Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 28th 2016 -Volume 7 Issue 1 26th Tishrei 5777
They call it ‘bootz’. I spit it out. It was absolutely the worst coffee I had ever tasted. There was all types of grains and grinds floating around in my mouth. Bootz- means mud in Hebrew, which is exactly what this liquid that I had stirred and swallowed eagerly tasted like. I thought it was a strange name for a coffee. But I was new here. It was in fact my first morning here. I had slept on the floor the previous night. Our lift had not yet arrived. I was tossing and turning all night longout of excitement of having finally made Aliya, reliving that incredible euphoric moment of us landing. The shofars blowing, the chayalim waving flags, the trip to our new home in Karmiel. It was a restless night. A good restless night. But morning came the first rays of Israeli new sunlight shone through my window-that didn’t’ have any shades on it, or even those plastic Israeli trisim thingys that keep out the sunlight. I blinked and rubbed my eyes. I rolled some of my children off of me and lumbered down stairs for some coffee.
There was none. Our cupboards were bare. Of course. Welcahm to Eezrael.
So I hunkered down to the mall up the block which had a small café kiosk and mumbled to the guy how I needed a coffee. He handed me a little shot glass size cup with some black liquid in it. I smiled and explained to him that I was not looking for a L’Chaim shot. I needed coffee. About a gallon of it. You know those big super mugs that they sell in Thank Heaven for 7-11 for like 99 cents.. Apparently in Israel they did not thank heaven for 7-11. And apparently for some reason this man felt that there was nothing wrong with asking me for 15 shekel for a little shot glass of coffee. (This was in the pre-Cofix Israel- which is almost like the pre- 67 Israel in terms of its significant impact on this country- at least when it comes to its pricing in food-fare.). He did however appreciate the fact that I had made Aliya the day before and his was the first store I was coming to. The first coffee I would be drinking. So he offered me to drink that day on the house. I was gratified. I felt warm and gushy and proud to be here with my family. What an incredible country. I was home.
But then I tasted the coffee. bootz. Sphewwww…… I spit it out. I washed my tongue. “Ooou laiiike?” my new friend asked, pretty oblivious to my reaction. I missed 7-11 about then. It was a whole new world. And it seemed like Turkish coffee would be the first adventure and experience that this world would have to offer me. This is what bootz tastes like. Welcahm to Eezrael.
Which brings us to the beginning of the Torah and the begginining of the world once again that we read about in this weeks Torah portion. Like my coffee we are told man is created out of bootz- mud. Unlike all the other Creations in which Hashem speaks and “Let there be _______ and there was. The process of the creation of man is entirely different. Hashem gets down and dirty and forms us out of mud and blows within us the spirit of life. Our Neshama, Our Divine spark and soul. So Ig guess Hashem also got some mud and dirt in his mouth with His first taste of Creation. The creation of man which is meant to be the pinnacle and purpose of all Creation is unlike all of the rest of Creation our sages tell us because we have a particular function in this world. We are meant to connect heaven and earth. To take that muddy most physical essence of our world and elevate it. Spiritualize it. ( That’s a cool word, I should patent it- You read it here first.). Hashem created us in order to reveal that inner light, that hiddenness of His presence in all of Creation. We are formed out of mud, but yet inherently we are aware that within us lies something holy, spiritual, transcendent and eternal. With that knowledge we are meant to look at the entire world and see the Godliness in it as well. And then to reveal it.
But how, is the challenge that we are faced with it. How do we take that mud, the physical, the dirty and the bad tasting and make it shine and sweet and holy. The answer is with the Torah. For the Torah contains the blueprints of the Creation. When we study, when we observe, when we shine that light into the world with our actions, with our fulfillment of the commands, then we are taken that coarse, physical, earthy Creation and connecting to its source. We will have made the perfect eternal brew.
Just a few days ago we celebrated the holiday of Simchat Torah. I noted to our shul how it seemed strange that we celebrate the Torah and how the completion of the reading of the Torah was made following the holiday of Sukkot. It would seem more appropriate to complete the reading of the Torah and celebrate it on Shavuot, the anniversary of when we received the Torah. Particularly since Sukkos is anyway packed with mitzvos and Shavuos doesn’t really have much besides cheese cake. So I shared with them a beautiful idea from Reb Hershel Rimanover. He suggests that the celebration of the Torah can only be appreciated after we taste the sweetness of the Torah. The Talmud tells us that the Temple was destroyed because the Jews did not ‘bless the Torah’ before studying it. The Rimanover, notes that the blessing that they didn’t have was the one we say each morning that Hashem should make the Torah sweet in our mouths and the mouths of our descendants. They studied Torah, the observed and followed it. But they didn’t experience that sweetness. It tasted like bootz.
The Rimanover adds and explains that the Torah is inherently sweet though. It’s not bitter. If they didn’t taste the sweetness it must have been because there was something wrong with their taste buds. What were they missing? He suggests that the Torah is like a cup of coffee. The first taste is very bitter. So what do you do? You put in a spoonful of sugar. Or Splenda if you’re on a post- Yom Tov diet and don’t care much about getting whatever diseases the ingestion of all those chemicals contain- as my wife points out to me. You take another taste and it still tasted bitter. So more sugar. Another spoonful. Taste. Still bitter. And another. What’s the problem? Why is it not getting sweet? The answer is because you have to mix it. You have to bring the top down and the bottom up. And stir and stir and stir. You have to make it one fully mixed solution.
I suggested based on that idea perhaps a little bit deeper. We are told that every Jew has his or her letter in the Torah. Each one of us has our own little piece of Creation that only we can bring out the sweetness and holiness from. On the holiday of Sukkot we just spent a week in the Sukka together. We shook the lulav and four species that represents every Jew the Torah one, the Good deeds, the ones without smell or taste. It is after Rosh Hashana when we all passed through judgement together. After we all united and anointed Hashem as our King as one nation. It is after Yom Kippur when we were all forgiven, all atoned for. That is when we celebrate and start and finish the reading of the Torah. That is the time to start to dance and appreciate that sweetness. Out holding hands and dancing up and down and round and around is us stirring that cup together. It’s making the world sweet.
It’s why on Simchat Torah the custom is that everyone gets called to the Torah. The Torah can only be tasted in its entire sweetness when we appreciate that each one of us has that special blessing on the Torah that only they can reveal. We are stirring that coffee. The blessing we make on the sweetness of the Torah is V’Haarev Na- Which means Please make pleasant the words of Torah, but it can also be translated as please mix the words of Torah. If we don’t taste the sweetness of the Torah it’s because we may not appreciate the sweetness of every Jew. The Temple was destroyed we are told as well because we did not get along with one another. We didn’t see the holiness in one another. We looked at each other like bootz and thus we tasted like it. We couldn’t make that perfect brew. That heavenly brew.
There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee in the morning. It is the perfect way to start a day. As I’m stirring mine this morning, I think about that first heavenly cup. How can I make the world a better and holier and sweeter place. Maybe I should make a L’Chaim on my cup after all.
Have a spectacular Shabbat and a Gezinte Vinter as Chasidim say,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYz4Eb3f2Ro – My favorite song of the week I believe just great!
https://youtu.be/GL1t1hJDdJk - a Beautiful New Shalom Aleichem
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ean_aMNkAgM – Creation on video
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Az me lozt a chazzer aruf afn bank, vil er afn tish”– Give a pig a chair, he’ll want to get on the table
(I’m not thinking about the upcoming elections J)
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. The Seven Species that the Land of Israel was blessed with: “a land of wheat and barley, vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and…”:
a. Myrtle leaves
c. High quality oil
a. Myrtle leaves
c. High quality oil
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ILLUMINATING RASHI OF THE WEEK
It’s amazing to see how our greatest Rabbis examine Rashi and see in his words hidden meanings and sources. This year we will explore our examinations of Rashi by featuring the ways and idead that our greatest Rabbis explored in Rashi and thus the text of the Torah and a short bio of each Rabbi from around the world and the exiles and societies that all studied this same classic commentary.
In this week’ Torah portion when the Torah tells us about the story of the offering that Kayin/Cain brought
The Torah says ( Bereshit 4:3)
And Kayin brought from the fruits of the earth an offering to Hashem
Rashi there notes- From the worst; and the Agada says that it was pishtan- flax seed
Seemingly Rashi derives his interpretation from the fact that it just says he brought from the fruits. Not the best. Yet Rashi as well quotes that it was flax. Where does he derive this from
The Gaon of Vilna notes brilliantly that the word for sacrifice is Korban. If one takes the last letters of each of the letters that spell out the word Korban KaF ReiSH BeiT NuN it spells the word pishtan which is flax. He suggests that is what Rashi means from the worst- meaning the lowest and last of the letters of the word Korban- sacrifice. Wow! Talk about dissecting a Rashi
Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna- 1720-1797) Perhaps one of the greatest leaders of the 18th century. The Gaon of Vilna- or genius of Vilna never held any Rabbinic position. He preferred to study by himself and to selected students living a more ascetic lifestyle. In Yeshiva we were taught that the Gaon’s works could be studied on the level as if they had been written by the Rabbis of the Rishonim from medieval times. The gaon was a renowned Kabbalist and established many customs and his own Nusach/ style of prayer. He is perhaps most known as the one that led the battle against the threat that he perceived of the Hasidic movement reigning them in so that they would ultimately not break off and go to far and become separate from Judaism. At the end of his life the Gaon began a journey to Israel leaving his wife and family behind on this dangerous journey. However there many things that he perceived as Divine impediments along the way that forced him to return home. He is buried in Vilna.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TYPES OF JEWS IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
We’ve covered cool places in Israel, historical events, cool things to do in Israel this year we dedicate this column to each week appreciating the incredible diversity of Jews we have here in Israel as Hashem brings the ingathering of the Exiles rapidly to its conclusion.
American Olim (close to 150,000 since 1943)- I believe that it was the Chafetz Chaim who said that the last exile of the Jewish people will be in America. It’s the final stop our nation will make before Mashiach comes. Certainly each year we see more and more Americans making their way home. Trying to beat the mad rush that will ultimately happen soon. Yet it is not a new phenomenon just a growing one. In fact the first general of the Israeli army Mickey Marcus was in fact an American. Over the past few years especially with the assistance and revolution of an easier more mainstreamed and less bureaucratic Aliya system that Nefesh BNefesh has begun there are over 2000 North Americans coming each year. This new wave of Aliya as opposed to the larger years of Aliya in the post 67 war and early 70’s which had numbers iin the 5-8 thousand range, are not neccesarily as much Zionisticly or pioneering motivated and are coming here to ‘build and plant’ the future. But rather because they see Israel and a great environment to raise their family, a place and country where they perhaps even feel there is more opportunity than there is in America. They see Israel as a country that perhaps even has a brighter more optimistic future. It’s pretty amazing what has happened in the past 40 or so years. This is despite the danger, the attacks and the war. Many anglos that I speak to even struggle to come up with things that they feel that they are lacking or missing here. This is certainly a long way from even 20 years ago when everyone that came to Israel had to bring packages and things to their ‘cousins’ that they couldn’t get here.
American Olim live in may micro American communities besides Jerusalem. Ramat Beit Shemesh, Modi’in Efrat, as well as many suburbs and smaller Yishuvim. In Karmiel alone over the past 7 years the Schwartzes are here our anglo community has grown to over 40 families.
Q: What do you call a cow who's just given birth? A: De-calf-inated!
Q: What is the source that Jewish men are required to make a good cup of coffee for their wives? A: Because according to the Torah He Brews!
Q: Why is a bad cup of coffee the end of a marriage? A: Because it's GROUNDS for divorce!
Q: What do you call sad coffee?" A: Despresso.
Q: Where does birds go for coffee? A: on a NESTcafe
Yankel walks into a coffee shop and asks the waitress: "How much is the coffee?"
"Coffee is four dollars the waitress says".
"How much is a refill?" He asks.
"Free, "says the waitress.
"Then I'll take a refill…”
Answer is B – Myrtles are used on Sukkot but not one of the species you can eat. Honey is kind of a trick question because technically it does not grow from the ground. It’s from bees. Yet that is the correct answer but it is really not bee honey but rather date honey. Almonds are not one of the species. And high quality oil is true yet that is included in the olive part of the verse quoted already.