Our view of the Galile

Friday, July 29, 2016

Getting Back Together- Pinchas / Mattos 2016/5774

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

July 29th  2016 -Volume 6, Issue 43 23rd Tamuz 5776
Parshat Pinchas and Mattos!

Getting Back Together
I miss you guys in America. We’ve been separated by a Torah portion for months already. I know many of you click on the link I send for a previous year’s torah portion on the Parsha you are reading. But it’s time we got back together again. As one of the recent presidential candidates said it’s time for us to get together. “We are stronger together”. “Be wary of someone who says only I can bring change and save you”. We know better- or at least she does- All of us together is what makes us great. Or not?

So let’s try that with our weekly E-Mails again. Let’s talk about the Parsha that brings us all together. Interestingly enough, it’s named not after a group of people together, rather it’s named after one person; Pinchas. So maybe one person can make us great again. Oh… Yet on the other hand this week’s Parsha in Israel seemingly a more democratic one is called Matos- tribes. Oh…Who should we vote for? Can one person bring us together or can one make us a great and we need all of us. I’m confused. As you can see I didn’t have any tours this week so I’ve spent way too much time following these campaigns. Don’t worry they start up again next week so hopefully I can try to forget about the mishegas that doesn’t look like it will end for another few months.
The truth is though these two Parshas are really one story which is nice to bring us all together. But they are a strange story; perhaps the strangest broken narrative in the Torah. One that is screaming out one big question. What is going on?
The beginning of Pinchas seems to be the conclusion of last week’s Torah portion. The epilogue of the story of the Jewish people sinning with the daughters of Midian and the subsequent plague which led to the greatest amount of casualties of all of the battles and punishments in the wilderness. The plague was brought to an end by Pinchas taking his spear and kabobbing Zimri and the daughter of the king of Midian who were flagrantly consorting in front of Moshe and the Jewish people. This week the Torah tells us the identity of Zimri and Kazbi and the reward of Pinchas to be the winner of the covenant of peace award. The Torah then commands us to wipe out Midian and wage battle against them. The next thing we would expect though is for the war to take place. Just like every other war in the Torah. Yet the Torah does not do that. Instead we seem to have a very long intermission with many different and diverse topics which take us all the way into this week’s ‘Israel’ parsha of Matos where the battle takes place. Incidentally the battle against Midian is not only the most described battle in the Torah covering about 4 aliyas, but it contains a greater description than almost all of the other wars in the entire Torah from the times of Avraham put together. It’s obviously an important one. If not the most important one. Yet at the same time it seems to be the strangest description with this long break and narrative from the time it was commanded until it was actually carried out.
Let’s examine all of the different topics that are covered. Seemingly an understanding of them are critical to us preparing for the battle against Midian. First the Torah counts and lists the families of Israel. This would seem understandable, after all they are going to war and we have to round up the troops. Yet there seems to be a lot of extraneous information. The list includes various stories Korach’s sons not dying. Lots of names of families each with a yud and heh in front of them to show Hashem’s name in each of them. It mentions Serach the daughter of Asher who was certainly not a major solider at age 280 or something. Strange. The Torah then proceeds to talk about the division of the land and the tribe of Levi- as well as Yovheved and Miriam- who do not go to war and enter the land. What this is doing here? Again strange…  

But then the Torah really seems to get off topic with the story of more women, the daughters of Tzlafchad who want their portion in the land of Israel, because their father died and the law that girls could inherit in that circumstance was not yet taught. {Who says a woman can’t bring up issues that us men miss? Although it ultimately had to be a man, Moshe that raised it to Hashem. Hmmmm…there I go again- enough with the politics.} But what does this have to do with the war against Midian. Why here and now? The Torah then really goes off topic telling us about Moshe being told he would die, his request for someone to take over him; a candidate that would truly uplift each man and deal with their individual personalities and unite them. {Hmmmm again- I’m trying, I really am}. And that we shouldn’t be like a flock of sheep without a shepherd- I think I’m gonna give up soon on not seeing the connection here to politics and the sheep that flock to leaders. But again what does this have to do with Midian?
To bring it all to an end the next two aliyas deal with the laws of the daily sacrifices, the holiday additional musaf offerings, just in case you thought we finished all of that already back in Vayikra. It’s like a little review. Then the beginning of Matos pretty much starts off with the concept that once you covered the laws of land, division, inheritance, sacrifices and holidays, why not talk about oaths and vows and family members that can nullify them. Huh?! Really what is going on? Where is all this coming from? It’s like one big chulent. I feel ADD jumping from topic to topic. The torah then finally goes back and continues for the next five aliyot the story of the war we have been waiting for. The war incidentally where we wiped out five kings and their armies and not one soldier died or was captured. A war which was led by that one man Pinchas. It seems that the prelude to this battle must have worked.

Rav Mordechai Alon suggests an incredible insight into this battle. He suggests that the secret can be found in the way that Hashem commands Moshe and that Moshe commands the Jewish people. Hashem commands Moshe that this battle be one of the (Bamidbar 31:2-3) ‘vengeance of the Jewish people against Midian’. Moshe however commands us to fight because this is the ‘vengeance of Hashem’ against them. Rashi notes that a battle against us is like a battle against Hashem. Our vengeance is His and His is ours. We are one.

Midian led by Bilaam understood after witnessing the annihilation of the giant armies of Og and Sichon realized the only way they can get to us is to divide from Hashem. “Their God hates zima- licentiousness”. We can seduce them and their God will abandon them. That was the plan and the battle of Midian. The nefarious final solution to break us up from Hashem. The word zima can be an acronym of two Hebrew words zeh ma- what’s this? What is this ideology that Hashem has chosen you? What is this concept of the sanctity of your relationships between you and your Creator, between a man and his wife, between your nation and other nations? That is Midians objective. That is their plan.
Hashem therefore gives us the arsenal we need to fight and conquer a Midianite ideological battle. First recognize that His name is found in each Jewish family, name by name-family by family. Even a Korach who claimed that we were all special and there was no room for individual roles and relationships that are different, such as the Kohanim, was swallowed up. His own children though were accepted back and did Teshuva. We have matriarchs like Serach who revived Yaakov after Yosef was kidnapped and who thought all was lost. We have Yocheved, Miriam and the daughters of Tzlafchad whose faith that the Jewish people are eternal and that each of us has a portion in Israel divined by Hashem.; A personal homestead where each and every individual Jew will have a connection to fulfill his personal role in service of Hashem and realize the greatness of their spiritual potential.
The Torah continues with the necessity for leaders that will follow Moshe that will inspire that personal spark that Hashem is one with us. Who better than Yehoshua whom Moshe himself added the yud and heh to his name giving him the appreciation and spirit that will become his identity representing Hashem in each of us. The Torah then moves to the idea that each us will bring Hashem His daily bread- the daily sacrifice. ‘Bring Me My daily bread so I may bring you yours’-the Midrash says. We will have linked eternal relationship. We will have holidays that we will congregate together each one with its own specific message and link and sacrifices that we will become one together. Finally the Torah concludes the narrative in this week’s Torah portion that we will have the almost god-like power to create prohibitions that have Divine ramifications through the vows that we make. But the truth is. It’s really not necessary. They can be annulled, when you recognize that all that needs to be prohibited is already. The holy spark is within us. A father can pass that down to his children, a husband to his wife, the wise man and even a simple Jew can show you and help you find the petach- the opening to realize that Hashem is one with us without any unnecessary man-made restrictions. We have the power and ability to make vows and create Divine laws in this world. But even more powerfully we have the even greater ability to remove those vows and reveal the oneness that Hashem already put into the creation that is revealed through us and our families. Only then can we begin to fight a battle that is vengeance of Hashem and the vengeance of us. Revenge is when we recognize that anyone that says something or does something against our God is doing something against us. It’s personal. It’s who we are. Hashem in turns feels and does the same for us.
The battle against Midian is an eternal battle. It is the final battle before entering the land of Israel and meriting in our inheriting of the land. The biggest challenge we will face in coming to the land of Israel is to recognize that we are not a nation like any other nation. To merit the land we have to appreciate we each have a unique divine job to accomplish here. A spark of holiness that only we can reveal and that we can only reveal here. It is also a spark that we can only reveal together. When we are united. When we are one. This spark was awakened in us by Pinchas, who are sages tells us is also Elijah the prophet. Eliyahu Hanavi who will herald in the Messianic era that we so desperately long for. As we mourn during this three week period to the 9th of Av and reflect upon the hatred, the fighting, the distance between us and Hashem that led to the destruction of the Temple, let us resolve to repair that. To see the Divine in each one of ourselves and to shine it out unabashedly to the world. If we do that, who knows, we may not have to suffer with too many more self-serving politicians’ rhetoric elocutions and invocations. We may just hear a shofar blast instead. See I’m almost made it to the end…

Have a holy meaningful Shabbat and a blessed new month of Av
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NmCE8ftufQ   - Funny Breslav against Maccabbe soccer game

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZtWWbbQVLY  Bernie Sanders in a movie as a Rabbi Manny Chavitz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCFGPo6LI3s  – One day Acapella version from Matisyahu

“Verter zol men vegn un nit tseyln”-. Words should be weighed, not counted.


A man may hide himself from his enemies, but not from his friends.”

“Obeying from love is better than to obey from fear.”

“There are many Midrashim and the Explanations of our sages and I have only come to explain the simple explanation of the text in a clear fashion”-

Rav Shlomo Yitzchaki- Rashi 19th Tamuz  this Thursday (1040-1105)-
Readers of our weekly E-Mail are familiar with the name Rashi. In fact if you ask me what makes Rashi so unique is that he is probably the last person in Klal Yisrael to ever study the Torah or the Talmud without Rashi. From Rashi and on every commentary or student young and old beigns their study with his commentary. It is not even debatable I believe that Rashi perhaps became the greatest commentary and most accepted one of all times.
"Rashi" is not the full name of that great man. It is merely a combination of the three Hebrew letters, Resh, Shin, Yud, which stand for RabenuShlomo Yitzchaki - our Rabbi Solomon, the son of Yitzchak.
Rabenu Solomon Yitzchaki, or Rashi as he is generally referred to, was born almost exactly 900 years ago, in the year 4800. He lived 65 years. Rashi is said to be a descendant of King David.
Rashi was born in the town of Troyes in France; some people believe he was born in Worms. His father Yitzchak was a great scholar, but very poor. He made a meager living from the sale of wine.
A wonderful story is told about the birth of Rashi: His father, Rabbi Yitzchak once found a rare diamond. "Now, there would be no more poverty," he thought and went to sell the precious stone to the local jeweler. The jeweler hadn't enough money to pay for such a large diamond, and suggested to the bishop to buy it. Now the bishop had been looking for such a diamond for he wanted to put it on his cross. He offered a huge amount of money for it. When Rabbi Yitzchak heard for what purpose the bishop wanted the stone, he refused to sell it. He knew, however, that if he did not sell the stone, it would be taken from him forcibly, and so he threw it into the sea. A Heavenly Voice then resounded: "For this great sacrifice you will be blessed with a son that will outshine all the precious stones in the world, and the light of hisTorah will shine for ever." The following year a son was born to him, and he called him Solomon, saying, may G‑d grant him wisdom like unto King Solomon.
Rashi was still a youngster when he left his home town and went to Worms and other towns that were known for their great Torah scholars. With great zeal Rashi learnt Torah and Talmud, and after some eight years of ardent study, he returned to his home town again. He was then about 25 years of age, but he continued to study on his own. Soon he became known as a very great scholar, and thousands of students and scholars flocked to him, to learn from him. Rashi, was elected Rabbi of his town Troyes, but he did not accept any wages, and made his living from the sale of wine, like his father used to do.
Rashi began to write his famous commentary on the Tanach and Talmud at an early age. The Torah was very difficult to understand properly, and the Talmud was even more difficult. Rashi decided to write a commentary in simple language that would make it easy for every one to learn and understand the Torah. But Rashi was very modest, and even after he had become famous far and wide, he hesitated to come out into the open with his commentary. He wanted to make sure that it would be favorably received. So what did he do? He wrote his commentaries on slips of parchment and set out on a two years' journey, visiting the various Torah academies of those days. He went 'incognito,' never disclosing his identity.
Rashi came to a Yeshivah and sat down to listen to the lecture of the Dean of the Yeshivah. There came a difficult passage in the Talmud which the Rabbi struggled to explain to his students; but did not succeed very well. When Rashi was left alone, he took the slip with his commentary, in which that passage of the Talmud was explained simply and clearly, and put it into the Gemora of the head of the academy. On the following morning, when the Rabbi opened his Gemora he found a mysterious slip of parchment in which the passage of the Talmud was so clearly and simply explained that he was amazed. He told his students about it, and they all decided it must have been sent from heaven. Rashi listened to their praises of his commentary and was very happy to know how useful it was to the students, but he did not say that it was his. And so Rashi went on visiting various academies of the Torah in various lands and cities, and everywhere he planted his slips of commentaries secretly. The way these slips were received, made Rashi realize more and more how needed they were, and he continued to write his commentaries on the entire Chumash, Prophets, and all the tractates of the vast 'Sea of the Talmud.' These "mysterious" slips of parchment were copied and widely circulated throughout all the academies of the Torah, but nobody knew who the author was.
Once Rashi was discovered planting a slip of his commentary in the usual manner, and the secret was out. Immediately he was acclaimed by all as the great author of that wonderful commentary. Rashi's name became known throughout the world. In every Yeshivah, in every Torah school, Rashi's commentary was used by young and old, and he literally opened the eyes of all the Torah scholars. No other Rabbi or commentator gained so much popularity as Rashi. There are very few Chumashim or Gemoras printed without Rashi, and the study of the Torah and Talmud is now almost unthinkable without the aid of Rashi's explanation.
Rashi had no sons, but he had several daughters, some say two, some say three.
His sons-in-law and grandchildren were famous scholars and commentators of the Torah and Talmud. One of his grandsons was Rabenu Tam, another one - Rashbam (Rabbi Samuel ben Meir). Rashi's grandsons and disciples were the authors of the 'Tosefoth' known to all students of the Talmud.
In the last years of his life Rashi lived to see troubled times. It was the time of the crusaders, when thousands of Jews were massacred by wild and mad mobs that participated in the crusades, and wiped out whole communities on their way. Rashi's heart was broken and full of sorrow about the plight of his unfortunate brethren, and he wrote Piyutim, some of which have become part of our prayers (especially in the 'Selichoth').
At his old age Rashi's health failed him. He was weak and ailing and could no longer write. His daughter then acted as his secretary, and he dictated to her his answers to the many queries that used to come in to him from the greatest scholars of his time.
On the 29th day of Tammuz, in the year 4865, Rashi passed away. Rashi, however, continues to live in his works which are studied by all the students of the Talmud Torahs and Yeshivoths, and by the adult scholars too. ncidentally, Rashi's commentaries are the primary source of information for the study of French language and culture in the Middle Ages. The recent 900th anniversary of his death was widely commemorated in France, with public ceremonies, conferences, and a postage stamp issued in his honor.

answer below at end of Email
In the peace accords with Jordan it was agreed, inter alia, that:
A.    Jordan will provide Israel with water
  1. Israel will provide Jordan with water
  2. Israelis will be allowed to cross into Jordan on the Allenby Bridge
  3. Two more crossings will be opened between the Arava crossing and the Allenby Bridge

The problem with Rashi is that its sometimes so easy to read what he writes and continue and move on without actually thinking about what he writes and one then misses the perplexing questions tht need to be asked and that once answered reveals a powerful insight into a Torah teaching.
In this weeks Torah portion the verse tells us that (Bamidbar 31:5) a thousand from each tribe were given over to fight in battle. Rashi notes that the Torah uses a term that seems to mean they were given over against their will
“In order to teach you the praise of the shepherds of Israel how dear they are to Israel. Until they heard that Moshe would die (as part of the aftermath of the battle with Midian) what did he (Moshe- say about them) ‘ A little more and they will stone me”. Once they heard that Moshe’s death would be connected to the vengeance of Midian they did not want to go and they had to be forced.”
If one thinks about this Rashi for even a second, the question is why did Rashi have to bring up the dirty past to tell us that we love our leaders and Moshe? Just say that we didn’t want to be given over if we knew that Moshe would die. Why does Rashi have to tell us that previously we wanted to stone him?
The Steipler Gaon, explains based on a concept of Rabbi Yisrael Salant explains that the love Israel has for its leader is so deep that even when we are holding externally by stoning him deep down the true love will come out ultimately. He brings an example of a parent of a difficult child who he constantly fights with, at the same time that parent might be a teacher who has a student who he loves and always treats with pride and praise. However in time of danger, the parent’s internal love for his child would come out and if given a choice he would save the child first, despite all of the trouble he gives him. It is almost inexplainable. It is just a deep-seated natural love he has for his child. That is what Rashi is trying to convey about our connection with Moshe. This can only be shown this internal love by contrasting it with the external strife. That is the depth of the love and connection we have to Moshe.
If that is true about us and Moshe- the shepherd of Israel, how much more so is that true about our love for Hashem who is our shepherd. Despite how much we might rebel, under it all we are faithful and would give our lives for Him and our belief in Him. That is the history of the Jewish people from even the least observant of our people, when given a choice or threat of life they will martyr themselves before denying God.
What an amazing Rashi and lesson

Battle of Horns of Hittin-Crusaders gone or the Muslims strike back!- 27th Tamuz July 4th 1187- As we mentioned last week about the Crusader capture of Jerusalem it took less then a hundred years until the Muslims came back this week by the Egyptian ruler Saladin- who’s doctor was none other than the  Rambam. During the 1170s, Saladin began expanding his power from Egypt and worked to unite the Muslim states surrounding the Holy Land. This resulted in the Kingdom of Jerusalem being encircled by a unified enemy for the first time in its history. Attacking the Crusader state in 1177, Saladin was defeated by Baldwin IV at the Battle of Montgisard. In the wake of the battle, an uneasy truce existed between the two sides. As the Muslim states were uniting, there was increasing dissension in Jerusalem with the elevation of Guy of Lusignan to the throne in 1186.
Claiming the throne through his marriage to Sibylla, mother of the late child-king Baldwin V, Guy's ascension was supported by the Knights Templar. Others, such as Raymond III of Tripoli, who had been Baldwin V's regent, were angered by the move. Tensions quickly escalated between the two parties and civil war was only avoided through mediation by Balian of Ibelin. Despite this, Guy's situation remained tenuous as Raynald repeatedly violated the truce with Saladin by attacking Muslim trade caravans.
This came to a head when his men assaulted a large caravan travelling north from Cairo. In the fighting, his troops killed many of the guards, captured the merchants, and stole the goods. Operating within in the terms of the truce, Saladin sent envoys to Guy seeking compensation and redress. Reliant on Raynald to maintain his power, Guy, who conceded that they were in the right, was forced to send them away unsatisfied, despite knowing that it would mean war.
This deal backfired when Saladin requested permission for his son, Al-Afdal, to lead a force through Raymond's lands. Compelled to allow this, Raymond saw 7,000 men enter Galilee and defeat a Crusader force at Cresson on May 1. Calling his allies to assemble, Guy hoped to strike before Saladin could invade in force. Renouncing his treaty with Saladin, Raymond fully reconciled with Guy and a Crusader army of around 20,000 men formed near Acre. Advancing, they occupied a strong position near the springs at Sephoria.
Possessing a force nearly the size of Saladin's, the Crusaders had defeated earlier invasions by holding strong positions with reliable water sources while allowing the heat to cripple the enemy. Aware of past failings, Saladin sought to lure Guy's army away from Sephoria so that it could be defeated in open battle. To accomplish this, he personally led an attack against Raymond's fortress at Tiberias on July 2 while his main army remained at Kafr Sabt. That night, the Crusader leaders held a war council to determine their course of action.
While the majority was for pressing on to Tiberias, Raymond argued for remaining in the position at Sephoria, even if it meant losing his fortress. He wasn’t listened to and that was pretty much the end. Moving slowly and under constant harassment by Saladin's cavalry, they were guided towardsthe springs at Turan (six miles away) around noon. Concentrating around the spring, the Crusaders eagerly took water.
Though Tiberias was still nine miles away, with no reliable water en route, Guy insisted on pressing on that afternoon. Under increasing attacks from Saladin's men, the Crusaders reached a plain by the twin hills of the Horns of Hattin by mid-afternoon. Advancing with his main body, Saladin began attacking in force and ordered the wings of his army to sweep around the Crusaders. Attacking, they surrounded Guy's thirsty men and cut off their line of retreat back to the springs at Turan. Under increasing pressure, the Crusader rearguard was forced to halt and give battle, stopping the entire army's advance.
 Though advised to fight on to reach Tiberias and water, Guy elected to halt the advance for the night. Surrounded by the enemy, the Crusader camp possessed a well but it was dry by Sa;adins troops previous. The next morning, Guy's army awoke to blinding smoke. This came from fires set by Saladin's men to screen their actions and increase the Crusaders' misery. With his men weakened and thirsty, Guy broke camp and ordered an advance towards the springs of Hattin. Despite having sufficient numbers to break through the Muslim lines, fatigue and thirst badly weakened the cohesion of the Crusader army.
Advancing, the Crusaders were effectively counterattacked by Saladi. Desperate for water, much of Guy's infantry attempted a similar breakout, but failed. Forced onto the Horns of Hattin, the majority of this force was destroyed. Without infantry support, Guy's trapped knights were unhorsed by Muslim archers and forced to fight on foot. Though fighting with determination, they were driven onto the Horns. After three charges against the Muslim lines failed, the survivors were forced to surrender.
Precise casualties for the battle are not known, but it resulted in the destruction of the majority of the Crusader army. Among those captured were Guy and Raynald. While the former was treated well, the latter was personally executed by Saladin for his past transgressions. Also lost in the fighting was a relic of the True Cross which was sent to Damascus. Quickly advancing in the wake of his victory, Saladin captured Acre, Nablus, Jaffa, Toron, Sidon, Beirut, and Ascalon in rapid succession. Moving against Jerusalem that September, it was surrendered by Balian on October 2. The defeat at Hattin and subsequent loss of Jerusalem led to the Third Crusade. Beginning in 1189, it saw troops under Richard the Lionheart, Frederick I Barbarossa, and Philip Augustus advance on the Holy Land.

The two U.S. cities with the highest alcohol consumption are Las Vegas and Washington, DC. The difference between the two is that in Washington the drunks are gambling with our own money.

On his deathbed, a lifelong Republican supporter suddenly announced that he was switching to the Democrats. “I can’t believe you’re doing this.” said his friend. “For your entire life you’re been a staunch Republican. Why would you want to become a Democrat now?” “Because I’d rather it was one of them that dies than one of us.”

A thief stuck a pistol in a man’s ribs and said, “Give me your money.” The gentleman, shocked by the sudden attack, said “You cannot do this, I’m a United States congressman!” The thief said, “In that case, give me my money!”

A presidential candidate was a guest speaker at the golf club dinner. As the politician stood up to speak, a few of the men saw it as an opportunity to sneak off to the bar. An hour later, with the politician still talking, another man joined them. “Is he still talking?” they asked him. “Yes.” another man answered. “What on Earth is he/she talking about?” “I don’t know. He’s/She’s still introducing him/herself.”

A bus full of politicians was moving along the country road. Then it crashed into the tree and overturned. Blood and glass were everywhere. A middle-aged farmer working on the field nearby saw the accident and decided to help: he dug a huge hole and buried all the politicians who were still alive. He thought he did his country a good service.

Q: How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb? A: Two: one to change it and another one to change it back again.
Answer is B – The main accomplishment of the peace agreement with Jordan where Jordan recognized Israel’s right to the lands it liberated in the 6 day war were and renounced its claim was that Israel would give about 13 billion gallons of water a year to Jordan. Until today the Allenby crossing is only for foreigners and diplomats Israelis must cross through Akaba/Arava or the Jordan river crossing by beit shean. There is nothing between Arava and Allenby.

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