Our view of the Galile

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Worth-y Dance- Bechukosa i/ Lag Ba'Omer 5776 2016

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

May 26th 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 34 18th Iyar 5776
Parshat Bechukosai/Lag Ba’Omer

A Worth-y Dance
He was close to 85 years old and he was staring at the burning embers of the Lag Ba’Omer bonfire. He didn’t make it to Meron this year. In fact it had been difficult for him to go for quite a while. The crowds, the traffic, the packed mob scene, it wasn’t for a man his age. But he always made a bonfire. He always sang songs about Rabbi Shimon, the great sage in whose death the great light of the Zohar was said to be revealed. It was a day that moved him.
Rav Chaim Druckman’s student asked him when the first time he went to Meron was as he was sitting their watching the bonfire. He told me that it was in 1945, when he had just turned Bar Mitzva, the year he made Aliya escaping the inferno that burnt in the Holocaust on an ‘illegal’ refugee boat. When asked what it was like he told his student that he can’t even describe it. But he wanted him to appreciate it.
“Realize” he told him “there are more people that went up to Meron this year (close to 600,000) then there were in the entire Israel at that time in 1944.” Look at how far Hashem has brought us. Look at the miracle that we are now celebrating. The burning embers, the sparks that can never be extinguished. That is the symbol of Rabbi Shimon. That is the light of the Torah that despite all the forces of the world to wipe us out. The brighter we will always continue to shine.
I’m not 85 yet. My first Meron experience wasn’t 70 years ago it was close to 25 years ago. But even in that short quarter of a century-man it hurts to even write that much time about myself, it makes me sound old- it has certainly changed. Back in my day it was as well a pretty packed mountain top. I remember the bonfires, the people slaughtering sheep for their BBQ’s, the little three year old boys getting their first haircuts and of course the endless singing and dancing all night and day long. But it wasn’t 600,000 probaly more like 50-100 thousand pilgrims that came to celebrate. Today it’s absolutely a different world. Tens of tents set up with free food, literally bumper to bumper human traffic, no cars allowed up anymore shuttle buses only. But the one thing that has stayed the same is the diversity of the people that are there. religious, secular, sefardic, ashkenazic, zionist, hareidi they all join hands. They all are dancing together. They are all drawn to the grave of this 2nd century sage. Rebbe Shimon connects them all together.
If you ask me Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at first glance doesn’t seem to be the person that would be so popular. In many ways the Talmud description of much of his views seemed extreme. It was he who spoke bad about the romans when Rabbi Yehuda was praising him-which ultimately led to his fleeing and hiding for 12 years in a cave with his son. It was he as well that when he came out of the cave “wherever he would look turned into a pile of bones” as he couldn’t stand to see people not utilizing their time for non-spiritual pursuits, until Hashem sent him back to the cave for another year, lest he destroy the entire world. It is famous explanation to reconcile the contradictory statements of the Torah that one should study Torah day and night and that one will be blessed with gathering in his harvest by saying that when one is full engrossed in doing the will of Hashem the gentiles will harvest for him. The blessing of a full crop that would necessitate leaving Torah to study it, is only when we are not doing the will of Torah. These extremists’ views from the looks of the people dancing certainly don’t seem to be the figure that they would be celebrating over. So why Rabbi Shimon. What made him the magnet, that since the period of the Ari”zl in the 1500’s Jews have been flocking increasingly to his grave?
This week’s Torah portion Bechukosai contains in it the laws of vows that someone pledges according to the value of a person. Someone has a child perhaps and would donate money of his value, or he wants a personal redemption, or perhaps a special merit for a loved one. The Torah gives a price list depending on the age and gender of the person. The number is a Divine number. All men, for example, that are the age of 20-60 are 50 shekel. This has nothing to do with how much the persons earning potential would be, this is just the number that Hashem gave to each person in how much each particular class is valued at in regards to these particular pledges. The Ishbitzer Rebbe notes an absolutely incredible point from this law. He points out that when the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf their atonement was meant to be that each person would give a half shekel coin. Think about this. Perhaps the worst sin in the Torah. Literally 40 days after we had the revelation at Sinai the Jewish the Jewish people were dancing and singing and prostrating themselves before an idol. It probably looked like Meron. However, the Ishbitzer says, what is the atonement that Jewish people are given for this seemingly horrible sin? Each Jew was mandated to give a half shekel. That’s right a half shekel. I was never good at math, so the Ishbitzter does it for me; that’s exactly 1% of his value. 99% of the Jew even after the worst sin is still pure. 99% of him does not need an atonement. The worst damage, a Jew can do to that holy soul that burns inside of him is only the smallest portion of who he is. But to quote Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai “All Jews are like princes of the King”.

The portion of Bechukosai is the 33rd portion of the Torah. The portion that deals with the laws of Erechin-these vows of the value of a person also contains 33 verses. These are meant to be corresponding to the 33 verses that deal with the blessings and curses. If you had a doubt whether the reading of this week should really be according to the custom of Israel…. Bechukosai is the portion of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who died on the 33rd- Lag of Omer. Rabbi Shimon is the individual that when he came out of the cave and he saw a Jew dancing with two haddasim-myrtle branches running in honor of Shabbos said to his son “see how precious the mitzvos of Hashem are to His children”. Rabbi Shimon is the one who when his son went to someone to get a blessing and he was cursed instead, counseled him that every curse is really a blessing in disguise, a blessing that is yet to be realized. Rabbi Shimon as well said that despite the mandate to study all day and all night and not waste that tremendous soul of ours, one can fulfill one’s obligation of daily Torah study by reciting just the verse of Shema each morning and each night. One verse. Rabbi Shimon understood that despite how different we may look and we may even behave, we all are 99 percenters. We are the children of one King. That, my friends, is something to dance about.

Have an ecstatic Shabbos and a Lag Samayach,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://youtu.be/rQnTodvonmk   –Lag Ba’Omer Meron 1935 Wow!

https://youtu.be/j5S_uY4riOw  -Funny Gefilte Fish tribute song-Yiddish speakers will really enjoy!

A melocheh iz a melucheh, ober men hot nit kain minut menucheh.”- A trade makes you a king but robs you of leisure


“If I were present at the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, I would have demanded two mouths: one for continuous study of the words of the Torah, and the other for eating However this would not be very wise, since even now when man has but one mouth, he says so many wrong things. How much more so if he had two!”

“Man should rather jump into a fiery furnace than offend another in public”

“There is nothing in the world that stands in the way of Teshuva-Repentance”

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai 18th of Iyar early 2nd century -Every year, when Lag BaOmer (18 Iyar) comes around, we remember the great and holy Tanna (Mishnaic sage) Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who died on this day about eighteen centuries ago. To this day, pious Jews make an annual pilgrimage to Kefar Meron, in the Land of Israel, to pray at the tomb of this great and holy scholar.
When Shimon was a young boy, he studied in the great academy of the scholars of Yavneh, founded by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who died just about the time that Shimon was born. Shimon’s principal teacher was the famous Rabbi Akiva, who had his academy at Benei Berak. So attached did Shimon become to his master, Rabbi Akiva, that the latter called him “my son.”
During the cruel persecution by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, when the Talmudic Academies were shut down and the study of the Talmud was forbidden on penalty of death, Rabbi Akiva continued to teach the Talmud publicly, and his devoted pupil Shimon stayed at his side, until Rabbi Akiva was arrested. Even then, Shimon continued to visit his master in prison to receive instruction there. Only death finally separated them, for Rabbi Akiva was condemned to die a martyr’s death forKiddush Hashem (the sanctification of G‑d’s name).
Those were very difficult times for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel under the brutal persecution of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It was particularly difficult for the sages to study the Talmud and to conduct schools. On penalty of death, it was also forbidden to ordain students of the Talmud. Both the ordaining Sage and the ordained scholar were put to death if caught. The entire Jewish religious life was in danger, until the great Rabbi Yehudah ben Baba publicly ordained five famous scholars, defying Hadrian’s cruel decree. Rabbi Shimon was one of these five scholars. (Rabbi Meir was another one.) The Roman authorities were soon after these dauntless Jewish champions. The ordained scholars escaped, but Rabbi Yehudah ben Baba was caught and put to death.
Finally, the cruel Hadrian died in great pain, and his decrees were no longer enforced with the same brutality as before. Then the leading sages of that time gathered to consider ways and means of restoring Jewish religious life. Among the leading sages gathered at Usha, we find Rabbi Shimon again. For reasons of safety, the sages moved to Yavneh, where they sat in conference in a vineyard. The leading sages were Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yosei the Galilite, and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Discussing what attitude to take towards the Roman government, Rabbi Yehudah suggested a friendly one, Rabbi Yose expressed no opinion, while Rabbi Shimon spoke very bitterly of the Roman tyrants, and advocated every possible defiance. For Rabbi Shimon could never forget the terrible sight of his beloved master and teacher, Rabbi Akiva, being tortured to death by the Roman executioners. The sages were not aware that their conversation was overheard by a certain young man, Judah ben Gerim. At one time a disciple of Rabbi Shimon, Judah ben Gerim later turned spy for the Roman authorities. This treacherous man reported the conversation of the sages to the Roman authorities. At once they decreed honor and rank for Rabbi Yehudah for speaking favorably of them, exile for Rabbi Yosei for failing to do so, and death for Rabbi Shimon, who dared to challenge them.
Rabbi Shimon fled for his life together with his son Rabbi Elazar. For some time they stayed in hiding in the Bet Hamedrash (academy), where Rabbi Shimon’s wife brought them bread and water daily. When the search was intensified, they decided to seek a better hiding place. Without telling anyone of their whereabouts, they hid in a cave. G‑d caused a carob tree to spring up at the entrance to the cave, as well as a spring of fresh water. For twelve years, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son Elazar dwelt in the cave, sustaining themselves on carobs and water. During the time, they studied and prayed until they became the holiest sages of their day.
Rabbi Shimon settled in the town of Tekoa, where he founded a great academy. The greatest scholars of the time gathered there to receive instruction from Rabbi Shimon. Among them was Rabbi Yehudah, the son of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, the Nassi, later the compiler of the Mishnah.
One day Rabbi Shimon met Judah ben Gerim, the treacherous spy who had caused him so much trouble. Rabbi Shimon exclaimed, “Is this man still alive?” and soon afterward Judah ben Gerim died.
Once again religious persecution increased. The Romans prohibited Shabbat observance and other important Jewish laws. The Sages decided to send a delegation to Rome, and chose Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to head the delegation. After healing the Emperors daughter he was able to achieve a dissolution of the decrees.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is the author of the sacred Zohar (“Brilliance”), containing mystic interpretations of the Torah, and chief source of the Kabbalah.Rabbi Shimon is also the author of Sifri and “Mechilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. May his great merit be an advoacate for all of us.

answer below at end of Email
Q. The second crusade was intended to:
A.    Liberate Acre
  1. Liberate the Holy Sepulcher
  2. Liberate Edessa
  3. Fight against Saladin

I’m a tour guide-in case you didn’t know… So when I see the word Tiyul- tour in Rashi, it catches my eye. Who is the tourists in this week’s Torah portion. This week doesn’t seem to have any tours in it. The portion deals mainly with the curses and blessings for following or disobeying the commandments. Well in the blessing portion Hashem says if you will walk in my laws then
VhitHalachti Imachem- I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.”
Rashi then makes the statement- Etayeil Itchem B’Gan Eden- I will stroll (or tour) with you in the Garden of Eden.
Wow! Talk about having an incredible tour guide? Hashem promises that if we walk in the ways of his Mitzvos he will be our tour guide, he will stroll with us through the Garden of Eden. Not even I can compete with that. Where does Rashi get this from? How does he see this in the verse? Who mentioned Gan Eden? Rabbi Dovid Fohrman notes that Rashi is noting the strange word Mithalech which really means more like I will do something together with someone- like Lihitkasher- to connect or call someone. Or as well it is reflexive as if to say I will take myself for a walk. There is another time where we have that word Mithalech? Guess where? You got it! In Gan Eden when Adam and Eve had sinned the verse says that the voice of Hashem was Mithalech BaGan- it was walking in the garden.
Interesting. There Hashem was looking so to speak to walk with his newest creations. With Adam and Eve. He calls out Ayeka-where are you? But they are not there. They are hiding. Hashem wants to be Mithalech with someone…with us.. Where are we? He therefore has to force Himself to be Mithalech but it is alone. Here Rashi sees in the blessing our ability to restore us to that time. If we follow the commandments He will walk with us. He will be on a Tiyul with us. That is what awaits us. What an incredible Rashi!


19th  of Iyar May 28th 1948- Fall of the Jewish Quarter in Old City of Jerusalem -The Jewish Quarter was under siege during the War of Independence, from December 1947 (following the United Nations’ decision to terminate the British Mandate and establish the Jewish state as part of the Partition Plan) until May 1948. For 150 days, the Arabs laid partial siege to the Jewish neighborhood, while the city was under British control. During that period a large number of incidents exacted a bloody toll on the residents and defenders of the Jewish Quarter.
When the British left in 1948, 1,500 Arabs from the neighboring Arab states and a battalion belonging to the Arab Legion were enlisted to attack the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter was defended by 200 fighters from the resistance movements, the Haganah, the Irgun and the Lehi (the Stern Gang). The defenders of the Jewish Quarter fought for 13 successive days, driven from house to house until their strength began to fail, their losses mounted and their ammunition ran out. Dawn broke on May 27, but reinforcements still had not arrived. It was clear to all that the end was approaching. The enemy launched an onslaught on the Street of the Jews, and the Hurva synagogue of Rabbi Yehuda Hassid was captured and blown up by the Arabs. This dramatic act symbolized the end of the battle for the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

On May 28, the area of the Jewish Quarter had dwindled to 20 dunams (20,000 square meters) in which 1,600 residents crowded helplessly. The two rabbis of the Quarter, Minzberg and Hazan, went out to negotiate with the Arab Legion representatives on surrender conditions. The Legion officers demanded that the rabbis bring a Haganah representative and Weingarten as well. After several hours of discussions, in the presence of UN representative Dr. Azcarate, the surrender agreement was signed. The Jewish signatories were the Quarter Commander Moshe Rosnak and Weingarten; the Arabs were represented by Abdullah el-Tel, with Dr. Azcarate signing on behalf of the UN. The document was written in English and Arabic.

The defenders surrendered. 350 residents and defenders were taken captive and 1,400 were expelled from their homes. 68 people from the Jewish Quarter were slain during the six months of fighting: 39 fighters and 29 civilians. There were 180 wounded fighters in hospital when the Legion captured the Jewish Quarter. Abdullah el-Tel gave orders for the healthy fighters to be concentrated and separated from the civilians. Just thirty-five fighters lined up. The Legion commander could not believe his eyes. "You have deceived me," he said. "If I had known your true size, I would have fought you with sticks."

That evening, the residents of the Jewish Quarter, together with the severely wounded fighters, were taken through Zion Gate to the New City. The prisoners of war were conveyed to the Kishle prison, and the following day transported to Jordan.
This marked the end of the heroic struggle of the defenders of the Jewish Quarter.

Children to Pinocchio “Would you like to celebrate Lag Ba’Omer with us?
Pinocchio “But I don’t have any branches or wood?”
Children- :)))))
Pinocchio- :(((((((

So the Breslaver was standing by the grave of Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai and he was pouring out his heart and was overheard saying “Rebbe Shimon, please



Answer is C – Crusaders were bad people. They killed a lot of Jews. In fact most of the mourning customs during the period of Omer, began as a result of the deaths of the Jews during the period of Omer in the period of the Crusades. Truth is I wasn’t that interested in the Crusades, but a lot of killing, a lot of churches, a lot of wars, yadda yadda… But there are some important dates to know and as a result of that I could figure out the answer. The first Crusade was 1099 and the crusaders threw out the muslims. Salaadin came back in the 1187 and reconquered Jerusalem. The Third Crusade was about getting rid of him. Meaning the 2nd Crusade was before Saladin. As a result of that Akko and Jerusalem and the Church where the J-Man was supposedly buried were still under the Crusader control. Meaning the only answer that makes sense is liberating Edessa which isn’t even in Israel. So I really didn’t care about it as I am not a tour guide in Turkey. So there.

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