Our view of the Galile

Friday, November 25, 2016

Life and Death...While Singing in the Rain- Chayei Sarah 2016 / 5777

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

November 25th 2016 -Volume 7 Issue 5 24th Cheshvan 5777
Parshat Chayei Sarah
Life and Death while singing in the Rain

We need rain. Not that we have a water shortage in Israel and we’re starving or something like that. We have Diet Coke for that. Even for agriculture, which for those from the big city who may not be aware is where your fruits and vegetables come from although you get them in the supermarket, we are pretty good with that as well. The reason is because Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in alternative water resources. Every time you flush the toilet in this country that water gets sent to a purification plant where it is cleaned out (the gook is eaten out by little parasites…mmmm) and turned into quality level drinking water. Don’t get nervous. We just used that for watering our fields. But in addition to that Israel thanks to our desalinization plants here we are able to take water from the Mediterranean and turn that into drinking water as well. In fact they are even talking about Israel very soon becoming an exporter of clean water to the Middle East. Not bad for our tiny little country.
The reason why we need water is because of Tour guides like me. You see I spend half of my summer rafting down the Jordan River with my clients. The past few years it has been really pathetically bumpy. Lots of rocks. No water. I lost about three inches of my backside. Not that anyone noticed….I was in Tel Dan the other day one of the most lush places in the North and it was pretty dry. The Kinneret has receded, Forget about the Dead Sea and all the sinkholes that have formed along the shoreline. It’s sad. We really need rain. I told my children this morning that perhaps all these fires that are taking place in Israel are to wake us up to daven for rain. Hashem is waiting for our prayers that haven’t been coming enough. Once we’re davening for rain already perhaps we can ask that he wash away our enemies as well. But we need to start davening more and more.
I remember years ago when there was a drought in Israel, they called for a mass prayer session at the Kotel. I remember coming there and I saw a few old men coming with their umbrellas. I smiled and commented to one of them how he must really have confidence that his prayers would be answered quickly. He responded to me that if I didn’t believe that the prayers would work what was really the point in the first place. Hmmmm… Sure enough not soon after we started the skies broke out in clouds and it started to rain. It was awesome. He popped open his umbrella and asked me if I wanted to come under for some shelter. I was quite happy singin’ in the rain though. It was the soft wet caress of my Creator dripping down my face. I wanted it to last forever.
There is probably not too many things like weather that people attribute to randomness. It is certainly something that we probably feel least likely that is in our control. Yet perhaps the first lesson of Man in the garden of Eden was that he was born in a barren world without anything growing in it as Rashi notes on the verse Bereishit (2:5)
For Hashem had no tbrought rain to the earth And there was no man to ‘work’ the ground
That Hashem waited for man to be created and pray for rain until he sent down the storms. The weather is in our hands; in our mouths and prayers. It’s why we were put here. That’s what it means to work the ground. The work of our hearts-prayer will make the ground flourish.
This week’s Torah portion Chayei Sarah deals with two stories that are almost opposite of each other. We have the death of Sarah, our Matriarch. And we have the story of the Eliezer, the first and quintessential Shadchan/ matchmaker finding a spouse for Yitzchak. Death and Marriage. The end of an era the beginning and continuation of the next. Perhaps there is no area where we recognize that we have no control over like death. When the Angel of Death comes calling your time is up. We never know when or how it will come. But we know that it is truly in the hands of Hashem. On the other hand marriage, the choosing of the spouse that we will spend the rest of of our lives with seems to be up to us. Sure Hashem sends our bashert our way. And we all know that it is decreed 40 days before we are born who we will marry. But c’mon, ultimately it is us that dates and finds, seeks out, courts, woos, proposes and ‘closes the deal’. It’s our looks, our brains, our personalities, our sense of humor, our integrity, our generosity that ‘sells the other person’. Hashem perhaps just hooked us up. But the match is in our hand.
Interestingly enough our Parsha tells us the opposite. It’s not merely irony that the parsha that talks about the death of not only Sarah, but Avraham and even Yishmael as well, at the conclusion of the portion is called Chayei Sarah- the life of Sarah. It’s not the first time either. The other portion in the Torah at the end of the book of Bereshis that is called Vayechi- and He lived also talks about not only the death and burial of Yaakov, but Yosef as well and according to our sages even Esau (who lost his head a bit at his father’s funeral). The parshiyot of life are the parshas that talk about death.
The reason our sages suggest is because by the righteous even in their death they are considered alive. They live on. They lived full years and they lived each day to the fullest. Their death wasn’t a death as much as it was an expiration. In fact Rashi notes most fascinatingly by Yishmael’s death.
Bereshit (25:8) And he expired and he died- Expiration is a term that is used only by the righteous
It’s a fascinating term expiration. Your time is up. Everyone has a date on them. Not everyone makes it to that date. If you leave the milk out of the fridge or the meat out of the freezer, guess what? It’s not gonna make it to that date. Which is why the stores won’t take those products back once you buy them. Trust me I’ve tried. Whether we spoil early or not is dependent entirely upon us. The righteous the Torah tells their death is on the expiration date. It’s in our hands. Even more fascinatingly it tells us this by Yishamel. A kid who certainly did not have a great life, who certainly could have blamed his lousy lot in life to all types of challenges. His grandfather was Pharoah, Hagars’ father. Not a nice person. He was chucked out of his house by his ‘step-mom” who couldn’t seem to control him and cared more about Yitzchak his younger half-brother who he knew would supersede him and become the heir of his father. His own father, Avraham, sends him away. His mother turns her eyes away and leaves him dying of thirst so that “she doesn’t see the death of the child”. Yet he picks himself up and says he will not blame his life on his “circumstances” his troubled childhood, his parents, his environment. He will live his life. He will make it to his expiration date. His life will be full. His death will be in his hands. It will come when his time is up and not a day sooner.
When we turn to the marriage of Yitzchak in the Parsha we see almost the opposite. Taking place. Eliezer who is sent find a match for Yitzhcak has a monumental task before. He is the guy that is supposed to find the next matriarch of the Jewish people. The entire future of the world on him making the right choice. Finding the right bashert. Making sure she can balance the gevura/fortitude of Yitzchak who was offered up as the purest sacrifice to Hashem. She would have to fill Sarah’s sandals; her tent, her light, her cloud of glory. Imagine finding being charged with finding the perfect mate for the Gadol HaDor- the leader of the Jewish people. Talk about pressure.
Yet what does Eliezer do? He turns to Hashem and doesn’t ask for Hashem to give him the wisdom, the power to discern, the insight necessary to find this special spouse. He tells Hashem
Bereshis (24:12) “Hashem the God of my master of Avraham Hakreh Na Elai- arrange (or literally appear) for me today and do kindness with my master Avraham
He then sets the incredible and incomprehensible task. Let the right girl be the one who comes over to me and offers to feed not only me but all of my camels. “That will be the one that I will know that You have performed kindness for my master”
Really?!!! Is that someone you would expect to be the responsible shadchan for your daughter? What about the family, her personality, her age?! Besides the fact that its an impossible task I mean my wife used to feed 30-40 hungry West Seattle TLC’ers each Shabbos and that was certainly not easy. But camels? Shlepping out water? Who in their right mind would expect would do that particularly when there is a very capable servant that seems to be able to do it himself? How can you even ask Hashem to do that? Arrange for me?! Talk about abdicating your very important role. Avraham trusted you. He made you take an oath in the most physical of ways. How does Eliezer just turn it over to Hashem like that?
The word hakreh is perhaps the key word here. mikreh is happenstance. It’s something totally out of my control. I remember once that I was trying to hail a taxi once here in Israel and he was busy arguing with someone until he came over. When I asked him “Ma Karah- what happened?” He told me- as only an Israeli cab driver could karah is the same letters as Rak Ha(shem). There is no happen it is all Hashem. Eliezer, the faithful servant of Avraham and the first shadchan, asked Hashem to entirely remove his own knowledge, his own intuition, and his own assessment from the game. It should only be Hashem that makes this happen. The truth is on paper this shidduch probably would never go. Think about it. Her father is a cheap abusive guy that sends his daughters out to shlep water in a pretty dangerous neighborhood. Her brother Lavan is a renowned sheister, con man and criminal. According to our sages she was only three years old at the time and Yitzchak was no spring chicken. Eliezer understood that when it comes to marriage, more often than not the more we leave it in Hashem’s hand the better off we are. There are somethings we should leave to God and some things we need to do on our own.
The land of Israel is the place where those two ideas truly become the essence of life. It’s a country where we are meant to work, we are meant to plant and to build. We are surrounded with enemies who try to destroy us, kill us, burn our fields and prevent our light from shining out to the world and we are meant to pick up weapons, fight and defend our land. Yet nothing ever grows, nothing ever comes to fruition in the sensible logical and natural way. We have desert land that for centuries was cursed and yet we came here and poof it started flourishing. We have armies, soldiers and tanks yet not one battle would ever have made sense to be won without the clear miracles that took place. They don’t even bother teaching the wars of Israel in military school because there’s no logic or rational explanation to how we’re still around. We live, we work, we fight, but at the same time we turn our eyes to Hashem and say we can’t do anything. Hakreh Na Elai. Make it rain. Shower us with Your beneficence. Make it all come from you.
I told my shul that after the last election in the States I believe that even nusach ashkenaz should start to add the words in the Kaddish prayer that Nusach Sfard says of  V’Yatzmach Purkanei V’Kareiv Mishishichei- and you shall sprout His redemption and hasten Mashiach. There is no rational explanation into how fast the world is moving in His hands. How little we, the media, the popular votes have a say in the path Hashem wants us to be lead on. All He wants from us it to turn our eyes, our prayers and our hearts to Him. To ask for it. To finally bring that day. It’s in our hands. We just need to open up our umbrellas. We need to come home.

Have a heavenly rainy Shabbos!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/avinu-malkeinu   Avinu Malkeinu I composed in memory of Aryeh Kupinsky H”YD and all of our martyrs that gevet their lives in sanctification of Hashem’s name. May Hashem avenge their blood.

https://soundcloud.com/jroot-radio/yosef-bornstein-nov-17   – A Radio interview I gave last week on Jroot radio with Rabbi Yosef Bronstien- Contest of the week for all those who listen to it. How many times do I say the words “y’know” It’s painful to listen to me…But it was 2:00 AM

https://youtu.be/DR8W_O_TRAk   Jimmy Kimmel Politically correct Thanksgiving Pageant Hilarious and sad

https://youtu.be/BVEc-bV9Dxk   – In honor of Shabbos Chevron this week watch and connect to our holy city.

“A nar vahkst on regn”  A fool grows without rain.
Ponder and discuss…

answer below at end of Email
Q. Sycamore trees can be seen primarily in:
A. The Lowlands (shephela) and Coastal Plain
B. Upper Galilee
C. Arava
D. Golan

It never ceases to amaze me how much I would miss in reading the text without Rashi’s accompanying commentary that makes me stop and read the verse once again and figure out the point he is addressing. In this week’s Torah portion in the great and lengthy negotiation between Avraham and Efron in the purchase of the Machpela Cave, Efron makes the statement to Avraham
Berseshit (23:15) My master, hear me! The Land is worth 400 silver shekalim; between me and you- what is it? And bury your dead.
That amount is an exorbitant amount (note that in Leviticus 27:16 a bit kur which is about 75,00 square feet is 50 sheks meaning 400 shekel should have gotten him 600,000 square feet!). So when Efron says between me and you how would you interpret it? If you asked me, I would probably suggest he meant between two wealthy people like ourselves. Avraham was wealthy and despite the big price tag Efron was trying to show him that for Avraham and Efron this is small penny change. Yet Rashi goes a different route.
Between me and you- Between two friends such as we, is it significant at all, rather forget the price and bury your dead.
Why does Rashi seem to go to a far-fetched explanation that Efron was referring to their supposed friendship rather than what seems to be the simpler explanation that he was talking about their affluent status? Rabbi Shaul of Amsterdam the Binyan Ariel- who reads Rashi better than I do explains, that generally when I want to refer to someone’s exalted or greater status you mention the other person first. In fact the Talmud describes that when Rebbi would write to Marc Antony he would write to the King Antony from the prince Yehuda. So here Efron should have said between “you and me” rather than “me and you”. Which sounds like something my grammar teacher would have taught me “something about “you and I”. But I forgot. Or never really paid attention. When does one put themselves first, as Efron did? When one is describing one’s love for the other. I love you. We are friends. I feel close to you and then you feel close to me. So Rashi notes this small discrepancy in Efron’s words, placing himself first “between me and you” and he therefore comments that this must mean he was referring to their affection, rather than their status. Isn’t it amazing how each nuance can be filled with such meaning and interpretation?

Rabbi Shaul Lowenstam of Amsterdam- The Binyan Ariel- (1717-1790), One of the great leaders in the 18th century of Amsterdam, Rabbi Shaul Levenstam was a scion of an established rabbinical family. He was descended from Rabbi Shaul Wohl (who was crowned King of Poland for one night, according to legend). He was a grandson of Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel from Krakow, who is known as the Rebbe Heshel. His father Rabbi Aryeh Leib served as a rabbi in the city of Risha in Poland and in Amsterdam. His mother was the daughter of Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi, the "Chacham Tzvi." Rabbi Shaul was a rabbi in Amsterdam in a very stormy period of sharp disputes among the wise men of the generation. These disagreements disrupted the status of the rabbinate and led in the following generation to the increased strength of the Haskala movement, the forerunner of the Reform movement and religious change. Rabbi Shaul preferred to stay involved in matters related to his own community and to refrain from taking part in the disputes.The Chida writes in his work  "Shem Gedolim" with respect to Rabbi Shaul, "I was privileged to meet the face of the Shechina, and I was able to enjoy his Torah, his modestly, and his perfection."

Rabbi Shaul's modesty can be seen in his book "Binyan Ariel" (Amsterdam, 5538), which is named after his father Rabbi Aryeh. Rabbi Shaul notes that he did not want to print a book of halacha in order to avoid having people depend on his halachic rulings. The first part of the book presents explanations about the Torah and the five Megillot in a straightforward way that can be understood by everybody. The second part contains insights into the Talmud as a way of helping his students to sharpen their minds. Rabbi Shaul served as rabbi in Amsterdam for thirty-five years. He passed away on the seventh of Tammuz 5550 (1790). After his death, his son Rabbi Yaacov Moshe took his place.


Taxi Drivers - whenever they do polls in America they want to know what the “man on the street” has to say. The simple guy, the regular joe shmoe. In Israel that person is the nahag monit- the taxi driver. And for those that have been in a taxi here in Israel, you know they have plenty to say. There are over 40,000 licensed taxi drivers in Israel and it is estimated that over 600,000 people use their services daily. Taxi drivers in Israel are a great resource of information and truly are part and parcel of the real Israeli experience. They are more than happy to share with you their opinion about anything; politics, tourists spots, why you should move to Israel or not and who they hate and love. There are certainly some that are notorious for “taking you for a ride” not just literally, which is why it’s always fun to negotiate an off the meter price beforehand. A game that these drivers generally like to engage in, although part of the negotiating technique is that they pretend that they don’t. The taxi drivers in Israel run the gamut from secular to religious and in fact it is not unusual at all to get into a cab and hear the driver listening to a Torah class or Tehillim/Psalms. I remember having a cab driver share with me a Torah thought on the parsha and another one that was praying as he was picking me up. Many of them when they encounter a Tourist will offer their services to take them on tours around the country, or even to be your personal chauffer while you are here. That’s a really good gig for them and I remember as a kid when we would come to Israel my parents would often have one of these guys do that for us. It’s really a way to see the country from an ordinary real Israeli standpoint. Today with smartphones and apps like Gett Taxi one can actually just order a cab from anywhere and even see the picture of the driver and rate him afterwards. These guys like their ratings and you usually get better service when you call them this way. They even have a Mehadrin app, where you can get a shomer shabbat driver, thus insuring that your driver is Jewish. There are quite a few jokes about Israeli Taxi drivers and the driving experience here in Israel. For those that want to experience Israel you gotta take a taxi at least once.

Abe was visiting Israel for the first time. As soon as his plane landed, he got a taxi to take him to his hotel. The taxi driver was very friendly and told Abe all kinds of useful information.
Then Abe asks the driver, "Say, is Israel a healthy place?"
"Oh, yes, it really is," the driver answered, "When I first came here, I couldn't say even one simple word, I had hardly any hair on my head, I didn't have the energy to walk across a small room and I even had to be helped out of bed every day."
"That's a remarkable story, truly amazing," Abe said, "so how long have you been here in Israel?"
"I was born here."

Maurice and Isaac found themselves sitting next to each other in a New York bar. After a while, Maurice looks at Isaac and says, "I can't help but think, from listening to you, that you're from Israel."
Isaac responds proudly, "I am!"
Maurice says, "So am I! And where might you be from?"
Isaac answers, "I'm from Jerusalem."
Maurice responds, "So am I! And where did you live?"
Isaac says, "A lovely little area two miles east of King David's Hotel. Not too far from the old city"
Maurice says, "Unbelievable! What school did you attend?"
Isaac answers, "Well, I attended Yeshiva University."
Maurice gets really excited, and says, "And so did I. Tell me, what year did you graduate?"
Isaac answers, "I graduated in 1984."
Maurice exclaims, "Amazing! This is Berschert. Hashem wanted us to meet! I can hardly believe our good luck at winding up in the same bar tonight. Can you believe it, I graduated from Yeshiva University in 1984 also."
About this time, Moishe enters the bar, sits down, and orders a beer. The bartender walks over to him shaking his head & mutters, "It's going to be a long night tonight, the Goldberg twins are drunk again."

Israeli Personal ads
Yeshiva bochur, Torah scholar, long beard, payos. Seeks same in woman.
Worried about in-law meddling? I'm an orphan! Write.
Are you the girl I spoke with at the kiddush after shul last week? You excused yourself to get more horseradish for your gefilte fish, but you never returned. How can I contact you again? (I was the one with the cholent stain on my tie).
Jewish businessman, 49, manufactures Sabbath candles, Chanukah candles, havdallah candles, Yahrzeit candles. Seeks non-smoker.
I am a sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your heart to. Share your innermost thoughts and deepest secrets. Confide in me. I’ll understand your insecurities. No fatties, please.
Jewish male, 34, very successful, smart, independent, self-made. Looking for girl whose father will hire me.
Orthodox woman with get, seeks man who got get, or can get get. Get it? I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.
Divorced Jewish man, seeks partner to attend shul with, light Shabbos candles, celebrate holidays, build Sukkah together, attend brisses, bar mitzvahs. Religion not important.
Couch potato latke, in search of the right apple sauce. Let's try it for eight days. Who knows?
Female graduate student, studying kaballah, Zohar, exorcism of dybbuks, seeks mensch. No weirdos, please.
Israeli professor, 41, with 18 years of teaching in my behind.  Looking for American-born woman who speaks English very good. 
Israeli lady age 28. Serves behind the falafel counter in Moshe’s Deli. Looking for nice Jewish guy with a good sense of humus.

The Matchmaker asked the best bachur in Lakewood” what he was looking for in a girl. After some thought, the young man replied
“ I was driving down the Garden State Parkway last week when I noticed what seemed to be a Heimishe woman trying to change a flat tire. I felt bad that she was obviously by herself and made a u-turn, figuring I would check it out for sure by driving by slowly this time. Sure enough she was from Lakewood and so I stopped and helped her change her tire. After I was done and about to drop the spare in her trunk, she put her finger to her lips and whispered,
“Please don’t slam, the trunk. I don’t want to wake my husband- he’s sleeping in the back seat…”
The bochur smiled at the Shadchan and said “That’s what I’m looking for in a girl!!”

Answer is A – Are you sick of tree botany questions yet? I am. The sycamore tree or eitz shikma in Hebrew is a fairly tall- it grows up to 60 feet tall and these heart shape leaves. They can be found mostly in the shefela and caostla area. In fact they are the symbol of the city of Cholon. In Tel Aviv you can generally find them like smack in the middle of a street or a major thoroughfare as they have been a major source of conflict as the old-timers and the tree-lovers protest every time they want to knock em down as they have much nostalgic value for those who remember Tel Aviv before it became the major metropolis it is today when these trees were all over there. There are even quite a few songs written about these trees. There are usually not more than 3 or four questions about botany so I think hopefully we are done with them for this exam.

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