maybe just save it for a rainy day, we know there is bound to be deficits in the future. Why stop when the going is still hot? As my uncle once told me as long as the cow is giving milk why not keep it around?
The answer is that sometimes too much is not a good thing. The Sin of the Golden calf for which the Tabernacle is meant to be an atonement for, also began with this incredible outpouring of enthusiasm and money (at least from the men). The idea and inspiration came from the concept that, we need to find a way to serve God, we need a replacement for Moshe. We need to create a God and a religion in our own image. The way that I want it to be. It’s about God and spirituality, but it very quickly becomes about me. And for me I’ll throw everything I have in it. You know those people that contribute to a Synagogue building campaign, or that run an organization or a fundraising event, how after a while their opinions and the way it has to be built or the way that it has to be run is more about them, than the cause they are trying to help. They want to give and to contribute and they do, but the Yetzer Harah- the evil inclination doesn’t sleep and he somehow is able to turn and twist that altruistic giving into something selfish, something that is more about you than about God and helping his children.
The way to know if it’s L’Sheym Shamayim- for the sake of heaven or if I have lost my compass and it is about me, is to know who’s calling the shots. When I’m told to stop. I stop, despite how much more I think I want to do. I need to do. I need to give. It’s not about me, Tataleh, It’s about Hashem. If the people are able to stop, if they can curb their enthusiasm, it is a powerful statement. It tells the world that this was never about us. We are here and we ae doing only for Hashem. Only because we are commanded to. Only to fulfill the will of our Creator, our Father in Heaven.
The Jewish world has come a long way in the past 50 years. We have more Kosher items than ever before and higher and higher levels of stringencies that our ancestors were unable to ever have, although many of them certainly would have wished that they didn’t have to rely on various leniencies just in order to put food on their table. Our Lulav’s and Etrogs are nicer and better than ever before. Our Shabbat observance with all our Eruv’s our innovations to enhance this special day are incredible. Who needs a Shabbos Goy anymore? We have beautiful Mezuzos and Tefillin and Torah scrolls that in the past people could never have. Our level of modesty whether it is in the wigs that our women wear that maintain the beauty of the Jewish women and make it easier for many women to fulfill that mitzva than they would have fifty years ago, the clothing, the honor our men give to the way they dress for prayer, for shul for holidays. These are all incredible things. They are good things. They come from a place a desire to honor Hashem, to glorify our faith and our practices. Yet…yet…yet…
Can it become sometimes about us as well? Can it be that I only can have this food because otherwise I won’t fit in? People will think badly of me. Do I look askance and down on those that don’t have my level of “piety” of stringency? Do I look askance on those that rely on leniencies? Am I projecting my standard on other people and coercing them, by the looks I give them, the way that I disassociate myself and my children from them to do what I do? Did I just read the last sentence with the words “my standards” and not pause and tremble, because I have forgotten that they are not my standards rather they are meant to be Hashem’s standards and I forgot. Did the Yetzer Hara succeed in distorting my inspiration to I-spiration, when it was really meant to be God-spiration? Maybe we need to stop. Maybe we need to reflect. Maybe we need to read the Parsha of the donations a second time, in order to learn not just how much we have to be inspired to give and do, but also to know that we have to somethings lock ourselves up and stop to make sure that we are still on the right track, and that we haven’t turned the most magnificent and beautiful thing in the world into an edifice of my own self-aggrandizement. The Torah definitely felt it’s worth a second reading.
We are entering the Month of Adar Beis. It’s a second month of happiness. Marbim B’Simcha times two. We start this month with the reading of the special portion of the mitzva of Shekalim, the contributions to the building of the Mishkan from last week. Two weeks in a row we read the same portion; Times 2. Yet we also read the portion of VaYakhel of the curbed enthusiasm. The message perhaps being that the way to achieve the extra Simcha, happiness with which we are meant to achieve and can tap in to this month is by contributing to others. The mitzvos of Purim are sharing food packages and giving charity. For many this can lead to a sense that it is about me giving. The Shalach Manot are about me, the charities that I will give to are the ones that are doing what I feel they need to be doing. That are being run the way that I want them to be run. We are offering our honest brutal opinions and doing it our way. We forget that we need to shut up and just give because it’s not about us. It shouldn’t be so hard. After-all we only want the best for Hashem. We only mean for His sake. Yet it is so very hard. And that is so very sad. On Purim, our sages tell us that the Mitzva to give to all who stretch out their hand to you. No questions asked. No opinions offered. Restrain yourself. Can you do it? If you can then you will know that it’s all about Him and not me… not you… If it’s too difficult, then don’t worry our sages gave us another mitzva. Drink a little bit. A little more. And a little more. You’ll find it gets easier. You’ll get happier. The “I” goes away and the essence, the soul comes out. Get that Yetzer Hara too drunk, to allow you to think it’s about me. Then you can achieve the true Simcha. The giving that is not about me. The holiness that is only about our Creator. We have become one with Him. It is he that we will always sanctify.
Have joyous and totally amazing Shabbos and a Simchadike Chodesh,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S VIDEO OF THEWEEK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPzLE1UmTxc –I’m loving this song this week. It’s also to help Ari Lindner get the other song L’Maancha out of his head J
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIs0BjJIbnk – Tribute in Yiddish (with subtitiles) and english to Sarah Schneirer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr4jSBlk7rM –Rak Simcha- in honor of Adar II
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Ah falsheh matba’ieh farliert men nit.”-One never loses a false coin”
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JEWISH PERSONALITY AND HIS QUOTES IN HONOR OF THE YARTZEIT OF THE WEEK
“People are such perfectionists when it comes to clothing their bodies. Are they so particular when they address themselves to the needs of their soul?”
“My dear sisters, don’t you realize that secular studies have all the glitter of gold and all the utility of gold to the body? Think! Can gold satisfy a physical hunger? By the same token, a Jewish soul can never be satisfied from secular studies. Only our sacred studies can satisfy the soul. I very much doubt if any student is as happy as I am when I read Sifrei Kodesh (sacred literature)”
“If only I could speak in such a way to my Cracow girl friends,” she thought, “how differently they would understand the preciousness of being a daughter of Israel. If I could only describe for them, the prophetess Deborah, Yehudis, Chanah,, how differently they would understand their shtreimel-wearing fathers, their mothers with heads covered, their brothers, the yeshivah bachurim.”
“Who can understand my feelings now? Who can compare himself to me now? How their faces shine – their eyes sparkling with happiness – when I explain the meaning of a berachah to them!”
Sarah Schenirer 26th of Adar this Sunday (1910 – 1935)- Sarah Schenirer a”h was not blessed with children of her own. And yet she was a mother. In fact, one could rightly say that no mother in our generation had as many children as she did.
When she departed this life in 1935, hundreds of Jewish girls walked behind her coffin, towards the Cracow cemetery, and wept with heartrending outcries, as one does for one’s own departed mother. And when news of her passing became known throughout the cities and towns of Jewish Poland, thousands of Jewish girls ripped their garments in mourning and sat shivah as if for a mother. The very same year hundreds of young Jewish mothers named their new-born daughters Sarah, after a woman, who – two decades earlier – was still an unknown Jewish seamstress, but who had since become: Sarah Schenirer, the legendary mother of a new Torah-true generation of Jewish women in pre-war Eastern Europe.
It was during the years following the First World War. “New winds began to blow” in many homes throughout Chassidic Poland. New ideas – charged with magnetic promise – reverberated in the Jewish street. Youth clubs and organizations sprouted like mushrooms after rain and beckoned enchantingly to Jewish youth to enter their doors. The first victim of the new “light” they brought to Polish Jewry was the Jewish girl. She received no systematic Jewish schooling and was therefore most vulnerable to the empty but ensnaringly attractive slogans of the carriers of the new “light”. In previously idyllic Jewish homes, strife suddenly erupted. Mother and daughter ceased to understand each other. Brother and sister no longer seemed to have a common language. A “modern” daughter who had learned how to recite a few of Mitzkiewicz’s and Slowacky’s Polish poems, began to feel ashamed of her “backward” mother. She began to look with disdain upon her “fanatic” father, and had nothing but ridicule for her brother. She felt embarrassed over her parents’ “broken jargon,” and finally began to hate everything Jewish. At that dark hour a saving angel appeared, in the form of a Jewish seamstress – Sarah Schenirer.
She was an unassuming and withdrawn daughter of Chassidic parents. She was a diligent pupil, but never dreamed of taking on leadership of any kind. At the age of thirteen she completed school. She wanted to continue with her studies, but her parents’ material poverty prevented her from doing so, and she became a seamstress. Her thirst for knowledge remained undiminished. She continued to study and to read. In truth, such was the case with many of her friends at the time. But there was one difference. Her friends were “immersed” in Polish novels; she was drawn to her father’s holy books. She began to swallow every one which contained a Yiddish translation or commentary. The more deeply she probed her “new treasures,” the further removed she became from her friends. A new world opened for her.
When her father noticed her thirst for spiritual matters, he began to bring her Hebrew sefarim with Yiddish translations. Every Shabbos she would review the weekly portion in her “Tzenah U’renah” (which cites Midrashic interpretations). Her family soon dubbed her the Chassidis’te. Because of her keen intellectual interest, she was invited by a relative to attend a Friday night lecture at “Ruth,” a girl’s club. She was shocked when one of the leaders flicked on the light on Shabbos.
And the heresy and false ideas they lecture there! While the fathers of those girls are probably studying Gemara, and the mothers poring over a Tzenah U’renah. Then and there the idea was born in my mind: if those girls would only have a proper environment ….
Meanwhile, World War I broke out, and Sarah Schenirer – together with a stream of refugees – left for Vienna. Day and night she sat and sewed “clothing for bodies” to earn her livelihood. All she then wanted was a little bit of rest. But a visit to a Synagogue on the Viennese Shtumper Street, summoned her to a larger task than that of a seamstress. It was Shabbos Chanukah and the Rabbi spoke of Matisyahu and the Chashmonaim; of Chanah and her seven sons; of Yehudis. Sarah Schenirer felt a new inspiration and enthusiasm. In her inspired and exalted state she began to think of the Jewish girls in Cracow, for whom everything Jewish seemed alien and everything gentile seemed so alluring and enchanting.
Sarah Schenirer returned to Cracow full of enthusiasm. She would begin with little girls, whose Jewish souls were still pure. She rented two rooms; one served as a “tailor shop,” where she “sewed clothes for the body,” but the other she set up as a new kind of “shop” where she began to “sew clothes for young souls.” She began to teach the daughters of Israel their duties as children of G-ds people .She wrote about her undertaking to her brother – a Belzer Chassid living in Czechoslovakia. At first he ridiculed her. But when she insisted that nothing would stop her, he invited her to come to Marienbad: “The Belzer Rebbe is here and we shall ask him.” She invested her last pennies in the trip and visited the the Rebbe who told her “Berachah Ve’hatzlachah” (Blessings and Success)! These two words gave her all the impetus she needed.
She began with twenty-five children, whom she had prevailed upon her customers to entrust to her. People at first shook their heads in contemptuous dismissal when talking about the “undertaking of the seamstress.” But the educational results of her new school quickly yielded fruit. The parents who entrusted their children to Sarah Schenirer saw a new spirit in the hearts of her pupils. Sarah Schenirer’s pupils somehow talked differently from the pupils of the Polish schools. They did not answer in Polish when spoken to in Yiddish. They did not answer with arrogance, and defiance. They showed respect to their parents. They wanted so much to go to shul with their parents. They asked what berachah to recite for this or that. They wanted to hear stories about the Tzaddikim and the pious. The twenty-five became forty and seventy-five and one hundred.
Her main challenge came not from the opposition of the secularists, but from the indifference in Orthodox circ1es. How was she, a girl, to convince learned Rabbis and Chassidic Rebbis that girls also need a Torah education? Under the pressures of earning a living, parents often neglected their children, especially their daughters. Hence her cry, “Girls also need yeshivos!” She did not have to fight Reform or Conservative rabbis (they did not exist in Poland). She had to overcome the opposition of Orthodox leaders.
Then suddenly the ice broke. The influence and appeal of the Chofetz Chaim helped her succeed in her endeavors. Exactly two years after Sarah Schenirer had opened her little school, demands began to arrive from all over Poland: Please open a school in our city! Save our girls! Her oldest student was only fifteen, and she simply did not feel ready to fulfill the requests. She had traveled out of Cracow, leaving her senior students to replace her; but that was in Cracow. Finally, she was forced to graduate her senior class and appoint them as teachers in various cities.
The renowned Rabbi Meir Shapiro visited her school, which had grown to 280 students. He was so impressed that he immediately suggested that she organize a seminary. She accepted the proposal, and Agudath Israel undertook the job, and a seminary was officially opened. One hundred twenty girls registered for the seminary the first year. Then Agudath Israel erected a five-story building, with dormitories, classrooms, and dining halls.
She was only fifty-two when she passed away on 26 Adar, 5695 (1935), but she enjoyed the great satisfaction of seeing the widespread success of her revolution “Leshem Shomayim” (for the Sake of Heaven). When Sarah Schenirer departed this life in 1935, there were close to 300 Beth Jacob schools in Poland alone. And Beth Jacob schools had also risen in many other countries. She was the spiritual mother of them all. She loved them all as only a mother can, and they responded with child-like love. She knew all the schools, and maintained contact with all the Beth Jacob teachers. She wrote for them and to them. She wrote hundreds of essays on a wide variety of themes. She had a share in almost every single school, because she personally visited almost every city and town. She herself never attended a teachers seminary, but nevertheless became the “life spirit,” of one of the finest teachers seminaries in the world – the Beth Jacob Seminary in Cracow.
Today more than fifteen thousand Jewish girls are enrolled in over a hundred Beth Jacob schools within the frame of Chinuch Atzmai in Eretz Yisrael. In America, there are approximately twenty five thriving Beth Jacob schools. They are now to be found by the tens of thousands in Eretz Yisrael, in America, in England, in Switzerland, in Belgium, and even in Argentina and Uruguay. And everywhere they are characterized by profound love of Torah and of all that is holy to the Jewish people; by wholehearted piety and pride in their being Torah-true daughters of their people. They are all children of Sarah Schenirer. For she lives on in the hearts and actions of them all.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. The term “headers and stretchers” indicates:
A. Lichen appearing on a rock
- A method of stone laying in the building of walls
- Arrow heads from the Roman period
- The name given to the Pharisees in the New Testament
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL RASHI OF THE WEEK
Rashi, the great commentary does not only come to explain the simple meaning of the verses and the narratives of the Torah but sometimes Rashi will as well come to explain the choice of particular words and its nuances as well. Because as we know every word in the Torah is precise and has its own unique translation and definition. In addition to that however Rashi will even come to explain each letter in the Torah. The particular spelling of a word upon occasion. For each letter as well contains within it an interpretation, a lesson, an eternal teaching.
This week for example in verse 35:27 the Pasuk says “V’Hanesiim Heiviu ET Avney Shoham”-and the Princes brought the Shoham stones (in the contribution for the Mishkan). The problem, Rashi notes is the word Nesi’im-princes is spelled without the Yud –Nsim- Rashi quotes the Midrash to explain this is that the Princes did not bring right away their gifts. They decided that they would wait to see what was left to bring, after all the people brought their gifts. At the end everything was pretty much brought, so all that was left to bring were these stones. And since they were lazy or lagged in the onset of the bringing of the gifts, a letter (Yud) was taken out of their name.
Now if on would ask me I would think that the act of the Nesi’im was a commendable one. It would seem to be every fundraisers dream to have a philanthropist get up and tell him in advance that whatever the organization is short after their fundraising campaign they will cover. Why did they lose out as a result of this, seemingly magnanimous offer?
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig explains that the problem with the Nesi’im is that their role was to be the leaders od the Jewish people. Leader are meant to lead. To show the people how to give. To lead by example in giving. It’s not about covering the budget in as much as it is about inspiring others. Hashem can worry about his budget. Their job was to be the ones to show the people how to give by being the first to donate. In addition he notes that what they did as well marginalized everyone elses gift. For now when the people are giving what is happening is that they are essentially not contributing to the campaign rather they are saving the Nes’im who had offered to foot the bill and deficit fund it. To a large degree they took the “yid” out of the campaign. It became about them. It is for that reason the yud was taken out of their name. It’s even more interesting to note that two yuds are in fact missing from their name. Perhaps one is for the yud that they last for not showing their leadership and the other yud for doing the opposite and minimizing the level and altruisim of the gifts of the nation. Either way its pretty amazing one little lack of a letter and a pretty powerful message. What a Torah, What a Torah!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL HISTORICAL EVENT THAT HAPPENED ON THIS DATE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Death of King Nevuchadnetzar– 25 Adar 3365 - 396 B.C.E.-Death of King Nevuchadnetzar, the Babylonian emperor who conquered Yerushalayim and destroyed the first Beit HaMikdash 26 years earlier and exiled the Jews from Eretz Yisrael,(Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 52:31). (There are a number of opinions regarding the sequence of events of the next few days; we follow the braita of Seder Olam. See Luach d’Var Yom b’Yomo for further discussion of this topic.)
Nevuchadnetzar built the most powerful nation in the world by ruthlessly attacking and annexing neighboring countries. He is sometimes called "Nevuchadnetzar the Great," but he is reviled by Jews. The biblical Book of Daniel tells how Nevuchadnetzar erected a large idol for public worship; three Jews refused to take part and Nevuchadnetzar ordered them cast into a roaring furnace. (They miraculously emerged unscathed.) Nevuchadnetzar was a megalomaniac who built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; in testimony to his grandeur, each brick was inscribed with his name. Amazingly, in our time, Saddam Hussein pronounced himself as the reincarnation of Nevuchadnetzar, and dreamed of restoring the Babylonian empire to its former size and glory. Saddam commissioned archaeologists to restore the ancient Hanging Gardens, and each new brick was inscribed with Saddam's name. The Book of Daniel (4:30) describes the downfall of Nevuchadnetzar: "He loses his sanity and lives in the wild like an animal." And so it was with Saddam -- driven into a grimy hole, disheveled and deposed. Nevuchadnetzar later regained his sanity and returned to rule.
May all the animals that seek to destroy us thus perish.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE JOKES OF THE WEEK
(In honor of Stalin may his name and memory be erased, death day)
"Donald Trump insists that he is going to run for president. I guess he figures if he can pull off that hairstyle, he can do anything."
He unveiled his slogan this week: 'Are you better off than you were four wives ago?'"
"If Trump does become president, I hope he puts a wig on his plane and calls it Hair Force One."
Donald Trump said last night that despite calling Ted Cruz a 'maniac,' he has since learned that Cruz has a 'wonderful temperament.' And if Donald Trump thinks you have a 'wonderful temperament,' you're probably a maniac."
"Donald Trump is now accusing Ted Cruz of having a Canadian passport. Cruz said he doesn't have a Canadian passport, but like everyone else he'll get one the minute Donald Trump becomes president.
Ted Cruz released a presidential campaign video in Spanish. Cruz explained, "It's important for me to reach out to the people I'm trying to deport." "A member of Marco Rubio's inner circle said his boss benefitted from the Trump-Cruz fight because, 'Marco is everyone's second choice.' That explains Rubio's new campaign slogan, 'I'm the Least Worst.'"
During the debate last night, Marco Rubio said, 'We need more welders and less philosophers.' Graduates with a philosophy degree were so furious, they got on their parents' computers and wrote angry emails."
"In a recent interview, Donald Trump hinted that he might consider Chris Christie for his ticket if he wins the nomination. Not to be his vice president — to be his wall between America and Mexico."
"I heard that a couple weeks ago, Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz spent some time hunting pheasants in Iowa. When Donald Trump heard that, he was like, 'Why wasn’t I invited? I love hunting peasants.'"
"Donald Trump said in a new interview, 'We started off with 17 and one by one they're disappearing. It's a beautiful thing to watch as they go out.' Which begs the question, have we actually just been watching 'The Apprentice' this whole time?"
Answer is B – The answer is really the only one that makes sense. Headers and stretchers are ways of positioning rocks to fortify a wall one this way and the other on top of two to make it strong. Dumb question. Boring topic archeological buiding techniques. I mean not the methodology which is not bad, just the silly names that they make you responsible to know that no one is really interested in.