Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 8th 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 40 2nd Tamuz 5776
It’s a funny thing family. There is nobody more important to us in the world then the people that we are we related to. Our parents, our children and our siblings, certainly our spouses the one person that we had a choice in being related to, at least in most cases. I didn’t really give Aliza much of a choice when I put her on the spot and proposed with a rose in front of the entire classroom of the kindergarten children she was teaching. Incidentally I think she told me that there were about 5 proposals that took place the next day between the children. Talk about one way to solve the Shidduch crisis. But even our non-immediate relatives, cousins, our uncles and aunts, in-laws and their children. There is a connection. We share blood. We have a bond that we immediately feel with them. It’s interesting.
At the same time. There’s nobody that we fight with more, argue with and challenge more than our family. As the saying goes “There’s no fight like a family fight”. Many times the fights resolve themselves. Tragically there are brothers and sisters, parents and children that can’t get past those disagreements, disappointments and shattered expectations that inevitably occur from those that are closest to you and they remain estranged for years. I don’t think there are too many people that I fight with in general, but when it comes to my parents, my siblings (really just my dear sisters- No one fights with Gedalia J) and my children, cats and dogs would be putting it mildly. More like Israel Vs Hamas, The Allies against the Axis, Cowboys against the Indians, Luke Skywalker and the Jedi Knight rebels against Darth Vader and the Dark Side; I of course being the former in all of the above. Nobody can bring out the heightened emotions, the degree of spitefulness and vitriol then family members. Things we would never say to others we more often than not can lose ourselves and lash out when it is those closest to us. But it’s precisely because we are so close, because we feel that we have so much we have in common, because of that shared family agenda that we have the greatest expectations. One big happy family, right...? Or not?
This week’ Torah portion, Chukas, begins with the oddly placed laws of the red Heifer that purifies from the impurity of death-as seemingly these laws which were given back in Mara even before the Torah was given and had applicability, before we brought our Pesach offering, before the service began in the Mishkan or even in the book of Vayikra with the laws of purity and sacrifices. It continues with the death of Miriam the water crisis and Moshe’s mistake of hitting of the rock rather than speaking to it and his subsequent punishment prohibiting him from entering the land. This is all on the cusp of us entering the land after the forty years in the wilderness after the spy debacle, the revolt of Korach and the death of thousands after that story. It was not a great time for our family. The Torah then introduces us to our attempts to take a shortcut to get into Israel. PS- there are no shortcuts as we see.
There are quite a few nations that we approach in this parsha that we send messages to try to give us passage in our land. Each of them has different responses with unique nuances. I f we examine them I believe there are incredible lessons to be learned. The first and easiest way in would be through Edom. Moshe himself, the Torah tells us, sent the messengers. He writes them a whole shpiel.
Bamidbar (20:14) So says your brother Israel, you know all the hardship that befell us. Our forefathers descended in Egypt and we dwelled in Egypt for many years, and the Egyptians did evil to us and to our forefather. We cried out to Hashem and He heard our voice; He sent a malach (messenger) and took us out of Egypt. Now behold! We are in Kadesh a city at the edge of your border. Let us please pass through your land…
This is a unique message that we don’t find by any other nation. The Canaani and Amalek comes out to kill us. The Emori we also ask and they come out to kill us, as does the giant Og in the Bashan. Next we will read about Moab and their attempt to curse us with Bilaam. Yet Edom the descendants of Esau are the only ones that we give this whole history lesson to. That we call our brothers. The truth is that unlike the Cananani, the Emori, Amalek, and Og, the nation of Edom had nothing to worry about as we were prohibited from attacking them. Yet Edom responds decisively “you shall not pass lest we come out with sword against you”. And we have to go and wander and try and fight to get back home. It’s family and the tensions are high.
If one looks at the text the Torah in this narrative echoes a previous reunion between these two ‘brothers’. The last time we had Yaakov sending out messengers to Esau, years before. Back in Vayishlach
Bereshis (30:4) And Yaakov send messengers to Esau his brother to the land of Seir the fields of Edom… So says your brother Yaakov.
This is almost the same words as here, messengers, Edom, brothers.
There as well Yaakov gives Esau of history lesson I dwelled with Lavan, I was persecuted. There as well, Esau comes out with sword. Over there however, the story ends differently. Yaakov finds mercy and brotherly affection from Esau. They hug, they cry. There Esau approaches Yaakov and suggests that they travel together. Both brothers reunited, hand in hand. Yaakov however demurs.
My Master should please pass before his servant; I will make my way at my slow pace according to the pace of my work and the pace of my children until I come to my lord at Seir
Rashi notes that the time that Yaakov would catch up with Esau is when mashiach will come as the prophet says
V’alu moshi’im b’har tzion- and the saviors will arise up on the Mount of Zion to mete out justice to the mount of Esau. And on that day Hashem will be one and His name will be one”
It is fascinating that this reunion could have happened already before Mashiach at this first time we came into the land of Israel. The Torah portion this week, which starts of off with the parah aduma temima-pure red Heifer that brings purity after death, life again to those that have been tainted by the sadness of the separation from the spirit of the one Hashem. Edom is red in Hebrew pure is Tam. Esau is Edom- his brother Yaakov is known as the Tam, the pure, the simple, the complete one. It is only when the two of them come together that the world will see the oneness of Hashem. Moshe feels the moment has finally arrived. He sends messages like Yaakov did centuries ago. He reminds him that we share forefathers, that we are family. That the two of us together have a shared destiny. The path of the King.
Yet Esau responds with sword. Esau remembers that the blessing of that shared ancestor Yitzchak was that the power of the Jewish people with their voice.hHakol kol Yaakov and the hands of are the hands of Esau. The blessing of Esau is that he shall live by his sword. Edom is telling Moshe if the time has come for us to reunite, then why did you not use your words when it came to the rock? Why did you hit it? In the Messianic era one merely has to talk and the miracles of Hashem will be revealed. The time is not yet. We will still use our sword. And thus our long journey began.
We ultimately entered Israel, but it was not the Messianic Era. We came again and had the second Temple and it was again destroyed By Rome the descendants of our brother Edom/Esau. We are still waiting. Esau is still waiting for us to redeem our power of words. Our prayer. We have a shared destiny that has begun with the return to Eretz Yisrael miraculously with the entire world’s permission this time around. But we still have not merited to have Esau appreciate and feel confident that we are prepared to create that Beit Tefila L’Kol Ha’amim- that House of Hashem for all nations. We are still using the sword of Esau to establish our legitimacy, our soldiers, our army. We are still hitting the rock, rather than turning our eyes and hearts up to heaven and realizing our blessing and power is through our words. Through the truths and light that we should declare to the world. We went to down to Egypt and the time has come for us to finish the final piece. To bring the shechina home. To settle that family fight and bring to mankind that oneness that we all share in the image of our Creator. We are the first-born and it is our role to share that with the rest of the world. May we soon seen the day where Hashem, His name and the entire world are one.
Have marvelous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S VIDEO OF THEWEEK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xCxzdU9dQo –Miracle at Entebbee short film
http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/3294671/jewish/Inside-Operation-Entebbe.htm – Entebbe inteview
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7Vu5nAHBlk –Jewish beatbox Josh and Ilan on Americas got talent
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“A tropn libe brengt a mol a yam trern.”-. A drop of love can bring an ocean of tears.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JEWISH PERSONALITY AND HIS QUOTES IN HONOR OF THE YARTZEIT OF THE WEEK
“To be kind is more important then to be right. Many times what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens”
“You cannot add more minutes to the day, but you can utilize each one to the fullest.”
“If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that G-d has left for you to complete. But if you one see what is wrong and how ugly it is, then it is yourself that needs repair.”
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, The Lubavitcher Rebbe 3rd Tamuz this Shabbos (1902-1994), the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, is arguably one of the most impactful figures and Jewish leaders of modern times. To hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of sympathizers and admirers around the world, he was -- and still is, despite his passing -- "the Rebbe," undoubtedly, the one individual more than any other singularly responsible for stirring the conscience and spiritual awakening of world Jewry. When I was a young child I attended Camp Gan Israel, a Chabad camp in Kalkaska Michigan. I hated it. I hated as a result of that the Lubavitch and the Rebbe movement. It is only recently, tha tpst few years or so, that I have grown up and truly began to appreciate the incredible teachings, learning and impact Chabad has had on the world and the greatness of the Rebbe’s vision and realized dream of spreading Torah and Judaism all over the world.
The Rebbe was born in 1902 Russia, to the renowned kabbalist, talmudic scholar and leader Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson. His mother’s courage and ingenuity became legend when during her husband's exile by the Soviets to a remote village in Asian Russia she labored to make inks from herbs she gathered in the fields -- so that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak could continue writing his commentary on kabbalah and other Torah-subjects.
There is a story told about the Rebbe's early life that seems to be almost symbolic of everything that was to follow. When he was nine years old, the young Menachem Mendel courageously dove into the Black Sea and saved the life of a little boy who had rowed out to sea and lost control of his small craft. That sense of "other lives in danger" seems to have dominated his consciousness; of Jews drowning in assimilation, ignorance or alienation--and no one hearing their cries for help: Jews on campus, in isolated communities, under repressive regimes. From early childhood he displayed a prodigious mental acuity. By the time he reached his Bar Mitzvah, the Rebbe was considered an illuy, a Torah prodigy. He spent his teen years immersed in the study of Torah.
In 1929 Rabbi Menachem Mendel married the sixth Rebbe's daughter, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, in Warsaw. For sixty years she was the Rebbe's life partner; she passed away on 22 Sh'vat in 1988. He later studied in the University of Berlin and then at the Sorbonne in Paris. It may have been in these years that his formidable knowledge of mathematics and the sciences began to blossom. There he developed a close personal relationship with Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik who became the leader of Yeshiva University.
On Monday, Sivan 28, 5701 (June 23, 1941) the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin arrived in the United States, having been miraculously rescued, by the grace of Almighty G‑d, from the European holocaust. The Rebbe's arrival marked the launching of sweeping new efforts in bolstering and disseminating Torah and Judaism in general, and Chassidic teachings in particular, through the establishment of three central Lubavitch organizations under the Rebbe's leadership: Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch ("Central Organization For Jewish Education"), Kehot Publication Society, and Machne Israel, a social services agency. Shortly after his arrival, per his father-in-law's urging, the Rebbe began publishing his notations to various Chassidic and kabbalistic treatises, as well as a wide range of response on Torah subjects. With publication of these works his genius was soon recognized by scholars throughout the world.
After the passing of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, in 1950, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson reluctantly ascended to the leadership of the Lubavitch movement, whose headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. Soon Lubavitch institutions and activities took on new dimensions. The outreaching philosophy of Chabad-Lubavitch was translated into ever greater action, as Lubavitch centers and Chabad Houses were opened in dozens of cities and university campuses around the world. Under his leadership Cahabd took over the world. The joke was that the two things you could find any where were Chabad and Coca Cola. Radiating a keen sense of urgency, he demanded much from his followers, and even more from himself. The Rebbe led, above else, by example. From the moment the Rebbe arrived in America in 1941, his brilliance at addressing himself to the following ideal became apparent: He would not acknowledge division or separation. Every Jew -- indeed every human being -- has a unique role to play in the greater scheme of things and is an integral part of the tapestry of G‑d's creation.
For nearly five of the most critical decades in recent history, the Rebbe's goal to reach out to every corner of the world with love and concern has unfolded dramatically. No sector of the community has been excluded -- young and old; men and women; leader and layman; scholar and laborer; student and teacher; children, and even infants.
He had an uncanny ability to meet everyone at their own level -- he advised Heads of State on matters of national and international importance, explored with professionals the complexities in their own fields of expertise, and spoke to small children with warm words and a fatherly smile.
On Monday afternoon (March 2, 1992), while praying at the gravesite of his father-in-law and predecessor, the Rebbe suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side and, most devastatingly, robbed him of the ability to speak.
Two years and three months later, the Rebbe passed away in the early morning hours of the 3rd of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, in the year 5754 from creation (June, 12 1994), orphaning a generation.
And certainly his Chasidus. Sadly there are many that because of that loss. Created a Messianic figure out of him. Which is why many opposed him during his lifetime. Yet he leaves behind incredible works of Torah that I grow from each day as I have begun studying them and become more and more inspired by the depth of his teachings and knowledge. I would not call myself a Lubavitcher chasid, yet I can certainly now say that I have become his student. And I appreciate the desperate need for leaders of that caliber and vision that we so lack in todays world. May his memory be blessed
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. Tegart police stations are found in:
A. Ya’ara and Safed (Tzfat)
B. Nebi Yusha and Jerusalem
C. Abu Gosh and Hanita
D. Caesarea and Latrun
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL RASHI OF THE WEEK
Rashi as we have noted will sometimes quote sources for his explanation of the simple understanding the of the text. Other times he may merely paraphrase the source and not attirbuite it to its source. There are times that he may even make slight changes in the text that he is basing his commentary on. And in those situations it is important and absolutely enlightening to see why he did not quote the exact text and what changes he felt necessary to make. If you take the time to exam his quote you may be surprised at the complexity of the insight that Rashi is trying to give. In this week’s Torah portion there is a short Rashi that is worthy of examination. The Torah tells us about the Jewish people complaining once again-against Hashem, the manna and Moshe. Hashem sends a plague of snakes on the people and they start dying. They repent and they ask Moshe to pray on their behalf. Moshe davens for them and Hashem commands him to put up a copper snake on a post the Jews will raise their eyes up to heaven and see it and repent and they will be healed. (Incidentally I believe this is the source for that universal symbol).
Rashi comments on the verse that Moshe prayed
Bamidbar (21:7) From here we derive that someone who is asked for forgiveness should not be- either ‘cruel to forgive’ -or in ‘his forgiveness’- two different versions of Rashi.
The source for Rashi is a Midrash which quotes a different verse for this concept which is the story of Abraham and Avimelech who kidnapped his wife and was struck with a plague and Avraham prayed for his forgiveness also. The question is why does Rashi not quote this teaching that one should forgive back on that story. As seemingly that seems to be the earlier and original source for it.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe suggests a brilliant idea- that really fits into a lot of different areas and answers quite a few more questions as well. He suggests that when it comes to forgiveness there are two types of forgiveness. 1) you forgive someone in order that they should not be punished as a result of the action they did against you- He calls this forgiving the sin. 2) Forgiving the person. Here you want the person to be complete once again. You want to restore your relationship with him as if the sin never happened. You wish for him to be good with you and God as it was before.
He therefore suggests that by Avimelech Avraham just prayed that he should not be punished. The Medrash therefore teaches us one should always forgive someone so that they will not be punished. Here The Torah says that Moshe prayed for the nation. It wasn’t about the punishment in as much as it was about getting them to be totally cleansed of the sin so that there relationship should be back to what it was. Therefore Rashi says that from here we see that one should not be cruel in their forgiveness- forgive all the way, for give the person don’t hold back. Therefore here as opposed to Avimelech, Hashem commands Moshe to put up the snake and go through the process of full teshuva-repentance, rather than just removing the snake.
Wow! Pretty incredible isn’t it?
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S COOL HISTORICAL EVENT THAT HAPPENED ON THIS DATE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-Rescue from Entebee- 6th Tamuz July 4th 1976-The United States was celebrating its bicentennial 200 years of its independence. Meanwhile in Israel we were once again realizing that our 3000 year old story of anti-semitism, the silence of the world while once again Jews were being kidnapped and threatened. A week before hand an Air France had been hijacked and over close to 100 Jews were being held hostage in Uganda by Palestininan and German terrorists. The non-Jews had been released it was once again the Jews. The hijackers had the stated objective to free 40 Palestinian and affiliated militants imprisoned in Israel and 13 prisoners in four other countries in exchange for the hostages. The flight, which had originated in Tel Aviv with the destination of Paris, was diverted after a stopover in Athens via Benghazi to Entebbe, the main airport of Uganda. The Ugandan government supported the hijackers, and dictator Idi Amin personally welcomed them. After moving all hostages from the aircraft to a disused airport building, the hijackers separated all Israelis and several non-Israeli Jews from the larger group and forced them into a separate room. Over the following two days, 148 non-Israeli hostages were released and flown out to Paris. 94, mainly Israeli, passengers along with the 12-member Air France crew, remained as hostages and were threatened with death.
The IDF acted on information provided by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. The hijackers threatened to kill the hostages if their prisoner release demands were not met. This threat led to the planning of the rescue operation. These plans included preparation for armed resistance from Ugandan military troops.
Success was hardly foregone conclusion: Israel was sending 100 of its best commandos into a situation far away, where they could be badly outnumbered; where there was no backup or rescue plan if the mission went awry; where maintaining the element of surprise required convincing Ugandan soldiers that they were Idi Amin’s entourage by having them drive up in his car; Which incidentally they were only able to find an old Mercedes that had to be rebuilt and painted and because it was painted the wrong color. Although when they came there their cover was blown because Amin had a new car the day before and the driver’s seat was on the wrong side. To get there the planes had to fly distances only 100 feet off the ground to avoid radar detection (creating such turbulence as to make those commandos vomit incessantly). Oh, and let’s not forget: Israel’s planes did not have the range to fly to Uganda and back; nevertheless, they embarked on their mission, unsure of how or where they would refuel, as nearby African countries would fear reprisals from Palestinian terrorists and Amin’s military if they’d help Israel. (In another fascinating chapter to this episode, Kenya bravely came through, and refueled the planes in Nairobi; Kenya would pay a heavy price for its role.)
The operation took place at night. Israeli transport planes carried 100 commandos over 2,500 to Uganda for the rescue operation. The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes. 102 hostages were rescued. Some of the passengers noted that the seats were uncomfortable and when they stood up they realized they had been sitting on hand grenades. Oops... Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one, the unit commander, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed. All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, and thirty Soviet-built MiG-17s and MiG-21s of Uganda's air force were destroyed. Kenyan sources supported Israel, and in the aftermath of the operation Idi Amin issued orders to retaliate and slaughter several hundred Kenyans present in Uganda. The UN almost condemned Israel for the violation of foreign sovereignty and refused to pass a resolution condemning hijacking and that worthless self-hating Jewish secretary of State Henry Kissinger criticized Israel for using US equipment.
Operation Entebbe, which had the military codename Operation Thunderbolt, is sometimes referred to retroactively as Operation Jonathan in memory of the unit's leader, Yonatan Netanyahu. He was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel. If you ask me this was one of the last high points in Israeli history where the world recognized and respected to a large degree that the Israeli army will do whatever it takes to save Jews around the world regardless of the political correctness of the situation and despite any fall-out. Tragically that is not the case anymore today when 13 year olds are being massacred in the bed and 100’s of attacks are being perpetrated monthly and our response is merely to continue to take it…Ahh.. for the good old days!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S FAMILY JOKES OF THE WEEK
A police officer jumps into his squad car and calls the station.
“I have an interesting case here,” he says. “A woman shot her husband for stepping on the floor she just mopped.”
“Have you arrested her?” asks the sergeant.
“No, not yet. The floor’s still wet.”
My sister once gave me the silent treatment for an entire week, at the end of which I declared, “Hey, we’re getting along pretty great lately!”
Hanging up with my 90-year-old mother, I sighed, then said to my 96-year-old uncle, “She’s so stubborn.” He shook his head sympathetically and warned, “You’re going to have trouble with her when she gets old.”
Texting acronyms can stump even the best parents:
Mom: Your great-aunt just passed away. LOL.
Son: Why is that funny?
Mom: It’s not funny, David! What do you mean?
Son: Mom, LOL means Laughing Out Loud.
Mom: I thought it meant Lots of Love. I have to call everyone back.
Mom: What do IDK, LY & TTYL mean?
Son: I don’t know, love you, talk to you later.
Mom: OK, I will ask your sister.
I asked my brother, the father of four boys, “If you had to do it all over again, would you still have kids?”
“Yes,” he said. “Just not these four.”
A 3 years old boy sits near a pregnant woman.
Boy: Why do you look so fat?
Pregnant woman: I have a baby inside me.
Boy: Is it a good baby?
Pregnant woman: Yes, it is a very good baby.
Boy: Then why did you eat it?! -
Boy: Why do you look so fat?
Pregnant woman: I have a baby inside me.
Boy: Is it a good baby?
Pregnant woman: Yes, it is a very good baby.
Boy: Then why did you eat it?! -
And the great Bill Cosby line- Human beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come back home….
Answer is A – Ok first of all do you know what these things are? Tegart fortresses or stations are all over Israel and you’ve certainly seen them around. They were designed by Charles Tegart a Broitish officer who had previously been stationed in India and designed these walled in stations with a tall watchtower and fortified water supply in order to withstand a siege in case of revolts. In Israel in 1936-37 after the arab riots and pogroms that took place they were placed along the northern border and places where there was fear of revolt. This is not an easy question as of course every answer has one correct place. Nebi Yusha was the first one that was built but there was none in Jerusalem. Latrun is the most famous and visited of all of them as it hosts the tank museum, but Casarea never had one. Abu Ghosh, right next to Telshe stone has one, but Hanita did not although it does host the first tower and stockade Israel settlement there which might confuse you. Which leaves Tzfat which had two one the current police station and the second by the center of Jerusalem street by the former michlala and the Davidka monument. The fact they write ya’ara up here in the North by Shlomi is a bit of a trick as well because it wasn’t founded until 1950. But yet that is the correct answer the Tegart fortress being Basa that was in the arab village before it was established.