Our view of the Galile

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Eye Adjustment- Ki Tavo 2016/5776

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 23rd 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 52 20th Elul 5776
Parshat Ki Tavo
Eye Adjustment

He hadn’t left his room for three weeks. Reb Avraham Dov of Avrtich, better known by the title of the book authored by this great Chasidic Rebbe; the Bas Ayin, was one of the warmest Rebbes. He was beloved by all his chasidim. Having recently fulfilled his life-long dream of moving to Eretz Yisrael at the age of 65 in the year 1830, he had seemingly been higher and greater than he had ever been. Although he had written his work in Europe, he had refused to publish it until it had made its way to Eretz Yisrael and ‘breathed’ the holiness of the country. It was now on the way to be printed. After touring the country a bit, he settled into his routine in Tzfat, in his shul, his classes and his weekly sermons and his chasidus grew. But for three weeks the Rebbe had not come out of his room. Not for prayers, not to meet with his students, not even for his classes. There was a chasid that claimed to have peeked through the window and said he saw the Rebbe just sitting and staring at the floor with tears flowing down his eyes sobbing.
But after three weeks the Rebbe opened the door and walked out. His face was shining like sun. His joy and his exuberance were palpable. He announced that all were invited that evening to his home as he was making a seudat hoda’a- a thanksgiving feast. Now everyone was really curious? What went on? What happened in that room? What was the party all about?
The Rebbe stood up by the meal and he shared with his chasidim the following story. He told them that when he was in Europe his highlight of every year was when theshada”rim would come and collect money. The shada’rim which is an acronym of the word Shlucha D’Rabanan or rabbinic emissaries, were collectors that were sent out from the Holy Land all over Europe. They were sent to raise money for their respective communities that were fulfilling the mitzva of settling the land and preparing it for the imminent arrival of Mashiach when all Jews would return there. The Rebbe recalled how he would sit and talk for hours with these collectors. He would pester them with questions about anything they can share with him about the land that he loved and yearned for so much.
The last shadar that was by him though wasn’t playing ball. He told the Rebbe after a while, that he had nothing else that he could possibly share with him. He told him that when he comes to Israel-God willing and he goes to the Kotel, the Western Wall, he will be able to hear the wall talking to him and feel the Shechina’s presence. But the Rebbe was relentless. He begged to share with him one more thing. So he told him once again that when he comes to Israel and he goes to Rachel’s tomb he would be able to feel all of the longing of Jews for centuries for the return to Eretz Yisrael and the coming of Mashiach. But that still wasn’t enough for the Rebbe. He was like an addict begging for more and more. Just one more hit. Like a kid in a candy store, like me at a Kiddush, just one more bowl of chulent....please, please...
Finally the shadar told him that when you come to Tzfat you will see the stones and the rocks on the floor how they glisten like diamonds, like pearls. And with that theshadar left. The Rebbe told his chasidim how the words and those images played over in his mind for years until he was able to finally come here.  And he had. Upon arriving the Rebbe came to Tzfat and established his shul and then he went around the country to see and experience that holiness that only Eretz Yisrael has. He had visited the Kotel, he had gone to Rachel’s tomb. He had truly felt the holiness that he had been told about. Yet upon his return to Tzfat, he realized that he had yet to see the diamonds. Tzfat was a nice city, a holy city, the largest and greatest Jewish population in Israel at the time. But having suffered some earthquakes in the past the city had a lot of rocks, a lot of ruins. To the Rebbe’s eyes they were just that; rocks and rubble. He figured that the shadar had just exaggerated or embellished a bit. You know how these Rabbis who try to convince you to make Aliya are...J
But just a few weeks ago, lo and behold guess who came to town. It was that shadarthat had visited him back in Europe. The Rebbe was so excited to see him he called him into his room. He hugged him, he kissed him and he thanked him for all the inspiration he had given him to come to Israel. Yet at the end of the conversation the Bas Ayin turned to him and asked him why he had exaggerated so much. He told theshadar that he had gone to Yerushalayim and truly felt the Shechina talking to him. It was as if the wall and the stones were able to communicate with his soul. He had gone to Rachel’s tomb and sure enough he was overwhelmed with that longing for Mashiach. He felt he was not only wiping away his own tears as he stood there but the tears of his Mama Rachel and of all of her children for millennia that are awaiting that final day of redemption. Yet in Tzfat although he had appreciated all the greatness, holiness and spirituality of the city. Yet the rocks were truly just rocks. The city was a mound of them. There was no need for the shadar to make up bubbe-maysah’s-folklore about this special city as well.
The shadar turned to the Rebbe and with the words that pierced his heart he opened up the window and pointed and said
“Does the Rebbe really mean to tell me that you truly cannot see the glistening diamonds that are lining these streets?”
The Rebbe was taken aback. How is that he didn’t see it? He decided then and there that he needed to go in to seclusion. He would not leave his room until he too could see those incredible diamonds. So he sat in his room. He cried and he cried. Each time he would open his eyes all he would see were the same gray rubble, the stones, the hard rocks of Tzfat. But this morning, he told his chasidim when he opened his eyes after crying his eyes and his soul out all night long, before him stood a field of diamonds. I imagine it as being that incredible yellow brick road of Oz. Pearls, diamonds, glistening in the holy sun rays were laid out all around. He didn’t see any dirt he saw sparkly sand. It was wondrous. It was a whole new holy world.
The last Aliya in this week’s Torah portion concludes with an incredible strange and perplexing statement by Moshe Rabbeinu in his last speech to Am Yisrael. (Devarim 29:1-8)
 “And Moshe summoned all of Israel and said to them ‘You have seen everything that Hashem did L’Eineichem- before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all of his slave- the great trials that your eyes beheld, those great signs and wonders.
But Hashem did not give you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear until this day. I led you for forty years in the wilderness, your garment did not wear out from on you, and your shoe did not wear out from on your feet. Bread you did not eat and wine or beer you did not drink so that you would know that I am Hashem you God.
And you have arrived at this place. And Sichon the king of Heshbon and Og, King of the Bashan wento out towards battle and we smote them. We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to (the tribes of) Reuven, Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe. And you shall keep the words of this covenant Lma’an Taskilu- in order that you shall be succeed in all that you do’.”

I know it’s a long quote but bear with me. It will be worth it. As I said it’s perplexing because on one hand Moshe tells them that they have ‘seen everything Hashem has done before their eyes’. On the other hand, Moshe tells them that Hashem hasn’t given ‘them eyes to see until this day’ which in itself is a perplexing statement. What is this day? Although Rashi quotes that he heard that on this day Moshe had given the Torah scroll to the tribe of Levi and the nation complained that they wanted it themselves. However the text seems to tell us that Moshe is telling them that the reference is talking about the fact that they have already started dwelling in the land as this was given to them from Og and Sichon and the tribes are settling there.
Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (my wife’s step-grandfather in-law) in his seminal work Oznayim La’Torah suggests that is precisely what Moshe is telling them. That until now they were looking at the world with their chutz l’Aretz-diaspora eyes. They saw miracles and wonders that Hashem had done before their eyes. Although one can even read the words as saying that they have seen everything that Hashem has donel’eineichem- to their eyes- rather than before their eyes. Hashem had opened up their eyes until now. However now that they have reached Eretz Yisrael, now that they have actually arrived and even started settling it- albeit on the other side of the Jordan, they have their own holy eyes to see. The air of the land makes wise- our sages tell us. One that has learned Torah outside of Israel is like two when he comes here. Here in Eretz Yisrael we have the ability on our own to see the wonders, the miracles, touch theshechina, hear the longing and see the diamonds and the pearls.
It is interesting that the last words that we shall keep the covenant ‘l’maan taskilu’ the text tells us. I translated above those words like Rashi and the Unkelos translation that define those words as ‘in order that you shall succeed’. Yet the Yerushalmi- Jerusalem translation translates the words as biglal dtiboninun- in order that you shall contemplate/understand/internalize all that you do. In the Diaspora one follows the laws and remembers the covenant perhaps to be successful. This comes from the wordseichel-intelligence. The Jerusalem translation written in Eretz Yisrael understands so much deeper, that the covenant is so that we can open your eyes and internalize sights and experiences with eyes that one only gets when he is here.
I conclude this week’s insights with an (slightly edited) E-Mail from a very dear tourist of mine that shared with me some of his thoughts after our trip together. They inspired me I hope they inspire you as well.
“First I want to thank you for the recap of the most amazing life altering trip. It truly was amazing to re-read and thereby re-live the trip. It is amazing to think that myself, who spent only 12 days in Eretz Yisroel, knows more and understands more of the Land, be it from a political, regional, Torah view, than my friends who lived there many years. On a personal note: Your love for the Land was contagious and infectious. 
I have a new appreciation for Im Kol Zeh Achakeh Lo B’chol Yom Sheyavo. I learnt things about myself in Eretz Yisroel that I did not know existed. But the two real gifts you gave me through our time spent together is:
1) I now feel and more importantly know, that although I have a house in Ameirca and I currently live here, my home is in Eretz Yisroel. I have a desire to someday when the time is right  to come to the land were we belong. 
2) Interestingly, I have always had a very hard time with the three weeks and Tisha B’av. I have never really understood it, I never really had a feeling for it. I always went to shul, heard Eicha, went home like it was just another night, went to shul, and said my 10 kinot to be yotzie, and went home chilled the remainder of the day. I always felt that I had no connection. 
This Tisha B’av was different. I cried. I cried because I saw first-hand the ruins of Yerushalayim. I cried because I saw the ruins of the City of Dovid. I cried because I saw the place where R’ Akiva was murdered as one of the Asarah Harugie Malchus-{the Ten Martyrs from the Roman period mentioned on Tish B’Av}. But most of all I cried because I wasn’t crying anymore as I used to do because I didn’t fully know what we are crying for. I finally was able to begin to understand what it was about. It was the most intense Tisha B’av I have ever had. I was captivated by the feelings put forth in the Kinos, the profound sadness and terror described in Eicha. I would not have felt this if not for your unbelievable knowledge that you shared with us, and in the places you shared it with. You brought to life, what the land looked like and what life was like in the times of the Beis Hamikdash. We were able to see it in our minds, to appreciate what we lost. It was life altering,
Again I want to thank you beyond thank you for imparting your love of the land to us. 
Hopefully we will be able to travel together again in the near future in the times of the geulah shelameah
Hatzlacha Rabbah”
Thank you Shimmy for letting me part of being the shadar that shows you our diamonds.
Have an eye-opening Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z7OAxcrwOI The stone laying of the Ponovizh yeshiva with footage of the Rav whos yartzeit is this Friday.
https://youtu.be/sExHrxsZscw   - in honor of all of the UMAN Rosh Hashana travelers the newest song by my dear friend Gershon Veroba and singer Micha Gammerman arrangements of course by the one and only Yitz Berry!
https://youtu.be/K0fAkL6xmNw - an incredible story and song from Eitan Katz. This is a song you should play like a million times its so beautiful...

"Vos lenger a blinder lebt, alts mer zet er” -The longer a blind man lives, the more he sees
“All that I have accomplished has been with my 21 fingers. Ten on my hands ten on my toes and the one above of Hashem.”
“You should be embarrassed of yourselves. They exempt you from serving the army and this is the way you behave! Shame on you that do they not allow you to sit and learn in peace and quiet.” As quoted by Rav Nissan Kaplan after the Israeli flag was taken down from the yeshiva by zealots

“Others sleep and dream, but I dream, and sleep not.” -When people told him that he is dreaming if he thought he could rebuild his yeshiva after the war in Eretz Yisrael

“I see the vision of the return to Zion in our generation as the revelation of the light of divine providence, which strengthens our hand and accompanies us through the evil waters that have risen against us ... I see miracles every moment, every hour! I am sure that His Honor sees the thing as I do, for who like the ship's captain standing at the wheel of the ship sees these miracles” in a letter to Ben Gurion after the 6 Day war.
 “Mark my words these young men of the Hagana and the Etzel will throw the British out of this country and will build a Jewish State here in Israel. But you should know more than that. If I had 10-15 students who had the same dedication, single-minded commitment and self-sacrifice that these boys had we could create a Torah State here in Israel. But I don’t have them.... Learn up from these young men... ” - quoted and heard by Rabbi Berel Wein from a lecture the Ponovezher Rav gave in Chicago in 1947 a few months before the UN vote of 1947 recognizing a Jewish State.
Titus! Evil Titus! Take a good look at what has occurred. You dragged my hapless people out of our land two millennia ago and led them into an exile from which they were never to return. You went home to Rome - the most powerful nation on earth - in glory and triumph. But Titus, where are you? What has become of the glory that was Rome? What has become of the infallible empire that was supposed to last forever? The Jewish people however are still here and continue to flourish. Titus, we are here! Where are you?”- Quoted by Dr. Rothchild as he brought the Rav by his request upon arriving in Rome to the arch of Titus and he got out of the car and said this with rain pouring through his beard.  
Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman The Ponovezher Rav (1886 - 5729 / 1969) This  Friday, the 20th of Elul
 Born in Kuhl, Lithuania, a small town of about 500 of which about a third were Jews. His father, Rav Yehudah Leib, was a famed talmid chacham and baal chesed. At the age of 14 he went to the Telshe Yeshiva, where he learned until he was twenty (or 21) under Harav Shimon Shkop and became close to Harav Eliezer Gordon, the yeshivah’s founder. In 1908, Reb Yosef Shlomo went to learn mussar from Reb Yosef Yoizel, the Alter of Novardok. While there, Harav Yechiel Michel Epstein, the Aruch Hashulchan, taught him the necessary skills for Rabbanut, after which he spent three years in Radin under the Chafetz Chaim.
He married the daughter of Harav Leib Rubin, the Rav of Vidzh. For a while he learned alone at the home of his father-in-law. In 1911, Reb Leib was offered the Rabbanut of Wilkomir; his position in Vidzh passed to his son-in-law, who also opened a yeshivah there.
After Rav Kahaneman’s impressive eulogy at the levayah of Reb Itzele Rabinowitz of Ponevezh in 1919, the community offered him the position of Rav. He became Rav of Ponevezh (at age 33) and opened a yeshivah there which attracted many of Lithuania’s best talmidim. Rav Kahaneman guided his flock with wisdom and fatherly love. He was appointed as the Jewish representative to the Lithuanian parliament.
After 20 years, when the Nazis conquered Lithuania, Rav Kahaneman was on a mission abroad when World War II broke out and was unable to return to be with his family and his students. In 1940 he settled in Eretẓ Israel and from there directed efforts, in vain, toward the rescue of Lithuanian Jewry from the Nazis. Most of his family perished in the Holocaust. Thereafter, he devoted himself to reestablishing in Ereẓ Israel a network of Torah institutions. In 1943 he established Batei Avot, an orphanage for refugee children.fled to Eretz Yisrael, (1940), then under the British Mandate, and became a leader of chareidi Jewry.
Although broken and distraught over the fate of Europe’s Jews, he decided that he had been spared to bemekadesh Shem Shamayim-sanctify the name of Hashem. In 1941, Rav Kahaneman set the cornerstone for the new Ponevezher Yeshivah on a hill overlooking Bnei Brak.
Despite general skepticism, Rav Kahaneman, with his powers of persuasion, collected enough money to build what became the largest yeshivah yet in Eretz Yisrael and one of the largest in the world. He traveled widely in chutz laAretz to secure financial support. There are many great stories about his skills at getting money out of the least likely people. The man who never gave to anyone who the Rav convinced him to donate the picture he had of his grandfather for the yeshiva library and then asked him to donate the library. The anti-religious man who only agreed to give money if his institution will learn Torah without wearing Yarmulkas which he took and started a girl’s school with. Those are just a few of  the stories.
The Ponevezher Rav’s ambitions were not limited to his yeshivah. He founded and supported dozens of other institutions, especially for the “yaldei Tehran,” orphans rescued from the Holocaust and brought to Israel (Batei Avot orphanages). He also revived the yarchei kallah concept, providing two weeks a year of intense learning at the yeshivah for working men.
The Ponevezher Rav merited seeing all his projects reach fruition.
Reb Yosef Shlomo was niftar on 20 Elul 5729/1969, at the age of 83. He was buried in the Ponevezher beit hachaim on the outskirts of Bnei Brak.
answer below at end of Email
Q. The Druze house of prayer is called:
A.    Diwan
B.  Zawiya
C.  Madrasa
D.  Hilweh
So much can be derived from Rashi not only by what he says but also by what he doesn’t say; even the greatest philosophical question of the world can be found in just a simple reading and appreciation of what he says and what he doesn’t.
This week we read the blessings and curses that are given if we follow or not the commanments. On of the first blessings is
(Devarim 28:6) Blessed are you in your coming and blessed are you in your going
What is the question that you should be asking about this verse? You’ve been learning long enough with me here to ask it. OK I’ll tell you. Seemingly one goes before one comes, Right? So why is it reversed. Rashi thus explains that the verse is referring to coming into this world. One’s leaving of this world should be just like one’s coming to this world. Just as we came without sin we should leave without sin.
Great! Nice the problem is there is a verse in the curses that seems to say the opposite where this interpretation fails for there it says
(ibid :16) Accursed shall you be in your coming and accursed shall you be in your going out
Interestingly enough Rashi is silent over there. It can’t mean that one comes into the world cursed? Or maybe it can?
The Binyan Ariel notes that there is a great debate for 2 ½ years in the Talmud (Eruvin13) between the schools of Hillel and Shamai for years is it better to be born or never born. The resolution finally being that for a wicked person it is better not to be born. This would seemingly contradict our verse here that one is blessed when they come into the world. Rashi’s grandson though, Tosafos however explains that this is only true for a wicked person a righteous person though praised is he and praised is his generation. Where does tosafot derive that from? Seemingly our Rashi his grandfather.
For in verse that talks about the blessing, Rashi felt the need to explain the blessing of coming into the world. For the assumption based on the Talmud would be that one’s coming to this world is a curse. He therefore explains that you are blessed when you first come in to the world only when one is righteous, when one fulfills the commandments. However when one sins and one does not fulfill the mitzvos then his very existence, his coming into the world is understood to be a curse as the Talmud explicitly says the resolution was between Beit Hillel and Shammai That Rashi did not need to explain for the Talmud tells us that naturally one’s coming into the world is a curse.
Interesting Halachic aside the Beit Yosef suggests that this is the reason our morning blessings we bless Hashem for having not made us a gentile- shelo asani goy, rather than in the positive form of blessing Hashem for having created us a Jew she’asani yisrael. For being created a Jews is not necessarily a blessing. One’s coming into the world is only a blessing if one ultimately fulfills his commandments. We can only bless Hashem that he did not create us as gentiles so at least we have the opportunities throughout our lives to make that which we were born a blessing if we follow the mitzvos.
Sounds pretty deep? It was really just a simple Rashi.
Creation of the World- this Wednesday 25th Elul Year 0 - 3761 BCE:- Was this the day of the Big Bang? According to Jewish tradition the first man -Adam and Eve were created on Rosh Hashana the first of Tishrei which was the 6th day of Creation. Meaning 6 days before hand this coming Wednesday was the day that the Torah tells us In the beginning Hashem created heaven and Earth. The earth was empty and bare and spirit of Hashem was floating on top of the water. And Hashem said let there be light and there was light. Boom! Many suggest that is the big bang! Matter has been created. He separated the light and darkness into night and day. Many point out that since that first day there was not yet any earth or sun or moon for they weren’t created until day 4 then that day was not necessarily a 24 hour day. It could have been millions of years. This would resolve many of the questions that scientists challenge our Torah tradition with as they point of evidence of millions of years of formation. Our 24 hour day and our counting of time begins on Rosh Hashana with the creation of the center of the universe Man who is meant to bring the world to its fulfillment. That is why Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the year and not the 25th of Elul. We have a man-centric view of the world. After-all we ae the only creation that Hashem blew into us a spirit of life, a soul, a piece of Him. All other creations were all spoken by Hashem and they poofed into existence. There you go Jewish science 101 from someone who barely passed his NY State regents in science. That’s all I know sorry.
(wonder how many my brother the eye-doctor has heard?)
What music do optometrists listen to? Eye-Tunes
What was the lens’s excuse to the policeman?-I’ve been framed officer
What do you call a deer without eyes?-No idea
What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs? Still no eye-deer
What did the sailor say to the captain of the optometrist boat?-eye-eye captain
What did the right eye say to the left eye? -Between you and me, there’s something that smells
How many optometrists does it take to screw in a light bulb? ( I don’t know) You tell me.. is it one or two?
Patient: I keep getting a stabbing pain in my eye every time I drink coffee
 Optometrist: Have you tried taking the spoon out of the cup?
Answer is D - I’m really getting sick of these silly trivia questions. They’re just dumb and not necessary. But this is worse than usual. I recognized two of the above choices. Diwan is their court house the root Hebrew word being din which means judgement. The madrasa as well is their schools and study houses again like the Hebrew word beit Midrash. Which left zawi-whatever and hilveh which sounded somewhat familiar so I went with the other one zawi-whatever... I was wrong the correct answer is hilweh. The truth is I bet you there are even druzim that don’t know that. See because according their religion they have a choice if they want to be religious or not. 90% are not. They are therefore not allowed to pray or practice only the mystics are allowed to do that or even know the secrets of their religion. So if most of them don’t care enough about their religion why should I ?

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