Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
March 11th 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 23 1st Adar II 5776
I had reached that point in my life when it was time to find a ‘real’ job. After 15 years of Jewish educational outreach work and practicing as Rabbi-it takes a lot of practice- it became time in life to do what my parents always said I should do. Find a ‘real’ job. Or as they so eloquently put it. “What type of job is a ‘Rabbi’ for a nice young Jewish boy”. Leave that for the “goyim”. A Jew is meant to be a doctor lawyer or an accountant. We pay other people to do the Rabbi-thing for us. The guys that can’t make it in the real world. Their assumption being of course that I was a nice young Jewish boy. My teachers and Rabbis had another opinion though. Which is why became a Rabbi in the first place J.
Now although I had a college degree, in Finance incidentally- which actually assisted me tremendously in life in understanding the principles behind why I had no money- I wasn’t really drawn to field. Playing with OPM-Other People’s Money never really enticed me. Other people’s mishegas though I always found fascinating. So there I was trying to figure out what I should do with my life, and fortunately I bumped into one of these personal coach people. Y’know those guys that help you figure out what to do and how to succeed in life and your personal goals by inspiring you and building up your confidence and complimenting you repeatedly- kind of the opposite of some of my High School teachers. These coach people actually are there to repair some of that damage. Kind of like a therapy not covered by health insurance, although with Obama-care I’m not sure anymore, maybe if you’re a Syrian refugee you’d be covered. Anyways this kind coach was happy to help me with my occupational dilemma. His wise words of wisdom to me were to find something that I was good at and that enjoyed doing and then figure out how to make a living doing something in that field. “For if you enjoy what you are doing then it is not really work- it’s doing what you love and getting paid for it. And you will excel at it, for you will be living inspired.
Now as my faithful readers know that there is not really many things I enjoy more than chulent. What can I say, it inspires me, though not so much those that sit next to me a few hours later. Now I really can’t make chulent. I can fry an egg and even make potato latkas, but I’m not really a cook or chef. There is also no real market for a gourmet chulent critic for those connoisseurs either, although the thought did pass my mind to meet this untapped rapidly growing market. At least their waists are growing. So I gave it much thought and came to the realization that I really am good and enjoy vacation very much. I’m like the king of “Bein HaZmanim” (school intercession) vacations. I like fun and I know how to do that well. Now there is certainly no better place to have a great vacation then Israel. Hashem made sure of that for us. I mean where else in the world do you have ski- resorts, beaches, fun water hikes, jeep rides, deserts and hills and valleys as well as great Kosher restaurants and world class wineries. Oh yeah and there’s even some history- like a few thousand years’ worth and holy spots to go tap into your soul as well, so you don’t feel too guilty about having so much fun and can tell yourself that it’s really a “learning experience”. All the party and no guilt-even a mitzva for doing it. It doesn’t get better than that. So we made Aliya. I became a tour guide and I bless God every day for giving me the best job in the world and that special coach for guiding me to my own personal role in this world.
The truth is I didn’t really need that coach. If I had studied a little harder and read the Torah a little better I could have found his tip for life to me in the subtle words of this week’s Torah portion. This week the Torah concludes the Book of Shemot, our Exodus from Egypt that culminates in the building of the Mishkan/Tabernacle for Hashem. From the beginning of the Book when we came down to Egypt, a family of shepherds, we became pyramid builders, persecuted slaves and prisoners under Pharaoh. Yet Hashem rescues us with the greatest miracles of all times, splits the sea, takes us to Sinai and gives us the Torah, in the most important revelation in the history of the world. We of course sin very quickly and in the process achieve an even greater closeness to our Creator as we learn that we can do Teshuva and He will forgive us. Our bond is eternal, if the Golden Calf debacle didn’t shake it then nothing ever will. Yes this story ends this week as we finally erect that permanent home for Hashem, that was the Mishkan not only the physical one that he sojourned amongst us in the wilderness and in Israel in, but the Mishkan within each and every one of us as well.
There is a fascinating verse as the people bring all the handiwork that they had made for the Mishkan to Moshe to put it all together. The verse tells us
“Like everything that Hashem had commanded Moshe, so did the Children of Israel do, all the-Avoda- labor. Moshe saw all the -Melacha- work and behold they had done it as Hashem had commanded, so they had done; and Moshe blessed them.”
Did you guys catch the subtlety there? I wrote it in Hebrew and bolded it for you. The Jews brought their Avoda- their labor to Moshe. But Moshe sees the Melacha- the work. The difference between the two is that Avoda- labor comes from the word Eved- slave. The work of a slave has no personal interest or benefit. The slave works or labors for his master, because he is his slave, his chattel. He serves to accomplish and see that his owners will and desires are fulfilled. Not really a particularly fun or inspiring job or role to have in life. We had close to 300 years of that life in Egypt. 300 miserable, not fun or inspiring years in the slave-pits of Egypt. Yet we came out. We stood at Sinai and accepted upon ourselves willfully and with euphoria to be totally committed servants and yes- Avadim- slaves to our Father, Our King, our Creator. Yet unlike in the case of Pharaoh we weren’t forced into slavery, we accepted it. The reason? We found a job that we were good at, that we were inspired at that would ultimately give us meaning and purpose in each and every days of our lives and in every act that we do. We became partners with our Master in Creation, in healing and uplifting the world. We had become his human angels on this world. His Malachim, whose work was not Avoda but rather Melacha- the same Creative achievement and term that the Torah uses to describe Hashem’s creation of the world.
“And He rested on the seventh day ‘Mikol Melachto Asher Asa’- from all His work that He made”.
Just as Hashem blesses his Creation and the end so too does Moshe, the quintessential Eved Hashem- servant of Hashem, bless the nation. The blessing Rashi tells us that it that the Divine presence should always be found in the work that we do. This is not a blessing for success, this is not a blessing for health, wealth, and children or even for forgiveness after the sin of the Golden Calf for which the Mishkan is meant to atone. Moshe blesses the Jewish with the ultimate blessing. That we should see Hashem in every act that we do. That all our work no matter if it is an accountant, computer technician, Doctor lawyer, politician and even a Rabbi and teacher should see that their work is something that is being done to serve Hashem. It shouldn’t never merely be a way of just making money and supporting ones family and even paying your bills. Our work should be Melacha, something that has eternal significance. Something that aligns our goals with the Divine. Something that uplifts the world and brings it to its fulfillment. If you live like that then it is never just work. It is doing what we are inspired and enjoy to do, what we were put here to do. And there’s nothing better than that.
Have a fantastic Shabbos and an ever increasingly happy Chodesh,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S VIDEO OF THEWEEK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_y9F5St4j0 –In honor of my English anniversary this week for my dear wife!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4i4nN3JyeLg – the words are Im Al Hamelech Tov from the Megilla If it is good for the King and I have found favor in your eyes give me my life nation as my request.
https://youtu.be/KI7-Jc2JtUc –And the fast version of the above with millions of dancing Chasidim-Ok maybe not millions
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Kol zman es rirt zikh an aiver, klert men nit fun kaiver.”- “As long as one limb stirs, one does not think of the grave”
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JEWISH PERSONALITY AND HIS QUOTES IN HONOR OF THE YARTZEIT OF THE WEEK
“I am an ignoramus among men; what is man that You should acknowledge him? However, Elokim saw my lowliness and my suffering, and He brought me to the house of "Admor" / our master, our teacher and our rabbi, the Gaon / genius and Chassid / pious one, the rabbi of all the sons of the diaspora, in Vilna. Hashem gave me favor in his eyes and I served him with all my strength. For all of the two years minus one third that I was with him, I did not move from him, I held him and did not let go, and I did not leave his tent day or night. Where he went, I went; where he slept, I slept; and my hand did not leave his at all.”
Harav Menachem Mendel Of Shklov 1st of Adar this Friday 1827-Many people unfortunately associate the return to Israel as having started in the early 20th century with the Zionist movement. Which intitially was started with the ideas of Theodore Herzl as a secular movement. The real story is the greatest sages from all generations always dreamed of returning to Israel and many of them came here despite the great dangers and almost certain loss of life of many of their loved ones just to realize the dream of lving in Hashem’s promised land, the place from where the Shechina never departed. The Chasidic retrun of the students of the Baal Shemt Tov in the late 1700’s is most famous as well is the return of the atagonists of the Chasidim the Mitnagdim led by the students of the Gaon of Vilna. Love of Eretz Yisrael and its central place in Jewish life crossed all differences. The return of the students of the Gaon was led by his primary student Harav Menachem Mendel of Shklov.
One of the greatest students of the Vilna Gaon,Reb Menache Mendel was a son of Harav Baruch Bendit. Who traces his lineage back to Rabbi Yehudah Ha’Nasi the editor of the Mishna and a descendant of King David. He studied for only two years under his Rebbi the Gaon however it is he who is credited with bringing all of the writings of the Gaon to the light of the world.
Eventually he became the leader of the Perushim, a group of the Gra’s talmidim who ascended to Eretz Yisrael in the year 1807. Their journey involved many hardships; and even after they settled in Eretz Yisrael they encountered adversity. These challenges were also encountered by a group of Chassidim led by Harav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, which ascended to Eretz Yisrael at about the same time. Originally they moved to Tiverya where they joined the Chasidim there who had come on the Aliya some years before however to avoid any fighting they moved to the city of Tzefat, where they established their yeshivos.
Reb Menachem Mendel writes that how there he established “batei medrashim full of sefarim.” After a terrible plague hit the city of Tzfat in 1812 that killed many of his students and colleagues, he subsequently relocated to Yerushalayim and there, too, he established houses of Torah and tefillah. He managed to acquire the abandoned Churvah Shul in the old city of Yerushalayim, which he considered a tremendous merit. This famous shul was destroyed by the Jordanians in the war of 5708/1948. It has recently been rebuilt.
Historically, his wanting to settle in Yerushalayim was very significant because the first Ashkenazi settlement in Eretz Yisrael, led by Rabi Yehudah HaChassid in the year 1700, failed, leaving behind great debts. Subsequently, whenever Ashkenazic Jews tried to settle in Yerushalayim, the authorities would demand money from them and then evict them from the city. (Interestingly, traditional Yerushalmi garb closely resembles Arabic dress because their permission to live in Yerushalayim was only because they passed themselves off as Sefardic Jews in the colored robes which did not look like the black and white Ashkenzic attire.
When talmidei haGra arrived in Eretz Yisrael, they initiated settling the old debts of the Ashkenazic community with the Yerushalayim authorities. Later, in 5597/1837, when a major earthquake struck Tzfas, groups of olim dispersed, many of them arriving in Yerushalayim. That is when the old debt was finally cleared, and the Ashkenazi Yidden, led by Harav Yisrael of Shklov, established themselves.
Reb Menachem Mendel was known for his vast Torah knowledge and his profound understanding of Kabbalah, and he devoted many years to writing his insights. It was known that he wrote 10 sefarim, but the only printed work that remains is Mayim Adirim on the Idra Zuta, with footnotes from his student Harav Yitzchak Eizik Chaver. He also printed many of the sefarim of his Rebbi, the Gra. Many of his writings remain in manuscript form, yet to be printed.
He passed on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar, and is buried on Har Hazeisim in the Jerusalem he had literally given new life to with his leadership and return.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. Burial in ossuaries appears in Israel for the first time during:
A. The Chalcolithic period
- The First Temple period
- The Second Temple period
- The Mishna and Talmudic period
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL RASHI OF THE WEEK
Sometimes we can glean an important insight from Rashi into something significant in the text, not by what he says but rather by what he doesn’t say. This week’s Torah portion is the one with the least commentary. Quite easy for someone who reviews the Torah portion each week with Rashi to get through. The reason it is assumed is because there’s not much to comment on. After all the majority of the Parsha is merely a recounting of everything that took place as they constructed the Mishkan and Rashi had explained this time and time again in the various Parshiyot that took place until now. Yet the Rebbe of Lubavitch notes, that shouldn’t Rashi be troubled and at least ask the simple question that troubles everyone when reading the Parsha. Why again? Haven’t we done this and heard this before. Why can’t the Torah just say in one simple Pasuk that they di it all as Moshe commanded instead of elaborating each vessel and each detail of the building. Yet Rashi seems to be silent. What happened to our great commentator?
The Rebbe answers that Rashi already answered this question, and therefore felt no need to explain the obvious. Where you ask? The Rebbe notes that there is another time in the Torah back in Bereshis where the Torah seems to give a seemingly needless repetition. Know where? All the way back in Chayei Sara when Eliezer the servant of Avraham goes to find a spouse for Yitzchak. There the Torah repeats the entire story and the words of Eliezer to “Uncle Lavan”, of how he left Avraham and arrived very fast miraculously there. He recounts the promise to Avraham to find a wife for his family, although the Torah a few verses before that already told us all of this.
Rashi there comments that the Rabbi Acha teaches us that the
“Conversation between the servants of the Patriarchs is more pleasing to Hashem then the Torah of their descendants- the children of Israel. For the Parsha of Eliezer is repeated in the Torah and many essential elements of the Torah were only given in hints.”
The Rebbe suggests that there are two parts of Torah. There are the laws and mitzvos, like Shabbat, Kosher and family purity which are barely mentioned in the Torah in proportion to the vast intricacies and details of these laws. Yet there is another part of Torah that is the stories and conversations and the day to day lives of our ancestors. They are more pleasing and essential to Hashem then all the rest. They are the heart and spirit of the Jewish people and our tradition. We are commanded V’Shinanton LiVanecha- to teach Torah to our children, yet we are also commanded right after that V’Dibarta Bam and we shall speak about them. We should have conversation about our Torah. we must tell over our stories. We must share them perhaps even more so than the laws and commandments.
Thus he explains the Torah here repeats obviously the story of how the people each brought each item. Each one ws special each one needs to be recounted. Hear that story again and again. If Hashem and the Torah repeats the story of the “servants of our Patriarchs- Al Achas Kama V’Kama- how much more so the stories of the children of Israel at their moment of glory.
There was no need for Rashi to explain this again. It was simple. It was obvious. A father can’t stop talking about what His children did. The silence of Rashi is itself is the comment. Beautiful!
COOL HISTORICAL EVENT
THAT HAPPENED ON THIS DATE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Initiation of the Auto-De Fe (burning at the Stake) by the Spanish Inquisition – 7th Adar 1481- We have always suffered from anti-semitism yet after close to over a thousand years of Jews living in Spain and close to 800 years of being the aristocracy of that nation led us to forget that we were in Exile. That all changed with the advent of the Inqusition. On 1 November 1478, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella received permission from Pope Sixtus IV to name Inquisitors throughout their domains, to protect Catholicism as the “true faith”. Ferdinand's action intially met great resistance yet in spite of this social discontent between 1487 and 1505 the Chapter of Barcelona processed more than 1000 people, of which only 25 were absolved.
The first auto-da-fé took place in Seville, Spain, on the 7th of Adar in the year 1481; when six of the men and and one woman were burnt at the stake. Later, Franciscan missionaries brought the Inquisition to the New World. The auto-da-fé was a major aspect of the tribunals, and the final step in the Inquisition process. It involved a Catholic Mass, prayer, a public procession of those found guilty, and a reading of their sentences.
An Inquisition usually began with the public proclamation of a grace period of 40 days. Anyone who was guilty or knew of someone who was guilty was urged to confess. If the accused were charged, they were presumed guilty. Officials could apply torture during the trial. And they did that quite brutally. Inquisitors were required to hear and record all testimony. Proceedings were to be kept secret, and the identity of witnesses was not known to the accused.After the trial, officials proclaimed the prisoner's sentence and administered in an auto-da-fé. The auto-da-fé was not an impromptu event, but thoroughly orchestrated. Preparations began a month in advance, and only occurred when the inquisition authorities believed there were enough prisoners in a given community or city. The ritual took place in public squares or esplanades and lasted several hours with ecclesiastical and civil authorities in attendance.
Bordering the city's plaza, an all-night vigil would be held with prayers, ending in Mass at daybreak and a breakfast feast prepared for all who joined in.The ceremony of public penitence then began with a procession of prisoners, who bore elaborate visual symbols on their garments and bodies. These symbols were called sanbenito, and were made of yellow sackcloth. They served to identify the specific acts of treason of the accused, whose identities were kept secret until the very last moment. In addition, the prisoners usually had no idea what the outcome of their trial had been or their sentencing.The prisoners were taken outside the city walls to the burning place. There the sentences were read. Prisoners who were acquitted or whose sentence was suspended would fall on their knees in thanksgiving, but the condemned would be punished including whipping, torture, and burning at the stake.
The auto-da-fé was also a form of penitence for the public viewers, because they too were engaging in a process of reconciliation and by being involved were given the chance to confront their sins and be forgiven by the Church. They got a mitzva for watching Jews die…. The Jews and the testimonies of those present record how many of the Jews refused to give up their faith and went to their deaths as proud Jews and with the words of Shema resounding on their lips.
The exact number of people executed by the Inquisition is not known the ex-secretary of the Holy Office, gave the following numbers for the Spanish Inquisition excluding the American colonies, Sicily and Sardinia: 31,912 burnt, 17,696 burned in effigy, and 303,847 penanced.
May Hashem avenge the deaths of all of those whose blood had been spilled and that were burned in sanctification of His Name.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S DRINKING JOKES OF THE WEEK-IN HONOR OR ROSH CHODESH ADAR
Q: What is a drunk man's idea of a balanced diet? A: A Budweiser in each hand!
Q: What do Russians get when mixing Holy Water with Vodka? A: The Holy Spirit!
Q: What did the man with slab of asphalt under his arm order? A: "A beer please, and one for the road."
Q: How does a man show he's planning for the future? A: He buys two cases of Miller Lite instead of one. Q: Why do gynecologists only drink Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and Smirnoff Vodka? A: "Pabst Smir
If you drink too much Fanta, does that make you Fantastic?
I'm not an alcoholic alcoholics go to meetings, I'm a drunk, we go to parties.
You say alcoholic, I'll say alcohol enthusiast
Why is it called Alcoholics Anonymous when the first thing you do is stand up and say, "My name is Tom and I'm an alcoholic?"
The drunken wino was stumbling down the street with one foot on the curb and one foot in the gutter. A cop pulled up and said, "I've got to take you in, sir. You're obviously drunk" The wasted wino asked, "Ociffer, are ya absolutely sure I'm drunk?" "Yeah, buddy, I'm sure," said the copper. "Let's go." Obviously relieved, the wino said "That's a relief - I thought I was a cripple."
Police Patrol From the state where drunk driving is considered a sport, comes this absolutely true story. Recently a routine police patrol parked outside a bar in Fort Worth, Texas. After last call the officer noticed a man leaving the bar so intoxicated that he could barely walk. The man stumbled around the parking lot for a few minutes, with the officer quietly observing. After what seemed an eternity in which he tried his keys on five different vehicles, the man managed to find his truck and trailer and fall into it. He sat there for a few minutes as a number of other patrons left the bar and drove off. Finally, he got into the car and started the engine, switched the wipers on and off....it was a fine, dry summer night, flicked the blinkers on and off a couple of times, honked the horn and then switched on the lights. He moved the vehicle forward a few inches, reversed a little and then remained still for a few more minutes as some more of the other patrons' vehicles left. Finally, when his was the only car left in the parking lot, he pulled out and drove slowly down the road. The police officer, having waited patiently all this time, now started up his patrol car, put on the flashing lights, promptly pulled the man over and administered a breathalyzer test. To his amazement, the breathalyzer indicated no evidence that the man had consumed any alcohol at all! Dumbfounded, the officer said, 'I'll have to ask you to accompany me to the police station. This breathalyzer equipment must be broken.' 'I seriously doubt it', said the truly proud Hillbilly. 'Tonight I'm the designated decoy.'
Answer is A – This is a very tricky question. Ossuaries, as I ‘m sure you are familiar with the concept was an ancient form of burial in which after one year the bones of the deceased were taken out after the flesh had decomposed and placed in stone box and added to a family cave. The majority of the ones that we have found that were in common use by almost everyone was from the period of the second Temple and through the Mishna period in the 2nd and 3rd century. Beit Shearim is a classic place to see many of the Sacrophags that the were quite elaborate that people used back then. However we have uncovered quite a number of ossuaries that date back to the copper period of early man, way before even our forefathers. So the correct answer is Chalcolithic period which of course I’m sure you knew means the Copper Age. Right?