Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
December 16th 2016 -Volume 7 Issue 8 9th Kislev 5777
We have never been accused of being a stupid people. We’ve been called cheap, crooks, degenerates, sub-human, “savior”-killers, infidels, even land grubbing aggressing terrorists. But not stupid. Yet, sometimes to me it seems that perhaps we are unfortunately quite….naive? Perhaps? For generations Jews have struggled with challenge. As the old joke goes what are Jewish holidays about? They tried to kill us…we survived… let’s eat! Anti-Semitism has been around since we’ve been around. Great Jewish minds have always struggled with how to deal with the problem; how to get them to leave us alone. How to get them to maybe even love us, perhaps even respect us, or at least accept us. Yet it’s at this point that it seems the great Jewish minds all seem to fail.
For those not so familiar with Jewish history I’ll share with you some of the tried but failed ideas. Plan A- the reason they hate us is because we look, act, and dress different than them. Solution A- Let’s throw off the trappings of our Jewish faith- let’s make our synagogues more church-like, let’s intermarry, let’s join their universities, let’s join the enlightened and educated world and then they will accept us. That plan didn’t seem to work well for the most cultured, educated and refined Jews of 1930’s Berlin .
Then of course you had another plan. It’s all religion that is evil. You know that whole opiate of the masses thing. Let’s go Socialist. Communist. Create a utopia where we’re all the same. Didn’t work that well for the Russian Jews either. Then you’ve got more recent game plans. They hate us because we don’t have our own country. We’re nomads without a national language, flag or army. If we had our own state then we would be accepted, loved and respected. Anyone want to ask the U.N. their thoughts on that plan’s success 61 years later? Going back a few centuries, to Spain. There, Jews thought conversion would be helpful. Torquemada and co. felt differently. And if we travel back even further to the times of the destruction of the Temples and when we even had kings like Herod who incidentally was really a very not nice person, but who was buddies with all the great Romans of his time, they still wiped us out.
Which brings us, even earlier, to the story of Chanukah; the victory of a small group of Rabbis against the world Empire, Greece . I say Rabbis although I’m sure that is not the image in most of your heads, due to the modern, more politically correct and less miraculously oriented, Jewish tendency to re-write history. Yet anyone who even briefly peruses some of the history of the time will see that all the big, strong probably tattooed and muscular oriented Jews were Hellenized and pro-Greek, and were quite happy joining forces with the Greeks against the few die-hard religionists that wouldn’t sell their religion to join the prevalent society. After all it was the darn funny dressed, Rabbis that wouldn’t touch pork, kept the Sabbath and refused to partake in the art and beauty of their kind host Empire that were holding them back from truly being accepted; from finally having the opportunity to become one of “them”… Well thank God the Hellenists failed as well. We can eat our Latkes, light our Menorahs and thank God who once again stepped up to the plate and kept his promise that we will be forever. No matter what they, or even we, would like to do about it.
So what is the answer? Why do they hate us? What, if anything, can we do about it? Even the ADL with all their noble intentions and significant accomplishments can’t seem to stop swastikas from being painted on synagogue doors, media slurs, and UN sanctions. Does the Torah offer us any perspective? This week we read about the first Jewish-non Jewish confrontation in the Torah portion. Of course non-coincidentally, it is also the Torah portion that is read as we approach Chanukah (and in Israel they start selling those sufganiyot-jelly doughnuts-which let’s be honest already how many of you couldn’t hold out to Chanukah and already bought and tasted some?J). So perhaps we can get an appreciation of the holiday as well.
We are told about Yaakov’s encounter with his brother Eisav who our sages tell us is the progenitor of all the future Western enemies of the Jewish people; our arch-nemesis. The Torah describes their confrontation with Yaakov sending all types of “Peace offerings” and bribes to stave off Eisav’s attack. Yet, Eisav continues to come to do battle. Finally at that moment when he arrives and sees Yaakov, we are told that he hugs him, kisses him and thirty six years of un-bridled hatred all dissipates. The Talmud tells us that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught from these verses that there is a known law- Eisav hates Jacob. No reason. No Explanations. No Questions. No solutions. It was just, he explains, at that particular moment when Yaakov came, bowed and humbled before him that he was overcome with mercy and couldn’t help but embrace him. The Nachalas Tazvi, a Torah leader of the last generation, suggests that this law that Eisav hates Yaakov is particular to Yaakov. The younger brother that comes grabbing on the heel. The one that took his portion. The one that is trying to usurp Eisav and perhaps even dress up and behave like him. Yet, right before this story Yaakov has a different battle and is granted a different name. He became Yisrael. Yisrael-Eisav doesn’t necessarily hate.
It is fascinating when you think about Yaakov’s earlier battle. We are told that Yaakov in middle of the night preceding his battle with Eisav, met a mysterious man, who we later found out is actually an angel- the arch angel of Eisav and wrestles with him. Yaakov is victorious (although the angel wounds Yaakov in his foot and forever Jews can’t eat some of the hind parts of a cow…but that’s a different Email). At the end of the battle the angel gives Yaakov a new name.
“Your name should no longer be called Yaakov rather Yisrael, for you have striven with the Almighty and with man and have succeeded.”
What I find fascinating is that when it comes to a physical battle with Eisav, Yaakov humbles himself and bows. Yet when it comes to spiritual battle with this angel, there Yaakov puts on the punching gloves and takes him (it?) down to the mat. Seemingly when it comes to a spiritual threat, Yaakov is willing to do whatever it takes to put his life and foot on the line. Yet, when it comes to his and his family’s physical well-being, he seems to be willing to lie down and humble himself before the enemy. Perhaps it is that which moves Eisav the most. When it comes to a physical threat from our enemy or the hatred that they innately extend to us, no amount of battle, manipulation or assimilation will help. Yaakov will always be a subject of hatred for Eisav. But Yisrael however has the ability to persevere and overcome and even bring the respect of Eisav. A Jew that is willing to put his life on the line for his spiritual well-being; one who will wrestle until dawn to insure that none of Eisav’s angels or demons has any influence on the holy ways of his descendants. That is a force that not even an Eisav could overpower.
It is for this reason that on Chanukah we are told the Jewish people took up their sword where-as on Purim they sat in prayer. Chanukah was a spiritual battle for the ability for the Jewish people to maintain their traditions and observances. On Purim, it was merely, and I use the word heroically and ironically, a physical threat of genocide, yet there was never a decree against their ability to worship.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It’s been close to 2000 years of our long bitter exile. We’ve had up moments and down moments. The only thing that has been constant has been this endless, seemingly unbreakable, cycle of them trying to kill us, we miraculously surviving, moving someplace new, after a couple of decades we try to assimilate and remove that anti-semitism- NEVER AGAIN- and then it inevitably goes back to square one. It’s always been this way. Yet we can break that cycle. We’re not a stupid or insane people. This Chanukah let’s commit to changing the past. Let’s be Yisrael. Let’s bring Moshiach with a re-newed sense of commitment to the only force, power and faith that has ever conquered Eisav; our unswerving dedication to the heritage legacy, Torah and Mitzvot of our Forefathers and to the love of our Father in Heaven.
Have a restful inspiring Shabbos!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyJWIDwZcdI -Why Jews don’t have a Chanuka tree funny Elon Gold.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_-_iaY5iv4 – MBD Mama Rachel pre- shwekey tune- a Yiddish version sung by Eli Marcus a golden oldie
https://youtu.be/FNMJ6yheifY – A medley of Ben Zion Shenker songs who’s shloshim approaches
https://youtu.be/6d4RuXauXP8 – And of course in honor of this weeks Parsha nd the promise of Hashem Lipa’s Mizrach Mariv Ufaratzta
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Ven a ganef kusht, darf men zikh di tseyn ibertseyln.” When a thief kisses you, count your teeth..
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. It is accepted that the first agricultural revolution occurred in the:
a. Iron Age
b. Chalcolithic period
c. Neolithic period
d. Early Bronze Age
a. Iron Age
b. Chalcolithic period
c. Neolithic period
d. Early Bronze Age
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ILLUMINATING RASHI OF THE WEEK
Once in a while a commentary in Rashi if you stop to think about it a bit can lead to not only an insight in the text, but can lead to the learning of a halacha- Jewish Law and from there to an insight into life and perhaps to solutions to some of lifes biggest challenges.
In this week’s Torah portion we learn about the fateful meeting/reunion between Yaakov and his brother who had come to kill him Esau. After they make up and Esau becomes enamored with him he invites him to join him and he will accompany him together. Yaakov responds by pushing Esau off. The kids are young, the sheep and cattle will slow us down and then he says
Bereshit (33:14) Please pass before your servant, my Master, and I will make my way at my slow pace according to the speed of the work that is before me and the sped of the children, until I come to my Lord at Se’ir.
Rashi seemingly noting that this “catching up and meeting at Se’ir” has yet to have occurred notes that Yaakov was extended or broadened the journey for him.
For Yaakov intended to only got to Sukkos, he said to himself that if Esau planned on harming him then he will wait there until I come and he didn’t go there. But when would he ultimately go? When Mashiach comes as it says and the saviours will arise from the Mt. of Zion and mete out justice to the mountain of Esau.
So basically Rashi is explaining that Yaakov did not tell Esau exactly where he was going so Esau wouldn’t wait to kill him. Rather he “broadened his journey” pretending like he was going further than he was. He wasn’t exactly lying as well because when Mashiach will come we will ultimately be reunited with Esau and Se’ir. This commentary is in fact brough down in Jewish law by none other than the Rambam, who certainly learned Rashi or at least the Midrashim that Rashi quotes for in the laws of Murder and the guarding on one’s life the Rambam notes
Rambam Laws of Murder and guarding one’s life (12:8)-That if a gentile asks you where you are going one should “broaden the journey”-in the same way that Yaakov did with Esau…
The Lubavitcher Rebbe though takes this one step further. He suggests that the power the nations have over us and the threat that they pose to us is when we feel we have “arrived” we are where we are meant to be. When our Exile becomes our place, our destination; and we feel settled. If that is the case than they in fact have power over us, which is true whether we are in their countries or even in our own. If however we recognize that we are still traveling we are still on a journey. Mashiach has not come yet, and it is our job to continue that path and prepare ourselves and lighten up the world wherever we are and that we are never going to be that way until we arrive at that final destination, than they can’t harm us. They have no power over us. The opposite happens the saviors the redemption will come and judge them. That is lesson of Yaakov. Broaden our journey, experience our life as pathway towards redemption, don’t settle for anything less or feel settled until we get there. It’s the story of our forefather, it’s the law of the Rambam and it’s our message until today
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994), the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, is arguably one of the most impactful figures and Jewish leaders of modern times. To hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of sympathizers and admirers around the world, he was -- and still is, despite his passing -- "the Rebbe," undoubtedly, the one individual more than any other singularly responsible for stirring the conscience and spiritual awakening of world Jewry.
The Rebbe was born in 1902 Russia. There is a story told about the Rebbe's early life that seems to be almost symbolic of everything that was to follow. When he was nine years old, the young Menachem Mendel courageously dove into the Black Sea and saved the life of a little boy who had rowed out to sea and lost control of his small craft. That sense of "other lives in danger" seems to have dominated his consciousness; of Jews drowning in assimilation, ignorance or alienation--and no one hearing their cries for help: Jews on campus, in isolated communities, under repressive regimes. From early childhood he displayed a prodigious mental acuity. By the time he reached his Bar Mitzvah, the Rebbe was considered an illuy, a Torah prodigy.
In 1929 Rabbi Menachem Mendel married the sixth Rebbe's daughter, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, in Warsaw. He later studied in the University of Berlin and then at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 194 the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin arrived in the United States, having been miraculously rescued, by the grace of Almighty G‑d, from the European holocaust. The Rebbe's arrival marked the launching of sweeping new efforts in bolstering and disseminating Torah and Judaism in general, and Chassidic teachings in particular, Shortly after his arrival, per his father-in-law's urging, the Rebbe began publishing his notations to various Chassidic and kabbalistic treatises, as well as a wide range of response on Torah subjects. With publication of these works his genius was soon recognized by scholars throughout the world.
After the passing of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, in 1950, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson reluctantly ascended to the leadership of the Lubavitch movement, whose headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. Soon Lubavitch institutions and activities took on new dimensions. The outreaching philosophy of Chabad-Lubavitch was translated into ever greater action, as Lubavitch centers and Chabad Houses were opened in dozens of cities and university campuses around the world. Under his leadership Chabad took over the world. The joke was that the two things you could find anywhere were Chabad and Coca Cola. For nearly five of the most critical decades in recent history, the Rebbe's goal to reach out to every corner of the world with love and concern has unfolded dramatically. No sector of the community has been excluded -- young and old; men and women; leader and layman; scholar and laborer; student and teacher; children, and even infants.
He had an uncanny ability to meet everyone at their own level -- he advised Heads of State on matters of national and international importance, explored with professionals the complexities in their own fields of expertise, and spoke to small children with warm words and a fatherly smile.
In 1992 while praying at the gravesite of his father-in-law and predecessor, the Rebbe suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side and, most devastatingly, robbed him of the ability to speak.
Two years and three months later, the Rebbe passed away in the early morning hours of the 3rd of the Hebrew month of Tammuz June, 12 1994, orphaning a generation and certainly his Chasidus. Sadly there are many that because of that loss. Created a Messianic figure out of him. Which is why many opposed him during his lifetime. Yet he left behind incredible works and a visions of an awareness that each Jew is responsible for the next and that it is our obligation to join us all together and expose one another to a life of Torah.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TYPES OF JEWS IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Gan Kids– If you ask me perhaps one of the cutest and most inspiring demographic groups of Israel are the little kids one sees everywhere on their way to Gan each morning. In America you see carpools perhaps, in New York certainly the streets in the morning are everyone going off to work. In Israel each morning one can look out their window and see the streets full of adorable young kids with their big knapsacks strapped to their back heading off to their kindergartens. The uniforms, the pigtails, as they play and frolic on their way is just touching as it is the future of our people. Although this can been seen all over the country in religious and non-religious areas it is particularly noticeable in the religious communities where the birth rate is about 5% with an average of 5.9 kids per family and growing. Israel in fact is one of the only countries in the world that has a minimum replacement rate of 2:1 more than three times faster than the OECD average of around 0.6%. With an average of 3 children per woman, Israel also has the highest fertility rate in the OECD by a considerable margin, and much higher than the OECD average of 1.7.
In fact close to 30% of the gan children in Jerusalem Israel’s capital and 2nd largest city are Chareidi.
In Israel kids have much more independence than they have in other countries. They shop for the family, they babysit their siblings, they hike, go to the park and even sell stuff as they hustle some times. As well in Israel everyone feels and appreciates the children of the country as regularly people will offer to watch over them for you or tell you what you are doing right or wrong. They are the countries future. they’re all of ours.I believe it was the Satmar Rebbe that once said about Yerushalmi kids- when they are young they are so cute you could eat them up and when they grow up- you wish you had…J Yet jokes aside the gan kids the birth of life once again in our promised land is truly a daily reminder that we aliving in the times the prophets spoke of when once again the streets of yerushalyim will be filled with the sounds of boys and girls frolicking.
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S TERRIBLLY OFFENSIVE JOKES OF THE WEEK
How do you know the Flinstones were Jewish? A: Yabba Dabba Jew!
How do you know when your on a Jewish golf course? The players don’t yell ‘FORE’ they yell ‘$3.99!’
David can't get to sleep and is tossing and turning in his bed all night, turning this way, turning that way and keeping his wife Elizabeth awake. Finally she has enough!
"David! What's wrong? Why can't you sleep?"
"Oh, Elizabeth,' says David. It's business."
"What business?" asks Elizabeth.
"I borrowed a million dollars from Samuel next door."
"So?" asks Elizabeth.
"Well, I'm due to pay it back tomorrow."
"So?" asks Elizabeth.
"Well, I haven't got the money."
"Oh my gosh, that's terrible! How will we live if he forecloses on us!" says Elizabeth. And she gets up, goes to the window, throws it open and shouts: "Samuel, Samuel, wake up!" Samuel comes to his window.
"What's wrong, Elizabeth? Why are you making all this noise?"
"My David tells me he owes you a million dollars."
"Yes, that's right," says Samuel.
"And it's due back tomorrow."
"Yes, that's right," says Samuel. "Well, he hasn't got the money and can't pay!" says Elizabeth and slams the window shut again.
David is beside himself. "Oy vey, oy vey, why did you tell him that?" he asks.
Replies Elizabeth: "And you should be the only one to have a sleepless night?"
Moishe is being indoctrinated by the Russian government:
Govt. Official: "If you had a yacht, what would you do with it?"
Moishe: "Give it to Mother Russia."
Govt. Official: "And if you had a palace, what would you do with it?"
Moishe: "Give it to Mother Russia."
Govt. Official: "And if you had a sweater, what would you do with it?"
Government official asks the question again.
And still not reply.
Finally he shouts: "Moishe, why don't you reply?"
Moishe: "Because I have a sweater."
Answer is A – Flinstones meet the Flinstones and have a yabba dabba doo time..Yes we have to learn pre-historic man stuff in our tour guiding course. The order of things are the Neolith (new stone age) Chalcoliths second (coper age) then bronze and then Iron. Although according to the Torah scientists are still off a bit in their timing of a lot of these periods as they day the Neoliths as being about 7,000 BC and the Chalcolites at 5,000 BC while we know that man is only 5777 years old having been created about 3500 years or so BC. We know this because I there is a brilliant E-Mail you have been receiving each week with the Hebrew year of creation on top of it that clearly says so. But Science will catch up to us one day. Anyways the Torah tells us that Noach pretty much revolutionized the world with invention of the plow and science certainly recognizes that such a revolution took place. They place it at the late stone age which would be the neoliths.